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Biking & Culture

It’s still our first day and we realize it’s getting late and we need some nosh. Walk up Keizersgracht, where we are moored, and spy this little place that looks crowded. It was about to rain so we went in and the waitress was kind enough to let us sit at the bar. Luckily soon after a table opens up and we chuckle as she turns away other patrons: “we’re full” even though our vacated bar seats remain vacant. Must have been Rose’s smile.

The photo below was taken as we were leaving, still raining, but with full tummies we’re happy.

First nights eatery at Cafe Bij ons.
First nights eatery at Cafe Bij ons.

The place was crowded, not steamy, but full of people and all the doors closed. Really fun to have been let in and we order mushrooms & toast followed by a Dutch meatball, potato & cheese, supposedly a classic.

Trying to capture the ambiance inside Bij ons.
Trying to capture the ambiance inside Bij ons.

Next day, which was Wednesday, we had reserved a 3 hr bike tour with “Mike’s Bike” at 12 noon. Still finding our way around we opted from breakfast at “the two Indians”, a place around the corner recommended by Jereom. Sat on the sidewalk and soaked in.

Breakfast at the "two Indians" as per Jereom.
Breakfast at the “two Indians” as per Jereom.

Mike’s was at Kerkstraat 134, about 30 minutes walk from our boat. Arrived at 15 to to a buzzing little shop. Got our names checked off and wandered down to the bikes a few stores down. Soon realized there were 40 odd of us and we were split into 3 groups and we drew Irish Kate as our guide – lucky us! Kate is from Dublin but is now a staunch ambassador of Amsterdam & The Netherlands where she now presumably lives. She assigned Brian as our sweep and off we go, a chaotic snake of bicycles negotiating Amsterdam’s bike paths. I can’t describe it and don’t have a video of it but my best analogy is “organized chaos” as we blend in with locals and keep four eyes open for cars, tourists and now fellow cyclists. What a gas!

Kate, our animated ambassador from The Netherlands.
Kate, our animated ambassador for The Netherlands.

Every now & then Kate gathers us, her flock, and espouses everything there is to know about a facet of Amsterdam.

First briefing in front of the Rijkersmuseum.
First briefing in front of the Rijksmuseum.
Just another houseboat.
Just another houseboat.

One leg takes us through the red district and we are warned: “Do not take any photo’s, they will destroy your camera and the police will stand by and chuckle.” Once out we make a stop and Kate tells us in detail why the Dutch system works and that their (progressive) attitude to sex, drugs, crime (their jails are empty and they import prisoners from neighboring countries to generate revenue) is the best way to go.

She educates us, go on give it a try, to how the sex trade operates. Red is for female and Blue is luck dip, transgenders at various stages of transgender’ing. Tells a story of a guy who picked Blue and came out with a smile on his face – says it all.

We were not off the hook yet as Kate launched into the coffee shops and was happy to markup our maps on which were the best ones to visit. What an afternoon, never a dull moment as we stopped by the windmill brewery for a pint and exchange stories with fellow travelers – we got tips from a girl from Philly who had been living in Switzerland for a while. Man, life is good.

Windmill Brewery
Windmill Brewery

For dinner we wandered off into the neighboring Jordaan district and on getting lost we stood clueless on a corner. Along comes this old guy, now I’m 63, walking his dog and asks if we need help. “We’re looking for a place to eat”. Well one phrase leads to another and he regularly visits family in Oakley, CA and is happy to direct us to some eatery’s – Life is still good!

We head for the busiest place and wrangle a table at the top of the stairs looking back down on the entrance. I had a Thai curry and Rose a couscous salad and desert was red wine back on the boat.

T10 restaurant for dinner.
T10 restaurant for dinner.

Thursday was to be rainy so we headed for the Rijksmuseum which opened at 9 am. Made it there by 9:30 and spent some time orientating before selecting the “90 minute highlight tour” on the iPhone app that we had previously downloaded. Then the modern 20th century works after which we felt full and headed out into the rain.

OK, one photo of The Nightwatchman.

The Night Watchman.
The Night Watchman.

We’re back on the boat sipping a “Cape Red” when we hear “do you have any plastic bags?”. They are sweeping up floating trash and needed an extra bag. They clean up a neighbors place and then swing by as Rose offers them an extra bag for their chores. Man I think we live here!

Picking up trash in the canals.
Picking up trash in the canals.

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