When traveling, going to the beach is a holiday mainstay. Whether it’s heading up to northern Michigan, south to Florida or west to California, it’s difficult to beat a day in the sun, surrounded by sand and waves rolling into the shore. A quick dip, jumping in the surf, that first dunk underwater to acclimate yourself to its cooler temperature – all of these memories are part of the “day at the beach” experience. Pack a cooler, some towels, your favorite beach blanket, sunscreen, sunglasses, maybe a Frisbee to toss around … no matter where in the world you are, this is the standard for the perfect day in the sun.
When we were traveling to Amsterdam in the early autumn, we definitely didn’t plan on heading to the water to do bathing of any kind. We’d packed our raincoats, sturdy boots, extra socks and long-sleeved shirts galore. We were prepared for those gorgeous, early autumn days with chilly winds and vivid colors of the leaves changing to ruby reds, golds and flame orange. But as always in Amsterdam, the weather we packed for is not the weather we experienced.
First of all, every day was hot. Uncomfortably so. Sweating-through-your-shirts hot, sweating-from-your-brow hot. Irritable, bad attitude HOT. But the locals were thrilled with the unexpected sunshine – and so, were filling the outdoor cafés and pubs en force, filling the streets and canals with the sound of laughter, glasses clinking and lively conversation. A few days in, we had adjusted to the warmer-than-expected temperatures but still, it was … unpleasantly warm.
So, imagine our excitement to receive an invitation to visit Scheveningen, a little city just outside The Hague. A longtime friend we had met in Amsterdam nine years ago offered to pick us up at the train station in The Hague and drive us to this small, seaside place for a day of relaxation and escape from the city heat. This offer was, of course, immediately accepted and the next day, we found ourselves riding the rails in hastily-assembled, not-quite-swimsuits and a toddler who didn’t have one at all (thank goodness Europe is so accepting of kiddos going au naturel at the beach!)
Our friend Achelle picked us up – her little car pumping out Dutch music that we didn’t understand but were more than happy to hear – and we careened along the roads to the beach. It was a weekday, so it was largely empty, but it also leant a private quality to the shoreline before us; as if the entire beach belonged to us and this was a special, exclusive outing.
Our host had packed an unrivaled picnic cooler: Dutch cheese, sandwiches, fruit, cookies, chips, cold drinks of many kinds. She had procured beach toys for our son and brought blankets and umbrellas, towels and change for the pay-bathrooms, thus enhancing the feeling of an exclusive beach day.
The sun was shining, the wind blew in over the cool North Sea to keep us comfortable despite the heat. We feasted and drank to our hearts’ content, talked and laughed and remembered old times, while creating new memories. Our son ran naked, shrieking and giggling through the sand and into the water again and again until we were exhausted just watching him.
As the sun began its descent, we packed up for our return to Amsterdam. Even though it was early autumn and we had expected changing leaves and cold winds, bundling up and long sleeves, we found that a beach day is never a bad day, no matter the season. And that an unexpected beach day might be the best kind of all.