For me, the Spring season heralds the advent of traveling and outdoor activities. I have never been a big fan of winter, and wish humans were as flexible in their migratory habits as fish or birds are. It gets a little depressing seeing the bare framework of the tree trunks without the leaves, birdies, or the squirrels. Sometime during March, the sun eventually starts to show up brighter, and I do not feel as cheated on time as I do when it gets dark at 4 in the afternoon.
I had never seen cherry blossoms or tulip fields in India. Maybe I just didn’t go to the right places at the right time. For me, while the beginning of Spring was marked by the festival Holi (and final exams of course, which always happened in March), April was significant because of the Bengali new year celebrations (and of course the start of the new academic year, the smell of textbooks, and sitting in new classrooms).
It seems like an era since all of it ended. I moved out of home, started to live in the other side of the world, and finally Holi and Poila Boishakh (Bengali New Year) celebrations was substituted by cherry blossom festivals and tulip festivals. Come April, I always looked forward to a trip to the Skagit Valley tulip fields near Seattle. Once we exited the highway 20, there would be miles and miles of tulip fields. Anyone who has grown up in India or has some association with Bollywood is reminded of Yash Chopra movies, especially Silsila, when you think of tulip fields. Someday, the Tulip Gardens in Keukenhof near Amsterdam will happen to me. Someday.
Visiting the tulips in the sunny weather was a challenge, because there is usually such short span of sun in Seattle. Having said that, it is one of the most picturesque view you can treat yourself to. Imagine driving along miles and miles of colorful tulips, stopping by the fields and taking pictures all day long, or just standing there mesmerized by the colors. The fun part is the traffic jam that occurs as a result of everyone trying to visit the tulips on a rarely sunny Seattle weekend. You could be stuck in traffic for hours, and that 1.5 hour journey can easily take you 3-4 hours each way.
To avoid this jam, my friend Jason suggested we start early. This was back in 2009, when I was working there. Early, I agreed, he did have a valid point. But how early? Jason (who has taken most of the pictures in this album, and who kindly consented that I use the pictures for this post) is an early riser, and believe it or not, he was right at my door by 5 am. We drove through the empty freeway, with not a single car on our way. When we reached the fields, the sun had not yet shone. We waited longer, took a lazy stroll, and there the sun came up the tulip fields. We spent hours walking, talking, taking pictures, and marveling in the beauty of the tulips. When we finally got back, we were amazed to see the roads clogged at the other end. People driving on the opposite side were stuck for hours. It was 11 am, and people were beginning to show up. We were already on our way back.
Memories of the tulip festival never left me since then. Folks back at home would be thrilled to see the tulip pictures. It is exciting to see tulip updates from my friends every year. The Skagit Valley tulip festival is pretty big and nice. You could easily spend 4-5 hours there, depending on your enthusiasm. The one in Woodburn, Oregon is good too. However, the biggest tulip festival in the USA happens in Holland, Michigan. Very aptly named. Michigan sounds more plausible than Amsterdam, so hopefully, it will be Michigan some day.
If you are around Seattle, do visit the Skagit Valley tulip fields. It will be a pretty memorable and Bollywoodish experience. And if nothing else, it will be fun sitting back and watching hundreds of people take happy and filmy pictures with their loved ones.