Holland: Dutch Spring
In preparation for our trip to Holland last spring to view the famous tulip fields and Keukenhof Gardens, Erin subscribed to a weekly bloom newsletter, which updated her on the status of the Dutch tulip bulbs throughout the year. Although we had just returned a few days earlier from the Italian Riviera, once Erin received the email update that the tulips were in peak bloom, we booked the only open hotel and headed out on a Friday afternoon in late April for a long weekend in the Netherlands.
The sky on the way to Holland always seems to pour buckets of rain down on us, but this time we were lucky to have clear skies to take in the views of the rolling hills in the Dutch countryside. We were pleased once we arrived in the cute town of Lisse, which is adjacent to miles and miles of flower fields. Even in the dusk hours, we were thrilled by the neatly arranged rows of vivid flowers in every color stretching far as the eye could see. We ended the night with one of our favorite traditions when visiting the Netherlands - picking up salads, fresh juices, hummus, crackers and snacks from the best grocery store in Europe: Albert Heijn. The cashier assumed we were Dutch and went on chatting to us for a few minutes before realising we were American, and we were flattered for being grouped in with the generally tall, athletic and cool local population.
We decided to wake up early the next day to start the day in the flower fields and gardens before the tour buses arrived from Amsterdam. We woke around sunrise and walked from our hotel through the fields to the famous Keukenhof Gardens, which have more than 7 million intricately arranged flower gardens and displays, stretched across several acres. We walked through themed gardens, bamboo forests, floral sculptures and observed more shades of color than we could imagine. Dave's first priority was the local petting zoo, where they let adult visitors into the animal pens. We played with baby goats and sheep, checked out giant rabbits and turkeys, and watched some pigs scarfing town breakfast.
After that, we headed out into a local boat that drove us slowly through the array of waterways connecting the various tulip fields. We glided past rows of neon yellow, pastel pink, vivid red and deep purple, all in perfectly linear stripes. With the bright blue sky, crazy flower combinations and classic Dutch windmills, we felt like we were in a fairy tale. We spent the day and early afternoon wandering and getting lost in the 32 hectacre park, marveling at nature and learning a bit about the world-renowned Dutch flower market. Much of the Netherlands are built on reclaimed land - meaning land that was once ocean and filled in with timber, rock and sand by the Dutch. We learned that the cold, sandy soil helps the flower bulbs grow smoothly and slowly until spring and that the Netherlands is the Earth's biggest tulip producer. Flower wholesalers ship blooms daily to the 2 biggest buyers in the world: the United States and China.
Once we saw as much wild natural beauty as our eyes could handle, we hopped in the car and headed for Den Haag, which is a university town, the third biggest city in the Netherlands and the government seat of the country. We spent our first day exploring Chinatown and devouring some very good Vietnamese fusion food at a trendy restaurant. When in Luxembourg, we don't get to enjoy much Asian food (or any good ethnic food) so we had a great time drinking beer and cocktails and tasting Asian tapas with a young, cool crowd.
Our hotel was located in a diverse neighborhood near the University, so we enjoyed walking around and taking in the smells of Moroccan bakeries, Ethiopian curry houses and Dutch pancakes as we walked home from dinner. We even got to observe part of a Moroccan wedding ceremony, where the bride existed her home on a red carpet and entered a vintage Rolls, all with family and friends playing music and clapping throughout the walk. The following morning, we woke up early and headed to a hipstery coffee shop and enjoyed very trendy but delicious tumeric lattes, avocado toast and sweet potato and fig pancakes. We love visiting the Netherlands because it almost feels like California in that it's very laid back but also cool, fun, young, stylish and healthy.
After breakfast we headed to the MC Escher museum and took in some mind-bending works by the famous Dutch artist. In addition to checking out some of his most famous works, we had a fun time interacting with the museum, taking pictures in a warped perspective room, viewing an immersive multimedia concept film and also viewing Escher's travel photos. It turns out Dave looks like Escher and it was funny to see him posing decades ago in many spots we have since visited.
We spent a bit more time strolling around The Hague, through a park filled with outdoor fitness classes, past cyclists carrying surf boards out to the ocean a few km away and down streets and canals lined with classic Amsterdam-like homes. We made one last stop at Albert Heijn to load up on snacks for the car and headed back to Luxembourg. Next, up spa and hikes in the Swiss Alps.
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