Amsterdam | Day 1

Our plane was delayed for about 30 minutes on the runway. However, we still managed to arrive on time. Unfortunately, I got very sick upon landing :( That has slowed us down significantly since I have to keep stopping everyone to wait for my nausea to subside. Alex has been great, carrying my luggage for me and buying water.

We took the train from the airport to Amsterdam Centraal. From there, we walked to the hotel. On the way, we saw HUNDREDS of bikes! I’ve never seen anything like it. There are a LOT of parked bikes and a lot that were in use. The streets are kind of dangerous because of all the traffic: pedestrians, bicycles, trams, cars, buses.

We checked into the hotel but we were slightly early so our rooms weren’t ready yet. We sat in the lobby, desperately wanting a shower and a nap. (We didn’t sleep on the plane. It was far too uncomfortable.)  We finally got to our room at 3 PM, where we proceeded to shower.  Then we headed out the door. We walked around some of the canals and just watched Dutch people live their lives. It’s amazing how carefree they all seem to be!

We decided that we should probably get something to eat so we headed to an area called Koningsplein and looked for a restaurant. We settled for Kantjil, an Indonesian-inspired place. The waiters were laid back and really nice.  Actually, everyone we’ve interacted with so far has been extremely nice. That’s something that we were warned about before we left for Amsterdam: people told us they were envious of our trip and that “the Dutch are some of the nicest people in the world.” And it’s true! Everyone is so accommodating, it’s unusual.

After we ate, Alex and I headed back to the hotel… and took an impromptu 3-hour nap. Oops. When we woke up at 10 PM, we were very disoriented. To wake ourselves up, we went for a walk. It surprised us how quiet Amsterdam is at night! Right outside our hotel is Dam Square, an area similar to Manhattan’s Union Square: lots of people and vendors and street performers. However, at night, it was empty. As we walked north, though, towards the train station, we found all of the nocturnal Dutchies (and lots of tourists) on the streets near the canals. Coffeeshops were swarming with customers who ordered coffee with their marijuana. Alex wanted a cappuccino and we were forced to visit three coffeeshops because they wouldn’t sell coffee without purchase of hash. We didn’t do business at places that had such requirements.

We headed back to our hotel room at around 1 AM. However, we couldn’t fall asleep until 3-ish. We watched TV until we did. There’s a lot of English/American TV here. Channels like the Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel were pretty much just the English/American channels with Dutch subtitles and local commercials. Other channels, like Comedy Central, were Dutch but played lots of American shows (with Dutch subtitles). I can’t say anything about the Dutch channels because we didn’t understand them ;)

Unrelated: Neither Alex (AT&T) nor I (T-Mobile) get cellular service here. That means no phone calls and no text messages. So email is the only means of communication that we have.  (The hotel offers free Wi-Fi.)  Because of this, we also can’t keep track of our friends Kate and Yehuda. We need, like, walkie-talkies or something ;)

Save me, Jebus!

On Friday, Alex and I biked around 10.5 miles.  This was a result of our putzing around on our bikes, not having any real destination in mind.  On Saturday, we decided to take a more organized approach and ended up putting 20 additional miles on our bikes.  (For n00bs like us, this was a major feat!)

Staten Island is not known for being a bike-friendly borough.  Despite all of the efforts that have gone into making New York City a safer place for bicyclists, Staten Island tends to get the short end of the stick.  This is best illustrated with a map of the Staten Island bike paths/lanes.  The solid red lines are bicycle lanes.  Solid green lines indicate bike paths (usually in parks).  The solid orange lines are streets with bicycle signage, reminding motorists to share the road.  The dotted lines are planned/proposed bike routes.   So there are 16.6 [disjointed] miles of actual bike routes on Staten Island, according to the Department of Transportation (pdf).

If all of the proposed bike routes become reality, I would be one happy camper.  Every major road would have a bike lane!  All those miles of bike lanes…  Ahh…  I would actually be able to challenge myself!  And still feel safe!  (I’m not hardcore enough — and doubt I ever will be — to ride alongside traffic and not have a panic attack every time a moving vehicle is in my vicinity.)

While I wait for these planned bike lanes to be put down, I find myself wishing that the current bike lanes were maintained better.  In a lot of places down the Hylan Boulevard bike lane, Alex and I were forced into the gutter because of mismatched pavement.  (In one area, all street markings disappeared because of fresh pavement!)  Oftentimes, we were forced into the buffer or the parking lane because of overgrown trees and shrubs creeping into the bike lane.  I think I need to contact Transportation Alternatives… or the borough president… or someone.  I guess I ought to look into it.

Summer has come and passed

The more time I spend with my bike, the more I grow to love it.  I’m finding it to be so utilitarian!  Combined with another mode of transportation (such as the Staten Island Railway), it can take me farther than I first imagined.

Today, while Alex packed my laptop and a textbook into a bookbag, I stuffed an 8½" × 11" notebook and several journal articles into my trunk.  After throwing in some other necessities (like a thermos full of coffee, snacks, laptop power cable, overdue library book, U-lock, wallet, and cellphone), we hopped on our bikes and pedaled 1.7 miles to the train station (most of which was downhill and required little energy).  We then picked up our bikes and carried them down 3 short flights of stairs to get to the platform, where we boarded the train that rolled in within 2 minutes of our arrival.  Several stops (about 12 minutes) later, we got off the train, picked up our bikes, and carried them up 3 short flights of stairs.  We then walked our bikes 2 blocks to the library.  Using a cable lock and a U-lock, we tethered our bikes to a parking sign (while wishing that there was a bike rack) and went into the library to do our studies.

Aside from being a little sweaty (as it was muggy today, averaging around 60% relative humidity), it was an easy commute.  This is definitely something that I can get used to doing on a regular basis.

(The way back was slightly more difficult, as the road was mainly uphill.  However, Alex and I may have figured out a more favorable way home via a different route.  We will test it out the next time we go to the library, which will be soon.)