This week, from one of my favourite photography spots in India… Delhi’s Jama Masjid in black and white…
If Eat, Pray, Love was a town, it would be Bruges. So pretty, so picture postcard that some guidebooks have described it as touristy and a tad fake. Our guide in Bruges splutters indignantly about the American who thought of it as a medieval Disneyland, asking him, “Is Bruges shut for winter?”
Bruges is an all weather destination, but to me, spring is the perfect time to be there. The tourist groups have just begun to trickle in, daffodils are in full bloom at the charming Beguinage where Benedictine nuns are in residence and the weather makes you hum a happy tune all the time. As I walk on the cobble-stoned lanes, I keep an ear open for the clip clop of horses ferrying tourists across the UNESCO heritage town, the horseman (or in many cases, woman) doubling up as guide. Then there are the beguiling window displays on the chocolate shops lining the narrow shopping streets and the heady smell of Belgian frites (fries) in the air; together they erase all thoughts of calories and cholesterol from my mind. Remember, Eat is one of the leitmotifs for this town.
To Pray, I head to the Church of Our Lady, to see Michelangelo’s sculpture of the Madonna and Child, in white Carrara marble. There is something so peaceful, so gentle about it that I find myself alone – in a very nice way – in the crowd. And Love? The entire town is about romance; the winding canals, the gabled buildings, the arched stone bridges, the elegant swans on Minne Water (meaning Lake of Love) and the vibrant town squares.
Just an hour away, Ghent is another enchanting package. After the sunshine of Bruges, the grey skies at Ghent are a dampener. My guide is not too perturbed and says proudly that Ghent sees four seasons in a day; a sentiment I hear expressed in Antwerp too later. Most of the town is undergoing renovation but the inherent charm of all that is old and beautiful manages to peek through the cranes and scaffolds everywhere.
If the exterior of the magnificent Saint Bavo cathedral is Gothic, inside it is a mish-mash of architecture styles, from the baroque altar to the rococo pulpit. Among many works of art, an original Rubens painting hangs in a quiet corner. And inside a small room is one of the most famous paintings in the world, ‘Adoration of the Mystic Lamb,’ from the early 15th century – a massive triptych by the brothers Hubert and Jan van Eyck. After duly adoring the lamb and all the rest of it, I head to the belfry right opposite the cathedral and take a rickety lift to the top. There are stunning views of the town from all sides, much of it in grey and brick red and dating back a few centuries.
Ghent is however, not all about the past. It is one of the region’s biggest university towns, which translates into a large population of the young and restless. I see many of them outside later that evening, sitting along the Lys, beer mugs in hand. I am on a river cruise, seeing the city from the water that made it one of the most prosperous European towns in the 14th – 15th century. The towns’ youthful spirit is also reflected in its graffiti alley (Werregaren Straat), where the city council actively encourages people to practice wall art. Once a deserted and perhaps unsafe alley, today it is a tourist attraction in itself. Dinner is at PakHuis, a converted warehouse close to St. Michael’s bridge but I am stuffed with nibbles from the cruise (not to forget the champagne) and enjoy the buzzing vibe more than the food.
And then to Antwerp, where the diamonds are not the only things to sparkle. The city itself throbs with an energy absent in smaller Bruges and Ghent. I start the day with a visit to RubensHius, Peter Paul Ruben’s house, now a museum with several of his significant paintings. A couple of hours later, I see two more at the Cathedral of Our Lady and it reminds me again of why I love Europe so much. All this art so easily accessible to any visitor.
I don’t have time for the highly recommended MAS Museum that is a repository of Antwerp’s history but I do zip in and out of the Fashion Museum, known locally as MoMu. After all, Antwerp is known to be one of the fashion capitals of Europe, a reputation cemented by the group of avant-garde fashion designers known as the Antwerp Six. At the Meir shopping district, there is a cornucopia of shopping options, from large global chains to small edgy boutiques.
Towards the end of this shopping mile, the main façade of Antwerp Central Station is visible. Built in 1905 to commemorate 75 years of the creation of Belgium, this building is architecturally stunning and is rightly counted among the greatest railway stations of the world. Close to it is the diamond district; if the streets of London are paved in gold, then those of Antwerp are paved in diamonds. I walk past rows and rows of shops, steadfastly ignoring the siren song of the glittering stones. My best friends, these are not, says my wallet.
Compared to these Flemish towns – of the north Belgium region of Flanders – Brussels seems like just any large city. That is not to say that it is without its share of imposing art and architecture; the buildings around the Grand Place alone are enough to remind you that Brussels is more than just the headquarters of the EU. Grand Place began life as a local market in the 13th century, but today, it is not just the heart of the city but also a fabulous venue for concerts and festivals.
Just as I am slightly overwhelmed by the cold grandeur of the buildings in Brussels, I reach Manneken Pis. This 17th century statue of the little boy peeing is utterly delightful, if only for being the ultimate thumb-your-nose symbol.
I walk around the area, looking at the comic murals on the walls of private residences and public buildings.
Lunch, fittingly, is at the Comics Café, where I dig into a veggie burger (passing up the meat-laden Obelix and Popeye burgers). My inner child – never too far from the surface – is thrilled by the large framed posters of Tintin’s adventures on earth and on the moon. As their website says, “Comics and fine dining, two pillars of Belgian culture, join forces here!”
And I have nothing but deep respect for any culture that acknowledges comics as one of its mainstays and a peeing boy as an official icon. This country is sadly neglected on most travellers’ itineraries, squeezed as it is between the more alluring destinations of France and Holland. Walk around aimlessly or hire a cycle for the day. Gawk at the opulence of the art and architecture all over. Shop till you drop. Eat endless quantities of chocolate and quaff on a huge variety of Belgian beers. Find yourself footloose in Flanders and discover one of the prettiest regions of Europe in the process.
This Friday, an image from beautiful Rovinj on the Istran peninsula of Croatia.
Rick Steves says about Rovinj – Rising dramatically from the Adriatic as though being pulled up to heaven by its grand bell tower, there’s something particularly romantic about Rovinj (roh-VEEN). Some locals credit the especially strong Venetian influence here — it’s the most Italian town in Croatia’s most Italian region. Rovinj’s streets are delightfully twisty, its ancient houses are characteristically crumbling and its harbor still hosts a real fishing industry.
I missed last Friday’s photo, holidaying as I was in the rain-now-shine-now climes of Slovenia, zipping in and out of neighbouring Croatia for a couple of days. The very little I saw of Croatia, it seems like a country I want to go back to and explore at leisure.
And the tourist versus traveller debate rages on…
Of my favourite types of travellers to dislike (and there are many such) is the one who takes immense pride in being an untourist. Sure, I am all for spending enough time in every place I visit, taking in the experience and not ticking off boxes of must sees and dos. But some people taker it to the other extreme.
I came across this defence of the tourist trail on Lonely Planet recently; the writer says, “In a Cairo hostel, I met a girl who announced that she’d been in the city for three months and had yet to see the Pyramids. Her tone suggested she was waiting to be awarded a medal for most subversive traveller.” Definitely read this very insightful piece on how it is not wrong to do the things everyone does (and how going off the beaten path is in itself a myth).
There are many ways of being a better traveller than the average “if it is Tuesday, then it must be Paris” person. Here are some of my suggestions to make your travels more experiential:
See the sights
By all means, see the main sights – they are after all, what primarily define a place (think Taj Mahal). Can you really say you have seen Cambodia till you have spent time gazing at Angkor Wat and Bayon in awe? It is also a good way to gauge the mood of the country – in Sri Lanka a coupe of years ago, I found local tourists at every site I visited and that told me about the country’s slow limp towards peace more than any other visible sign.
Eat where the locals do
And try local food. Avoid the restaurants and cafes around the main attractions (especially those where waiters stand outside and recite the menu in English to lure you inside) and explore the lanes and residential areas of a city. Any place that is crowded with locals is the place to eat at.
The best thing would of course be to have a meal at a local’s house and while that may be possible in some parts of Asia, is not really an option in most countries. At the least, ask a local – your guide, your hotel manager or B & B host, a stranger at a pub – for suggestions. Little holes in the wall, family run trattorias, street dining options – go forth with an iron stomach and conquer.
Stay in an apartment
While hotels are usually the average traveller’s first choice, give B & B places a whirl. That way, you get to interact with a family from the town who can fill in a lot of knowledge gaps. Even better, try a short stay apartment – websites like VRBO and Airbnb are your best choices (but beware of the latter since it seems to get into some controversy or the other regularly – that said, I have used it and never had a bad experience so far). Get out of your comfort zone, say hello to other building residents in the lift, and cook occasional meals.
Visit a local market
Especially if you want to cook. Or even if you just want an authentic local experience. I don’t mean shopping for ridiculously priced souvenirs here. I mean a supermarket (I can spend hours checking out local brands) or a fresh food market where people living in the area go to regularly to stock up their refrigerators (or in some places like Provence and Tuscany, buy fresh every day). So if in Bangkok, do shop at the glittery malls and make a trip to the floating market, but also head to places where locals get their everyday bargains, if only for the experience.
Travel off peak season
Choose the shoulder months (since the really off season months can be a bummer sometimes if it rains or is just too hot to venture out) – for instance, April or October for Europe. The weather is usually just right, hotels and flights are usually cheaper, and there are infinitely less people around. It is an excellent way to take in a city at your own pace without being jostled around.
Use public transport
By all means, walk your shoes out and take cabs when you are just too tired to move. But get on to the metro (my husband and I make it a point in every place we visit where there is metro available – from Tokyo to Cairo), take a local bus or a short ride on a tram wherever possible. It’s great for people watching.
Hang out at a park or pub or cafe
I found the parks the most charming things about Paris, in Amsterdam I nursed a beer at five different places just to get a feel of the city and pretty much everywhere, I try to find a small cafe with wifi where I can kick back and relax for a while.
These are places where residents come and go, hang out, play chess or meet friends. And what better way is there to absorb the local vibe?
So my point really? By all means, be a traveller but please don’t be a travel snob – and don’t sneer at those who rush from one spot to another. Perhaps, their resources – time and money – are limited, or they just enjoy travelling that way. This tourist versus traveller distinction is all in the mind – yours.
For the longest time after this, I kept saying to myself – “Negombo… khush hua” and feeling very pleased about it too. Anyway. This is from a December evening in Negombo, very close to Colombo’s international airport.
Have you ever thought monastery hopping could be wretchedly tiring? After the first three, the head begins to buzz, the eyes glaze over and all of them begin to look similar. And you know you want to see a few more. After all, Ladakh is known to have the highest concentration of Buddhist monasteries (gompas) outside Tibet.
And so I devise a small game to keep myself entertained. If I had to choose a monastery to live in, which would I pick? Will it be my personal favorite Thiksey, cascading down the hillside like a waterfall in hard stone? Or large and venerable Hemis, with its beautiful museum with the cold floors and friendly watchman? Lamayuru perhaps, sitting unruffled amidst breathtaking scenery referred to by guidebooks as moonscape? Why not Alchi then, set in the Indus valley and home to stunning frescos a thousand years old? Or even the unlikely contender Spituk, keeping a benevolent eye over Leh’s tiny airport?
Ladakh, which follows the Tibetan Mahayana school of Buddhism, is considered the last stronghold of Himalayan Buddhism. Spiritual life here revolves around the monasteries, which are places of worship and meditation (for both practicing monks and outsiders), as well as for religious instruction. They were used in earlier times by travelers as guesthouses although now only the serious spiritual seekers attempt to stay in monasteries. Most gompas are majestically perched on top of hills or on steep cliffs, making it difficult to access them and in the past, attack them.
The inner walls of gompas are usually covered with beautiful murals and paintings depicting the Buddha, Bodhisattvas (incarnations and manifestations of the Buddha) and other elements from Buddhist iconography. At every gompa we visit, we meet helpful monks willing to open locked doors to show us around; some are shy, some cheerful but all are friendly.
Ladakh itself has been like that – somewhat bashful, startled to find itself the focus of attention of so many tourists but waving a friendly and cheerful Juley! to everyone. Even as mobile phones and weekend tour groups are threatening to take away a familiar way of life, Ladakh is fighting bravely to hold on to its cultural heritage.
Of miniatures and moonscapes
Alchi is our first stop, a sleepy hamlet of just over a thousand people and now a hot favourite of the backpacker crowd. Alchi, unlike others is not set on a hill but sits in a valley, quiet and self-effacing. The drab exteriors of this temple complex do not reveal in any way the treasures hidden inside.
Apart from an array of clay statues of the Buddha, the highlight of the Alchi gompa is the 1000 year-old wall paintings. These paintings are of a distinct Indian (Kashmiri) style, different from other monasteries in Ladakh and without much typical Tibetan iconography. It is believed that the Alchi complex was abandoned in between and remained unknown until it was unearthed a few decades ago – maybe its anonymity has helped preserve the art inside. Great care is taken today to ensure that visitors do no desecrate the wall paintings in any way. I shine my torchlight (highly recommended, given the unlit interiors) over the hundreds of miniature paintings all along the walls, willing my eyes to get accustomed to the darkness faster.
From Alchi, we make our way to Lamayuru in the Western Kargil district. Lamayuru is a personal must-see in Ladakh; in a piece for the New York Times, famed travel writer Pico Iyer says of it that a gasp escaped his (jaded) lips when he first set eyes on Lamayuru. And so we drive up, up, up the winding mountain road. Each time I want to stop for photographs, our driver urges us on, “Further ahead is more beautiful, it is called moonscape.” Moonscape – the word rolls off his tongue easily, having, I guessed, rolled off a thousand tourist tongues earlier. Lamayuru is believed to be Ladakh’s first monastery and still one of the largest, housing over 150 permanent monks.
Of war goddesses and ephemeral mandalas
After the majestic setting of Lamayuru, Spituk seems to come easy. Very close to Leh, this gompa is home to the patron saint of all those intrepid travelers who fly in, over the magnificent Himalayas, landing on the gut-wrenchingly narrow strip that serves as the runway. And so Spituk sits, placidly overlooking the quiet of the Indus valley spread out beneath and the bustle of the airport. Apart from the traditional frescos and thangka paintings, this 15th century gompa also houses the temple of the Tibetan war goddess Palden Lhamo, who is now venerated by visiting Hindus (despite strict warning boards all over the temple complex) as the goddess Kali.
Further along the road, Phyong is quiet at that time of the morning, only four maroon robed monks at work on a mandala. Their heads bent over the low stool, they seem absorbed in their work, till one of them looks up and smiles as our shadows fall on the colorful mandala in progress. According to Buddhist iconography, a mandala is a symbolic representation of the universe and making one is part of the training for monks. Made from coloured sand, a mandala requires intense concentration, a trait that is believed to help a monk during meditation. A mandala, I remember reading, is swept away after prayers are offered to signify the impermanence of life; a pity, it seems to me, looking at the intricate patterns and vivid colours.
Of monklings and the Maitreya
Hemis, in contrast to the other far-flung gompas, is overrun by tourists when we arrive. Its proximity to Leh – just over 50 kilometers away – makes Hemis, Ladakh’s largest monastery a popular destination. Built as early as in the 11th century, it was reestablished in the late 17th century during the rule of Singge Namgyal who patronized the Drukpa (Red Hat) sect. After a quick tour of Hemis, we head to the underground museum with its impressive collection of thangka paintings, statues and artifacts. From a distance, the sounds of the loud chatter of young monks, interspersed with laughter floats in, suddenly bringing alive the setting to us. Hemis is also the site of the annual summer festival held to mark the occasion of Guru PadmaSambhava’s birth anniversary.
And then finally the 15th century Thiksey, picturesque and imposing amidst the green-brown barley fields – reminiscent it is said, of the Potala palace in Lhasa, Tibet. We are there early enough to witness the morning prayers. A group of senior monks in maroon and gold robes are already immersed in their chants when we enter the main hall. A little while later, the young monks in training file in, silent and serious, to take their places.
Soon, I catch a few of them fidgeting, restless as only the very young can be. And when it is time for the teacups of the older monks to be filled, there is a mock fight to carry the kettles. Little monks started scurrying about with large kettles and containers with yak butter, like large red bees in a hive. The older monks dip their forefingers into the butter container, helping themselves generously to the salty butter. They stir it into their tea, licking the sticky remnants off their fingers without any reticence as they carry on with their prayers. The monkling (what else can I call him?) serves us with a shy toothy smile before scampering away purposefully.
And the highlight of Thiksey, an impressive statue of Maitreya, the future Buddha with his elaborate crown and the enigmatic, calm smile on his face, is what makes it my personal favourite.
Published in Sunday Mid-Day on May 19, 2013…
Also read my other story on Buddhism in Ladakh
The small northeastern state of Sikkim was once rightly dubbed ‘the hidden kingdom’ after a book (1971) by the same name by Alice Kandell. The mighty Kanchenjunga, considered a benevolent protector, dominates the region, making itself visible from various points within the state. Take a tour around the highlights of Sikkim.
Begin at Gangtok
What to do
Walk up and down the pedestrian-only MG Road, stopping for hot momos and chowmein at one of the various cafés on the street.
Make a day trip to Tsomgo lake (called Changu by locals), located in the middle of snow-covered mountains. Here, you can ride on a docile yak or pose for photographs next to one. From there, head on to Nathu La pass (open to Indian visitors only on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday), on the Indo-Chinese border to play in snow and wave at Chinese soldiers on the other side.
Pay a visit to the monasteries in and around Gangtok, in particular, the stunning Enchey and Rumtek.
Take a ropeway ride (8.00 am – 4.30 pm) up to the highest point in Gangtok for fabulous views of the town and the surrounding valley.
Where to stay
Go West: Pelling
What to do
Pelling is really not for active vacationers since there is nothing much to do here but take long walks on shaded mountain roads and gaze in awe at the Kanchenjunga. The views are spectacular especially after the monsoon, between the months of October and February.
A must-visit in this region is the Pemayangtse monastery, one of the oldest in Sikkim, founded in 1705. If you are lucky and the skies are clear, the Kanchenjunga may be visible clearly from here.
Visit the Khecheopari Lake, also known as the ‘wishing lake’ and considered sacred by the Sikkimese. Indeed, this is a place of worship for both local Hindus and Buddhists, and surprisingly clear of tourist traps. The path to the lake is studded with prayer wheels on either side while colourful prayer flags whirl in the wind closer to the water.
If you happen to be there on a weekend, look out for local haats (markets) where farmers from the area bring in their produce for sale; it makes for a lively and colourful morning
For those really bitten by the travel bug, a trip to Yuksam village (38 km away), the starting point for the tough trek into the Kanchenjunga National Park is recommended. Spend your day ambling down the narrow main road, snacking on chilli-cheese toast and tea at Guptaji’s small café, and watching the clouds play hide and seek with the mountains surrounding you.
Where to stay
In Pelling, stay at the Elgin Mount Pandim Hotel, close to the Pemayangtse monastery. It also comes with a spa in case you want to soothe those aching muscles after long drives on the mountain roads.
Go North: Yumthang Valley and Gurudongmar Lake
What to do
This is the most popular circuit among visitors to Sikkim, Gangtok to Yumthang Valley and Gurudongmar Lake in the north.
The first morning, wake up early and head to Gurudongmar lake situated at a (literally) breathtaking 17000 feet. Most vehicles take a compulsory halt for an hour at Thangu village at 14,000 feet for breakfast, and more importantly, to get you acclimatised to the altitude. Enjoy the ride thereon through a surreal moonscape path, which affords plenty of photo-ops. Go prepared with layers and layers of woolies and the idea that you will feel disoriented at that height and for perhaps a couple of hours after you descend.
The next morning, make your way to Yumthang, a mere 24 kilometres from Lachung and at a (relatively) more comfortable altitude of 12,000 feet. The road leading to Yumthang, known as the ‘valley of flowers’ is well laid and lined with rhododendron trees on either side. This area comes under the protected Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary (home to over 24 species of this flower) and is especially pretty during the summer months when the ground is covered with flowers of all colours. Yumthang is the stuff of picture postcards, with snow-capped mountains on all sides, with the crystal clear Yumthang river flowing through the meadow.
Where to stay
Lachung and Lachen villages are the base for Yumthang valley and Gurudongmar lake respectively. The Fortuna is one of the most popular and comfortable hotels in this area. Accommodation otherwise is mostly basic and not very luxurious there – discuss your options with your tour operator before you leave. The friendliness of the locals, the pure mountain air and the fresh water springs all around more than make up for any mild discomfort you may experience.
Note: You cannot rent or drive your own vehicle in Sikkim since many places require special permits. Therefore you need to arrange for excursions through an authorized tour operator in Gangtok. For North Sikkim, it is best to take a package that includes your travel, stay and food from one of the authorised tour operators who line MG Road.
From a lazy evening in Aix-en-Provence…
Time moves very slowly in Provence. It is this part of the world that J.B. Priestley had in mind when he declared, “A good holiday is one that is spent among people whose notions of time are vaguer than yours.” This is not to say that Provençals never take the concept of time seriously. Come lunch hour and all the outdoor cafés fill up rapidly with locals even before the poor tourist has finished weighing his options. The point is: take it easy when you are in Provence and savour (or cultivate) that unfamiliar feeling that you have all the time in the world. It will help you deal with the locals, bless their friendly hearts.
From my story on Provence – Life in the slow lane
Also see: Friday photo series
There is something special about Amsterdam in springtime. The Keukenhof gardens are open for a couple of months, as the tulips paint the landscape in brilliant colours. The city is on party mode all through April in anticipation of Holland’s biggest holiday – Queen’s Day, on the last day of the month.
If you are in Amsterdam for only a couple of days, here is how to get the best of it. First, buy the 48 hour IAmsterdam Card, which allows free public transport and entrance to key attractions, discounts at some restaurants and even on bike rentals. Pick it up at the main tourist office opposite the Amsterdam Centraal railway station. Also pick up a guide to Keukenhof gardens. Or, since Amsterdam is cyclist heaven, hire a bicycle for the duration of your stay—choose from one of these options recommended by the authorities.
Once you’re set, here’s how you can make the most of your two days in the city.
9am: Start your day with a leisurely breakfast at an open air café on the Leidseplein (translated, Leiden Square), watching the city slowly come to life.
10am: Head to one of the many fabulous museums in Amsterdam for a morning of high culture. Choose from the Van Gogh Museum or the newly renovated Rijksmuseum. The two are located close to each other, so you can quickly take in the highlights of both.
1pm: Have lunch at one of the Indonesian restaurants that the city is known for. Order the Rijsttafel (Dutch for ‘rice table’), which is a meal of several, tiny side-dishes accompanied by rice.
3pm: Pose for photographs on the iconic IAmsterdam installation (some tourists try to climb on top of the letters for that quirky photo) and then make your way to the sprawling Vondelpark for a walk in the spring sunshine. If you are feeling particularly sporty, join in a raucous game of football that is sure to be on at several places in the park.
4pm: Walk or bike your way along the main canals of Amsterdam that form a ring in the inner city—the Prinsengracht, Keijzersgracht, Herengracht and Jordaan. The canal ring is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites and celebrates its 400th year in 2013. There are beautiful old buildings lining both sides of these narrow streets and several canal-side cafés to nip into for a quick coffee.
6pm: Take an open boat ride on the canals, which comes with a guide and usually lasts for an hour. This is a great way to see the city and know a bit of its history.
7pm: Devote the evening to beer quaffing at a pub of your choice; you can never go wrong with beer in Amsterdam. Our recommendations are the ‘t Smalle, a distillery set up way back in 1780 near a picturesque canal (Egelantiersgracht 12), and In De Wildeman (Kolksteeg 3) famous for its Dutch and Belgian beers. And if you must, then take a stroll around Amsterdam’s (in)famous red light area, De Wallen. It is in Amsterdam’s old side, in the vicinity of the Oude Kerk (Old Church). Be sure not to point your camera at people or shops there since it is frowned upon.
8am: Grab a quick croissant and coffee on the run and make an early start to the Keukenhof gardens. Devote the entire morning to tulips and all the other attractions of Keukenhof.
1pm: Try some local specialties like Bitterballen—minced beef fried with a coating of bread crumbs at a brown café, so called for its darkwood panelling (and not because of the ‘substances’ they deal in, as some people think).
2pm: Take a lazy saunter through the floating flower market on Singel canal and the Albert Cuyp street market.
4pm: This is a must-do for any visitor to Amsterdam, the Anne Frank House. It is a grim reminder of the city’s Nazi history. Note that entry here is not included in the IAmsterdam card and that it may not be suited for small children. Buy your tickets online to avoid the long queues.
5pm: Pick up a helping of poffertjes (Dutch pancakes) and patat (fries) and sit at Dam Square watching buskers ply their trade. Or, walk around the shopping haven of Negen Straatjes or “nine streets” around the canal area, filled with pretty boutiques, art galleries and vintage stores
7 pm: Have a quiet dinner at Hap-Hmm for Dutch food “like grandma used to make” and at prices that make you hum with happiness. The restaurant is justly popular among both locals and tourists.
More on tulips
No visit to Amsterdam in spring is complete without a trip to Keukenhof gardens just outside the city. The garden is open from 8am to 7.30pm (till May 20 this year) and it is best to arrive early to beat the crowds and get the most of your morning. Buy tickets for a boat ride around the gardens as soon as you arrive, since these are very popular and tend to get booked fast. Apart from the thousands of tulips in myriad colours, Keukenhof has other attractions like rows of daffodils and hyacinths, greenhouses for orchids, play areas for children and cafés dotted throughout. There are buses to Keukenhof from Schipol airport (easily reached from the centre of the city by bus or train) and it is best to buy a combination ticket online before you go.
Originally published on the Conde Nast Traveller website on April 30, 2013
Also read: It’s tulips time in Amsterdam