Cycling Amsterdam, Post River Cruise

Cycling through Amsterdam isn't just fun, it's also convenient! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Cycling through Amsterdam isn’t just fun, it’s also convenient! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

I came to the conclusion this morning that the Netherlands has one significant problem: there’s far too many great cities, towns, museums, locations, monuments, ports, and historic sites to visit, and all of them are tantalizingly close at hand.

The last few days have been rather difficult to make decisions on where to go and what to see; after all, it’s difficult to top a day where you witness 10 brand-new Viking Longship river cruise vessels christened in a single day by Viking River Cruises. An afternoon that makes all the papers and garners a Guinness World Record recognition to boot is, admittedly, the height of cool.

Watching Viking River Cruises christen 10 Viking Longships on Wednesday was a spectacular moment. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Watching Viking River Cruises christen 10 Viking Longships on Wednesday was a spectacular moment. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

For example, as I got off my train at Amsterdam Centraal this afternoon, I noticed the burgundy high-speed Thalys train pulling in, ready to whisk passengers to the City of Love that is Paris, France. A few tracks over, the sleek grey ICE Highspeed express train to Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof was getting ready to leave in mere minutes – and had I been staying here longer, I just may have hopped aboard.

Learning how to navigate the trains at Amsterdam Centraal can be a huge transportation time-saver when visiting the Netherlands. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Learning how to navigate the trains at Amsterdam Centraal can be a huge transportation time-saver when visiting the Netherlands. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

But here in the Netherlands, there’s no shortage of places to get to by train: Rotterdam, The Hague, Nijmegen, Zaandam…the list goes on. But instead of hopping aboard a train, I went to dine at a restaurant within Amsterdam Centraal station. While the clubhouse sandwich was good, the service was wistfully reminiscent of Paris, with a side order of stunning indifference to accompany. Admittedly, the enormous white parrot that had taken up residence at the end of the bar should have been a clue to proceed elsewhere…

A Parrot that steal straws and resides on the end of the bar: a good indication you've chosen poorly for lunch. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

A Parrot that steal straws and resides on the end of the bar: a good indication you’ve chosen poorly for lunch. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Today, I concluded my visit to the Netherlands by doing something that every visitor should do, regardless of whether they come on a river cruise, a deep-ocean cruise ship, or are just here for holiday. In fact, even if your ship is just in port for a day, what I am about to describe is an even better option.

Everyone needs to rent a bike and cycle the city.

My wheels in Amsterdam: a blue and white KLM bike that, if I may be honest, was pretty cool! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

My wheels in Amsterdam: a blue and white KLM bike that, if I may be honest, was pretty cool! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The network of bicycle paths, both streetside and in the country, are so effective that you can literally cover the entire city in a manner of 30 minutes or so. Today, though, brutally cold wind cut through the bone as we struggled to make headway in the countryside, so we reverted to the city streets of Amsterdam.

Now, if you’ve walked through Amsterdam and seen the sheer number of bicycles here, you might wonder if the experience would be intimidating. Here’s the lowdown: it isn’t. Just follow the path, and obey the special traffic lights designed just for bike traffic, and you’ll do great!

Cycling is truly a way of life here in the Netherlands; embrace it! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Cycling is truly a way of life here in the Netherlands; embrace it! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Personally, I covered about 4 kilometers in the span of a few hours, topped off with a trip for some fantastic French fries and mayonnaise enjoyed streetside.

So what can you see on your cycling journey through Amsterdam? Have a peek:

The gorgeous countryside, which was reached in less than 30 minutes. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The gorgeous countryside, which was reached in less than 30 minutes. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Cycling took us to streets and places I'd never explored on foot before! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Cycling took us to streets and places I’d never explored on foot before! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

A protest winds its way near Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

A protest winds its way near Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

As my time here sadly comes to a close, I am very glad I chose to stay at the Citizen M out by Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. The train into the city takes 20 minutes at worst, and three separate rail lines are available, including the non-stop Fyra trains and the multi-stop NS Intercity and Sprinter trains. Plus, I’m already at the airport, allowing me to avoid the hassle of struggling with luggage or early wake-up calls. If you’re staying in Amsterdam pre-or-post cruise, I’d highly recommend it.

The Citizen M Amsterdam Airport is only a 1-minute walk from Schiphol Plaza. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

The Citizen M Amsterdam Airport is only a 1-minute walk from Schiphol Plaza. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

This is my third time in the Netherlands, and to say this country has grown on me is an understatement. I love the sights, the sounds, and yes, even the current cold weather. I appreciate the Dutch sense of humour (very deadpan, but fantastic nonetheless), and the kindness of much of the population. Walking back to the Centraal Station tonight, I tripped on one of the tram rails crossing the street and did a header into the street. I barely had time to realize I was down and fetch my hat before a Dutch guy my age had hopped off his bike and had me up by the arms. At home…I don’t know if anyone would have stopped.

Enjoying some well-deserved European fries and mayo. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Enjoying some well-deserved European fries and mayo. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

A river cruise is the best way to see the Netherlands. If you’ve never been here before, book one of the highly popular Tulip Time voyages offered in the spring, but be warned: they sell out fast. These cruises go to so many picturesque Dutch ports in a single week that they really are worth every penny.

But to really see this country, you have to stay longer. As this trip comes to a close, my fear is that no amount of time will ever be “long enough” to spend here in the Netherlands. And I can’t wait to return.

See you next time! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

See you next time! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report aboard Viking River Cruises’ beautiful Viking Aegir has sadly drawn to a close. We’ll return with a complete Voyage Recap on Monday, March 25th – and in a short time, we’ll detail our next Live Voyage Report adventures coming up here on From the Deck Chair!

 

One Response to Viking Longships 2013 Live Voyage Report – Day 5

  1. Kim says:

    Yum fries with mayo!! Can’t wait to go there myself! I’d need at least. Week :-)

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