Day Two: The Splendour of Dutch Gardening: The Keukenhof

One of the real delights for someone like me who loves a morning run is that you can jump off the barge and head out for a five km trek with ease.

The morning streets of Haarlem were quiet at 7am, and I had time to notice that the wisteria and peonies are blooming in thegardens here.

Breakfast was served at eight, though there was coffee readyat 7 – and afterwards, Lea took us on a guided walk of Haarlem. This is an historic old city. Oneof the highlights is the spectacular St. Bravo church where the organist waspractising, providing us with an unexpected concert. There are well preserved historic homes alongquiet canals, and an elegant main square.

After lunch on board, we climbed into the shiny new blue European Waterways vans and were driven to the Keukenhof Gardens. I don’t think there is any place in the worldquite like these display gardens – acres of gorgeously composed gardens, longswaths of tulips, masses of blooms everywhere, including an historic gardenthat grows the old tulips that are seldom seen anymore. An incredible experience for anyone who loves natural beauty – you don’t have to be a gardener to love the Keukenhof.

While we visited the gardens, the barge sailed to Leiden, so we rejoined the ship there, enjoyed another lovely dinner – roast capon with mustard sauceand wild mushrooms, Port salut and Brillat Savarin cheeses, dark chocolate mousse, all washed down with Pouilly Fuisse and an Aloxe Corton. Culinary heaven.

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