Saturday, June 13, 2015

Excesses and more....

In Amsterdam, the weather was sunny, but cool. In fact, most of northern Europe was having a very cold Spring. Would this mean that I could still see the famous tulip fields in bloom? Although a late Spring may have prolonged the tulip season, Dutch precision determined that the massive Keukenhof tulip park would close, as scheduled, May 17. Alas, we arrived May 23. I always believe, though, that there is a reason to have missed a place or an event. It means that you have to come back!!

Everlasting tulips

As a result, we had to content ourselves with the extensive flower market in the centre of Amsterdam. Here you could buy tulips in almost any colour and composition, including wood, plastic, paper etc. They were displayed as fresh bunches, colourful fridge magnets, place mats, trivets, the list goes on.

Real tulips
In addition to tulips everywhere, there were also the iconic wooden shoes. I saw them as key chains, actual shoes, giant clogs, bicycles and even as a boat in one of the canals.

Not every bicycle was a wooden shoe, however, there would not have been enough room in the streets. I think that Holland's motto should be "Why walk when you can ride a bike!" Cycling is clearly a way of life in The Netherlands. You go to work, do your shopping, give someone a lift, even take your kids to school, on a bike. In fact, I saw one hearty mother with a young child on the handle bars, another on the cross bar and a third straddling the panniers behind - whew!! If you happen to have more than three children, you pile them in a bin that looks like a wheel barrow at the front of the bike and peddle on. No one wears a helmet and no one, it seems, complains!!

Finally, I have to mention the cheese shops. Where the rest of Europe has fruit stands, Holland has cheese shops, each one striving to out do the other. I have never seen so many cheese wheels. Gouda - pronounced "howda" with a hack to the H - is the mother of all cheeses, in Holland anyway. It's greened with pesto, reddened with tomato, freckled with caraway, spiced with chutneys and served in a myriad of shapes and sizes. It can be sliced, diced, melted, grated, you name it. In fact unless you knew it began as a humble wheel, you would never recognize it, in its many transformations. Oh, and did I mention, it's delicious!!

More tomorrow - have a great day!!

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