We were all up and ready for breakfast by 8:30 am. The plan was to leave for Leiden by 9:30. We arrived at the train station at our schedule time, but with trains leaving every 15 minutes, we decided to have a coffee first. A round trip ticket to Leiden was 7 Euros each.
The train to Leiden is the same train that goes to the airport and to Den Hague. Within 35 minutes, we were in line for our combo tickets for the bus ride and entrance to Kuekenhof. Tickets were 18 Euros each. With tickets in hand, we explored this lovely and quaint city, walking the streets and looking in shops. We spotted an Oil and Vinegar store and all of us had to make a stop there. Ron and I had come across our first Oil and Vinegar store in Lisbon, Mark and Chris had their first experience with one in Chicago. It is a cooks paradise and we sampled some of their goodies.
We decided to get snacks to bring to the park and picnic there. Finding a supermarket was easy with the directions we were given from the lady at Oil and Vinegar, so we did our shopping. We found rolls and cheeses we do not normally see in Hungary giving all of us a sense of euphoria.
With our snacks in hand, we went to catch our bus for the gardens. The 54 bus was packed with standing only capacity, but we were first in line to secure seats. We arrived at the grounds by 1:30 and walked slowly enjoying the varieties of the flower beds, the magnificent and unusual colors of some flowers, and the displays of statues. After two hours, we stopped at the outdoor restaurant for beers and snacked on our picnic lunch. We had yet to go to the major exhibition hall, which I knew would completely delight all of my crew. Chris had been here 12 years prior, but the grounds had grown considerably in that time. The first hall we went into was all orchids of hundreds of varieties. They were stunningly beautiful, some magically so in their incredibly different shapes and or colors.
As we approached the main hall, we discussed how much time we would need here. The others thought thirty minutes, but I pushed for an hour and they agreed. When we walked in and they saw the enormity of the displays with the variety of flowers, they realized why I prodded for more time. We all went in different directions with a common meeting point. I was as happy as a pig in mud, snapping pictures of flowers I most likely snapped pictures of last year, but still eager for more. Then twenty-five minutes into my shutter fever, my batteries died. I had two brand new packs of Panasonic Heavy Duty batteries, so I was not distraught. When I changed the batteries in my camera and it did not work at all, I did become anxious. I then tried the second set of batteries and they did not work either. Then I became despondent. Give me a camera and keep me busy for hours. Take away my batteries and I am instantly listless. I had no other back-up batteries, having left my rechargeable ones at home, depending on two brand new packs of batteries.
By the time, we had met up again as a group, we decided that we should head back to the station. It was now 5:45 pm. However, we had only covered half of the park. There was still another section that we had not even touched. We knew if we waited longer, the park closing at 7:30 pm, we would have to scramble for the bus back to the station.
Back in Amsterdam, we agreed to a long rest and to meet at 9:30 pm for a late dinner. We walked to the Hard Rock cafe to show Mark. He had never been to one, but does enjoy music. It was fun to share this experience with him. We then found a restaurant with an all-you-can-eat rib special and went there for dinner. Ron and I had the ribs and they were great. Having a beer in the gay bar on our street was the evening closer, so we went to the Spyker. It was more crowded than I remember it being for a long time, making it hot and stuffy with our coats on.
We headed to our hotel within the same block and agreed to a lazier wake-up and tour day tomorrow.