Day 3 - Monday, April 15, 2013 - Morning tour of Amsterdam with Canal Cruise; Optional Keukenhof Gardens;
After a good night's sleep, we were ready for our first tour day in Amsterdam. We were up at 7:00 and joined our group for breakfast - a typical European meal with selections of eggs, sausage, and bacon along with cold meats, cheeses, and fruit. The best part of the meal for Vic is the fantastic selection of fresh breads.
The sky was gray, it was 58° and the humidity was 71%. We got on our bus at 9:00 with 39 of our new best friends, Thomas our guide, and Michael our driver.
We started off on our city tour accompanied by Gerwin, our local guide. He began with an overview of the unusual pronunciations of the Dutch language. Gennie was intrigued; trying to spell accurately for the journal will be a challenge.
Thousands of people commute to work each day on bicycles in this city and the surrounding areas. Driving in the large bus and dodging the intense cyclists was not easy. Once again, we were happy we did not have our own car.
Gerwin gave us a running narrative of the city highlights as we traveled over many of the 1,248 bridges that span the canals. A new subway system is being built making construction delays inevitable!
Remembering that today, April 15th, is tax day in the USA; Gerwin explained the tax rates in The Netherlands. For most people, the rate is 33% but for those with salaries over $70,000 it is 52%!
Michael agreed to a short side trip out of town to the Amstel River to see the Rembrandt Windmill, one of the remaining working mills pumping water. On our way back to city Gerwin offered each of us a piece of famous Dutch black licorice - Vic loved it, Gennie is waiting for chocolate.
Rain began in earnest just as we were getting off the bus for our canal cruise. Although the boat was covered, Vic spent his time outside for the best shots. The hour long trip on the canal gave us a look at the old mansions of the Dutch merchants and also the house boats now used as permanent residences by many in the city.
Our captain, Chefke navigated the narrow canals and low bridges while Gerwin gave us information about the city and its colorful history. The city tour ended back at the hotel at 12:30.
We had about 10 minutes before it was time to get right back on the bus for our optional afternoon trip the Keukenhof Gardens. On our 40 minute drive southwest of Amsterdam, Thomas gave us a little history of the park located in the village of Lisse.
Originally a vegetable or kitchen garden, it is now the largest flower garden in the world. Only open from mid-March to mid-May, we were extremely lucky to have planed this trip six months ago and have the spring bulbs blooming in their prime.
At 1:30 Thomas showed us a large map of the park and then let us venture out on our own until we met back at the entrance at 5:00. Although the surrounding commercial fields were just beginning to flower, the Keukenhof gardeners stagger their blooming plants so there are plenty of blossoms to enjoy for most of the season.
We began our walk with a smoked Dutch sausage! Being well nourished for our flower adventure, we spent the next three and a half hours wandering the beautifully groomed lawns, forested groves, and natural arrangements of blooming crocus, tulips, daffodils, narcissus, and hyacinths.
The Willem-Alexander Pavilion houses a display of thousands of varieties of tulips in all shades, sizes, and shapes. We were literally amazed at the blooms, each one more beautiful than the last.
We were in flower sensory overload when we made our way back to the entrance to meet our group. Music from an old calliope player organ drew us to sit and listen as we watched the thousands of visitors leaving the park.
People of all ages, sizes, and nationalities left with smiles on their faces after spending the afternoon at Keukenhof Gardens. Michael was waiting for us; ready to drive home to the city in rush-hour traffic.
Back at our hotel we sorted through our hundreds of photos to find the very best and most representative of our day. Gennie finished typing the journal and then we went out to get a light dinner at the Meram, a Turkish Restaurant.
Accommodations: The Manor Hotel Amsterdam - Hampshire Eden - - - Meal: B - - Rating: A-
Almost can see the tulips in the garden,via satellite Well I can visualize!
Beautiful flowers. Ok if I share on Facebook? Love the BIG shoes.
Loved the flower pictures and your new shoes. I am sure that this was beautiful. Hope you get a chance to view the new Rjiksmuseum.
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Gennie, I would wait for the chocolate, too! How fun to see all of the gorgeous tulips.