Cycling in London

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Just like most Dutch people, I love biking. For me it’s the best way of transportation within a city. You don’t have to wait for your bus or tram to arrive, you can leave whenever you want, which gives you a lot of freedom.

But when I moved to London, I wasn’t completely sure whether I would start biking or not. I’m used to biking in Amsterdam, where traffic can be just as busy as in London, but the big difference between those cities is that in Amsterdam cyclists are at the top of the traffic hierarchy, and in London they are absolutely not. Another big difference is that in Amsterdam, and actually in all of the Netherlands, everyone cycles. Students, children, the elderly, business people, even the prime minister cycles to work. Whereas in London the typical cyclist is somewhere between 20 and 50, rides a racing bike and wears special bike clothing. Lots of people wear a helmet, some put on a visibility jacket, and others go all the way and put on anything that is fluorescent yellow. Even shoes.

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In London, cycling is not just seen as a means to get from A to B, but as a very serious sport. As I said a lot of people wear special cycling gear and some of them also cycle as if they are training for the Tour the France. Also bicycle racing seems to be quite a ‘hip’ sport and hobby in London. I’ve also seen quite some (hipster) cafes that, apart from food and drinks, sell cycling gear and sometimes even have a bike repair place in the back. And they are often decorated with bike accessories such as shirts of the Tour the France. I recently had lunch at one on Old Street called Look mum no handsIt’s a really cool place, and the coffee and food are delicious!

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I think London has great potential to become a real bike city, just like Amsterdam. Especially now the mayor, Boris Johnson (who’s already got the public Boris (barclays) bicycles called after him), has confirmed that the city will get segregated bike lanes and a cycling superhighway. But for now, I must say that biking in the UK’s capital is a challenge and sometimes I feel like I need at least double the ears and eyes I have. Nevertheless, I’d recommend anyone to start biking, because if more people start to bike, other traffic just has to adapt and the city will ultimately become more bike-able 🙂

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Best of: Amsterdam

I love travelling. It’s really one of my favourite things to do. It gives me such a thrill to go to a new place, meet interesting people, get to know a different culture and taste local food. But this desire to travel sometimes makes me forget to appreciate the place I am actually living in, which at the moment is Amsterdam. And Amsterdam happens to be one of the most amazing cities in the world. It might not be as overwhelming as New York, or as romantic as Paris, but Amsterdam definitely has its charm. It’s such a pity that a lot of tourists only come for the weed and red light district, because this city has so much more to offer than that, for tourists and locals alike.

Amsterdam is a very pretty and green city. The majestic canal houses (Dutch: grachtenpand) are of course a sight to sore eyes, and the many parks make the city less hectic than other capitals. Also the numerous museums, amongst which the Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank house, are worth a visit. If you want to go shopping I would recommend going to the 9 straatjes, or Haarlemmerstraat, which are filled with little shops varying from famous fashion brands like Karl Lagerfeld to local shops, so they are perfect for window shopping as well as for finding a new outfit or a gift. One shop that I just love because of its window and shop decoration as well as its often changing collection is Tenue de Nîmes. This store is heaven for the denim-lover and its friendly sales people make you want to come back again and again.

Also the Utrechtsestraat is a street with interesting and original shops and when you’re tired you can drop by at the Koffiesalon for the best coffee in town!

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In general, you can find lots of lovely places in the city centre to get a bite, but recently I have been discovering Amsterdam East which is really up and coming and I’d definitely recommend going that way for lunch. Rum baba (Pretoriusstraat 33), for example, is a great lunch room. It has a fresh and comfy interior which is very inviting both for having a quick lunch or staying a couple of hours while reading a book. They have a wide variety of sandwiches, teas, coffees, juices, and delicious cakes and pies.

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Other places in the east of Amsterdam which I’d recommend are Coffee Bru and 1900 (here you can also go for dinner).

Finding a good restaurant is quite easy in Amsterdam, but finding a good cocktail bar can be tricky. Lots of bars have cocktails and happy hour, but if you want something else than a Sex on the Beach or a Pina Colada you should go to a real authentic cocktail bar. My absolute favourite is Door 74. Standing in front of its plain black door you can hardly imagine that inside you’ll find a sophisticated bar where skilled bartenders can make the most interesting cocktails. Other bars that might be a bit less authentic, but where they have excellent cocktails as well are the Sky lounge, the rooftop bar of the double tree hilton hotel, which is also worth a visit because of its marvellous view, and the Amstel hotel where they only serve cocktails that contain something typically Dutch.

And these are just a couple of my favourite places in Amsterdam. I hope more people will come to realise what a lovely city Amsterdam actually is and keep on coming back and discover new places.