Keukenhof

Keukenhof

If you want to see not only “The Garden of Europe”, but one of the largest gardens in the world, head to Holland’s Keukenhof.

Keukenhof isn’t technically an Amsterdam attraction; it is around an hours bus ride South-west of the city and is situated in the small town of Lisse, but it’s a trip that any Amsterdammer should have on their spring to-do list. Tulips are the Dutch national flower, and I bet you’ve never seen so many in one place in your life. It is open for only a small period of time, so you have to get yourself in gear to make sure you don’t miss the flower fest.

We got down there on a sunny wednesday morning. We passed through the gates into a big area to see birds playing in the water and hear a large music stall, kind of like a huge jukebox, playing old fashioned fairground music.

IMG_8945

You could buy authentic Dutch strawberries ‘for the ride

IMG_8778

Or other Dutch themed snacks!

IMG_8784

But forget the food, its all about the flowers! Head left and you’re in tulip heaven….

IMG_8782

What hits you is the brightness everywhere- I’d never thought nature could feel quite so like a candyshop !

Although we went first thing in the morning, the place was already teeming with tourists and Dutch visitors alike, snapping photos of the colourful beauty all around.

IMG_8794

And we were no different!

IMG_8788

You walk through different sections of the huge garden, all with different styles, colour arrangements and features.

IMG_8795

IMG_8814

Some gardens had sculptures:

IMG_8805

And others feature ponds, lakes and fountains which are beautifully decorated by the flowers.

IMG_8821

IMG_8816

We concluded it would probably be the most blissful place to take a book, or have a snooze on a bench

IMG_8809

…But you couldn’t really take it further than reading and snoozing.

IMG_8824

For anyone who thinks that looking at bushes of flowers doesn’t sound very exciting, there is also an animal pen!

This goat was obviously angling for a better view of the tulips….

IMG_8834

…And then of me!

IMG_8836

The pigs took more of a laid back approach.

IMG_8840

There are so many interesting details to Keukenhof, like this mini garden, designed by TV gardener Rob Verlinden, with a very modern feel.

IMG_8845

There are also lots of cafes littered around the garden, so you can enjoy a cup with the views out to the fields.

IMG_8857

IMG_8850

Or if cafe’s sound too run of the mill, there is also a river boat to kick back in.

IMG_8860

Speaking of mills, you can also go up a windmill! Windmills are as much of a Dutch thing as bikes, cheese and canals.

IMG_8863

IMG_8871
Feeling the blow!

Back on the ground, we headed though the Japanese gardens. Gardens are hugely important in the east as they are believed to have spiritual dynamics, and have had a massive influence in how western gardens look today.

IMG_8881

IMG_8896

Each clearing we went through seemed to get more beautiful and interesting…

IMG_8914

(Time for a close up!)

IMG_8903

And you could walk through one of the big lakes on big stepping stones.

IMG_8916

Issy and I found this way more precarious than we thought it would be, with kids jumping and zooming past us!

IMG_8923

We were so lucky to have come on such a hot and sunny day, as the light made the rows of flowers look incredible.

IMG_8927

IMG_8933

IMG_8938

And after three hours of flours’, we were pretty blissed out!

This year Keukenhof has been open from the 20th March to the 17th May, so if you want to see it in 2015, you’ll need to run! Otherwise, it is a wonderful trip to have in mind for future springs during visits to Amsterdam, or Holland in general. Since the country is so small, it doesn’t take long to get to the different parts. It it really great to spend so much time outdoors getting lost in nature, especially if you are used to the bustle of the city.

That’s all for now,

Love O

xxxxxxx

Advertisements
King’s Day

King’s Day

The biggest party of the year in Amsterdam doesn’t require an invite; it’s King’s Day!

On the 27th April, the whole city celebrates King Willem-Alexander’s birthday through a tradition that has been around since 1885. The celebration was originally called Queens Day (Koninginnedag) but now that the Netherlands has a King, the name has changed along with it.

Although Konningsdag is technically the 27th, which is the public holiday, the festivities begin the day before on King’s Night.

IMG_8401

Tourists come from all over the world to experience the weekend; the streets overflow with even more bikes than usual and orange (the colour of the Netherlands) is blazoned everywhere in the form of flags and bunting

IMG_8405

You head into the city centre and find open-air concerts, live DJ sets, huge drinking tents and generally the most electric atmosphere, kind of like Christmas Eve. The whole city is out celebrating and soaking up the buzz, and everyone is ready for a a long night of partying!

IMG_8408
Leidesplein

……..Skip 15 hours (or more!), and the city starts to wake up again!

There are so many events happening on King’s Day that people discuss plans for weeks in advance, comparing options and locations. In the end, many decide to walk round the city with friends and check out what’s going on everywhere, rather than sticking to one place.

Firstly, we headed to Westerpark.

IMG_8444

For Kings Day, there is a vrijmarkt (free market) which means that everyone in the city is allowed to sell their belongings- of pretty much any kind- on the streets, in the parks and just infront of their houses. Amsterdam is a city built on trade, and Amsterdammers today definitely still have an instinct for buying and selling and are generally trade-savvy!

Along the front of Westerpark there were hundreds of people selling their ‘wares’.

IMG_8453

IMG_8447
Buggy anyone?

After checking out the park we headed over to the Jordaan in the direction of the canals, and crossing the bridges you could see the boats approaching the canals too..

IMG_8466
the calm before the storm!

Then we arrived on Haarlemerdijk, which was covered in more happy street sellers.

IMG_8478

As well as lots of people dancing to music from outdoor speakers.

IMG_8474

IMG_8477

You pass all sorts of weird and wonderful things..

IMG_8485
Heineken fishing

And people lean out of windows and watch the madness go by.

IMG_8471

You come out of Haarlemerdijk onto Prinsengracht and are hit with waves of noise and cheering as the colourful boats emerge onto the canals.

IMG_8491

People watch the loud boats with envy, but also content that they are free to roam along the canals, taking in the views from all directions. Anyways, we’ve already seen The City By Boat!

IMG_8493

People climb all over the edges of the canals to get the best look at the sights on the water.

IMG_8500

And the bridges are packed full of people watching the boats pass beneath.

IMG_8504

Boats of all different types, including speed boats!

IMG_8520

IMG_8514

As you walk up the sides of the canals you go through a string of parties outside houses playing club and rave music, and anyone can join in the party or just continue through on their way.

IMG_8547

Everyone of all ages is partying, dancing, drinking, smoking and chatting. It’s the kind of atmosphere where you can talk to anyone and make memories with total strangers or just with your favourite people!

IMG_8545_2

IMG_8543_2

There are a multitude of street food stalls, set up by people who normally own restaurants, or just those who you feel like doing some large scale cooking for their fellow Amsterdammers!

IMG_8572
Indonesian

IMG_8467

By the evening, the sun was still shining, and although the numbers had dwindled slightly (the whole city had already been out until the morning), the music, dancing and carnival atmosphere continued.

IMG_8549

IMG_8576

IMG_8568

IMG_8566

We got some orange tie bracelets to remember the day

IMG_8574

And eventually said goodbye to the King and his party!

IMG_8539

King’s Day (or King’s weekend) has got to be one of if not the highlight of the year for those living Amsterdam. The city is bursting with life more than ever and the whole place feels like an open-air festival. This day of orange-pride could even rival Gay pride, another big contender, and you can’t help but feel proud to be part of the most wonderful city.

King’s Night is also incredibly fun, although in this case you really do need to have firm plans of where you are going, as there are the hugest queues for every good bar and club, and sometimes very large prices if you try to buy on the door. In our case, we managed to get into the infamous Chicago Social Club without queueing for hours or paying 50 euros, but by being lifted through a shoe-box sized hole 6 feet up the wall in the nextdoor smoking area by our daredevilled Dutch companion, and literally entering the club like an aeroplane! That was deifnitely a surreal experience and I’m not sure every place has this kind of “loop hole” in their entrance policy!

I didn’t take that many photos as it was easy to get caught up in the the moment, so I haven’t managed to show half of how fun it was, but If you are planning a trip to Amsterdam in advance, the King’s weekend at the end of April stands out by a mile as an amazing encapsulation of the wildness and electric atmosphere that the city stands for.

That’s all for now!

Love O,

xxxxxx