Last Sunday, while slightly hungover from a wedding the previous night, Stefje and I struck out with our friend Manon to explore the Dunes of Texel National Park. Perched atop rented bicycles, we made our way around the island at a relaxing pace to take in the sights of this vacation destination.
Deathly flat yet still more hilly than Amsterdam, the island serves as a getaway for families and vacationers from both Holland and abroad. Aboard the ferry the transition became clear, as everyone started busting out sunscreen, kids scampered back and forth in the play areas, and selfie sticks came out in full force.
Although it took some nice weather for me to come around, Texel has a quiet allure. It's an accessible spot almost completely devoid of the hubbub of urban life. Cars are few and far between, and the island has three times as many bike lanes as roads.
We set off on bike to begin the journey, coasting through pine forests that absolutely assualted our nostrils was the sweet smell of summer.
We paused intermittently to check for directions, grab a quick snack, and just take in the panorama of wide-open fields, crisp blue skies, and perfectly organized Dutch farmland.
The path led us South, meandering through the Dunes of Texel National Park. The park seems to engulf the entire Western seaboard of the island, covering the fertile lands with diverse natural forests and open grasslands.
Eventually we passed a tiny village, but mostly nature ruled out here. One of the quietest spots was a small pond in the distance, where we could spot more than a dozen species of birds. They perched on branches just above the water, glided in wide circles overhead, and clucked at each other in satisfied tones, thoroughly enjoying the outdoors just as much as us.
Just as my knees were starting to feel the burn and the wind picked up in our faces, we parked our bikes for a long walk around a lake, observing the ecosystem of butterflies, bees, and flowers in the overgrown bushes. All around us nesting seagulls flocked, protecting their nests and babies from our unfortunate intrusion.
As satisfied as we were just to enjoy the natural scenery so far, the highlight of the day came at the culmination of this walk. We spotted a vast dune in the distance and made our way to the top: the reward was breath-taking.
A patchwork quilt of scruffy grasses dominated the landscape, interspersed with crystal clear white sand. In the distance the pure blue sky slowly faded into the horizon until it met the dark blue waters of the ocean. A group of hikers traversing across the long stretch of beach appeared as tiny as ants from our impressive vantage point.
As with most panorama viewpoints, it felt like the perfect spot to enjoy a meal. We busted out our picnic lunches and chowed down, taking our time to soak in the sunshine and the scenery before moving on with the day.
We met up with the bride and groom for one last drink before wishing the weekend farewell, capping the stay with a dip in the ocean.
The beach was filled with young children enjoying the prospect of building sand castles and flying kites on a windy afternoon. Although the water was murky and bone-chilling, swimming in salt water is especially refreshing after a whole day of biking and hiking in the glaring lights of the sun. Needless to say, it was the perfect capstone to a beautiful day in Texel.