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5 blooming great flower festivals
From the lavender routes of Provence to the peach blossoms of Shanghai, now's the perfect time to plan a floral excursion
When you can leave work and still have time to enjoy a mug of beer before the sun goes down, you know spring is knocking at the door.
What better way to bring it in that with a trip to a flower show?
Before the flowers get picked up by traders, or get turned into a bottle of luxury bathing oil, pull out the dusted floral print dress and head for these blooming great flower exhibits.
1. Keukenhof, Lisse, Holland
When: March 22-May 20.
Every year, 32-hectare Keukenhof in Lisse is overlayed with more than four millions tulips and other flower species.
Once a herb garden for a Dutch countess' kitchen in the 15th century, it has grown into the largest bulb flower park in the world.
There are 15-kilometer footpaths, several cycling trails as well as a one-hour boat tour. Seats for the boat tour are limited, so be there early to guarantee a place.
On the "Walk of Fame" you can see tulips named after famous people, non-fictional and fictional, such as Mozart, Ronaldo, Lion King and even a Teletubby.
The annual flower parade will be held on April 21 this year, starting from Noordiwijk to Haarlem (outside Keukenhof) and will pass through Keukenhof in the afternoon. Visitors are allowed re-entry into the park after the flower parade on that day.
Bus no.58 goes from Station Schiphol to Keukenhof 12 times per hour.
Opens daily from 8 a.m.-7.30 p.m. Standard ticket for adult costs €14.5 (US$19.3) and a combo ticket including bus transportation from Schiphol costs €21 (US$28), www.keukenhof.nl
2. Nanhui peach blossoms, Shanghai, China
When: Late March to late April for peach flower blossoms. Peach tasting in August.
Shanghai Nanhui may not be the biggest flower fair in the country but it still offers some great sights.
Every Spring visitors flock to Shanghai Nanhui districts for the annual peach blossom festival where they can bathe in the red and pink blooms, which symbolize prosperity, life and love in Chinese culture.
Nanhui Taohuachun (peach blossom village) in Huinan town is one of the most popular peach flower farms. Traditional performances are also staged. Don't miss the pig race.
Chinese rural delicacies such as veggie wontons and pumpkin cakes are available to keep you energized throughout the day.
Opens daily 8 a.m.-5 p.m., +86 21 5801 9595, www.taohuacun.com.cn (In Chinese only), RMB55 (US$8.7) for adults
3. Takada Castle cherry blossoms, Jōetsu, Japan
When: April 6-22.
Takada Park in Niigata prefecture offers a romantic option for nocturnal visitors. Cherry blossom viewing in Takada Castle is one of the three biggest night hanami events in Japan.
The tourism website shows you how to hanami like a Japanese.
Takada Park's 4,000 blooming cherry trees will be lit up by thousands of bombori lanterns (traditional small oval-shaped lanterns) along the "Sakura road."
"Because of cooler weather this year, cherry blooms will start a little bit later than usual," Kazuyuki Akiyama from International Tourism Office of Niigata Prefecture estimates. "I would say mid-to-late April will be the best time to see cherry blossom at Takada Castle."
Traditional Japanese food and local food specialties like yakitori and takoyaki will be sold from 300 outdoor stalls at the event during the festival.
Also, don't miss the firework on the final day.
Takada Park. Opens daily until 10 p.m. (evening hanami starts after sunset). Free (within the park) and ¥200 (US$2.4) for entering Takada Castle's turret; enjoyniigata.com
4. Royal Botanic Gardens, London, England
When: Year round, but best in April.
Over 250 years old, Kew Gardens spreads over 121 hectares, holding over one in eight of the known plant species in the world. The massive garden is carpeted with five million blooming bulbs and many attractions.
Daffodils line Broad Walk, magnolias run through Princess Walk and on the Cherry Walk the pink Prunus 'Asano' species is expected to blossom soon. Check the arboretum team's updates on each flower's status or what's on here.
Tarryn Barrowman from the Kew Gardens is keen for visitors to see the delicate alpine plants "Glory of the Snow" from Turkey's snow mountains that will emerge soon.
Kew offers free tours hosted by volunteer guides till April 30.
Blossom and bloom tours: Register 15 minutes before tour start at the Guide’s Desk, spaces are limited to 15 people per tour. Groups larger than six will need to book in advance at firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0)20 8332 5604, www.kew.org
Ticket prices and opening times for different areas can be found here.
5. Lavender routes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France
From June to September, Provence in France will be covered by a patchwork of blue and purple lavenders.
Major lavender farms stretch along the foothills of the Alps in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region.
Marine Féré, representative from the region's tourism office, encourages visitors to plan a lavender route trip starting mid-June to mid-July before the blooming lavenders are harvested.
A few breathtaking spots along the route include: Sault plateau -- a small village filled with medieval houses and Renaissance homes; Valensole plateau -- home to the famous ceramics makers in the old village Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and is famous for its lavender honey.