WARNING: Continue at your own risk. It was very difficult to choose which pictures to include since we have so many beauties. There are going to be a lot here.
We took a short plane ride to Amsterdam and then rented a car. We based ourselves in Haarlem while visiting the main flower area. The first priority was to find the tulip fields.
Our first find was actually daffodils, but we didn't know that until we got up close. These colors could be either flower.
We found tulips, but there was a fence in the way. I knew we could get closer and eventually we did.
|this yellow field is all tulips|
|standing in tulip heaven|
We found a row of shops along the road. They knew tourists were going to be looking at the fields and hoped we'd buy bulbs or other things from them. I didn't buy anything - bulbs are a challenge if all you have is balcony containers.
|Tom is not the only one who knows how to be silly!|
Flowers are big business in the Netherlands! I admit to not remembering everything we were told about the process, but the flower fields that look beautiful are too far gone to be harvested and sold as cut flowers. I believe they may be next year's crop of bulb sales. We witnessed these men harvesting flowers with buds that hadn't opened. These will be sold as cut flowers.
With a bit of difficulty, we found our way to Flora Holland where the daily flower auctions take place. To say the place is massive is an understatement. There were huge trucks (18 wheelers) from all over Europe in the parking area or on their way out full of what was just purchased. With even more difficulty, we found the tourist entrance. The auction begins at 6:00 am so by the time of our arrival, it had been over for hours. We were still able to walk through and read the signs about how it works. Very interesting.
|one of the many huge trucks|
This photo shows what the auction room would look like when in use.
|these racks were being pulled through the warehouse|
Flora Holland is so big their employees need bicycles to ride around inside the facility!
Along the roads, there are also a very large number of greenhouses to make sure that the flowers can grow and be harvested plenty early for the customers.
|rows of greenhouses with random sheep outside|
We went all the way to the Netherlands to eat lunch in Westport! At least it's closer than Massachusetts!
If we're in the Netherlands, there must be windmills! It was fun to see them when we were driving around, but not always easy to get a picture.
As recommended by a friend who visits Keukenhof annually, we were there by 8:15am. It was so nice to have the gardens to leisurely enjoy before it got crowded - which it did. Most, but not all, flowers on display come from bulbs. They are planted in three levels to maximize the bloom period. It also gives a blend of flowers that isn't normally seen. I'll let you judge for yourself, but I think the gardens are stunning.
Here are a few pictures showing the bulb layers.
The gardens are meticulously maintained. With long opening hours, the work has to be done while people are visiting, but it is done silently.
|something for everybody?|
Back to the gardens
Remember those empty paths? They're not empty anymore!
|not sick anymore|
|Keukenhof even has a windmill for the tourists|
Tom was a good sport and did not rush me along. He had fun taking pictures with his new camera and because of that, we have beautiful souvenirs. Most of the flower pictures are his.
Believe it or not, we did have some time to explore Haarlem.
When it's time for flowers to bloom, making an ice cream cone out of hyacinth is reasonable. It smelled wonderful, but did not make me want to eat it!
Unfortunately, there was a carnival going on in the main square which blocked a good sight line of the beautiful buildings. We were in the Netherlands just a few days in advance of the annual King's Day celebration.
I'd forgotten cannabis is legal now in the Netherlands. I have no idea what kind of restrictions there are, but guess there must be some. We did smell it while passing some people on the street a few times. Smoking out in public seemed to be allowed.
The same friend that advised us to get to Keukenhof early, also recommended some traditional foods to taste. The meatballs in this assortment are called "bitterballen", but were not bitter. We got to check them off the list, but didn't think they were anything special.
Small pancakes are called poffertjies and usually come 10 at a time with a sweet topping. I had strawberries and Tom had cherries. Both were very good although the amount of whipped cream was excessive.
This is how they make the small pancakes.
Large Dutch pancakes (pannekoek) are the size of a dinner plate. They are available in sweet or savory options. Since this was a lunch stop, we chose bacon and ham/cheese.
We had quite a surprise finding Brussels' most famous citizen in Haarlem. We did not eat at this cafe.
|canals are not only in Amsterdam|
|old city gate|
|draw bridge can be crossed by pedestrians when in this position|
|street level of cathedral is now shops!|
This is the door to the Corrie ten Boom House which is also a museum. The family patriarch was a pastor and was leading others in prayer for the Jews decades before WW2. We took a tour of the inside which was fascinating. Since they were already praying for the Jews, it was a natural transition to become part of the Dutch Resistance. They hid many Jews in a hiding place in Corrie's bedroom. They were eventually betrayed by neighbors and the whole family was arrested. Corrie is the only one who survived the concentration camp. There were people hiding in the secret space when the apartment (above the family watch store) was searched, but they were not found.
|Corrie is the youngest - far right|
|the hiding place|
This is the entrance to the hiding place. They've made a hole in the wall allowing visitors to see inside and how small it is. Imagine several terrified people trapped in there for an unknown length of time. The family practiced preparing for a raid reducing the time it took to get the vulnerable into hiding and everything else cleared away. No evidence of extra people could remain. It was a great tour and made me wonder how I would have reacted in that situation. Would I have helped people at such high risk to myself? I like to think I would have, but I also hope I will never be in the situation where I need to make that choice. I also bought the book "The Hiding Place" (which included the bookmark at right) written by Corrie that I look forward to reading.
Bicycles are modes of transportation in the Netherlands not just for leisure or fitness activities. Bike lanes are everywhere and we learned it is very important to look both ways before crossing. Most people have a basket or box in the front and a flat area in the back where goods can be strapped on. In some cases, we saw it used as a seat. Parents carry children in front or back - amazing how many at once! The lack of helmets was very noticeable - only worn by people who were dressed for racing. We had already been pointing them out to each other while driving around - we decided to sit on a bench at an intersection at rush hour. It was so entertaining. Here are some photos, thanks to Tom. I just sat and laughed.
|talking on a cell phone|
|dog on leash runs to keep up|
|girl holding onto Grandma most likely - no minimum or maximum age for bikes|
|this kid is a bit big for the box in front - must be uncomfortable|
|carrying two children in official seats|
|boy in the back definitely not on a seat - unsure about boy in front|
|riding side saddle|
|saddle bags, basket and backpack - he has a lot of gear!|
|kids riding to and from school are often three across and totally in sync|
|cellists arriving at rehearsal venue|
We saw several bikes outfitted with a wooden carrier in the front. Children of varying sizes and ages were riding along. This woman is carrying four children! She had to stop at a traffic light and getting the bike going again was not easy. At some point, the kids must transition to riding their own bike. There are plenty of other pictures, but I think that's enough to get the idea.
We spent our last day in Amsterdam. Before heading to the Rijksmuseum, we went to what is advertised as their daily floating flower market. It was not really floating, but stalls along the side of a canal. They were selling cut flowers and bulbs, no surprise there, along with tourist trinkets.
|back side of the very large flower market|
|cannabis assortment is hanging above the flowers|
|grow your own cannabis|
|tulip bulbs in cans - who knew?|
|cut flowers too|
We always spot the chess sets!
At the Louvre, the Mona Lisa is a "must see". Here Rembrandt's "The Night Watch" draws the biggest crowd. The painting is huge!
|people trying to see Night Watch|
As former residents of Waterloo, we were drawn to the Waterloo room which included this large painting of the battle, but the museum isn't all paintings.
|the last supper|
model ships were very intricate
I am not particularly a fan of this style vase, but wanted to show its size. The detail view shows that the individual blossoms are held in faces. There was one in the shop with flowers. It's definitely unique.
|tulip cappuccino at museum cafe|
I'll leave you with some sights of the traditional Dutch architecture of Amsterdam.
We find the angles on the buildings very interesting and don't understand the purpose. This is not an optical illusion.
|leaving the Netherlands|
It was a fantastic short trip. I hope I can return some day. I can't resist...I have to end with one last picture of tulips!