we arrived at schiphol airport, where we planned to take the bus the rest of the way out to lisse, to enjoy the keukenhof. the keukenhof is one of the most famous flower gardens in all of holland and is only open for about 2 months out of the entire year because that's only when the tulips are in season. the rest of the year is spent planting and preparing for next year.
well, when we arrived at schiphol, everyone else had basically the same idea as us. and what ended up happening is that we had to stand in line for almost an hour to buy our bus ticket, then stand in line for the bus for another half an hour before we could even board. but the wait was worth it, absolutely. the garden was PACKED with tourists. (mostly german, indian, and japanese, and i was wondering where all the dutch were at! -- probably at home enjoying their own tulips without the crowds. i guess you're never a tourist in your own town, huh?) anyway, looking back on the day, i don't really remember all the crowds and queues. what i remember most are the flowers. the vibrant colors, the plump petals, the fragrances! we commented to each other that it was like walking around inside of a giant flower vase because the aromas were so beautiful! and it was one of those warm days in the sun, but if you were in the shade you could feel the sea mist in the air, so there was just a hint of dampness to carry the scent of the flowers through the air.
we packed a picnic and sat underneath a cherry tree, drinking an organic red wine from france, an assortment of dutch cheeses, a loaf of bread, and of course chocolate waffles that i picked up at the grocery store on our way out this morning. and after our picnic we poured ourselves little plastic cups of the wine and strolled through the garden, admiring all the tulips. i have never seen so many varieties in my life! tulips that looked like peonies. tulips that looked like they were feathery on the tips. tulips that even looked like pineapples... or maybe those were lilies that looked like pineapples. but it was cool, whatever it was. i just kept thinking of my gramma who would just love love love this, and of adam's dad who would be all impressed with the landscaping and greenery of it all, and of camille who is coming out to visit next month to see the tulips with me. you were all there with me that day in the garden. it was just lovely.
we left the keukenhof after a couple of hours and walked towards the center of lisse, to see the bloemencorso ("flower parade") that is an annual and traditional springtime event in the netherlands. there is a parade, similar to the parade of roses in the usa, that winds its way between noordwijk and haarlem. it takes all day long because the route is about 40 km long, but everyone comes out for it to enjoy the festivities.
now, when i heard that it was like the rose bowl parade, i was imagining a hundred towering floats, all as big as a building. but of course, being in holland, it was tiny and cute and gezellig. really. i loved it. the floats were impressive to be sure, but there was just nothing pretentious or flashy or anything about them. it was just sweet. there were maybe a dozen or so floats, all of reasonable size, laden with flowers, each with a theme about seasons (weddings, babies, graduations, springtime, easter, harvest, oktoberfest, the beach, etc.). and the really funny part about this is that the floats take up exactly the crowd as much room as the street. and so people who were standing along the street (like myself), with surging forward to get a good picture, would get whapped in the head by tree branches and lily stems and trombones as things would pass by. it was hilarious! and again, the fragrance was incredible. everything was made out of lilacs and lilies and tulip petals, and you're right there, and you'd get a whiff of these incredible creations of art, and then you'd try to duck and get out of the way of the giant birthday cake made out of petals that was coming right your way to crush your feet. seriously. it was soooo fun.
oh, and towards the end, there were these people walking with money baskets, and you were invited to throw in some spare change to help pay for the parade or something. which was strange to me because every float had a sponsor (like a bank or another big business like that), so i couldn't quite figure out where the money was going. but we all put in a little bit anyway. you'd never see that in the US. that was definitely different.
after the parade we walked through a tulip field on our way back to the bus. and that was one of my favorite parts of the day, actually. it was a small field, compared with some of the other fields in that area, but to walk through a sea of red with a windmill in the background and a canal right there... well, it was echt nederlands. completely dutch. i could have spent all day just in that one field, smelling the flowers and being in the sunshine and strolling through the sandy soil.
by the time we made it back to schiphol to catch our train, we were too tired to do anything else. we thought about maybe getting some dinner in haarlem or something similar, but we were just wiped out. so the boys bought some fries at a stand there, and i grabbed us a couple of heinekens, and we got on the train. we ate there, and napped a bit, and watched the sun go down, and just generally enjoyed each others' company. it was just the most wonderful, amazing, beautiful, colorful days i've ever ever ever had.