Glory of Green
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Stories from the Great Outdoors

 

Here we go, discovering yet another glorious area in the vicinity of Brussels – this time pedalling over the border from Belgium to the Netherlands along the northern shore. I expected golden dunes, maybe some elements of industrial harbour, wide views and a smell of sea salt. I got almost no industry, a lot of perfectly smelly sea water and greatly varying views – including art. 

I want to go again!

Or knock-out to Knokke, as my husband suggested...

Thule for two

Due to sickness and work, my family was reduced to Alma (10) and me this sunny Sunday in May. It would have been nice to bring everyone, but when it came to the task of stacking two bikes on the Thule rack in stead of four, it was a breeze. The rack claims to hold four, but that is only if you accept the bikes doing a lot of damage to each other AND driving in constant fear of the rear window cracking as the innermost bike smashes into it with every little bump in the road. Why oh, why Thule, do you do this to me? Anyway – we were only two and the bikes fit perfectly.

Under: This is how happy I get from a functioning bike rack.

Knokke Heist

After hearing a lot about the heavy high rises of the Belgian coast, I was happy to find Knokke Heist – a quite charming town close to the Netherlands. Coming upon the beach from the town, little white beach huts were the first landmark that hit us – the wind was icy, but these huts made it feel like summer anyway. Look for the one that is called Malibu. Miley Cyrus hummed in the back of my head all the way to the Netherlands.

Knokke Heist is definitely touristy, but with people comes opportunities. There is no shortage of cafes and lots of places that rent equipment for you to explore the waves or the paths. Alma is determined to come back for a kiting course…

The infrastructure for biking is one of the best I’ve seen in Belgium and already a few kilometres away from the town, people are thinning out substantially. Don’t expect to be alone – the whole stretch of this bike ride is rather trafficked with bikers and walkers – but the vibe along the beach is …chill (I really can’t think of a better word to describe the atmosphere).

On toilet seats and other works of art

From Knokke beach, we followed the path eastwards without any other plan than to bike for as long as we felt like, stop somewhere for ice cream and take at least one detour down to the sea front at some point. A simple recipe for success. No explanation needed. 

A short ride along the beach took us to a place called Surfers Paradise. Entering the premises, we were instantly flushed with the Aussie-feeling. They had cool surfers, equipment where you could test your ability to balance a board without getting wet and an awesome toilet seat that we got to witness for the mere sum of 50 cents. What a bargain!

Leaving town, we came upon a huge sculpture by Barry Flanagan (1941-2009), a famous Welsh post-war artist, whose bronze hares are installed in public spaces in for example New York, Washington and London. I felt lucky to stumble upon the one called “Hospitality” in Knokke Heist – pure cultural bonus. 

Flanagan uses the hare to magnify human meaning and feeling – and he draws on the mythological stories of the hare. A gallery showing his work, puts it this way: After witnessing the animal dash across the Sussex Downs, the artist was struck by its mysterious, acrobatic, unpredictable movements as set against the backdrop of an untamed wilderness”. I can relate. 

Under: Passing by Barry Flanagans "Hospitality"

Under: the best companion on any adventure!

 Under: the lovely landscapes... I obviously took a looooot of photos on this trip. Not my fault! I blame the environment.


The path turns a bit inland as it circles around a river delta where Belgium turns into the Netherlands. There are lush forests, flowers, fields and a sandy delta where you can stop and watch birds. We stopped and watched people, pedalled over sandy Dutch dunes and ultimately left our bikes to go look for sea shells in Het Zwindorp. Mission completed. We stopped for ice cream on the way back.

I know - it's for watching birds - or boats maybe? People were more abundant though…

Other practicalities

There are lots of possible routes to choose from – we easily made slight variations that gave us different landscapes on our way there and back. Go somewhat parallel to the sea and you’ll be fine. We made a child friendly trip of about 20 kilometres. 

Parking can be done in Knokke Heist (with payment). Also, there are several parking lots along the shore – allowing you to start your ride at other vantage points.

It’s possible to rent a range of bikes – from tandem to electrical. In strong wind I bet the electrical gives you a welcoming push.

Bathing suit is a must in summer!