The flowers of Keukenhof


We slept in this morning but were still too early for the breakfast supplied in the deal. We were patient, got some office work completed and finally had a very nice European-style meal.

The party gathered at about 9:30 with the addition of friend Guido from Switzerland and we rode a few kilometres to the tulip gardens at Keukenhof. We thought we’d beat the crowds by getting there early on a Monday morning but we were not alone. Thousands of people were already there including many coachfuls of international tourists. Keukenhof is evidently especially popular with Indian and other Asian tourists but it was still a predominately Dutch crowd.

The numbers continued to grow throughout the day but the grounds are extensive with artfully landscaped woodland settings and no particular focus so we were all accommodated quite comfortably. There was no litter and no-one collecting litter because they weren’t required. There was no visible security – not needed either. Many aged people in wheelchairs and several people in hospital beds were being wheeled around the gardens.

The tulips are amazing with each flower bed seemingly more vividly colourful or extravagantly featured than the last. Many of the blooms are scarcely believable as real flowers. This is an over-the-top floral experience. The effort involved in creating this display for just a few weeks every year must be herculean. In the fashion of Dennis O’Rourke’s Cannibal Tours we also found our fellows visitors interesting subjects for study.

We returned to the hostel for a rest in the early afternoon. Our 84 yo matriarch needed her customary three cups of tea but, unusually, this YHA doesn’t provide access to a kitchen or even water-boiling facilities. Three cups of hot water were finally provided for 6 euro – highway robbery!

Rosalie and I cycled in to Noordwijk for a swim in the North Sea. It was quite brief! The water felt about as cold as a good gin and tonic. It wasn’t our coldest swim ever (Fox River, New Zealand in late winter still retains that prize after more than 30 years) but we were disinclined to loiter. While cold, the water was soupy and heavily laden with flora. Now we know what those moules eat before they’re caught and eaten in their turn.

We had a beer at a snooty beach-front restaurant. The pomaded waiter didn’t like the look of us and started with the insult of an offer of klein beers. Once it was clear we weren’t going to buy dinner to go with our grote beers (it wasn’t even 5 pm) they were pretty quick to explain we had to clear the table by 5:30 and then weren’t that keen to take our money as we were trying to leave. No tip and I hope our bathers left damp patches on their seats.

We dined at a nearby Dutch pannenkoeken restaurant. The food was delicious if a little strange at first to foreigners more used to sweet pancakes. The hostel is now full with a secondary school group. They’ve been rampaging around this afternoon and are now dolled up and having a disco.

This evening marks the end of our extended family sojourn in the Netherlands. Tomorrow Rosalie and I peel off south along the North Sea coast headed for Belgium, France and Spain.


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