amsterdam // day 4

This morning, we’re off for a great excursion. After checking out from Shelter City and leaving our bags in the storage room, we rent a pair of bicycles from Orange Bikes. We are kindly shown how to work the locks and chain, and off we go! The plan is to follow the itinerary in my precious guidebook. The latter advises us to follow the path along the Amstel river, which will progressively lead us into the Dutch countryside.

We thus take the said path. It is flanked by houseboat upon houseboat – some are classic, while others are extremely modern. I pretty much drool over the latter.

Soon enough, the sounds of the city grow faint and the townhouses scarce. On our left, we are still bordered by the canal, but on our right now extends Amstelpark. We do not enter the park, as it is still winter and we’d rather not be disappointed by its current state (it will most likely reach its full beauty potential in the spring. Just at the end of the park stands a beautiful windmill, the Riekermolen. Built in 1636, it is one of the 10,000 mills that once drained the swamps and kept Holland dry. We also stumble upon a statue of Rembrandt, which stands a few meters away. The Dutch are full of surprises.

We board our bikes once more and pass by a mini-obelisk, which we later learn is a landmark called Amsteldijk noord. It is one of six landmarks that have been delimiting the Amsterdam territory since 1544. Basically, we’ve just officially left Amsterdam.

Minutes later we have arrived at our final destination, a little village founded in the 11th century by the name of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. The latter is famous for being the home of Beth Haim, the oldest Jewish cemetery in the Netherlands. It’s mostly a meadow full of rocks, but if that floats your boat, my guidebook tells me you can look for Spinoza’s tomb. Our thighs and bums are a little sore from all this pedaling, so we take the easy way out and head to the very close Bakker Out for lunch. This adorable village bakery sells an assortment of breads, pastries and cakes. Laurel and I sit in the café area, where I order a Rooibos tea (2eur) and a warm apple pie (2.95eur). Served with homemade whipped cream, the pie is definitely a success. Laurel also greatly enjoys her mushroom and cheese sandwich (6eur), and also purchases a bag of mini stroopwafels to bring back to Edinburgh.

When we exit the bakery it has started to rain, which makes our journey back rather unpleasant. We return our bikes, cold, drenched and tired (and probably smelling of wet dog). Nonetheless, we are determined to make the most of our last afternoon in Amsterdam. We improvise a visit to the Museum of Bags and Purses, where a splendid collection of bags from the 16th century to today is displayed. Next, we guide ourselves through the Geelvinck-Hinlopen house, an 18th century manor which boasts a peaceful garden with a fountain and trimmed hedges. Inside the house itself, I particularly enjoy the Chinese room, as well as the collection of beautiful pianofortes.

Our time in Amsterdam ends with a well-deserved break at De Laatsie Kruimel, a bakery-café whose windows full of pastries and quiches attracted us from the other side of the street. Laurel orders a slice of zucchini and carrot cake (3.60eur) to stay, and she loves it so much that we both decide to try more of the place’s food for dinner. We exit the shop with a slice of vegetable polenta (4.50eur) and an old cheese, tomato and pesto sandwich (5eur for the large). I eat the latter in the airport while we wait for our plane back to Edinburgh, and from the strong cheese to the fresh multigrain bread, it’s one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had.

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