Boating on the Amstel
01.05.2017 - 08.05.2017 12 °C
We arrived at Schipol Airport at about 9:30 PM and had quite a lengthy wait at immigration, or Cath did, Ian again sailed through the EU line. Once we were out of the airport the getaway bus was pretty effective, dropping us off just over a kilometre from our canal boat home. Cath had programmed the address into Google Maps, and so it was a simple matter of following the directions.... until we arrived in the middle of nowhere and had to backtrack for a total of 8km, making it nearly midnight when we arrived!!
Our host and owner of the boat, Joost had kindly waited up for us and in no time at all had us stowed away out of the cold. The boat is an "Amsterdammer", built as a tug boat, the roof and top level windows lower so that it can fit under the lower canal bridges. It's a cozy little boat with a wheelhouse kitchen, four steps down into a small dining lounge and then a walk through to the double bed in the bow. With built in heating, shower bathroom toilet. Yes that last bit is all in one very small room, we risked showering each time we went to the loo given the location of the tap.
As we have been to Amsterdam and stayed in the city before, we were happy to be located in a small village, Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, about 9km from the Central Station. A little oddly just across the narrow canal is the oldest still functioning Jewish cemetery in Europe, which is about to be added to the UNESCO world heritage list, it's not everyday you get to stay in a cemetery, well almost. It does mean a nice quiet neighbourhood though.
Our first night was spent getting to know the boat and enjoying the serenity with a couple of single malts before clambering, quite literally into bed. Oh the romance of boats!
There are some cities that are a pleasure to return to and Amsterdam is certainly one of those. It somehow feels more ordered and organised after having been in a city like Venice, where canals end or become impassable so abruptly. You are be able to appreciate it in a different way, the whole project that has kept the Netherlands dry for centuries is quite simply amazing. The trees, which are slowly unfurling their new growth, are of such reassuring uniformity, that the whole streetscape contrives to make one relax and enjoy the passing parade of bicycles, whilst also trying not to run into or be run into by one. It's such an easy city to just wander around on foot and every street or canal seems to get prettier, you have to let yourself be lost, to look at that building or that view from the bridge, have a beer at that bar, a coffee in that cafe or a Stroopwafel (look them up, fabulous!) from that cafe over there and then get on a tram to find your way back to the centre, go in a different direction and start again.
Having spent the best part of a day wandering, it was on the Metro back to the boat to enjoy the sunset and a nice bottle of cheap French wine, good dutch cheese and nibbles.
We were lulled into a laziness on the boat and mornings became long sessions of tea and coffee, brunch, sitting in the wheelhouse sun baking watching boats tootle toward the bridge and waiting for the day to warm up before leaving the cozy little boat. The village has everything we need and a day of walking around the canals exploring the shops, restaurants and generally finding out the lay of the land was a relaxing way to spend a day.
We had come to Holland to see the tulip fields in bloom and it was really easy, we grabbed a bus to Haarlem and hired two bicycles for a ride to Lisse, through the tulip fields. As it turned out it was a delightful cycle through green forests, fields and farms, with the occasional small hamlet thrown in. We saw some massive displays of flowers: reds, crimsons, vivid pinks, orange and yellow and cream. Finally, after a pleasant lunch in Lisse, we turned our heads for home. That's when we encountered what had up until then, been a tail wind. The trip back was the same 17k as it was down there, but felt a lot harder. Note to selves, don't tackle a 34k round trip without a little more practice! It is a pleasure though to see the Netherlands by bicycle and we thoroughly recommend it.
Holland celebrates Liberation Day in early May and we had arrived just in time. We had considered riding the bikes into Amsterdam, but we were both feeling a little tender (bloody sore bums!!!) after the Lisse experiment and so restricted ourselves to a bus and Metro into the city for another wander and to attend the Liberation day celebrations, a free music festival at Westerpark. We knew the neighbourhood around Westerpark as we stayed in that part of the city last time we visited and it was great to reminisce while having a beer at a couple of bars before and after the festival. The festival was a free event, with people of every age attending, beer flowing, music of all kinds across multiple stages and everyone having a pretty good time. A very civilised way to celebrate with the people of Amsterdam.
Unfortunately when we arrived home there was no power on the boat and our host was out, again the romance of boat life. Although on the upside, we had gas, steak, salad, wine and the ambience of the canal to enjoy. Finally all was sorted out at about 11pm, we were chilly little Aussies and away to bed while the heating warmed up what the wine couldn't.
Saturday dawned a beautiful sunny morning, which had Amsterdammers out on the canals in boats of all kinds which we had the good fortune to sit and observe from a front row seat. We set off in the afternoon for a picnic in the famous Vondelpark, along the way getting sidetracked by a visit to Begijnhof, one of the oldest inner courts in Amsterdam, first recorded in the 1340s as a home for women, similar to a convent but without being nuns, it is a gorgeous oasis in the bustling inner city which led us to a book market, the Rijksmuseum and past Van Gogh's museum through the parkland before finally finding the Vondelpark. Nothing happens as planned in Amsterdam or quickly as it turns out. We had a beer in one of the cafes in the park before finding a picnic spot and spending the afternoon observing the world and nibbling.
A lazy Sunday morning turned into a lazier Sunday afternoon, pretty much on the boat, catching up with plans for our next move, chatting with Australia and in Cath's case reviewing restaurants for dinner. Ouderkerk aan de Amstel it turns out has a number of Michelin guide rated restaurants and so of course we were to attend at least one, Ron Gastrobar Indonesia. So it was that we came to riding the bikes from the back of the boat, out for dinner. A great dinner, gorgeous modern Indonesia decor restaurant, next to the canal, although it was far to cold to sit outside that served a tasting menu of 15 dishes for two, magnificent, spicy, well cooked beautiful food.
Some weeks do tend to slip by and so this one did. We started our last full day in Holland with a bike ride to the windmill located near the bus stop that we had used all week, De Zwaan, built in 1638 before heading to Cafe Vrije Handel a short walk from the boat for lunch, having fallen in love again with the Bitterballen and Chips with Mayonnaise. Our last evening on the boat was spent hoping that the remaining ducklings would survive the ginger cat, at the start of the week there were 8 and as of last sighting there were just 2 survivors, sipping another nice red and packing our cases for the next part of our adventure, Morocco.