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2 posts from June 2013

06/27/2013

Flowers and castles: a CIEE adventure

I’d heard before arriving in Amsterdam that the Netherlands were known for their flowers. Why, then, had I seen so preciously few in my time thus far? I’ve experienced the euphoria that is Dutch cheese almost every day, but sometimes it seems that there isn’t a bulb to be found.

 The reason is, of course, that flowers grow better in fields, and you don’t find many fields in the middle of a city. So on sunny yet deceptively cold Saturday in April, CIEE took a group of us on what was apropriately titled the CIEE Flower Excursion.

 The day began with a trip to Annabel’s hometown of Heemskerk, a quaint little village to the Northwest of Amsterdam. After a quick breakfast of cupcakes and coffee, we trekked on over to a ranunculus nursery.  It was incredible to see greenhouse after greenhouse of flowers—like a leafy sea of green with dots of color scattered throughout.

Ciee flower excursion

The CIEE group after cupcakes and coffee

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 A ranunculus greenhouse!

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Ranunculus flowers, all packaged up and ready for the market!

 

After the ranunculus nursery, we headed on over to a nearby tulip farm, where we learned how tulips are produced, packaged, and sold (fun fact: the price of tulips changes every day, based on market demand!). As a thank you for our visit, our tour guide gave us all a bouquet of tulips for our rooms—so sweet!

For the next (and best) part of the day, we drove to an annual flower show in Marquette “Castle”—really more of an extravagant mansion. Annabel’s mother had helped organize the show and had some of her own designs on display. The flower arrangements were stunning—some of the most beautiful that I’ve ever seen. I found the area outside of the “castle” to be just as gorgeous—picture open fields and long lanes lined with trees. Outside a band was playing music. The day was idyllic; just how you would want to spend a Saturday.

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 A flower lady, just one of the cool flower displays at Marquette Castle

 

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 Marquette “Castle’s” backyard

 We took a break for lunch in a nearby second castle—this time a real, made-out-of-stone just-like-you’d-find-the-Middle-Ages castle. Annabel informed us that at one point there had been six castles in the area, but they had all started fighting and there were only two left. There were no knights to be found—just a StayOkay hostel and some amazing sandwiches!

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Lunch in a castle—just a casual Saturday with CIEE

After lunch we took the bus to Hillegom for an annual flower parade. Before the parade was scheduled to start, some friends and I wandered through the tiny town. It was quite reminiscent of small-town America, with the main difference being that small-town America is not filled which gorgeous canals. We found a secluded lane that meandered by some of the most beautiful houses I’ve seen, before practically stumbling across a field of purple tulips (and of course launched into an impromptu photo shoot).

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Nature, canals, and purple flowers: Three reasons why you have to come to the Netherlands

We arrived back at the parade route right as it was supposed to begin, but little did we know that when the schedule said the flower parade was supposed to start at 4:30, it actually meant “sometime after 5:15”. Unfortunately, we had to get back to Amsterdam, so we couldn’t stay. But despite that tiny setback, it had been an incredible day!

06/03/2013

CIEE goes to Church

Last Wednesday, several CIEE students had the pleasure of exploring the renovated buildings of Amsterdam. Having lived in Amsterdam for the past 4 months, we have had the opportunity to take in the many architectural cites. However, this tour focused on three renovated churches. These spaces are no longer places of worship, but open to the public to rent for parties, dinners, exhibitions, and more. They are beautifully preserved on the outside and in, and tastefully renovated on the inside to include modern amenities.

Posthoornkerk chase dana cato

We visited 3 churches in the city. Amstelkerk, is an original wooden church, now used as the offices for event planning, and space for events. The high beams are preserved and painted white, and the space is open and inviting. De Duif church, is a grand church with its original organ, stain glass features, and frescos in the walls. The final church, Posthoornkerk, is an incredible church. With a massive bell tower, beautiful courtyard, sleek modern offices, and even has a basement equipped with a bar and dancing room, this brick structure is incredible. If you are feeling ambitious, and don’t have a problem with heights or small, rickety stair ladders, climb the bell tower for the most spectacular view. This church is simply gorgeous, and you can experience the most beautiful 360 degrees view of Amsterdam.

Posthoornkerk uitzicht

De Duif