My favourite day in Amsterdam was not the day that we went through the Red Light District, or the day that we toured the Anne Frank Huis. I loved both of those experiences, but my favourite day in Amsterdam was the day that Matt and I rented bikes, and went out into the Holland countryside.
We woke up and went to a cute cafe that we found earlier in the week for breakfast, because in my opinion, scrambled eggs are much better than the bread and jam that were offered at our hostel’s free breakfast. While we walked over, we kept an eye out for bicycle rentals. Our hostel had bikes we could use, but they were bright orange, so we found a bike shop that had bicycles that wouldn’t make us look like such tourists.
At the shop, I told the owner that I my goal was to find some windmills in the country. He brought me to the back of the store where he had a map on the wall, and showed me how to get from the shop to the river, and then explained to follow the river all the way down. The river would lead us out of the main city, and we would see the first windmill about an hour out. “As long as the water is on the left side of you, you are going the right way” he said.
I love being out on bikes to explore. You can cover so much more of the city than you could if you were walking, and this day made me wish we had rented bikes in every city we went to. Amsterdam bike lanes are a little daunting to be in though. The traffic moves very quickly, and everyone is constantly ringing their bells at pedestrians crossing into the lane. My biggest shock was that motorcycles are also allowed in the bike lanes! I was constantly looking over my shoulder to make sure I was over far enough if one wanted to pass me. At one point, I was fixing my shirt when we were stopped at a light, and a girl making a right turn on her bicycle smashed into my elbow! She apologized profusely, but it goes to show how careful you need to be when you are in this kind of traffic.
Matt and I followed the bike shop instructions (which actually helped when the roads started to cross over one another) and made our way to Amstel. We found the windmills and snapped pictures that we could never capture at home. We rode through the country passing farm animals without a drop of rain in sight. I was loving my life.
We passed a modern house with two sloped roofs and cedar siding. People were inside working on it, and we stopped so that Matt could have a better look. He was just explaining to me the reasoning for the sloped roofs with the solar panels when one of the men called out to us. Matt was yelling back that he loved the building, and the next thing we knew, we were being invited in by the architect. I could tell this was like Christmas morning for Matt, so I took photos while the architect showed us around. He told us that he designed the place for him and his wife, and was selling the other half of the building. It turned out that there was a gap between the two units that he covered from the outside so that no one would ever know. He explained the reasoning behind every detail of the building (glass floor so that the natural light would come from the upstairs and light the back of the house downstairs), and was even in the process of installing an elevator so that him and his wife could still enjoy their home when they are older. His “outhouse” (a guesthouse) was a tiny replica of the main building, and was even nicer than our house at home. Matt was in heaven. After about half an hour, we said goodbye to the owner and continued on our way.
After getting a late lunch, we made our way back into the city and rode around exploring on our bikes until we had to return them at 8pm. We had spent our other days in Amsterdam on foot, but to me, the best way to explore this amazing city is on a bicycle. We were able to see so much more than we could have if we were walking, and got out of the main city to see more than the typical tourist attractions. Another bonus is that being on a bicycle allows you to feel like a local for a day. By the end of our adventure, we were also ringing our bells at pedestrians crossing into our paths and shaking our heads as we zipped by. Do as the locals do. Have you ever ridden in the bike lanes in Amsterdam? I want to hear all about it! : )