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April 8, 2002
Nederland: Keukenhof (Russell)

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The greatest bulb-flower garden show on Earth

Although our stay in Nederland is supposed to be relaxing, we are forcing ourselves out of bed earlier than usual in order to make it to breakfast.  This was especially difficult on April 8th, after the long day of walking we had spent the day before.  We spent another lazy morning chatting with Hans and Mary, and after visiting the grocery store it was late morning before we set out for the day.  The weather was absolutely perfect.

We have visited Nederland at a very lucky time.  We have already written about our rare chance to see an exhibition of Van Gogh and Gauguin.  We also discovered that we are currently in the midst of two major flower shows: Keukenhof, which only runs for two months a year, and Floriade, which only occurs once every ten years.  We decided to visit Keukenhof, as Floriade will not reach its peak until October (and it also sounds very much like the home and garden shows we can see back home).  Hans de Kiefte attributes the success of his B&B to "location, location, location," and he is absolutely correct.  In addition to being only 15 minutes west of Amsterdam, Haarlem is also only 15 minutes north of Keukenhof.

After eleven years in the business, Hans has some very opinionated travel advice; and he described a back-roads route to Keukenhof.  ("Here you will see signs directing you to 'Keukenhof.'  Ignore them, and go this way instead.)  His route took us through acres and acres of bright and colorful flowers in bloom.  At one point we ended up on a road that turned into a bicycle path, and we had to turn the car around and go back.  (We also met a carload of French visitors who saw our license plate and thought that we were fellow franšais.)

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Eating lunch at Holland's flower fields

Keukenhof itself is stunningly and indescribably beautiful.  Begun in 1949 on an old hunting estate, the greatest bulb-flower garden show on Earth today features more than 100 separate growers who display and sell nature's creations.  Between the Historical Garden, the Nature Garden, and the Music Garden, we saw a hundred acres of flowers in indoor pavilions, as well as outdoors in lush surroundings, where hilly stone paths meandered among swan-filled lakes.  Cameron and Joss finally got their chance to play on a huge outdoor chess board, as well as get lost in a hedge maze and play at a playground.  Gail bought a collection of bulbs for our garden back home that would have cost twice as much in the US (they will be shipped in September).

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Inside: the Prins Willem Alexander Paviljoen 
Outside: celebrating life on the best day in months

It was another long day, and it was made even longer when we discovered in the parking lot at 6:00 PM that Joss had left his yellow visor somewhere in the park.  Through careful retracing of steps and everyone's collective memories, we were able to find his visor after a half-hour of searching (it was lying on the grass next to the path in the middle of the park).  Back in the room and with all of us completely worn out, Gail cooked a full pasta dinner on the portable electric burner.

Gail had wanted to come to Holland especially to see the flowers in the spring, and we couldn't have asked for a better day or display.  She pronounced this the best day that she has spent in the last several months -- considering some of the other places that we have seen, this is very high praise indeed.

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Deep in thought on a giant chess board


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