As day breaks

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During the holidays or on a day off, I sometimes like waking up at dawn to go on a mini-adventure.  I won’t pretend it is easy, but once the ten first minutes after waking have passed (where I curse my body for needing so much sleep), I am usually excited to go explore.  Those are the mornings I tend to remember best when I look back, since they break the routine.

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So one morning, during our recent trip to France, Paolo and I woke up when it was still dark, swallowed a quick breakfast and drove to the beach.  It was such a gift to get to witness the world waking up. We spotted a family of deers on the road which promptly skittered off as we slowly drove by, not wanting to scare them.  There were barely any other cars and the silence was broken only as we approached the beach, by the relentless crashing of the waves on the shore.

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I loved being in the moment with nowhere to rush off to.While Paolo was fishing, I had time to wander and observe the plants on the dunes with their pastel colours blending with that of the soft sand.  The vast expanse of dunes overlooking the long empty beach, surrounded by the sky changing colours, were breathtakingly beautiful and peaceful.

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Summer treats

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #89

I am extremely grateful for the calm summer days where there is enough time to walk aimlessly along a wide empty beach as the tide goes out, to watch clouds moving through the sky and find improbable shapes (do you see the seahorse??!), to spot footprints in the sand that must belong to tiny animals and imagine them running up and down the dunes when no one is watching, to read for a few hours uninterrupted and indulge in blissful naps while the sun is high, to feel the cool breeze as you stroll through a local village at the magic hour…

 

Of dunes and mermaids

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Most days I love to take a walk by just heading into my neighbourhood of Amsterdam Zuid and roaming my usual paths.   However weekends offer more time to get out of the city for day-trips a little further afield.  This weekend for instance we took the train to Castricum station and went for a walk in the Noordhollands Duinreservaat, a place we regularly return to with great pleasure.

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I like the fact that the landscape changes a lot as you go along. The first part is in the shade of the trees with bluebells lining the path. Then when coming out of the woods, you find yourself in the flat, sandy landscape, peppered with windswept bushes of all different types creating beautiful colour contrasts, and lakes on which birds gather and play.

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After following the winding path, you end up at the final steep dunes which hide the North sea.  I love this colour palette of beige and grey sand, dry dune grasses and blue sky with passing white clouds.  We took a long walk along the beach, enjoying the sea breeze and the sound of the waves… Paolo exchanged a few words with a fisherman casting his rod from the beach, who when asked what he was trying to catch, answered “Platvis… en zeemeerminnen natuurlik” (Flatfish… and mermaids of course!).

Lunch by the lake

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Seeing that there would be warm summery weather over the weekend, Paolo and I planned a day-trip to go for a long walk in the dunes near Santpoort Noord.  The dunes were beautiful, coming back to life with the first leaves growing on the trees, large grey snails slowly making their way through the grass and small birds insistently calling to each other all around us.

Enjoying the rhythm of walking along the sandy paths that wind over the hills of the dunes and feeling the sunshine warm my skin after these long winter months was exactly what I needed.

We stopped to eat lunch in the shade by this small lake.  As we savoured our picnic, we took in the gorgeous surroundings.  It was so peaceful, the wind was rustling in the trees, carrying the lovely smell of pine needles reminding me of summer holidays past.

 

Beautiful hikes close to Amsterdam

Recently I was asked for some tips of good places to go walking in nature near Amsterdam. Going hiking in the Netherlands may not seem quite as exciting as say exploring the Scottish highlands or climbing the volcanic peaks of Madeira… however I still believe it’s better to get outside and regularly enjoy nature close by, than waiting until the next big trip.

In the last few years with Paolo we’ve been exploring places close to Amsterdam on the weekends: just taking the train in the morning, walking a few hours and being home before night falls, whatever the season. We always take along a tasty picnic to enjoy on the way, which makes for a great low budget excursion.

Here are my favorite places to go hiking that are accessible by train and less than an hour from Amsterdam, making them perfect for a day trip.

Kennemerduinen

There are slight slopes up and down the dunes, pine trees, you can easily follow the paths and indications in the Kennemerduinen. We usually walk to the sea and back, always ending up taking slightly different paths. You will probably spot some beautiful highland cows (aka ‘hairy coos’).

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Train stations: Overveen, then a 15mn walk to the visitors center at the entrance of the park (where you can enjoy a hot drink)  or Santpoort-Noord

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Castricum

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Walking through the sandy dunes of the Noordhollands Duinreservaat is very relaxing. Here also we make our way to the coast, enjoy the sea front and walk back. There are forest parts and open dune landscapes.

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Train station: Castricum
You can have a coffee and cake at the very cute Hof van Kijk Uit cafe, which is in not far from the entrance of the park.

(This was a one off, but once in summer we came across a small shelf by the path where a local farmer had placed organic strawberries, a sign encouraging passers-by to buy them and a small box to collect the corresponding money.  I love these types of trust-based initiatives and the strawberries were delicious!!)

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Waterleidingduinen

The many dunes of the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen are not only useful to filter rainwater which is then turned into drinking water for the city of Amsterdam, it’s also a magical place for a stroll. You’ll come across deer grazing peacefully all around and if you’re lucky you may even see a fox.

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Also, the plants are beautiful and diverse (including many mushrooms), and even in the winter months there are surprising colours, as you can see below.

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Train station: Heemsteede Aerdenhout, then about 15mn walk to the park
Day entrance is 1,50EUR. No bikes are allowed.

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For more ideas of walks from one train station to another on NS information – you can filter per region, length and even type of the walk (forest, dunes etc).