Thursday, April 23, 2009

keukenhof, year three!

well, it's that time of year again: spring!

i've said it before, and i'll say it again -- there is nowhere more beautiful on the entire planet than holland in the springtime. i'm totally serious. this place is GORGEOUS in the spring. especially if you've lived here through the entire long, dark, wet, cold, gray, windy, long, dark, wet, long, dark winter. did i mention it's long and dark and wet? cuz it is.

but just as suddenly as the days disappeared last winter, the sun came up above the horizon for longer than a moment, and everyone noticed! the cafes spilled out onto the sidewalks once again. the terraces were full again of people drinking coffee and chatting with friends. children were playing outside. the crocuses popped. the trees budded. and the tulips were once again the brightest and prettiest and cheapest flower for sale at the market. (in fact, just yesterday i bought two bunches of hot pink tulips for only 2.40 euro! amazing!)

and to mark this rite of passage from winter to spring, we briggles made our annual trek out west to the magnificent keukenhof garden. we have gone the last two years, in fact: the first year was a blast and we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. the second year was slightly better planned, but rather spontaneous given that we originally had gone west to register gracie at the american consulate in amsterdam. this year we timed it a bit better, hoping to go on a day when it wouldn't be as crowded, but still closer to the peak so as to see more of the colors (last year we went a couple weeks too early -- but it was still pretty!).

we both blocked out the entire four days of easter weekend: good friday through easter monday. neither of us made any plans for any of those days -- we were hoping that at least one of those four days would have nice (aka "not raining") weather for us to see the tulips. so we were trying to be flexible. fortunately, the weather totally cooperated and the entire weekend of easter was fantastic: temps in the 60's and 70's with lots of sunshine! so we chose to go on good friday, as we figured that would be the least busy of all the days that weekend (and it had the warmest and nicest weather too).

we got up early and caught a train by 8:00 a.m. we had packed a breakfast of croissants and fruit to eat on the train, and pretty much we just woke gracie up, changed her diaper, and threw her in the stroller (still in her pajamas!) and headed out the door. she was VERY excited to be going somewhere first thing in the morning! ooooh, boy, was she fired up! i had purchased us some special tickets that i saw advertised online, where two people could travel anywhere in the country the entire day, in first class, for a super cheap rate -- nice! so we got our very own first class cabin on the train, just the three of us, which was perfect because then gracie could run around and play and wander from seat to seat the way that she likes to, without either of us having to chase her down or apologize to our fellow passengers for the sticky fingers on their nice jackets. it was much more relaxing and fun for all of us!

we took the train directly to the airport and from there caught a bus to the keukenhof. that was the most challenging part of the day -- the crowd to get on the bus was quite thick, and even though we were one of the first people in line, we barely made it onto the bus because of our stroller and all the people jamming to get on there first while adam broke the stroller down. what a madhouse! fortunately we all made it on board, and a very kind gentleman offered me his seat. (this rarely happens in holland as the dutch are a very self-sufficient group of people, but this man was obviously not dutch, and he saw that i was travelling with a child in my arms, so he kindly offered his seat to me. and it was wonderful that he did, because not only did i have a place to rest with gracie, but the woman seated next to us -- that man's wife -- had an 8-month old baby girl with a personality a lot like gracie's! so the two little girls got to play and talk to each other the whole ride. it was very sweet.)

about 45 minutes later we arrived at the keukenhof -- we still had to buy our tickets, but as it was early in the day and still before the peak season, the line wasn't very long at all. after about 10 minutes, we were finally inside!

(cue the sound of an angelic choir singing praises in the background -- or maybe beethoven's 9th symphony -- the view walking through the gate and past the first throng of tourists is breathtaking... truly a paradise on earth!)

we had a GREAT time. we all dressed in matching pink outfits (even adam had his hot pink shirt on!) and had a picnic of (what else?) chocolate, wine, bread, cheese, and fruit. we wandered from flower to flower to flower and from fountain to fountain. gracie recently learned how to "smell" the flowers by bending over at the waist, blowing air out of her nose, and then saying "mmmm..." here she is smelling the flowers. what a doll!

gracie insisted on wearing her pretty pink butterfly wings everywhere we went that day. which was fine by us, since we both thought she looked extra adorable in them. apparently everyone else thought so as well because nearly everyone we passed would try to take a picture of our cute little girl all dressed up in her pink polka dot dress and glittery wings. at one point, when we were standing near the fun little crank organ by the entrance, i looked up from our dancing and saw four women all huddled together trying to get a picture of gracie. and we certainly didn't mind! we'd probably be doing the same thing if we saw a little girl like her! (actually, i guess that's pretty much what we did the whole day...) adam said that there were probably a hundred people who left the park that day, talking about that adorable, happy, friendly little girl in the butterfly wings. she surely sows seeds of peace and happiness everywhere she goes, that daughter of ours...

about halfway through our adventures, valerie showed up to hang with us! yay, valerie!!! we hadn't seen her in about two months -- the last time, actually, was at gracie's birthday party in early february. so it had been way too long! i told her about our pink outfits, and she played along too. only, i barely got any pictures of valerie with gracie that day cuz i was so preoccupied with getting pictures of her with me! ack! here's a couple of all of us, though, so you can see that we match.

at some point, gracie fell asleep in her stroller so adam and i took the opportunity to climb to the top of the windmill together to get a couple of pictures. this windmill has an interesting story for us: the first year, it can be seen in the background of our christmas card photo that we sent to many of you. the second year, we actually discovered it was a part of the garden, and adam climbed to the top of it to get a good look of the area. now this third year, we were able to go up together, and the view from the top was amazing -- a whole field of tulips in reds and yellows. it was just like what you imagine a tulip field in holland would look like!!!

shortly after mg woke up from her nap, we strolled over to a place where we tried getting her picture last year, of her in a wooden shoe. the situation was pretty much the same, too: last year, she had just woken up, and so i was all, "quick, throw her in the clog and get a picture!" but last year, gracie was pretty upset about the rude awakening and decided to cry and scream about it. (and everyone last year was all, "ooooh, look at the super cute baby!!!") this year, gracie was ready to get out and walk around again after her nap, so she was more than happy to play our little shoe game. (and again, everyone was all, "ooooh, look at the super cute baby!!!") here is a comparison of last year to this year. cute!

it was at this point, however, that we heard a HUGE pop. like a gunshot, it was so loud. and literally everyone stopped what they were doing and got quiet and looked around for the loud, scary sound. when no one could figure out what it was, i spotted the right wheel of our stroller: completely flat. oh, i was so embarassed! i yelled out to everyone what had happened, since everyone looked extremely concerned, and as people passed us by they kind of half jokingly, half not jokingly told us that we gave them a heartattack. sorry, dudes. not my fault! but now here we were, the furthest possible point in the park from the entrance, with a completely flat tire and a loooong ways to go home. gracie sure didn't mind, though -- it just meant that she got to either walk everywhere or be carried by someone. we piled our bags onto the stroller, and headed back slowly to the entrance since it was time to get going anyway. (and by the rate we were travelling, we really needed to start going home or we'd never make it!)

we all finally made it back to the entrance, caught the bus back (again it was standing room only but at least v, mg, and i got to sit together while poor adam struggled in the back of the bus with the stroller again!), and grabbed a little dinner at the airport for the train ride home: our usual french fries and cans of heineken! lekker! we fed mg on the train with much healthier food than what we were eating, and after a nice bottle of juice she pretty much just sat on my lap and read books with me until falling asleep. i love this picture cuz we're making exactly the same face. can you tell that we're related?

i am so proud of us for making this a regular part of our spring adventures here. i know it's a pain in the ass to get there, and it costs a lot of money, and yes i know it's extremely touristy and kitschy, but i love it and it's sooooo pretty and really, it's one of those things you have to do at least once in your lifetime, to see the tulips in holland in the springtime! so as long as we're living here, why not do it three times? i'm going to be crazysad next year when it's tulip season and we're living in hot, dry texas without a single tulip, daffodil, crocus, or hyacinth to be found. i sure hope we can come back again someday -- the keukenhof is truly one of my favorite places on earth!!!


Louisette passion retriever, cat, memory Katanga said...

Nice blog famillie, mooie tubefilm and fotos Keukenhof, gisteren ik heb een bezoekje deze mooie plaatje met vrienden.
Groetjes van Belgie.

Kathleen said...

i'm soooo procrastinating from grading exams at the tail end of our semester - and took some time to travel through the beautiful dutch tulip wonderland! thanks for the awesome vacation (mental, anyway). gracie is sooo adorable - and i look forward to getting her and emi together when you return. i too love the matching family threads - i'm secretly planning our family outfits for our trip to california this summer. thom hates that corny stuff, but guess who'll be doing the packing!