Just like riding a bike!

This sounds like the sort of thing you should do when in Amsterdam. After all the place is full of bike riders – full of bikes too. Everyone rides a bike in all sorts of outfits. Female execs on the way to work in stylish suits with high heels and an infant in the basket on the handlebars.

And no helmets – that’s just ridiculous so the locals say. You are just peddling round the city – not bike racing for goodness sake.

So us tourists come along and jump on a bike – luckily for me at least it was a guided tour so all I had to do was wobble and follow. And yes we were all kitted up with proper helmets – Good Lord – you wouldn’t want to risk an American suffering from concussion after a fall.

I had noticed the slightly irritated looks on the faces of biking commuters in Amsterdam as our raggedy line of wobbly tourists passed by so it was funny when I came across an article on CNN written from the perspective of a local in Amsterdam. What really made me laugh was the quote from one of the local bike rental companies –

“Tourists think they’re in Disneyworld,” says Geert Gelissen, who runs FietsConsult, a side-street cycle hire and repair shop in the Dutch capital. “And Dutch people think they’re God on a bicycle.”It’s a problem. As soon as summer starts, I sell more of these things than anything else,” he adds, brandishing an enormous brass bike bell the size of a clenched fist.”Customers come into my shop and scream ‘arrrrgghh!'”

I totally understand where the locals are coming from. We tourists can sometimes be very arrogant about visiting foreign spots and maybe we do treat it like a Disneyworld theme park when it is in fact someone’s home. Still we bring important revenue to these places – So There!

I do have to laugh though as it reminds me what it was like to be a local in a popular tourist spot growing up in the lovely village of Mullion in Cornwall, England. Every year we had this little spot of heaven basically to ourselves except for the hellish months of July and August when the “holidaymakers” would descend on us from “up North” complete with sunburnt arms, loud “foreign” accents and crying kids with snotty noses.

Hmm – we were complete snobs and went to beaches that only the locals could ge to, avoided the corner fish and chip shop like the plague and signed with relief on the first week of September when the hordes receded and we had our village back.

So I can really understand where the people of Amsterdam are coming from. Trying to get to work, drop the kids off at nursery school or run errands and all the time having to weave their way through long snaking lines of tourists who haven’t ridden a bike in 30 years. Yep – I get it!

By Lesley Keyter

Lesley Keyter is the face of travel in the fast growing city of Calgary. Every week since 1997 she has has featured live on the Morning News Global TV.

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