Spring has Sprung…

March 11, 2009

What a wonderful day today.

It was a real pleasure to cycle to work this morning, and I promised myself that I will take a morning/day off and do my route to work with a camera soon. There are so many cool shots to be had in the morning bike rush, if I can get my hands on a decent camera I know I’ll make some of the photo-bloggers mouths water.

All topped of with plenty of stops along the way… I especially want to go back here for breakfast on that day!

(Of course this day off can be scheduled with anyone’s visit, just pick a weekday morning and bring nerves of corrugated iron, if not steel, and we will have a blast)

So imagine my delight when the sun was still shining at 5.30pm, I took this as a sign I was not to work late and quickly donned my very glamorous cycling gear (Trackie bottoms and a sweatshirt) and hit the streets to cycle home. It wasn’t as much fun as this morning, obviously people we no longer “sunshine happy” after a day at the office, and the good will and smiling of the morning commute had petered out.

All strains petered away as I cornered onto my street and heard the first Westerkerk Evening Carillon of 2009!

Westertoren
Westertoren

I haven’t heard it since October, at which point I did video it with the aim of sharing it here, but like many blog posts at the time it gathered dust.

So now I’d like to share this magical thing with you. It might be the memories of the notes flowing across the summer warmed canal that makes it so special to me but still I’d like to share.

To me it rings out in such a way that if you sit and listen you can imagine living here in another time, I think of all the historical figures that would have listened to its melodies, Anne Frank and Rembrandt van Rijn as examples.

Of course this is where the “beauty” of single glazed wood frame windows come into their own, it plays throughout my 3rd floor apartment, as if only for me

The Westerkerk stands pretty much at the top of my street (if you don’t count the Prinsengracht separating the two) and as I got off my bike and chained it up was beaming listening to the tune. I looked down toward the the end of the street and noted I wasn’t the only person enjoying it. Many of the patrons of one of the local bars, Cafe Chris were out with their beertjes listening too.

I quickly went upstairs and tried to capture it on my rubbish camera phone, so forgive the orientation of the video, and the sub par picture, but the sound really does work! 🙂 Had to take it several times as it picked up every conversation had on the street.

And here is an inside view of what is going on when a carillon is played

And last but not least, a little clip of Tulips from Amsterdam, taken from the top of the Westertoren when it was being repaired in 2007.

I want to climb the tower soon, its 85 metres high and was completed in 1638. In fact the local bar I mentioned earlier played a part in its construction, and was reputed not only to be the local bar of Rembrandt, who stopped there for a tipple or many on rout from his studio, but it was also used as the payroll office of the workers building the tower.

There is a unique gents restroom in the premises which I am happy to show you when we go for a beertje sometime! 🙂

See you there, hopefully the bells will be chiming!

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I want to ride my bicycle

February 28, 2009

So last year in June I caved and bought a bike.
Everyone here has one, or three…. according to some sources there are only about 750,000 residents of Amsterdam—but there are more than 600,000 bicycles. One source even puts the number of bicycles over 1 million.

4,000 are estimated to be parked by Centraal Station

Bikes at CS Amsterdam

Bikes at CS Amsterdam

The bike I got last year, was cheap, and not from a junkie.
Having not cycled for 18yrs, I was a bit nervous and didn’t want to fork out for a new bike that I might not use.

That fear was unfounded, I cycled almost every day the 14km round trip to and from work until Dec 1st.
I gave up in the real winter as black ice on cobblestones, steep bridges and lunatic cyclists all make me nervous.

My old bike was a grand starter, and it earned its price in saved tram fares in a couple of weeks, however after the first month, I found crouching to be a problem, my knees and ankles ached. I hadn’t heard of this as a side effect of cycling.

It seems I was cycling a death trap.

I forgave it the fact that the brakes were dodgy at best (most efficient way of stopping was jumping off) and the saddle seemed to be made of nails covered in cement (my rear looked like a permenant victim of a paint balling kamikaze attack) but I was reluctant to “just throw away” the €50 I spent on the bike. After not cycling for 2 months and living with out the ankle, knee and butt pain I swore that this year I would buy a new bike.

Valentines day saw me and my lady roaming the bike shops of the Jordan.

I get the usual look when I explain, I’d like a small bike, with gears and *gasp* handbrakes that work. Back pedal brakes, while cheaper and easier to maintain, are not for me…. cycling back ways is not my instant reaction when faced with on coming traffic, and I am likely to sail out in front of same traffic screaming and grasping my non-existent handbrakes.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that in Amsterdam with bike traffic jams being more frequent than car traffic jams, bikes would be really cheap. Let me dispel that, they are not, well especially not for pint sized, handbrake wanting foreigners.  New bikes average around €600/€700. Second hand ones start at €75 but most good ones are around €200 for back pedal and €300 for handbrake.

The bike I got looks a bit like this it has brakes that work, 3 gears, a decent saddle and its so great to cycle.
I no longer feel like I’m pulling a dead cow up the road after my bike!

Azors Jersey

So I began cycling to work again, only on the first morning I realised my old route was being dug up by the Gemeete, Amsterdam’s version of the Corpo, and they are about as helpful and productive as same. It seems this is budget spending month so every road is being dug up for the sheer hell of it. Fun!!

I had to devise a new route, and my mum was impressed this one doesn’t take me through Dam Square or the red-light. Doped up Tourist dodging on your way home from work is not as fun as it sounds.

This is my way TO work and this is my way FROM work. The are 6.6 and 6.9km respectively and better still doing this every day will burn about 800kcls a day. (4000 a week) and I’ll be travelling 67.5kms a week. Not bad! Plus saving €20 a week on transport!

The route is still lovely along the Amstel, and some morning I am going to take my camera along and get some photos!

My Spanish Colleague and I are planning a beer cycle home some evening, visiting local establishments between the office and the city! 🙂 Photos from that are likely to be wobbly.

PS I listen to Morning Ireland (the wonders of unlimited data for €9) on my mobile so if you are listening to it between 7.30 and 8.10 (from 1st sport to 2nd reading of morning papers) think of me cycling along the Amstel 🙂