LISSE, THE NETHERLANDS - Holland looks good any time of the year but it’s especially beautiful in the spring when the national flower, the tulip, blooms in a rainbow of colours and blankets farmer’s fields and gardens throughout this incredible land.
The Dutch celebrate the annual event with festivals and parades but to truly see the tulip in all its glory, a trip to this flower capital located about an hour outside Amsterdam is what’s really required. That’s because this is the home of the Garden of Eden-like Keukenhof gardens, one of the most beautiful of its kind on the planet.
Earlier this week, on the final leg of my Eurail train trip through France, Spain and Italy which ended in Amsterdam, I joined tourists from around the world and went to see millions of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and other bulb flowers that have poked their heads up through Keukenhof’s fertile landscape - the breathtaking Kodak moments this place provides amazes everyone.
Above: They come from around the world to enjoy the beauty of the Keukenhof show.
“I come see the tulips right from (Schiphol) airport,” a young Chinese tourist, still clutching her suitcase, tells me even before she’s checked into her Amsterdam hotel.
“My mother tell me to get lots of pictures and send her pictures of the tulips,” she continues before disappearing into a throng of tourists – the annual tulip event draws over a million visitors to the lavish gardens that are spread over 32 lush hectares.
Over 7 million tulips were planted around Keukenhof for this year’s festival and when the 800 varieties bloom, they create a magical carpet of colours that looks like a painter’s palette.
And speaking of painters, Holland’s greatest impressionist painter, Vincent van Gogh, is being honoured in 2015 – the 125th anniversary of his death. Keukenhof has decided to pay tribute the legendary painter with a flower mosaic made up of thousands of tulips and grape hyacinths, as well as a “selfie” garden where, ironically, smartphone users can get a picture of themselves standing in front of one of the painter’s self-portraits – Vincent would certainly see the humour in this tribute.
Above: The canals of Holland are lined with tulips and colour is everywhere.
Keukenhof is blessed with lots of fountains, lakes, a working windmill and the unique artwork featured by local artists makes this a great place to spend an entire day.
Amsterdam’s annual Tulip Festival will also be in full bloom throughout April and the beginning of May and many private gardens will be accessible during this time so visitors can marvel at their wonderful collection of bulbs.
One of the best tulip displays this year will be in the garden of Amsterdam’s hottest hotel, the 5-Star Waldorf Astoria, which is located in six UNESCO World Heritage-protected canal homes on the Gentlemen’s Canal.
The incredibly chic Waldorf Astoria has planted 5,800 tulip bulbs in its lovely gardens which can be seen from its elevated lobby area or its chic restaurants, which includes the Michelin 2-Star Librije's Zusje, a tough name to say and it’s even harder to get a reservation in this restaurant, one of the finest rooms in all of Europe.
Above: Holland is ablaze in colour when the Keukenhof show in in full bloom.
A visit to the Keukenhof Gardens and a stay at the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam is the perfect way to celebrate spring and you can be sure your room will be decorated with lots of tulips.
The Keukenhof spring garden show runs annually. For more information, go to www.keukenhof.nl
/ The Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam can arrange a private visit to Keukenhof. To check out availability and rates at this incredible property, go to www.hilton.com/amsterdam
/ For information on Amsterdam’s Tulip Festival go to www.tulpfestival.com/about/
To buy an “I amsterdam city card” which gets you free rides on the city’s trams, boat tours and discounts into major museums, go to iamsterdam.com
/ Getting to Keukenhof from downtown Amsterdam is easy – just take a train from the city’s historic Central Station ($7.50 Cdn) to Schiphol Airport where you can catch a bus to the gardens for about $15. / KLM Royal Dutch Airlines offers daily flights to Amsterdam from Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and starting in May from Edmonton. Go to klm.com
to find out fares and schedules. / For tourist information on Holland, go to www.holland.com
/ There's no better way to get around Europe than by train and Eurail Group and its many partners make the experience seamless and fun for tourists, depositing them in the centre of all major cities and close to the major attractions. Eurail has many affordable options available so check them out at www.eurailgroup.org/railplanner
and don't forget, kids travel free on Eurail.