Tip-Toeing Through the Tulips at Keukenhof Gardens in Holland

Spring hath sprung!

Spring has sprung (at least in some places) and no one does Spring flowers like Holland. Join your GypsyNesters for a romp through the largest garden in Europe – the Keukenhof Garden… CONTINUE READING >>

Tulips in the Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, Holland, The Netherlands

A swab floats through Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, Holland, The Netherlands

Viking billed our journey through Holland and Belgium as Tulips and Windmills, and it had certainly lived up to the windmill portion, but through the first half the tulips had been scarce.

That was about to change, in a big way.

The Keukenhof Gardens are just outside of Amsterdam in the town of Lisse, which should be known as Tulip Town.

Talk about flower power, the area is filled with commercial bulb producers, so as we rode in on the bus the sun lit up a patchwork of scarlet, violet, and gold in the fields of daffodils, hyacinth, and tulips that surrounded us in every direction.

The beautiful flower fields of Holland, The Netherlands

It Started in the Kitchen
The largest garden in Europe is only open for eight weeks of the year - but what a spectacular two months!

Tulips in the Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, Holland, The Netherlands

Keukenhof means kitchen garden, and that is how the gardens began, as a plot of herbs and vegetables for the Countess of Hainaut’s castle.

From those humble roots grew Europe’s largest flower garden.

Each year millions of bulbs are donated by the local growers and arraigned in a theme.

This year the display opens in late March and the theme is The Golden Age of the Netherlands.

Through the latter half of the seventeenth century Holland was a world leader in arts, science, trade, and exploration.

This was also the period when the world discovered the tulip and the flower became a symbol of the country.

Tulips in the Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, Holland, The Netherlands

 Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, Holland, The Netherlands

For the celebration, in addition to the six to seven million bulbs throughout the gardens, Keukenhof has planted one hundred thousand of those bulbs to form a mosaic depicting Dutch trade across the seas, and the canal-side houses of Amsterdam from that era.

Since the blooms last just a short time, the garden is open to the public for only eight weeks each spring, so once again our timing was impeccable. Oh wait, perhaps Viking Cruises planned it this way.

Yeah, that’s probably it.

Channeling our Inner Van Gogh
Fun van Gogh themed photo ops at Keukenhof Gardens in Holland, The Netherlands

On our visit last year, the motif was Vincent van Gogh, or as our guide pronounced it in the native tongue, van Gzchogqkthgh.

We must say she really put the phlegm in Flemish.

In keeping with that annual theme, the main exhibit featured life sized creations of some of van Gogh’s famous works, and visitors were encouraged to step inside the art.

Fun van Gogh themed photo ops at Keukenhof Gardens in Holland, The Netherlands

There was no way we were passing up a chance to be in a van Gogh painting, so we jumped in with both feet.

In the center of the garden there is an enormous greenhouse with an astounding array of every possible color of tulip we could ever imagine.

As we gawked our way through the rows, it was not only the variety of hues that struck us as phenomenal, but the assortment of sizes and shapes as well.

The tulips of Holland at Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, Holland, The Netherlands

Tulips ruled the day, but there is an impressive selection of daffodils and other bulb flowers – many with multi-colored blooms.

So many varieties that we spent the better part of an hour just going from one display to the next examining all of the possibilities and combinations.

Experimental flowers (rainbow and chocolate roses) at Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, Holland, The Netherlands
Rainbow roses and chocolate with sprinkles? Yes, please!

 Flowers in Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, Holland, The Netherlands

These non-tulip blossoms seemed to be even more plentiful outdoors.

The tulips outside of the hothouse were not quite in full swing yet, but the others, which bloomed a little earlier, were at their blossoming best.

Push mowers are used in Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, Holland, The Netherlands
Shhhhh. Old school push mowers keep the peace in the gardens.
Getting Above it All
The windmill at Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, Holland, The Netherlands
Really big shoe!

In the back corner of the garden we found a couple of Holland’s most recognizable symbols, a windmill and a giant wooden shoe.

Had there been a slope and some snow, the shoe could have easily served as a bobsled, but on this sunny spring day we opted for a photo op instead.

The windmill is authentic, dating back to 1892, but came from over a hundred miles away in Groningen.

With its pumping days behind it, it has been made into an observation tower. We climbed up, not only for an aerial view of the grounds, but a bonus look at the fields of flowers surrounding them.

Tulipmania – The First Stock Market Bubble Burst

 at Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, Holland, The Netherlands

Our final stop in the garden was a permanent display called Tulipmania.

The exhibit provided a quick look at the history of the flowering bulbs, especially the incredible market bubble that occurred early in 1637 known by the same name.

People around the world went absolutely crazy for the flowers and prices skyrocketed.

By the time prices peaked, a single bulb was selling for ten times an average worker’s salary. While it is hard to compare today’s dollars with seventeenth century guilders, that was easily over one hundred thousand dollars.

Tulips in the Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, Holland, The Netherlands

With prices like that people really must have been doing some serious tip-toeing through the tulips!

A few months later, the bubble popped.

The value had fallen so hard that the people who had lost fortunes in the craze were eating the bulbs to keep from starving.

Tip-toe over.

We’re happy to see that things have balanced out a bit.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See all of our adventures in Holland!

Thanks to Viking River Cruises for inviting us along and providing this adventure through the tulips and windmills of Holland and Belgium with stops in Amsterdam, Kinderdijk, Antwerp, Bruges, Veere, Hoorn, and Arnhem.

YOUR TURN:

Examining the Role of Geriatric Psychiatry as our Loved Ones are Aging

The pandemic has been hard on all of us, causing stress and anxiety from generation to generation. So now we want to take a look at some of the effects on our elder relatives… CONTINUE READING >> 

As empty nesters / Baby Boomers, we are sometimes referred to as the “sandwich generation.” That means we are stuck in between our kids and our parents, like tuna salad between two slices of bread, as both sometimes need some help.

In our family’s case, the pandemic has been hard on both of those generations, which in turn has certainly caused some stress for us. We have written a bit about our trials with one of our children in this series of articles. In them we delve into the types of help available from BetterHelp.com, but now we will take a look at the effect on our elder relatives.

Luckily, we still have two of our four birth parents with us, along with a couple of step parents in the mix, making for three households all together. As expected, they are getting on in years, most in their eighties and one in their nineties.

All except the ninety-one-year-old are still living on their own, but all are experiencing some feelings of isolation these days. Only one couple lives nearby so it has been impossible to see the others for almost a year now, which is no doubt a contributing factor.

That, along with the anxiety caused by this virus, has certainly led to some deterioration of their mental states. Of course, this varies from individual to individual, with one particular parent seeming to suffer more than the others.

In the interest of privacy we will be careful not to get too specific, but not surprisingly the one who is alone and in an assisted living facility seems to be having a noticeably harder time with the lack of family contact and disruption of normal life.

He has also been under psychiatric treatment most of his adult life. However, it may be time to re-examine that in order to make sure the treatment is properly targeted to his age. This is why we were very happy to learn more about geriatric psychiatry from BetterHelp.

There are certain age-specific challenges that we are not sure his long-time psychiatrist may be as adept at addressing as someone who specializes in treating older patients.

Aging can bring about anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and dementia at any time, but these are definitely more likely during the past year with this pandemic.

A trained geriatric psychiatrist understands this and knows what to look for in the patient due to aging. With that knowledge they can offer treatment options and medications tailored specifically to the elderly.

Sometimes physical problems make this difficult, as some symptoms may overlap with psychotic or depressive symptoms. For this reason a thorough physical examination is necessary prior to deciding on a treatment plan.

Some older folks may be quite reluctant to submit to psychiatric treatment due to sometimes archaic attitudes, others may feel embarrassed or even deny any need for it. Fortunately, we won’t have that as an issue in our situation because of his prior history with treatment.

Still, it is very important for us, and all of his family and friends, to be supportive and encouraging as we go forward with any changes that we may decide upon.

We are all trying to keep in touch as much as possible and send photos, especially of a new great grandchild, to keep him feeling connected and vital as a member of the family. This also helps us keep track of any possible changes in behavior.

With all of this in mind, we will be continuing to examine the best way forward for his health, both mental and physical, while hoping for a return to something close to our normal lives soon.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

For more about BetterHelp.com and their programs, please see these previous articles we have shared here on GypsyNester.com:

Some Observations about Online Therapy

Anxiety is Almost Unavoidable These Days

Don’t Let the Cost Stop You from Seeking Help

Exploring the Different Types of Therapy

Identifying Problems in the Present with Cognitive Psychotherapy

Satisfying the Travel Urge When You Can’t Travel

Luckily, there are ways to “travel” to any country you want without leaving your town or city. None of the following activities compare to actually experiencing a country in person, but they can help satisfy the itch during this time of travel restrictions… CONTINUE READING >> 

The world is almost a year into the travel restrictions that have been put in place to defend against the spread of Covid-19. There have been some encouraging developments that have allowed many countries around the world to start re-opening, but international travel is still heavily restricted.

Luckily, there are ways to “travel” to any country you want without leaving your town or city. None of the following activities compare to actually experiencing a country in person, but they can help satisfy the itch during this time of travel restrictions.

Make a List of Countries You Want to Visit

This seems like a simple and silly exercise, but there is some science behind the effectiveness of writing down your goals. Your travel goals are no different.

You are more likely to get to more of these countries by making an actual list of the places you want to visit. Cap the list at 5. You might want to go to more places, but the purpose of this exercise is to narrow down your list to places you really want to visit.

Go to Your Local Library or Bookstore for Books on These Countries

The beautiful library in the Parliament of Ottawa, OntarioReading is a form of mental travel. A book is a portal to a certain point in time in a certain reality. Fiction often takes us to fantastical worlds that look nothing like our own.

Non fiction books in the travel genre are portals to actual places within our world. Some even take us back in time to explore the rich history of a country.

The best part of this mental travel is the cost. Library cards are free. Travel is a genre where the newness of a book isn’t that important, so your library should have a pretty good selection.

Try to find one book to read for each country on your list. Reading these books will come in useful when you can physically travel to these countries again.

Read Blogs From Other Travelers Who Have Visited The Places You Want to Go

Travel books tend to give more general descriptions of things to do within a country. Travel bloggers give a more personal experience that often feels more relatable. These bloggers typically have their own websites, but they are also active on Facebook and Instagram.

Many Travel blog brands also have a Facebook group for their community to discuss their travel experiences. You can join one of these groups to meet like-minded individuals who enjoy travel as much as you.

Try Making the Country’s Cuisine

Cuisine is one of the best ways to really immerse yourself into a culture. It has never been easier to experiment with exotic cuisines right in your own kitchen.

Just open Google and search “cuisine from (country you want to visit).” You will find dozens of recipes for you to browse until you find something you want to try.

The key is to be willing to go out of your culinary comfort zone. Depending on what type of food you are used to, the countries you want to travel to might have radically different cuisine. Ordering out is an option if you are not much of a chef. The only downside is you will be limited by the culinary diversity of your immediate geographic area.

Learn About the Native Botanicals

The plant world plays such a large part in our daily lives, yet most people don’t take much interest in the botanical life of the places they travel. Learning about the herbs and spices that are native to a country will give you an idea of the tastes and aromas to expect from their cuisine.

It will also teach you things about a culture that you would not otherwise learn. For example, say you were looking to visit Indonesia. If you look into their native botanicals, you would learn that 95 percent of the kratom, known botanically as mitragyna speciosa, is grown there. Its popularity in the west has turned kratom into a cash crop for Indonesian natives. You can now find kratom in a lot of different local places such as your botanical shops, vape shops or even gas stations.

Immerse Yourself in Media or Literature

The final thing you can do to satisfy your travel urge is to enjoy entertainment from the countries you want to visit. This may be in the form of literature, movies, tv shows, music, or any other art forms.

These media forms can be easy or hard to find depending on the countries on your list. Netflix has an ever-increasing selection of content from around the world.

Give these things a try and hopefully you will be able to go everywhere on your list sooner rather than later.

We are happy to present this collaborative post to offer valuable information to our readers.

Florida Manatees: Where to Spot the Gentle Giants

With March fast approaching, time is running out to see the manatees this year. These gentle giants are most certainly worth a visit. So if you can, head on down to Florida’s west coast for the best viewing possibilities… CONTINUE READING >> 

Florida Manatee swimming

November to March is the time to head to Florida for spectacular manatee sightings. These gentle giants head for warmer climates in the winter, much like their human snowbird counterparts. Here are our tips to having a manatee-filled getaway.

First, Learn to Spot Them

Ft. Pierce on Florida‘s east coast is chock-full- o’- manatees! We had heard from the locals that in the evening the manatees move from inland to the ocean, so we decided watch for them from a bridge. Our first excited sighting came when we discovered bubbles rising to the surface… See more about the area where we spotted these guys

Snorkel with Manatees at Homosassa River

The Florida Aquifer feeds the Homosassa River on the west coast and manatees are known to swim several miles up the stream to congregate near the source. We chose this area for our snorkel tour because it is usually less crowded than other places, the water is often clearer, and the added bonus of getting to see some monkeys. Yup, monkeys. More on swimming with manatees

Visit Blue Springs State Park

Blue Springs State Park in Florida - fun of manatees!

Blue Spring is a first magnitude spring, pouring forth over one hundred million gallons of water a day, and like the springs around Crystal River, the water stays a constant seventy-two degrees year round. So manatees love it, and many will swim miles up the St. Johns River to get to it. The park has extensive viewing areas… More on Blue Springs State Park

Visit the Mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs

In the crystal clear waters of Weeki Wachee Springs there reside mermaids, seriously. We wouldn’t make up something like this. As a matter of FACT, the Florida State Park Service is a leader in the preservation of these exotic rare creatures. We were lucky enough to have the chance to observe their graceful antics in a natural habitat and manatees joined in the show! More on the Mermaids and Weeki Wachee Springs

Hit the Manatee Festival

Save the Manatees!

For almost thirty years, the Orange City / Blue Springs Manatee Festival has been raising funds to preserve the manatee population. The festival is a really fun fair, with food, music, booths and comfy busses are provided to shuttle folks to manatee viewing experiences. More on the Manatee Festival

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Click here for all of our manatee-filled escapades!

See all of our Florida antics!

YOUR TURN: Have you a hankerin’ to see a manatee now?

Home Cooking on the Run

There are certain challenges to living on the run, not the least of which is cooking. This means we are always on the lookout for easy, portable, time saving ways to have fresh, hot food while we gallivant across the globe…
CONTINUE READING >> 

After our youngest went off to college we sold our home, bought a beat up old RV, and took off on what we called our Victory Lap. The idea was that we would take a year or so off to travel around North America to see the sights and old friends and family.

We figured the old motorhome would die before too long and that would be our signal to go back to our previous lives. But that didn’t happen. That old RV ran and ran for nearly four years and one hundred thousand miles!

By the time it died we were hooked, so we bought another, and then another, and ended up living in them for almost ten years. There must have been something that appealed to us about living in small spaces, because now we live on a boat.

Yes, I am telling you all of this to get to a point, which is, there are certain challenges to living on the run like this, not the least of which is cooking. This means we are always on the lookout for easy, portable, time saving ways to have fresh, hot food while we gallivant across the globe. We are not talking burgers and hot dogs either; we want a variety of interesting and tasty home cooking while on the go.

So we were thrilled when we discovered myasiancooking.com and these fun Asian cooking kitchen gadgets.

Asian cuisine has long been one of our favorites, but neither one of us has managed to master cooking rice. We even took a cooking class while cruising in China and still can’t seem to get it right every time.

Good thing that one of these gadgets is a rice cooker. Better yet, it works off of the power socket (you know, that round thing us old folks still call a cigarette lighter) inside a car, RV, or boat.

Now we can have perfect rice in about half an hour, anytime and anyplace. It makes up to one liter, which is just right for the two of us.

Of course safety is a concern when cooking on the go, so we were glad to learn about the technology used in this ingenious little cooker. It uses special self-regulating ceramic heating discs known as positive temperature coefficient which provide safe, powerful, and energy-efficient heat in a very small space.

Better yet, it will not over heat and turns itself off if you forget to. The cooking surface is nonstick and it even comes with a measuring cup and spoon.

While the rice cooker is our favorite, there are several other clever products listed in the story too. Stuff like a combination Lunch Box / Portable Travel Food Warmer so a hot lunch is readily available even on the run, or a travel kettle for steaming hot coffee or tea anytime anywhere.

You mean we can have coffee without ever leaving our hotel room? Yes, please!

But we love these kinds of gadgets, not only for their convenience but also for their money saving capabilities. That’s right, think of all the travel savings you can pocket by not going out for quick meals, snacks, and drinks all of the time.

Even if you don’t live on the run like we do, that is something everybody likes.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

We are happy to present this collaborative post to offer valuable information to our readers.