Day 17: Amsterdam: Bicycles, Houseboats, & Canals (Oh My!)
06.01.2015 - 05.02.2015
A day trip from Paris to Amsterdam is an easy trek. A train ride takes you through Belgium into this pristine city which looks like it was designed by a type A toymaker. In a good way. Man-made canals criss cross the city. And they were, indeed MAN-made. The founding fathers ensured we would know this by giving them names such as the Gentleman's Canal, the Prince's Canal, and the Emperor's Canal. Be that as it may, a boat ride takes you through most of the city and gives you a view of some of the 1200 bridges. This is a walking city, so walking along the canal is also truly enjoyable. When you get tired of looking at the water, you can glance into the windows on the opposite side and see into the living rooms of the locals. Window shades are not big here, which makes the voyeur in me very happy. I love to see inside homes.
There are way more bicycles here than cars. There is much more of a chance of being hit by a bike than of being run-over by a tram, bus, motorcycle or car; the other modes of transportation. Everywhere you look there are bikes flying past you or parked on the streets and bridges. They steal bikes where I come from. In Amsterdam, it seems it's safe to leave your bike. The big fear is forgetting where you parked it. I have enough problems finding my car sometimes and have been known to stand in a parking lot trying to open a stranger's car, thinking it was mine. How do people here remember where they left their bike and how do they tell them all apart? Leave a comment if you think you know the answer, please.
If you don't want a typical tourist experience in Amsterdam, you can rent a houseboat for your stay, instead of an hotel room. They dot the canals and are fully equipped with satellite TV, fridge, stove, living room, and all the comforts of home. In fact, some are stationary homes on the canal. Many, though, are true houseboats. Each is distinctive and has a charm all its own. Privacy, however is an issue since you have boats traveling up and down the canals all day and into the night and people like me peeking inside your windows to see how you live.