Wait, what? You’re where now?
It is when you’re a geographically displaced couple like us who will soon have to get back to a regular work schedule, and you want to squeeze all the sight seeing in while you still can.
If you haven’t already heard, we’re headed back to live in Brazil. Brian’s new job will have us (him) working in Newcastle in England for the next three months, then will move us down to a city outside São Paulo to develop their branch there. He starts work in a week, so if we were going to take advantage of being so close to the continent we had to do it quick.
Amsterdam is so close to Edinburgh that the flight only takes an hour to get there. I bet Sarah Palin can see it from my house.
We booked a flight only two days in advance, tried to book a room and sort of panicked because there weren’t any available unless we wanted to sell one or two of our future grandchildren to pay for it. We finally found a bed and breakfast through Airbnb.com. We used them in Denver last year and loved it, so we tried our luck again. We sort of went in blind since the one place that still had a room available didn’t have any photos of the room on their site, but beggars can’t be choosers. We paid for the room, crossed our fingers and got on the plane.
We were so happy with the B&B that I’m going to dedicate a whole post to it. Seriously, you guys, you have to go to Amsterdam just so you can stay in Wout and Lia’s houseboat. More to come about that later.
First, let me show you our first impressions of the city (once we stopped ooh-ing and aah-ing about our floating room with the windmill right outside the window).
All I saw that first day were bikes. The streets are super narrow, and the city is a tangle of bridges and canals running in every direction so driving has got to be a nightmare. The answer to that problem? Bicycles.
Everywhere you look there are bicycles, every road has a bike path, and there are whole streets you can’t even drive on. Your only way to easily get anywhere in the city is either on foot or on your bike. Amsterdam is pretty big for walking, so you really are better off on your wheels.
And everyone rides. Young, old, hippies in their flowing dresses, business men in their suits and ties, moms with three small kids. You name it, we saw it on a bike.
And they start young. We figured if that three year old up there could do it, so could we. Our B&B gave us free use of two of their bikes so we jumped on and explored the town.
I keep forgetting how much I like to ride a bike. I never did get one here in Scotland even though I meant to. We don’t really have a way to take it with us between all the places we’ve stayed, so never quite got around to buying one. I’m so glad we got the chance to ride on this trip.
In a city where everyone and their grandmother rides a bike, sometimes there are some adaptations to be made. Sometimes they’re just out of preference, sometimes out of necessity. Sometimes for comfort, sometimes for utility.
Need a cargo basket? No problem, most bikes had some kind of rack. Need to haul some heavy stuff? Well, that’s a slightly different modification:
Have a couple of kids and six bags of groceries? How about a handy bucket between your wheels? Work for you?
I don’t know about you, but the big wooden bucket in the middle of my bike would cause me to instantly tip right over in the street. I think I’ll stick with a little handlebar basket.
This one was my favorite. You could strap three kids in there, including one in an infant car seat (we saw someone doing it) and still fit a few bags of groceries, all nicely protected from the rain. I think the three wheel version here would be my best choice. No tipping over when I turn a corner. It’s even got an umbrella stand on the side! Or maybe that’s a wine bottle holder? Even better.
Now, where to park the bike?
Outside the “Coffeeshop” is the obvious answer if you’ve come to Amsterdam to sample the goods. Just be very, very careful riding home. It’s just as illegal to ride your bike under the influence as it is to drive.
No room to park outside the shop? How about on the bridge? Only if you can find a space.
Or you could line them up along the sidewalk. Good luck getting it back out again when everyone else piles theirs in right next to yours.
If you really get desperate you could park it on a drawbridge. Just make sure you have chained it to the railing really, really well.
Even the bike parking barges on the canal fill up. I can’t figure out if this guy just got creative and found the only free space within five blocks, or if someone decided to just make their own space by flipping his bike over the rail and out of the way.
Either way, problem solved.
On the map: Click here to see this location on our Google Map.