You wouldn’t give your 10-year old kids your car keys, jump in the back seat and let them take you off for a spin around the city, would you? Would you? Really? No, I thought not! So why did we put our children in the two front seats of our Canal Bike, give them control of the rudder, and let them peddle off into the busy shipping lane of the Prinsengracht Canal?
Look! There they go – concentrating on looking pretty for the camera rather than watching where they are going! I am not sure they even realised there was a 50 foot long canal bus steaming by…
Amsterdam is called the Venice of the North because of its canals. The 1971 film Dirk Bogarde film called “Death in Venice” sprang to mind momentarily. It stayed there only for a split second, because the next Canal Bus was rushing towards us and at that point my mind went completely blank. My brain shut down, insisting that all thoughts should evaporate, in clear anticipation of my life doing exactly the same thing any minute now.
There are four Canal Bike stations in Amsterdam. You can rent a bike from one and drop it off at another, following pre-designated routes. In principle that sounded fine, but I was concerned as to how we would navigate our way along these routes; there are, after all, 160-odd canals in the city to lose yourself in. The woman who pushed us off the jetty told me not to worry. “You just count canals,” she called after us. And then we were on our own, a little foot-powered vessel in an ocean of canals thronging with commercial traffic.
Luckily, there was a little map glued on to the “dashboard” of each Canal Bike. Here it is, together with a small part of my daughter’s elbow, and a telephone number at the bottom.
What hysterical calls and unforseen tourist emergencies has the person on the other end of that telephone line had to deal with, I wonder? I am pleased to report that there were no frantic calls from us. The woman who pushed us into our watery oblivion was actually right – you just need to count canals. We paddled our way from Westerkerk (Point D) to Leidseplein (Point B), avoiding any and all approaching watercraft. There were a few minor events to report; we crashed into a wall at one point; at another the kids steered us underneath a willow tree and ducked, ensuring the curtain of hanging branches took us full in the face. They enjoyed that. Poor old Ben also suffered from the environment. His legs peddled at full stretch and his feet kept slipping off the peddles, plunging into the canal water through a small hole in the bottom of the boat.
We had to pull over on a couple of occasions to allow larger traffic through, but for the most part it was plain sailing, or at least plain peddling.
Some of the canals were really very beautiful.
Half way into our hour we swapped places with the kids who yelled at us to peddle faster like galley slave masters. We reached Leidesplein with a good 15 minutes of our hour left, but still our slave-drivers refused to unshackle us from our oars. We peddled on one further stop to the Rijksmuseum. There our hour came to an end. We handed our Canal Bike in, got our deposit back, and headed back to Leidesplein for a sit down and a well-earned drink.
Points on this part of our Day 2 walk (and paddle) through Amsterdam (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
- Westerkerk Canal Bike Stop: N 52° 22.470 E 004° 52.997
- Rijksmuseum Canal Bike Stop: N 52° 21.622 E 004° 53.210
Walk/Paddle Statistics (of which this post forms the fifth part):
- Date of Walk/Paddle: 29 August 2013
- Walk/paddle distance covered: 6.69 miles
- CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO INTERACTIVE MAP!!!