Kinderdijk

mapOn Saturday, April 28th, I decided to board a southbound train for Kinderdijk, near Rotterdam, for the day. Before I left Holland, I really wanted to see the world-famous site.

For about a thousand years, the Dutch have been extremely clever in dealing with the water that surrounds them. The sustainable blend of nature and technology used to keep Kinderdijk dry is so uniquely valuable that the area and its windmills are designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site – I didn’t want to miss it while I was so relatively close.

IMG_1287The views from the train along the way of all the flower fields in the bulb region were worth the train ride in itself.

 

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After about an hour and a half or so I reached Rotterdam. From the train station, I walked through the town down to the docks to catch a waterbus which would take me to Kinderdijk.

I managed to find the waterbus and was soon on my way…

We cruised along the river Nieuwe Maas for about 8 miles and then there we were! (The following two photos are not mine, I “borrowed” them from their website.)

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First I went inside the Visitor’s Center and learned all about the technology of pumping water. You won’t find a windmill complex like Kinderdijk anywhere else in the world. The ingenious system of windmills and pumping stations have been keeping the soil dry here for nearly a thousand years, in a constant struggle between human brains and the power of the water.

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Per their tour, “Construction of hydraulic works for the drainage of land for agriculture and settlement began in the Middle Ages and have continued uninterruptedly to the present day. The site illustrates all the typical features associated with this technology – dikes, reservoirs, pumping stations, administrative buildings and a series of beautifully preserved windmills.

Like much of the rest of the country, Kinderdijk lies below sea level. If we let nature run its course here, some 40% of the Netherlands would be flooded, and 60% would be under threat from the waters! Throughout the ages, the people who lived in these areas had to come up with clever solutions to stave off disaster.

The famous windmills of Kinderdijk rise high above the polder landscape of Alblasserwaard, their mighty sails proudly facing the wind. A thousand years ago, this whole area was one big peat bog, trapped between raging rivers and the fury of the sea. Hunters and fishermen came here only in summer if the water levels were low enough.”

After learning a bit about what I was looking at, I headed over to ticket office and bought passage on one of the boats that cruise along the canal past the windmills.  It was rather cold that day and the windmills were really spread out. I didn’t feel like walking to each of them and I am glad I did! Although I would have liked to get up close and personal with each one I also had to consider that I also had to navigate my way back to Amsterdam via the train before dark so time was limited and the boat proved to be the answer!

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Off we went to see each of the windmills…

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We traveled all the way down the canal and then turned around and headed back the way we came.

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That was a whole lot of fun. The skies were quite stormy and threatening to rain, so I started making my way back to the train to head north back to Amsterdam. It was an uneventful train ride on a different route than I had taken earlier in the day and luckily it was shorter. Before I knew it, I was back at Amsterdam Central Station.

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When I arrived, I decided to take a few photos of the area immediately around the station as I hadn’t been in that part of the city since I first arrived 10 days earlier.

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From Amsterdam Central, I caught the No. 22 bus back to the Zeeberg Hostel, however, I got on the bus headed in the opposite direction, so I got another tour of the west side of Amsterdam and then turned around and rode the bus back through the center of town and out to the east side of town. That was an adventure in itself!

When I finally got back to the hostel, just as the sun was setting, the friendly woman at the reception desk asked me how my day bicycling around Amsterdam had been.  I explained to her that I had returned the bike that morning and decided instead to take a train to visit Kinderdijk.  She exclaimed, “Well, that’s mighty impressive; getting to Kindedijk via buses, trains, water buses and back again is not an easy thing to do, even for a local!”  Her comment made me feel rather accomplished; I had no idea it was a test of my navigational skills!

I had a very early morning flight back to Aberdeen, Scotland scheduled the following day, so I ate some dinner in the hostel’s pub, sorted my belongings, packed my suitcase, and called it a night. Morning came far too soon, but just the same I woke up before sunrise to take a taxi arranged for me by the hostel.

When the taxi driver approached the off-ramp for Schipol airport we discovered the ramp was closed!  What?!? We drove past, turned around to take the off-ramp on the other side of the highway, only to discover that too was closed. What’s going on?

Consequently, traffic was stopped, bumper-to-bumper, on the highway as far as we could see.  When we inched past a police car, the driver asked the officer what was going on. The policeman informed us that Schipol was closed due to an electrical power outage and he had no idea when it would re-open. We also observed several people in my same predicament getting out of the cars ahead of us, removing their bags from the trunks, jumping the fence and heading off on foot to the airport at least a couple of miles away!  Never seen anything quite like that before and neither had the taxi driver.

Luckily, the taxi the hostel had a contract with had a “set” fee because we drove back and forth for at least an hour and a half until finally, the airport re-opened and he was able to deliver me just outside the “departures” entrance; otherwise it would have cost me a small fortune!

Once inside the terminal, it was an absolute madhouse. It took another hour or two to work my way through the check-in lines, deposit my baggage, only to discover my flight had consequently been canceled. I had two options; wait for the next flight late that night or try again for the early flight the following day. I opted for the late night flight, however, that meant I would spend the next 12 hours at Schipol Airport! Hmmm…

Luckily, it’s a rather large airport with all kinds of eateries, shops, and plenty of nooks and crannies with a wide variety of comfortable seating options.

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I did a lot of walking and even managed to get my 5 miles logged on my pedometer for the day. I also ate 3 meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) in various restaurants and found every comfortable seat I could find, including a nice lounge chair where I was even able to take a nap stretched out!

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Finally, as the sun was quickly setting in the west, I was on the plane and headed back to Scotland!

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Attitude of Gratitude ~  I am grateful for my innate ability to navigate easily and rely upon my reliable “inner compass.”  I am also grateful for my ability to be patient and just ‘go with the flow’ when best-laid plans go awry. I am also extremely grateful for the absolutely wonderful adventures I’ve enjoyed in The Netherlands and the multitudes of fond memories and new friends I’ve made which I will hold dear for years to come.  That’s what it’s all about, after all, making memories!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bye Bye Magnifique III – Hello! Kings’ Day in Amsterdam

The sun was shining brightly on the morning of Friday, April 27th, but my mood was just a little gloomy.  I had met so many wonderful new people and had such a great time with them aboard the Magnifique III that I really hated for it to come to an end.

I can’t begin to give the Bike-Boat Tours a better recommendation than STUPENDOUS!  The whole package was absolutely wonderful.  Super-Duper great and friendly guides,  (a big Thank YOU to Arie & Tami!), comfortable and classy accommodations, scrumptious food prepared by an obviously well-trained chef, a friendly and helpful Skipper and Crew, and activities and bike routes that more than satisfied. I really enjoyed the informative talks that Arie provided about the culture and customs of his native Netherlands whenever we stopped somewhere in a small village or another place of interest. The information he provided really was an added bonus. The whole trip came together so nicely and so smoothly.  I highly recommend this company; Boat-Bike Tours. They not only met my expectations but definitely exceeded them!

I grabbed one of their catalogs to start dreaming about another trip in the future.  I’m definitely thinking it would be a great way to see parts of France next!

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I lingered after breakfast saying goodbye and fare-thee-well to new friends from Canada, Sweden, the US, and Germany which I made the acquaintance of on this great trip.

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But although I lingered, it soon became time was for me to gather up my belongings and greet a taxi to head back to Amsterdam city and leave the docks; I did so reluctantly…

However, I was in for yet another delightful day because it just so happened that it was yet another national holiday in Holland – King’s Day!  I didn’t plan it that way – really – but was delighted that it was working out in this manner. I didn’t even know about King’s Day until that morning!

King’s Day is the annual Dutch national holiday in honor of King Willem-Alexander. There are celebrations throughout the Netherlands, however, the most popular destination is Amsterdam where an average of 700,000 visitors join 822,000 locals in the world’s largest street party.

16:00 am marks the start of the ‘flea market’ all over town – a street market where half the population sells their bric-a-brac, used clothes, and crafts for next to nothing. Where? Everywhere people live. You’ll find anything from broken toys, second-hand clothes, fantastic bargains on musical instruments, electronics, software from a bygone era and everything else under the sun. It’s just one big flea market on every available space on sidewalks city-wide!

In addition, throngs of people lining the streets and canals wear orange, the national color (after all, the Queen hails from the House of Orange). Take ‘throngs’ literally – particularly in the city’s center where you’ll be shoulder to shoulder with other revelers.

Before I joined the party, my taxi safely delivered me to my next hostel,  Stayokay Zeeburg, on the east side of town.IMG_1208

The place was hoppin’, and everyone inside was getting checked in, dressing up in orange and making plans to have a great day.  This looked like yet another nice hostel.

I put my stuff in my room, rented a bike from the hostel and headed out into the city in the late morning.  It was an absolute madhouse everywhere with people wall-to-wall. Luckily, I happened upon Oosterpark near the Troopenmuseum where I could ride to my delight along the pathways without a lot of people; about the only place in town that wasn’t crowded! Phew!

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Then I rode over to the zoo. In the plaza, there was a special flea market set up just for kids to sell their wares. I enjoyed watching the kids run and play while I sipped a cup of coffee and munching on an absolutely delicious macaroon.

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After that nice break, I got back on the bike and started heading toward the main canal near the Hermitage Museum and spotted this interesting building along the way. Amsterdam is such an interesting town.  It’s full of really old Dutch buildings, but, just around the corner or right next door, you’ll see something modern, like this one. The city is full of poignant juxtapositions and it’s refreshing. Very eclectic.

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Eventually, I made my way to the Hermitage Museum on the Amstel, found a spot along the wall bordering the canals and watched the throngs on boats partying away and having a grand time.

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As I watched the thick traffic of boats, I was amazed no one ran into each other as they navigated their way.

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After a while, I spotted a spire on the skyline of rooftops and worked my way toward it.  It is the Zuiderkerk.

According to Wikipedia: “The Zuiderkerk (“southern church”) is a 17th-century Protestant church in the Nieuwmarkt area. The church played an important part in the life of Rembrandt and was the subject of a painting by Claude Monet.

It was the city’s first church built specifically for Protestant services and was constructed between 1603 and 1611. The distinctive church tower, which dominates the surrounding area, was not completed until 1614 and contains a carillon of bells built by the brothers Hemony, installed in 1656 along with four bells which ring monthly.

French Impressionist painter Claude Monet painted the church during a visit to the Netherlands. Three of Rembrandt’s children were buried in the Zuiderkerk, which is very near to Rembrandt’s house. According to local legend, Rembrandt painted the Night Watch at the church because his own studio was too small. However, the story is highly disputed and most likely untrue.

The Zuiderkerk was used for church services until 1929. During the final (1944-1945) winter of World War II, known as the hongerwinter (“hunger winter”) in the Netherlands because food was so scarce, the church was in use as a temporary morgue because people were dying faster than they could be buried.”

IMG_1419After leaving the church, I noticed the day was beginning to wane and I needed to get back across town before it got dark navigating my way through the crowds of people well into the party mode. I also noticed I was getting pretty tired after a long, exciting week.

Attitude of Gratitude ~ Life is full of wonderful surprises and I feel grateful for the ones that cross my path serendipitously.

 

 

 

 

 

Final Day of Bike & Boat Tulip Tour

IMG_1063Thursday, April 26th was a full schedule.  First of all, we all had to wake up at O’Dark Thirty, sleepily drink our coffee to try to wake up and be ready to board a bus parked outside our boat. We were going to tour the famous Flower Auction in Aalsmeer. It is the largest floral market in the world!

We managed to wake up, board the bus and then travel a short distance to the market which is located somewhat near Schipol Airport.

Around 20 million flowers are traded here every day. Visitors are welcome, however, they must arrive early (hence the early bus ride!) and only observe the action from walkways above the flowers in the busy warehouse floor below where little transport trains of cars of flowers crisscross the world’s largest covered market at astonishing speed. It was definitely a definitive study in logistics!

It is important to know in advance that the auction is not at all like Keukenhof Gardens. You will not get up close and personal with the flowers – the most interesting part of the Aalsmeer flower market is seeing the logistics in action, rather than admiring flowers up close.

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As you can see it is a hive of activity. Endless numbers of small trains full of carts loaded with containers of flowers and plants are moved by electric-powered trucks or automated rails. It looks all chaotic with a highway system (and clearly a highway code to go with it) allowing the various wagons to be moved to where the schedules demand.

Flowers arrive from around 10 pm, are cooled and then sorted throughout the night. The auctions take place in the early morning hours; then the flowers are distributed immediately. By late afternoon, all the flowers will have been moved out and shipped to destinations worldwide. Afterward, the warehouse prepares for the next round.

Tourists at the Aalsmeer FloraHolland flower auction can observe the actual trading through soundproof windows.

This is how the flower auction functions. Buyers sit in an almost college classroom like manner on one side of the hall with their computers. In front of the hall, the flowers and plants are pulled through the hall on automated trains.

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The huge screens display the auction information – the clock determines the price. The auctioneer sits behind a glass screen. The buyers bid electronically as the flowers move by.

Once the flowers are sold, the most impressive part of the logistics springs into action. Wagons and containers are sorted and sent to the correct loading bay so each buyer receives his wares and can speed it on to the shops, further distribution centers, or to Schiphol Airport for export. Payments are received the same day and all sold flowers clear the building by late afternoon.  I was very impressed, how about you?

After that educational and enlightening process, we boarded back upon the bus and headed back to the boat where a yummy breakfast was awaiting us.  While we ate, the Skipper set sail and we headed back to Amsterdam where we started.  It was fun to sail as we ate.

Along the way, I took some shots of several floating homes hugging the banks.  I thought they were very interesting and quite varied in design.

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IMG_2340Once we docked, the next item on the itinerary for that day went into effect; our final bike excursion through the countryside.  We were headed for Broek in Waterland. Below is the route we followed.

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We all packed our lunches, gathered up our coats and helmets and proceeded outside to the dock, finding each of our respective bikes and prepared to take off on our last excursion together.  It was a lovely day for an exploration of the surrounding countryside and small villages.

IMG_1069After a short while of cycling, we took our first butt break in a quaint little village, which I think was called Ransdorp which had a very tall church tower built in the early 1500s. This village is where Rembrandt’s love, Gertje Dirks, was from.

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Arie stopped us to take a break at what used to be the City Hall.

There he proceeded to give us a brief talk about the customs of the Dutch people.  I learned something about my mother. She used to tell a story about how when she first set up housekeeping with my dad after they got married that he proceeded to start pulling the curtains in the evening, something she wasn’t unaccustomed to. Evidently, having grown up in a Dutch/German family, she was used to always leaving the curtains open and not drawn.  When she saw my dad drawing the curtains she asked why he was doing that.  He answered, “Well, it’s just how I grew up, why?”

She responded, “In my family, we always left them open! Are you trying to hide something from the neighbors Ken?” she inquired.  “Is there something you need to tell me?”

“No, nothing!” he exclaimed and proceeded to leave the curtains open. My mom never could make out the difference in their upbringing. Now I know and wish I could tell her; while Arie was telling us about the Dutch and their curious customs, one of the customs was all about not drawing the curtains so neighbors in their small village would not become suspicious that they had something to hide! Ah!  So that’s it!

To this day, I always leave my curtains open, (except in my bedroom) just the way I was raised! I thought it was because I like the sunshine coming in through the windows when I rise in the morning, but I’ve learned that I definitely am a product of my ancestral curious customs and culture after all.

There were also some very quaint houses nearby.

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Afterward, we climbed back on our bikes and continued traveling through the countryside to our next butt break at what used to be a landfill and has since been covered up and made into a lovely green space.

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IMG_1084Not long after that, we continued following the bike route and then arrived in the beautiful little village of Broek in Waterland.

After riding through the small picturesque village we stopped for a break in front of the church.  Arie told us a little bit about the village and provided enough time for each of us to explore on our own for awhile.

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I wandered on foot around the village to get some shots of the beautiful architecture, gardens, and canals.

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When I happened upon the graveyard, this cute little kitty instantly befriended me and cajoled me to pet her sweet soft tummy.  She followed me for a little way, but finally said her goodbyes and wandered off again.

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I continued on down the lane working my back to the church where I started.  I so enjoyed the scenery as I wandered.

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What a lovely little village…and so pristine!

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When I arrived back at the church, to my delight, Arie had made arrangements for us to go inside!  I love exploring churches and I’ve never been inside a Dutch one – yet! Let’s go inside and see what it’s like, shall we?

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The original church was built before 1400 and was consecrated to St. Nicolas. On the 26th of September,  1573, during the Spanish occupation of The Netherlands, Spanish soldiers set fire to the church, destroying it completely.  In 1628 the inhabitants of the village began rebuilding the church on its old foundations.

In 1585 the church became Protestant. The two boards on the west wall list all of the names of the clergymen who have served the church from 1585 to the present.

On the east wall is a tableau depicting biblical scenes and were used to illustrate the Bible stories told around the fireplace. And of course, they are depicted in the Delft Blue style!

The church organ was built in 1832 by Wander Beekes.

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The only remaining stained glass window dates from 1640.  It shows the history of the church in five parts, starting at the bottom.

First, the church has been set on fire by Spanish Soldiers. Villagers and the priest, holding the chalice, are fleeing.

Second, the destroyed church. A thatched roof has been laid over the remaining walls, and on the left, a temporary church can be seen. The people have returned and the light begins to return.

Third, the church is rebuilt. The light rises higher and the temporary building recedes into the background.

Fourth, the interior of the “new” church with the villagers gathering to attend the first service and finally, the fifth stage: inside the church during the first service. The title of the sermon was from Luke 13:22 “Fight to enter the narrow gate.”

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In addition to the beautiful elements of the church, there was also an art exhibition of some very creative and whimsical pottery being displayed around the church that I found quite interesting. Particularly enjoyed the singing girls!

After that wonderful little tour of the church, we continued on the bike trail for awhile making our way back to the boat. Our last butt break was at a very interesting thatched windmill that is the only remaining windmill which mills chalk!

For posterity, we all gathered up for a group shot… that’s me where the arrow is pointing.

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Tim Draper, from Raleigh, North Carolina, was designated as the photographer, so I took a picture of him atop the old grist stone, taking a picture of us, for his records!

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We then all got back on our bikes and finished cycling the rest of the route back to the boat where we were docked right next to the Magnifique II, a sister ship.

After stowing our bikes and getting refreshed, we all got to enjoy one last dinner together, enjoying each others’ company.  I sat next to these lovely three ladies from Sweden; Karin, Agneta, and SolBritt.  They were so delightful and I hope to visit them someday in the future.  Such nice and funny ladies!

As usual, the delightful dishes the chef prepared for us were sublime!

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Afterward, we just kind of hung out, visited, swapped photos and email addresses and enjoyed our final hours together before retiring for the night.

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Later that evening, after everyone else, except the crew, had retired for the night, I couldn’t resist hanging out on the deck enjoying the night.

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We all slept rather soundly after arising so early in the morning, but it was such a long delightful day filled with interesting sights and such gorgeous scenery and architecture.

Attitude of Gratitude ~

I am grateful for new knowledge about my Dutch/German ancestors customs and lifestyle. I also particularly feel blessed for having the opportunity of wandering around the countryside with such nice congenial fellow travelers, taking in the fresh air, laughing, and enjoying the sights together.

 

 

 

 

 

Keukenhof Gardens

 

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The 25th of April had a wonderful experience in store for me. For years I have been dreaming about seeing the tulips blooming in Holland and today was the day. I had no idea what an extraordinary treat it would be!

The Keukenhof website (www.keukenhof.nl) does not even begin to give it justice but it was absolutely spot-on when it claimed it is the most beautiful spring garden in the world as far as I can tell.  It is a lot larger than I imagined; covering about 79 acres!!!!

Because visiting this garden was at the top of my bucket list, I wanted to spend as much time as possible. Therefore, rather than bicycling through the countryside with the rest of my fellow bike tourists to the gardens and back, I opted to join Liz, Sharon & Patty from Reno who had plans on taking a taxi to the gardens and spending the entire day.  I am so glad I did. The bicyclists only got to spend a couple of hours in the garden, but we got to spend over 5 hours!  Yeah!

I must, however, provide a WARNING before you go any further.  As you have realized by now, I simply love flowers.  If you aren’t into looking at them, you may wish to pass on this post as it is absolutely CHUCK FULL of pictures of them!

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IMG_0641After entering the main entrance I decided to go off on my own, knowing I would want to see as much as possible and agreeing to meet back up with them at the pink flower pot for lunch halfway through our visit.

 

We were each given a map and guide of the gardens by these lovely young ladies dressed in period garb.

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I decided to traverse the park in a counter-clockwise fashion, hugging the outside edges until I made it back to the main entrance.

Off I went, with a plethora of blooms spread out as far as I could see before me.  This was going to be fun!

 

One of the first features I came to was a beautiful fountain…

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…behind the fountain, I found a pathway leading up a small hill which led me to a beautiful view of the bulb fields surrounding the gardens!

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On the way back down, I came across a hedge maze and a petting zoo for the children. Couldn’t resist these cute little piglets wiggling their tails as children fed them yummies!

Talk about yummy! These tulips look like lollipops –  good enough to eat!

 

 

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Next, I came upon a small gardening shed of sorts and discovered this wonderful display and how our well-being depends upon spending time in nature.  I wholeheartedly agree!

Just around the corner, I crossed a small canal to discover a beautiful windmill…

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This was followed by the Inspirational Delft Blue garden…

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The path continued on gently leading me toward the Beatrix Pavillion so I just wandered along enjoying its beauty.

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One part of it had old cars abandoned but lovingly repurposed with bulbs planted inside.  Clever idea!

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IMG_0730 At the end of the path, I found the Beatrix Pavillion, figuring it was some kind of gift shop or something, but boy-oh-boy was I ever wrong!

Instead, I discovered beautiful displays of orchids that were breathtaking.

 

 

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The Beatrix Pavillion was in the upper right-hand corner of the garden.  So far I had explored the right side of the garden so once I went outside once again, I continued on to explore the next section making my way to the upper left-hand corner of the garden where the Wilhelmina Pavillion is located.

Almost immediately I came across this bulb which I have never seen before.  What an interesting specimen!  Luckily the gardeners place placards in the beds listing the bulbs they have planted within.  Turns out this is a Fritillaria persica. It is a Middle Eastern species of flowering plant in the lily family Liliaceae, native to southern Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Israel. I have already learned something today!

The beds along this border just seemed to go on forever with tons of species! A bit of Keukenhof trivia: they plant over 7 MILLION bulbs each year!  Various growers in the region are designated a certain area in the garden to plant highlighting their specialties and varieties. Once the 8 weeks of blooming are over, all of the bulbs are dug up and fed to cattle as fodder! The next year they do it all over again!

The bulbs growing in the fields nearby are de-headed about halfway through their blooming period to allow the plants’ energy to go to the development of the bulb in the ground for good growth. In the late summer, they are also dug up and prepared for shipment around the world for planting in our individual gardens.

Although it’s difficult to decide on a “favorite,” I was particularly fond of this variety…

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I kept wandering along enjoying the views and the amazing colors, sculptures, and grounds in this beautiful park-like setting..

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Just before reaching the Wilhemina Pavillion I happened upon this beautiful lake with a popular feature of concrete pillars, resembling floating lily pads that curious visitors could hop along from one to another… how fun!

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Aw, there’s the Wilhemina pavilion that houses a shop, a cafe, and some toilets!  Perfect place to get a cafe latte and an almond cookie, take a rest and enjoy the view for a spell before continuing on.

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Refueled and rested I continued on heading toward the final corner of the garden… the views and displays continuing to delight!

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The Juliana Pavilion holds an exhibition explaining how Tulipmania came into being in Holland. Tulip mania was a period in the Dutch Golden Age during which contract prices for some bulbs of the recently introduced and fashionable tulip from Turkey reached extraordinarily high levels. Market speculators traded the flower’s bulbs for extraordinary sums of money, until, without warning, the market for them spectacularly collapsed in February 1637.

They also had every sort of tulip products on sale and there were some very interesting ones!

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By this time it was nearing lunch time so I headed toward the last corner of the garden, again enjoying the flower displays along the route.

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I met up with Liz, Sharon, and Patty as planned at the pink flower pot and we had a nice lunch together.

Since I had traversed the outer edges of the garden, after lunch I concentrated on the midsection of the garden. First I visited the historical garden which tells the story of the 400 years of tulip cultivation in Holland. One can see tulip varieties dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries as well as new varieties.

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Then I made my way to Oranj Nassau that houses beautiful displays of more flowers, and seemed to concentrate on flower arrangements extraordinaire.
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IMG_0892That was pretty incredible, wouldn’t you say?  Let’s head to the last, but not least, William-Alexander pavilion.

Along the way, as usual, was another wonderful stroll through more outside displays.

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The William-Alexander pavilion is a massive collection of about 6 giant glasshouses containing another amazing assortment of floral displays.

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I found the pictures shown below that were made with plants, pots and sticks particularly interesting as I left the pavilion.

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It was almost time to meet up with my friends back at the main entrance. So I meandered along another section of the garden I hadn’t explored yet as I worked my way back to the beginning.

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After 5 hours of exploring, 7 million bulbs and about 500 pictures, my camera let me take just two more pictures before it decided it was done and went dead on me.  Can ya blame it?

It was certainly a wonderful day in that garden and a memory I will long remember. The smells of the blossoms were so aromatic and of course, the colors and sights were absolutely outstanding! Visiting Keukenhof Gardens was certainly well worth it, and it far surpassed my wildest expectations.  If ever you are in Holland in the spring I highly recommend you take the time to visit; you won’t be disappointed. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing it as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing it with you!

Attitude of Gratitude ~

I am oh-so-grateful for flowers! I’ve heard it said that “Flowers are the way God smiles at us” and boy-oh-boy was God ever smiling at me this fine April Day.  I am so happy I finally got to see the tulips in Holland.  What a blessing!

 

First day of Cycling – Zaandam to Haarlem with a Stop in Zaanse Schans

 

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IMG_1420Our first day of cycling through the Dutch countryside started right after our satisfying breakfast on board the Magnifique III.  This bike & boat tour was so well organized.  After dinner the night before, the guides, Arie and Tami, gathered us all together near the bar and reviewed our itinerary for the following day, explaining the route we would be taking, handed out maps and written route directions and in general got us all up to speed on how it would work.

In the morning, after breakfast, they had all of our bikes set outside with a name tag attached to each bike so all one had to do was look for your first name!  They had already adjusted the seats to the height they thought would be good for each individual and made any adjustments on the spot, if necessary.  After a little practice getting used to the bike in a nearby empty car park, we were soon peddling along through the village of Zaandam in single file.

Half of us were English speaking; the other half spoke Quebec French, so Arie took the half that spoke English, and Tami led the other group along the same route.

Below are a set of pictures that show the inside of the map, a close-up of the route written directions and I also highlighted the map in green so you can see the route we cycled (about 33 kilometers).

Our first stop was in the recreated village of Zaanse Schans.

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Zaanse Schans is a neighborhood with historic windmills and distinctive green wooden houses which were relocated here to recreate the look of an 18th/19th-century village. The Zaans Museum has regional costumes, model windmills and interactive exhibits on chocolate making. Artisan workshops demonstrate rare handicrafts such as wooden clog carving, chocolate making, spice grinding with giant stones, and cheese making to name a few.

We parked our bikes and had about an hour or so to explore the village, visit the inside of windmills and stroll through the village admiring the houses and architecture.

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Each windmill served a distinct function.  Some were sawmills, others ground earth and minerals for paint making, while others ground spices or grain.

 

We didn’t have enough time to go into each windmill but you can bet your bottom dollar that we did visit the chocolate making one! Once inside one could grab a paper cup and make your own cup of hot chocolate and of course buy all kinds of wonderful delectable chocolate creations such as truffles!  Yum!

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IMG_0578I particularly liked these unique items.  It looked like a box of rusty old locks, keys, wrenches, and pliers, but in all reality, they were made out of chocolate!  So realistic looking! What a clever idea!

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IMG_0586Once outside again, I sat down on an old grist stone with my cup of hot chocolate and savored its rich taste.  As I sat there admiring the view, I paid particular attention to the ground we had been walking along.  I had assumed we were walking on small pebbles, but much to my delight I discovered upon closer inspection it was really a lot of seashells!

 

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We are all familiar with the fact that the Dutch Merchants sailed around the world collecting spices, so I visited the mill that grinds those spices in powder…

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…then I walked around the neighborhood of old homes in the village enjoying their unique structures, quaint cottages, and gardens.

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The time was running out so I headed back toward the entrance to rejoin the rest of the cycling group and came upon the clog making factory!

 

Inside, they had all sorts of clogs on display in glass cases and some nice vintage posters.  Some of the clogs were the usual one would expect to see; while others were quite unique and made me laugh!

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They even provided demonstrations of how they make them in the clog making section, but I didn’t have enough time to sit and watch.  Looked fascinating.

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Soon we were all cycling along the rest of the route through the countryside enjoying the fields and “fresh air” (a term Arie liked to use meaning a bit of a headwind!)

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IMG_0629The terrain is very flat with a small bridge here and there so the peddling was pleasant as we viewed cattle in the fields and canals everywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0634We stopped for lunch at the ferry crossing.  After breakfast each day, the boat provided provisions for each of us to make our own packed lunch from a choice of cheeses, meats, fruits, drinks, and sweets such as cookies or candy bars.  They think of everything!

We enjoyed the view along the river as we ate our lunch and waited for the ferry to come over to our side to carry us across so we could peddle the rest of the route to Haarlem.

As we peddled through the countryside during the course of the day, the boat made its way from Zaandam along the canal to the next destination, Haarlem. When we arrived, there it was, docked, waiting for our return!

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Once we parked our bikes and changed our biking clothes into something more comfortable, we all gathered in the lounge exchanging ideas, photos, stories and enjoying ourselves while dinner was being prepared.

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This group of fine folks I am with are from a place relatively close to my own neck-of-the-woods, Reno, Nevada.  It was really fun to hang out with them and get to know them. (From left to right: me, John, Patty, Gail, Liz, Patty, and Sharon)

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After our scrumptious dinner, we all enjoyed some more chit chatting, cocktails and laughs and once again gathered together for a ‘briefing’ on the next days’ itinerary, which includes a visit to the world-famous Keukenhof Gardens!  This is the place I’ve been waiting for and the whole reason I wanted to come to the Netherlands in the first place.

As usual, however, that will be a blog post of its own and you won’t want to miss the glorious displays of tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and all other sorts of spring bulbs!

Attitude of Gratitude ~

I am so lucky to be traveling with such wonderful, fun-loving folks and having such expert guides making my bike tour a breeze. I am also grateful to have the opportunity to visit ancestral lands from my mother’s side of the family.  My mother’s maiden name is Tholen, with ties to the Netherlands and Germany. Like my trips to Scotland, I feel akin to this magical land of Holland and its people.

 

 

Tulip Tour Aboard the Magnifique III

I awoke to another sunshiney day on Monday, the 23rd of April, with great anticipation because this was the day my Bike & Boat Tulip would begin.  I wouldn’t be boarding the boat, however, until about 2 o’clock in the afternoon so I still had some time after breakfast to do a little bit more of exploring!  Another spot I had wanted to visit was the Albert Cuypmarkt and I still had the rental bike available to me until noon! In addition, my knees were feeling much better so I climbed on board the bike and rode around Vondelpark one more time.

As you can see it has an extensive path system with all kinds of places to explore and ride around. I followed every path I could find.  What a beautiful park!

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First stop, the statue of Joost Van Den Vondel surrounded by a plethora of tulips!

 

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Then off along the north side of the park where I found a very pretty pavilion and some beautiful water fountains…

 

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A little later I naturally had to stop to see how the goslings were doing…

 

while I sat and admired the beautiful homes edging the south side of the park.

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I continued to ride around the park enjoying its peacefulness in the morning light for quite a while before starting to work my way to the Albert Cuypmarkt.

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According to their website,

“What is the best spot to experience the real Amsterdam sense of humor, the Amsterdam atmosphere, and conviviality? Right, that would be the Albert Cuyp! A day in Amsterdam is just not complete without visiting the most popular market of the Netherlands! The ‘Cuyp’ has been there since 1905 and is still immensely popular, even a century later. The regular folks visit it from Amsterdam, but also bargain hunters, windows shoppers, day trippers, tourists… practically anyone!”

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It is boasted as “the biggest Market in Europe!” Fresh vegetables, fruit, fish, flowers, and plants: you’ll all find them at the Albert Cuyp.

 

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Enjoy a nice herring at the fish stand or get yourself a bag of fresh syrup waffles to enjoy at home.

 

And also gorgeous fabrics, trendy clothing, textile, nice leather goods, and jewelry.

 

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Visit a nice, old-fashioned coffee house or a super modern café for a cup of coffee. With 260 stands, the Albert Cuyp is the largest day market in Europe. A place where there’s always something new to see!

Everywhere you go in Amsterdam for that matter there is always something different to see around every corner. I have really enjoyed this eclectic, high-spirited and vibrant city.

 

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After seeing all those wonderful things and spending quite a bit of time doing it, I realized I had better get back to the hostel, get checked out and start making my way to the docks.

Luckily when I returned to the hostel, I ran into a  couple of new friends I had made, Pat Casey, another fellow solo traveler, from the US, and Abdul, a very nice South African young man who was one of the chefs at the hostel.  Running into them gave me the opportunity to let them know how much I enjoyed meeting them and getting to say goodbye until another time.

 

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Soon a taxi was waiting for me outside to whisk me off to the docks and I was on my way.

It didn’t take long until I found myself, pulling my small suitcase alongside the Veemkade looking for the boat, and there it was!  What a beauty! “Ooooh!  This is gonna be fun!” I exclaimed out loud while pinching my cheeks!

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I was immediately greeted by one of the tour guides, Arie.  He made me feel so welcome immediately, asked me if I would like to relax and have a cup of coffee before he showed me to my room.  “Sure,” I said, “That would be wonderful, thank you!”  Then I added, “This is really nice!”  He thanked me.  I continued, “I mean, this is REALLY nice!  So fancy and upscale, what a treat!  You see, normally, like this weekend, I stay in hostels. I enjoy them very much, and the one at Vondelpark was really great.  But THIS is a real splurge for me and it’s even nicer than I imagined!”

About that time, as he handed me my cafe latte, Tami, the other tour guide, came happily into the dining room waving her arms and greeting me like an old friend.

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Arie proceeded to introduce us and told her “I’d like you to meet the hippie from the hostel, Claudia.”  We all had a good laugh and I felt at home immediately.

A few more guests also began to arrive, like the lovely couple from Quebec, Danielle and Gerard.

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I also got to meet the nice girls who would be waiting on us hand and foot…

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…and Johannes, First Mate and Jack of all trades…

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After I finished my coffee and met a lot of my fellow travelers, they showed me to my cabin.

 

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Once I got settled in and unpacked for the next 5 days, I headed back upstairs to join the other guests.

 

 

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Before we knew it, we were all sitting down to an absolutely lovely dinner and enjoying each other’s company.  I was having such a great time, I forgot to take pictures of the first 3 courses, but I suddenly remembered when the dessert came!  While we ate, Arie, explained what the evenings’ plans would be.  He explained that after we finished dinner we would set sail for Zaandam where we would dock for the first night.

 

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As we made our way to Zanndam, we all went up to the uppermost deck and enjoyed the views of the city’s landscape and many interesting places located along the waters’ edge.

 

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Before long we were approaching Zaandam and getting ready to dock for the night.

 

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A little while later, as the sun was beginning to set in the west, Arie led us on a walking tour through the lovely little village of Zaandam, first showing us the locks where the boats pass through, and then ushering us through the pristine town as night fell.

 

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It was an absolutely wonderful afternoon and evening spent with a whole new bunch of wonderfully friendly biking/hiking type of folks from many different places: Quebec and Toronto, Canada, Sweden, Germany, North Carolina, Reno, Nevada and New Jersey!  What a wonderful mix! I slept soundly in my nice little cozy bunk, and looked forward to our first day of bicycling in the morning!

Hope you’ve enjoyed my day in Amsterdam and my arrival to the Magnifique III as much as I did.  Until the next post…

Attitude of Gratitude ~

I am grateful that I can experience and enjoy such a diverse range of activities; from bicycling in a park in the morning, exploring a fascinating old street market with everything from soup to nuts, staying in hostels and the luxury of a beautiful fancy floating hotel filled to the brim with lots of interesting people from so many different places that I’m sure I’ll enjoy getting to know over the next few days!

 

 

 

Hither and Yon

As usual, I have spent a good deal of my time this past winter planning yet another wonderful trip abroad.  It’s my favorite thing to do in retirement aside from being at home with my loving family members.

Many of my followers on my previous blog, Globetrekkergrandma, have expressed how much they enjoyed following along with me during my travels the last couple of years, hearing the stories I had to share and also enjoyed the vast array of photographs I managed to capture.

This year I’ll be using this new blog to share my adventures with you while I travel beginning in mid-April. “Where are you going this year, Claudia?” you might be wondering.  Well….this year, first off I will board an airplane in Medford, Oregon bound for Aberdeen, Scotland to visit my best bud and cousin, Lindsay, once again.

I will stay a week with him and then I’ll board another flight from Aberdeen that will be headed for Amsterdam in The Netherlands!

I have been wanting to experience Holland in full bloom for quite some time.  I found a bike and barge tour online that I am very excited about joining. Here’s a link to their website: Boat Bike Tours Tulip Tours

There is a wonderful barge ship called “Magnifique II” that I’ll stay on for 4 nights and 5 days.  It’s like a floating hotel, complete with meals!

 

They even supply a bicycle to ride during the day to tour around the countryside with visiting castles, cheese factories, beautiful gardens, and acres and acres of spring bulbs while the ship slowly progresses along the canal to the next scheduled stop. It’s a nice small group of people and am also looking forward to making some new friends along the way.

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At the end of each day of cycling to various wonderful and interesting places, the bike ride tour ends at the next destination where the boat will be waiting for us with dinner served in its lovely dining room!  Sweet! I don’t even have to wash the dishes either!  Wow!  I’ll be a lady of leisure.

 

This experience should prove to be extra special for me, mainly because usually when I travel I economize by shopping at the local market and prepare my own meals (for the most part). I also usually stay in hostels in order to keep costs down and to be able to have access to self-catering kitchens.

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But this trip I’m splurging for a whole week in Holland, and am really looking forward to a little bit of indulgence for a change of pace.

This is the tour route I’ll be following:

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After spending that delightfully flowery time in Holland, I will return to Aberdeen to spend about a month and a half with Lindsay again exploring around Scotland once more. I can never seem to get my fill of that wonderful ancestral homeland.

We’re not quite sure what adventures we will get up to yet, but you can be sure it will be fun, interesting and packed with a few surprises you won’t want to miss.

Speaking of which, if you would like to automatically receive a notification email that I have posted a new blog post on this site, push the “FOLLOW” button above and sign up to get them sent directly to your inbox!  It’s easy!  I do not have a Facebook account any longer so you won’t see any posts on that platform from me letting you know I have posted a new story on this blog. So if you don’t want to miss a single adventure, just push one of the Follow buttons above.

I look forward to sharing my many adventures with you in the near future.  Now I need to start packing and make sure I’ve got everything I’ll need!  Until the next time… Happy Traveling!  ~ Claudia