Tiptoe through the tulips
Holland is at it’s most beautiful in the spring when the tulips bloom in a rainbow of colours.
By Marc Atchison
LISSE, THE NETHERLANDS — Holland looks good any time of the year but it’s especially beautiful in the spring when the national flower, the tulip, blooms in a rainbow of colours and blankets farmers’ fields and gardens throughout this incredible land. The Dutch celebrate the annual event with festivals and parades but to truly see the tulip in all its glory, a trip to this flower capital, located about an hour outside Amsterdam, is what’s really required. That’s because this is the home of the Keukenhof gardens, one of the most beautiful of its kind on the planet.
On the final leg of my Eurail train trip through France, Spain and Italy, which ended in Amsterdam, I joined tourists from around the world and went to see millions of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and other bulb flowers that have poked their heads up through Keukenhof’s fertile landscape — the breathtaking Kodak moments this place provides amazes everyone.
“I come see the tulips right from the (Schiphol) airport,” a young Chinese tourist, still clutching her suitcase, tells me even before she’s checked into her Amsterdam hotel. “My mother tells me to get lots of pictures and send her pictures of the tulips,” she continues before disappearing into a throng of tourists. The annual tulip event draws over a million visitors to the lavish gardens that are spread over 32 lush hectares. Over 7 million tulips were planted around Keukenhof for this year’s festival and when the 800 varieties bloom, they create a magical carpet of colours that looks like a painter’s palette.
Keukenhof is blessed with lots of fountains, lakes, a working windmill and the unique artwork featured by local artists makes this a great place to spend an entire day. Amsterdam’s annual Tulip Festival will also be in full bloom throughout April and the beginning of May and many private gardens will be accessible during this time so visitors can marvel at their wonderful collection of bulbs.
One of the best tulip displays will be in the garden of Amsterdam’s hottest hotel, the 5-Star Waldorf Astoria, which is located in six UNESCO World Heritage-protected canal homes on the Gentlemen’s Canal.
The incredibly chic Waldorf Astoria has planted thousands tulip bulbs in its lovely gardens, which can be seen from its elevated lobby area or its chic restaurants. A visit to the Keukenhof Gardens and a stay at the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam is the perfect way to celebrate spring and you can be sure your room will be decorated with lots of tulips.
The Keukenhof spring garden show runs annually. For more information, go to www.keukenhof.nl
The Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam can arrange a private visit to Keukenhof. To check out availability and rates at this incredible property, go to www.hilton.com/amsterdam/ For information on Amsterdam’s Tulip Festival go to www.tulpfestival.com/about/ Getting to Keukenhof from downtown Amsterdam is easy – just take a train from the city’s historic Central Station to Schiphol Airport where you can catch a bus to the gardens for about $15.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines offers daily flights to Amsterdam from Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton. Go to klm.com to find out fares and schedules. For tourist information on Holland, go to www.holland.com/
There’s no better way to get around Europe than by train and Eurail Group and its many partners make the experience seamless and fun for tourists, depositing them in the centre of all major cities and close to the major attractions. Eurail has many affordable options available so check them out at www.eurailgroup.org/railplanner
Marc Atchison is a veteran journalist and a seasoned traveller with more than 20 years of travel writing experience. As the former Travel Editor of the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest newspaper, and now Editor-in-Chief and Senior Writer for TraveLife magazine and travelife.ca, Marc has been to over 100 countries in the world.