Broek in Waterland to Leiden

Distance: 65.2km

Time: 3h 38m

Average speed: 17.94 kph

Song of the day: On The Sunny Side Of The Straat

Click here to see today’s route

Broek in Waterland is only about seven miles from the centre of Amsterdam, but it exists in an oasis of calm. It is a small, simple town, consisting of seventeenth century wooden houses surrounding a small lake. Before heading out for dinner we strolled around the lake, enjoying the late evening sun.

From the side of the lake we could look back towards the church and The Inn On The Lake, our hotel for the evening, just in front of the church.

The only real indication that Amsterdam was nearby came from the distant sound of planes descending into Schiphol airport. Otherwise, all was peace and quiet, the silence intermittently broken by the chime of the church bells. We ate at Het Broekerhuis, after enjoying aperitifs in their courtyard, and it was excellent.

Breakfast this morning was exceptional too – home made crêpes filled with fruit, delicious freshly squeezed orange juice, fresh bread and croissants, all with a fine view over the lake from the breakfast room.

We had to cycle across the centre of Amsterdam today, which caused a certain amount of apprehension on the part of the stoker, who remembered only too well just how many tram tracks criss-cross the streets there. First, though, we cycled along the side of the lake, then for a few miles along rural cycle tracks, with the first heron of the day spotted very early in the journey.

After that we shadowed the Amsterdam ring road for a while, heading towards the River Ij. A red bridge loomed ahead, and we could see that the only way onto it involved climbing some steps. The tandem, when fully laden, is heavy, and we were slightly dreading the process of hauling it up the steps and over the bridge. This is Holland, though, and they love cyclists. So, to each side of the steps a channel had been built into the structure, to accommodate bicycle wheels. This made the process much easier.

On reaching the other side we turned right and joined a broad two-way cycle path, which led us painlessly into the city proper. It was a busy thoroughfare, as so much commuting here seems to involve the combination of bikes and trains. Our progress was a little stop-start, because of the traffic lights, but we soon arrived at Amsterdam’s central station, and turned left into the centre.

Initially we cycled along one of the canals which form concentric rings around the city centre. On our last visit here we stayed in a very good hotel on Keizersgracht, and we cycled along part of the same canal today.

“Oh look, Tulips!”, said the stoker. I thought this unlikely, given the time of year, but she had managed to spot a stall selling tulip bulbs. As this seems as close as we’re going to get to a picture of this cultural icon, here is a picture!

Cycling along Amsterdam’s streets was fairly tiring, as pedestrians and cycles seemed to come from all directions. So it was with some relief that we turned into Vondelpark, where the paths were wide. We took the opportunity for a short break, sitting on a park bench and enjoying the sunshine.

Onwards, then, towards Schiphol, and after cycling through the lovely wooded “Amsterdamse Bos” we entered the area surrounding the airport. We couldn’t see much of it, to be honest, as there were enormous hangars and the offices of airlines and couriers between us and the runways. We were cycling alongside Fokkerweg, which brought to mind the excellent anecdote of former British diplomat Sherard Cowper-Coles.

Cowper-Coles recalled how Douglas Bader had visited a girls’ boarding school to recount his exploits during the Second World War, regaling the girls with tales of how he had shot down this Fokker then that one. The headmistress interrupted, explaining to the girls that a Fokker was a plane the Germans used but Bader corrected her: “They are, but these particular fockers were Messerschmitts!”.

Soon we left Schiphol behind, and cycled alongside the Westeinderplassen lake, into a debilitating headwind, as we neared Oude Wettering, our chosen lunch spot. As we were approaching, though, we saw plenty of suitable eateries by the side of the canal, so rather than diverting off-course into town, we chose a suitable-looking café and settled in for a good lunch.

Only twenty or so kilometres remained, but we were tiring somewhat, because of the stiff headwind. Still, the surroundings were distractingly good, as we followed the Huigsloterdijk westwards towards Leiden. Today, almost every lifting bridge we approached was either opening or already open. This presented us with a fine excuse to stop, rest and watch the transit of one or other large boat beneath the open bridge, before travelling on.

Soon enough the roads became suburban, the cycle paths busier as we entered the outskirts of Leiden, a handsome University town boasting a long roster of Nobel Prize winners. It’s also the birthplace of Rembrandt, we learned. We navigated a confusing sequence of bicycle paths before arriving close to our hotel. The hotel, in common with last night’s hotel, chooses to advertise its presence by a single tiny sign on the wall of the hotel, so we looked around in vain for several minutes before finding the entrance. However, a very warm welcome awaited inside. We’re just opposite Rembrandt’s birthplace, so we intend to take a look when we venture out later this evening,

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