The very first week I met Karen and her family – way back in January – we made plans to visit the famous Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands during their Flower Parade weekend. The Keukenhof tulip display is the talk of the town and we were bound and determined we wouldn’t miss it at its peak. It was a gorgeous Spring Saturday to go. We loaded up the car bright and early and embarked on our 3 hour journey, eager to go tulip spotting! As we approach the Keukenhof Gardens we were blown away by the rainbows of colorful stripes in the surrounding tulip fields. The color popped out at you and it looked like someone had painted the thick lines of vibrant hues on the Earth with those precise rows of thousands upon thousands of tulips. While we were stuck in some traffic - to be expected - we rolled down our car windows and let the fragrant breeze ignite our anticipation even more. Combine the flower display with the Dutch windmills dotting the countryside and we were ready to be pinched. I think it is hilarious that one of Connor’s favorite words these days is “WINDMILL” and “BIG WINDMILL!” How many 2 year olds get the chance to have windmill as one of their familiar words?
We skipped into the Keukenhof Gardens with huge expectations of what we would see. I read that there were over 7 million bulbs planted at Keukenhof. All carefully groomed and timed to bloom on cue.
And indeed the flowers did not disappoint. There were beds and beds of tulips as far as the eye could see. They were sturdy and strong and some even taller than Connor! I loved that we could get right up near the flowers, even though they were certainly comparable to a valuable piece of art the way they were arranged and planned out perfectly.
But believe it or not, the flowers were only half the fun. The acres of gardens also contained more fun than we could imagine. There were bridges and glass lillypads; playgrounds and a house made of Coke cans; and best of all a petting zoo with animals roaming loosely. I never dreamed there would be so much kid-friendly entertainment in addition to the gorgeous tulip masterpiece.
Again, I was touched by the sentimentality of others. I watched as tourist after tourist snapped photos of Connor with the flowers. She wore her adorable Dutch dress with the wooden shoes and windmills and the big blue sash Carol gave her last year. I think the combination of the dress, the flowers, and Connor’s smile just made people want to take her picture. And I didn’t mind. She was having fun striking poses as she smelled all the flowers. Quite the little model!We did stay the night in nearby Noordwijk, right on the North Sea. Unfortunately the water and weather was much too cold for swimming or sunning, but I guess what do you expect at the North Sea?!? Right? There were quite a few impressive windsurfers though that put on a big show!
We drove into Haarlem for dinner and passed more tulip fields. I just had to pull over and jump in the tulip fields for some photos. Have you ever seen anything so spectacular? I felt grateful we were in Holland, grateful for the opportunity to live abroad, and grateful for my sweet family who I love so dearly.In Haarlem, we found the rare treat of Mexican food for dinner and there was a small carnival in the city center. The kids had been good so we had to let them take a few spins on the merry-go-round after dinner. We had hoped to stay and see the end of the Flower Parade, but it wasn’t due to roll in until 9:15 PM so we decided to call it a night before the spectacle.Sunset over the tulip fields was equally impressive on our drive back to our hotel!On Sunday we had big plans to continue our gleeful flower tour by biking all through the tulip fields. There are miles and miles of bike paths smack dab in the middle of the panoramic fields and we were geared up and ready to become one with the fields. Too bad Mother Nature had other plans. The day was rainy and cold so we had to abort the bike plans and instead we drove back into Haarlem to see the Flower Parade floats we had missed the night before. I was pleased we took time for photos on Saturday since we missed biking in the tulip fields on Sunday, but I was really bummed that the Proctors didn’t have their family field photos too. Brady had been napping when we stopped the day before. The classic photo 'nose-deep in tulips' seemed an obligatory souvenir from any successful Keukenhof trip! We drove around and around in the rain until we finally happened on a good spot and we braved the rain and mud to take that all-important Proctor family photo. Determination paid off!I loved Keukenhof and thought it was quintessential Netherlands. Yes, the crowds were horrendous and the weekend wasn’t exactly as planned with the weather and parade timing. But it was still an unforgettable experience. Seeing all those tulips blooming made the wet Winter worth it. And the carefree spontaneity brought on by Spring flowers far and wide so uplifting.
Click here for even more photos (if you aren't overwhelmed already!) of our Keukenhof trip (full album)
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