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Amsterdam Adventures

Amsterdam |

We have just returned from Amsterdam – another country down, many more stillto go! The weather was not the greatest, and we found it to be even more unpredictable than London’s weather!

On arrival we dragged our suitcase down the main street of Amsterdam through crowds of people as we searched for our hotel. After about half an hour of battling crowds and cold winds we managed to get some bad directions and eventually found our very well presented hotel.

We stayed in the 4 star Golden Tulip Intel very near to Dam Square - the centre of Amsterdam. It was a nice hotel and I noticed that as well as having a hair dryer type contraption there was also a clothes line contraption in the bathroom - a silver coloured circle that you pulled the cord out and connected it to the other wall. Very handy and I would say that your hotels during your travels will also have this feature.

On day one we wandered around the city admiring the architecture and taking in the sights of the canals. The streets were quite dirty and there were a lot of people around – mostly tourists I gather! That evening we went to a very good restaurant recommended by the Lonely Planet guide were we had the most delicious food for a very reasonable price.

On Saturday we decided to see more of the country side and booked ourselves in for a 6 ½ hour bike ride (yes – push bike) through the country side of Amsterdam. We met at the set location at 11am and the weather was getting progressively overcast. At 11.30 when we departed on our tour it was raining quite heavily and blowing a gale. As I wobbled along in the rain in a huge billowing yellow raincoat I wondered to myself at exactly what point a tour would be cancelled due to bad weather. The tour through us straight into it! As I struggled to peddle and steer I was also confronted with coordinating myself on the road with traffic, and stopping and starting through traffic lights with bike lanes! All of this mind you with no helmets!

Even though the weather did not improve my riding skills did and we managed to ride with the group (me turning corners and all!) to a traditional windmill on the side of a canal. It was surprisingly small but quite interesting. Apparently the way that the blades of the windmill are facing holds a significant meaning even today. We took a photo before the camera mysteriously died on us! (battery due to cold weather – note for future: get a spare battery)

We continued our ride for a few more hours and the weather began to clear up. As we continued through the countryside where I saw numerous very healthy looking cows and sheep grazing in the lush green fields, along with families of ducklings paddling in the canals.

The canals were very unusual to look at. Rather than a creek style body of running water with soil and rocks around the outskirts and underneath these water ways were full up to the very sides of the land where they just about
met the lush green grass. This is because Amsterdam is built on peat. Apparently the peat expands and retracts according to the amount of water. This also explains why the houses in Amsterdam are quite fragile and often leaning at an angle rather than straight.

Another interesting piece of information we learnt is that Amsterdam is actually completely below sea level and they have worked to contain the ocean (which fills all of their canals) by using dams and dykes.

Anyway, back to the huge cycling adventure. … After what seemed like ages of riding we stopped for a break at a pancake house in a small country town. It was very picturesque! Tiny little houses lining the canals, all with boats docked on one side and a cobblestone road on the other. The pancake house also had the most delicious pancakes! And a real cat on the window sill too!(which sneakily ran across an empty table top on its way out).

From here we continued on along until we came to a standstill at the edge of fields of lush grass scattered with canals and unusual looking white wooden planks. We soon discovered that our destination was across these rather boggy fields and the unusual white planks were actually bridges that had an additional feature which was to fit your bike wheels between so you didn’t lose the lot on the was across the canals. On completing several of these crossings and riding through several fields we came to a large body of water and were taken across on a very small barge type boat.

Through the field we came to a traditional bridge which, in times of use, had to be manually lifted to allow boats to pass – boats being to large to pass underneath otherwise. Lach had a go at opening it and managed to open it in 12 seconds! Then we had a jump on the peat and discovered that you could actually feel the earth moving beneath you. This was followed by the most grueling ride into gale force winds for ages!!!! And then met with a welcome stop in another little township before heading the last hour back to

It was a great way to see the country side and a good story to tell. I cant believe I actually did it. Especially since I have never been the most coordinated person when it came to pushbikes. Lach thoroughly enjoyed it and even managed a few tricks on his bike.

After a brief rest we went out for a meal – some average steak, before heading for a stroll through the red light district of Amsterdam. (This is a well known part of Amsterdam, known for its erotic shows and drugs). It is only a small section of Amsterdam, but no visit is complete without a walk through just to see it.

On Sunday we visited Anne Frank’s house. It was very crowded with tourists so we had to line up for a while, but it was worth the wait. Very interesting and slightly depressing. There were even original pictures and Anne Frank’s original diary. I bought some postcards to show you.

We then went on a canal cruise which was disappointing as it was over crowded and there was a family with two very loud and irritating children whose parents ignored them as they cried and wailed for the whole hour, despite the looks from several other passengers.

After this we took a walk along the Southern Canal Belt and saw the Seven Bridges that were carved from stone in 1664, and are supposed to be one of the most romantic spots in Amsterdam. We also walked by the Skinny Bridge – which has some sort of historical value that I can’t quite remember.

It was a good experience, and Amsterdam is a place full of beautiful people, and spectacular countryside, however it doesn’t make our list of top places to return to in the near future.

Locations Visited: Amsterdam

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