I still don't really know that many people in Amsterdam, so when I find myself with free time and no desire to unpack, buy practical supplies for my apartment, or clean ... I bike. The weather has been absolutely perfect lately. I'm talking warm, sunny, blue skies, and cafes full of people eating outside. On Saturday, I spent several hours enjoying free wireless internet at Debaille, a cafe in Leidseplein. I left around 6pm and didn't stop biking until about midnight. It doesn't really even start to get dark until 9pm or so, which makes the days feel incredibly long - and when the weather is as perfect as it was on Saturday, all those daylight hours feel really great.
I'm getting better at finding my way around, and it's a good thing I'm spending so much time by myself. I find that as soon as I'm with someone else, I naturally let them take over and guide me around. On Saturday night I rode home with a friend and rather than pay attention to street names and how many canals we were crossing, I just concentrated on the conversation - which of course is not a bad thing, but still, I could have benefited from learning a direct route from de Pijp to the Oud West.
While I was in the center of Amsterdam today, I had my first pedestrian run-in. He stepped in front of my bike (while I was in the bike lane) and I didn't have the time to ring my bell, so technically, I hit him. Or collided into him, if you will. I imagine he was probably a little bit hurt, and I fell down and was also a little hurt, but I felt the need to scold the pedestrian. "Look before you walk next time!" I said, which is probably about ten times more polite than I would have been in New York (when a simple "fuck you, asshole" would have done). Everyone around me was instantly concerned about the welfare of my bike and cast disparaging looks at the sad pedestrian, who dared step foot in the bike path. It's moments like this when I feel like I feel like all is right with the world - cyclists always win here.
I say I'm averaging about 6 hours a day on my bike. At the end of the night, I'm exhausted (which is one reason why I haven't done nearly enough cleaning/unpacking/apartment-sorting out). Now, I've been riding for what feels like my entire life, and I've ridden in all different types of places - from the middle of nowhere to the heart of Chinatown in Manhattan. But these Amsterdam bikes are unlike anything I've ever ridden before. No gears and no hand brakes - to stop I push back on the pedals and also get a lot of use out of stopping myself with my feet. My hands feel like they have nothing to do! My left hand stays firmly near the bell while I'm riding through the center of the city, but once I'm outside the super-busy area... it's so strange, but I do like it. The bikes here are simple machines. Comfortable, not built for speed or going up hills, but perfectly built for this city.
I'm leaving for Barcelona tomorrow night, just for a quick 3-day vacation to avoid the madness of Queens Day here in Amsterdam. Having never been here for Queens Day, I don't really have any opinion of it one way or the other, but my roommate isn't a fan and convinced me a few months ago to go out of town for the holiday. I've never been to Barcelona, but I have a guidebook to read from 1995, some high school Spanish skills, and a wonderful friend who will meet me at our hotel on Monday night. So I pretty much think I'm all set.