Yannick De Pauw, from Soms Ook Heimwee, recounts:
Dancing on the water in De Haan
Yannick is the photographer and driving force behind the visual Belgian travel blog www.somsookheimwee.be.
The idea behind his blog? Enticing confirmed doubters and the faint-hearted to explore the world with his breath-taking photographs and captivating stories.
Hard to believe perhaps, but three years ago, Yannick also found it hard to take that first step and set off into the great unknown on his own. Well and truly bitten by the travel bug, he now grasps every opportunity, together with the ‘Soms Ook Heimwee’ team, to discover a new part of the world, be it far afield or close by.
An impulsive weekend break or a long trip to exotic destinations... with camera in tow and Springsteen playing away, Yannick is up for anything! Because with every step in the unknown, you find yourself a little bit more lost. And once you’re fine with that, you’re in for something unforgettable...
Or: surfing in Wenduine during a weekend away at the Belgian Coast.
The sun is setting and is about to kiss the horizon with its orange-red lips. In this red golden decor I make another run for the water and allow the white foam to gently carry me along. Head under water, spurting and spluttering, dancing on the water! I am nine years old and after weeks of nagging I finally got my very own body board, with two shiny dolphins and the tackiest palm tree ever. Twenty years later, still one of my favourite childhood memories: holidaying at the seaside.
Twenty years later and play is becoming an ever more distant memory, until I can smell the sea again that is. The minute I see those white sand dunes all I want is to do is race through them, pretending to be a hare negotiating the sharp beach grass. The vast promenade cries out for a go-cart ride, zigzagging between day tourists and retirees, furiously honking the horn, sniggering away to myself. And then the sea, not a sparkling blue, but a greyish green with its glorious spume! Spurting, taking a run-up, diving! Head first. I feel nine years old again.
Weekend home by the sea for the entire family: from mother-in-law to pooch
I remember, granny and granddad renting an apartment with an almost-view of the sea for more than a month. The lift smelt of sweaty sunscreen, old sand cakes, smuggled seashells and windblown paper flowers. We all got around the table to help peel the mountain of shrimp, sat on the terrace sipping juice from champagne glasses, posh as you please, and nibbling savoury biscuits that looked like fish and stars. I was six years old and said to myself: this is the life.
Some twenty-five years later I pass the Sunparks barrier in De Haan grinning from ear to ear. Right, once upon a time we spent an Easter holiday here. The white cottages, green hedges and red roofs, the blue and green zip tubing around the swimming complex, the pitch & putt course and the forest path to the dunes. I inhale the nostalgia.
But going to the seaside on your own isn’t much fun. Going to the seaside means: cousins, aunts, uncles, your aunt’s friend, granny and granddad, the mother-in-law, the pooch, the grandchildren. It’s a month of comings and goings, of making beds and noisy breakfasts together at the table.
So, of course, we now also bring great family company along on our nostalgic weekend to De Haan: the mother and stepfather from England, the brother, sister-in-law and tiny nephew, Sep, and my mum from my childhood years. As you do, we also hire a large go-cart for the eight of us, eat ice creams, dripping from their cones, on the promenade, sip aperitifs in the sunshine and run our toes through the sand under the setting sun.
Surf lesson for beginners or: dancing like an elephant on water
Back to my shiny bodyboard and the foaming North Sea! Proud as punch and like the ‘pros’ I carry my surfboard under my arm to the sea. ‘The bee’s knees’ I say to myself, shining with pride. I enter the waves and imagine myself the best surfer Belgian mainland has ever seen. Wave after wave I easily glide back to the beach. I wave at the family on the beach but after wave 27 they can’t be bothered to return the compliment. We are the last ones on the beach and my sister is beginning to feel the chill. The parasol is standing up against the cool box; the towels have been carefully shaken out and neatly rolled up. Buckets stacked, sand moulds rescued from their beach grave. It’s time to go home but I ain’t tired yet.
The fact that I am no longer eleven soon became clear during our surfing lesson at shiny new surf club Surfing Elephant. Gingerly I make my way to the waves - mmm, lads, wouldn’t it be a little on the chilly side? – and remember my freshly washed hair that doesn’t particularly like getting wet. But all of a sudden, the salty sea air wakens my memories and switches my body to play mode. I run into the waves, dive head first into the cool summery sea water and allow myself to be engulfed by the waves.
A weekend away near to home, clearing away the cobwebs by the North Sea
Fair enough, I don’t glide through the waves as swiftly anymore, groan when paddling our heavy go-cart uphill and slam on the brakes screaming any time we come to a bend. But the Belgian Coast never fails to warm my heart. It’s a not all that exotic but nearby haven if you’re looking for a change of scenery and want to be a child again for a while. Nibbling away on the salty nuts I got with my beer on the terrace on the promenade I say to myself: this is the life.
Tips for a weekend away at the seaside in De Haan
- Bringing out the child in you again and having some fun in a surf club. At Surfing Elephant you can learn wavesurfing, supping and kitesurfing. Do you and granny prefer to keep it dry? Sit yourselves down in front of one of the large windows of the mega-cosy club and watch the rest of the gang getting drenched over a cafe latte.
- Eating ice cream at Ijs René after a wild go-carting session through the narrow city centre streets.
- Tucking into a grilled steak or fresh fish at classy restaurant Bleu Chaud.
- A visit to or staying at Sunparks De Haan, highly recommended especially if you have a gang of youngsters with you.
- A trip back in time to the Belle Époque era in the Concession quarter with its adorable homes and the authentic De Haan tramway station or during the ‘Trammelant’ (Belle Époque) festival early August.
- Walking the beach of De Haan all the way to Wenduine and back by coastal tram.
- Or following the Kustwandelroute (Belgian Coast’s hiking trail) from the Spioenkop in Wenduine, through dunes and woodland all the way into the centre of De Haan.
- Playing pirate in the vast dunes of nature reserve De Kijkuit.