Seaside walks

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #186

I’ve been working remotely for the past week in a beautiful old house in Le Touquet.  Living just a short stroll from the shore is wonderful. Everyday the beach and its surroundings look different, the weather varies a lot and it’s great to pop over and see what it’s like at different moments of the day.

I’ve been taking long after-work walks alone, savouring each step along the long white sand to the sound of the seagulls flying overhead, whipped by the wind, accompanied by the crashing of the waves as the tide comes up.

With my Mum, we’ve delighted in treating ourselves to delicious artisanal ice-cream, trying to combine swiftly eating the melting cones with chatting as we make our way in the sun along the esplanade.

I also explored the dunes, walking between the tufts of wild grasses blowing in the wind, taking deep breaths of fresh air and watching whispy clouds float quickly across the sky.

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Cycling to Noordwijk

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We’d been planning this mini-adventure with my friend Eva for a while already. Our challenge was to meet up in a ‘virus-free’ way, somewhere between Amsterdam and the Hague, our respective cities. So we decided to rent e-bikes and meet at the half-way point, by the seaside in Noordwijk, for an afternoon.

The joy of being outdoors, on the road to somewhere, exploring new areas, moving with my own power (and a little help from my e-bike) felt liberating.  Thought going for such a long ride was a sudden shift from my mostly sedentary days working from home over the last months. It was my first time on an e-bike and it became clear that you still need to pedal just as much as normal and having the wind against me made my initial progress towards Haarlem extremely slow.  (Also, it turns there are more powerful e-bikes than the one I rented;) Next time I’ll go for one with TURBO power!!)

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Cycling through areas that I normally only see from the train window or on a map was really interesting.  It made me realise how much constructed area there is on that route.  Following the cycling paths, I found myself mainly in (sub)urban areas, or surrounded by dry fields devoid of the colourful tulips from a couple of months ago.  These sad mono-cultures tear at my heart, a sorry reminder of how we are draining the resources of the land and reducing biodiversity.  Luckily there were some pockets of nature, with wild flowers and poppies, high-grasses, some gardens with lots of plants and little patches of forest where the sunlight barely passed through the foliage and the air was cool.

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Getting to our meeting point took me much longer than anticipated. I was pedaling hard and checking maps I saw on the way to make sure I was still on track. The bike path crossings are numbered and to be sure I followed them correctly I would scribble the next few numbers down on my forearm, like winning lottery numbers 11 – 44 – 6 – 31… to make sure I followed the right direction.

Once we met up at last, it felt even more rewarding to catch up and be able to chat in person.  We shared our experiences and enjoyed some delicious cakes, sitting on the beach overlooking the sea, watching some brave swimmers and kite-surfers, bare feet in the cool sand, the wind blowing around us. It was bliss.

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I rode home via a different route, part of it spectacular along the dunes with the light becoming softer at the end of the day, watching large groups of birds fly up together in shifting shapes before settling on shrubs, and big hairy caterpillars confidently crossing the bike path.  The rest of the way, heading east, with the sun in my back through the towns, a long stretch between a high-way and a road, until I started to recognise where I was and pedal the last kilometers into Amsterdam Zuid.  I’m grateful for such a lovely day, for the good company and the perfect weather.  Another great reminder that it doesn’t take much to go for a mini-adventure.

Seaside bliss

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Just back from holidays. The kind of holidays that are basically just sleeping in, reading, eating good food, taking naps without setting an alarm clock. The kind of holidays that I actually come home rested and recharged from, having watched the tide come in high and retreat over hundreds of meters, having spent fun moments with my family, having breathed in the salty air of the sea, having been cleansed by strong winds whipping fine sand onto my calves, having strolled slowly back and forth along the shoreline my bare feet sinking into the wet sand, processing my thoughts and searching for colourful seashells…

A Sicilian break

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #135

When this is posted, I will be in Sicily for holidays:) If it is anything like our last trips there, a lot of time will be spent exploring, chilling and eating delicious food:)  I’m looking forward to proper sunshine and summer weather, jumping off the volcanic rocks into the transparent sea, going to the market to buy kilos of juicy plums and peaches that remind me of what fruit should actually taste like, and walking through the small streets soaking up the atmosphere…

During that time I look forward to being very little connected to internet and very much connected to the beauty of the island, Paolo and his family, and everything I will get to discover. I’ll return after a little break from posting.

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!).

Healing walks on the beach

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #69

In Brighton, we enjoyed long walks along the beach, each step keeping us firmly in the present with the crunch of the pebbles, the cold sea wind on our cheeks, the waves crashing over and over again on the shore… We looked for pretty stones  until our pockets bulged with their imperfect shapes and their fascinating greys, oranges and blues. After a cloudy day, the sun came out, illuminating the abandoned pier with its last rays. It was good to be reminded how deeply healing being by the beach, no matter the season.

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Soothing sea views

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On the Camino del Norte, the path mainly follows the coast and the sea is always just around the corner, making it one of the most beautiful Camino routes. However when you look at the route on the guide book, it’s difficult to imagine what the day’s walk will really look like.

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The element of surprise was really helpful, because so often when I felt I couldn’t go any further, or I was wondering ‘what am I doing here??’, I would come across a view like one of these and then it would all make sense again. I’d stop thinking about my feet and remember how lucky I was to get to see such unspoiled nature.

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I loved the fact that the nature looked different every day and I never knew what to expect. Stumbling on an amazing beach after a few minutes or a few hours of walking was always magical for me. Depending on the weather the colour of the water, the sky and the clouds would vary incredibly.

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Usually I was up on the top of the cliff which meant a beautiful perspective over the sea. Sometimes the path would go up and down all day with tiny coves at the bottom of the hill before going back up the hillside.

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Coming across a spectacular view point was always an excuse to take a break to eat an apple or simply sit to rest and watch the water. The snacks I ate overlooking the sea were usually really simple, but enjoying them in front of these magical views made them taste like a real feast 😉

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20160518_135451I love how you can actually see that the earth is round on this picture!!