Category Archives: The Netherlands 2012

our trip to the netherlands in 2012

The Keukenhof Flower Gardens | Day 12

You can’t visit the Netherlands in the spring without going to the Keukenhof flower gardens or at least seeing some tulip fields! We waited until we had a sunny day before heading out to Leiden via the train. At the Leiden train station we walked passed their bike parking garage, and it was amazing!! I have no idea how people get their bikes up on the second level because they would have to lift the bike above their head, but the evidence suggests it’s possible:

How you ever find your bike again is another mystery.

After catching the bus from the train station to the Keukenhof we finally walked through the gates. A perfect blue sky day!

The garden is huge, more like a theme park for flowers than just a garden. You can literally walk all day and not see every path, flowerbed or hot house. The flowerbeds feature bulbs of different varieties and colors, each one different than the next. I really liked the daffodils, especially the ones with orange centers:

The Keukenhof specializes in showing off bulb flowers so only tulips, daffodils, hyacinths.  They are well known for their unusual and unique variety of colors, petal shapes, clusters of flower heads on one stalk, different heights, and crazy textures. I liked the spiky tulips and the ruffled daffodils!

The traditional Dutch tulips made their statement by sheer numbers and the patterns they were planted in. Thousands and thousands in a row!

Being a Dutch girl of course i had to take a photo next to the orange tulips. ; )

One of the greenhouses specialized in orchids which were stunning in their detail and colors!

As the day went on clouds rolled in and by the time we rode the train back to Utrecht it started raining. The weather in the Netherlands seems to be just as fickle as it is in North Dakota! Anyway as we waited in the bus stop I played around with the rain on the plexiglass and all the car lights passing by.

A silhouette of my sister:

And one she took of me:

Almost done with our trip, just a few days left.  It’s been so fun reliving it while blogging! I hope that you’ve enjoyed coming along with me!!

So, which flower was your favorite to look at?
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Corrie Ten Boom + The North Sea | Day 11

April 12 we woke up to a foggy Dutch morning. The trailer/cabin that we stayed in (pictured below) is owned by my Aunt, it’s located in a national forest campground which is pretty cool. Because it is a bit out of the way it would take us 45 minutes to bike to my Aunt’s house, or an hour on the local bus to get to Utrecht’s Central Train Station. We got really good at taking public transportation all over the place!

I just loved the way fog makes everything look mysterious and exotic!

Any guesses what the wooden gutter thing is for?? Bikes of course!! These are located at the train station so you can push your bike up to the train platform and take your bikes with you. Most people leave their bikes at the station bike parking lots, but there are a few on each train.

We decided to head to Haarlem, a smaller town that holds the Corrie Ten Boom Museum.

As we walked to the museum I saw these crazy cheeses shaped like wooden clogs!  Really. So weird.

The museum is located in the original house that Corrie lived in. A very plain, simple building with a big story. In WWII Corrie and her family hid Jews in their house,  they build a special “Hiding Place” behind a fake wall where the Jews could hide in case of a house search. To make a long story short they were reported to the SS and the family went to a concentration camp, but the Germans never found the Jews hiding in the special space. After the war Corrie wrote a book, but because so many Europeans had their own war stories she took her book to America, where it became very popular. If you haven’t read it I highly recommend it!! You can find it here… The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.

The third photo below is of an advertisement that Corrie and her sister would put in the shop window to let other resistance workers know if the house was safe or not.

The Jews would practice running to the hiding place, taking any cups or evidence with them. Corrie and her family installed a buzzer that they would randomly ring and see how fast everyone could run up the steep steps and out of sight.

They built a false wall in one of the bedrooms using old bricks (new bricks would give it away) and made the entrance in the bottom of the closet:

The room held 8 people for 2 days after the SS came through! I really can’t imagine.

After our tour of the Museum we walked back to the train station and noticed one of the notorious Dutch coffee shops.  For those who don’t know a “coffee shop” is where they sell marijuana – legally.  It’s SOOOOO weird to walk down the street and see these places, and smell that sweet odor as you pass by. Actually I didn’t even notice it until my cousin pointed it out in Rotterdam, so many people smoke (tobacco) in the Netherlands that it sort of blended in.  My dad thought the sign below should say “come and joint us” – ok sorry, really bad pun.

If you want coffee you need to stop at one of the many cafes and restaurants all over the city. It’s interesting that the Netherlands has such small streets, yet almost every restaurant has outdoor seating. Especially in the city square! It’s so lovely!

Back at the train station we hopped onto a quick 10 minute train to Zaandvort – a little tourist town right on the North Sea.

I really liked this mural at the Zandvoort station!

The North Sea is very cold, but being by the ocean is always a treat for this land locked family from Fargo, lol!

Some of the Seashells were blue and white striped, they reminded me of Dutch Delft Blue ceramics.

Since the train had to go back through Haarlem we got out and had supper there. The blue skies were so pretty so after supper we walked down a few streets and canals just for the fun of it. I love that kind of vacation, not too planned, just enjoying the experience.

I really loved the windmill and reflections in the river. So postcard perfect!

An abstract of the windmill reflected in the wake of a passing boat:

It was getting pretty late so we rode the train for an hour, the bus for and hour and walked back to our cabin in the woods. By that time it was completely dark and we had forgotten a flashlight so it was quite an adventure the last mile or so, lol! My brother had to get out our video camera and use the screen as a faint flashlight just to keep us from tripping! Good times for sure.

More soon!



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A Day in Rotterdam | The Market + Family | Day 9

April 10th my family came to Rotterdam to spend the day,  my cousin and I went to the train station to pick them up and start our tour of the city. I really liked the buildings by the train station, very modern and sleek:

Most of Rotterdam’s city center was bombed out during WWII so much of the city features newer architecture. My cousin said there are lights built into the sidewalks following the edges of the bombed out sections of the city. On the anniversary of the bombing they turn the light beams on at night so you can look over the city and see the scale of the event.

As we walked through town we stopped into one of my cousin’s favorite book stores. Of course we had to pick up something to bring home and of course it would be Tolkien. De Hobbit. Although for some weird reason Bilbo Baggins last name is changed in Dutch to Balings! I mean seriously, who does that?!  Baggins is essential!! Tolkien would be appalled. So when we read it we will insert the CORRECT name mentally. ; )

It was Tuesday so it was Rotterdam’s market day in the square! If you’ve never been to an open air market in Europe you have to find one to visit someday. There is nothing like walking down row after row of flowers, bread, cheese, olives, cheap trinkets, sunglasses, candy, fabric, and more! The market has great prices compared to the grocery store, and probably fresher produce too.

20 roses for 2 Euros… approx $3. You can hardly buy a single rose here in the states for that price!! And these are fresh cut so they last about 3 times longer too! Not fair really.

Wow, I wish we had markets like this in Fargo – although it might be hard to have an outdoor market with 3 feet of snow. ; )

One of my all time favorite Dutch treats is CHEESE!! There is just nothing like it in the states. Nothing. It’s crisp, slightly salty,  rich, savory, and depending on the age either deep or mellow in flavor.

Another favorite treat is Stroopwaffles – a sort of waffle cookie with syrup in between two layers. Hot from the street vendor it’s gooey, sticky, hot, and delicious!

After walking all afternoon we stopped for coffee at a Turkish restaurant called the Bazar. The decor was quite colorful and full of bling.

The Turkish treats were really interesting. The white squares are Turkish Delight – a kind of cross between gelatin or a gummy bear, but not very sweet and it had nuts inside. The other things on the plate were Baklava made with pistachios and a sugar syrup, and the other was something like a peanut brittle without the peanut flavor and really really really sweet. The plate also came with 4 half dried dates. I was personally glad for the strong coffee to help cut down the super sugary flavors, lol!

After the Bazar we walked all the way across the city to my cousin’s apartment. It’s two levels so you have to go up some fairly steep stairs to get to the main section. I took a photo because I wanted to show you all a staircase (although this on isn’t as curved as most). You’ll notice how the stairs are triangular at the top, almost vertical, and the step is narrow in depth. And these stairs are large and spacious for the Netherlands!!
I really enjoyed staying at my cousin’s place! They’ve worked so hard on the apartment and I think it looks fantastic!! Very modern and open.  Also my cousin is a great cook so the food was fabulous. Thanks so much cousin!!
Looking at her library we noticed something strange… another name change in the Dutch version of Calvin and Hobbes!! We were so confused as to why anyone would do that? Casper??!!
After a delicious supper my cousin’s husband taught my siblings a French strategy game. Really easy to learn and complex to play.
Isn’t my cousin lovely! I just love her smile!
By the time we finished up and got back to the train it was dark already. You know me,  if I see anything with reflections and have a little spare time, out comes the camera!
On this particular train we noticed the curved windows created the perfect fun house mirror distortions so we started to ham it up a bit. Ok a lot!
We were seriously laughing so hard at these images that we couldn’t breath. The rest of the people in the train car probably thought we were high on something legal in the Netherlands – but we just get this really weird sense of humor when we are all overtired, lol! I still crack up looking at these!!
And just to show I’m a good sport I let my sis take a few of me too. Yes, I really put this on the internet.
And just to prove that we are all perfectly normal looking (if somewhat exhausted looking) people I will include this one as well:
Wow, this trip has been so fantastic, I hope you are enjoying reading about it and looking at the photos as much as I am enjoying sharing them with you!!
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Day 8 – Cousins in the Netherlands!

Monday April 9th, I spent the whole day with my cousin in Rotterdam!! We hardly ever get to see each other (obviously) but when we do it’s really fun, our personalities and interests are so similar that we always have a great time. Even if it’s raining. ; )

We took the subway since the weather wasn’t very great, and then walked all over downtown Rotterdam:

Rotterdam is a port city so lots of ships everywhere!  Of course I need at least one photo of the Dutch flag as well:

My cousin took me to a RSS Rotterdam  – a cruise ship from the 1950’s that sailed between Rotterdam and New York City. It’s been converted into a hotel and restaurant so we could walk around the decks a little bit.

The indoor deck (below on the right) reminded me of a lot of 1940 musicals, can’t you imagine Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing there!!

There was also this cool old room that had glass windows that somehow looked like something off of a pirate ship:

And being Me I had to see what it would look like to shoot through that glass, lol!

It rained all day so I had to take a photo of that too … but it was still super fun to walk around the city!

We had coffee at the New York hotel – the place where the large cruise ship used to leave from – across the harbor from the boat. Their coffee was fantastic! Really strong and rich but at the same time sweet not bitter. I wish coffee places in America served it this tasty!

After walking in the rain for most of the morning and early afternoon we headed back to my cousin’s place where she showed me some family documents and photos! Old letters written between my grandparents:

One thing that I found really interesting was my grandmother’s WWII pass card which every Dutch citizen had to carry. Really cool to hold it and try to realize what it must have been like to live in an occupied country. Really scary I would think.

It’s been so fun visiting family again! Totally enjoyed my day! Thank you cousin!!! : )


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Day 7 – Touring Utrecht with the family!

Easter Sunday the whole Dutch family got together to tour Utrecht an old beautiful city!  The city center is full of canals and restaurants, which reminded me of the San Antonio Texas river walk, only more sophisticated. 

My Aunt arranged a  canal boat tour which was really interesting. More fun than the Amsterdam canal tour that we went on 10 years ago!

It was the first real sunshine we’ve had on our vacation so far, and I think the locals were enjoying it as well!

Unfortunately by the time our tour was done the gray skies were back. BUT Utrecht is so gorgeous it doesn’t need blue skies to make it romantic and interesting! You’ll notice the empty street in the photo below (on the right) … because it was Easter Sunday all the shops were closed so it was really quiet everywhere. Actually the empty streets made nice for photos and easier visiting with the family!

We walked all around the city, exploring little alleys and neat old church gardens:

The main focus of the city revolves around Domkerk and Domtoren- the largest church tower in the Netherlands. It has amazing  Architecture!

The photo on the left below is of the floor; old gravestones from the 1300-1800’s all worn smooth from so many people walking on top of the stones over the centuries.

We actually got to climb 465 steps to the very top of the tower. Let’s just say the stone steps become narrower and narrower, and the spiral at the top is so tight and steep you feel yourself starting to panic that you are going to fall down all the steps and take the whole tour group with you. SCARY!!! The view on top was quite spectacular though – until I realized I’d have to do DOWN those 465 steps again, lol!

You’ll notice the church has one brick wall that shows where the section between the tower and church collapsed in the 1600’s. It was a poorly built section because they ran out of funds to finish the church, so it was built with wood instead of stone.  Instead of rebuilding they decided to make a courtyard between the church and tower.

Safely back at the bottom! It boggles my mind that this tower – started in the 1300’s, is 400 + years older than my country!! Sooo bizarre.

After our tour we ate Pannekoeken at one of the canal restaurants and enjoyed some really good family time! I personally like the Pannekoek met Spek (ham) and Stroop (a type of dutch syrup that tastes very different than american syrup). Yum!! I was so hungry I forgot to take a photo of the meal, which is too bad since it is so very Dutch.

Well, that’s it for today, more posts as I find internet. ; )

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Day 4-5 in the Netherlands | Grocery shopping and Aalsmeer flower auction

Day 4 in the Netherlands. A quieter day since we had spent the day before walking and traveling around Amsterdam. We also needed some more groceries and wanted to spend some quality time with family. The grocery carts in the Netherlands are locked together, so you have to put one Euro coin in to receive the cart. Then when you finish shopping you lock it back in line and get your coin back.

One strange thing we noticed in the grocery store: Ketchup and Mayo in toothpaste style tubes!

It takes about 3 times as long to do any grocery shopping because everything looks different and has Dutch labels. For example their yogurt is kept in jugs that look like our paper milk cartons. But their milk is also in those cartons. And their pudding. And their juice. So you have to really read the labels to know if you are getting yogurt, milk, whipping cream, or pudding because the jugs look alike! And since it’s written in Dutch it is slower to read everything. You wonder around the grocery store like an idiot for an hour to buy 15 items. ; )

After our grocery adventure we biked over to my Aunt’s house to have coffee, tea, and dinner with the family. Super fun!

Back at the cabin unloading the goodies! The Dutch have several things that we don’t in America, so we often eat too much here!!

Our cabin is owned by my Aunt,  its been so nice to have a place to stay! My sis and I are sharing a room that is about 5 foot by 7 foot and has 2 narrow beds. Totally tiny but perfect for us! I’ll share more photos of the place later. I just liked this image mom took of us getting ready for bed. ; )

Day 5 The Aalsmeer Flower Auction

My dad has a cousin Jopie who is married to  Jaap who used to work at the largest flower auction house in the world. So we called him up and he was able to give us an inside tour of the place. We even got to go into the auction room and down on the floor where tourists aren’t normally allowed to go!  We were a bit on the late side for the auction since it was an hour drive from Driebergen to Aalsmeer. Also my Aunt’s car could only hold five so my Dad and cousin went by train – but the train track had an issue so they were an hour late arriving. But we got into the Auction just in time to see the last carts go through…

The Dutch auction system is backwards from the American system. Instead of bidding up, they bid down. So the clock in the middle shows the price and it keeps dropping until someone bids. The first one to bid gets the lot. So the game is to try to bid as low as possible but still be the first to hit the button!

After the bidding all the carts are then sorted and sent to the correct truck for shipment – or to another room where smaller flower shop owners can buy smaller quantities.

The purple flowers below are in a special room where the quality of the different growers is tested. A flower will be taken from each grower at random on random days and tested to see how long it stays fresh. Only the best quality growers are allowed to participate in the Aalsmeer market.

After our tour we went to Jopie and Jaap’s house for lunch. Below it’s my brother and sister, Jopie, me, Jaap, and my Aunt and Cousin. My mom and Dad got in another photo but I liked how my Aunt and Jaap were laughing in this one. ; )

On the way home my Aunt took us the scenic route through little villages. So fun!

Typical dutch farm. Canals and fields!

I’m not sure when I’ll find internet again but I’ll do my best to update you again soon!


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