love the layover

Love the layover: See Donald Duck & Madonna at Keukenhof on a Schiphol layover

I first learned about Keukenhof last year, when the historic 80-acre park that bursts forth each spring with 70 million tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and other flowering bulbs was celebrating its 60th anniversary with, among other things, an installation of flowers at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

Even to someone who can barely keep a houseplant alive, I liked the idea of seeing acres of Holland’s tulip fields in bloom and of strolling through a park filled with so many perfectly planted display gardens.  And once I discovered that you can get to the park by public bus from Schiphol, I was sold.

So on arrival in Amsterdam this week I stashed my bags and headed out to the gardens.

Tulip fields

The perfectly tended-do gardens are as advertised: a festival of colors, aromas, and landscapes laid out along footpaths that are dotted with water features, foot bridges, artwork, play spaces and pavilions filled with – more flowers.  There’s even a Walk of Fame with flowers named for Donald Duck, Madonna, and other celebrities.

Some of the flowers, especially a few of the unusually-shaped and colored tulips, don’t look real. But, of course, they are. That why, as popular as is it, Keukenhof’s spring garden is only open to the public for eight weeks a year.  This year’s closing day is May 16th.  So if you’ve got a layover at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport before then, take the #58 bus out to see the gardens. If not, add the gardens to your ‘must see’ list and schedule your next trip with a long layover at Schiphol.

(Keukenhof photos courtesy: Keukenhof)

Tulips at Keukenhof

Love the layover: airport adventures on Oahu and the Big Island

Snowstorms, mudslides, rain, more rain, and tornadoes.

Sounds like a good time for a trip to Hawaii.

If you go, or just want to dream a bit about going, be sure to check out the slide-show I put together for – Cheap and Offbeat Oahu – about activities that are free, cheap or bit offbeat.

Included: the tale of the fish auction that takes place 6 days a week, beginning at 5:30 am;

Information about a free exhibit at the Hawaii State Art Museum that’s filled with historical objects and photographic portraits that tell the history of Hula,

(These pot holders are not in the exhibition, but you can buy them at the airport..)

And a reminder to travelers that there are a trio of tranquil cultural gardens – Japanese, Chinese and Hawaiian – inside the Honolulu International Airport (HNL)

If you’re going to go to Oahu, you should also pop over to the Big Island.  And if you do, you’ll be able to visit the Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center at the Kona International Airport.  On January 28, 1986, all seven crew members were killed when NASA’s Space Shuttle Challenger exploded less than two minutes after launch. One of those crew members, Ellison S. Onizuka, was Hawaii’s first astronaut.

To space center has oodles of fun, hands-on activities as well as exhibits that include a moon rock from the final moon landing of Apollo 17 in 1972, an authentic NASA space suite, and personal items that belonged to Ellison Onizuka.

My favorite items in the collection are the freeze-dried macadamia nuts and the freeze-dried Kona coffee that NASA created especially for Onizuka. Today’s astronauts can still choose these items from the space menu.

Cheap air fares to London: then what?


There are plenty of worthwhile things to spend money on in London, including theater tickets, fine meals, shopping and a ride on the London Eye or in an iconic black cab. But there are also loads of attractions, museums and special sights that are very inexpensive and many where admission doesn’t cost a penny.

Two, totally-free hidden gems I recently discovered: The Wellcome Collection and the Grant Museum of Zoology, pretty much around the corner from each other.

The Wellcome Collection has oodles of offbeat health and medicine-related objects on display, including shrunken heads, a brass corset, antique artificial limbs and Napoleon Bonaparte’s toothbrush.

wellcome-collection - napoleon's toothbrush

The Grant Museum of Zoology is jam-packed with skeletons, fluid-preserved specimens ranging from tiny fish to giant reptiles, and all manner of taxidermied animals, including this cute elephant shrew.


For more cheap, cool places to spend your time in London, see my article posted today on

Love the layover: elevator ride in Paris

If I had a one-day layover in Paris, I’d probably spend a few hours at the Musée du Louvre and then head to the Eiffel Tower for an elevator ride to the top.

Or I might just save my euros and visit the new Radisson Blu Le Dokhan’s Hotel, Paris Trocadéro and spend some time drinking champagne and riding the elevator there.


The boutique hotel is housed in a former private residence in the 16th arrondissement and was the site of Paris’ first champagne bar. They’ve still got a champagne bar on site – and they have an elevator made from a single, vintage Louis Vuitton wardrobe trunk believed to have belonged to the Dokhan family, who were the original owners of the private residence.

Love the layover: eat sweets

If you were disappointed with your drugstore chocolates this Valentine’s weekend, then take a tour of the Sweet Travel Blog and find out where the really great treats are around the world.

Julia, the person who maintains this blog, started researching sweets in Japan and has just kept going, sweetly, around the world.


Read about her latest finds, like these  Indian treats called jalebi – which she describes as “big swirls of blaze orange dough, deep fried and soaked in sugar syrup” – and then dip back through the 85 posts she penned about the amazing sweets she encountered in Japan.


Think all these sweets will make you fat? No way, says Julia,  who believes that “calories don’t count when you’re carrying your own bags.”

I hope she’s right!

(Photos courtesy Sweet Travel blog)