Several years ago, a friend and I treated ourselves to a trip to Holland and Germany as reward for graduating from culinary school. My favorite experiences were in Amsterdam. We were in the thick of things during Queen's Day, which is the national celebration of the birthday of the Queen Mother -- but it's really just an excuse to party all across Holland! We toured the famous canals, The Red Light District and of course Amsterdam's amazing flower markets.
The most beautiful sights I saw on the entire trip, though, were at the Keukenhof garden, which is just outside Amsterdam in the Bulb Region. The garden is in a town called Lisse, and since 1949, local bulb growers in the area plant about 7 million tulips, lilies, hyacinths, daffodils, orchids and other spring bulbs by hand on 80 acres to showcase their flowers to the public from March to May. It's the largest flower garden in the world and has more than 9 miles of walking paths, sculptures, fountains, a windmill and outdoor art. You can spend hours and hours walking through the different displays; I was so mesmerized I decided to go back a second time on my last day in Amsterdam, and what was so incredible is the garden looked very different than it had just a few days before because new flowers had popped up in that short span of time.
Just outside of the Keukenhof are fields and fields of commercial flower growers that you can tour, as well. These fields of tulips, daffodils, lilies and hyacinths are in peak bloom usually around mid-April in all different shades of pink, yellow and red, and visitors can bike or walk through them -- it's like seeing carpets of color as far as the horizon. While the flowers at the Keukenhof are planted mostly for display, these bulbs are planted for cultivation and sale, so the growers deadhead the flowers (they cut the flower off) after just a few days so the nutrients go straight to the bulbs. So timing is critical to see the magnificent carpets of color in the commercial bulb fields.
Getting to both the Keukenhof and the commercial fields is simple via Connexxion's combination ticket. You can buy them right off the Keukenhof Web site and they include round trip transportation and entrance fees. You can also purchase bulbs while you're visiting the garden and they'll ship them to you in the fall, just in time for planting!
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