If you’ve ever wandered the Seine in Paris or the canals of Amsterdam you may have coveted the houseboats locals call home. Some look sleek and modern but more look lovingly lived in - scattered with outdoor furniture, potted tomatoes and the occasional slumbering dog. Now the Web opens up the possibility of finding and renting houseboats on rivers around the world.
We recently indulged by renting a boat on the Amstel River in Amsterdam where AirBnB lists over fifty houseboats. Our host, Hilda, answered all our questions before we left home (where to buy groceries on Xmas day?) and had the houseboat warm and ready.
Hilda’s clean, cozy woonboot has at least a thousand square feet of space. The front door opens directly into a large eat-in kitchen with a long dining table. The kitchen boasts a SMEG stove, dishwasher, Nepresso machine and everything else you need to make and serve a nice meal. Down a few steep steps from the kitchen are two twin bunks tucked into the bow next to a beautifully-tiled bath (a separate water closet off the kitchen holds the toilet) . Down the steps in the opposite direction is a comfy, sunken living room whose flat screen t.v. can easily be hooked up to your mobile device to watch movies. The stern holds a generous master bedroom with fine linens and duvets.
The boat is docked right in front of the Opera House near the Waterlooplein tram and metro stops so the city is entirely accessible by foot, bike or public transit. (We squated the Opera House's wifi). We could have spent even more time in the Droog Design shop and exploring The Nine Streets both of which are walking distance from the boat and blissfully far from the city's tourist traps.
IAmsterdam is a great resource for planning the rest of your trip and allows you to purchase a combined tram and museum pass so that you can skip the long holiday queues. We chose the Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum, Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House (which requires you to pick a specific day and time for your tour). You might consider exploring the 1672 canal-house-turned Museum Van Loon after visiting the Rijks' dollhouse to bring Jessie Burton's novel The Miniaturist to life (a novel depicting the harsh realities of 17th Century life for people living on the fringe of society) .
We also took an evening boat cruise that was a surprising delight because of the city Light Festival. There are champagne cruises, dinner cruises, pizza cruises, even morning pancake cruises. But we hopped on a nighttime Light Festival cruise which sold hot chocolate, mulled wine and roasted nuts to satiate our empty stomachs. The view was beautiful and we especially loved seeing the bridges and other houseboats at eye level. We also identified several other waterfront excursions we now know we must return to see - The National Maritime Museum, The Houseboat Museum, and The NEMO Science Museum.