We mentioned to a British tourist in Lagos that we were heading to Amsterdam, and he said he loved it: he’d visited once with his family, and once with a bachelor party.
Two very different experiences.
Well, I can’t speak from the bachelor party / college party town perspective (although Amsterdam obviously lends itself to these), but, for us, the stunning standout was the bikes.
Yes, we’d read about how Amsterdam was the most bike friendly city in the world. We’d watched videos of how plentiful bikes were, and how easy it was to navigate the city on them. But we were still unprepared for exactly how Bike Awesome Amsterdam is.
In Seattle, we have bike lanes through some key neighborhoods, marked areas between the parked cars and traffic. We even have the Burke Gilman trail, a dedicated pedestrian / bike rails-to-trails conversion snaking across town. In Amsterdam, virtually every street has a bike lane, often a dedicated lane set between parked cars and the sidewalk, so there’s no danger of traffic collisions. Every street.
And everybody rides. Everybody. Such a beautiful thing to see the hordes of peddling office workers, the guy in a tuxedo peddling his be-gowned date (who rides side-saddle on the back), the parents ferrying three and four children per bike, some standing on the back or arranged in the bucket of the ubiquitous cargo bike. (But interestingly, there’s not a bike helmet to be seen. Again, very liberating.) And because everyone rides, because bikes are so plentiful, the cars treat the bikers as first-class citizens, not annoying hobbyists cluttering their God-given roads.
And it doesn’t hurt that Amsterdam is so flat, you can practically coast from one end of the city to the other.
And then, there are the canals. Combined with the bikes, they create a languid, timeless mood. I don’t need to be going anywhere, I’m happy to just pedal over the bridges, past the canal houses, under the trees and through the markets.
Each street hides a little pleasure nestled amongst the brownstones. If you took the most interesting, engaging block in all of Seattle, condensed it down to just the best parts, and then somehow replicated it continuously across an entire city, I’d still rather spend my day wandering through Amsterdam. If you took the best parts of Brooklyn, vacuumed up the car noise and the New York grime, you might have a shadow of Amsterdam.
Oh, and the parks. There was a lovely park just a couple blocks from our AirBnB house, but Vondelpark, just a 5 minute bike ride away was days to itself (especially with Zev): playgrounds, fields, fountains, pools, cafes, and even, yes, a bouncy house.
Our two weeks in Amsterdam flew by. We’re now en route to Seattle, ending our three months in Europe. It will be nice to return home, but Amsterdam…we’ll be back, for longer than two weeks next time.