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.

Winter at Bloemendaal Beach

I have a confession to make: having grown up surrounded by Florida’s scenic, tropical shores, I hardly frequent Dutch beaches… not even during the summer. As a true sun-lover, it's sometimes hard to grasp how I've even managed to survive the cold Dutch climate for eight years and counting.  That said, I’d probably be crazy to visit the beach in the dead of winter. The way I see it, a beach trip without a bikini is blasphemy. Nonetheless, the beach is exactly where I ended up. Knowing that I’m never one to pass up a little adventure, my friends invited me for a walk along the shore and lured me with the promise of gezelligheid and a boozy, hot chocolate to warm up. With my scarf, mittens and my camera in tow, off we went on the train from Amsterdam to Zandvoort aan Zee. From there, we walked about four kilometers along the shore over to Bloemendaal.

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The beach was full of visitors walking their dogs and wind surfers in wet suits flying high before crashing into the waves. On dry land, the wind was cold enough to bring tears to my eyes and my fingers went numb more as soon as I could warm them. Even now, thinking of how cold that water must have been still makes me shudder!  

The moody overcast light, sea foam and misty horizon kept me entertained as I lagged behind our group, snapping photos and trying to adjust my camera settings with thick leather gloves on. Eventually, we arrived to the cafe for a well-deserved round of warm drinks and you can bet that I had my cocoa with an extra shot of bourbon and whipped cream. 

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With the company of good friends and enough thick layers (and whiskey) to keep me warm, this skeptic survived a winter visit to the beach. However, when I popped back outside to capture the sunset a burst of frozen wind blew and I swear, the tear froze to my face. That’s the moment when our beach visit had me begging for the warmer breezes of home.

Instead, I settled for a bubble bath back at my flat and made a resolution to visit the Dutch coast again some day. That is, if summer ever arrives—there's talk about the canals freezing over this year!

Weekend Wanderings: Autumn Apple Picking

Autumn's arrival means it's apple picking season once again!

This time around, my good friend Annelies was an enthusiastic companion, so we set off on a misty Friday morning and headed to

De Olmenhorst orchard

. Apples and pears for miles! Thanks to the foggy weather, we practically had the entire apple orchard to ourselves for 

appel plukken,

what fun!

This family orchard has been around for 150 years and now has more than 40,000 apple trees all grown organically. If you're in Holland, keep an eye out for De Olmenhorst apple or pear juice at a cafe or grocery store, it is so delicious!

This afternoon was a fun wall to officially welcome fall! A change in seasons always stirs up a bit of restlessness in my spirit. Autumn is a cosy break from summer's buzz but just the thought of a dark, cold winter approaching shivers my spine.

Actually, this apple picking afternoon with Annelies also reminded me how much changes in a year. Last year, our lovely group of American expat friends

visited the orchard together

on a clear, sunny day. This season, nearly all of them have since then returned to the States. This expat life is a weird world, an endless cycle of intriguing 'hellos' and such bitter sweet 'goodbyes.' You build strong bonds quickly but also learn how to detach as well. There's a strong need for acceptance, that life never stops moving and friendships and memories are woven in-between two randomly crossing paths. It's an emotional roller coaster from time to time, filled with so many lucky adventures in between.

After successfully bagging more than enough Elstar apples, we headed back home to do what other than bake some muffins. As expected, they were tasty and about two dozen of them have already disappeared thanks to my Dutchman. We used

this muffin recipe

and simply switched blueberries for apples while also adding an extra dose of Dutch speculaas spices.

So, let's simply call these Apple Speculaas Muffins, ok?

In fact, I think I'll make another batch for this weekend. Or maybe some apple crumble?

Baking is best way to warm up a grey, drizzly morning in Holland... yum! 

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)!