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All Things Dutch

By alison - May 3, 2005 (Updated: November 30, 2014)

I can’t even believe that a month has gone by already. I’ve been very slack with the blog so I’ll do my best to catch up. Andrew is in Brussels for the next couple of days so after a busy weekend I’m enjoying the quiet. Spring is in full swing here in the Netherlands and we’ve had some fabulous weather. On Sunday the temperature hit 28 but now we’re back to a more normal 13 degrees.
So, as I mentioned in the previous blog, a few weekends ago was our Keukenhof trip. It started off on the wrong foot when we were stuck in traffic for 2 hours. The main road was detoured, we assume because of an accident, and the tour buses were lined up for miles. You may recall that when we visited the gardens last year, it was on the first weekend that they were open. While there seemed to be quite a few people there then, it hardly prepared us for this time. When we finally arrived, we saw that the parking lot we used last year, the only one that was open at that time, was totally full of tour buses. Then we passed a second lot… also tour buses. We were directed to the overflow parking and drove past a lot full of caravans and finally to a huge field filled with cars. Despite this, the line at the gate was quite quick, as we were entering from the back of the park. But as soon as we stepped into the gardens, we were overwhelmed by crowds. While normally I get frustrated and anxious in crowds, even the swarms of people didn’t deter from the beauty that surrounded us.

Our first trip to Keukenhof did not prepare us for the colour and beauty that greeted us inside the gates. The tulips were in full bloom, compared to just the early bloomers we saw last year. The colour and displays were breathtaking. When you see photos of the tulips, what you don’t see are the nuances in size and shape and colour. Some of the tulips were knee high, with blooms as big as your hand; while others were tiny and hugged the ground. Words are almost as inadequate as the photos to describe the gardens. All I can say is that even if you aren’t a gardener, if you enjoy nature, it is a must see.

We spent close to a full day at the gardens, when we finally reached our crowd tolerance limit. Then we headed out to drive through the fields again. While the gardens are breathtaking in their patterns and designs, the fields are breathtaking for sheer size. Huge stripes of colour greeted us around hidden corners. There was nothing more spectacular than to be driving along and suddenly turn a bend and be confronted with the most brilliant sheet of red that you can imagine. Some of the oranges and yellows were so bright that they seemed to be lit from within. I can’t imagine how wonderful it would be to wake up to that view every morning for 2 months of the year.

This weekend was our truly Dutch weekend. Andrew’s friend and co-worker, Tom, was in town for work and arrived to stay with us on Saturday. It was also Queen’s Day and there were huge celebrations planned in the city. Robert had taken us out for supper the night before and we walked through the area of A’dam called the Jordaan. Usually it is a quiet neighborhood filled with quiet pubs and little shops. Already we could see the preparations for Saturday. There were orange decorations everywhere… orange being the national colour, and all over the sidewalks was tape and chalk reading ‘bezet.’ Robert explained that this meant taken.

Every year on Queen’s Day, the city turns in to a giant flea market, because it is the only day that you can sell things on the street without a permit. While there is a lot of typical flea market stuff, there are also lots of people cashing in on the huge crowds in the city. They sell drinks and food and there are lots of games and quirky ways of taking your money. Kids perform for change and there is loads of outdoor entertainment.

Even though Robert warned us of the crowds, we still weren’t really prepared for what awaited us. As we neared the city on Saturday, with Tom, we were confronted with a sea of orange. We waded in, and as far as you could see, were people. Everywhere. For miles. The city centre was completely shut down to traffic and trams. We walked from the Jordaan to Vondelpark and it took us all morning.

Vondelpark, while usually busy in the summer, was absolutely swarming with people. We grabbed a patch of grass and rested our tired feet and watched as a sea of over a million people flowed by. I have never seen anything like it. When we couldn’t handle the drunken masses anymore, we walked to the outskirts of central and grabbed a cab home. We then popped next door to our wonderful Italian restaurant and had a cozy supper, which was a welcome respite to our crazy day.

On Sunday, we needed to take Tom for Panekoeken and Profertjes so we went to the Pancake Bakery and stuffed ourselves. Then we headed out to the country-side where we rented some bikes and cycled through the fields. It was lovely. We had gorgeous weather and nice scenery. We stopped at an Inn for water and beer and the cycled back. The town where we had rented the bikes was on the seaside, so we checked out the beach and had some gelato.

With sore butts and sweaty backs from biking, we headed home. Then we wandered to the other end of Java Island to a nice little cafe and spent the evening eating supper on the patio. It was a truly super weekend.

So that about sums up the excitement since the last blog. We’ve had a couple shopping days in there as well, including the purchase of our Senseo coffee machine and a trip to the Albert cuype markt. Other than that we basically have been trying to settle in to the routine of a new life. Hopefully this week our house hunting will begin and soon we’ll hear about our Visas. Hope everyone is well!

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Alison

Alison

Big Cheese at CheeseWeb
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of Cheeseweb.eu. She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
Alison
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