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.

Hidden courtyard in Antwerp

A nod to Antwerp’s ancient past is still visible in the architecture throughout the city. Not to be overlooked are the chunky brick buildings with little doors and secret alleyways that lead to hidden courtyards.

While many are residential, a few courtyards are accessible to the public via small shops and cafes. We took a peak down a little alley near the cathedral and immediately stepped back in time. Known as Vlaeykensgang, this lush, hidden courtyard is a gem that dates back to 1591 and leads to a small maze of alleyways. 

Around Amsterdam: A Map of my Favorites

Amsterdam's unique atmosphere is evident in the renewal of old spaces with bold, new ideas. Along with important cultural and historical sites, there's an ever growing list of quirky spots to discover around the city.

Whether you prefer cozy corners, rough, industrial spaces or prefer to nestle in the grass under a tree, there are so many different ways to take in the sounds and scenic views of Amsterdam. I'm on a constant quest to find great places and discover a different perspective of the city.

After a few years of sharing my personal discoveries of Amsterdam through my blog, I'm often questioned for suggestions on what to see, eat and enjoy around the city. So, I recently teamed up with KLM to create an Amsterdam map with some of my favorite spots. This list includes great ways to engage with Amsterdam's rich history, along with excellent locations to sip a local brew, discover new tastes or catch up with friends to watch the world go by.

Late summer is a perfect time to enjoy all that Amsterdam has to offer and the flat city is easy to explore by bike, foot or boat. Feel free to share your favorite things to do, I'm always looking for new spots to discover a different view of Amsterdam.

Check out my map below and get exploring!

This map was made in collaboration with KLM who provide flights to the city.  Come and explore Amsterdam!

Day Trip to Ghent: Part III

Last time I went beer sampling in Belgium, Brussels to be exact, we drank so many that I actually had to stop taking pictures of them due to lack of space on my memory card. 
You see, there are simply so many beers here that visiting Ghent felt like a Golden age theme park for beer lovers. Yes, I'd say we were pleased.

If you missed the other parts of our adventure read Ghent Part I (we ate speculoos cupcakes!) and Ghent Part II (the medieval castle!)

 

This time around, we kept it simple. After eating cupcakes and tour of Gravensteeg castle we headed down the street to Het Waterhuis aan de Bier Krant. It was a delicious afternoon break complete with sunshine, views of the canal and a chilled Delirium blond beer.


In between rounds of beers we explored the cobblestone streets, poked around little shops 
and couldn't stop admiring the sun soaked buildings... 


 
 
 
Apparently yarn bombing has hit Ghent, but it looks like they missed a few spots. 

We stopped to sample the traditional candy of Ghent, neuzen. This was probably a tourist trap but the (nose shaped?) soft candies weren't so bad. I hate to say it but I actually preferred the licorice flavor... does that mean I've been in Holland too long?


Then we continued to wander more... and spotted cute gabled buildings here, there and everywhere. 
A very leisurely afternoon indeed... 

 
 
 
 

Much like the disappointing postcard selection, we had a hard time finding decent frites in Ghent. So, we quickly headed away from the snack bar and walked along the river bank where everyone was relaxing and soaking up the sunshine. While strolling along we set out for some retail therapy at one of my favorite shops, Dille & Kamille. I picked up a jar of biological jam and Ellen found a miniature plant.

 
 
 
We headed back to Amsterdam at sunset and I cycled back home in time to enjoy popcorn and a movie.  Little road trips are so much fun, our trip to Ghent made for a perfectly lovely day. 

I'd love to know if you have any recommendations for other day trips around this area!

Day Trip to Ghent: Part II

Our trip to Ghent was somewhat organized. As in, we knew that drinking Belgian beers, enjoying the sunshine and taking lots of pictures were our top priorities. So what else is there to do in Ghent? I'd recommend having a visit to Gravensteen, the medieval castle located smack dab in the city center. Bonus: it's just around the corner from a bakery with speculoos cupcakes.


The castle's original structure was built in the 12th century. We didn't purchase the audio guide and honestly, I kind of regret this since informative signs were sparse throughout. But, that's okay because the exhibits consisted mostly of torture devices and medieval weaponry which aren't very high on my list of interests.

 

If you're limited on time, skip the torture chamber and hike straight up to the top. The city views alone are worth the entry fee.

 
   

After checking this off the list we headed out in search of frites and biertjes. Ready for more? You can read more about our adventures in Ghent Part I (speculoos cupcakes!) and Ghent Part III (Belgian beers)!

Day Trip to Ghent: Part I

I understand that it's easy for others to often over romanticise my life abroad here in Holland. It really is lovely to walk along the canals and visit famous works of art just down the street. Sharing those experiences is important and a strong reason why I keep this blog.

But I promise you, the expat life isn't always as fancy as it seems and all the regular daily life requirements can sometimes feels 10x harder because it doesn't feel normal. For each of the picturesque moments there are equal if not more moments of embarrassment or frustration that come along with being a foreigner but...

Then again, sometimes living the expat life does feel glamorous! Like on Saturday, when Ellen and I took a mini road trip to visit the quaint, historical city of Ghent. Belgium is only a two hour drive from Amsterdam so it was perfect for a day trip! I hope I never become jaded by the fact that you can drive to another country and back in just a day, from and American perspective it's so cool.

After parking in the city center we set out to find a coffee and wi-fi to finish our sightseeing 'to-do' list. Honestly, we didn't even need a list because first, wandering around Ghent is simply adorable. And second, it's so small that you really just make one loop and you've seen it all.


Ellen caught me going over our itinerary

 Coffee + Chocolates at Daskalidès 

Then, we set out to explore the city in search of Julie's House. This bakery was recommended by a friend and naturally we needed to sample a sweet treat ourselves, because lattes and Belgian chocolates simply weren't enough for one afternoon...


I wanted to send a postcard here, but unfortunately the selection in Ghent was subpar. I guess the put all their energy in designing letter boxes instead.

Charming, isn't it?

Snapping a few shots in search of our sugar rush...

Everything in Julie's House looked so tasty but the choice was simple. We ordered a speculoos and a red velvet cupcake to share. Then we quickly decided that calories don't count on weekends.

Yum, yum yum!

A few other snacks that I upheld the urge not to eat...

Since we gobbled up the cupcakes in less than five-minutes we had plenty energy to explore the castle. Hiking up ancient stone towers was a great way to burn off the 'calorie free' cupcakes!

You can read more about our adventures in Ghent Part II (the castle!) and Ghent Part III (lots of beers!)