We got this crazy idea when we got to Amsterdam today; what if we rented a car and drove to some windmills, castles and tulip fields? When I think of Holland or The Netherlands, those are the things I think of and looking at the little windmill graphics on my popout map made me realize I really wanted to see those things while here.
So, the hubs and I headed to the car rental place by the train station to get a car. We had no idea if this was even legal, but to the woman working there, it seemed totally normal. She did not have any automatic transmission vehicles, so we had to get a manual, which meant I had to do all the driving and the hubs, the navigating. We were smart enough to get a GPS which helped immensely, but I definitely needed the hubs for moral support since it had been over three years since I had driven a manual car. I’m proud to say it’s like riding a bike and I did very well.
We started by heading south east to a castle called Muiderslot. It was on one side of a small suburb and looked very traditional. It was flying maroon and gold banners of the Gryffindor variety, so it could have definitely been Hogwarts. We didn’t go inside because it was too pricey. Plus we had other spots to hit.
Next, we attempted to go south to a tulip field called Bloemenveiling. The GPS led us to factory or perhaps an indoor farm? We weren’t too sure, so we moved on.
Then west, our longest stop at Kuekenhof, a huge complex filled with gardens, flower displays, a windmill and castle. (Though the castle had a separate entrance fee, so we didn’t go in). The whole thing was set up with children in mind in that there was also a petting zoo, playground and hedge maze. The hubs and I let our inner children out, playing in the hedge maze, posing for pictures in giant wooden shoes, and climbing (well only the hubs did this) on this structure over the water. It was quite cold out and it is not quite tulip season so while there were tulips in planters around the grounds, the huge fields beyond the windmill were bare. I would love to come back and see them in full bloom. Apparently all you can see is a rainbow of flowers for miles.
Finally, we went north looking for the Ijmuiden Lighthouse. When the GPS started to take us to another factory looking area, we abandoned ship and I let me fairly keen sense of direction take over. We ended up in a national park on the North Sea made up of the largest sand/grass dunes I have ever seen. It was beautiful and totally silent, except for the gusting winds. If I hadn’t already been pretty worm down from all the driving and walking, I would have loved to have spent more time there, hiking, taking pictures and meeting people’s dogs.
Six hours and 120 kilometers later, after making one large circle around the city of Amsterdam, we made it back to the car rental place and passed the detailed re-inspection of the vehicle. It was such a great adventure and I am so glad we made it happen.
I don’t have a ton of pictures to share right now because I mostly used my birthday present (a Cannon DSLR). I’m thinking a photo highlights post may be in order when I get back.