One lovely spring day at the flower fields

Our family at the tulip fields in the Noordoost Polder

Our family at the tulip fields in the Noordoost Polder

One thing that spring affords me generously is a cost-free trip to seemingly endless floral wonderland. In the Noordoost Polder, there’s over hundred kilometers of flower fields to drive through and the whole journey doesn’t cost a thing except for the car’s petrol needs.

On Ascension Day (a Dutch public holiday) almost three weeks ago, we made this annual foray into the flower fields with my friend Elsa as well as my parents-in-law joining us. The trip was very Dutch as we brought our picnic basket and had our picnic lunch just beside the flower fields. Who needed a fancy restaurant lunch when we could have ours in the open with the seemingly endless fields of tulips right before our eyes.

We had a great time going from one field to the next and finally capping our floral wonderland tour at the exhibit of hundreds of types of tulips where I went crazy for macro shots despite the very windy condition.

Fields of pink tulips

Fields of pink tulips

Francesca with oma

Francesca with oma

Field of white, yellow and red tulips

Field of white, yellow and red tulips

Tulip fields

Tulip fields

Me and my friend Elsa ... Francesca was not keen to pose with us

Me and my friend Elsa … Francesca was not keen to pose with us

Tulip fields

Tulip fields

Little girl among the tulips

Little girl among the tulips

Little girl at the tulip fields

Little girl at the tulip fields

Yellow tulips

Yellow tulips

White tulips

White tulips

The Mr. and me

The Mr. and me

Tulips

Tulips

Yellow tulips

Yellow tulips

Light pink tulips

Light pink tulips

My little girl among purple tulips

My little girl among purple tulips

My very sweet mom-in-law

My very sweet mom-in-law

Tulips

Tulips

A strange mutation of red and yellow

A strange mutation of red and yellow

Pink tulips

Pink tulips

Little girl in the tulip field

Little girl in the tulip field

Red and yellow petaled tulips

Red and yellow petaled tulips

Yellow tulips

Yellow tulips

Yellow and red petaled tulips

Yellow and red petaled tulips

Peach colored tulips

Peach colored tulips

Multi-colored tulips

Multi-colored tulips

Parrot tulips

Parrot tulips

Parrot tulips

Parrot tulips

White and red petaled tulips

White and red petaled tulips

Orange tulips

Orange tulips

Pink tulips

Pink tulips

Pink tulips

Pink tulips

Tulip fields behind the trees

Tulip fields behind the trees

Pink and green petaled tulips

Pink and green petaled tulips

The exhibit of hundreds of types of tulips

The exhibit of hundreds of types of tulips

A tulip up close

A tulip up close

Multi-petaled orange tulips

Multi-petaled orange tulips

Pink tulips

Pink tulips

Pink tulips against the blue sky

Pink tulips against the blue sky

Red tulips

Red tulips

Red tulips with white edges

Red tulips with white edges

Yellow tulips

Yellow tulips

Tulips

Tulips

Father and daughter

Father and daughter

Yellow tulips

Yellow tulips

Red and pink tulips

Red and pink tulips

What happened to spring?

Snow-covered "forget me not" blooms

Snow-covered “forget me not” blooms

Spring is always a much awaited and celebrated season in Holland. In this very flat country, the Dutch ingenuity of creating flower wonderlands in spring has always attracted millions of visitors from all over the world.

Dutch flower fields - typical spring scenery

Dutch flower fields – typical spring scenery

Easter egg hunt from 2 years ago -- weather was warm then, almost like summer so the kids had so much fun with the egg hunt

Easter egg hunt from 2 years ago — weather was warm then, almost like summer so the kids had so much fun with the egg hunt

Egg hunt from 2 years ago -- we're longing for that weather this time.  Forecast for Sunday is not so encouraging at just around 5 degrees Celsius at the warmest

Egg hunt from 2 years ago — we’re longing for that weather this time. Forecast for Sunday is not so encouraging at just around 5 degrees Celsius at the warmest

As soon as March starts, I’m already in extreme anticipation of the new season with plans to hit the flower fields and visit to Keukenhof topping the agenda. This year, however, that usual enthusiasm is tempered by the current reality of freezing temperature which if forecasts are to be relied upon, is very discouraging as it is expected to persist till most of the month of April.

What happened to spring? Why the big snub this year? Will it still ever come or are we just going to progress to summer and skip spring all together? I hope not….

We had an infinitesimal glimpse of spring three weeks ago for two days with the mercury tipping at 15 degrees Celsius at the warmest and enough to awaken the croci from their winter slumber. My little girl and I went out as she wanted to pick a few blooms and that was all that spring has been so far from our end.

Forget-me-nots with snow dusting

Forget-me-nots with snow dusting

Snow bells

Snow bells

Snow-covered blooms

Snow-covered blooms

Forget-me-not

Forget-me-not

Forget-me-nots

Forget-me-nots

Snow-dusted forget-me-not

Snow-dusted forget-me-not

Grape hyacinth

Grape hyacinth

Snow dusting on old flower remnants

Snow dusting on old flower remnants

Snow-covered leaves

Snow-covered leaves

Snow dusted plants

Snow dusted plants

Snow-covered bloom

Snow-covered bloom

My little girl and her little bouquet of croci

My little girl and her little bouquet of croci

Picking some crocus from a nearby green spot

Picking some crocus from a nearby green spot

Croci

Croci

Crocus

Crocus

Francesca

Francesca

More on the Dutch tulip fields

Our little queen among dandelions with the tulip fields in the distance

I know that my posts lately have been more on the Dutch flower fields but seeing that much beauty makes it impossible to not be carried away and have that overwhelming desire to share them.

On this particular day that we celebrated Queen’s Day (30th April) we were simply super lucky with the weather of warm temperature and blue skies as the days after were again chilly, wet and grey.  That day was a one-off and I am glad that we had these pictures as reminder of that one seemingly rare warm spring day.

Our family

Our family

A field of dandelions

Our family

Cheap date in the flower fields

Hubby and I always love our cheap spring date where we would normally drive around the bulb field areas in the Noordoost Polder, have coffee by the flower fields sold by some enterprising farmer’s children and have lunch of fries and kroket in a snack bar that we would find open in one of the village centers along the flower route. We don’t see the need to go to any fancy restaurant for what can we ask for when already surrounded by so much beauty that we are literally drowning from the sight of millions of tulips in full bloom.

It is kind of funny that this activity that we do every springtime comes as too corny and tacky to a lot of people. Many Dutch would not want to be seen in the flower fields, more so, to have their pictures taken in such a setting. I don’t mind being branded as corny and tacky in my appreciation of this incredible beauty. To me, seeing this amazing wonders of nature every spring is a testament of God’s existence and infinite love for us.

Hubby enjoying his coffee sold by an enterprising farmer's daughter who had a thermo of coffee and biscuits for visitors like us. A cup with a piece of cookie costs a mere Eur 50 cents.

Tulips (part 3)

We are still to have that annual visit to Keukenhof and our usual foray to the flower fields. Weather lately has been pretty weird as the disturbance up north sent chills our way these last couple of days.

Still, spring is here and frosty nights and chilly days haven’t dampen our spirits. I share with you more tulips pictures from last year.

Tulips (part 2)

Still more tulip pictures.

Tulips (part 1)

Busy time right now preparing for tomorrow’s Easter egg hunt. The little ones are already so excited. We will have the egg hunt in the sand dunes of Soesterduinen which is just a few kilometers away from our place. It sure will be a lot of fun because there is so much space to run around for the very energetic and hyper kids. Lots of secret places to hide the eggs as well.

Nonetheless, let me share with you these tulip images which I took last year from a showcase of various types of tulips which we chanced upon while driving through the Noordoost Polder.

My little girl’s fourth foray into the flower fields (Spring 2011)

Ask a typical Dutchman if he/she have pictures in the flower fields and you will get that bewildered look. It is also against their “principle” to go to Keukenhof which they say is just meant for tourists.

My husband never really cared about the flower fields nor ever been to Keukenhof before we met. It was like, “Why would I go to Keukenhof or why would I have my pictures taken in the midst of the flower fields?”. Being in the midst of flower fields or standing in front of the windmills are simply the most uncool things to the Dutch, especially the younger generations. They prefer to travel abroad and have their pictures taken in the most exotic locations. Don’t get me wrong there. I was the same, wondering when I was still in the Philippines and my husband (then still the boyfriend) wanted to have our pictures in the middle of rice fields or his pictures on top of the jeepney or among coconut trees.

Human nature I should say… We take for granted those things or places which are familiar and ordinary and we give more importance to those which we do not have or are unusual.

These days, we appreciate what is within reach, what is right before our very eyes. Our daughter provides us with a different perspective in looking at things through her young eyes. She shows appreciation and enthusiasm in everything around her. We hope that she will continue appreciating nature and its beauty and the many simple things in life.

These pictures were taken last year in the area around Zeewolde. We were on our way home after spending a lovely weekend with my parents-in-law in Dronten when we took a different road (a secondary road as opposed to the usual highway that we take) and saw these fields of tulips. It was already late in the afternoon but with the nice weather, we were seduced to have this photo session with our little girl.

Our family

Afternoon sun

Father and daughter playing the statue game

Pink tulips

Papa's girl

Among the red tulips

Me and my little girl

Among the white tulips

Playful pose

I got the odd one out!

Playful pose

Tulip fields

My little girl and me

Our family

Hurrah!

White tulips in the afternoon sun

Can I pick some flowers????

Let's hide from Mama!!!

The afternoon sun

White tulips

The apple did not fall off far from the tree -- A picture of us taken by Francesca

Setting sun

Mama, can you see me????

Our family

My little girl’s third foray into the flower fields (Spring 2010)

Another spring, another foray into the flower fields. Unfortunately, this was one weekend when the weather was not on our side. It has been raining for days so the tulip fields were very muddy. Still, we were not dissuaded to get our feet into the ground and have this photo shoot.

As I am going through my posts this week, it is a funny realization that I had been unintentionally documenting my little girl’s development through the years through these springtime pictures. Before her, I have been going to the flower fields and to Keukenhof almost on a yearly basis but hardly realizing what is different year after year.

Honestly, these forays into the flower fields are our family’s cheapest form of entertainment in spring as getting to these fields does not cost a single cent.

The little girl’s second foray into the flower fields (Spring 2009)

Among red tulips

It used to be that the years went by without us noticing. Spring year after year would seem the same. We hardly noticed the passing of time and the difference in each passing year. All that changed with Francesca as since her birth, she became the benchmark and timescale for everything in our lives.

Certainly all parents will agree with me that children become the focal point of our lives, the beacon of hope on those dreary days, the source of strength when the hurdle seems too much and the source of laughter that cheers us up especially on those times that we can hardly summon a smile.

On this post you will see how much a year means in the life of a child. From the 6-month old baby in the previous post, she was 1.5 years in these pictures. This time, she was running through the flower fields and plucking the odd flowers out.

We spent the Easter weekend with my parents-in-law in Dronten where some of the big tracks of flower fields can be found. There were tulip and hyacinth fields and all were very exciting for our little girl.

Fields of blooms

I got the odd one out!

Among pink hyancinths

Francesca with opa and oma

Francesca and oma

our family

Francesca and opa

Francesca and me

Red tulips

Driving through what once was the bottom of the sea

We are celebrating this year’s Christmas day with my parents-in-law and they live in Dronten, a place that not so long ago (roughly 65 years ago) used to be the bottom of the sea. This may sound a bit strange so let me elaborate a bit to put things in perspective.

During WWII, Holland experienced famine. The country is small and two thirds of the land area is below sea level. Farming at that time was small scale and labor intensive. After the war came the baby boom and the country has to cope with feeding a huge population. Thus, land reclamation became imperative in order to pursue large scale farming. It helped that the US Marsall Plan also delivered tractors to Holland which made possible the farming of huge tracts of land.

Reclaiming this huge land area from the sea called polder involved first the creation of dikes. Then the sea was eventually emptied of its water. A few years later, the land was ready for farming.

This reclaimed area now known as the province of Flevoland is Holland’s bread basket. The land with all the silt from the earlier sea is so fertile that food production here is excellent. In winter, driving through this area with that unbelievable flatness and seeming emptiness feels like punishment. The standing joke is that we already need a passport to come here because this place is so foreign.

Don’t get me wrong. This place has its redeeming factor in spring and summer. With the price of land around Lisse and Harlem in the west of the country having gotten so expensive, many flower farmers have relocated here. Thus, this area is one amazing tapestry of tulips and daffodils in spring. (The pictures were taken two springtimes back.)

My parents-in-law moved here over four years ago to be closer to us (45 minutes away) so that once a week they could babysit Francesca. They used to lived up north in the province of Friesland and that was a good three hours’ drive.

Dad Wout’s sister and brother-in-law live here in Dronten as well. Oom Jaap is a retired farmer and one of the pioneering farmers in the Flevo polder. Much has already changed in the area. When he and Tante Tineke came here over forty years ago, houses were few and there were no trees at all. It was all flat emptiness in the horizon. Dronten is now one bustling town and many city people have relocated here especially those in search for bigger houses and more garden spaces. Improvement in transportation infrastructure also means that Amsterdam will be easily accessible by train, already expected by 2012 when the Hanze line is completed.

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Keukenhof (the world-famous Dutch spring garden) many springtimes ago

Keukenhof is one place which I try not to give a miss comes springtime. When you look at these pictures taken way back in 2004, you’ll understand what I mean. In all the times that I’ve been to Keukenhof, this was the best because the weather was warm and the flowers were at their best — all in full bloom. A visit too early would mean that the tulips are still green buds and only few are in full bloom. Thus, the best time is around the 3rd week of April when everything is blooming and bursting in myriad of colors.

Keukenhof is Holland’s most famous spring garden. With a total area of 32 hectares, it is planted with around 7 million flower bulbs of which 4.5 million are tulip bulbs of more than 100 varieties.

Entrance to the park costs Eur 14.50 for an adult and Eur 7.00 for children. Parking costs an extra Eur 6.00.

In 2012, the park will open on the 22nd of March and will shut its door on 20 May. The park is always full of visitors so it is best to arrive early and to already buy the tickets online and print them beforehand. Busiest period is around Eastertime when Holland have its long weekend.

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The other side of flower farming

Ever wondered what the Dutch do with all those tulips, daffodils and hyacinths in the flower fields?

Brace yourself for a big surprise — these flowers are cut down (there’s a machine that goes through the fields to cut down the flowers), thrown in a heap to decompose and later turned  that into compost.  Talking of discarded beauty but that’s how these flowers are treated once they reach full bloom.

Oopps, before you get all upset (which has been the case with me the first time I learned of this practice), here’s the rationale:  the flowers are cut off to enable the bulbs to replicate and develop completely without competing with the flowers for nutrients from the soil.  The flowers are not grown to create spectacular scenery out here (this is pure coincidental) but rather for the bulbs which are harvested in summer and then exported all over the world  where their true purpose will be realized.  Flowers and flower bulbs are key export products of Holland.

The best time to enjoy this spectacular scenery of flower fields in full bloom is around the last week of April.  Normally the whole process of cutting down these flowers will be around the end of the first week of May.

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