Friday, May 2, 2014 – Amsterdam, Day 2
Today was blossom day aboard the River Navigator. The really zealous tulip fans left the ship at 7:00 am to visit the flower auction at Aalsmeer, about an hour from our berth in downtown Amsterdam. Approximately two-thirds of the passengers went on this non-included excursion which meant that the dining room was empty when we showed up around 7:30.
We were on the last bus at 9:00, on our way to the Keukenhof Gardens. Like Sherwood Gardens in Baltimore, Keukenhof is an enormous display of tulips. Whereas Sherwood Gardens may encompass several acres, Keukenhof Gardens is over 70 acres of tulips, daffodils and other plants, arranged as mixed gardens, massive beds of one color or smaller monochrome beds side-by-side. When you see the pictures, it will make more sense.
Our playmates were supposed to go to Aalsmeer this morning, but we found out from Barry and Nancy that Fran’s condition had worsened and that they had stayed aboard to await a doctor’s visit. [More on that later] Even though Barry and Nancy were in a different color group, they hung back and walked with us as we followed our guide who seemed to be having a sexual experience with every new tulip she saw.
We started with the new varieties although it is hard to imagine that growers have developed new colors and combinations. After that, we entered a pavilion which featured orchids at which point we ditched the guide and went off on our own. We knew when and where to report, so we were not worried about missing the bus.
The ship had provided us with our entry tickets as well as vouchers to get our lunch since we would not be on board at mealtime. We each had 15 euros to spend and, surprisingly, we found it difficult to do. Shortly after leaving the group, we stopped in the orchid pavilion for coffee and pastries. MA and David split a piece of apple pie which was a nice accompaniment for their coffee. Side note – Decaf is okay on the ship, but may not exist in the real Netherlands, so we have been drinking a lot of high test this week. Can you say “buzzed?”
We wandered through the many displays of tulips and the occasional narcissus. The warm spring meant that the blooms were past their prime on many of the tulips; almost all of the narcissus/daffodils were gone with just their green foliage left to see. The Gardens will be open for another 2 weeks but the late visitors will have very little to see. In the overcast today, the tulips were not as glorious as we had hoped.
Soon it was time for lunch, so Barry, as line leader, found another pavilion where we went through the line and got food but could not find a table inside. There were plenty outside because the smart/early/lucky people got them. The temperatures might have been in the 50s but the wind was strong. Fortunately, our table was sheltered by the building, so we were not uncomfortable while we ate. We both got soup and fries [frites, locally] and still had money left over, so we threw in some candy bars; the vouchers were in 7.5 euro denominations and we still had 1 of our 4 left, so David bought a soda for Barry [who had been supplying chump change when we didn’t have it] and even more candy just to use it all up.
We put up with the chill and the wind as long as we could before heading back to the bus. Of course, there was a little shopping along the way, but we arrived well before our deadline only to be told that we were practically the last to get there. An hour on the bus brought us back to Amsterdam and the ship.
Skip and Fran did not appear at dinner tonight. We saw Skip briefly and he told us that the ship’s crew had arranged for a physician to examine Fran on board; he showed up around noon and prescribed antibiotics and other OTC medicines which Arjan, the concierge, went and purchased for them. They were essentially in quarantine until they were to leave the ship tomorrow. Skip said that the person who came to clean the room was in a hazmat suit [well, almost].
And then it was time to say goodnight and goodbye. Barry and Nancy, whose room is next to ours, are due to leave at 6:30 for their flight to Dallas. They will have a short night because they are going on a tour of Amsterdam’s Red Light District which leaves at 9:00 pm and returns at 11:00. They promised to try to be quiet in the morning.
We returned to our cabin and repacked the bags for the next leg of our odyssey.
Tomorrow -- the "connection" in the blog's title