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South Holland, Netherlands

It’s impossible for us to think of South Holland, without thinking of the rainbow coloured tulip fields and the unparalleled Keukenhof Gardens, in Lisse, a place we’ve visited ten times. But there’s more to South Holland than tulips. The region is also home to some of our favourite Dutch cities and towns.

We’ve spent time in the capital, The Hague, enjoying the museums and architectural contrasts between ancient and modern. Then there is Rotterdam, where there’s nothing ancient in sight. This modern city is a must for architecture buffs. We also love picturesque Gouda; Delft, with its tile factories and university vibe; and our favourite beach is at Nordwijk aan Zee.

All Articles About South Holland, Netherlands

Keukenhof Gardens

The Netherlands is known for tulips and every spring, millions of garden tourists travel to the biggest tulip garden in the world – Keukenhof Gardens.

Situated in the middle of South Holland’s tulip fields, in the town of Lisse, Kuekenhof is a magical place for garden lovers. Over 7 million flower bulbs bloom every spring, in the park. Although it is only open from the end of March to the end of May, the Keukenhof has seen 44 million visitors in its 60 years.

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For the first few days of October, our little flat was rather full. My parents arrived on the 1st and the following day, Andrew’s Aunt Doreen and Cousin Sandra arrived. In order to avoid staying in such close quarters for the whole weekend, Andrew and I took the whole crew to Amsterdam on the train. The timing worked out well, as Andrew had a meeting outside the city Friday afternoon.

I took the rest of the gang into the city where we had some lunch and found our hotel. We then went on a bit of a walking tour through some of my favourite parts of the city.

That evening we were to meet Andrew at our favourite little jenever bar, Wynand Fockink. We were a bit late… Andrew had to occupy himself with beer while he waited. We finally made it and drinks were ordered, sampled and enjoyed. Then it was time for supper at, where else, Los Pilones. But it wasn’t the Los Pilones we knew and loved… they’ve opened a second location in the Jordaan and I think it was even more fantastic than the old one.

Andrew Before

Andrew After

Bend, slurp, lift… drinking at the jenever bar. (Mine’s the purple one)

Aunt Doreen

The next morning we were up very early to catch a bus. Since we couldn’t fit everyone in our car, I had organised an all day bus tour of the Netherlands through Viator. It was fantastic and I would highly recommend it. My only complaint was that the first stop was supposed to be at the flower auction in Alsmeer which I have wanted to see forever. On the Viator website they state that this is closed on Sundays and is substituted with a visit to a cheese and clog factory. Well apparently it is closed on Saturdays too. So cheese and clogs it was.

Cheese

and clogs

Having had all of the cheese and clogs we could take, we were off to Rotterdam. There we had a quick photo stop at the Hotel New York, which was once owned by the Holland America Line. We had a lovely view of the Rotterdam skyline and the Erasmus Bridge.

Our next stop was Delft, where we visited a delftware factory.Unfortunately the painters don’t work on weekends but we were given a brief explanation of the process and could see some works in progress. Of course there was also time in the shop at the end of the tour. Then we had a bit of free time in Delft to grab some lunch. Dutch pancakes seemed like a good thing to do.

Back on the bus, after lunch, and we were driven to Den Haag. We drove by the major sights, including the Peace Palace and the city’s beautiful government buildings. We followed The Hague with a drive through the lovely seaside town of Scheveningen.

Our final stop was Madurodam. To be totally honest, I’ve scoffed at this attraction without ever having been there before and I didn’t have high hopes. Madurodam is a miniature reconstruction of all of the famous sights in the Netherlands. I was expecting a rather sketchy mini-golf type recreation. I stand corrected. It was actually very well done and quite fascinating, especially if you have been to many of the places represented as Andrew and I have. Many of the models have working parts, including trains, planes and boats. It would be a fabulous place to take kids but it was fun for us adults as well.

Mom -getting down ‘tourist style’ at Madurodam

The Rijksmuseum – in mini

After Madurodam, we were driven back to Amsterdam and after a bit of wandering, we settled on a tapas bar in the Jordaan for supper. Doreen and Sandra would be leaving us Monday morning to continue their holiday in Barcelona, so we thought we’d give them a sample of what to expect. The food was great and the atmosphere was fun.

Dad didn’t care what we did, as long as he got to ride on a train…

The next morning we checked out and decided we couldn’t leave Amsterdam without the ever-present canal cruise. We took our favourite Blue Boat Company for a spin around the city. Despite the rain, it was a nice tour. When we finished, we hopped back on the train for an early night home.

Check out the Photoblog over the next week, for more photos from our adventures in the Netherlands.

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Andrew and I just got back from another absolutely fantastic long weekend away. Remember our London trip… how we had fantastic weather and we didn’t argue once (unheard for us)? Well, we just had a repeat and I still have to keep looking at my calendar and reminding myself it’s only April.

First off, lets talk about the weather. We’ve been having a hot and sunny streak here in the lowlands for about two weeks now. We haven’t had a drop of rain. It’s been great BBQ and patio weather. The Netherlands was no exception and while we were sitting on the beach we were literally laughing at how hot it was … but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Andrew’s Keukenhof shots – no tourists!

The purpose of the trip was tulips and that’s where we started on Thursday. We left Belgium around lunchtime and took our time driving to the hotel. We stayed at the Hampshire Hotel – De Witte Raaf in Noordwijk. Noordwijk is on the coast of the Netherlands to the south-west of Amsterdam. Our hotel was in the dunes and smack dab in the middle of tulip country. We spent the afternoon driving through the fields and admiring the colour.

The next morning we were up with the sun and took the quick ten minute drive to Keukenhof. We arrived to only a handful of cars in the parking lot at opening time. After having visited the gardens for the past four years, I had a plan of attack. We raced to the lake as soon as we got through the gates so I could nab some landscapes before there were too many people. The plan was perfect – I scored virtually empty shots.

Inside the tulip house

My second stop was the tulip exhibition house. This is my favourite spot for photography and where I make most of my favourite tulip images. I managed to have a good few hours with little disturbance from crowds. By the time I finished up we were ready for lunch and the park was getting packed. With my main shots in the bag however, I could relax a bit and enjoy the rest of the park. We made it to almost 3 o’clock before we were burnt out and sick of crowds. When we left, our parking lot, the overflow lot and the bus lot were all full. We got out just in time.

We went back to the hotel to drop off my gear and freshen up. Then I had a plan to go to my favourite garden centre outside of Hilversum. It would have been a good plan… except for the miles and miles of traffic on the highway. Thinking I was a smart cookie, I looked

Soaking up the sun at Noordwijk an Zee

at the map and found us and alternate route. Apparently 50 thousand Dutch had the same plan. It took us well over an hour to get to the garden centre and I figured it would be closed when we finally got there. Our persistence paid off however. Not only did we have an interesting scenic drive (albeit a slow one), we discovered the location of the flower auction that I’ve always wanted to visit (it’s still on my to-do list but at least I know where it is now) and the store was still open when we got there. I got some plants (including an olive tree I’ve wanted since my first trip to the south of France) and some colourful pots for outdoors.

That evening for supper we went back to our old pasta haunt on Java Island. It was next door to our apartment building and we went there often. The food is just as good as we remembered and it was nice to be ‘home.’

Saturday we went to the beach in Noordwijk an Zee. We did a bit of shopping and strolled down the endless beach in the sun. Then we settled at a café and watched the world go by. It was perfect.

Later that afternoon we headed in to Amsterdam with plans of our Mexican supper. We thought some drinks at a canal side café would be just the ticket. We found a seat and waited to place our order. We waited, and waited and waited, and noticed that everyone around us seemed to be staring longingly at their empty glasses. Finally one waitress appeared. She was obviously new (or at least I hope that was her excuse) and ill equipped to handle the high tech order taking device. When we finally had placed our order a table on the canal became available so we moved to the better view (and to escape the chain smoker beside us). This was probably a bad idea as it totally confused our waitress.

To make a long story short, I waited over an hour for a Cosmo (they take a little longer to make she assured me… riiiiight). When I tried to order a second one, she informed me that their barman had left… at 5:30… at a bar?!? We decided he got fed up with dealing with the incompetence and left to save his sanity. Despite the smoke and lack of libations, sitting and watching the canal traffic was magical. It is my favourite Amsterdam pastime and we whiled away a few hours before supper and our belly-stuffing Mexican feast.

Drew at Noordwijk an Zee… in April…

Sunday Andrew wanted to return to the beach one last time. We bought a couple of cheap beach chairs and plonked ourselves at the edge of the water (we had to move back a few times as the tide came in). We had both brought books with us to read but watching the beach traffic was so entertaining we didn’t crack a page. It seemed the whole country (and maybe a few others as well) was on the beach and enjoying the heat (the car told us it was 28 degrees when we left and I believe it was close).

Now we are back for a few days to clean, pack and in Andrew’s case, work his butt off. Then we get to go home to highs of 6 degrees. I hope you people appreciate what we are sacrificing for you…

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