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.


You could buy authentic Dutch strawberries ‘for the ride


Or other Dutch themed snacks!


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


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.


And we were no different!


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



Some gardens had sculptures:


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



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


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


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….


…And then of me!


The pigs took more of a laid back approach.


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


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



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


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


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.



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


(Time for a close up!)


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


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


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




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


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.


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


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!


……..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.


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’.


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..

the calm before the storm!

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


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



You pass all sorts of weird and wonderful things..

Heineken fishing

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


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


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!


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


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


Boats of all different types, including speed boats!



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.


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!



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!



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.





We got some orange tie bracelets to remember the day


And eventually said goodbye to the King and his party!


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,