We had a few hours to settle in and then our trip actually began. Our first group activity was a boat tour of the comprehensive canal network in Amsterdam-Centrum, the inner-most borough of the city.
Canal cruises are a major tourist attraction in Amsterdam. There were boats of all sizes holding any where from 2 to 50 people riding through the canals with us. It was a great introduction to the spiderweb-like layout of Centrum, which is where we ended up spending most of our time.
What I found most interesting during our tour were the houseboats lining the canals, which stood out against the 17th century architecture on the streets. According to our guide, the government does not allow any more space to be bought for new houseboats to be built. This means that real estate on the canal is already monopolized and the only way to get a boathouse would be to purchase an already existing one. Supply definitely does not meet demand in this case, but houseboat rentals are a source of extra income for residents. Some houseboats looked modern and newly renovated, while others looked run down and old. Either way, their space on the canal is fermented. The canal hosts about 2500 houseboats.
In Toronto, living on the lake front is a luxury that few people get to enjoy, but in Amsterdam the canal network extends throughout the region, blending seamlessly into urban life and the residential landscape.