My garden is beginning to show signs of Spring. I have purple crocuses, white snowdrops and yellow winter jasmine adding touches of colour. But I am reminded of the old song “when it is Spring again, I’ll bring again tulips from Amsterdam”. Before I met my husband I went on a barge holiday along the Dutch canals and I think Bill must be bored of my tales of visiting an Edam cheese farm, a Delft tile factory and several quirky museums. I also remembered the strange smells from the many small workshops along the canals.
Three years ago at about this time of year I was indulging in one of my favourite winter activities. I was looking through travel brochures and I spotted an advertisement for a cruise on the Dutch waterways including the canals, part of the river Rhine and even across the Zuidersee. When I read that the boat would be my namesake “the Lady Anne” and that the trip included coach travel from Bristol, I was sold. Luckily my husband was easily persuaded to join me.
We caught the coach to Arnham sailing on the cross channel ferry between Dover and Calais. My heart always lifts when I say goodbye to the white cliffs of Dover. We boarded the Lady Anne, an old canal barge in Arnham and found our very small cabin. There was time to view the very sobering Arnham world war museum and hear the story of the disastrous “market garden” expedition where so many young lives were lost.
We were all disappointed to learn that we would not be able to cross the Zuiderzee as promised due to high winds. The Zuiderzee is a large lake which was left when the Dutch drained part of the Iselmeer to make more farm land. The captain decided instead to sail to Enkuheizen and moor by the Zuiderzee museum
The open air museum contains a large number of old Dutch houses which have been rebuilt and furnished to show a vanished way of life and is very popular with children. We were also taken on a coach trip to see one of the new towns that was built on the reclaimed land. There is a saying “God made the world but the Dutch made Holland”. It was very difficult to imagine that the land we were walking on was under the sea fifty years ago. Enkuheizen itself had been a fishing village and there were a lot of remains of the sea fishing industry.
We also had coach trips to Delft and the Het Loo royal palace. The Het Loo royal palace was the home of the Dutch Royal family until it was given to the state on the death of Queen Wilhelmena
Luckily the Lady Anne was able to travel through the canals and down the Rhine to Amsterdam. It was very pleasant to sit on deck and watch the Dutch people go about their business. We noticed how neat and clean everywhere looked. There were also a lot of ducks and other water birds. We had a chance to explore some of the Amsterdam canals before we returned by coach to Bristol
Amsterdam deserves its own blog post but we had come to see the Spring flowers.
The Keukenhof Gardens
The highlight of our trip was undoubtedly a visit to the Keukenhof Gardens.
The Keukenhof gardens which are opened between March and May claim to be the best Spring garden in Europe. They were established seventy years ago as a showcase for Dutch bulb growers. For 2019 it is estimated that seven million bulbs have been planted in over 79 acres. The Netherlands are the world’s largest exporter of Spring bulbs and over one hundred growers plan their displays in Autumn. The grounds are immaculately landscaped in a variety of styles and there is even a windmill you can climb to get a panoramic view of the whole park. Growers also display their latest wares in a series of large pavilions and you can of course buy bulbs to take home. We were able to spend a long time ambling through the park admiring the bulbs and also enjoyed a good lunch in one of the restaurants.
The countryside around also looks very colourful with a patch work of tulip fields where flowers are grown for market.