Double tulip

Double tulip

“A journey, after all, neither begins in the instant we set out, nor ends when we have reached our doorstep once again.  It starts much earlier and is really never over, because the film of memory continues running on inside of us long after we have come to a physical standstill.  Indeed, there exists something like a contagion of travel, and the disease is essentially incurable.”
— Ryszard Kapuscinski, Travels with Herodotus

I have reached my doorstep again after nearly a month away.  Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing some of my experiences with you.  I took almost 2,000 photos and my mind is still reeling from an almost overwhelming archive of images, scents, sounds, and thoughts about the destinations — Iceland, the Netherlands, Israel, and France.  It will take some time for my memories to settle.

Like most journeys, this one began with an invitation.  About five or six years ago, my sister, who lives in Israel, invited me to visit her.  I began making tentative plans to go, but then was derailed by the economic crisis that hit the country and, because my husband works in construction, our family.  With so much financial uncertainty, my trip was postponed.  I suppose it is a sign of gradually increasing optimism that I finally pulled off the trip this year.  This time, along with the invitation to visit her in Israel, my sister wondered if we could also travel together to Holland to see the tulips in bloom.

So my trip began to take shape, starting with my booking roundtrip airfare from Seattle to Amsterdam, April 2 – 28th.  These were the bookends.  Within their constraints, my sister and I would find the best times for me to fly to Israel to stay with her and to spend a few days vacationing together in the Netherlands.

At the time I booked my airfare to Europe, Icelandair offered the best price.  And this airlines allows its passengers to disembark in Iceland for a short stopover at no additional cost.  I’d never been to Iceland, so I decided to spend two nights there on my way to Amsterdam.

Eventually my sister and I decided that I would fly to Israel on April 8th, stay with her family until April 16th, when we would both fly to Amsterdam for five days together.  That meant I had two additional nights in Europe before my flight to the Middle East, and I decided to stay in Haarlem which is not too far from the Amsterdam airport.  After my sister flew back home on April 21st, I had about a week of uncommitted time in Europe, so I cast about for something to do.

I had on my life’s “List of Things to Do Before I Die” hiking a special trail in southern France along which are installed the largest collection of works by the land artist, Andy Goldsworthy.  Serendipitously, a local guide, Jean-Pierre Brovelli, was offering a six-day guided hike that fit my timeframe perfectly.  That experience now anchored my trip plans.

I will be sharing my impressions from my journey in the days ahead.

“. . . travel provides not confirmations, but surprises.”
— Rebecca Solnit, A Book of Migrations

I traveled with open eyes, trying to be receptive to what these many and varied destinations offered.  And yet, I suppose I had certain expectations as well.  For example, I thought I would see tulips in bloom in the Netherlands in April.  But Holland was caught in an unseasonably cold Spring, just like much of this country, and the tulip bloom was late.  When I passed through on April 5th and 6th, I saw only a few daffodils and crocuses; nary a tulip in sight.  When my sister and I returned to the Netherlands on April 16th, everyone was still waiting for the tulip fields to show color.  We went to the famous Keukenhoff gardens on April 19th, and while the estate had much to offer, the beds of tulips still showed just sword-like green leaves and no flowers.

Still, the demonstration beds in the Willem-Alexander pavilion, indoors, displayed an exuberant array of tulips in full bloom.  And it was a photographer’s paradise.  Here are some photos of my favorite tulip at Keukenhof, the double parrot, truly a most photogenic flower:

IMAGE_EE8A4C4F-F1FA-4BA7-A75A-1E773EFE6D0AIMAGE_C3DFB2E4-DE87-47FC-910B-C9AF259C98B1IMAGE_12F41F58-D963-4D48-B78E-14029AD56CA5IMAGE_49500A3E-272F-4EB3-A6EF-2A7A73E27BADIMAGE_05EFA76E-C858-4AB8-B2CE-75CFE8684C10And then, a lovely send-off on my journey back home — looking out of the airplane window as we took off from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, I saw (finally) ribbons of color in the tulip fields below.

Tulip fields in the Netherlands, April 28, 2013

Tulip fields in the Netherlands, April 28, 2013