The Utopia that is suburban Netherlands {Hint: Skip Amsterdam!}

September 20th - 25th // Oostvoorne, Netherlands

Our first night in Oostvoorne was pretty epic. Our Ryan Air flight of course landed in the middle-of-nowhere-outskirts airport in a town you’ve never heard of called Eindhoven. It was a multi-step process to get to our friend Sarah’s house in Oostvoorne, but it went off without a hitch. First we caught a bus from the airport to the Rotterdam train station. From there, we took a train to Spijkenisse, and from there we took another bus to Oostvoorne. And from there, we walked a mile to Sarah’s house.

At this point it was almost midnight so the walk was really kind of nice. It was totally quiet, but well lit and there were actually a handful of people riding their bikes home. The mile walk was mostly down one main drag and it was one of the most pristine streets I’ve ever seen. Ever single corner, every house, every square inch was just picturesque.

Netherlands

Sarah’s house was at the end of a densely green, quiet, residential street. We made our way to the backdoor, which was just left open because: it’s the Netherlands. They don’t lock their doors or their bikes and everyone is fit and healthy and happy and just. It’s amazing.

We pretty much just went right to sleep, and then awoke the next morning to the sounds of everyone getting ready for school. Once it quieted down, we went out. The house was bright and clean and beautiful. We actually had never met Sarah, so it was sort of funny. She’s from Phoenix, but we never met when she lived here. We became friends via Instagram and then arranged a visit once we started planning this summer trip.

So that morning was to be the first time we met — in our pajamas in her kitchen. We were poking around for coffee when she came back home after biking her kids to school. She was super adorable and we just loved her. We sat down with coffee and something to nibble on and then afterwards she fixed us up with bikes and we all rode into town to get groceries for lunch.

Oostvoorne, Netherlands

The whole town was just jaw dropping. And there’s no traffic lights — there’s a handful of stop signs, but mostly people just drive slow and watch our for each other. In that sense, we felt incredibly safe biking everywhere. And when we got to the grocery store? We just left our bikes out front. Literally no one locks them.

That was such a stark contrast to living in downtown Phoenix where petty theft is so common. We didn’t realize how much space in our brain was taken up by that — being vigilant about locking our car and not leaving anything it it, locking all our screens, doors and windows anytime we left the house and at night, always locking our bikes and often still having them stolen, etc., etc.

Oostvoorne, Netherlands

Anyway — the grocery store was epic and had so much great shit. All of the employees we encountered were so nice — as soon as they realized we spoke English they perked up and said “hello” and then enthusiastically told us to have a nice day! It was so genuine and sweet. We got delicious looking cheesy bread rolls and some meat and fruit and went back home to eat. Afterwards Sarah took us on a walk that literally started out her back door. Like the back gate of her garden opens up right into the forest and tons of walking paths. It was completely dreamy.

That evening we got to meet her four adorable boys and they’re all under….12 I think, so they all had seriously cute hybrid accents of American and Dutch. And they all speak fluent Dutch because they’re kids and their brains are little sponges, and also because they’re in school all day.

The next afternoon Sarah invited her friends over — a glorious dutch couple who are both photographers. The guy was absolutely hilarious and we got on super well, and I connected with his wife too because she had done lots of birth photography. It was really great. Sarah put out an “American” burger bar spread and then a “Dutch” dessert spread with all kinds of stuff she wanted us to try. It was so fun and after dinner all of the adults took a walk through the woods.

The next day Sarah’s husband arrived home from a trip and we got to meet him. His name is Buzz and he brews his own beer and kombucha and was just the nicest guy ever. That evening we made ramen and it was a big hit with everyone.

All of the boys are adorable, but their youngest in particular is pre-school age and he kept coming up to Kris and I with a toy cash register and asking us to write numbers on receipts for him and he called it all his homework. It was so frikkin cute.

One day we took bikes out by ourselves and rode to the next town over, Rockanje, to check out the beach there. The bike lanes here are just….I mean I keep saying epic, but like. They really are just that. And they’re actual lanes designed with actual bikes in mind. They’re not just tiny lanes painted on the side of the road as an afterthought where you’re arm’s length from all the cars. They’re like actual private bike lanes that have nothing to do with cars and if they do cross an auto road, it’s in a very deliberate and obvious way that protects the bikes. Plus, being such a bike friendly culture — cars are used to bikers and that in and of itself makes it so much safer to ride.

The path took us through stunning residential neighborhoods, farm land, and forest until we popped out of the woods and were at the beach. We left our bikes in the public car park and walked down to the water. It was super windy and threatening rain so we didn’t get in the water, but it still nice to see. Then it actually did stop raining so we took cover to eat some snacks before we headed back home. On our way home we passed Sarah and all four kids on bikes headed up to the grocery store. It really is such an insanely higher quality of life over there. At one point Sarah even sent one of the boys up to the store to get dessert for all of us. He biked on his own, picked out dessert, paid and everything. It’s just so safe and so friendly and so human there. Of course he came home with the most random shit ever — a comic book, squeezable yogurt, and some random chocolate, ha! But it was still adorable and a good life lesson.

Another day we biked over to Brielle — it was like a mini Amsterdam without all the fuckery. Now listen — Amsterdam is great, but it’s highly overrated and at this point is just mega touristy and is a super party town — it’s sort of like the Las Vegas of Europe.

Brielle had all the perks of Amsterdam without the hoards of stupid people. It has the canals, the architecture, the coffee culture, the pedestrian areas, the apple pie, etc. It was magical. We left our bikes to explore on foot and ended up along the main canal, which was lined with loads of shops and cafes.

We went to the best coffee shop…basically just — when you see a machine like this and you see a seasoned gentleman behind the coffee bar….it’s going to blow your mind. And you automatically get a Portuguese custard tart on the side. Like. What?

Brielle, Netherlands

After coffee we sat on the grass along the canal and just napped and snacked and reveled in the scenery. Oh, and I guerilla pissed on the grass with a sarong wrapped around me, but I mean. What are you gonna do. It was my only option.

Brielle, Netherlands

On our last night Sarah made a taco bar, which was super fun. She had all the fixins including this incredible cheese sauce that was kept warm and gooey in a crock pot. The next morning she drove us all the way to the Amsterdam airport and we were sad to leave. We had a few hours to kill before our evening flight, but the Schipol airport is super nice and the same grocery store chain that was in Sarah’s little town had an outpost in the airport so we were able to get super delicious food for lunch.

Then we boarded our second to last shit-ass Ryan Air flight and headed to Germany!