March rolled around and I noticed flowers were blooming in Düsseldorf. Not just any flowers, these were the ones that sprout from bulbs, which come from Holland. Got me to thinking that I should try to find a weekend to swing up to Keukenhof to visit the flower gardens. It’s been on my list since I started my expat and it slipped away last year, so this spring it was do or die, with respect to, I could possibly die without seeing the flowers at Keukenhof. Which got me to thinking, how badly did I want to see the flowers…? It’s a 2.5 hour drive after all. I decided I did want to see them, bad enough to make the trek.
Then life started to happen, road blocks built themselves and I was forced to set priorities. A trip home, a small head cold, an expat farewell party, a general state of travel exhaustion from constant suitcase loading and unloading… everything seemed to stand in the way of this particular adventure. I decided that if this was going to happen it was going to be a long day trip – not one more night in a hotel for me!
I opened up Viber and shot a message to my travel buddy Tilghman to see if she’d be up for a trip. My compelling pitch consisted of two main points: 1. I’ll drive and 2. I have some podcasts (and I finally figured out how to stream them through my car stereo via Bluetooth…) we can listen to on the way.
She bit, we made a plan, then I woke up super-early (ok, not really true, my cat wakes me up at 5:30 nearly every day, 6 is sleeping-in around here) and I still managed to arrived 10 minutes after our agreed upon 6:30 departure time. Just ask Tilghman, this is my pattern. I predict that she now just waits until 10 minutes after the appointed time to head to our meeting point.
6:30 you say! Yes, 6:30, a time when most Europeans are just entering the REM stage of sleep. We had one goal – beat the crowds. Even at this early hour, we didn’t beat the crowds completely, but a bit, and besides I was awake at 6 (like every other day of my life, just as cat people you know), so no reason to dily daly.
When we arrived we made our first sound decision of the day (right before I decided I was carb loading and bought a waffle with cream). We decided that we would freely and proudly behave like American tourists. What does this mean you ask, no, actually if you are an American living in Europe you know exactly what I mean. At the core of this behavior is being loud, really loud. And, you know what, it felt amazing! Our excuse for being loud was that the hoards of people from all over the world including loads of American tourists, so why not, this was not our moment to follow our usually MO and float around quietly disguising ourselves as polite, unassuming (although still bold in ques) German tourist. We went full-bore American. I discovered Keukenhof had free wifi so we even did a Facebook live session, out-loud, loudly. It was awesome!
But enough intro, on to the important stuff, the blooms! Here’s my first proclamation about Keukenhof – it is everything you have heard and then some! All the rumors are true. It is beautiful. It is a once-in-a-lifetime. It is crowded. It is worth going even though it’s crowded. Yes, the food in the park is overpriced, but you won’t care because you’ll be high on flower blossom perfume. You will not be able to stop compulsively snapping photos. You will wonder how it is that all these people are just casually laying on the hills relaxing, yes relaxing(!), when there are a thousand, no make that at least 100,000 more flowers to photograph. Then you will find yourself laying on the side of a hill, basking in the sun and photographing your feet (basically a foot selfie) with flowers in the background.
What I’m saying is that if Life ever hands you roses, hand them back and say I want tulips. No, in fact, I want to go to the home of the tulips and gaze deeply into their beauty from behind my fancy schmanzy digital camera for hours on end. If there is nothing else you take from this blog, I will feel fulfilled if you ever have a chance to go to Keukenhoff, and you decide to go. It should be on your bucket list and you need to check this one off!
Now, I present to you the evidence. In photographic form of course. What I cannot share through this medium is the smell of the flowers. I have never experienced such a strong aroma of flowers. I truly began to suspect that they piped it in somehow under an imaginary Dutch bubble that surrounds the park. Alas, our canal boat tour guide informed us that locals are so sick and tired of the smell that he can’t wait for it to be over every season. Too much of anything can get old I suppose. Also, I cannot share the taste of the sweet, crunchy, but not too hard, waffles slathered in cream that are so much better than you can ever imagine.
So, get yourself to Keukenhof. If you’re lucky the flowers will all be in bloom and the crowds will be light. Scratch that – this combination will never happen! Just go and accept it for what it is – a huge flower park chock a block full of people from around the world- some friendly, many annoying, but you won’t notice because you’ll be too busy snapping photos to take in anything but the flowers anyhow!