When you hear a bike bell, you dive out of the way! That should be the first thing you learn before you visit Amsterdam.
For our first stay in Amsterdam, we rented a Rembrandt Square Houseboat that was ideal for its charm and location.
It turned out to be one of the best decisions of our whole trip! Amsterdam has always been about its canals, so you feel more connected to the city when you stay on the water. It was comfortable, warm, and had big glass doors that opened directly onto the canal. Our host told us that this was because of the festivals and events in Amsterdam. It’s common for passing boats to pull up, hang out, and maybe share a drink before moving along. Besides its friendly functionality, it gave us the most picturesque view of a bridge that crossed the canal. Boats lazily passed under it as they worked their way down the canal. After a long day of exploring, it was the most serene feeling stare out those doors. We’d sip on a bottle of wine and watch the boats pass by. There’s truly no experience like it.
We really enjoyed the various waterfowl that would come up to the sliding glass doors. Even if they were only visiting us looking for a handout.
We had been warned that the swans on the canal would aggressively seek food if you left the sliding glass doors open. They had no problem inviting themselves into your houseboat. We laughed the whole thing off until we met Bubbles.
Bubble’s was a troubled young swan who grew up on the wrong side of the canal.
It was said that he had earned his reputation by fighting in the swan pits of Siberia. Rumor had it that the homemade knife he carried was made from the tusk of a walrus, his first defeated opponent. That was the same knife he pulled on us one evening as we returned to our rented floating home.
We had spent the day exploring the Dutch countryside, snapping pictures of anything that would stay still long enough.
We went to Zaanse Schans where one could get an idea of life in Holland in the 17th and 18th centuries. It featured over 600 windmills in the area. We also visited the Wooden Shoe Factory in Marken where we bought wooden garden shoes. We figured they would be extremely practical for living in Los Angeles. For our last stop we visited the Cheese Factory in Volendam, and little did we know that one of those cheeses we purchased in the gift shop would save our lives.
As we went down the ramp leading from the shore to our houseboat, I noticed something. It was a flurry of feathers out of the corner of my eye. I had just enough time to get one of the wheels of cheese we had bought in front of me, to defend myself.
Bubble’s knife streaked through the night air. It embedded itself into a wheel of goat’s milk pesto cheese, barely missing my heart by inches.
I yelled for Michelle to run for the door as I twisted the wheel of cheese around to sink the knife deeper before Bubbles was able to remove it to stab again. We could hear the jeers of the other swans as they cheered him on. Seeing Michelle get safely inside, I jumped for the door. I grasped the edge of the boat hanging on for dear life. Pulling myself up to the deck, I launched myself through the front door.
I lay there gasping on the front of the boat like Martin Sheen in “Apocalypse Now.” In the back of my mind, I heard Marlon Brando whispering, “the horror, the horror.”
Once inside, we quietly huddled together in the dark safety of our living room. We held on tightly to each other as the adrenaline rush was still pumping through our veins. Timidly, we peeked through the curtains to get one last glimpse of what would haunt us for the rest of our lives. Bitter in their defeat, Bubbles and his crew swam off into the dark recesses of the Amstel canal. They were eating the cheese they stole and flashing gang signs at us. We were just happy to be alive.
Amsterdam is a romantic place, filled with beauty and history. The people embrace an openness to their lifestyle. They accept all people from every walk of life. There’s
NOTE: The story of Bubbles may have been greatly exaggerated for dramatic effect. 🙂