Holland

 

It was always a dream to see the Tulip fields in springtime. The colours dance their own tunes, something unique and exhilirating.

We headed straight to coast from the Schiphol airport.  The bus stop was easy to find and the Dutch are so super friendly and helpful that the 20 minute wait passed really quickly helped along by chatting to the locals.

It was actually a rather pleasant bus ride winding through town roads, making regular stops along the way dropping off and picking up passengers.  We got to see parts of Holland and the folks living in tiny villages along the way.  The closer we got to  Noordwijk aan Zee, so the rows of tulips became visible and our excitement grew.

We arrived at the Grand Hotel Huis ter Duin late afternoon. Wow, the hotel was impressive, grand and our room overlooked the sea.  We walked down to the restaurant on the beach and had a delicious meal and a dutch beer, as one does.  We kept the hot chips and mayonnaise for the street parade the following day.

The weather in April is little unpredictable so we took our ski jacket, gloves, hat and warm walking shoes. Our original intention was to hire a vespa but with my inexperience of driving motorcycles, topped with a partner to carry and camera with tripod and multiple lenses, I humbly declined the responsibility and we opted instead for our own battery operated bicycles.  The owner of the vespa shop was so understanding and even helped us to find the alternative without any penalty for prebooking  the bike.  We seriously owe him much gratitude in helping us make our holiday stress free and one of the best experiences.  Our choice of layered clothing was a great idea as the cycling did warm us up, only to cool rapidly at each stop along the way.

We timed our holiday around 3 decision points:

  1. When would the tulips be best to see?
  2. What were the dates and where could we see the annual flower parade?
  3. When was Koningsdag?

The tulips fields, like a good lens, has a sweet spot.  The window to see the tulips is quite wide but too early and all you see are buds and too late, you may see open tulips but will have missed the hyacinths.  We were rather blessed as we arrived in Holland on the 26th April 2015 and we ticked all 3 boxes.

The annual flower parade started in Noordwijk aan Zee, however, we got to see the night party the evening before in Noordwijkerhout.  By then we had our bicycles, cycled around for about 2 hours photographing tulip fields in the golden hour.  We decided to chain our bikes to a pole and go out celebrating for the night. We had a cycle map, but in the dark, I did not want to take on the challenge of following road signs intoxicated.  We went home by taxi and woke up to see the start of the flower parade right outside our hotel.  We also noticed these fabulous vintage cars driving past and were informed that there was a vintage car fair.  What luck.  We ate hot chips with mayonnaise watching the parade then caught a bus back to to find our bikes.  We attached our batteries and headed off for a full day of delight.

We checked out out of the hotel the following day and headed by bus to see the Keukenhof Gardens. Please note that these gardens are only open a few months of the year from 23 March to 21 May.  There was a baggage storage area for our cases for a small fee.  We off loaded all except for my camera equipment and entered into a magical wonderland.  This fantastic spring garden is planted every year with hundreds of thousands of bulbs with annual designs. – 2015 was themed Van Gogh.  I will let the pictures speak for themselves showing the rivers of tulips, hundreds of varieties of flowers and the sheer delight and joy of such beauty. (Have a look at the gallery below.)

We pulled ourselves away from the gardens and headed up to Haarlem which was buzzing with life.  This city, the capital of the province of the north, had a party vibe and everything was becoming more and more orange in preparation for Koningdag the following day.  The Koningday  public holiday celebrated on 27 April marks the birth of King Willem-Alexander.  The Grote Markt was the hub of the festivities with a fun fair, music, drinks and there was no shortage of restaurants in the surrounding area.  The dutch know how to party and the whole town became one huge “orange” street market with food, second hand goods, music and tons of laughter.

We caught the bus back to Schiphol airport, the following day, having bypassed Amsterdam. I am not sure why I found this amusing but this time round I fell in love with all of Holland and not only the fabulous city of Amsterdam.

Useful links: Cycling around NoordwijkDutch Bike Toursvespa hiring Noordwijk, Grand Hotel Huis ter DuinKeukenhof Gardens, Carlton Square Hotel Haarlem, Schiphol Information.

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