Sunday April 27 -- Haarlem to Leiden
We were up at 7:00 for breakfast around 8:00. The routine is that everyone makes their own lunch after breakfast and then we leave the barge around 9:15. We were all on time except the three USA folks (Mark,Theresa and Stacey) who arrived late yesterday; they were somewhat jet-lagged! However, we were soon on our way from Haarlem riding in a drizzly rain. It was not too cold, but definitely wet and overcast.
We stopped first at a pumping station driven by steam that lifted water from the dyke into the main river, then we cycled through large fields of tulips to the highlight of the day which was the Keukenhof (gardens). Keukenhof is 80 acres of gardens, primarily spring gardens, and boasts that is has 7 million tulips! Luckily, there are early, middle and late season tulips because many of the fields through which we cycled were past their best with and only a few strips of colour remaining. Apparently, Holland had a very mild winter and all of the blooms are early this year. However, when we reached the Keukenhof, it was well worth it. Unfortunately, it was a holiday weekend and we were not alone! Nevertheless, the flowers did not disappoint. They were brilliant. We took hundreds of photographs of every colour and size of tulip imaginable. There were also hyacinths, narcissus and fritillaria and displays of other spring flowers in the pavilions throughout the garden. We ate our lunch quite quickly because we only had two hours to visit Keukenhof, and the time passed very quickly.
Our route to Leiden afterwards also passed through fields of tulips, and there were many in a blaze of colour. We posed for a photo (for the trip journal) in a field of purple tulips. After cycling for another hour with a brief stop at a coffee shop, we returned to the barge. We showered, then headed for the small bar on the barge for a well earned beer!
Today, we cycled only 42 kilometres but also walked for two hours at Keukenhof. After another good dinner, most of the group went for a walk around the town of Leiden with our guide, Cees. Leiden means "built on waters". It is a town with many buildings from the 15th to the 18th century, although the town came into existence around 800 A.D. Leiden is also the city where Rembrandt van Rijn was born.
Back at the barge, it was time for a hot drink and bed.