When you catch a man accidentally admit out loud that a display of flowers is ‘so beautiful’ then you know that it must be pretty phenomenal. Tulips are synonymous with the Dutch and I’d been given rave reviews about the floral shows at Keukenhof, but had also been warned off, with someone else’s advice that it was only for flower lovers. Curious to know the truth, I devised a plan for a thorough investigation.
After catching a train to Schipol airport and using the handy ‘combi ticket’ I was shuttled on the bus to the Keukenhof Gardens in around 40 minutes. I took the opportunity to show off my biking skills and cycle around the bulb fields out to the North Sea. Rent-a-bike ‘Van Dam’ kitted me out with an awesome bike, basket, (no helmet, obviously) and a map and I was off! They have four well sign posted routes which range from 5 to 25km.
I headed off, loving the fact I had my ‘own’ lane and could cycle around with no worries. There was plenty to see along the way as I whizzed through little villages, around a lake and past lots of farms.
Unfortunately, I was just a smidgen too late to see fields full of tulips! Dang! So instead I made it a game to try and spot the last remaining strips of flowers, which was fun. There were a few lovely cafes en route where I could stop for a coffee or a slice of cake, which was a treat almost too tempting to pass up. Instead, the wheels kept on turning and soon I had made it about half way around and arrived at the beach.
Walking through the dunes I arrived at an amazing sweep of light coloured sand that stretched far into the distance in both directions, in between the coastal towns of Noordwijk and Zandvoort. The salty fresh air was a pleasant bolt to the senses, I took a stroll along the beach and allowed the soft sand to squish and sweep over my feet; it was a lovely sensation to enjoy. If I had been a bit peckish there were a couple of little shacks selling typical seaside fares such as ice creams and fish and chips. After a nice airing of the toes, I was back on the bike, ready to rumble.
The route was well signposted and easy to follow and I made good progress as the trail led me into some lovely forest areas, where I had to stop and appreciate the birdsong.
The trees were bursting with chirps, peeps, and tweets which were a lovely soundtrack to my trek. On exiting one patch of trees there were six deer, quietly moving through the thicket, which was a nice surprise.
Heading back towards Keukenhof gardens I was feeling exhilarated from the ride when I spotted the one remaining field of tulips! Hurrah! It was nice to experience a large patch of flowers out in the open and could only imagine what the region must look like when it is simply bursting with blooms. Awesome.
I finished the cycle with a smile and headed into the gardens for the afternoon. Keukenhof means Kitchen Garden in Dutch and comprises of 32 hectares, over 7 million bulbs and features several themed planted garden areas and indoor flower exhibition rooms. It was established in 1949 as a space to show off the best bulbs the Dutch and Europe had to offer, as the Netherlands is the world’s biggest exporter of flowers. Now it also serves as a lure for the over 1.4 million tourists, gardeners and floral fans who squeeze in a visit during its eight week window of flower shows.
I have to say that the displays were absolutely incredible. I was completely blown away by just how magnificent it was.
I really didn’t expect the gardens to have such an impact but it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to.
There were literally millions of so many stunning colours and varieties of flowers. They were a bit hit with the crowd too; rest of the visitors were also ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’, and stopping to smell the wonderful blooms.
Inside the main building, there are presentations that really showed off the power of flowers. Each stand was brilliantly crafted and very inspiring, especially if you were looking to redesign your garden or for wedding decoration ideas.
Particularly for me, the orchids were just so amazing. As a result, I’m actually going to try really hard to grow my own.
Even though there were literally thousands of people there, the park is so big that it didn’t feel that crowded. The accessibility was great, everyone of all abilities and ages could totally enjoy the spaces which were nice to see.
I think introducing some VIP late evening viewing would be a fabulous idea, with restricted tickets so that the gardens could be enjoyed with fewer crowds to get a more personal experience of the sheer wonder of this special garden.
All in all, I took a good four hours inside Keukenhof, was very pleasantly surprised and completely wowed with the show, took a gazillion photographs and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
So were the flowers as beautiful as the man had claimed? In conclusion, I had to agree with him that Keukenhof was one delightful way to spend an afternoon. I’d definitely recommend adding the super easy cycle ride in the surrounding area too and making it a full day. I think that even those who are most vehemently opposed to flowers would be easily converted into a blossom lover by these outstanding gardens. Just don’t be shy to admit it out loud!
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