Tulip Service

From Peru to Holland, a loyal Grand Circle traveler rounds up friends for fun

By Lorna Chin, 5-time traveler, Brooklyn, New York

After years of caring for people as a nurse, now I like to nurture orchids at home. I love flowers and I had never been to the Netherlands, so the tulip attractions—especially the decennial trip to the Floriade horticultural expo on Holland & Belgium in Springtime—were particularly appealing.

From left, Ivy Smith, me, and Lola Brown, during our visit to Keukenhof Flower Park.

I may have retired, but I sort of consider my “second job” to be a travel agent, rounding up my friends, and most of our group (in a few iterations) has been on several trips together, including Real Affordable Peru, Australia, New Zealand & Fiji, and Old World Prague & the Blue Danube.

I always take the pictures and share them online with everybody—we all live across the country and meet up for our Grand Circle trips—but this time my girlfriends, and my mom, Grandeline Douglas, were good about snapping some shots so I could get in them, too!

What woman doesn’t want more shoes? But somehow I don’t think these would fit into my closet as a souvenir from Enkhuizen.

I loved the flowers and took a lot of pictures of them. There were all different kinds—not just tulips—at Keukenhof Flower Park and the Aalsmeer Flower Auction. Reading about the flower auction at Aalsmeer does not give you the magnitude of activity that is involved, from the buyers, to the workers preparing and inspecting the flowers. We also enjoyed the vegetable auction in Hoorn, where our visit to the Broeker Veiling Museum was definitely a highlight.

A vegetable auction was re-enacted for us to participate in during our visit to Broeker Veiling Museum in Hoorn.

But my favorite person-to-person experience was the Home-Hosted Visit in Enkhuizen.

Me along the canals in Enkhuizen.

Husband and wife Jan and Joke Wallert shared apertifs, cookies, pie and licorice, and we all shared customs and stories. It was here that I found some of my favorite flowers—and they weren’t even real! Joke is very talented and we all learned about her exquisite paper-cutting hobby that is very popular in Holland.

I was mesmerized by the exquisite paper-cutting performed by our hosts during the Home-Hosted Visit.

It was just such a comfortable visit and a wonderful discovery experience. There was a sense of a simple family who genuinely enjoyed having guests and eagerly shared their family and country, to the point that we lost track of time and were reluctant to return to the boat! Jan was such a riot. When we were walking back he told me he liked reggae music, and we started chatting again. Being of Jamaican descent, I was delighted that Jan is a fan of reggae music, another opportunity to discuss culture.

Me with Jan Wallert and Joke Wallert during my Home-Hosted visit in Enkhuizen.

We all enjoyed the music and onboard entertainment. The folk group was fun, and I became “The Karaoke Queen.” Everyone asked me if I sang professionally or if I sang in a choir.

Carol Dumetz shows off her moves with folk dancers from Amsterdam aboard the M/S Harmony.

One of the things I really liked were the cube houses in Rotterdam, so when I got home I did some reading about them. I don’t tend to read up a lot about the places I’m going to, I just go with the flow–not a bad idea in a place filled with hundreds of canals! Sailing through the canals was simply amazing.

Cube houses in Rotterdam.

When I was growing up in Jamaica, I read about these places in high school, and it’s just so wonderful to finally be standing in the places you've read about in a book or drawn on a map. Traveling is such a learning experience. When you talk to families it’s entertaining and really educational. You meet friends. We’ve kept in touch with some of these folks we’ve met on our trips, and these are the experiences I share with my other friends upon my return.

The gang's all here: from left, Lola Brown, Beulah Norton Campbell, Ivy Smith, Carol Dumetz, me, and Grandeline Douglas.