May 10, 2013 25 Comments
More images from Keukenhof. If you are unable to make it to Holland in spring, let me bring Holland to you with these pictures…
and loving it
May 8, 2013 60 Comments
After a bit of absence from this space, I am back with some colorful spring pictures from our trip to Keukenhof last Sunday. Weather was fantastic with lots of sunshine, blue skies and pleasantly warm temperature. Spring has finally arrived after the long wait!
We were there at 11 in the morning but the park was already bursting with visitors from all over the world. Funny enough, it was like being at a UN summit in a park setting.
Perfect time to be at Keukenhof as most of the blooms are already out and at their prettiest. My fingers kept on clicking so this post and the several to follow will be from this one lovely spring outing.
April 14, 2013 49 Comments
It’s springtime again and I can’t believe how fast the year went by. It’s been almost a year since we made this amazing journey through time by boat and steam train through the Medieval towns of Enkhuizen, Medemblik and Hoorn in the province of North Holland (West Friesland to many). This is one exciting journey to take if you happen to be in Holland in springtime because the whole trip takes just a day and these towns are within easy reach from Amsterdam. From Amsterdam to Hoorn, a direct train ride takes about 33 minutes and costs € 7.60. From Hoorn, you can then take the steam train to Medemblik and from Medemblik there is the museum boat that will take you to Enkhuizen. From Enkhuizen, you can take a direct train to Amsterdam that will take about 58 minutes and costs € 10.30. Here’s the link to the Dutch railway: www.ns.nl
I got the idea to do this trip from a colleague of mine who lives in Hoorn which in spring, is lovely to visit passing through tulip fields that seem to go on forever. For more information, here’s the link to the site of the museum: http://www.museumstoomtram.nl/en
Because our originating place was Dronten where my parents-in-law live, we approached the trip from the other way around. Our journey started in Enkhuizen where we boarded the museum boat “Friesland” headed to Medemblik. The trip was a very sentimental journey for my parents-in-law who used to travel in this very same boat over 40 years ago when they lived for a while in the island of Terschelling and this boat was still plying the Harlingen-Terschelling route. My husband, then the same age as Francesca also travelled in this boat so you can just imagine how sentimental that is. My parents-in-law checked out the boat and were amazed that many of the original features were still very much intact. The whole boat trip took a good hour so when we arrived in Medemblik, we looked for a restaurant to have a quick lunch to be in time for the steam train trip that will take us to Hoorn. We opted for a typical Dutch lunch favorite, the “Uitsmijter” which consisted of bread slices topped with ham, fried eggs, grated cheese with tomatoes and cucumber on the side. Francesca found another use for the cucumber though.
The steam train journey was interesting as we were joined by museum volunteers who were dressed in period costumes. They were very enthusiastic at explaining the culture, norms and traditions of the people in West Friesland back then. Another interesting aspect of this train journey was the amazing landscape we passed through — from tulip fields in full bloom to orchards and quaint villages. Too bad that the weather was not on our side though.
April 6, 2013 55 Comments
Every country seems to have peculiarities in observing religious holidays. In the Philippines where I grew up, Good Friday is a holiday. Apart from church activities like the observance of the “Seven Last Words”, the country comes to a standstill. Basically all establishments from schools, offices, shops, etc. are closed for business on this day. Activities would resume to full speed comes Easter Sunday when everyone feels that as the right time because “Christ is risen after triumph over death”. The opposite is true here in Holland because for many establishments except schools and banks, Good Friday is a normal working day. Easter Sunday and the Monday after, on the other hand, are observed as religious holidays. Second Easter day is like Sunday with all establishments closed for business. It is on this chilly second Easter day that I will take you with me to a little known charming place here in Holland called Elburg.
After the Easter egg hunt and dropping over at the place of my friend Marie for Easter dinner, we went over to my parents-in-law’s place to spend the night and celebrate second Easter day together with a nice brunch. It was a beautiful day, the sun shining brightly that it was a pity to spend the day indoor. We opted to go out for a bit of fresh air and headed to the lovely Medieval town of Elburg, just some 11 kms. from my in-law’s place. Francesca was happy to stay with Opa and Oma.
This is just my second time here in Elburg despite the frequency of our visits to my in-laws and its close proximity to their place. What a big difference it was to be here on a very chilly day when my earlier memories were of a very nice warm summer day when flowers were blooming all over and it was such a joy to see this town filled with locals and tourists alike checking out not just the town’s attractions but also the many local produce on display. That first visit happened to be the town’s annual celebration of their market day.
With very few people out and the shops closed saved for restaurants and cafes that opened their doors, we had a rather quick exploration of the town. It was interesting to discover new places that we never saw the first time we were here such as the Jewish cemetery which was just a short distance from the huge Protestant Church.
I look forward to coming back when the weather warms up, when flowers start to bloom as this town will be even far alluring then.
March 29, 2013 68 Comments
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.
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.
June 8, 2012 66 Comments
I take a bit of a break from my Tuscany series and bring back a bit of Dutch flavor to my post.
Two weekends ago, we had this long weekend due to the observance of Pentecost. The Dutch may not be that religious but there are a few Church holidays where an extra day of holiday is observed the following day such as Christmas (Second Christmas Day), Easter (Second Easter Day) and Pentecost (Second Pentecost Day).
The Pentecost weekend had the best weather we ever saw this year with summery temperature that hit beyond 30 degrees Celsius. After the wet, grey and chilly spring, we were just so glad to finally be able to get rid of our coats and wear light clothing and to be able to enjoy sunshine to our hearts’ content. We opted to go camping and put to test the new tent which we were pretty curious to check out. Our old tent suffered irreparable from the mistral last year when we camped in the South of France.
We camped in Heidepark, Lemelerveld which was about an hour’s drive from our place. No special reason to choosing this camping place except that it was a good distance away from home and that there was also a pool which the little girl was so excited about.
I love combining such an adventure with castle hunting and in this country, it is not impossible to find a castle that is within easy reach. The Nijenhuis Castle proved to be a good choice because it had a wonderful sculpture garden and amazing collection of contemporary Dutch art as well. The sculpture garden was a big hit with the little girl who found it a wonderful place to explore and simply perfect for hide-and-seek.
May 5, 2012 121 Comments
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.
May 1, 2012 95 Comments
“Never let an opportunity pass by without giving it due consideration.” Weather-wise, this is my standing motto these days because in the whole month of April, we’ve hardly seen the sun and the temperature has been for the most part, chilly.
In yesterday’s Queen’s Day celebration, the weather did an unusual turn-around. Less than 24 hours before, I was still in my winter coat and then it was off to temperature soaring to as high as 28 degrees Celsius during the day. The party mode was on fever-pitch for the Dutch.
Not wanting to waste such a lovely day, I managed to persuade the Mr. to also do a side trip to the flower fields in nearby Flevo polder where we saw the tulips already in full bloom when driving through last weekend. We normally go to the Noordoost polder for our annual foray into the flower fields and our original plan to do that is still next weekend but seeing the blue skies, I just can’t wait for almost a week for that. Besides, there is no guarantee about a nice weather either and who knows, most tulips would already be gone by then when the farmer cuts the flowers to enable the bulbs to grow further. These fields are just a short drive of 20 minutes from our place so I see no reason why we can’t spare some time on this day.
Under sweltering heat at the height of the day, we were at the tulips fields in the polder. My little girl changed outfit to something close to the Dutch royal color and reigned over the fields in her faux jewelry ensemble which were hard won from throwing balls to a stack of tin cans from a distance in the fancy fair we went to the other weekend.
Year after year, I remain amazed by this staggering vista of tulips in various colors and varieties. I try not to give this sight a miss and why not, it is all for free, gratis et amore.
May 1, 2012 58 Comments
A turn around in the weather spelled the big difference and great fun in this year’s traditional Queen’s Day celebration. The day before, we were still in our thick winter coat but on this day, we could go out in summer outfit, my husband even in his shorts.
The 30th of April has been celebrated as Queen’s Day during the reign of Queen Juliana (mother of Queen Beatrix, the reigning monarch) because that was her birthday and the gates of Soestdijk Palace opened up to the Dutch people who would come to bring her presents. She would be with the royal family in full force to meet the people in her very own down-to-earth manner. This has of course endeared her to her subjects. Queen Beatrix’s birthday is in January but the April 30 celebration has been retained because weather-wise, this is the best time for the Dutch to party. Holland on this day explodes in orange as the Dutch family belongs to the House of Orange-Nassau (Oranje-Nassau). The manner of celebration has also taken a different route. On this day, Queen Beatrix and the members of the royal family visit two towns/cities and participate in the many organized activities. The younger royals literally let their hair loose by joining in the many fun games, much to the amusement of the people who normally don’t get the chance to see them up close and personal and in such a very relaxed and playful manner.
This celebration has seen rough times in recent years. Three years ago, at the celebration in Apeldoorn which is also a royal stronghold, a drama unfolded right before the very eyes of the Dutch royals. A black Suzuki swift driven by a man suffering from depression drove through the crowd in full view of the royal family who were in an open bus. Eight people died from this incident which has always been viewed as a fun and safe activity.
This year, the royal family visited the towns of Veenendaal and Rhenen. The mood was sober especially when the queen addressed the crowd that unfortunately the royal family was not complete. Tragedy struck the royal family when the queen’s son Prince Johan Friso was buried in an avalanche while the family were on a skiing holiday in Austria last February. He is in coma and in long-term care at a specialized hospital in London and to which the doctors have already declared that he’ll never wake up again save for a miracle. He is the smartest of the queen’s three sons and father to two very young daughters who will never get to live normal lives again.
Apart from the festive mood, Holland is also one big flea market on this day. Anyone with second hand stuffs to sell is out to make a few bucks. It is a case of one’s junk can be another person’s treasure. Old clothes, shoes, toys, music records, DVDs, delicate chinas, books, etc. which have been segregated for disposal after spring cleaning can maybe still earn a few bucks. To my little girl, the big attraction was the merry go round and the chance to eat her favorite “olliebollen” which is normally something that is on sale around Christmas and New year. Some enterprising young girls were offering nail polish for 50 cents with several designs to choose from. My little girl showed her patriotic side asking for the colors of the Dutch flag.
After the walk through the busy Langestraat, we had enough of this Orange madness and decided to already go home. I suggested to the hubby that it is not a bad idea to head to the tulip fields in Zeewolde for our annual photo session since the weather is just fantastic for that.
April 15, 2012 69 Comments
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.
April 13, 2012 92 Comments
My blog stood silent in the last couple of days as the frenzied activities during the Easter holidays left me with hardly any time to sit in front of the PC.
We sure had a great time doing this year’s Easter egg hunt though the temperature was not as warm as it was the year before. Thanks to the suggestion of our neighbor, we did the egg hunt in the sand dunes of Soesterduinen, a lovely nature reserve area which is pretty close to our place. The kids had a great time being let loose in a seemingly endless sand box. There were also trees that were just perfect for climbing and before long, all of them were up in the tree.
This place is one perfect paradise for kids and one cannot help but be charmed by everything it has on offer. To us parents, we could enjoy moments of lively conversation without worrying about our kids who are safe in all the games that they can think about in this place.
We will surely be back again when the weather warms up and all of us have a free Sunday to spare. The kids can hardly wait…
April 3, 2012 122 Comments
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.
April 2, 2012 51 Comments
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.
March 26, 2012 99 Comments
There are times in life when our plans take a different turn and yield surprises beyond our expectations. A few weeks ago, we went to the Veluwe intent on exploring Biljoen Castle but that turned out to be off-limits to the public. Instead, we discovered a nature reserve nearby and was pleasantly surprised by the sheer beauty of the landscape and can hardly wait to be back when the season of heather goes full swing.
On the way back home, we took a different route and discovered a very nice hilly hairpin road which is pretty unusual in this very flat country whose great part is even below sea level. That drive led us to discover yet another hidden beauty in the Veluwe forest — the lovely Medieval Rosendael Castle. Being the castle freak that I am, I was right away captivated by the lovely sight in front of me. Too bad that it was already getting late and the little girl after all the playing in the nature reserve fell asleep in the car. I just went by myself to take a few pictures, intent to come back another time. The castle was anyway closed till end-March so I did not feel so bad that I have missed on a lovely visit. All the more reason to return…
I was charmed too by the crocuses in full bloom and the busy bees.
March 16, 2012 181 Comments
Apologies for posting so many spring pictures but I’m just so happy that spring is finally here. I love this season of the year because it just feels like being reborn into a new life that is full of new promises and possibilities. There is beauty all around us too…from blossoming trees to those spring flowers blooming in profusion.
There are so many things to look forward to like those weekend outings to the park, castles or palaces we have around. Warm weather means having barbeques in the garden or picnics in the park or forest nearby. Then there are camping trips that we intend doing more as well this year…
March 10, 2012 185 Comments
Categorically saying that Holland (or The Netherlands) is Europe’s spring capital should not raise an eyebrow (I hope). I say this because all roads lead to this small country the moment the daffodils spring from the ground, followed by the hyacinths and lastly by the muse of the spring blooms — the tulips.
One park that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors in the two months that its doors are open to the public is Keukenhof in the town of Lisse. It is considered the most beautiful spring garden in the world with its total area of 32 hectares planted with 7 million bulbs of which 4.5 million are tulips of 100 varieties. I make it a point to not miss a visit every single year.
Keukenhof opens its doors timed around the official start of spring (3rd week of March) but I prefer going a month after as more flowers especially the tulips are by then mostly in bloom. The amazing thing about Keukenhof is how these flowers are organized that they bloom in perfect symphony in the two months of spring. One can’t help but be impressed by the plant knowledge of the gardeners here who painstakingly plant the bulbs in autumn by hand.
Keukenhof chooses a theme each year for its flower exhibit. In 2011, the theme was “Germany, Land of Poets and Philosophers”. A German theme route went from one entrance to the other and the highlight was the flower mosaic of the Brandenburger Gate in Berlin.
We did not get to see the entire park during our visit for there was just too much to see and we also had to find the balance between what is interesting to us and to our little girl. She simply enjoyed running around and smelling the flowers.
Neither did we have time to see the flower exhibits at the various pavilions (the Willem Alexander Pavilion had over 80,000 tulips on display in more than 600 varieties and 120 varieties of daffodils; the Beatrix Pavilion showed orchids, bromeliad and anthuriums; and the Juliana Pavilion had a special theme exhibition of the Dutch-German ties that bind both countries). Anyway,
To flower enthusiasts and shutterbugs, Keukenhof is the place to be. Come early because the park gets very busy around lunch time when busloads of tourists from all over the world find their way here. The park and parking tickets can be bought online which we normally do to avoid queueing for a long time. Other things to do include sailing in a silent boat between the flower bulb fields behind Keukenhof. It is also possible to cycle in between the flower bulb fields in the surroundings of Keukenhof.
Another event worth witnessing is the annual Flower Parade which will take place on 21 April 2012.
March 2, 2012 125 Comments
The 1st of March is already considered here as the start of spring in meteorological terms although the real start of the season as we know will only be 3 more weeks farther. My daughter can hardly wait for the new season to begin as she looks forward to picking flowers and assemble them into lovely bouquets.
I share my little girl’s fascination with this season as I simply love how Holland blossoms after a long hibernation in winter. I love the sight of early morning just when the sun is breaking though the mist as backdrop to the trees and shrubs which explode in blooms just as soon as the temperature warms up sustainably for a couple of days.
With the exception of when there is snow or ice, my camera also goes into winter hibernation mode so when the first signs of spring become visible, I am out of the door in an instant to go around and start clicking to capture the beauty of the season.
These are pictures I took last year and I am looking forward to a repeat of this lovely phase in the season this year.