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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Amsterdam -> Antwerp I



So it's back to living like a hobo. Which I can do since the weather is still nice. I found an old piece of wood to sit on--perhaps the abandoned hull of a boat--by the Vecht between Maarsen and Utrecht. Many people out cruising down the river. This is quite near the Maarsen Plassen which I passed earlier this summer on my way back to Amsterdam. Tonight I'll stay in Utrecht, though it's just a half an hour train ride from home. But it gives me a different perspective, the traveler's view. And anyway I want to travel from Amsterdam to Antwerp by bike, without the aid of motorized transport, and Utrecht, about 40km from Amsterdam, seemed a suitable stopover.

Amsterdam's Nesciobrug, world's longest bicycle bridge (780m) 

(original date of this entry: Sept 14, 2014)
Leaving Amsterdam via Diemerbos
It wasn't easy to find a vriend op de fiets in Utrecht--with the nice weather, many hosts have hit the trails themselves--but I finally came up with one in the eastern part of town. And I managed to secure accommodation at all five points along my route, though it took me a day to set it up.








Amsterdam Rijnkanaal
The first part of the journey took me quite a ways along the Amsterdam Rijnkanaal via Driemond. What a stupendous ride under the endless rows of tall poplars that fringe the canal plied by tankers and freighters. About halfway to Utrecht, I pick up the LF-7, which follows the meanders of the Vecht going through the quaint village of Loenen aan de Vecht, Nieuwersluis (where a fortress was built in 1672-3 as a defense against the invading French) and Breukelen! That town seemed nice, something of a tourist attraction. Like Amsterdam, New York, it has nothing in common with its namesake across the Atlantic. I did not linger long.







Amsterdam -> Utrecht 

I decided to take a detour to the Maarssen Plassen. I rode around the great rectangular lake and proceeded east along the north side. I found a series of secluded beaches. I lay in the hot sun, the spot sheltered from the wind.

Double windmill arrangement at Maarssen
I continued around the lake, got disoriented, turned around and found signs for knooppunt 91, which took me north of Utrecht to a star-shaped fortress encircled by a moat, the Ruigenhoek. It was getting late so I headed straight into town, going across railroad tracks to kp 28, then took out the map and went east, down Blikstraat, back across the tracks and found my vriend op de fiets on Oudeweg. It was 7:30. It was an old house along a short bank of homes with a split-level door. The top half opened to reveal the weary face of Tonny Dink and the head of a "Jack Russell" (looked like a beagle) bouncing up as in a Punch & Judy show. This was Dido.
Tonny & Dido (r to l)

Tonny spoke to me in Dutch. She showed me where to lock my bike next to hers, a Dahon with a low curve (she purchased it on Marktplaats). She showed me through the cluttered house upstairs to my room. It was a cozy room with lots of books on two large bookcases. I changed, went back downstairs and sat with Tonny in the garden. The woman must be in her 60s. She's bottom heavy and has neatly cut straight hair that is attractively graying. She seems weary, broken down. "I live on my pills." She talks about her daughter, a singer. The house is a mess, every surface brimming with objects, but the garden is nice and lush and connects with the neighbors' gardens to form a little urban forest.


This spot on the east side of Utrecht seems a very pleasant place to live. It's a few blocks east of the train tracks, which you cross to head downtown along Nachtgalstraat, then Nobelstraat. I ride there to look for supper. Tonny had recommended the Mexican restaurant, Popocat├ępetl. But it's too crowded, so I go across the street to Jian's Fast Food and score a little box of sushi and a can of Grolsch, sit at the one lonely table by the window. The meal is perfect: healthy, tasty and cheap. Then I go down a few doors to get a couple scoops of ice cream: chocolate and vanilla. It's Saturday night and the bars are busy. But I have no desire to squeeze into one for a beer, so I walk around, look at the plazas and the people. On the Neude, the cafe tables are buzzing. There's a chill in the air. Continued ...


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