Saturday, May 16, 2009

"Spring in Groot-Bijgaarden" Flower Show (Apr 18)

After Shannon had dropped off his cousin, Christine, and her friends at the airport, we decided to head to the annual Flower Show: Spring in Groot-Bijgaarden (aka 'Floralies: Printemps à Château de Grand-Bigard' in French). It's basically an amazing flower exhibition which goes on for one month (Apr 9 - May 7) at the castle of Groot-Bijgaarden where over one million bulbs of tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and others were planted under the direction of specialists from The Netherlands. There were also greenhouses with lots of flower-beds and bunches of flowers made of freesias, callas, amaryllis, tulips, alstromerias, roses, gerbera and chrysantemums. In addition, we saw several orchids in the chapel upon our arrival.

Even though we technically had to return a second time to the castle that day, it ended up being for the best as it became more sunny as the day went on. Our first attempt of visiting the castle ended shortly after Shannon tried to take a picture of me at the entrance of the castle and sat down in some bird poop on the bridge's railing while trying to steady his camera! I felt so sorry for him and it was so bad that we had to return home for him to change! I had to drive the car back so he could sit with his pants half-way down in the passenger seat to avoid getting any 'bird crap' on the leather seats. When we finally returned to the castle, the skies had turned from gray to blue with lots more sunshine, so we think it was a sign!

We had a great time taking in the breathtaking flower gardens around the castle's grounds. We even brought a picnic lunch of hummus, bread and cheese and some other stuff we around the house. It turned out to be a fantastic day. Next year, it will be a toss up if we return here or go to the famous Keukenhof Gardens in The Netherlands like we did last year. I guess we'll have to see how much traveling our new baby let's us do!

Here is the website of the castle if interested:

This is probably not the nicest photo to start off with, but it's how our day began! (you can see why we had to return home initially, dam bird poop!)
Entrance to castle
Orchids in the chapel
Some of the castle's beautiful grounds
More of the castle
Nicely groomed gardens
The tulips were so vibrant!
After our picnic lunch, we staged a photo
Some gorgeous hyacinths
Shannon experimenting with his camera The tulips were planted so thick making them even more striking
Walkway of tulips
I loved these multi-colored tulips
Getting close and personal with the flowers!
Some more vibrant colored tulips
Shannon being artistic
These pink tulips were pretty cool
I tried to see if they smelled, but didn't notice much scent
Labyrinth of flowers
Relaxing in the labyrinth with the daffodils
There were bunches of flowers everywhere among the sculpture gardens
Shannon in the sculpture gardens
You can see the bunches of flowers better here
Mixture of tulips
An interesting variety of a tulip
Some more detailed sculptures
I thought these were neat made out of wine barrels
Indoor exhibition
I loved all the gerbera daises!
Just some more interesting tulips, like you haven't seen enough yet!
These tulips reminded me of Shannon's flames on his pickup back home! (Which we sold to a young kid before we left)
Some crazy tulips!
Example of how flowers were planted everywhere from the borders to clumps in open green spaces
Valleys of flowers
Arches of hyacinths

Almost done as we've finally wrapped back around to the entrance!

We were fortunate that some people didn't mind taking a quick photo of us
Another front view of the castle with some beautiful hyacinths planted next to the moat

Ok, we made several people take our picture! Hill of flowers with castle in background
The lion back at the entrance on the bridge says GOOD BYE come again some other day!


Reid said...

great photos Ali! I can't believe it about the bird poop - that was bad. at least the photo turned out well. I loved this place and can't wait for spring to come again to return. fun to relive in your photos too.

leigh ann said...

Hi Ali,

Thanks for the pictures of the Abbaye! I felt like you had wrapped up a present and given it to me! It is such a calm and austere place. That was why we framed and hung the picture in the kitchen- to remind us to stay calm and keep things simple. We have twin girls and need the reminder!

I don't know if I'd suggest the camping and bike ride to Knokke-Le Zoute now. I wasn't pregnant at the time and we didn't have kids yet. Our idea of roughing it was great dinners out and a bottle of wine every night...

It looks like you all are really taking advantage of your time there. Good. We only regret not doing more things- and not buying more antiques! But we were young- 24- and cautious. And we did do quite a lot.

Moving back isn't hard, but the expat experience changes you- for the better i would say. We joke that there's nothing like moving 4000 miles away from family and friends to really make a strong marriage! You have to be a team and that has been a great advantage over the years. Becoming a strong family unit and becoming even more adaptable were two benefits that we didn't realize at first. A broader world view, great work experience, travel and adventure, doing something interesting and out of the ordinary were all part of why we did it, but we definitely got more than that out of the experience.

We've moved a ton since then- currently in Canada- and over time I like Belgium more and more. At the time it was grey, rainy and soometimes frustrating but now it's funny dinner party stories(frustrating parts) and great memories.

a bientot,
Leigh Ann