Sunday, September 26, 2010

loving Amsterdam

Oh what a lovely unexpected day off. I have never seen Amsterdam so beautiful so late in the year. There is plenty of green on the trees, still. Because of my current squirrel trail twixt work and home, I do not get into the Centrum as much as I did when I first moved here. And every time I do bike into the Centrum, whether it be the 9 Streets or the famous canal zone or the Jordaan, I thank my lucky stars that I live in a city that is so dang perfect for me.

Biking is definitely the best way to see Amsterdam. If visiting, I suggest experiencing Amsterdam on two wheels. Oh, I know, it seems terrifying, but that is because you have experienced this city as a pedestrian, possibly the most stressful way to criss cross Amsterdam. Why? Because you have to look out for the bikes. If you are on a bike, you are with the bikes, and everything flows.

This is one fast moving city. Not in a New York or London or Rome way, because of the paucity of cars, but in it's own gentle way Amsterdam is a very quick, switched-on vibe. People tend to look out for what they are doing and where they are going. When I first visited Amsterdam, I swore I would never get on a bicycle here. To a newcomer, the crazed lines of taxis, trams, people and bikes zinging all around can be intimidating. No way, I thought. I'll stick to the safety of the sidewalk.

Then I learned that A) it takes forever to walk what takes seconds to bike and B) there IS no safety of the sidewalk. Bicycles RULE here. The entire city is set up for them. Cars are few and pedestrians stick to the back streets or pedestrian zones. It's actually kind of stressful to walk around much of Amsterdam until you wise up to the major traffic areas and avoid them. The majority of the city moves on two wheels. Quickly.

My splendiferous friend Bill and I experienced the bicycle taxi, which I highly recommend. They are generally sprinkled around the main tourist area, like Dam square. If you are a bit hesitant to see the RLD (red light district), yet curious, consider a swing through on the bike taxi. A truly novel experience. I think it was 20 euros for half an hour or something like that. They will tell you ahead of time. It's probably a bit negotiable. It's a hoot. Bill and I laughed until our sides hurt, because our Russian driver was fearless and we pretty much felt like we were on an amusement park ride the entire time.

...more about bikes tomorrow, time for this expat to hit the hay

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