I was in the right place in the right time and had the wonderful opportunity to spend 6 months in Europe on business October 1981 through April 1982. I was pretty irritated most days that I had to actually go to work, but in reality I had exposure to a lot that many tourists never see because the work took us to cities that were not prime sightseeing destinations. However, we did get out and about as much as possible. We We had a bit of an adventure in Belgium when a general strike shut access to the roadways and we had to stay longer than the work required. One morning we got a call from our local contact to head north NOW, so we headed towards Holland.
We had not planned to visit Holland and had no information with us, but merrily we aimed for Amsterdam. We had heard about a marvelous exhibition garden area called Keukenhof that we wanted to see and Amsterdam…well, we knew a few things we wanted to see there and I hoped to connect with a family I know who lived there.
As we drove along I noticed a highway sign just west of Den Haag (The Hague) indicating that Delft was the next exit. I pondered this quickly and we turned off. I had no idea what we would find and it turned out to be a delightful afternoon. It was one of those special late winter days when the sun is shining and the temperature rises to the point where heavy winter coats are thrown off. People were hanging out in the streets and it seemed we had entered almost a carnival atmosphere. The young Dutch people (shoot…I was pretty young then also!) wanted so much to practice their English and we had a wonderful time.
We finally broke away and visited one of the many Delftware pottery factories. I am perverse enough that when we made a purchase it was NOT blue and white but a wonderful scene in full color of a Dutch farm painted on 6 tiles and framed. We had it shipped home. Because we had done no research we missed other wonderful places to visit in Delft, such as the museum showing work of Johannes Vermeer and Pieter de Hoogh. I have had it on my “must return and do it right” ever since.
We got back on the highway and continued the last 40 miles to the Keukenhof Gardens. It was still too early for the outdoor exhibits to be in bloom (they usually open the grounds in late March) but we wandered the huge greenhouses. Up to that time, the large tulip plantings I had seen in parks in the States seemed to pretty much be all in a line.
The massive plantings exploded in a riot of color and we spent hours wandering. We then ordered bulbs that were not yet available in the US and were able to present our families in the fall with special colors to plant in their gardens. I can only imagine how it feels to wander the outdoor gardens. I am sure the photos do not do it justice.
So…here I am, a trip planner telling you about a happenstance…a very happy happenstance. This all too short visit to Holland was completely unplanned except for the fact that we already had heard about Keukenhof, knew how to read a map and had enough sense and curiosity to deviate from our plan when presented with a road sign that we hoped would be exactly what we assumed it to be…and it was so much more!