Joining the 63%

You may have heard that many people bike in Amsterdam – what you may not know is that bikes are potentially more dangerous and prevalent than cars in the city.  63% of the population rides a bike daily; it is not something you can avoid here.  Certainly, as a visiting pedestrian, you feel alarmed that suddenly what you thought was a sidewalk is absolutely a bike path and you are fully in the way of others and seriously flirting with danger.  Taking a ferry back and forth daily to our hostel, it was abundantly clear that bikes occupied more space than people on each ride.

Naturally, we decide to tempt fate and rent bicycles for the day from Yellow Bike Rentalsthe guys were super friendly and laughed at our post-genever hustle to get our bikes back on time, 15 official minutes before closing. We didn’t have any problems with the bikes themselves, but man – riding a bike for the first time in years, in a city FULL of aggressive bikers that can spot a tourist three-quarters of a mile away is pretty damn intimidating. There was only one close call, we are thankful to report Bry is unharmed.  DSC01091

We spent over 8 hours on our excursion in the city and are really pleased to share some awesome stops along our way.

Stop 1: The Bloemenmarkt – where Bry got to cross off  ‘ride a bike to the floating flower market in Amsterdam‘ from her bucket list! Seeing her joy started the day off perfectly and was a great way to calm our nerves from attempting to navigate our route in the city, which was a bit rough at first.

The market is lovely to wander and stopping to smell the flowers is definitely recommended; don’t bother with the plastic ones, of which there are an abundance. IMG_0096

Stop 2: We headed over to the MOCO Museum to check out the Banksy/Dali exhibit that we were lucky to catch while in town. I loved that there was a red heart balloon welcoming you and the two artists’ work pair really well together, combining surrealism with dark humor and political activism.  I admit, I was full on giddy. DSC01039.JPGDSC01037

Stop 3: We cycled over to the Albert Cuypmarkt where we wandered in search of picnic necessities. The daily market had over 200 vendors; stands were full of produce, cheeses, street food, clothing, toiletries, etc.  In the end, we were pleased by our choice in bread, cheese, olives, mango and most notably, a curried hummus that we couldn’t get enough of. We found a little wine shop, Grapedistrict, who had an inexpensive bottle of rosé chilling, which made for the perfect choice on a hot sunny day.  The cashier also tipped us off to a more local, less crowded park than Voldenpark, where we were initially headed

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Stop 4: Sarphatipark – a great opportunity to sit near a fountain and enjoy a relaxing picnic on a sunny day.  We were not the only ones with this genius idea, which made for enjoyable people and animal watching.  We learned a few lessons from our picnic:
1. Bring cutlery 2. Bring something to sit on 3. Bring along our speaker for music. 
To be fair, we continuously improve on our picnic game in each country. IMG_0191DSC01065.JPG

Stop 5:  We skipped the Heineken experience in Amsterdam and opted for a brewery inside a windmill, called Brouwerij’t IJ.  The classic windmill and old bathhouse turned into a brewery over 30 years ago and we spent some time outside enjoying their IPA, Flink and Ijwit.  It is definitely a tourist location, as the outdoor patio, inside farm tables and ‘English speaking’ tour were hustling and bustling during our visit but I would say we never waited long for a beer and the IPA was worth the trip.  IMG_0078

Stop 6: Ah, our favorite. A local tip had us heading further from the city to Flevopark, which we found through navigating a dirt path. Both of us constantly were wondering where the hell we were headed but GPS continuously directed us through the park, around a lake, through a secret garden and to a cozy old mill house, which is now T’Nieuwe Diep.  You cannot reach this location by car which makes it feel like an exclusive oasis; to us it was a hidden gem we had not read or heard about until 20 minutes prior.  The distillery specializes in Genever, a local juniper based liquor which led to the evolution of gin and we did not understand anything on the menu but opted to try two varieties that locals helped us choose.  We were racing against the clock to return our bikes and were also warned about the high ABV (42-50%) so we soon headed back across the city to return our (at this time) beloved bikes.DSC01087IMG_0085

Stop 7: As if the day wasn’t long enough, we made one final stop to De Bierkoning in a quest to locate a particular beer my friend’s had me chasing down. Our bartender from Brouwerij’t IJ mentioned this was the best beer store in the city and he did not disappoint.  They had a huge selection of domestic and international beers – a perfect spot to pick up our selections and watch the sunset after our last ferry ride for the evening.

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Despite the nerve-wracking beginning, biking through Amsterdam was an incredible way to see the city, take part in the omnipresent bike culture and spend our last day in Amsterdam.  Highly recommended, but not for the faint of heart!

Cheers! – Ciara

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