I realised in my earlier post I’d forgotten to include some pretty important stuff you may like to consider before visiting the Keukenhof, should you decide to go at some point over the next few weeks. The weather here in The Netherlands is glorious at the moment, as tends to happen as soon as we make plans to leave town.
The same thing happened when we went away last summer.
Everyone raves about last summer as being hot and magnificent, practically Mediterranean apparently. We remember it as being cold and wet. This enigma persisted for weeks till we finally pinned down the dates this spectacular summer was reported to have occurred, only to find it coincided exactly with the weeks we were away.
With a trip planned to the UK over Easter the weather in The Netherlands is guaranteed to be superb.
I digress. Back to the Keukenhof.
There are some things you should know about the Keukenhof to make the most of your visit which I failed to mention in my last post.
Get there early, it opens at 08.00 so be there then if you can, having bought your tickets online before you go. I understand going in the evenings is also recommended. Get there well before the bus trips arrive, as six or so coaches unloading their gardening enthusiasts just as you walk in, can quickly dispel that feeling of serenity and goodwill you arrived with.
Never go on a sunny weekend as everyone in The Netherlands will also decide this is the perfect time to visit too, and the A4 from Amsterdam will be at a standstill with cars trying to exit for the Keukenhof.
If you decide to ignore this advice please make sure you go equipped with hot flasks of tea, sandwiches and a sleeping bag or two just in case you end up stuck in traffic overnight. If the lines are incredibly long it’s likely a party atmosphere will develop among the backed-up traffic and having spare food always goes down well with other grid-locked motorists.
You can go by train, bus or bike too, all information on the website.
The bike ride from where we live to the Keukenhof is allegedly spectacular as you ride through the tulip fields. Several of my friends do it every year; I have yet to join them. If you’ve read Loving your Dutch bike, Expat style you’ll understand my reluctance to go anywhere outside my comfort zone although I adore my bike.
I’ve also been told the train from Leiden to Haarlem is a ‘must do’ with the train track ambling through tulip fields stretching to the horizon in every direction.
The only time I’ve caught this train was in January – our book club read The Hiding Room by Corrie Ten Boom and decided to visit the Ten Boom Museum in Haarlem. On that occasion the vista was more Dr Zhivago; snow hurling itself horizontally at the train windows, our only view brief snapshots of a white and grey landscape between the snow flurries.
It was darn cold that day but we were enthusiastic to explore and get to know the Netherlands. Now we tend to explore between April and August unless equipped with arctic survival gear. Even then you can be caught out as I was on my second, and last, visit to the Keukenhof.
Different friends in town and both eager to visit the Dutch Jewel. Mick loves gardens, installing a tasteful water feature in every home he and Trish have lived in, and he was very interested to check a few things out. Trish and I were happy to go anywhere if we could chat and have coffee on route.
The Captain wasn’t keen and made feeble attempts to excuse himself from the trip. Our guests were having none of it, insisting he stop being a grumpy old man and get with the program.
It was further complicated as Archie, our English Springer had only recently joined our family and I was loath to leave him alone for the day, being only a few months old. Checking the website we discovered well-behaved dogs were welcome. We decided to take the loose definition of well-behaved and he came with us; much to the incomprehension of the Captain who had no qualms at leaving the poor mite home alone. Trish was having none of that either and we finally set off on what was a cool but promising day.
I tried to raise the Captain’s spirits by telling him what a great place the Keukenhof was and how he’d be thrilled he’d been by the end of the day. He wasn’t playing ball.
As we headed north the day started to deteriorate rapidly, and by the time we got to the Keukenhof the promising blue skies and fleeting warmth of the sun was replaced by low cloud and cold, dank air.
There had been heavy rain the previous day and the flat, easily traversed parking lot of my memory was reduced to a quagmire of mud with deep ruts and puddles of indeterminate depth.
Even with a four-wheel drive it was tough going, not helped when the Captain hit an unseen rut and the car drifted into the ropes at the side of the track. The men in the high–visibility jackets directing the traffic were not pleased and let their feelings be known, as did the Captain who continued muttering under his breath. As punishment we were made to park several miles from the entrance.
Things went from bad to worse, arriving at the entrance at the same time as a senior bus trip from France. The disembarkation was a slow affair involving wheelchairs and zimmer frames blocking everyone from passing until the old folks – who were all in riotous form – got out of the way.
Once inside the Archster, terrified by the zimmer frames, decided this was the perfect place to show off his rather unique way of defecating, much to the delight and laughter of the elderly French citizens who were now behind us. The Captain was getting more tense by the minute, he scooped the poop with much sighing and glum facial expressions.
We were looking forward to the panoramic vista across the blooming tulip fields from the side of the Keukenhof windmill, where an old-fashioned barrel organ was churning out an oompah version of Abba’s Super Trooper. Unfortunately, there was little to see as visibility was limited and the tulips weren’t yet in flower.
The weather had been so cold there were few blooms anywhere. For enthusiasts those that were on display were amazing but the Captain was not one of them and his disappointment was tangible.
By this time the seniors were ahead of us, and the low cloud had turned into a biting drizzle. We decided to stop for a coffee to warm up but had to sit outside because of the dog. Most of our party were quite happy with the arrangement, but one of us had forgotten to bring a coat and his smile was getting tighter.
The final straw was a trip to the bathroom from which he returned speechless.
“I honestly don’t believe it!” I’m ashamed to say the rest of us could no longer contain our restrained mirth and instantly fell apart, but the Captain was too incensed to notice.
“We pay all this money to come in here, can’t see a damn thing because of the rain and what we can see won’t be in flower for another week or two, the damn dog is a disgrace and can’t be taken anywhere, the whole place is full of geriatrics who are having more fun than I am and NOW they want 50 bloody euro cents to use the bloody bathroom!”
We decided it was perhaps best to call it a day and head home.
I’ve never been back since and the mention of the Keukenhof to the Captain will induce a slight twitch at the corner of his eye.
The best advice I can give is chose a good day, leave the dog at home and take plenty of sandwiches with you. Oh, and a 50 cent coin or two.
ULTIMATE BLOG CHALLENGE DAY 16