Thursday, April 17, 2014

Day 8: Waffling Over Belgian Waffles

Part of the fun of this trip is keeping things pretty unscheduled, and making plans as interesting things crop up.  Before leaving the hostel yesterday, the “concierge” (that IS an over-statement) recommended Keukenhof Gardens – the crown of the Dutch Tulip Festival. A flower garden?  I don’t know…could that really compare with a windmills tour?  Paul echoed the words of the receptionist at the hostel – Keukenhof is a “must-see”. (Paul, himself, had been there just the week earlier.)  Guess those are the plans for the afternoon, on the way back to Amsterdam.  Before leaving Utrecht, though, there was a canal cruise of a different sort waiting.

A few minutes by bike away from Paul’s place, there’s a place that rents kayaks for cruising the Utrecht canal system.  Instead of heading into the city and examining the urban canal system, we headed the other direction to enjoy the Dutch countryside. What a perfect day to be out in picturesque countryside!

Pancakes for lunch, at the side of the canal:

Leveraging the Wifi in the bus to Keukenhof, I found an overnight train from Amsterdam to Luxemburg. (Ha! Trip Advisor said it couldn’t be done!) I know I’ll have to come back to visit Germany, perhaps Belgium should be added to that trip?  The overnight train straight to Luxemburg means I can stay in Amsterdam until Friday, and still see the quintessentially Dutch windmills! I was trying to book the train when the bus arrived and I lost my Wifi.  On the to-do list for later…

Keukenhof is gorgeous!

I haven't been to the Sex Museum yet, but the middle of that moth looks a little phallic to me...

1.5 million bulbs make up the gardens here that are at their prime in mid-April. (Woot!) The hundred thousand or so that Holland sends to Ottawa each year suddenly seems a little less impressive… The tulip farms around Keukenhof are stunning in their own right.   Solid bands of yellow, red, pink, and purple tulips, largely farmed for export. Holland supplies 60% of the world’s tulip and daffodil bulbs.  This is quite the evolution since Charles de l'Ecuse, who introduced the tulip to Holland.

Back in Amsterdam, I looked up that overnight train to Luxemburg again.  Oh……..maybe Trip Advisor was right.  The “overnight” train has a five hour stopover in Brussels….starting at midnight.  Glad I didn’t book that! Ok, looks like it’ll be a crunch to get both the windmills tour and the train to Luxemburg done in one day, but it’s attainable.  I hope Luxemburg is easy to navigate at 10pm!

Wandering back through Amsterdam (it really is getting to feel like "home" in an odd way), I noticed for the first time that Amsterdam, too, has doors that open right onto the canal.  I guess you have to be creative for your front stoop:

Tonight’s hotel overlooks Sarphati Park in Amsterdam, I love this neighbourhood. I consider it a perk that it is outside of the "alcohol" area.

(Opposing sides of the same pole.)

When I’m traveling in Canada or the US, I use Hotwire to book my hotels, and I tend to stay in four or five star places.  Even through Hotwire and, accommodations are so expensive in Amsterdam that I’ve been staying in two and three star places (and that hostel…).  Clean and basic, they work just fine for me.  Tonight’s hotel was an exceptional deal, and the late arrival at said hotel meant that the room was upgraded.  Absolute luxury!  Well….on closer inspection, the paint was peeling, the tub was scratched, the floor was a little damaged…. Regular price for this room?  300 euros per night.

In the spirit of my earlier quotations for your enjoyment:

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