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Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 7:57 am | Fair 42º


Judy Crowell: Tiptoe Through the Tulips in Amsterdam

This capital city in the Netherlands has much to offer visitors in early spring — or any time of year

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What could be a more vivid harbinger of spring than tulips? Pink ones, red ones, striped ones — millions of them in every color of the rainbow, sitting in crates at the Aalsmeer Flower Auction outside Amsterdam, Netherlands, ready to be bid on by thousands of buyers stationed at computer desks and shipped to your local Schnucks, Whole Foods and florists.

Set your alarm early for this largest flower auction in the world, open to the public for tours beginning at 7 a.m. This gigantic display of beauty and frenetic activity is on a scale not to be missed, and, I promise you, you’ll never look at a bunch of tulips in the same way again.

Amsterdam has much to offer the early spring visitor. For tulips in a garden setting, head to the fabulous Keukenhof Gardens with more than 32 hectares and be dazzled by more than 7 million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths, their breathtaking color and heady fragrance. There’s not a more beautiful spring garden in the world.

Spend a day at the Rijksmuseum, which originally opened in 1885 and was completely renovated, rebuilt and restored over a period of 10 years, reopening in April 2013. This imposing and spectacular building combines the best of old and new. Bright and airy, it boasts a new Asian Pavilion and houses more than 800 years of Dutch art and history, presented in a creative chronological order. Lovers of Rembrandt and all 17th-century Dutch Masters will delight in this museum.

With 165 canals and 1,200 bridges, Amsterdam is indeed a "watery" place, so hop on one of the low-slung, glass ceilinged canal boats for a leisurely tour of the city’s beauty. I highly recommend doing this at night, by candlelight, when the architecture of the old city center is most effectively illuminated and enjoyed.

Don’t miss the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House, where the horrors of this young girl and her family will linger in your mind for a very long time. Shopping takes on a bohemian flavor in Amsterdam with flea markets and antique shops at every corner.

And, yes, I know I’m deferring on reporting on one of Amsterdam’s main attractions: the Red Light District. Alive and well (used as a euphemism), this part of the city’s most historic neighborhood and close to the train station is a major tourist attraction with many walking by the enormous windows and under the glow of red lights simply to observe this phenomenon. Some planning to buy. Prostitution is legal in Amsterdam, but be wary of unsavory and untouristy folks who would come under the heading of thieves and drug dealers.

Luxury hotels include The Toren in the center of the canal area and a chic haven for a memorable and unique stay. The Intercontinental Amstel Amsterdam was once a grand Dutch residence. Located near financial, cultural and shopping areas, it is ideally located and oozes palatial grandeur right along the Amstel River. Hotel Seven One Seven is a 19th-century building with all the modern conveniences. Here you can pick from the Dickens, Mahler, Schubert or Picasso suites.

For the feeling of being in a Dutch living room, be sure to visit several “brown cafes,” akin to the pubs of London and the epitome of cozy watering holes. For a true Dutch breakfast, lunch or dinner, try Gartine, a tiny gem needing prior reservations. Greenwoods is another little gem specializing in eggs benedict, smoked salmon and marvelous sandwiches. Book this one, too. Bussia for creative and delicious Italian. Vinkeles for French, contemporary cuisine and superb service. And the trendy Café George for a French brasserie feel. For nightlife, music, food and fun, try the Supperclub.

You’ll find that Amsterdam is indeed a “tiptoe through the tulips.”

— Judy Crowell is a Noozhawk contributing writer, author, freelance travel writer and Santa Barbara resident. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are her own.

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