June 6 – Friday. A cloudless blue sky greeted us for our final day of riding off the Gandalf. We left our moorage in Vreeswijk around 0715 in order to get through some locks on time. We cruised through the locks at the start of the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal then north on the canal until we arrived at Breukelen two hours later. The original Breukelen, not that poser in New York (formerly New Amsterdam). We off loaded the bikes for the last time and set off, passing through some upscale neighborhoods in Luenen. You could tell that from the mansions on the canals, with boathouses and fancy lake-going yachts in their “front” yards. Stopped for a break at a small locks, for pleasure boats entering the main canal system and watched the operator position a few boats, collect the €4 fare and send them on their way.
Actually, because we made better time cruising on the canal and riding than Tom had planned, this was a delaying tactic. He had scheduled a tour of a grist windmill a short distance away but it wasn’t open yet. We were getting antsy so we biked the extra kilometre to the windmill and hung around there until they were ready for our tour of De Hoop, the name of this mill. The volunteer tour guide, a former teacher, found some kindred spirits with all the former teachers in our group! He gave us the history of the grist mill, showing us how everything operated on each of the 4 floors open for the tour. The price of the tour included coffee, so all was good.
After 90 minutes, we set off again, for a short half-hour ride to the town of Abcoude, where we would have lunch. From there, we followed a towpath beside the Amstel River right into the outskirts of Amsterdam. For the whole week, a few of us had been trying to get Tom to stop at cycle shops we passed along the way to check out their stock of cycling jerseys. Unfortunately, every one was closed when we passed or time would not permit us to stop or, if we did, they did not sell jerseys. We discovered that most of the cycle shops do not sell jerseys – jackets and rain gear, yes, but not jerseys. We didn’t want anything generic – we could buy plain jerseys back home. We wanted something that identified the jersey as Dutch. Tom was promising that we would find one today and finally, in Ouder-Amstel, he came through. The De Haan shop had lots of selection and sold at least 10 jerseys, and even socks and gloves, to the group. Laden down with our purchases, we continued our ride into Amsterdam. Once off the towpaths and quiet streets, some of the riding in Amsterdam was a little daunting. The city is literally crammed with bikes and cyclists whiz past with rarely a bell or a signal. They know where they are going and it’s up to the tourists to pay attention or suffer the consequences. It was also our introduction to signal lights on the cycle lanes. Bike traffic is so thick that there are separate traffic lights for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists! After a great day of riding, we arrived at the barge docks near the NEMO science centre at 1630.
After supper on the Gandalf, Tom took us for a walking tour around town. When he is not guiding tourists on bike-barge trips, he operates a bicycle rickshaw in Amsterdam so he knows the city. We started with a canal tour, to get a water-level view, then he led us over to the red-light district. Actually red-light lanes, as all the action is in windows down narrow lanes. Lots of inebriated testosterone wandering those lanes though! Pot cafes were pretty common, judging by the smells wafting on the breeze, and people openly smoking up.
Throughout our walking tour, we would constantly be hearing sirens – police cars, ambulances, fire engines. Is this place under attack or something? Thankfully, it was the something. Once a year, on the feast of Pentecost, Amsterdam emergency services give disabled kids rides in their vehicles with sirens blaring. Kind of a special day for special needs kids – neat thing to do. Overall, a very interesting city. It’s the same size as Edmonton but infinitely more vibrant and social. Yes, it has the history but even the new buildings – the library, NEMO, the performance center, etc – attract the eye. Looking forward to spending 3 more days here after our time in Leiden next week.
Rode 39 km