Like Disneyland (without the rides)

The Dutch and their spectacular flowers

The Dutch and their spectacular flowers

Once every 10 years, Holland plays host to a horticultural extravaganza.  With the participation of numerous countries around the world, the little town of Venlo features Floriade, a huge exposition featuring enough flowers and scents to attract the most finicky of patrons.  We heard about this event from John Postma, my uncle who had visited it once before and he, along with CNN, declared it a “Must See in 2012!”

We arrived around 11am and zipped past what seemed to be a hundred tour buses dropping off their guests at the front gates; we remarked that there were relatively few children attending the event and of the adults, the majority were white-haired and walking very slowly.   Once we boarded our parking shuttle from the lot to the front gates we bought our entrance tickets and started exploring the grounds.

The first thing that hits you is the luscious smell…hyacinths are blooming right now and their purple and white blooms mix nicely with the vibrant colors of the tulips and give off an intoxicating scent as you walk the main promenade. The guides distributed handy park maps but we let the kids determine which direction to go and there was no problem finding pavilions to delight us. One of our favorites was the Green House which featured tropical plants including thousands of orchids and a 3D movie which presented the devastating power of floods.  (in 1953 Holland suffered a severe flood due to a failed dike)  Another great treat was “living like a bee” collecting pollen and nectar to make honey…the kids were given a digital clicker that collected points for finding the right clues (Lilly was our winner).

The park grounds are huge and there is a gondola available to whisk you from one end of the park to the other.  Of course, we hopped on and could see all the places we hadn’t hit yet on our visit.  We walked through buildings created by visiting countries that showed typical design styles as well as plants and vegetables native to those lands.  One of the best was the Chinese garden complete with meditating garden and paper screens dividing the rooms.

We concluded our visit with a walk through the flower showroom featuring arrangements of the most spectacular spring blooms. Chandeliers hung above our heads as we slowly walked the cobblestone paths laid in the middle of a fern grotto.  When we returned to our car, we were surprised to discover that 6 hours had slipped by.  Lilly boldly declared, “I love this place. It’s like Disneyland without the rides!”  The kids all agree we should make plans to return in another 10 years.