Nicky hinted at wanting tulips for her birthday, so I very romantically obliged with a last minute whirlwind trip to see tulips in their natural habitat (not really as it was planned a while back, but I’ll take the plaudits where I can).
A leisurely birthday morning began with welcome sunshine, a quick drive to Luton and an easy hop over the channel to Schipol airport. Direct from here, an unexpectedly long queue and eventually a bus to Keukenhof Gardens, located just outside of Amsterdam in Lisse.
An obviously popular place, with huge crowds drawn by the day’s welcome sunshine and the short window of availability (open only 7 weeks per year in Spring) to see the extensive flower displays in the park. With 35 hectares and over 7 million planted bulbs the overall experience, vista after colourful vista, is simply overwhelming. Several hours of blissful wandering and more than a few photos later we had a picnic lunch sat by a lake away from the crowds, taking time to reflect on all we’d already seen. And we’d still not yet made it to the city proper.
After saying goodbye to Keukenhof, a bus and train later and we arrived at Amsterdam South. From here we decided to walk to our hotel in the Museum Quarter, through a very pretty, tree lined residential area.
After a bit of chill time in our room we headed out for an explore locally, before finding the inevitable Irish pub for a welcome pint and a very decent birthday meal.
Early next morning we found a local bike hire store (Mac’s) and hired robust three-gear city bikes to begin our wider exploration of Amsterdam. Vondel Park was our first destination, with lots more tulips and lakes to enjoy. We cruised gently alongside expert locals who zoomed along, weaving through traffic made up of pedestrians, joggers, skaters and the occasional horse. The upright position felt slightly alien to us mountain bikers at first, but proved efficient and comfortable with a little time in the saddle. Perfect for sight-seeing in the sun.
We doodled a loop of the city, zigzagging around backstreets and canals with many stops to take in the sights. The Anne Frank house, the Northern markets, de Oude Kerk church, Science Centre NEMO on to Molen de Gooyer windmill where we stopped for lunch.