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Family’s Great, But My Feet are Killing Me

Last week (before Easter), Dan and I were MIA as we entertained my parents who came all the way from the United States to see tulips. Oh, and also to say hi to me.  We had a wonderful visit, but with the fine weather, we spent much more of our holiday walking around outside and almost no item inside museums. Sunburns and sore feet. But all worth it to see my folks and get the chance to poke around parts of the Netherlands I haven’t see yet. Scroll on for some photos.

Den Haag

We started our vacation in Arnhem actually, where sadly they didn’t have an English language tour on Sundays, but I’ve been there before so I didn’t take any pictures. Our next stop, Den Haag was pretty new to me though so plenty of photos from that visit. First we did a self-guided walking tour (sold by a brisk VVV employee) which took us around to all the best old buildings and important places of the city. It’s really an impressive city, although I think the US embassy needs to rethink their aggressive, bunker-style building that they wouldn’t allow me to take a photograph of. It’s really ugly. Then we saw the Escher in het Paleis (awesome!), and finally ended up wandering the Scheveingen beach area. Not a cloud in the sky for 2 days.

Oh, and our B&B Maison Indochine was wonderful. 2 big and attractive rooms, the best breakfast I’ve had in Holland, and super friendly owners plus an expat grocery right across the street. It was a great deal.

Haarlem

Next we went up to Haarlem, where I was under the mistaken impression that the city was close enough to bike through the tulip fields on a visit to the Keukenhof. I’m still not convinced that’s not true, but every time I’ve suggested biking to the Keukenhof to Dutch people they look at me like I’m nuts. Surely it can’t be that hard. Just look at those flat tulip fields.

Anywhoo, in Haarlem we stayed right in the center of town at the Ambassador City Centre Hotel, which was a great location and had the strangest Egyptian motif in the rooms and breakfast room. Still enjoying the weather (and haven’t not learn out lesson the last time), we spent an afternoon doing a walking tour of the hidden almshouse green spaces of the city. I have to say if I lived in this city, I’d want to live in a house with one of these inward facing gardens. Very nice, even with the occasional tourist tromping through.

We missed all the museums here, but the highlight of our visit was the Mexican restaurant where I had some great enchiladas with a chocolate mole sauce and fresh salsa. Unfortunately their desserts were pretty lame.

Keukenhof

Finally we reached the purpose of our trip: the tulip gardens. Since biking was out, we took the train back to Leiden and then caught the bus out to the Keukenhof. The fields of blooming flowers were amazing and we spent an inordinate amount of the rest of the day staring out across them and trying to figure out how the workers decided which tulips to weed out and which to keep (something to do with the consistency of the rows).

The Keukenhof itself was much better this year than last year, and I chalk that up to visiting later in the season when everything had had a chance to bloom. The tulips were beautiful, but my favorite flowers were these bell-shaped ones with the tall stalks and upside down flowers. They looked like mini banana trees. Other features this year are the inspiration gardens (small “backyard” gardens that normal people probably couldn’t do on their own), a few photo-opt boats (absolutely dominated by other tourists and one was taking on water), and a Van Gogh painting made entirely from flower petals (pretty cool really).

We never did go biking. After a day at the garden we were all pretty pooped.

Afterward

My parents spent their last afternoon and night in Amsterdam, but Dan and I came back to Maastricht where we had a lovely Easter brunch on Sunday with friends. Getting Easter Monday off from work was a nice bonus too.

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