Sunday, May 15, 2016

Flower Power Happy Hour

The real reason my father and stepmother wanted to venture back to Amsterdam was a desire to tiptoe in the springtime tulips... Well, I suppose my father would not have put it that way, but the flowers were certainly the main event. One of the easiest ways to frolic from Amsterdam is to head off to Keukenhof gardens, an easy bus ride from town. We grabbed a coffee from a local shop en route to the train station, then spent our afternoon milling about the blissful bulbs.

While Keukenhof is certainly a tourist extravaganza, not unlike many a well-known theme park, I would absolutely recommend it to fellow travelers. The gardens are glorious, the blossoms are bountiful, and it allows for a stunning landscape to feast upon all day. We viewed ponds and lakes, winding trails and windmills. My one regret was that we weren't readily able to witness the endless rows of budding tulips so popular in postcards and Dutch propaganda. It seems we were already a little late in the season to see a vast variety of rainbow stripes in the field adjoining the gardens, but we were at least able to look upon one vibrant red stripe piercing the distant scenery. I suspect if we had had more time, a nice car ride further into the country would have satisfied our craving for floral sustenance. Even still, it was a day well worth spending.

When we finally got back to Amsterdam, our next stop was to visit the Heineken factory, or rather, the Heineken EXPERIENCE. Nowadays, most large alcohol companies seem to set up "experiences" to learn about liquor, taste its delights, and pay a pretty penny for entry and gift shop purchases. I suppose we fell into the trap of tourism, but it was a fun time nonetheless. After a generally unguided tour around the factory, including some explanation of brewing methods, live horses in the stable, and a very strange cyber-experience wherein which we had to pretend we were molecules of beer while standing on a vibrating platform, we were finally able to access our free half-pints. In theory, they give you one glass during the tour, and two little buttons that gift you two more tastes at the bar. In reality, it is incredibly easy to find extra buttons on the floor, be given them by other less alcoholic visitors, and/or just take extra beers when the bartenders aren't looking. Since the Lewonczyks are fairly notorious for alcoholic consumption, our happy hour turned happier by the minute.

At long last, we moved on to our dinner plans for the evening. We had done a very good job of locating dinner reservations at a Dutch restaurant that evening, so as to avoid our epic fail the night before. The restaurant was very cozy, the waitstaff delightfully friendly, and the food warm and scrumptious. It was an abundantly successful day in Amsterdam, ending in a twilight stroll back to our hotel. The next day we engaged in last minute shopping after I had brunch with friends I had met in other parts of the world. The bad news was that I had to leave earlier than my father and stepmother did. The good news? Well, I will be back in the States in less then a week!

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