Spring in Holland….

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Spring in Holland

From the time we are small children, most of us associate tulips and wooden shoes with Holland. For the tulips alone Holland is worth visiting.  But there is SO much more to make a trip to Holland worthwhile!

Amazing Amsterdam

Amsterdam is such a beautiful city. Different than almost any city you will ever see, with few buildings taller than 4 stories. The buildings are lined up along the canals, and the architecture is so quaint and stunning in its simplicity.

We tied a 5 night stay in Amsterdam into another trip we had planned to West Africa.  Two VERY different places, two very different experiences, believe me!  But, we decided that on the way to our West African cruise we would take some time to “stop and smell the flowers.” So, that is exactly what we did!

There is a reason that First Class cost so much! Your own little "pod", Champagne or Mimosa in a real glass) before take off, a real pillow and a chair that turns into a bed.....Yep. A reason for First Class!

There is a reason that First Class cost so much! Your own little “pod”, Champagne or Mimosa in a real glass) before take off, a real pillow and a chair that turns into a bed…..Yep. A reason for First Class!

We had a flight that would get us into Amsterdam in the early morning hours.  Our hotel was The Grand Amsterdam Hotel. When we arrived they accommodated us checking into our  room by mid-morning, so that we could get settled before starting our sight-seeing. What a fabulous, and history rich hotel!  It was a convent in the 15th century, then housed royalty for a period of time before becoming City Hall for nearly a century.

The hotel we stayed in was beautiful, and they had amazing flower arrangements everywhere. I look a bit like a homeless woman, because it was quite a bit colder than I was expecting while we were there, and we were going on to 16 days in Africa, where the weather was really hot, so my combinations werent going to win any fashion awards!

The hotel we stayed in was beautiful, and they had amazing flower arrangements everywhere. I look a bit like a homeless woman, because it was quite a bit colder than I was expecting while we were there, and we were going on to 16 days in Africa, where the weather was really hot, so my combinations weren’t going to win any fashion awards!

From the minute you pull through the entry gate you feel the elegance and attention to detail.  The hotel is built around a courtyard, and in the middle of the courtyard is an antique cart, which was laden with tulips. Throughout the hotel were beautiful flower arrangements, cozy little sitting areas, terraces and gardens to enjoy, a lovely restaurant to enjoy breakfast or lunch and so much more.

Part of the lovely display in the courtyard entry to The Grand Amsterdam Hotel where we stayed.

Part of the lovely display in the courtyard entry to The Grand Amsterdam Hotel where we stayed.

This replica of The Grand Amsterdam Hotel was ceramic and part of the display out in the entry courtyard.

This replica of The Grand Amsterdam Hotel was made from ceramic and tile, and part of the display out in the entry courtyard. It was just gorgeous!

Since there was so much rich history in our hotel alone, we took a tour of the hotel one morning with one of the hotel employees. We got to see so much more of the hotel than we would have been able to without the tour! It was well worth our time! We got to see a small “chapel” with some of the most beautiful stained glass windows you have ever seen! Everything in the room was designed to continue the stories from the bible which were symbolized in the windows.

Our hotel had quite a bit of interesting history. It had been a convent for many years, then was the City Hall. These windows were part of an original chapel and all represent biblical stories. It was really stunningly beautiful!

Our hotel had quite a bit of interesting history. It had been a convent for many years, then was the City Hall. These windows were part of an original chapel and all represent biblical stories. It was really stunningly beautiful!

The whole hotel recently went through a freshening up, and I would recommend it to anyone traveling to Amsterdam. There wasn’t a detail overlooked in the whole hotel.   The Grand Amsterdam is only blocks from The Red Light District. Don’t let this little fact concern you however!  In America we would assume The Red Light District to be seedy and dangerous.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  Soon after our return from Amsterdam I wrote an article on their Red Light District.  I invite you to check it out here if you missed it!  

Live and Let Live!

The whole city of Amsterdam has the basic attitude that what you do is your business, what I do is my business.  There is very little crime, (beyond bicycle thefts- they are rampant!) and I felt very safe the whole time we were there. We were actually told that Holland has closed down a number of their prisons, because crime is so low there.

Pots of flowers are throughout the city, in plant boxes across canals and in large containers along the streets. It is just beautiful!

It’s funny, isn’t it that the first thing EVERYONE seems to ask about the beautiful city of Amsterdam is if you went to the Red Light District……..  That says a little something about Americans! To answer the question, Yes, of course we checked out the Red Light District, our first day there.  It is very interesting, to say the least.  My favorite part of the area was a dress shop I saw the first evening, which carried beautiful “vintage style” clothing, most specifically, the 50’s type of swing dresses that I love to dance in.  Let’s just say, after we visited there the next day, another suitcase had to be implemented for the rest of the trip!

Patti in front of some of the windows in the Red Light District. You may not take pictures of any of the women if they are in the windows. The police will get involved and you will lost your camera!

Patti in front of some of the windows in the Red Light District. You may not take pictures of any of the women if they are in the windows. The police will get involved and you will lost your camera! The “closed curtain” means that the lady is currently “occupied” and unavailable at that time.

Playing Tourist in Amsterdam

You will find Amsterdam has a little something for everyone! There are numerous fascinating museums, including the famous Anne Frank house, the Van Gogh Museum , Rijksmuseum, and many more.  We were unable to get into the Anne Frank house.  It is very small, and tickets were sold out nearly 4 months before our trip for the time we were there! I was really disappointed! So my big tip for you, if you plan to go to Amsterdam, get your ticket FAR in advance!

There are a number of companies that do boat tours through the canals.  It is well worthwhile to take one of them.  You get to see the lovely architecture that Amsterdam is so famous for, you go right by the Anne Frank house and many of the other attractions you wouldn’t want to miss, and can’t cover by foot. The one we took stopped a few times and let you get off and take photos.

This photo is a perfect synopsis of Amsterdam. The beautiful 3 and 4 story architecture, the canal and bikes pretty much sum up most of what Amsterdam is made up of..... the only thing really missing are the beautiful flowers, the Red Light District and the "Coffee Houses!

This photo is a perfect synopsis of Amsterdam. The beautiful 3 and 4 story architecture, the canal and bikes pretty much sum up most of what Amsterdam is made up of….. the only thing really missing are the beautiful flowers, the Red Light District and the “Coffee Houses!

Dam Square is another famous site in Amsterdam and it  houses the Royal Palace, still in use today.  Free Walking Tours are available, but you need to try to book early, or you may not be accommodated. There is quite a lot to see around the square, so it is well worthwhile!

What many people aren’t aware of in Amsterdam is how many BIKES there are everywhere!  There are actually many more bikes than there are people in Amsterdam, and there are multilevel parking structures throughout the city where only bikes are parked! It’s quite a site to see so many bikes in one place!

When we think of Holland, one of the first things most everyone thinks of is Tulips! As I said, there are flowers throughout the city, but if you REALLY want to see masses of tulips and spring bulb  flowers, you’ll need to take a little trip outside the city.

This picture is a great example of how much the shape and size of tulips can vary!

This picture is a great example of how much the shape and size of tulips can vary!

Keukenhof Gardens

Two fabulous places are the Flower Auctions or the Keukenhof Gardens. Don’t even THINK of visiting without going to Keukenhof if it is in season!  It is EVERYTHING you would expect, and then some! I could literally post hundreds of photos of the different flowers we got to experience while we were there!

Explaining Keukenhof is nearly impossible. Every year they plant more than 7 MILLION bulbs, and the flower beds are laid out differently each and every year.  There are over 800 different types of tulips alone in the gardens. Who could imagine that tulips could come in so man different shapes, sizes, colors and textures? There are, in addition to the flowerbeds, buildings that house new species of tulips, and specialty flowers,–such as Orchids.  Keukenhof is truly spectacular, to say the least.

There was a whole building, just for Orchids. They had displays in there that were probably 25 feet high!

There was a whole building, just for Orchids. They had displays in there that were probably 25 feet high!

We took a seat for a moment in one of the buildings where the new species of tulips are displayed. You can't begin to cover the Keukenhof in one day!

We took a seat for a moment in one of the buildings where the new species of tulips are displayed. You can’t begin to cover the Keukenhof in one day!

This woman was supposed to represent a character from a well known Dutch child's book. Her costume was just beautiful!

This woman was supposed to represent a character from a well known Dutch child’s book. Her costume was just beautiful!

 

The darker purple flowers looked just like our Iris', but they were only about 5 or 6" tall. Their name plates, however, said they were a type of TULIP! They looked exactly like short Iris' to my untrained eye!

The darker purple flowers looked just like our Iris’, but they were only about 5 or 6″ tall. Their name plates, however, said they were a type of TULIP! They looked exactly like short Iris’ to my untrained eye!

“Old Holland”

Another lovely day trip, which I would highly recommend to anyone is to go to “Old Holland.”  The small villages of Marken and Volendam are quaint and charming, and give you a real taste of what it might have been like many years ago, with the windmills, cheese factories and wooden shoes still being made by hand.  My only complaint with the tour we took is there just wasn’t enough time to take in all of the villages, and what they had to offer! I truly wished I could have set our own pace to see the different lifestyle that is still a part of Old Holland.

We got to see firsthand how wooden shoes were, and still are, hand made. In Old Holland we actually saw a few of the villagers still wearing them.

We got to see firsthand how wooden shoes were, and still are, hand made. In Old Holland we actually saw a few of the villagers still wearing them.

We got to tour a few of the old windmills, some which are still being used today.

We got to tour a few of the old windmills, some which are still being used today.

This was in front of one of the charming homes in Volendam.

This was in front of one of the charming homes in Volendam.

Though we had 5 days in Amsterdam, we didn’t begin to see and do all that the area offered.  It would be easy to  stay for a month and feel as though it wasn’t long enough. I hardly touch the tip of the iceberg in this little article about Amsterdam. I could post enough photos, and give you so much more information that you would be reading for days!

I didn’t even discuss some of the fabulous food we had while we were there!  One evening we were just out strolling and stumbled upon a lovely restaurant in an alleyway.  It turned out to be a “locals favorite” and was both delicious and charming! There is just too much that is fabulous about this city!

If you plan to take a trip to Amsterdam, check out  this article about 50 things to see while you are there. They are all well worthwhile!

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