Amsterdam is best known for its canals, the lifeblood circulation system of this wonderful city. Radiating like spokes on a bike wheel, these canals reach most corners of the city, and continue on throughout the country--a seaside country that is mostly below sea level.
And once we were in Amsterdam, we dreamed how wonderful it would be to live on one of those canals. Soon after arriving we checked around, but since the canals were frozen in one of the coldest winters of the century, most canal landlords seemed to be gone, wintering it out in some warmer clime.
But we managed to find one agency, Amsterdam House, where we negotiated a fair price for a great place, and within a day we were moving into our two bedroom houseboat on one of the oldest canals in the heart of Amsterdam.
Charming is the only way to describe our boat. After months of cheap hotels, friend's floors, mud huts and jungle long houses, we were finally in a place that felt like home. It had a kitchen, bath tub, TV, stereo, couches, dining table, and large windows that looked out across the frozen canal. And we lost no time moving in and making ourselves right at home.
Salli was most excited about the kitchen. No sooner had she dropped her pack in our bedroom then she was off to the markets to buy food she could cook in her kitchen. She'd been deprived for five months from one of her favorite recreations and therapies, cooking, and nothing was going to get in her way. And the rest of us had been deprived for the same time of one of our favorite recreations and therapies, eating her cooking, and we cleared the path for her to go.
For two delightful weeks we rested aboard the boat. Our days became organized around school work, Internet connections, checking out CNN, daily walks, meals, and an evening stroll to our favorite local tavern, The Tabac (see their recipe in this section), where we played with the resident cat, Jacob, and sipped our favorite brews.
During the first few days we all took delight in watching the many canal ducks, gulls, terns and swans trying to live with the unfamiliar ice that covered the canal. From our windows we'd howl watching these elegant birds fly in for a water landing, stretch out there webbed feet, drop their tails, then hit the ice and skid for a long distance, wings back-peddling and looks of utter surprise on their faces.
Each morning and evening we'd open the windows and toss our feathered friends bread and food scraps. Hundreds would waddle over with their own distinctive cackles, gobbles and croaks. We soon came to like certain ones, and found a few to be greedy, and if you'll pardon the pun, fowl tempered.
By the end of our first week the ice had melted and our winged neighbors were back in their groove. Our houseboat also got back in its groove. Despite a large, flat bottom, our home began a gentle, soothing rocking. Most of the time we couldn't really feel it. Only the sway of the chandelier hinted what was happening. But if a larger canal boat slid past us we'd rock enough that it made you wonder what was in your morning coffee.
After two weeks we had to move on, catch our flight south to Greece. Leaving our houseboat, our home away from home was difficult. In the still dark early morning hours we hefted our familiar backpacks back on to our shoulders, stepped up to the cobble stone street, and looked back at where we'd been.
For a short while in our long journey we'd found a home. Leaving this, even to go to the warmer land of Greece, was not easy. We waved good by and tossed the last of our bread crumbs to our old neighbors, and headed towards the airport.