Usually I spend the long Easter weekend in London (see here and here) but this year, I decided to switch it up. I’m headed over to the UK for the Royal Ascot in June, so I’ll still be seeing all of my London friends then, on a slightly belated schedule this year :) And to be honest, I’ve been traveling so much for work as of late, the thought of cramming all of my belongings into yet another suitcase, braving Schiphol, and hopping on an airplane in my downtime sounded tiring and unappealing. And so as the long Easter weekend slowly crept up, I decided to stay local. Luckily, my guy friend ;) was also stark on plans, and so we started toying around with the idea of taking a road trip up to Texel, an island in the north of Holland marked by endless dunes and white sandy beaches. A few easy web clicks later (thanks Booking.com) we’d found a cute hotel and had sourced a rental car, and the adventure was real! We hit the road after work on Friday. Most people in Holland have Good Friday off, but unfortunately, my company was the rare exception. So I worked a full day and was picked up promptly at 5pm by my chariot (slash Fiat 500). The 5pm trek up to Texel turned out to be lovely, as we were treated to some stunning sunset views on the drive north.While Amsterdam is small and cramped, other parts of the Netherlands are quite expansive. There are endless fields, beaches, lighthouses, and numerous nature reserves. It’s easy to get caught up in the mindset that Amsterdam is Holland. But Amsterdam’s tall canal houses and tightly packed cobble stone streets are just one example of beautiful Dutch living. We cruised through the Dutch countryside, arriving at our hotel just before sundown. We had booked into the Grand Hotel Beatrix in Den Helder, a 10 minute drive to the ferry, and 10 strides from one of the most gorgeous lighthouses I have ever seen. We quickly dropped our bags in our room and then wandered down towards the sea to watch the sun set.I’ve never seen a beach like this before . . . manmade an devoid of sand, with slopped concrete running right into the sea. While the beach wasn’t all that spectacular, the fiery sky sure was. We soaked up the day’s final rays before heading back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.The next morning, we got up with the sun, intent on spending a full day in Texel. The island of Texel can only be reached by ferry. Taking a car across will set you back €37, while foot passengers are only required to pay €2.50. On the first day, we went sans car, as we planned to commute via bike for the day. The ride over was a breeze – figuratively and literally – it was a SUPER windy day!The 20 minute ferry ride flew by. There was a cafe on board with snacks and adult beverages, as well as a gift shop, and multiple decks to explore. When the boat finally docked, we hopped off and headed over to the bike hire shop, which was easy to spot from the ferry. If you’re interested in taking the ferry over to Texel and then renting bikes, check out Fietsverhuur Veerhaven Texel here.
I’m not going to lie – the main reason I wanted to visit Texel was because of the sheep. No, not the cheesy lamb pancakes or the soft sheepskin rugs. I wanted to prance in the fields with dozens of fluffy baby sheep, an experience I was assured of during the month of March, when all of the lambs on the island are born.
We began cycling towards Texel Sheep Farm, where they house 25 different breeds of sheep along with their young, in addition to chickens, ponies, goats, and yes, even a five legged sheep (truly!) However, we didn’t get very far. Because the sheep don’t just live at the sheep farm. They live all over the island, casually hanging out with their wobbly, adorable little lambs *cuteness overload*
We (or maybe just me) were so distracted by the baby sheep along our cycle. They were adorable, and impossible to cycle past without stopping to say hello. And so our cycle to the sheep farm took some time, as there were many friendship pit-stops along the way. But the long and cuddly cycle was well worth it, as eventually we found ourselves at the lamb mecca.
There were big sheep.And brown sheep.And cute families of sheep.And naughty baby sheep!
We roamed through the barn, making several new sheep friends along the way. The website of the Texel Sheep Farm says, “Cute woolly lambs frolicking and jumping through the pasture. Who will cheer you up? Even better it is when you can cuddle the lambs! We have lambs almost all year round. Who love attention, petting, and cuddling.” It’s like this sheep farm was made for me (or small children). And so there was cuddling, and attention, and frolicking. Which is pretty much how every holiday should be spent :)After spending some time indoors, we went outside to meet the infamous 5-legged sheep.Who honestly wasn’t too impressive, but was in need of a good sheering. Doesn’t he kind of look like a pirate sheep with a 5th peg leg??Sheep cuddling is strenuous work. And so after, we had to eat tiny Dutch pancakes.
I spy poffertjes.Now, let’s get back to the sheep. The sheep in Texel are raised for many reasons. Some, sadly, are slaughtered for food. The melancholy circle of life :( Others breeds are raised and kept for their wool. And some lucky fellas, are fed a gourmet diet of fresh grass, clovers, and other pasture plants, and are then milked regularly.
Did you know that sheep have been raised for milk longer than cows? Most of the sheep milk produced is made into cheese. And surprisingly, some of the most famous cheeses are made from sheep’s milk! Think feta, ricotta, pecorino romano, and roquefort. While in Texel, we ventured to Kaasboerderij Wezenspyk (or in English, Cheese Farm Wezenspyk) for a tour and a tasting.
The farm is open daily from 9.30 to 5pm, and every Tuesday and Friday they have a cheese tour and tasting at 2pm. It lasts about 1.5 hours and will only set you back €5.50 per adult. As we visited outside these hours, we roamed unattended through the farm. In the farm shop you will find cow cheese, sheep cheese, and goat cheese, and so there are numerous farm animals in residence. Like cute baby cows!Who love to lick mittens :)While we spent the morning making sheep friends, we spent the afternoon making cow friends. Also, someone please tell me what this is, because I have NO idea. Is this a cow-butt-cleaner???After hanging inside the barn for a bit, we continued our self-guided tour outside. For some reason, the ground was covered in sea shells. Perhaps they use sand dredged from the ocean to make pathways? v
Hi!At the end of our farm visit, we bought a small feast of cheese. Mustard cheese, old cow cheese, young sheep cheese, cumin cheese – the list goes on! Check out the farm’s full selection here. Cheese in tow, we then decided to check out one more little village in Texel before hopping on the ferry back to the mainland.
We biked to Den Hoorn, which was beautiful, Dutch, and idyllic. Slightly parched, we hit up Eethuis Klif 23 and of course had to sample the local brews :) While the tulips were not yet quite in bloom, there were many bright yellow fields of daffodils, sweeping the horizon. We finished our drinks while enjoying the view, and then cycled back to the ferry. (Making small pit stops on pirate ships. . . )
When we got back to the hotel, there was NO WHERE to park because (I kid you not) the Ferrari club had taken up residence at the hotel. There were Ferraris everywhere. Out front, driving down the streets, in the paring lot in the back. We nervously maneuvered around looking for a spot, feeling slightly inferior in our Fiat. When we finally managed to angle our way back into the hotel, it was cheese party time!!Accompanied by matching farm animal wine ;)
Day two in Texel was also a sunny one.
And of course, there were sheep! But this time around we took the ferry to the island in our car, intent on traveling a bit further and exploring the beaches.These sheep are literally something out of a nursery book!As it was Easter Sunday, we decided to the first item of business was to treat ourselves to a proper Sunday lunch. We somewhat aimlessly wandered into a restaurant (Eetcafé de Rog), and were the only ones there. We began chatting to the waitress, who informed us that both seatings that night were fully booked. Apparently most people spend their days at the beach and their nights in the villages. And so we had the place to ourselves. Unable to decide, we ordered all of the daily specials. A cheese and bacon soup.
Duck breast and vegetables.And a salad with delicately shredded beef and quail eggs.The food was delicious, and it was quite apparent why the restaurant was fully booked that evening! Following our big lunch, we drove to the Vuurtoren (lighthouse), on the northern tip of the island.It was a picture perfect day, with little toy clouds decorating the sky. We paid the small admission fee to walk up to the top of the lighthouse. However, I have a confession. It was a really, really windy day. And the top floor of the lighthouse was particularly blustery. And so while I poked my head out to snap this photo, I was actually kind of frightened by the super high speed winds – I thought some of the small kids outside around the lantern might blow away!That said, the trek up did offer some beautiful views, I just preferred to admire them in from inside :)Afterwards, we went down to the beach for a walk. The beach stretched on and on and on, as far as the eye could see. The wind created patterns in the sand and small dunes behind stones, sea shells, and pebbles.
We decided to venture down to the water, despite the fact that the people who had braved the elements to put their fingers in the sea looked like tiny-tiny wind blown ants, far off in the distance. But the views from the ocean were beautiful.After our walk. we spotted the nearest beach shack and popped inside to warm up. Which also involved eating cake :)The next series of photos are perhaps my favorite part of the adventure. As we knew it would be quite windy, I decided to pack a kite. We called him (I named him) Princess as he was a total diva, being an asshole and diving down into the sand the second we looked away. Although high maintenance, our Princess kite friend was also quite fun, and very appropriate considering the windy conditions! We took him out for a little spin in the parking lot . . . Before walking him down to the beach. Where he soared free in the sky :) And at other times, was just a total douche.
We went on a long beach walk, kite in tow. Before heading back to the car for our last night in Texel. The next day, our drive back to Amsterdam was miserable. The high winds had blown in a nasty storm, and strong winds whipped the car as we cruised down the highway. All of the Dutch windmills were spinning at full speed.Despite the crappy weather conditions, we still wanted to make the most of the day. As neither of us had ever been to Alkmaar, a small city in the north-east of Holland, we decided to make a small pit-stop for lunch.We walked through the city center, but as it was Sunday, most ships were closed – including the famous cheese market that we had wanted to check out (you can never have enough cheese!)We found a healthy, cozy spot that was open for lunch, and ate soup and salads as the sun slowly peeked out. And so we got to say a sunny hello to Alkmaar, before cruising on back down to Amsterdam!While I’ve lived in Holland for more than 5 years, when I travel, I rarely visit other cities or attractions in Holland. And so that is my goal over the next few months – to slowly tick off the villages and cities I am yet to see in The Netherlands. And so on that note, more Dutch adventures surely to come!