Text & photos by Matt Rees
Whether visitor or resident, there is a sight in the Netherlands that has to be seen to be believed. At their most enjoyable in spring they are best seen by bicycle, so take the time to visit one of the wonders of the Netherlands; Lisse, its tulip fields and the gardens of Keukenhof.
Transferring from train to bicycle at Leiden (other stations are available) our trip to Lisse began. Whilst much of the route was a simple exercise in following the signs, the final part was used by one sense alone, that of smell. No need for signs or maps when hunting out the flora, as before being greeted with the multitude of colours of the fields, your senses will be filled with the delicious scents of hyacinths and narcissus in full bloom.
Once in Lisse just pick a direction and cycle, it will be hard to miss the beauty of the fields and the picture postcard images they provide. Cycling in between the narrow tracks amongst the flowers will not be possible, but you can cycle around them or leave your trusty two wheels aside for a walk through.
Whilst the “hosts of golden daffodils” have a fairly short season, the beauty and colour of the tulips is longer lasting. From field to field and row to row you cannot quite believe the sights that lie in front of you. You will have to remind yourself that the perfect rainbow stripes of tulips, stretching for as far as the eye can see, are in fact real and not a painting or child’s drawing.
If you want to make sure you see the best of the region, a map of the Keukenhof Cycle Route is available, for free, from holland-cycling.com. Here a recommended route of 38 or 31 km is given guaranteeing that you will get to see the landscape in its full colourful glory.
No trip to Lisse would be complete without a trip to the world renowned Keukenhof, bicycles not allowed. The gardens have come a long way since they were the kitchen garden of Jacoba van Beieren in the 15th Century to what they are now; one of the top attractions in the Netherlands. Every year some 7 million bulbs are planted for the 8 weeks that the park is open; with a wealth of knowledge and some careful planning the gardeners ensure that flowers are guaranteed for the duration.
With careful separation from shrubs and more long standing foliage, every corner you take will guide you into another picturesque setting. From rivers of bluebells winding their way through beds of tulips to mosaics of famous images and landscapes all sculpted by the only medium available, flowers. Actual river banks that flow throughout the park are covered in the strangest but most beautiful looking flowers alongside glass houses full of orchids and the less weather hardy of the parks prize possessions.
You will come away with a newfound respect for that vase of tulips sitting on your table and wonder that nature (with a little help) can create such beauty.
Want to see more pictures from our day out and about? Plenty are available on our Pinterest board.
Whilst there are no hard and fast rules where the flowering season is concerned it usually follows that crocus flower from the middle of March, daffodils and narcissi from the end of March to the middle of April. These are then followed in mid-April with early tulips and hyacinths; finally it’s time for the late tulips.
In Lisse, aside from agreed excursions please take care when venturing into the fields. This is privately owned land and should be respected as such.
Keukenhof Opening Dates
2014: 20 March – 18 May
2015: 20 March – 17 May
May is May Bike Month.