Monday, April 27, 2009
Biking, Barging, and Lots of Tulips
Back in February when we were trying to figure out what to do for the kids' spring break, it seemed like there was a tradeoff to be made: go south in search of the sun or head north to the Netherlands to see the tulips and deal with whatever Mother Nature might dish out. The tulips won out but in the end, we got both: a week in Holland that was all sunshine and warm temperatures, simply perfect.
Because our biking trip in Denmark last summer was such a hit, we decided to bike again. This time, we booked a weeklong vacation on a barge that started and ended in Amsterdam, and in between took us to Gouda, Rotterdam, Delft, The Hague, Leiden, and Haarlem. We biked Sunday through Friday with only one day off to visit the magnificent Keukenhof Gardens. It was the height of tulip season (which are bred not for the flowers but for the bulbs) and the fields were spectacular, vibrant with reds, pinks, and yellows, and redolent with the sweet smell of pink and purple hyacinths. We cycled mostly on bike paths, through forests and sand dunes, city streets and tiny villages, past windmills, farms, and canal houses with tidy gardens, stopping for a few sights along the way including the 17 windmills in Kinderdijk and the Mauritshuis, a jewel of an art museum, in The Hague. Every afternoon, we arrived at our destination to find the barge, our floating home away from home, waiting for us. Hot showers, a delicious dinner, and a walk through town followed. With school and work calling, we didn't have a lot of time to explore Amsterdam but managed visits to the houses of Anne Frank and Rembrandt. As much as we saw, there's still much to explore in the Netherlands and I'm hoping that at some point, we'll get a chance to go back.