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.
The CIEE group after cupcakes and coffee
A ranunculus greenhouse!
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.
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!
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).
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!