Tulips Triumph

13 May

4am on Monday was when our alarm went off signalling the start of a very busy and enjoyable week. We were staying near Stansted Airport and had to check in by 5am for our 7am EasyJet flight to Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam. Han was there to meet us when we arrived and soon we were back at their house in Santpoort-Noord. It was so good to see both Han and Rens again and they were in great spirits.

The weather was also very good with a forecast of rain later in the week so Han’s clever plan was to have an early lunch and go immediately to the tulip gardens at Keukenhof before anything changed. What a brilliant idea that was! The gardens were looking their absolute best and they were complemented by perfect weather conditions and not too many crowds. We just could not believe our good fortune. Our first plan had been to visit Han & Rens and see the tulips in early April while en route to the UK but because the start of Spring was delayed by 3~4 weeks, Han suggested waiting. That turned out to be exactly the right advice. We were delighted.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Han and Leanne posing in front of a bed of Han's favourite tulips, Queen Of The Night, in a mixed bed with Fritillaria.

Han and Leanne posing in front of a bed of Han’s favourite tulips, Queen Of The Night, in a mixed bed with Fritillaria.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Keukenhof Gardens.

Neighbouring commercial production tulip fields.

Neighbouring commercial production tulip fields.

Neighbouring commercial production tulip fields.

Neighbouring commercial production tulip fields.

Neighbouring commercial production tulip fields.

Neighbouring commercial production tulip fields.

Neighbouring commercial production tulip fields.

Neighbouring commercial production tulip fields.

Neighbouring commercial production tulip fields.

Neighbouring commercial production tulip fields.

Back home after the gardens Han cooked us a special treat of white asparagus for dinner and we enjoyed good food, wine and conversation until our early start determined that bed was the place to be.

On Tuesday Han took us on his tour of Amsterdam. We caught the train to Central Station and got straight on to a canal boat for a one hour tour.

This is the route of the canal tour, starting at the green pin and going clockwise.  The red pin should be closer to the green one but I forgot to stop the recording until after we had walked a couple of hundred metres.

This is the route of the canal tour, starting at the green pin and going clockwise. The red pin should be closer to the green one but I forgot to stop the recording until after we had walked a couple of hundred metres.

If I remember correctly, NEMO was the Maritime Museum.  It was on the canal tour route.

If I remember correctly, NEMO was the Maritime Museum. It was on the canal tour route.

Seven bridges in a row...

Seven bridges in a row…

Houseboats along one of the canals.  Also, being still early Spring the leaves on the trees are light in colour and not very dense making the viewing from the canal boat even better.

Houseboats along one of the canals. Also, being still early Spring the leaves on the trees are light in colour and not very dense making the viewing from the canal boat even better.

The Eye only opened recently and is directly across the North Sea Canal from the train station.

The Eye only opened recently and is directly across the North Sea Canal from the train station.

After the canal boat we went exploring on foot with Han showing us lots of things that would normally go unseen. We covered another 7km by the time we got on the 16h34 train back to Santpoort-Noord.

A streetscape Amsterdam style.

A streetscape Amsterdam style.

Leanne and Han outside one of those special Amsterdam coffee shops discussing what to buy.

Leanne and Han outside one of those special Amsterdam coffee shops discussing what to buy.

The Royal Palace on Dam Square.  This has been a busy place recently with last week's coronation of King Wilhem Alexander.

The Royal Palace on Dam Square. This has been a busy place recently with last week’s coronation of King Wilhem Alexander.

Still in Dam Square, the National Monument.

Still in Dam Square, the National Monument.

A modern version of the traditional organ grinder.

A modern version of the traditional organ grinder.

We were not the only ones thinking that the Museumcafé Mokum would be a nice place to have lunch.

We were not the only ones thinking that the Museumcafé Mokum would be a nice place to have lunch.

Hidden in the middle of the city is the Begijnhof.  It is no longer a strictly religious community but the residents are still all required to be women.

Hidden in the middle of the city is the Begijnhof. It is no longer a strictly religious community but the residents are still all required to be women.

A statue to Rembrandt.

A statue to Rembrandt.

Another streetscape showing the benefit of being here early in the Spring.

Another streetscape showing the benefit of being here early in the Spring.

I couldn't let this opportunity go begging.

I couldn’t let this opportunity go begging.

When I got closer I asked if exams had finished already.  "No, they start next week."  Great preparation!

When I got closer I asked if exams had finished already. “No, they start next week.” Great preparation!

Because it was there.

Because it was there.

There is currently a lot of civil work going on around it to build an underground terminal so the scene looks cluttered from every angle.  However, the Central Station is still a majestic building.

There is currently a lot of civil work going on around it to build an underground terminal so the scene looks cluttered from every angle. However, the Central Station is still a majestic building.

By late afternoon the weather was turning as forecast but we had promised ourselves a beer at The Eye.  So we boarded the free 'Pont' that shuttles from the Central Station to the other side of the North Sea Canal.  I say 'boarded' but it was more like being swept on together with all the other foot traffic, bicycles and scooters.

By late afternoon the weather was turning as forecast but we had promised ourselves a beer at The Eye. So we boarded the free ‘Pont’ that shuttles from the Central Station to the other side of the North Sea Canal. I say ‘boarded’ but it was more like being swept on together with all the other foot traffic, bicycles and scooters.

The Ponts are the same front and back - they drive into the dock, lower the ramp, disgorge their passengers, reload and return to the other side to do it all again at the other end.

The Ponts are the same front and back – they drive into the dock, lower the ramp, disgorge their passengers, reload and return to the other side to do it all again at the other end.

We saw a few of these around.  Really small and funny looking.  Very narrow too.

We saw a few of these around. Really small and funny looking. Very narrow too.

On our return trip we had to make a diversion to go around this barge.  The sky was now looking very ominous.

On our return trip we had to make a diversion to go around this barge. The sky was now looking very ominous.

Back at the tulip fields near Han and Rens house my eye was attracted by a young lady getting undressed.  This is as far as they got while I was watching!

Back at the tulip fields near Han and Rens house my eye was attracted by a young lady getting undressed. This is as far as they got while I was watching!

A little further along - now the afternoon of 7th May 2013, this is the reference tulip field that Han had sent photos of before we arrived.  It is always photographed with a train in that position because it obscures an ugly graffiti covered building.  There are eight trains every hour.

A little further along – now the afternoon of 7th May 2013, this is the reference tulip field that Han had sent photos of before we arrived. It is always photographed with a train in that position because it obscures an ugly graffiti covered building. There are eight trains every hour.

The was the reference tulip field on the afternoon of 3rd April 2013.

The was the reference tulip field on the afternoon of 3rd April 2013.

Again we had a lovely meal and went to bed very contented.

On Wednesday Leanne and I went into Amsterdam again by ourselves and explored further including the Jewish Quarter. When we walked to the station in the morning the so-called reference tulip field was looking splendid again. When we returned home at 7:15pm there was not a single pink flower remaining. It had been harvested. So we had seen it at its best.

Once we saw the 200m long queues at the newly re-opened Rijksmuseum all our ideas of getting some serious culture evaporated.

Once we saw the 200m long queues at the newly re-opened Rijksmuseum all our ideas of getting some serious culture evaporated.

In the park adjacent to the Rijksmuseum.

In the park adjacent to the Rijksmuseum.

Also in the park adjacent to the Rijksmuseum.

Also in the park adjacent to the Rijksmuseum.

Huh?!  It is a clothing brand.

Huh?! It is a clothing brand.

On the other side of the park near the Van Gogh Museum was a stand of cherry trees so heavy with blossom that the breeze was blowing petals around like snowflakes.

On the other side of the park near the Van Gogh Museum was a stand of cherry trees so heavy with blossom that the breeze was blowing petals around like snowflakes.

Spotted on the street.  The Artega GT is a mid-engined, rear wheel drive 2-seat sports car produced by German manufacturer Artega between 2009 and 2012. The GT was Artega's first and only model.  The two seater has an aluminium space frame and carbon fibre reinforced body for a light kerb weight of 1,116 kg (2,460 lb). The engine is a Volkswagen-sourced direct injection 3.6 L V6 producing 296 bhp (221 kW; 300 PS) and 350 N·m (260 lb·ft) mated to a 6-speed DSG transmission. Acceleration from 0–100 km/h is tested to be at 4.8 seconds, with top speed estimated to be over 270 km/h.  After the Artega company filed for bankruptcy in July 2012, production has ceased and the company has been bought by German automotive supplier firm Paragon AG.  On September 30, 2012 the production of the Artega GT was halted.  There are currently no plans to resume production. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artega_GT

Spotted on the street. The Artega GT is a mid-engined, rear wheel drive 2-seat sports car produced by German manufacturer Artega between 2009 and 2012. The GT was Artega’s first and only model. The two seater has an aluminium space frame and carbon fibre reinforced body for a light kerb weight of 1,116 kg (2,460 lb). The engine is a Volkswagen-sourced direct injection 3.6 L V6 producing 296 bhp (221 kW; 300 PS) and 350 N·m (260 lb·ft) mated to a 6-speed DSG transmission. Acceleration from 0–100 km/h is tested to be at 4.8 seconds, with top speed estimated to be over 270 km/h. After the Artega company filed for bankruptcy in July 2012, production has ceased and the company has been bought by German automotive supplier firm Paragon AG. On September 30, 2012 the production of the Artega GT was halted. There are currently no plans to resume production.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artega_GT

Plenty of the canal tourist boats plying their trade.

Plenty of the canal tourist boats plying their trade.

I waited for a while but it didn't slump forward any further.  I wouldn't park my car there though!  ;-)

I waited for a while but it didn’t slump forward any further. I wouldn’t park my car there though! 😉

The Auschwitz Memorial.

The Auschwitz Memorial.

The different building contractors must have had different calibration standards for their levels when they worked here too.

The different building contractors must have had different calibration standards for their levels when they worked here too.

On Thursday morning we packed our bags ready for the afternoon departure and then Han took us on a drive to the port and the locks where the North Sea Canal opens to the sea. Very interesting and lots of information here.

This is the largest of the three locks at the end of the North Sea Canal to Amsterdam.  The gate was just closing behind this vessel.  It is 400m x 50m x 15m and it was completed in 1929.  Apparently it would take 38 years to fill this lock from a kitchen tap - in case you were wondering.

This is the largest of the three locks at the end of the North Sea Canal to Amsterdam. The gate was just closing behind this vessel. It is 400m x 50m x 15m and it was completed in 1929. Apparently it would take 38 years to fill this lock from a kitchen tap – in case you were wondering.

Our last lunch with Han and Rens before we had to leave for the flight back to the UK.

Our last lunch with Han and Rens before we had to leave for the flight back to the UK.

At Schiphol Airport - open how many hours?

At Schiphol Airport – open how many hours?

Up and away!

Up and away!

We were sad to say goodbye to Han and Rens, they had been perfect hosts and their pride and passion for their country is contagious. But we had to get back to the UK to continue our travels.

Back at Stansted Airport we caught the shuttle bus to the mid-stay parking area where we had left the car. The only trouble was that at 4:15am last Monday neither of us had taken much notice of where we had parked. The place is big and we were not recognising anything as the bus drove through area after area. We remembered seeing a bus at the stop up a slope from where we parked and running to catch it. It was also the last pick up. But was this bus following the same route? Anyway I told the driver that I was having trouble remembering where I left the car and he radioed our ticket number to the control room and they came straight back with the location of the car. Pretty slick. I haven’t decided how they might have done that yet but I have a couple of ideas (they have automatic number plate recognition [ANR] cameras all over the place in the UK). Do you know how they would do this in a huge carpark?

We finally arrived about 20h30 at the same basic hotel we had stayed at earlier near the airport. On Friday morning we hit the road towards Lymington taking the north side of the M25 so we could call in at North Mimms on the way to have a chat and a coffee with Dave and Carolyn. That done we set the coordinates for Lymington and pressed on arriving at 16h15 with time to take a stroll along the High Street before going to The Sail Loft, James and Lavinia’s place, where we will be staying for the next 12 days.

Lymington is a very nice town by the look of it and James and Lavinia are both very well. Lavinia cooked a delicious seafood pasta for us all and we got acquainted with the place. James, Leanne and I polished off two more bottles of wine before midnight and in the process solved most problems known to modern man. One popular idea was to sell up and retreat to the Bahamas on account of their very agreeable climate, low entry barriers, modest cost of living and favourable tax regime! I am not so sure our respective families would completely support a decision on our part to exercise such a complete retreat… although it does have its attractions.
Anyway, snapping back to the very real world, James and Lavinia got away on time on Saturday morning at 10:30am and at 2:15pm I got an SMS from Lavinia to say they were in France already.
The Sail Loft is a really lovely place. The weather has been a bit patchy this weekend but after a couple of weeks on the move we were more inclined to have a rest day or two so we will start exploring the area properly next week.
Very cute streets in Lymingtion.

Very cute streets in Lymingtion.

Saturday was market day and it look a little like Lorgues.

Saturday was market day and it look a little like Lorgues.

More cute terrace houses.

More cute terrace houses.

Really?!  I am going to have to try this to find out how it works.

Really?! I am going to have to try this to find out how it works.

2 Responses to “Tulips Triumph”

  1. Nicole Lie May 13, 2013 at 02:22 #

    Good Old Amsterdam. Loved that place. From what I can remember….. ☺

  2. hbonwit May 12, 2013 at 22:14 #

    We have the same trolley de-activation system here in the states, and I have always been tempted to test it, but never have. Basically there’s a wire buried in the perimeter of the car park, and if you go past it, a spring-loaded (I think) brake is released and clamps on one wheel. (Similar setup to a shocking dog-collar / torture device depending on your view.)

    Very tempting for curious minds like ours! 🙂

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