So how was Leiden? Beautiful, a mini Amsterdam with canals and bridges and bikes.
It is a university town with something of the same feel as Cambridge, but with canals!
The place we stayed in was a real find, an apartment on the Nieuwe Rijn. Ours was not the one pictured on this website but had two bedrooms, a fabulous bathroom and a small sitting area within the larger bedroom overlooking the canal. Everything was spotless and comfortable, the bathroom was to die for and our host, Leon, made us wonderful breakfasts in the spacious kitchen overlooking a terrace. Brilliantly situated, beautifully furnished and cared for and really nice people. If you can get to Leiden I would really recommend it.
We rented bikes from our hosts and, having not ridden a bike for about twenty five years, I tested the cliche that you never forget and found it to be true.
The Keukenhof gardens were amazing, not a garden in the ordinary sense of the word, although there were a few places which worked as a garden for me, but a living bulb catalogue.
Although I love tulips and identified some varieties which I shall try, this river of muscari armenicum, edged with tiny daffodils was one of the high points of the garden for me.
And looking out from the Keukenhof to the surrounding fields is extraordinary.
The place was full. It was crowded and jostling and I often find that being surrounded by too many people inhibits my ability to look properly but somehow and surprisingly Keukenhof absorbed the people and there were moments of simple beauty.
We focussed most of the rest of our time in Leiden on walking to find a series of almshouses, known as hofjes. These are tiny squares hidden away behind doors in the walls of Leiden. They were built from the late sixteenth to the eighteenth century as places for the poor or the elderly to live and are all still lived in, most still by the elderly, some I think as part of the university. They are tiny oases of calm and all are accessible to the public, if you can find them.
We drank a lot of coffee in all sorts of outside cafes including one on the top of a department store with fabulous views down over the canals.
And we visited the Hortus Botanicus, the oldest botanical garden in Europe outside of Italy, which has some of best glasshouses I have ever seen.
A great week. Thank you to Joyce for her company and to Ian for holding the fort at home and visiting my father while I was away.
And just a quick heads up for a product review coming soon. I don't do much of this kind of thing as I am not myself keen on much advertising in my own favourite blogs. I review books occasionally if they are ones I think you might be interested in. I get lots of approaches for product reviews and generally just say no thank you. This approach came from Mill Race garden centre and was just so pleasant and totally non-corporate, courteous and personal that I thought I would give it a go if I could find something to review that mattered to me. I have chosen to look at some gardening gloves. I don't know about you but I am constantly on the hunt for gloves that are not so thick and heavy that I find myself taking them off which defeats the object somewhat (a very frequent occurence) or so thin and flimsy that I put the index finger of my right hand through them. Why the index finger? I have no idea. Do you find that gloves fail in the same way every time? I must have half a dozen pairs with a hole in the end of the index finger of the right hand. I don't know why I just don't throw them away.
So these are the three pairs which have been sent. The last pair is the thinnest and lightest and I am already using them. The others are a little heavier. I will use each pair for a week or so on the same kind of activities, hand-weeding mainly and let you know how I get on. I will report back!