Day Four- Beyond Amsterdam

April is a great time to be in Holland, since it’s time for the tulips to bloom. There is a huge garden about a half hour outside of Amsterdam called the Keukenhof. It’s only open about three weeks of the year to showcase all of that bloomage, and that just happens to be when we’re here. Whether we planned it that way originally or just got lucky, I’m not sure, since this whole thing started last August. But we figured we better take advantage of a rare opportunity to see something that can’t be seen most of the year.

We decided to rent a car to go out there as it otherwise would have involved two bus rides each way, which not only would have cost about the same if not more, but we would’ve forced us to be beholden to their schedule, and we had no idea how long we’d want to be in the Keukenhof.

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So we got a little Fiat 500: an automatic, but despite that, it took me about five minutes to figure out how to put it in gear. It’s actually not a bad little ride for a one-lung putt putt job of a mini car, once you figure out the transmission.

Driving in Amsterdam proper is something of a challenge due to there being lanes for bikes, busses/taxis/ubers and cars, and they criss-cross all over the place with everyone pretty much assuming they have the right of way. Listening to Siri direct us is also a bit comical in that every street name is incomprehensible, so you really need to have the visual map visible to understand where you’re supposed to go, so I drove one-handed while holding my iPhone. Fortunately, we made it out of town without any major incident (not counting that one bike rider who went flying over the hood), but I was also glad it was a Saturday, and not a weekday where the traffic (and the other drivers’ patience) would’ve been ten times worse.

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We knew we were on the right track when we saw that we were halfweg there.

Once we got there, we quickly found out we weren’t the only ones with that idea. The place was pretty packed, but fortunately, those who run the place were very efficient and we didn’t have to wait long to park or get into the gardens.

Entrance to the Keukenhof. I guess it’s not very impressive, but I think they were just under-promising and over-delivering.

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Once in, we were greeted with an array of the most colorful flowers possible, spread out over acres and acres of beautifully landscaped land. Here’s their YouTube propaganda:

We took approximately 1,325,124 photos of all the flowers. Rather than bore and alienate all two of our loyal readers, here is a slideshow sampling of everything we saw (may take a second to load):

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Can’t help it:

We also tried the obligatory National Gross Food of The Country You Have to Say You Tried, which in the case of The Netherlands, is raw herring, made tastier by putting it in a bun and covering it with pickles and onions.

Carolyn had a bite. One. But I was proud of her for that. She’s not a seafood lover, but was willing to try something once. I missed her best grimace, though.

I ate the rest, and it really wasn’t bad. The fish itself didn’t have a ton of flavor, which is why they put the pickles and onions on it. I wouldn’t order it in a restaurant, but now we can both say we’ve eaten raw herring.

Also visible from the Kuekenhof are the rows of colorful tulips and other flowers.

We didn’t have a selfie stick, but we took some obligatory selfies anyway:

And of course what trip to Holland would be complete without a picture of a windmill?

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Or wooden shoes? Especially Wooden Shoe Pumps, like all the hot Hollywood celebrities are wearing.

After putting yet more miles on our own regular shoes made in Chinese sweatshops, we hopped back in the car and decided to get lost in Holland’s countryside. We both enjoy just driving around seeing the sights and how people live outside the city and tourist areas. We enjoyed a very nice meal at a randomly picked cafe (noticing that outside of Amsterdam, people are not as fluent with their English, nor are menus printed with English subtitles as they are in the city). Our journey took us to the coast, where we spent all of two chilly minutes looking at the English Channel. We couldn’t see England, but we’ll see her plenty in about a week when we head over to London.

Even Holland’s country roads are specially designed to accommodate bikes. When we first started going down this road, we thought maybe it was a one-way street. Turns out it’s just what they do so there is plenty of room for the bikes. If you’re approaching another car and there are no bikes, you just straddle the white line. If there are bikes, you wait until there’s room to pass. Even in the countryside, bike riders were everywhere, and bike accommodation is ubiquitous.

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And so, after a full day of exploring and seeing some of the most beautiful flowers in the world, we returned to our hotel, considering our last full day in Holland as a complete success.

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