Woven in a web of confusion, my wings tightly bound
It took six years and twenty-five heart routes to realise it
Sure, it would've been nice if it had occurred overnight
But it didn’t
And maybe it wasn’t meant to
Maybe each heartful route was a lesson to learn
A blessing in disguise
Maybe each one was a chapter to be told
In a story that was unknowingly writing itself
Maybe that alluring spider’s web
Was meant to catch me
Maybe I was meant to fight my way through
To come out the other side
As a grateful little fly
Follow your heart
Cycle Your Heart Out and... write!
All week leading up to my trip I'd been reading Elizabeth Gilbert's book ‘Big Magic’. Having been on my reading list for ages, it more or less jumped off the bookshelf into my hands at the Airport. The more I read, the more it made me realise I write because I freaking love it. I understand not everyone will enjoy reading what I have to say, but that's OK too. I'd rather write for the rest of my life than live in a criticism-free bubble.
My favourite part was when she wrote about how we should have more fun with our creativity.
For many years I would stress myself silly about writing up my heart routes, I would try and force myself to write, even if I didn't have a creative cell in my body that day. I would then get burnt out, loose my words, conclude I was a terrible writer and keep it only for myself. I now whisk myself off to romantic locations on my own to allow myself no time limit, just the sheer luxury of being able to write, zero interruptions, other than my wine and olives arriving.
I'd created a heart route in the tiny coastal town of Westkapelle back in 2015, when I first discovered how much the Dutch love cycling, and how super flat this country really is.
Having returned to Holland for the 2nd time to spend time with family at the beautiful beach Callantsoog, I managed to arrange a 1 night stay in Amsterdam on my way back to Barcelona.
On the train ride to Amsterdam I looked up bike rental and straight away found MacBike. Located next to the canal, a short walking distance from the famous Rijksmuseum museum and my hostel. I hired my beautiful red bike and got a detailed map of the city. After finding a nice spot on the canal to sip my cappuccino and plan my route I realised it had created itself organically. The more I studied my map and all the canals, the more a heart shape emerged!
Cycle Your Heart Out
Riding down the canals I loved that I had no expectations, I think along the route I developed an addiction for canals, each one I passed I couldn’t help but take a quick pic! Having been up since 6 am my stomach started to protest at being neglected. A few metres away I found an inviting canal boat, a perfect spot for filling my stomach on some Dutch cuisine. While I ate dozens of touristic boats passed, I felt a little bit like a lion in a safari park as they whipped out their cameras ready to capture the beautiful picturesque canals, with myself modelling a mouthful of food.
I was about to jump back on my bike when I looked across the road and saw the Cheese Museum, I remembered a fellow cheese fanatic friend of mine had mentioned it to me last year. My taste buds melted as my eyes feasted on all the different flavours... truffles, pesto, a rainbow of colours from blue, purple and even green!
As I cycled along I came across a large group of people all staring up at a house, curious to know what it was I then saw a small sign, “Anne Frank Huis”. Memories came flooding back to me as a child, reading her book in my bedroom, wiping away the tears. In that moment I immediately dedicated a piece of my heart route to Anne.
After gliding along the scenic streets and canals of Prinsengracht Joordan I noticed how quickly the vibe changed. Arriving at the centre of my heart route, I had also reached the HEART of Amsterdam. I came face to face with the grim reaper at the Dam Square Royal palace, and dead bodies at The Body Worlds museum. Cycling through the craziness of it all, one thing remained the same, it was still full of bike lanes, and easy to ride through despite the masses of tourists.
I looked at my map, and noticed I needed to head back towards the canal to start the other half of my heart route. As I stopped at Dam Square to check where I was I noticed a bicycle taxi on the look-out for clients. He must know every single path in Amsterdam I thought, so decided to ask him for some directions. After pointed me in the right direction, and before I knew it, the lines had joined again, heart route 25, now complete!
After waking up so early and cycling the whole city until 8pm I was on the verge of passing out in hunger and exhaustion. Thank you Lorenzo restaurant, I didn't get the waiter's name, but I'm grateful for his kindness. I'm surprised I could even get my words out, I mumbled something along the lines of, "I'm hungry". Not only did he give me a massive portion of tasty pasta , he cracked some jokes, then took my bike basket off the table to make my meal feel more at home.
I pretty much passed out immediately back to my hostel! I'll need to return again soon to see Amsterdam by night.
The following morning it was time head back to Barcelona and press pause on my Dutch adventures.
Before saying goodbye I sat in a cafe called Back to Black that I’d discovered along my heart route, directly overlooking the bicycle filled canals.
Billie Holiday played in the background while I stared out the window searching for the right words to write up about Amsterdam. A heart shaped foam smiled up at me from the cappuccino reminding me of all the kind people I’d met along the route, and helped me make route 25 possible.
No longer had I finished Route 25, I was already starting to dream of my next heart route, and all the adventures yet to come.
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Thanks to everyone at MacBike for telling me all the best canal and paths to ride, as well as nice spots to relax and enjoy the open markets and cafe scene.
Hi I'm Sarah the Heartful cycling coach, author and poet