Today, Isa and I rented a bike. I did this once before, visiting Amsterdam six years ago with my mother and sister. I cherished the experience then, and I remember why now - biking around here gives me the fullest sense of being part of this place. I love it.
The ethics and rules of the road on a bike are mostly unspoken, and it takes a good deal of time, I think, to fully get the hang of it. I made my share of blunders this afternoon - from riding the wrong way on a bike path, to turning too slowly at a stoplight, to, at one point, completely toppling both myself and Isa over sideways into some underbrush! My faux pas were never met with curses or even dirty looks from the Amsterdammers - they simply went around me, and I observed plenty of other bad bike behavior over the course of the day. It seems to be par for the course.
Our first stop was the Artis Zoo, where we purchased a membership and visited lots of animals. Isa's joy in zoos is, like every other kid I imagine, immense and infectious. We laughed at monkeys, chatted with giraffes, and gawked at pelicans.
After that we took a long ride out to the Flevopark, a great green space in the northeastern corner of the city. This took us through several different ethnic neighborhoods. I wish I could say what they were... perhaps Indonesian and Turkish, at least? Lots of foreign-looking foods, shops, and headscarves.
The park itself was marvelous, including woods, open fields, winding bike paths, and an excellent playground. Here's the munchkin in a tree at the park, looking anxious because she's up higher than she wants to be, and doesn't know how she's going to get down. (I helped.)
At the end of the day, she cried when we returned the bike to the shop. She didn't understand why we couldn't keep it forever. I promised we would come back and borrow the bike another day soon.