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Europe 2012 - Netherlands at Tulip Time

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The Netherlands at Tulip Time

We arrived at Rotterdam Europort after a calm overnight crossing from Hull, and soon found ourselves caught up in the busy motorway ring road. Eventually we made it to Delft for a short break, then on to Noordwijk Strand for a brief windblasted stroll along the prom, and on to the pre-booked campsite at Noordwijkhout, just inland and sheltered by the dunes. We had planned to be there for the Flower Festival weekend, and as we were within walking distance of the town centre were able to see the evening torchlight parade of decorated floats, before the main event on the Saturday. The procession of some 50 massive floats covered in flowers, accompanied by bands, wends its way from Noordwijk to Harlem, via Keukenhof Gardens, about 40 kilometres, taking all day with a couple of breaks. Dodging the occasional heavy showers, we drove to Sessenheim, one of the small towns on the well signposted route, and found a good vantage point for the morning.

flower parade 4

flower parade 3
Flower Parade 2012
flower parade 2

flower parade 4

flowr parade 6

flower parade 2

The next day we drove into Leiden, where there was free parking on a Sunday until 1pm, and walked around the old city centre, with its canals and historic buildings. We returned to the campsite via the many colourful bulbfields, then walked across the dunes through a nature reserve to a deserted sandy beach.

A visit to Keukenhof Gardens is essential and they were at their best, despite the crowds and occasional rain showers. As well as the magnificent beds of tulips, the gardens had much of interest, including many modern sculptures, an old windmill, show gardens, and flower arrangements and displays in the indoor pavilions. We had bought entrance tickets in advance but queued to buy a parking ticket, then discovered we could have bought it at any time during our visit as it operated a pay on exit system. There were a few rows allocated for motorhomes but no overnight parking was allowed.
Leiden old building

Keukenhof flowerbed
Floral displays outdoor . . .

Daffodil display keukenhof
. . . and indoor arrangements

Keukenhof show garden
and a show garden with sauna

The next morning, we headed north on the main road through Haarlem, but met a long traffic holdup, so turned towards Amsterdam then realised we would have to cross a wide ship canal. Luckily there was a vehicle ferry by an industrial estate which enabled us to get back to the motorway near Alkmaar. As we needed to get some food we drove through the town centre, but didn't find any supermarkets except a small Lidl on a housing estate, so we continued north and crossed the  Afsluitdijk, almost dead straight, 30 kilometres long, dyke which separates the Waddenzee from the inland Ijsselmeer, stopping at  the viewing tower where there were display panels explaining the massive feat of engineering, completed in 1933, to reclaim a vast area and protect much of the Netherlands from flooding.

Now heading east we reached the town of Leeuwarden in Friesland, and turned off through the flat and almost treeless fields to the small town of Dokkum, where we stopped overnight at a small campsite within a short walk of the old town centre, with traditional buildings lining the canal.

Typical half thatched house in Friesland
Friesland typical half thatched house

Dutch bulbfields


Tulips at Koekenhoh gardens
Tulips at keukenhof

Keukenhof modern sculpture
Keukenhof modern sculpture

Afsluid dyke  30km long
Afsluitdijk separating Waddenzee and Ijsselmeer

Dokkum canal

Dokkum in Frieseland


We left  the campsite early the next morning, and drove through several small towns, where there were many half thatched and tiled houses. We then took the ring road around Groningen, and the motorway towards the German border and Papenburg.