One of our German friends always says, “Why would anyone go to Holland for vacation, when all of the Dutch seem to vacation here?”
The Dutch and the Germans have a deep seeded rivalry. Their football match ups are more like war zones than healthy fun on the field. And some would say that there is still the lingering memory of war; the Nazis occupied Holland for six long years.
We hadn’t been looking to go to Holland. When thinking of a place to go over Spring Break we originally thought Italy would be our destination. The food, the wine, the easygoing life style, would be a much-needed respite from the world of work. However the thought of driving for 9 hours in a car with a 7 year old left us a bit unenthusiastic about the adventure.
Late one night my husband did a little touring, via Google Earth, of places within a four and half hour drive from Frankfurt. We figured this would be the maximum amount of time the girl could handle in the back seat. Jim’s nocturnal research took him to Zeeland.
The next morning he sold me just from the satellite images of the beaches. We booked a barn apartment at Uilenhof in Grijpskerke through airBnB and set our sites on the beach. We were not disappointed.
Zeeland is a most friendly place. Everyone says hello as they pass you on the trail. People stop to talk to you and share directions. No curt responses to questions, only jovial descriptions of how to get from point A to point B. And with knowledge of German and English, you can read most signs and communicate with most people.
The weather was unseasonably warm so we spent most of our time on the beach. We frolicked with the bunnies at our farmhouse. And we ate as much fried fish and French fries as we could stuff down our gullets.
Day 1: It started with an easy drive from Frankfurt to Grijpskerke, Netherlands. Since it was Easter Monday traffic seemed light on the roads. On arrival, our host Mariska and her husband Hans, greeted us and showed us around. We didn’t stay long before we were off to the beach at Domburg.
Be prepared to pay for parking everywhere. Have coins ready for short stays. Most parking cost 1 to 2 euros per hour or 7 euros for the day. Even better, use a bike to get around. There are bicycles everywhere! Don’t feel the need to cart them from home. There are usually 2 to 3 places in every town that will rent you a bike by the day or by the week.
At some point we were starving, but the hustle and bustle of Domburg was a bit much. The prices on the menus also seemed outrageous to us. We then took a short ride into Middleburg. Everything was closed but a few restaurants because it was Easter Monday. We ended up in a tiny pub-like setting eating gourmet French fries with our choice of 20 different toppings.
Day 2: Our foggy day turned sunny as we drove out to Neeltje Jans to see the Delta Works. We decided not to go to the museum since the weather seemed too beautiful to waste by being indoors.
We drove back toward Vrouwenpolder for lunch. For an appetizer we stopped at a fish trailer for a sampling of Kibberling (bits of deep fried Atlantic Cod). For the real meal, we inhaled our bucket of Mussels at De Pelgrim. They were deliciously cooked in leeks, salt, and pepper. And served alongside were two types of sauce (Remoulade and Garlic) and French fries.
After all that food we needed a walk. We drove another kilometer to Breezand. Our hike along the shore included a trip on a pirate ship. Yarrrr!
Day 3: We spent the entire day enjoying the beauty of Mariska’s cabin at Zonneveld beach. Now don’t be confused here. It is just a shack that holds your beach articles, but to us it was pure heaven.
We created a few sand structures in the style of Gaudi. We picked up shells and watched the trekkers with backpacks wander back and forth along the shore. Then we walked up the beach to a “Strandpaviljoen” for refreshments with a view.
Day 4: Since the day started off with rain, we decided to head back to Neeltje Jans for a day at Deltapark. Unfortunately we did not read the reviews on Trip Advisor or we could have saved ourselves 67 euros. The attraction is sort of a cross between a museum, an aquarium, and a Water Park. It looked sad and unmaintained; lots of broken elements on displays and playground equipment. And to top it off, the 15-minute seal show only lasted 5.
We saved the day by exiting the park for lunch at Proef Zeeland at Neeltje Jans Mussels. The Kibberling and Lekkerbek were excellent and the outdoor seating overlooked the bay and the Mussel boats. While you wait for your food you can also watch a short documentary on the Mussel business.
In the late afternoon we ventured back to Mariska’s beach cabin for a short play in the sand.
Day 5: As we left, we were already planning our trip back. Frankly, we were ready to invest in some real estate.
We checked out of our barn apartment and said goodbye to our hosts, the horses, cats, dogs, and bunnies. Then we spent a few hours at Duinweg beach in Ostkapelle.
Never once did we feel unwelcome in Holland. We rarely heard English being spoken and when speaking German we were never treated as outsiders. And I guess Germans really do like to vacation in Holland after all, for we were surrounded by German tourists. Maybe this whole rivalry thing is just a myth. We felt nothing but love.
One Dutch couple we met at a Strandpaviljoen warned us that the beaches are mobbed in July when Dutch schools are out on vacation. So maybe we can go back in August?
Do you have a favorite place in Holland? Where is your favorite place to vacation at the beach?