Amsterdam by fiets

Needless to say, after our action-packed Saturday, Sunday was not nearly as productive. We missed the hotel breakfast (technically I woke up in time, but only to groan that, “I don’t think I’m going to make it for brekafast” and fall back asleep), and it was after noon by the time we left the hotel.

We decided to explore Amsterdam by fiet (aka bike). Perhaps that wasn’t the thing I wanted to do most while hungover, but it was a very Amsterdam experience.

Vondelpark
To play it safe on our first destination, we headed to Vondelpark. There were definitely a lot of people in the park, including a small group of middle-aged men and women dancing in a field while listening to their iPods. I was coordinated enough to take out my Kodak Zi8 and film us riding through the park. Not that it was the safest idea. And I accidentally ran out of space the first time around so this is actually a re-enactment of my original video:

At this point we desperately needed coffee (even though we had just started our bike ride), so after a frantic attempt at locking up the bikes, we finally sat down at a cafe in Vondelpark for a quick break.

Singel Canal Cruise
After the park, we rode across town to Singel Canal, by the flower market, which was ridiculously packed with people and bikers. Our goal destination was the Poezenboot – a cat boat! It’s literally a boat on the canal that is a shelter with cats for adoption.

De Poezenboot

Despite a stressful ride through the flower market area, once we got onto the road along Singel, it was smooth sailing. A very relaxing ride down a quiet street along a calm canal. We were like true Amsterdamians. Unfortunately, the cat boat was closed and there were no cats hanging out outside.

Our next destination was Central Station, where Frances wanted to find a big “I AMsterdam” sign her iPhone app was promoting. So, for some un-Godly reason, we started riding our bikes towards Central Station/Dam Square. It was ridiculously packed with people and bikes and Frantic Frances was out in full effect. Finally, we found a place to lock up our bikes (it was harder than it sounds) and just walked to Central Station. Unfortunately, it was a failed mission because we couldn’t find the big letters (iPhone fail).

But we did see a big bike parking garage.

However, at this point we were both feeling a little cranky, exhausted, hungry and frustrated. So we abandoned the bikes for awhile, and walked back towards the cat boat (away from the crowds) to find a quiet place to eat along the canal.

Man & Suitcase
As we were strolling down this quiet street, we hear a commotion coming up from behind us. Some guy was riding a bike and dragging along a little suitcase on wheels besides him. It was a very skilled manuever, until he lost his coordination for a minute and the suitcase started flying all over the place. As he attempted to get it back smoothly on its wheels, of course he lost his balance on the bike, swerving all over the place. It looked like he was for sure going to fall or ride into something. But after a couple minutes of struggling, he got his shit together. Me and Frances almost peed our pants.

Man & his suitcase

Lunchtime at Greenwoods Cafe – no, not what you think
Luckily, we found an awesome little cafe for lunch. It seemed to be run by a group of English folks and they could totally be characters right out of a book:

  • The Waiter: a super polite but somewhat flamboyant guy in black & white checkered pants. He seemed mild-mannered, but you could also imagine him getting off work and clubbing it up.
  • The Waitress: a tall, skinny, cute girl.
  • The Busboy: a young, impressionable boy (late teens, early 20s?) who you could imagine being the protagonist of this story, with the other characters looking after him. Or he looked like he could also be a jock – a rugby player maybe.
  • The Cook: a somewhat Willy Wonka-looking character with a mop of curly, reddish-brown hair, with thin, black-wired-frame glasses sitting on top of it. Very skinny and lanky in his food-stained chefs outfit. Or as Frances described him, “it looked like he had make-up left on his face that he had tried to wash off from being a clown the night before.”

Aside from the characters, the food was very yummy and quite healthy. My sandwich was literally called the Healthy Sandwich, and was soda bread (not sure what that is exactly, but it seemed wheaty) with lettuce, mushrooms, peppers and cottage cheese on top. After our relaxing meal at that adorable cafe, it was time to head back to the bikes.

Biking Tour…cont’d
We biked away from the crowds of people as fast as humanly possible, biking along the northern coast, towards a windmill we found on our bike trail map. It was interesting to see the city outside the immediate tourist center – we rode past all the beautiful canals and little neighborhoods to reach more regular-looking (and drab) suburban settlements.

We rode back towards the hotel, biking past the zoo (where we got a sneak peek at a bunch of flamingos – the last thing you’d expect to see on an overcast day in Amsterdam) and the Jewish neighborhood. Then we rode along Amstel Canal, which was also calm and beautiful.

We locked up our bikes by our hotel and knocked out. It’s pretty cool that for 10 Euros you get the bike for literally 24 hours.

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