Visiting the Keukenhof

Visiting the Keukenhof

One thing on my European bucket list when we moved to Germany was to visit the Keukenhof tulip gardens in the Netherlands. We were able to do so on our final spring living there and we loved it so much that we made a return trip last spring. Here’s a recap of our experiences there and plenty of pictures to go with it!

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On our first visit to the Keukenhof, it was Easter Sunday. We weren’t sure what that would mean for the crowds, but general rule of thumb is try to go on a weekday if you can. We made a point to skip the fancy Easter brunch and get to the Keukenhof before the gates opened.  This was the best thing we could’ve done.  I think the garden opened at 8:00 or 8:30, and by 10:30 the place was packed.  We were able to get in a little time where it was very calm, easy to take photos, and easy to walk around.  After the tour buses started pulling in, we could barely maneuver through the paths because they were so congested with people.  So that’s my best advice to anyone planning a visit…go early!

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This was true for our second visit as well. We arrived before the gates officially opened and because we already had our tickets printed out, we were allowed to enter a few minutes early. The early bird gets the worm!! This is the only way to get pictures without other tourists in them. The crowds are also probably low in the late afternoon close to closing time. I didn’t want to feel rushed though, so that’s why getting there early worked for us.

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Getting there early means no lines or pressure for cute photo ops like these!

 I know you’re there for the tulips, but don’t miss the orchid display.  It is overflowing with orchids and gorgeous!  There was a small exhibit demonstrating the life of an orchid.  I had no idea it took about 5 years for an orchid plant to mature and flower.

 

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Something we did on the second visit that the kids really loved was visiting the petting zoo. If you have kids this will definitely make them happy if they are getting bored being told to smile next to flowers.

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Also, definitely get stroopwafels!

The garden is immaculate.  The colors are vibrant and lush, it’s like being in a candy shop.  There are every different variety of tulip you could think of and never knew existed.  I’m so impressed with the work the gardeners have done here.  I can barely keep a houseplant alive (actually I think I’ve killed every plant we’ve every had).  To plant and maintain a garden like this requires an enormous amount of effort and a lot of love!

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On our first visit we left the gardens around lunch time.  Though we would’ve loved to spend the whole day there, the amount of people was just getting unbearable and we still wanted to visit the tulip fields around the garden.  We loaded up our bikes, put the little lady in her trailer and hit the road.  The biking was intimidating because you have to bike on the road with the cars, and the roads are very narrow 2 lane roads.  There are cars and even big tour buses driving on them, so for someone not used to it-it can be a little scary.

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However, the views are breathtaking.

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 This is definitely one of the most beautiful things to see in Europe and I’m so glad we got to bring our little girl there to celebrate her 1st Easter and then return again 3 years later with our little boy!

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Keukenhof tips:

  • Buy tickets online in advance, this will get you in the gardens the fastest to maximize the time before the tour buses show up.
  • Get there when the gardens open for the day, no ifs, ands, or buts, about it!
  • Dress warmly, and in layers. Both visits were VERY cold in the morning.
  • Plan to visit surrounding tulip fields either by car or bike, they are not to be missed.  
  • Please be respectful of the tulip fields and the farmers who grow them, do not trample the tulips.
  • Remember to book your hotel far in advance as this is a very popular tourist time. I was glad we stayed near the gardens vs. commuting from Amsterdam. It allowed us to get there early without too much trouble.
  • The Keukenhof and surrounding fields deserve a full day of your time, it would be hard to see it all in just a half-day.

Have more Keukenhof tips to add?  Questions about this trip?

Brussels

sunset skies

We were excited for a little getaway  to Brussels that was hopefully relaxing, but it got off to a little bit of a hectic start.  We drove our car up with our bikes on the back.  Once we got into the city, it was crazy.  It’s always a little tricky when you’re in a new place, but Brussels was a huge city, lots of one way streets, crazy intersections, and signs we didn’t understand.  Once we got in the general area of our hotel, we found the closest parking garage and pulled in.  Now we had to get all of our bags, our bikes, and ourselves to the hotel.  I had my purse in my basket and a backpack on.  Laron had our big duffel bag of clothes and the bag with wine, water, and snacks (both of the bags were very heavy).  So we’re riding around, frustrated, trying not to fall, using the iPhone to find our hotel, and we’re not finding it-turns out I had the wrong address, oops!  But at least we weren’t too far away.  We finally found the place, locked up our bikes to a pole and got ourselves checked in.

Once we had everything into the hotel room, we decided to head out for a late dinner.  We thought about riding our bikes but, the restaurant was pretty close, so we walked.  The place we went was a tiny little eatery, we were the only patrons there.  We were brought out a little appetizer of smoked salmon on toast (yum!) while we waited for our food.

Eating mussels in Brussels!
I had some fish, literally the whole fish was on the plate-quite interesting

So we finish our lovely meal and head back toward our hotel when we notice our bikes are no longer locked to the pole where we left them.  They were stolen!!  Ugh, we were/are so mad about it!  We loved our bikes and had planned on using them on this trip and more trips to come.  The kicker is we walked into our hotel and told the guy at the desk what happened and he replied in limited English, “you make a mistake”  Really?!  Thanks, that is so helpful, haha.  Poor guy wasn’t trying to be rude but it wasn’t exactly what we wanted to hear.  Come to find out the hotel has a room where we could’ve stored our bikes for free-which never crossed my mind.  In the future (when we replace our bikes) I will always ask the hotel if they have storage for bicycles!  We attempted to find a police station to file a police report, but walked around lost for about 30 minutes instead.  Not a great start to the weekend…

So the next morning we had a bike tour scheduled, we planned on using our own, but oh well.  We were trying not to let it ruin our weekend.  The tour met in the Grand Place, which is the big piazza-like area in the center of the city.

Our tour guide gave us some history on Brussels and then we were off.  We rode around to another square, and then to a famous landmark of the city Mannekin Pis.  It’s just a little fountain of a boy doing his business.  We heard a couple stories about why the fountain was built, not sure which one is true.  There are Mannekin Pis replicas all over the city, chocolates, statues, even wine openers in the form of the little statue.

Really could probably do without a picture of myself at this fountain

Apparently the boy gets dressed up in various costumes throughout the year.  The day after we were there he was scheduled to be a vampire I think.  Seems like a weird choice on Easter weekend.

Here’s the schedule and some pictures of the upcoming outfits

This was also the site of my first bike crash of the day.  And yes, I did say first.  The curbs around the city are pretty straight and squared off instead of being rounded.  So if you don’t hit them straight on, it’s a problem.  I didn’t hit it straight on… and crashed the bike… in front of the whole tour group!  Very embarrassing!  Oh well, life goes on!

 We rode through an outdoor antique flea market, and through some gardens, and around a palace, the parliament, and important European Union buildings. We also made a stop at a french fry stand, Maison Antoinette.  The fries were great and they have about 20 different dipping sauces you can try.
If you look carefully you can see the Atomium in the back
City park with a beautiful arch, was built by the 2nd king of Belgium to celebrate his triumphs in the Congo

Right after this is when I crashed my bike for the second time.  But this time it wasn’t the curbs that got me, it was my coat!  It got caught on the seat when I was trying to get off, and I fell!  Who falls off their bike twice in one day?!?  So I was relieved when that was about the end of our tour.  After the tour we walked around exploring some shops.

Checking out some caramels

Famous belgian chocolates
Bustling streets
Famous Belgian beer

We also walked to the police station to fill out our police reports.  Not a very fun part of a vacation.  We needed a beer after that so we stopped at a cafe to sit in the sun and relax for a bit.

Pink beer!

We also wandered through the “first mall”.  It’s a little more high end than your typical mall.  There are multiple chocolate shops, cafes, and other stores.  No food court or Nordstrom though 🙂

That night we ate at an italian place, Osteria l’Ombra.  It was so good!  There is nothing like fresh, authentic italian food.  Makes it hard to go back to the Olive Garden 🙂  The next day we decided to go to the art museum.  On our way we passed through a little outdoor market.

 The art museum was great.  It’s so interesting to see things that were painted so long ago and how detailed and skilled the artists had to be.  We also saw the Margritte museum which is dedicated to the Belgain surrealist painter Rene Margritte.  That was fun too because we could see progression of his work and learn about his life and what influenced him.  You may recognize this painting of his:

The Son of Man

By the time we finished at the museum, we were ready to eat!  We walked down the street to another museum, the museum of musical instruments.  Our bike tour guide said there was a restaurant at the top that had a great view, so we decided to check it out.

Pretty great view!

 We had one more thing on our Brussels bucket list, and that was to get Belgian waffles!  There are stands and trucks selling waffles everywhere.

They have all different kinds of toppings you can choose

Ready to dig in!

Our last morning in Brussles was spent at a giant flea market looking for our stolen bikes.  No luck, but we’re pretty sure our bikes will be sold there in the next couple weeks.  We then drove from Brussles to Langenfeld, Germany (in between Cologne and Dussledorf) to visit our friends A & E.  They lived very close to us in Austin and were back in Germany visiting A’s family, who are great!  We loved meeting her family, they were so fun and nice to us.  We then drove to Dusseldorf for the afternoon.  Her friends were kind enough to give us a tour of the city and show us around.  My hubby especially enjoyed the “pickled” eggs they had at one of the breweries.  We are so happy that we were able to visit with them and can’t wait for them to come back again!

Easter on the Peninsula

Easter was a lot of fun for us this year.  Hard to top last year’s Easter at the Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands, but we had a fun-filled weekend.

Here’s a nice side by side of our daughter’s 1st Easter in the Keukenhof and this Easter.

Easter 2014 in the Netherlands & Easter 2015 in California

Easter 2014 in the Netherlands & Easter 2015 in California

Hidden Hills Ranch in Prunedale hosted an Easter party on Good Friday.  Our daughter was very excited to see the Easter Bunny, she went right up to him and started giving him hugs and high fives.  She was also thrilled to see a smaller bunny in a pen that she could pet.

Petting the Easter bunny's friend.

Petting the Easter bunny’s friend.

The Easter Party included a tour of the ranch where we were able to see all the different animals they have including horses, chickens, pigs, goats, sheep, an emu, and a donkey.  This where our sweet girl learned what sound a donkey makes and now will happily give a quiet “hee-haw” when asked what a donkey says.  There was also a story time with various bunny books.  I suppose we got a little wrapped up in story time because we somehow missed the start of the egg hunt!  Even though we were late, we were able to stumble upon some discarded eggs that another child had raided the contents of and then left the shells by a tree.  Empty or not, didn’t matter to our little girl!

Trying to hold as many eggs as possible.

Trying to hold as many eggs as possible.

Mom fail…I forgot to bring her Easter basket to the Easter party!  Luckily the staff had a few extra baskets lying around.  A berry basket was just the right size to hold her 5 eggs.

Make-shift Easter basket.

Make-shift Easter basket.

The highlight of the day was quite possibly the pony ride.  Although I thought we would never make it through the long line where my little girl kept running off.  I wasn’t sure how the pony ride would go, especially since she would have to wear a helmet and she throws a fit when asked to wear a smock for painting.  To my surprise she took no issue with the helmet and was very happy in the saddle!  For several days after this she would request, “ride horse.”

1st pony ride!

1st pony ride!

On Easter morning, we of course had to see what the Easter Bunny had delivered.  Her favorite items were the Anna and Elsa jelly beans.

Checking out the Easter basket.

Checking out the Easter basket.

We then headed over to the local golf course for an egg hunt.  I remembered the basket this time!

Egg Hunt #2 at the golf course.

Egg Hunt #2 at the golf course.

We had hoped to get a last minute reservation at the restaurant on the course for brunch, but had no such luck.  So it was back home for cinnamon rolls and Dad’s egg frittata.  After a nap, we tried one more egg hunt at home.

Egg Hunt #3 in the backyard.

Egg Hunt #3 in the backyard.

My husband had the idea to substitute berries inside the eggs instead of candy.  Little girl didn’t seem to mind at all!

Is that a jelly bean inside the egg?  Nope, a blueberry!

Is that a jelly bean inside the egg? Nope, a blueberry!

We were joined by friends for dinner and dessert at our house.  All in all a great Easter weekend!  Hope you enjoyed yours as well!