We found this trip on tripsite.com, a website that acts as a clearinghouse/booking agent for all sorts of bike trips in Europe. The actual tour company is called Cycle Tours; cycletours.com. Setting up the booking was very easy and convenient. We liked the idea of having all the details figured out for us -all we had to do was show up!
We probably woke up too early –but had a good night’s sleep. We needed to be at the Anna Antal no later than 2PM, but the information didn’t say how early we could check in for our trip. We decided to check-out of the hotel at noon and make our way to Oosterdok #2 and search for our floating home for the next week. It wasn’t far to walk at all, but it would have been much better without the extra 50lbs I was dragging with me.
The Anna Antal was easy to find as she was the first barge docked at dock #2.
We brought our suitcases aboard, met our bike guide Marcel, and were told, basically, that we needed to find something to do for the next 1½ hours. Before the trip, I had mentioned to Mike that I wanted to buy a European blow dryer for this (and future trips) because I’d noticed in the trip information packet that the Anna Antal doesn’t have blow dryers in the cabins. Using a US blow dryer in Europe is always a dicey proposition anyway, so I think it would be a good idea to have one I can bring with me when I travel.
The night before I’d looked up the location of a shop that likely would have blow dryers and was happy to see it wasn’t far from the dock at all. We decided to walk there and buy a blow dryer. Mission accomplished. Next door to that was a grocery store, so we stopped in there and bought sandwiches for lunch and few snacks to keep in our cabin on the barge. We also hit the ATM machine!
When we returned to the dock area, we saw some benches very near Dock #2 and decided it was a great place to eat our lunch. One of the benches was already occupied by two men, so we sat on the other one. While sitting there eating and looking around, I saw a woman walking toward me with a Calvin College T-shirt on. “Hey!” I said, “We’re from Grand Rapids!” She was really surprised and came over to talk to us. We said we were doing a bike & barge trip. So were they! What boat are you on? she asked. That one –we pointed. Us too! she said. No way! Turns out that of the 17 people on this trip , six of us are from Grand Rapids and another couple is related to one of the GR couples. What are the odds of that?
Before long the signal was given that we could now board the barge. Rooms were assigned (we were in #3) and we began to settle in.
The first part of our trip was motoring to a town called Uithoorn, along the Amstel River. To get there, we needed to wind our way through the canals and rivers of Amsterdam –so we were treated with a water view of the city we’d just walked through. I loved every minute of that.
Before long, we left the city behind and started to see lovely countryside.
Our mooring for the night was basically just pulling up to the side of the river just outside of Uithoorn.
Once we were moored, we had some time to finish sorting out our cabins. Next, Marcel assigned us our bikes and had us make sure they were fitted correctly.
We sat down to our first dinner and afterwards, Marcel wanted to take us on a warm-up ride. We rode for about 8 miles. It looked like it might rain on us, but we managed to stay dry.
After the ride there was some social time in the barge’s salon where we had a chance to get to know our fellow bikers for the trip. The chit-chatting had been ongoing since we all boarded earlier in the day, but it was nice to finish the day on a good note where everyone wanted to hang out in the salon a bit longer.
In addition to the three Grand Rapids couples, we have couples from San Francisco, Australia and Wales. We have a mother/son pair from Scotland and Australia respectively and another couple plus a solo traveler all from California.
As many of you know, I’m a veteran of many group trips and, hands down, my first impression of this group was that it was going to be a very good bunch of people to hang out with. However, I can’t help thinking about the meme I’ve seen on Facebook –paraphrased- that if every group has an odd-person(s)-out and you don’t know who it is…it’s probably you! No one would be surprised if it does end up being us!
***For people who haven’t traveled with me before – I’ll add a note here that when I’m on a trip that involves a group, I try to be careful about how I photograph or talk about my fellow travelers–because they didn’t go on the trip to be blogged about. Most everyone on this trip seemed to be OK with the idea that they might show up on this d’aventure report –but I will still do my best to respect their privacy.***