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

Queen’s Day at the tulip fields

Our little queen on Queen’s Day at the tulip fields

“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.

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Our family

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.

Sunset walk along the dike

Sunset

We first laid eyes on each other around sunset over 15 years ago on the shores of El Nido in the Philippines. Call us incurable romantics but sunset still weaves its amazing magic to us each time.

Being parents to an overly active 4-year old, we are constantly busy and in a rush but we found ourselves enjoying some quiet moments together last month when our little girl was fetched by the grandparents for the weekend. Finally, a bit of time for ourselves and those sleep-outs that we badly needed after many short nights.

On this seemingly warm early spring day, we enjoyed a quiet walk along the dike not so far from our place. On this dike is also a steam mill (Stoomgemaal Hertog Reijnout) which was built in 1882 and drains the water from the polder.

I love it there to just watch the many birds that converge on the flood plains in the polder and the tranquil view of the setting sun in the distance. On this particular day, the birds were mostly sea gulls but there were times when I’ve seen an incredible number of geese. Oh, they’re still in flight this time of the year from Africa where they stay till the cold season is over here in Europe.

Steam mill (Stoomgemaal Hertog Reijnout)

Stoomgemaal Hertog Reijnout

Signs of spring

Signs of spring

Signs of spring

Me

The Mr.

the Mr.

Our shadows

Sunset

Glorious skies

The dike

Eemmeer, used to be Zuiderzee and is now partly reclaimed into the Flevopolder

Birds in flight in the distance

A boat in the distanc

Sunset at the dike

Swans

Sunset

Steam mill in the distance

a little jetty on the Eemmeer

Numerous birds in flight

Birds

Birds in flight

Birds in flight...steam mill in the distance

Birds in flight

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.

A different kind of winter experience in Urk

The picturesque village of Urk

Our Valentine’s day out which was a few days late last Sunday was one that was very Dutch for we went on a date to the lovely fishing village of Urk without spending a single cent. Not that I am complaining. We were at my in-laws’ place to bring our little girl who would stay with them for a few days given the one week school holiday which the Dutch calls “crocus vakantie”. I suggested that we take a little sightseeing in the nearby Medieval city of Elburg. My husband insisted that we go to Urk instead which was also a mere 15 minutes drive from my in-laws.

Urk is a lovely fishing village which used to be an island in what was then called the Zuiderzee (South Sea) till the Dutch reclaimed lands that resulted to the creation of the Noordoost Polder and the Flevo Polder which now comprised the province of Flevoland. Noordoost Polder which was created before WWII attached Urk which since then ceased to be an island. The Zuiderzee after the construction of the Afsluitdijk, a 32-km causeway running from Den Oever in North Holland to the village of Zurich in Friesland became the Ijselmeer as it is no longer part of the sea but is now a freshwater lake.

Urk remains to be a very traditional, ultra-conservative and very religious village with the locals still going to the church several times on Sunday and business establishments are completely closed. Women still wear long skirts if not the traditional clothing. The village is picturesque that is why it attracts quite a good number of visitors. And it is also a protected area under the UNESCO World Heritage Site List.

We went to Urk because of one very amazing spectacle — the melting of the ice sheets in the Ijselmeer from the last 2 weeks of deep freeze here in the Netherlands which are then pushed onto the shores. I was so amazed seeing this sight of huge chunks of ice washed ashore. I enjoyed taking pictures because it was like being in the Arctic or the South Pole with icebergs.

On the drive back to Dronten, we took a detour via the Ketelbrug, went under the bridge to view Urk from the other side of the Ijselmeer. It was amazing to see Urk from the distance across chunks of ice sheets in the water. It was a great day out so who needs a very expensive and fancy lunch or dinner date.

By the time we were back at the in-laws in Dronten, Mam Sil has already my favorite Dutch dinner ready — the Dutch beef stew called “Draadjesvlees” which she served with boiled potatoes and beans. I brought the dessert which is a Philippine favorite called “leche flan”.

Ice sheets in the harbor

Huge chunks of ice that washed ashore

Feeling like he's in the Arctic

The lighthouse of Urk

Fun on ice

A memorial to those who lost their lives at sea

Urk in the distance

ice sheets

Ice sheets on the Ijselmeer

Modern windmills along the Ijselmeer

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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