Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A little exploring in Amsterdam

Our original plan was to follow Rick Steves walking city tour so we took the train to Central Station.  Outside of the train station, they have a giant bike park instead of a car park…everything we do in cars (eat, talk on the phone, text, etc) the Dutch do on their bikes!

We made our way to Dam Square – the center of the city back in the day and still today – and quickly succumb to the Dutch way of life and took up residence in an outdoor café. It is easy to see why the Dutch are the most content people in all of Europe as all they seem to do all day is sit in cafés watching the world go by.

The Dam was full of locals, tourists and street performers. This is also where all political protests as well as celebrations take place in Amsterdam.

The walking tour was also put on the back burner as we searched out an electronic store to buy a special converter plug for my laptop.  After an illuminating conversation with the salesman, we left as he informed me my laptop was dual voltage and all I needed was my plug adapter.  Who knew?!  I wasn’t totally convinced he was right until we returned to the hotel later in the evening and confirmed with online support…was afraid I would fry my laptop.   
While researching for the trip, I found a boat club called the St. Nicolaas Boat Club…a non-profit group that runs free canal cruises on original canal boats (they just ask for a donation to help maintain the boats if you can afford it, if you can’t no worries).  This is the one we signed up for on Sunday when we arrived.  The club is very typical Dutch in that it is completely laid back…they don’t have a phone or formal website…if you want to join a cruise you go to the Boom Chicago bar and sign up.

Our captain was Miguel who was originally from Lisbon but has been here for four years.  We got really lucky and Ken (one of the original founders of Boom Chicago and this boat) was in town visiting so he joined us.  Our boat was called Athena…Ken named her Athena.  Athena was the daughter of Zeus and was born from an explosion of his head after a massive headache…the first year of the Boom Chicago running the boat was a massive headache for Ken so he thought the name was fitting! 

The cruise was really nice as you just drift through the canals and if you have a question you ask.  It is about a three foot jump from the dock into the boat…not so much a problem getting in the boat but for my short legs getting out was quite fun…definitely NOT a Kodak moment!  You’re welcome to bring any food, drink or smoke you like…they just ask you don’t throw anything in the canals.  Again, a very laid back city.

Seven Bridges – from the left of the boat you could see five bridge and from the right two.



Low bridge! We had to basically sit on the bottom of the boat to get through it…twice! The beauty of these canal boats is they are small and can fit in places the big tourist boats can’t.

House boats all along the canals – about 25% more expensive to live in a houseboat

About 20 minutes before our cruise was over, it started to drizzle…did I mention the three foot climb out of the boat?!  We made our way to one of the outdoor cafés at Leidseplein and watched all of Amsterdam go by while sitting in the comfort of large umbrellas with heat lamps and enjoying a tasty dinner.  Then it was back to the hotel to pack up for our trip to Brussels tomorrow.

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