These days I’d call myself a cycling ‘flâneuse’ – longer cycle touring losing its appeal thanks to my unwillingness to cycle in the company of others (usually speedier than I), coupled with my lamentable map-reading skills. I was nevertheless hankering after a few days of gentle pedalling, preferably somewhere coastal, with the sea acting as my compass. But where to go and how to do it? I certainly didn’t fancy lugging my own bike along.
A friend who’d holidayed there as a child recommended the province of Zeeland, an archipelago of peninsulas in the southwest of the Netherlands. As a cyclist who avoids hills like the plague, it sounded like the perfect destination – and so it proved.
I honed in on Vlissingen, a port city and seaside resort in Zeeland on what was, prior to the construction of a dam in 1871, the isle of Walcheren. It’s on the doorstep of a frankly luscious cycle path that follows the rugged coastline for miles. I later learned that this forms part of the 610km long-distance Dutch Coastal Route which begins in the province at Sluis – the town sits on the Dutch-Belgian border – and ends in the northern university town of Groningen.
After a journey down on the Eurostar to Rotterdam, I hopped onto the Intercity train to Vlissingen, at the end of the line. From the sleepy station I took a short bus ride to my Airbnb studio, Costa del Nolle, located in a quiet suburb. I’d taken a punt and booked it for three nights owing to its proximity to the quiet Westduin beach, coast path and the ‘Nollebos’, a natural forest tucked behind the dunes. Door-to-door, the journey had taken me under six hours from St Pancras.
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Although my kindly hosts, Tsarina and Richard, rent out bicycles, in the land of the tall, I’m an anomaly at 5ft2in. Fortunately, the next day I was able to hire a seven-gear Dutch-style bike, better suited to my height and light and sporty enough for longer rides, from the friendly Vlissingen Fietsverhuur on St. Jacobsstraat near the old market square (€13). The street is full of independent shops, including fashion emporium Mrs Marcos, and the charming veggie and vegan-friendly Nopal restaurant is just round the corner.
The city may be small fry where…