Cherry Blossoms in Vondelpark

As expected, spring in Holland is synonymous with expansive, colorful tulip fields but it’s actually the earlier blooming cherry blossoms that mark the arrival of spring here in Amsterdam. This batch of cherry blossoms first caught my eye during an afternoon walk through Vondelpark. It seems they arrived a bit earlier in the year than expected but that’s just fine with me!

Amsterdam Vondelpark Spring Cherry Blossoms 2019 © Lily Heaton-7.jpg

After a long, cold winter, spring attempted to arrive early this year—can you believe that we enjoyed a few bursts of warm, sunny days as early as February (!?) only to follow with long stretches of grey, bleak skies and chilly winds. Fortunately, this combination must have been exactly enough sunshine to wake up the sleeping cherry blossoms. Towards the end of March, an explosion of sakura popped up around the city and soon enough, a few of Amsterdam’s parks were taken over with fluffy pink blooms!

Amsterdam Vondelpark Spring Cherry Blossoms 2019 © Lily Heaton-11.jpg
Amsterdam Vondelpark Spring Cherry Blossoms 2019 © Lily Heaton-1.jpg
Amsterdam-Vondelpark-Spring-Cherry-Blossoms-2019 © Lily Heaton.jpg
Amsterdam Vondelpark Spring Cherry Blossoms 2019 © Lily Heaton-8.jpg
Amsterdam-Vondelpark-Spring-Cherry-Blossoms-2019 © Lily Heaton-22.jpg

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Autumn in Vondelpark

While shooting content for a new project, I made my way through Vondelpark towards Amsterdam’s affluent Oud Zuid neighborhood on an autumn afternoon.

Akin to Amsterdam’s Central Park, our beloved Vondelpark is typically associated with the lush, green days of summer. However, this time of year, I was lucky to catch some of the last remaining, bold colored autumn leaves in during the quiet moment just before a rain storm arrived, forcing us back indoors.

Autumn inspires it’s own unique revival, as nature - and life - slow down in preparation for a season of hibernation, reflection and growth for the coming year. I still can’t believe we’ve already reached December and winter will surely be settling in soon enough.


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Visiting The Tulip fields

As winter melts away, Amsterdam wakes up from hibernation during the weeks in-between March and May. Our first reward for surviving months of cold arrives in the form of thousands of colorful blooms. Crocus pop up to mark the first sights of spring, followed by daffodils and finally, our beloved tulips! When it comes to Dutch icons, tulips have certainly earned their status, dating back to their arrival in Holland from the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century. Today, springtime in Holland doesn’t exit without glorious, tulips in every color. 

While Amsterdam hosts plenty of blooms in colorful sidewalk gardens, windowsills, parks and along the canals, nothing compares to being surrounded by a vivid sea of flowers—it's both magical and refreshing. Endless rows of tulips can be seen in the countryside just a short trip outside of the city.

The town of Lisse is home to a wide range of flower fields that create a rainbow sea of blooms visible from the quiet rural roads. Aside from the fields themselves, Lisse is known for Keukenhof Gardens, a popular tourist destination that boasts hundreds of diverse tulips and over than seven million bulbs in bloom. Luckily, it's easy to explore the Bollenstreek without the hassle of a tourist trap. Rent a bike or car to explore the many flower farms in the area and create your own tulip adventure! You can head out further to explore other cities along the flower route Hillegom, Leiden and Naaldwijk. We even stopped visited a road side stand selling freshly picked bundles for tulips for only €2 of the farms along the way and pick up fresh flowers at road side stalls or

Despite the grey, spring clouds (and perhaps a tiny King’s Day hangover), I set off by train to meet up with my friend and fellow photographer, Anouk, who happens to live in Lisse, the modern heart of tulip mania. Fortunately, Anouk frequents the rural backroads of Lisse and she knew exactly where to find the fields in bloom. From one farm to the next, we rode in awe of our vivid surroundings and pulled over once and a while to carefully explore the flowers up close and before hopping back in the to search for another. Anouk was kind enough to snap a few photos of me in the flowers which was extra special since I am usually the one behind the lens.

Photo by Anouk Boetzer

Photo by Anouk Boetzer

Exploring with another photographer was relaxing in the sense that we share a mutual understanding when it comes to patience for finding the right light and an appreciation for how quickly all the different, delicate parts of a natural setting can change. Needless to say, wind and rain were a bit of a struggle while out in the fields but that didn't hold us back from crawling through the mud when needed. Of course, the moody overcast skies you see here eventually lead to rain and I found inspiration in the big, fat rain drops balancing perfectly on the delicate tulip petals and stalks. 

Time passed differently out in the tulip fields, perhaps because there were far less distractions than in the city. I could focus on the details, like how each individual flower aded to the bunch while still holding its own individual character. Visiting towards the end of tulip season we found many fields with fallen flowers, scattered in disarray. The sight was a reminder to appreciate the moment and bask in the fleeting beauty of nature.

Dutch flower farms don’t only grow tulips—there are growing seasons for daffodils, dahlias and so much more. The aromatic hyacinths were my favorite. Their sweet fragrance mixed with the scent of muddy earth and fresh rain create that perfect smell of spring. 

After trekking through a few fields, we settled down in Lisse's little city center for a tasty pizza before I headed back to Amsterdam by train with a box of of fresh hyascenth. Curious for more? You can see more outtakes from our tulip trip on my Instagram stories or join the conversation and visit this post on Instagram.

Amsterdam's Frozen Canals

Every winter, locals anticipate an icy spectacle and this year it finally happened. Amsterdam's canals FROZE! For those of you who may have missed it, the city turned into a real-life snow globe for the first time since 2012. What a majestic sight! 

Desipite feeling under the weather, I bundled up and ventured out to the Prinsengracht on Friday afternoon. To my delight, the canal was indeed frozen as skaters of all levels and brave explorers began filling the natural ice. At first, my intention was only to observe and snap photos, I hadn't planned to actually hop down onto the ice (natural ice is, no, was a huge fear of mine!) but this year I'm all about taking risks and trying new things so... 

I watched and waited to find a good point of entry where I, reluctant at first, slowly and steadily, slid down onto the ice from the bank of the canal. Anxious, for both myself and my camera, it took a few nervous minutes to catch my bearings. Once the ice felt stable, my slow steps turned into more confident strides and soon enough I was loving it. Suddenly, I'd stepped into another world where walking on water was a reality, it was magical!


Wheeee! I can't believe I'm jumping for joy in the middle of a frozen canal!

A friendly stranger snapped the photo above and immersed in the moment, I did a gleeful, little hop in the air.  So, there you have it. Eight years and endless memories along with the Prinsengracht—from the countless boat ride to canal side picnics and our annual Gay Pride parade—but this was definitely one of the most remarkable moments in my Amsterdam history. This weekend, I feel even more in love with my adopted city. 

I was in the action for about half an hour before my fingers went numb and I headed off to my last meeting of the day... only to return again later in the evening.  By then, the frozen Prinsengracht had turned into a wild scene, complete with (frozen) boat parties, gluhwein and plenty of ice skaters. You're probably curious if people fell in. Well, of course, they did. However, that didn't dissuade the Dutch who love to skate, this was their moment to shine and on natural ice nonetheless!

I love living in a city where it's socially acceptable to take a spin on the frozen canals. In fact, the city helped make this happen by closing off the canals during our week long freeze to encourage ice formation. I was a bit shocked to find a few of the self-made gluhwein stands (pictured below) had not really thought through the idea of stretching an electrical extension cord over ice which is of course bound to melt at some point. 

Ready for more? I sure was! Thinking back at this weekend, I still can't believe that I stood in the middle of a frozen canal and had the courage to face the cold and go back for more. The following day, I returned to our belved canals with my friend Bert to catch the action. I'm glad we did because the ice began to melt later in the afternoon and by Sunday, our ice walking fantasy had melted into history. 

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