Amsterdam: Canals, Narrow Streets and Bicycles

At the end of the dock our taxi, a large black BMW sedan, was waiting. The driver, neatly attired in a white shirt, black tie, suit and shoes, had already loaded our bags into the trunk. With sunglasses he could easily have been mistaken for a foreign operative.

Accelerating smoothly away from the dock we drove towards our new address, Bilderdijkkadje 18. The drive was not long but our eagerness to get out and explore was only heightened by Amsterdam’s sights and sounds. The next phase of our European adventure was about to begin.

We were left standing at the top of a narrow steel staircase. Below was  a float home on a quiet canal. This would be our home for 3 days. Linda, our host was waiting on deck. She had been in this location for 40 years in 3 different house boats. She raised her family here.

Linda gave us a brief orientation then we gathered ourselves and headed out.  We had no idea where we were going.  She had marked the location of her house boat on a map and outlined relevant trolley routes. That was it. We began to explore. It was 11:30 am.

Our days were long. For the next 2 and half days we returned well after dark. We ate in small cafes and ethnic restaurants, walked narrow streets, figured out how the trolley system worked and signed up for a canal cruise. We could have visited any number of galleries and museums but chose only to visit the Ann Frank museum. Oh, and the Red Light District Museum. What really interested us was Amsterdam life.

The tall narrow buildings in most areas we visited fascinated us. The oldest building still standing is the Old Church which was consecrated in 1306.There are only two wooden building remaining in Amsterdam. One of these was built around 1425. Most of these had disappeared by the 16th century replaced by brick construction.

It was amazing to walk streets and pass buildings as citizens of Amsterdam did centuries ago. Some of the buildings we passed displayed plaques designating the year in which they were built.  The most interesting to me were located in the Canal District. They were narrow and tall. The narrowest that we saw looked to be about 3 meters wide. I loved the character of these buildings. Some seemed to be tipping over. Each had a distinctive facade and street presence. 

Our favourite area of Amsterdam was the Canal District. Amsterdam started out as a small fishing village in the 12th century. In the 17th century canals were built to facilitate trade and commerce. Today,  Amsterdam, due to its large number of canals which now form a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is sometimes referred to as the “Venice of the North”.

Everyone rides bicycles in Amsterdam. Bicycles transport lone riders, two riders, small families and packages. There are regular two wheelers and large bicycles with up front cargo containers. Riders dress casually or in their ‘going out to dinner’ finest. Poor weather doesn’t stop people from riding. There are bike parkades and of course bike paths and bike traffic rules.

 But the most important rule is for the pedestrian. Don’t linger in the bike lane! Riders don’t slow for pedestrians. We had to be careful. More then once when I was concentrating on my camera, Ellen had to tug me away from oncoming bicycle traffic.

 The images below are just a slice of the many sights that can be seen in Amsterdam. There is just so much to photograph there. 

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All too soon it was time to leave Amsterdam. We loved each chapter of our European trip. But next time in Europe I think we would spend more time exploring. The cruise was fantastic. A great introduction to Europe. But getting to know a community or neighborhood is what we like to do.

This entry was posted in Education, My Work, Travel.


  1. Jim Harding January 5, 2020 at 8:39 am #

    Have really appreciated your blog and photos of your trip to Europe. As my travel is now restricted your coverage is more than appreciated. Keep up the good work. With thanks.

    • Stu Dale January 5, 2020 at 8:42 am #

      Thanks Jim! I’m glad you enjoy my articles. They are fun to write especially when I know they are appreciated.

  2. corolp January 5, 2020 at 12:13 pm #

    Such an enjoyable read Stu. You captured the charm and essence of Amsterdam in your photographs. Your written thoughts reflected ours when we visited last summer.

    • Stu Dale January 5, 2020 at 5:36 pm #

      Thanks for commenting Carol. Amsterdam is a wonderful place to visit. Definitely on my list to do again.

  3. Dianne Birnie January 5, 2020 at 1:01 pm #

    Stu, I really enjoy your articles and your photos, especially this one one Amsterdam. It looks like a great place to explore. I notice there is not much ,if any, traffic on the roads. Are they for bicycles only? I enjoyed the photos of the high buildings, wish you had one of them hoisting the furniture up the outside! Thanks and look forward to your next trip.

    • Stu Dale January 5, 2020 at 5:30 pm #

      Thanks Dianne. There are busy streets. On both sides of the street you will find a sidewalk, a bike lane a lane for cars and then the trolley tracks then the area in the middle where trolley riders wait for their next ride. I have not seen furniture moved in with three overhead hoists. That would make a great picture.

  4. Sheryl Korsch January 5, 2020 at 2:09 pm #

    THANK YOU, Stu, for your Interesting Blog and Great Photos! 🙂 Are there elevators or only stairs in the tall buildings? You and Ellen have a lot to look forward to on future European travels 🙂 Happy 2020!!

    • Stu Dale January 5, 2020 at 5:31 pm #

      Thank you Sheryl for reading my article. I’m not sure about the elevators. Some could have them but I think most have narrow steep stairways.

  5. Alan Flynn January 5, 2020 at 10:04 pm #

    A beautiful collection of photographs and narrative that provide a wonderful incite into your trip. We have never been to Amsterdam and are truly tempted.

    • Stu Dale January 6, 2020 at 7:39 am #

      Thanks Alan! I think you would enjoy the experience.

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