Not content to merely cycle around Amsterdam like all the locals, we wanted to canal bike. Which is just a fancy way of saying go paddle boating in the canals. When we finally got a break in the weather (well, almost – we made sure to get one with a detachable roof for the drizzly patches), we were away!
For €20 euro between the three of us we were able to hop in a paddle boat from one spot, and drop it off at another an hour later. It turned out to be quite the workout, but we managed to achieve quite a bit of distance in a the time, and it was incredibly fun.
Tip for any others – if you don’t have even numbers of people, balance is quite the issue! Also, the steering is all but useless, so expect to be stuck going round in circles after you oversteer and have to keep correcting. There were even a few moments where I wonder how they even allow people to roam free in the paddle boats, as we were fishtailing up and down the canals getting in the way of all the other boats. At one point one of the enormous tourist boats came along, and in a mad dash to get out of the way we managed to crash straight into an outdoor platform of a cafe (literally banging in to the deck less than a metre away from the poor unsuspecting but nonetheless amused patrons). There was no graceful exit to that situation either, as we rebounded off it and wound up spinning in a circle. It was a comfort to know that we weren’t the only ones having trouble navigating the canals. Aside from every other canal boater faffing around going in circles like a headless, floating chicken; the big, long, tourist boats themselves make quite the spectacle trying to get around a corner. Not being able to make a sharp right or left, they have to pull out a (kind of impressive) 3+ point turn manouvre, popping in and out from under the bridges.
Finally, one thing that did not and will not ever cease to amuse, was the “No Parking” signs along the inner walls of the canals. What a way to commute to work! Apparently owning a parking space for your dinghy is quite expensive, though it can’t be more expensive than owning land, as many barges along the canals have been turned in to floating homes.