After the excitement of the Bedminster Secret Gardens open day last Sunday, it’s nice to be visiting someone else’s garden, as opposed to having hundreds of people visiting mine! Keukenhof is the garden we’ll be visiting; it’s a bit larger than mine, which is probably a very good thing at there will be thousands of others inside it with us.
Keukenhof is the finest spring garden in the Netherlands – in fact in Europe. The garden is only open between March and May and it’s open to show off the thousands of spring bulbs at their best. Situated just outside Lisse, the gardens are at the heart of the Netherlands bulb district of Bollenstreek (which translates to ‘bulb region’). The gardens were created to help bulb growers show off their products to the world. It must have been a success as the gardens attract nearly a million foreign visitors a year – and given that its only open for three months is pretty impressive.
Mike looking very Dutch with his orange coat and orange dog in the centre of Lisse
The quiet little town Lisse with a population of just over 22,000 people, suddenly becomes the centre of the Dutch tourist industry every spring. Hundreds of coaches full of tourists arrive each day. Of course Lisse now appears to be well-prepared for this horticultural invasion. All the shops in town decorate their windows for the event and planters are beautifully filled with spring delights.
Most visitor appear to arrive and leave on the same day, but some – like us – choose to stay locally. It’s fair to say that Lisse much makes the most of it’s one big asset – as well as visiting the gardens, it’s possible to hire a bike (painted orange of course) and ride around a special route to see the bulb fields. If the weather isn’t good there is the black tulip museum where the history of the tulip is explored. If retail therapy is more your sort of thing then you can always go shopping for, er… bulbs. Whether it’s at pop up stall along the roadside or in the local Aldi, bulbs are for sale everywhere.
Adjacent to the gardens is the Keukenhof forest, a beautiful woodland that is cris-crossed with paths. The forest is the perfect place to exercise an energetic ‘hond’. Although the signs say ‘dogs must be kept on leads’ all the local dog walkers we saw jut ignored this (don’t you just love the Dutch?!). So, as the saying goes: ‘when in the Netherlands… do as the Dutch do! Zoly was very appreciative of this civil disobedience and was zooming and whizzing around the forest paths like a demon.
The soil in this area is very sandy (perfect for bulb growing), so underfoot it feels a bit like being on the beach – and Zoly loves the beach, it’s so good for exfoliating the paws!
After the forest we called into the Keukenhof gardens information office to plan our trip to the gardens tomorrow. The women at the desk spoke perfect English and was incredibly helpful. She advised on the quietest times to visit and confirmed that provided we get ‘stamped’ on our way out tomorrow, we can come and go as many times as we like in the same day. So with tomorrow’s plans sorted we wandered back into Lisse, wandered around the pretty town centre, picked up a pizza and headed back to our hotel where we have very nice apartment suite with a lounge, kitchenette, large bedroom, bathroom and walk in closet (I should have packed more clothes!). We’re now fed and watered and ready for an early night to prepare ourselves for a full-on day of tulip mania tomorrow.