Saturday, April 23
We had landed in the Netherlands when festivals and holidays seemed to spring up all around us, one being the annual flower parade. As the twilight began, folks started gathering down a main street to peer at the flotilla of floral vehicles, and we decided to join them in spite of the definitely unspring-like temps.
After watching a few we called it quits knowing we’d be able to peruse them all under, hopefully, sunny skies the next day.
Sunday, April 24
And, we did :) but only after a quick morning shower of hail.
When the gray turned to blue we headed out and became part of the people river
as we wandered from one float to the next, all the time thinking of our friend Ellen who’s created floral peacocks as table centerpieces.
Roller-blading blossoms handed out individual stalks
Some street musicians added their tunes to the festival ambiance, one of them who could have been Robin Williams’ twin.
Even the “Angry Birds” appeared.
At the end a mini-carnival offered kids opportunities to expend unused energy, and I couldn’t help but wish they had an adult size. What a great way to celebrate Spring: literally, Jumping for joy :)
Wednesday, April 24
We had heard that King’s Day (formerly Queen’s Day before Queen Beatrix abdicated 2013) was the best street party ever, so we took a break from exploring southern towns to join in the revelry.
It wasn’t the best weather but we couldn’t be here and not join in. Most partyers huddled under umbrellas venturing out when the rain took a break.
We stopped at a lunch truck for Max’s new favorite food, kibbeling, which is fish fried in batter with a tartar-like sauce.
Not being much of a fried fish fan, I hesitated when he offered me some; but, after one bite, I was sold and proceeded to scarf down a good half share.
When another rain storm started its drenching of revelers, we headed back to JUANONA passing by evidence of the day’s fun (evidence which quickly disappears by the next morning).
Settling back aboard we heard some loud music coming closer and closer. Poking our heads out we saw the source and shared a ‘Cheers!’ to a boatload of King’s Day well-wishers. A perfect ending to the National Holiday :)
Sunday, May 1
Our first cycling on this cruise, and where else to go but Keukenhof Gardens. Unlike the last time I rode a bike, I actually made it there and back and loved it. It did help being flat. Plus, you really do feel like you’re the elite with traffic signs such as these:
After about an hour+ toodling along a canal and through villages we arrived. We had purchased tickets online so joined the long line and wheeled our bikes to the entrance only to be told no bikes allowed. Once we entered and saw the crowd, we realized no wonder they’re not permitted. People and flowers everywhere. The scenery looked like someone had taken equal parts of both and strewn them across this former kitchen garden (‘keukenhof’ translated).
The origins for this massive undertaking began back in the 15th century when Countess Jacqueline of Bavaria (1401-36) used this area to collect fruits and vegetables for Teylingen Castle. In 1641 Keukenhof Castle was built and the estate grew to over 200 hectares (almost 500 acres).
In 1857 the estate’s gardens were redesigned into an English style by two landscape architects (who also designed Amsterdam’s Vondelpark). Fortunately, these grounds didn’t remain in the view of private eyes only. As of 1950 the public is now able to tour the expansive flowering hub after 20 flower bulb exporters developed a plan in 1949 to use the estate for a spring-flowering exhibition.
Annually over 800,000 visitors wander through the grounds during the two months Keukenhof is open; and, today we joined them picture-taking, portrait-making, and just slowly stepping along the numerous flower paths.
Locating a convenient lunch spot, we noticed even the carts are on bikes.
Instead of being too crowded I loved how everyone was milling around enjoying a beautiful spring day amidst flora, flora everywhere.
You could visit a variety of pavilions each with its own theme, from tulips (of course)…
to kids entertainment,
even some fauna: the little pig pic is for my cousin Cathy and the peacock and peahen for our friend Ellen.
After two hours of strolling we wanted to head back through the fields which bordered these gardens.
Even saw someone trying out his drone.
We traded portrait shots with some other tulip-ers
before riding back to Harlem.
Dropping our bikes off with Tara at a great hostel-inn, HELLO I AM LOCAL,
we walked back to JUANONA knowing we had really, truly experienced Spring in Holland and it was SPECTACULAR and REAL :)