Amsterdam Day 1 (Part 3)

It was an overcast day but that does not seem to deter the crowds from enjoying the day out at the Keukenhof Gardens. I think the only thing missing from all of these were couples taking wedding photos. As if she was reading my mind, the wife pointed out, “This could be a great backdrop for wedding photos!” while we were walking through the Traditioneel Japanse plattelandstuin (Traditional Japanese Country Garden) which lies next to Mill Square.

The wife took about 200 photos, while I had 100 plus half an hour of video

Previously, we were the ones capturing everything in sight, but now, with the ham sandwich in our hands, it was time we gave our index fingers a rest and do a little ‘people watching’ again. Almost everyone has a camera in their hands, except for the children. Those decked out with zoom lenses and what-not were on their knees, eyes fixated on the viewfinder while snapping and ‘chimping’ away at their shots. Others tried various angles, from the left, from the right, up top and even down below. If there ever was a time that I thought we were overdoing the photography bit, this was it. The wife took about 200+ images while I had 100+ plus at least half an hour of video.

One of the winners on display (click to enlarge)

In case you thought Keukenhof was a one-trick pony (tulips only), you are wrong. At Beatrix Paviljoen (Beatrix Pavilion), you will find orchids, anthuriums and bromeliads on display. I think we arrived a few days after an orchid competition of some sort as most of the orchids on display had ratings/points/marks next to their names. The crowd were jostling for the best angle to take pictures of the colourful blooms on display. Tip: Look for the wishing well just outside the Pavilion.

Coming out from the Beatrix Paviljoen, you will be walking through rows and rows of flowers, all blooming in an assortment of colours. Credit must be given to the gardeners at Keukenhof, for knowing how to combine the colours and doing it year in and year out. Away in the distance is the massive greenhouse known as Willem-Alexander Paviljoen (Willem-Alexander Pavilion), the biggest pavilion in the park with its unmistakable curvaceous roof.

I could only identify tulips, daffodils and lilies

“Finally, I can enjoy the flowers without having to worry about the cold,” said the wife as we made our way into the Pavilion. Which was true in a way. “We probably came quite close to a frostbite based upon our limited experience with cold weather,” came the reply. This is the time when I wished that our Biology class back home taught us more about the varieties of flowers. I could only identify tulips, daffodils and lilies. I just cannot imagine that they could come in so many colours.

No, these are not tulips, daffodils or lilies. They are the elderlies. (click to enlarge)

You could rest your weary feet here at any one of the seats available. Or you could have a light meal instead. We? The natural thing to do at such an area — shopping! Although we were not shopping for tulip bulbs as we don’t have such cold weather for it to grow in.

Next up, De Zochertuin (Zocher Garden). This garden is usually regarded as the centre of the park, with its fountain and the big lake surrounding it. It was designed by Zocher, hence its name, back in the 19th century. Tip: Try to ‘walk on water’ in the pond.

Look at the sperms!

“Look at the sperms!”

“Not so loud. People can hear you. Where?”

“There, among the flowers.”

“OMG, you are right. They do look like 2 blobs of sperm. Ewww.”

What we were referring to in the slightly sexist conversation above is the ‘flower’ motif located at De Zochertuin, encircled by a huge swath of flowers. Don’t believe me? Check it out yourself.

Sperms (click to enlarge)

We are almost at the end of our tour of Keukenhof, there are two pavilions left. Coming up next — Wilhelmina Paviljoen. Instead of having flowers on display, this Pavilion houses a pavement café with permanent views of the pond and also the entrance to the Keukenhof Castle.

Finally, the circle is complete as we made our way to Juliana Paviljoen. In case you are wondering, we actually did the tour counter clockwise. Most people start of with this Pavilion but not us. We tend to do things our way. This Pavilion dates back to 1954 and it houses the Bulb Information Centre plus The Black Tulip Museum. Here you could find free guided tours of the park. There is a small landscaped area with deck paths and mini waterfalls that you can have a go at.

My try at bokeh (click to enlarge)

Don’t be surprised to find people dancing to tunes coming out from a really huge antique wind-up music box contraption.

Keukenhof Verdict

I know it might sound cliché and most travel writers refrain from using these exact same words but Keukenhof is a must-visit place, at least once in your lifetime. Photos can only do so much but seeing with your own eyes is the thing that make a difference.

I am no green thumb when it comes to gardening but once you are surrounded by such colours, there is a sudden urge to just dig out (pun intended) the shovel in the basement/garage and put it to work.

Get the free Amsterdam guidebook from your concierge, they sometimes come with discounts for Keukenhof

The weather was pleasant after our harrowing experience on the last day in Paris. We were also having less of a rush as compared to Paris. SD cards with huge capacities is a must here, especially if you are shooting in RAW or using one of the latest DSLR boasting infinite amounts of megapixels.

Tip: Try to get the latest free general Amsterdam guidebook from your hotel concierge. Some of them have discounts (10%) for souvenir hunting at Keukenhof.

One more thing, Keukenhof is only open for 2 months per year, plan wisely

Ideally, Keukenhof should be a full day trip from Amsterdam. After finishing the gardens, rent a bike to go around Keukenhof, cycling is not allowed in Keukenhof. Stop by Keukenhof Castle if you have the time. Some people mentioned that you should visit during the time when they have the Floriade but I guess it is all down to you. Visiting during the Floriade would give you something extra to bring home, but you would have to fight the crowds and not to mention, secure a room in town.

Oh, and one more thing — timing. Keukenhof is only open for 2 months per year, so plan wisely.

(to be continued)

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