Despite changeable weather we chose to cycle to Keukenhof, the 79 acre site which opens for 8 weeks annually, to showcase the products of bulb growers and flower producers in the region.
The joy of Dutch cycle networks is they generally take you away from main roads. We cycled out of Leiden, along the river and past some fantastic houseboats and houses .
Then we were out in the Tulip fields although Narcissus and Hyacinths were putting on the best show and, despite relatively cool temperatures, hyacinth scent was strong in the air.
We made an unscheduled stop at De Tulperij, a grower of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and dahlias. Although along a narrow road, it’s a local attraction. There was a spotless, barn divided into a clean orderly work area and a beautifully decorated cafe. You can walk around their growing fields and order bulbs for autumn delivery. It was a fantastic find and we felt obliged to stop for a cuppa and homemade apple cake.
On to Keukenhof, Ken had last been there 30 years ago and was amazed by its transformation. The rest of us has nothing to compare and simply thought the entrance looked new and smart.
Both gardens and flower displays were stunning. It was a few weeks early for tulips to be at their best and it looks like there will be azalea displays too. Layered bulb planting was meticulously planned and there was plenty of colour to keep us occupied. Flower pavilions around the site were equally engrossing. Our photos really don’t do it justice.
On our way back to Leiden, we took a detour into Lisse to visit the Museum of the Black Tulip. It was a lovely little museum, tracing the history of the Tulip from China to the Netherlands in the 16th century to the present day and the Novacap floralis scandal – now that’s something for you to Google.
We learned about bulb glasses and crocus bowls as well as how bulb growing and harvesting has developed over the centuries. Finally, in 1850 Alexander Dumas wrote ‘The Black Tulip’, a successful novel telling a story about the battle for a black tulip which was often believed to be true. We knew better from our Keukenhof visit.
Our ride back to Leiden was into a headwind with the odd smattering of rain. It was hard work and a relief to get back to the hotel.
We have an early start tomorrow and, fingers crossed, it will be a straightforward trip home.