While everyone says “its just like riding a bike” to convey its easy to do, some of us (namely me) may have issues with it in some countries due to the whole bike vs. truck thing. With my quick weekend in Amsterdam, I would need to rent a bike to get around. I generally walk every chance I get when I travel so going to a country that is bike friendly would be a new experience for me. Rather than just rent a bike and go on my own, I decided to do a TripAdvisor search and found JoyRide Bike Tours for my Amsterdam bike tour(s).
With my trip to Keukenhof complete (check off tulips in Amsterdam), the tour dropped me off near the starting point for the bike tour with about an hour or so to meander. I decided to do a quickie drive by of the Van Gogh museum before meeting the tour. (The Rijksmuseum was undergoing renovations when I visited so I skipped it). While not a fan of the museum drive by, I found the Van Gogh actually conducive to my method as long as I did not stand in the lines to get close and move together with the crowds. The museum was a pleasant way to spend the free time and I was able to feel that I didn’t miss anything on my visit. Note that you can’t take photos in the museum, these are from the Chicago Art Institute where you can take photos.
My Amsterdam bike tour would meet at the “I amsterdam” was easy to find – I booked the afternoon tour of the city. The guide would be one of the owners – she and her husband started the tours and work the season (starts in May) doing what they love – riding and showing off their adopted city of Amsterdam. The group of about ten walked about a block to the main bike lot to get fitted with the proper bike for our size. After a quick instruction and explanation of the tour, we were on our way riding around the city. With specialized bike lanes, I felt a level of safety and comfort and marveled at the how the bike traffic stopped at lights (unlike the Philly bikers) and obeyed the traffic rules (sure there were a few bikers who needed to pass the slow tourists but hey no one likes being behind the slow folks in cars or bikes). We rode down the one lane roads on the side of the canals into the neighborhoods to learn the history of the homes.
We then visited the red light district to learn the history of the pot cafes and sex shops. The group (staying together) then walked down the narrow alley (barely two people across) to watch the women conduct business in their small rooms. The ladies of all ages stood in the doorway to advertise themselves and show off their rooms. Some rooms were closed, blinds drawn, obviously occupied. What surprised me was how open this was – walking in the alley with our group were customers of all ages shopping their options. It was all matter of fact and nothing sleazy at all. This is just another job – the women of this area rent their room for the day, are independent entrepreneurs and this is their business. After our trip down this one alley (there are many areas such as this) we walked back to our bikes past a few pot cafes. Back on our bikes we rode toward the train station area to sample a local delicacy (ok, the rest of the group sampled, I don’t eat seafood) from one of the vendor carts which everyone agreed was good.
Moving along, this is the part of the story where the group tends not to like me when I hold them up – we rode through the side streets which did not have designated lanes and while I was keeping up with the group, it was a case of Sue vs. delivery truck and reverting to my US sensibilities, I stopped for the truck sensing that I wasn’t going to win in this battle. The rest of the group stopped and rather than be happy that I saved them from being run over, they were grumpy with the stop and start of it all. This is why I am ok to be either in the front or in the back but not in the middle of the group.
Our tour finished at the local pub (how else does one end their day in Europe?) where the group had a chance to chat about their travels which I always find fascinating. Listening to all of their travels – RTW, gap years or just having ditched their desk jobs, I often find myself jealous of their freedom that I didn’t quite have in my 20’s –
After our happy hour, we returned the bikes and having such a good tour, I immediately signed up for the next day’s morning ride out to the country to see clogs, cheese and the crazy farmer (not quite advertised as such).
The next morning we rode through the park toward the country – a nice change from the city. The leisurely ride stopped at various points for people to catch up, to explain an attraction and have a break. We waited at the locks for the bridge to open to cross over to the other side, during the wait we could see the houseboats that were worth millions along the water while we watched the boats going through the locks.
As we rode through the park, we needed to turn left and encountered a bit of a traffic jam…. of ducks. The guide being prepared was able to get the ducks to move with some food and then we scrambled by the flock on the path in between the water on the lake (this was one time I looked ahead and didn’t think about falling into the water as I can sometimes be a bit off balance on the bike).
I remember riding along thinking, this is such a great way to spend the day with the sun, warm breeze and green country feel of the suburbs of Amsterdam. We stopped at the windmill, which is no longer functional but makes for a good photo! We rode to the cheese farm to see how it is made and for a taste. This is where the very flirty farmer comes in – he speaks many languages and was flirting with all the girls in the group. He was definitely a showman playing to all the nationalities in our group. After the cheese tasting we visited his other business which is making clogs! of course it makes sense – clogs and cheese, perfect together. In actuality, we learned that farmers often wear clogs in the fields and make their own – this farmer monetized his business and the tourists were buying. Sadly, as much as he was quite the salesman, on our bikes, we didn’t have space to buy many things and most of us were leaving and cheese would be a problem traveling with – so we were the worst tour that day in terms of sales. I really wanted a pair of clogs but had no way of bringing them back on the bike with me.
On the way back, we rode along the water watching the families with picnics on their boats or along the shore enjoying their Saturday. The ride was so relaxing – one of those times when a mental picture and a feeling is all you need to remember your journey.
Touring with JoyRide for both the city and country bike tour was a highlight of my weekend in Amsterdam. Reservations are recommended but they do also take walkups on first come, first served basis until all bikes are spoken for.