Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Holland has a beach?

A few weeks ago, J & I made it up to the Netherlands. Due to many issues, we basically planned the trip and booked the hotels the night before we left, so we were left with little options and no idea what we were going to be getting into. Being the travelers that we are, we crossed our fingers and headed off for another adventure!

This is what greeted us when we arrived in Zandvoort, Netherlands.
Did I forget to mention that this was a BEACH trip?! Who knew The Netherlands had beaches. And beaches that look like this? GORGEOUS! The North Sea is beautiful, albeit cold, but hey, the Pacific is colder. It really wasn't bad once you were in it. Or so J tells me... I didnt actually go all the way in, just to my stomach or so and that was enough, thank you very much! =)

The beach town of Zandvoort is the hidden gem of Europe. We LOVED it! We stayed at the Strandhotel Sunparks. It was right on the beach, reasonably priced, and the employees all spoke English (a major plus). They have a sports area with ping-pong, basketball, badminton, squash, indoor tennis, bowling, indoor & outdoor mini-golf, sauna, lap pool, water slides, outdoor heated pool, and a huge kids area with games & go carts. It was so cool!
Our room was impressive for European standards. It was very roomy & we had a fridge, microwave, and stove top. Our only complaints were that the water temp in the shower fluctuated constantly between freezing & scalding, and the bed sheets were unbearably scratchy. Next time we will bring sheets with us and we'll be set!

We spent two and a half glorious days at the beach. Temps were in the 80s, the sun was shining, & everything was very right in our world. We relaxed on the beach for hours each day, reading, napping, playing. It was perfect. I walked away without a sunburn, but dammit if I didnt get another heat rash on my feet. Like one wasnt enough this summer. I was even paying extra attention to my feet, covering them up, keeping sunblock on them, you name it. Alas, none of that mattered.
We read an article by famed traveler Rick Steves discussing how prudish Americans are compared to Europeans. After this trip, I have to agree. We were expecting to see topless women. We were not, however, expecting them all to be old. I'm talking grandmother age. Perhaps 10% of the women at the beach were topless and of that 10%, 90% were over the age of 50. Im certainly not an agist, but I was surprised. Another oddity was the lack of clothing on children. Most female children were wearing only bathing suit bottoms and the toddler age group wore nothing at all. While this didnt bother us, we definitely noted it as a difference between our two countries.

There were tons of restaurants along the beach and all of the food that we ate was amazing! We had Cuban food the first night at a place called Mangos which came highly recommended. The food was delicious, the prices were reasonable, the drinks were strong, & the menu was in English. Really, what more could we have asked for?
On our second night, we ate at an Australian place called Skyline. (Are you thinking it's weird that we were in The Netherlands & never ate Dutch food? I am.) The food there was...interesting. I had a fantastic goat cheese salad & J ordered the steak... which turned out to be...........KANGAROO! For real. Like Kanga and Roo from Winnie the Poo. J always ends up eating the strangest things! Horse in Italy & now kangaroo in Holland. The meat was...different, but edible. We had the most amazing view to watch the sunset that night.
Our last day there, we enjoyed a traditional breakfast at a Pancake House. This is what mine looked like. Yes, it's larger than the plate, & unfortunately no, it didnt taste like a real pancake. It had apple & bacon cooked inside of it, but the bacon wasnt well done, so it was a bit chewy.
After breakfast we headed to the center of town to go shopping. The town has a real "beachy" feel, which J & I love and we felt right at home. Our #1 favorite place to be is with each other at the beach. It also wasnt touristy, which was a point in it's favor. This was one of the best places that we've been to so far in Europe and we cant wait to go back!

Next time Ill share with you our trip to Amsterdam, which we drove to after Zandvoort. It was a completely different experience than Zandvoort, and not a good one....


annoyed army wife said...

Great photos! Those sunset ones are fabulous! I might have passed on the kangaroo, however. LOL!

ALW said...

Looks like you guys had a great time! Holland is one of the top places I MUST see before we leave Italy!

Just_Megs said...

Love his white feet:) Glad Mine isn't the only man who has strange tans. That looks like an awesome experience!