Tulip Time and Summer in April

By - April 16, 2007 (Updated: November 28, 2014)

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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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of 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+
- 15 hours ago


  1. Comment by Mirka

    Mirka April 16, 2007 at 12:49

    Welcome back from your tulip trip! 🙂 I see you and Andrew had fantastic time and I can´t wait to see some photos (even if they come in January) 😉

  2. Comment by Ash

    Ash April 16, 2007 at 13:29

    Oooh, it looks like you had a wonderful time. We planned to visit Keukenhof this weekend and ride bikes through the bollenstreek, but it was so hot and we thought it would be full of traffic jams. Good to see we were right 😉 We’ll go next weekend 🙂

  3. Comment by christina

    christina April 17, 2007 at 11:56

    Ahh, you guys have the BEST mini-vacations! And can you believe the weather right now? Those flowers look so gorgeous. Years and years ago when I worked in retail in Vancouver, one of my co-workers, an older British woman would fly to Holland every spring just to see the tulips.

  4. Comment by Sue

    Sue April 24, 2007 at 02:50

    It’s in the 20’s here….I think you should stop in Montreal

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