Of chip cards, family and friends

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011 @ %I:%M %p | Life

wpid-handlebars-2011-09-7-16-46.jpgI was back in The Netherlands for the first time in two years. Chance to see family and friends again, and to meander through my favorite city.

The meandering included use of the public transport and that required getting used to and obtaining an OV-chipcard (public transport chip card). Trains, trams, buses now all use the same payment system: a chip card you load with funds and then wave in front of a reader as you enter (check in) and leave (check out) the vehicle. Yvonne sent me an email with instructions beforehand and I also browsed the Dutch Public Transport web site. It seemed reasonably straightforward with the most tricky part being to remember to check out when leaving the train, bus or tram.

I flew into Schiphol (aka Amsterdam Airport) which has a train station: the place to obtain the card. There are several machines where you can buy and load a card. As at least one improvement over earlier visits these machines now accept credit cards in addition to a Dutch bank pass. Using the touch screen I indicated I wanted to buy an anonymous OV-chipcard (a named one can be automatically reloaded via your bank account but for that you need to live in the country), inserted my credit card and out came my very own OV-chipcard! Except, it didn’t yet have any funds on it. Why this is a separate transaction, I don’t know. A card without a balance is pretty much useless. Anyways, added 20 euros to the card which should be sufficient for the travel planned for the week. Proudly holding my card high in the air I descended upon the track where the train to Amsterdam Centraal will be departing from. Found the pole with the card reader to check in, waved the card in front and I got a red light and a short message that check in failed. Hmmm…. No further explanation…

Luckily, several train conductors stood around doing nothing (with this automated system what role/job do they still have?) and asked why my new card wouldn’t work. The lady said I needed to assign to first or second class for train travel. Why didn’t the machine ask this when I bought the card? She shrugged her shoulders. How do I do this, I asked? I have to go to the ticket desk. The machines do not provide this function. Alright, back on the escalator and standing in line for the next agent at the ticket counter. He held my card in front of a reader, tapped on his keyboard and I was all set. Back to the track to wait for the next train.

Friday afternoon I hiked up and down the Nieuwendijk, Kalverstraat, Bloemenmarkt, surrounding streets and canals to collect presents. During the running around I thought of a little photo assignment: taking pictures of what Amsterdammers to do to and with their bicycles. They make phone calls, send and check text messages, haul groceries and small children around, walk the dog and much more. Check the photo gallery for yourself of how to use your bicycle in Amsterdam like an Amsterdammer. This also represented an opportunity to try out the photography workflow using my iPad instead of the MacBook.

Saturday was birthday day for my dad and Wouter, the oldest son of my oldest sister, Marja. Yvonne and I first brunched at the Koffieketel before taking the tram to the Muntplein to obtain the last needed present. It was a hot and humid day. We took a break at Cafe De Jaren to cool off. We were tempted to text the family to come and celebrate here rather than us having to get back out in the hot weather… At the parental home in Amsterdam-Noord my 6 year old nephew politely accepted his present and put it down next to him. After a little while, his grandma asked him: “Aren’t you going to open your present?”
“No,“ he answers, “I’ll do it later. It’s too hot.”

It’s more or less tradition that we go to my dad’s favorite Chinese restaurant for dinner. Since a few months he has a Canta, basically a narrow two-seater with a moped engine for disabled and elderly people. These are allowed to ride on bike paths and park on the pavement. I asked my dad if he was going to drive. He was and I went with him. My first time in a Canta! I recorded the experience. Can you enjoy my Amsterdam accent!

One of the nice things about the restaurant is that they know our dad very well and keep an eye on him. The seating arrangement didn’t work out as intended and I used the excuse of a toilet break to effectuate a little reshuffling of the chairs. We generally had good fun and amusing dinner conversation. Wouter and Marina leave a little earlier because Lennart was getting tired. But for a 9 month old baby he did extremely well! After dinner we said goodbye to my dad and I promised to come by Monday afternoon.

Also tradition is that Yvonne and I end up at Cafe Kale after a parental visit. It was finally cooling down making it even more relaxing to sit on Cafe Kale’s terrace and watch the Amsterdam nightlife flow by.

wpid-wouter-eric-2011-09-7-16-46.jpgMonday evening I met with my friends. I hadn’t seen Wouter in about five years and Leon perhaps even longer. Wouter sat already at the bar when I walked in. He recognized me before I recognized him. He’s all gray! And a tad, just a tad, heavier. Eric still looked like the schoolboy of many years ago, Gero and Leon hadn’t changed much either. Cafe Kale delighted me by having mussels on the menu. We chatted about cycling, technology, life, the universe and everything.



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  • I can now confirm the existence of the Area 50 page
  • Bike commuting, The Prequel
  • Tour of California – Time Trial
  • Portola Valley bike ride
  • Finally cut the cable
  • The Weekend Everybody Smiled

    2 Responses to “Of chip cards, family and friends”

    1. Karen Says:

      Sounds like you had a great trip! I love the video with your Dad in the Canta. Do you have a photo from the outside? I want one!

    2. onno Says:

      I think I have a picture somewhere – should update the post with it. Careful what you wish for: you need to be of limited mobility to qualify for a Canta.

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