People don’t take trips . . . trips take people.John Steinbeck
Sep 6-11 2014
Amsterdam was our next stop after visiting Scotland. We met up with some friends who live in London, and rented a houseboat on one of the cities canels during our stay. It was a really neat experience and we especially enjoyed hanging out on the top deck, drinking beers and watching people as people floated, walked and bicycled by.
The houseboat was located in the Jordaan District, to the west of the main center of the city, and just far enough away from the crazy tourist crowds the city is known for. Originally a working class neighborhood, Jordaan has become an upscale part of town, with many modern art galleries, speciality shops and restaurants dotting the area.
Amsterdam has the feeling of a small city, built to a human scale, but with all of the features you’d expect in a major metropolis. The bicycle is the main method of transportation, to a degree that we had never seen anywhere else before. The city is of course very bicylce friendly because of this. We had to rent our own bikes while there and experience it for ourselves. One day we even took an extended trip outside of the city, which you can read about in the post Bike Ride to Zaanse Schans.
Back in Amsterdam we visited the obligatory areas such as the Red Light District, Rembrandtplein and Nieuwmarkt. All areas which seemed overly commercialized and full of rowdy crowds, we much preferred wandering around the surrounding neighborhoods and interacting more with the locals. I guess it all just depends what you are after on a trip, as I’m sure 10 or 15 years ago I would have really enjoyed the main party districts.
The one thing I didn’t mind was checking out though, that is popular with tourists and locals alike, were the numerous Coffee Shops, offering a chill atmosphere that gave a glimpse into what the future could hold for similar types of establishments in the United States.
We also enjoyed hanging out and relaxing in the Vondelpark, a large urban park, passing through the impressive 19th century Rijksmuseum, in the Museumplein, along the way. It was full of many ponds and water features for wildlife, open green spaces for playing games such as disk golf and frisbee, and areas hidden by shrubs and trees for people to hang out with their friends and enjoy the nice weather.
During one of the days we wanted to get out and explore some of the other canels besides the one we were staying on. Our houseboat didn’t move, so instead we rented a small boat and took it out for the day navigating around the city. We quickly learned that the larger boats always have the right of way, but otherwise it was pretty easy sailing, with one way canels and two lane canels that operated much like city streets.
Besides the beer, while in Amsterdam you have to try the famous Dutch cheese and raw herring too. The herring is served with chopped onions and pickles. It tastes and smells fresh and salty, practically melting in your mouth. You can find the Dutch cheeses all around town, just look for the giant cheese wheels in the windows. My favorites were Gouda and Beemster.
We enjoyed our time in the Venice of the North. The city of Amsterdam is not just about sex and drugs, there is so much more to this beautiful place if you seek it. It is filled with historic buildings, an abundance of culture and a strong commitment to green living. I am sure we will cross paths again with this magical place again in the future.