Parading amongst the tulips


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Europe » Netherlands
April 17th 2011
Published: May 3rd 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

Spring had sprung early the week before heading to Paris for the Marathon, so it was a lovely evening when we set out on the Euro Star. Alison and John had arrived from NZ the day before and Alison was also running the Marathon. It was a hot, hot weekend. It started by going to the Marathon Expo and dealing with very long un-marshalled lines trying to pick up our numbers. But we managed to get out of there just after noon and headed for the 19m mark of the course to agree the spot of our support crew would be; Scott and John. After the standard pasta meal we went to see the finish line and agree a meeting point for the finish. Our hotel was super close to the finish so we strolled back and rested before a lovely dinner in an amazing courtyard. Sunday dawned a beautiful day and Alison and I headed to the Champ-Elysees for the start of the Marathon. Although a stunning day and amazing setting, it was a not particularly great as there were about 2 toilets per starting pen. Anyhow, we both got into the run but both struck injury issues. But it was a lovely run past some of Paris beautiful sites.
The following weekend we were off again, this time to Amsterdam and then on to Holland’s tulip region. We met up with John and Alison at the airport and we were soon on a local train to Leiden to meet with Peter from Tulip Cycling. Peter was out front with four sturdy bikes, after a complete run down of how the bikes work, plus health and safety, we were off. Initially we wove in and around Leiden, along the canal, past churches and by lovely quant houses. But before we left the city Alison had a small mishap with a fast moving bus that really wasn’t stopping for anyone. Luckily Alison was able to leap out of the way and we realised there were bus lanes in the town. We were soon riding past large open green fields dotted with sheep and their spring lambs, canals with pretty windmills and then we came across our first field of tulips. It is a great site seeing all the tulips lined up in such vibrant colours. There were also large fields of daffodils and other pretty pink/purple flowers. We had lunch at a quant canal side restaurant. Then we rode towards the famous Keukenhof, a tulip park that turned out to be a little disappointing and cheesy. That said the flower beds were pretty, however the fields were much more dramatic. The park itself is only open 2mths of the year from 20th March to 20th May, when the flowers are alive. So as you can imagine it was packed, bus loads of people! We then rode in to Noordwijkerhout early evening just as the town was setting up for the annual flower parade. That evening after a lovely meal at a very traditional restaurant we went outside to watch the parade. It was VERY strange. These large floats were driving past, some with music playing as the parade had a musical theme. However the crowd was airily quiet, no cheering or clapping – weird. The floats themselves were very skilfully put together and the preparation usually starts just after the previous yeah finishes. The next morning we set off just after 9.30 and ended up following the parade for most of the morning. After riding through the dunes we hit a coastal town where the parade started. This time after the parade was a parade of local cars with flowers all over them. We think there was some kind of car flower dress-up competition. Most of the floats depicted musical shows; Wicked, Sound of Music, etc. At one point the streets were so lined with people waiting for the parade we decide to ride down the middle. So there we were crowds on both side and us four riding down the middle of the road. Alison was wearing a NZ sun-cap and someone in the crowd yelled out ‘Go New Zealand’ hilarious! After more flowers we started towards the coast and through more sand-dunes we reach a ‘beach-bar’ type restaurant rising up out of the dunes. After an enjoyable lunch we headed off for some more dune riding with the local cyclist zooming past us. Big hobby in Holland is riding. Our final night was in Haarlem an extremely pretty town in a great central hotel overlooking one of the major shopping streets. That evening we had a few drinks in a old school pub and then headed to a funky steak restaurant on the central square next to the large church. The parade finished in this town so all the floats were parking up in the square. It was a vibrant little town so Scott and I went to one of the many bars on the square post dinner. The next morning we needed to get on the move fairly swiftly as we were on a plane home that evening. Our destination was the home of famous cheese; Edam. We initially headed towards Amsterdam and then turned across a large open park and we rode along the dykes towards the coastline. This was where the party was. We had a lovely harbour side lunch, toasting to our success of riding +140km in 3 days. Then we kicked off towards Edam and as soon as we turned the corner we literally ran into lots and lots of people merrily drinking in bars along the old harbour, even on some of the old boats. It was good to see. Edam was a lovely historic town with pretty buildings and canals. So a fitting town to end our bike ride. It was good to finally get off those bikes, everyone had extremely sore arses!
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