Some of the best experiences happen when you’re pleasantly surprised. Amsterdam is surprising in the best possible way.  Liz and I have just spent three days here. While not enough time to see everything, it gave us a taste of the city and an appreciation for the Dutch people.

Amsterdam is a city of bikes.  They’re everywhere.

You’ll see mums and kids riding…

…trolley loads of beer drinkers pedalling.

…even loaded up touring bikes heading odd to some place exciting.

It’s also a city of canals.  The entire CBD is built on an ingenious network of small and large canals which let you get anywhere if you have a boat.


The cool thing about being in a city of canals and bikes is that it gave me the chance to try two things I enjoy – cycling and paddling.

Liz kindly agreed to indulge my crazy whim and helped me pedal a paddleboat around town for a while.

The canals are busy places – we were slow and had to give way to everyone as crowded tour boats floated past us.

But going slow had its benefits.  We were able to get a peek into people’s lives as we drifted past.

We pedalled our boat along narrow waterways, eventually emerging at a large canal with gates.  The gates used to open and close regularly to prevent flooding.  These days they’re only used weekly to flush water through the canals to keep them clean.

At some places, draw bridges punctuate the junction of road and water, allowing larger craft to pass under freely.

It’s easy to maintain a moderate pace while turning the pedals on these boats, but the physical exertion becomes much higher when you try to move a little faster.  We discovered this when we tried to overtake a slower vessel in front of us.

They’re not made for speed.  Much better to take it easy and enjoy the view

It took us about 90 minutes to travel about 5km on the pedal boat.  We both were wearing normal walking clothes and didn’t feel uncomfortable.  The cool Amsterdam weather (about 15C) was perfect for this sort of adventure.

The next day we decided to go further afield and hired a couple of bikes.

Liz and I are used to driving on the left-hand side of the road, so before taking our chances in the traffic we went for a spin through a park to get accustomed to the bikes.,

Vondelpark is large and picturesque – full of joggers and cyclists enjoying the Spring sunshine,

As with yesterday’s excursion, our aim wasn’t to break any speed records.  We just wanted to soak in this wonderful city.

I even got to ride the bike “off road” for a short way 🙂

After a few kilometres in the park, we eventually plucked up the courage to take or chances on the roads.

Amsterdam sits astride the River Amstel.  We followed the riverbank south, out of town.

After a few minutes of leisurely pedalling, the bustle of the city faded.

Only five kilometres from the city centre, a farmer mowed his fields.

Rowers glided by us peacefully.

Numerous paths branched off along the way tempting us to deviate for a while.  Perhaps another day.

A windmill!  We did what any good tourist would do, and took lots of photos.

After about an hour following the river, we reached the town of Ouderkerk.  It had a bridge which allowed us to cross the river and continue our loop back into the city.

We slowly followed the other bank of the river back into Amsterdam.

After a couple of hours on the bikes, it didn’t seem so strange to be riding in a new city on the “wrong” side of the road.

Most of the streets have bike paths or lanes, and most of the traffic is very accommodating to cyclists.  I don’t think we felt in danger at all.  And, like most cyclists in town, we weren’t wearing helmets.

Our paddle trip covered about five kilometres in 90 minutes.  Our bike ride covered just under 30 kilometres in three and a half hours.

Total distance: 4.19 km
Max elevation: 9 m
Min elevation: 3 m
Total climbing: 29 m
Total descent: -27 m
Average speed: 4.61 km/h
Total Time: 01:10:58
More data
Total distance: 27.53 km
Max elevation: 5 m
Min elevation: -6 m
Total climbing: 138 m
Total descent: -136 m
Average speed: 12.20 km/h
Total Time: 03:22:33
More data

Both trips were leisurely and unhurried – the only way to experience a new pace. Why rush?

I’ll rate both rides 4 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter. The terrain was relatively easy, but the views were superb.

Thanks Lizzie for shring this experience with me



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