Thursday, May 7, 2015

Just Back from Holland

...And boy are my tulips tired!

We are freshly back in Dublin after a holiday weekend trip to Haarlem, Amsterdam, and the surrounding countryside of the Netherlands. When we first booked the trip, we weren't really thinking flowers, although we should have made the connection right away: Holland, spring, tulips. If the super-Dutch communities we knew in Iowa (the city of Pella and most of Sioux County) went crazy about tulips – and heavy censorship, xenophobia, racism, and Dutch Reform religious bigotry – then what might we expect to see in the home of...actual Dutch people?

Flowers Netherlands
Flowers
More Flowers Netherlands
More Flowers
Few More Flowers Netherlands
Few More Flowers

Yes, lots of flowers. We took a long bicycle ride through the many commercial-scale bulb flower fields and visited a popular (read: crowded) garden packed with artfully-arranged displays of Holland's most famous export. The gardens were amazing, even with the crowds. It happened to be family weekend, so I was privileged to watch part of a live performance of Sesame Street (Sesame Straat) characters singing and dancing in Dutch. Elmo gave a particularly touching performance of I'd Like to Visit the Moon. No translation needed for such a classic.

We also spent some time in Haarlem and Amsterdam, the former of which is famous for its namesake neighborhood in New York, the latter is most well known for...things the hardline Dutch Reform folks in Iowa might find...improper. Especially given that they famously edited the title of a certain Johnny Knoxville sequel to read, "Jackbutt 2" on their public movie marquee.

Non-Sleazy Amsterdam
Non-Sleazy Amsterdam

Our visit to Amsterdam was just a day trip, the perfect time for the tourist not wishing to partake in some of the city's more infamous entertainment or pay a stiff entrance fee for the art museums and the Anne Frank House. We spent the day walking through the various neighborhoods with our favorite (non-sponsored plug) Rick Steves book and audio guides. The canals and streets were full of bicycles, beautiful gabled building fronts, trees, cruise boats, and things that might have made the "Jackbutt 2" Dutch in Iowa pass out and fall into the water in shock.

Our last day was spent taking a similar stroll through Haarlem. It has its own charm and its own interesting history, but with fewer canals and much smaller crowds.

Haarlem Street
Haarlem Street

Grotekerk Church Haarlem
Grotekerk Church

Old and New Building Fronts Haarlem
Old and New Building Fronts

Finally! A Windmill!
Finally! A Windmill!

I'm writing a series of articles over on Five Suitcases with less personal accounts of our Dutch holiday. The first article covers the details of a day of cycling through the flower fields and visiting Keukenhof, the famous flower garden. More articles about Haarlem and Amsterdam to come.

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