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Another Kind of Holland: Amsterdam and Keukenhof Gardens


Visiting Amsterdam and the Tulip Fields has been on my bucket list for years. Before I left home, my dad asked me where I would choose to travel outside of Ireland and I told him London, Edinburgh, and Amsterdam. Honestly, I’m still in shock writing this. I never imagined that my dreams really could come true.

So, come along with me on my final trip!

A Day in Amsterdam

In true Ryanair fashion, I woke up at 3 am to get to the airport, etc. As glad as I am that I no longer need to plan such ridiculous travel arrangements, I’m honestly really sad that this era is coming to an end. That said, this was the most obnoxious flight I have ever been on. An Irish stag party yelled across the plane for the entire flight. Meeting up with Kylie and Kalysta on the ground, we all exchanged looks, shaking our heads and chuckling. What else were we supposed to do?

Making it through customs, we did the best we could with public transportation, buying train tickets and hoping we ended up on the right train. It took us a bit but, eventually, we made it to our hostel, stored our bags, and hit the road. Combined, we created the navigation trifecta: Google Maps, Apple Maps, and CityMapper.

Amsterdam is STUNNING! Genuinely, it was magical to see blue sky and green leaves, to walk around without jackets and still be warm. First, we went to the Van Gogh Museum–Kalysta’s favorite artist. While there, we saw Van Gogh’s famous self-portraits, some of his letters, and gallery after gallery. When Kylie saw Van Gogh’s iris painting, she said it reminded her of me. I really have become known as the flower girl and I’m not mad about it.

Leaving the museum, we set out to wander the city. As a guide, we set the Anne Frank Huis as our destination, hoping to see the outside of the building. Over a month prior, we tried to buy tickets but they had already sold out. If you’re ever going to Amsterdam and this is something you want to see, set an alarm for the ticket drop and get on the website as fast as possible.

On the way, Kylie added a stop on her map: the bench Augustus Waters and Hazel Grace sit at in The Fault in Our Stars. It was only about 500 m away from us so we took off. Weaving through the canals, we managed to find it quickly. It’s entirely unassuming–no markers or anything, only a pin drop on the map. It’s tucked in a little neighborhood along a tree-lined canal. Naturally, we stopped and took some pictures.

We continued exploring the streets and taking pictures for the afternoon. At five, we took a canal cruise because it seemed the quintessential thing to do. It was a great way to see more of the city than we would have otherwise and a nice break from all the walking we’d been doing.

A Bucket List Moment: Keukenhof Gardens

I woke up the next morning giddy with excitement. This was the day I’d been waiting for since we booked this trip in January. I was finally going to see “Tulip Time”! The likelihood that I see Holland’s is slim because I’m always home for summer before it officially starts, so I couldn’t wait to go to the original.

But first, we had to eat breakfast, had to eat something that felt authentically Dutch while also having gluten-free options. Naturally, I chose Pancakes! Amsterdam. We were all very original and unique in choosing our meals… Just kidding– we all got apple and bacon pancakes. The Dutch style is more crepe-like which I personally prefer and it was delicious.

And, after another wander around Amsterdam’s canals, it was time to go to Keukenhof Gardens!!

I have never been anywhere so beautiful in my life. Walking through the gates, my jaw dropped. The blooms were in perfect condition, color dancing in the wind like something out of a movie. Except, this was real life. I wish I could have bottled the perfume of the flowers, captured their color forever. For hours, I didn’t stop smiling. Each time I turned a corner, the gardens became more and more beautiful.

As we wandered, we joked that we were in a fairy garden or that we were princesses. Despite the crowds, that’s what it felt like. Although tickets to the garden were entirely sold out, the crowd never felt oppressive. It was quiet and respectful, everyone in awe of the surrounding beauty.

We grabbed smoothies for lunch, sipping them whilst sitting on the vibrant green grass next to a patch of brilliant red tulips. We could see the windmill in the background which we were able to climb. Looking back at pictures from Holland, it was wild to see how similar images of Holland’s Tulip Time are to Keukenhof. Plus, I have a knew appreciation for our windmill having been inside this one.

I wish I could think of a better way to describe the portion of the gardens I saw. It’s hard to put into words the beauty of the blooms and really there isn’t much of a story to tell. Still, it’s a day I will cherish forever and always.

In a way, it reminded me of where I was at this time last year. My first Michigan winter was really hard, especially as a girl used to mild Tennessee winters. I was desperate for green, tired of being cold, and ready to go home.

And then the tulips began to bloom.

With those specks of color, everything changed and I felt like I found myself again. A year later, standing across the world and surrounded by the same blooms, I realized how far I’ve come.

Truly, this was the most “Anna” day possible. The sun was shining, the air was warm without being hot, there were flowers literally everywhere, and we ended the day with French fries from a school bus.

I could have spent a hundred years in the gardens and I will return one day. For now, though, it’s time to make the most of Dublin and embrace the nostalgia I’m feeling. Flying home from Amsterdam, it hit me that this was my last Ryanair flight, my last time in Terminal 1, my last time telling Irish border control that I’m studying abroad, that I’m coming home. I think it particularly struck me this time around because it was exactly two weeks from the day I leave Dublin.

And there’s a piece of me that doesn’t want to leave, that can’t leave. There will always be a piece of my heart in Dublin. Studying abroad has changed me and I will forever value what Dublin has taught me.

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