Bashful Bear

Bashful Bear
It’s not often you spot an ijsbeer (polar bear) in the middle of the Domplein, so I can be excused for wanting to take advantage of this rare occasion and get a few wildlife photos. Sadly, like many animals, a camera makes them a bit shy and bashful. Oh well, better than rage-filled and fast!
Bashful Bear
Bashful Bear(OK, you got me. This one was part of a Greenpeace stand at the kerstmarkt (Christmas market) at the Domplein this last weekend.)

Domtoren as Fietstoren

Fietstoren Fietstoren








It’s been kerstmarkt (Christmas Market) weekend here in Utrecht, with markets popping up all over town. We hit them all, except the one at Mariaplaats, including the newest one at the Domplein. There will be many more photos to come eventually, but for now, I thought I’d share this fantastic version of the Domtoren, made completely out of bicycle parts. They even added in gargoyles made from bicycle parts! Brilliant!

Eventually, I worked my way around to get the perfect shots. Proof that it pays to look at things from every angle!

Zeven Steegjes From a Different Perspective

zeven steegjes
I wrote about the Zeven Steegjes (Seven Alleys) two years ago. For a moment, I thought I’d written about them two years ago to the day, but then realized I was a month off. Still, close enough.

Last month, while on the Free Utrecht tour held every Saturday starting at the Domplein at noon, (you should go!), I ended up getting to the Zeven Steegjes from a different direction than I’d seem them originally. It was a nice surprise when I realized where we were. On my previous trip, I’d been more interested in seeing the clear rows of buildings and hadn’t really wandered down the actual streets. This time, I was captivated by the variety of decorations in the neighborhood, both on individual homes and the details within the building designs. I love a good keystone!
zeven steegjes
zeven steegjes
But seeing the rows of domestic streets from the back also gave me a different view of the rest of the neighborhood, including this fantastic view toward one of the church spires.
zeven steegjesA bright, sunny, winter day also helps. Plus, the buildings also made me think a bit of Italy, with the orange roof tiles and warm colors that some of the buildings were painted.
zeven steegjesAs if all of that wasn’t so charming you could just die, there was an adorable dog who seemed quite determined to tell us all off for invading his neighborhood. That, or he just wanted a bit of attention and someone to play with him. I would have gladly complied!
zeven steegjes

Rotterdam’s Cube Houses

Cube Houses
As mentioned previously, while some friends were visiting last month, we took a trip to Rotterdam. There was only one main goal that day — a post still to come — but while we were there, I really wanted to see the Cube Houses.

The Cube Houses (kubuswoning) were built between 1982 and 1984, although the plans were first presented in 1978. The architect was Piet Blom. The first cube homes were actually built in Helmond, in 1974/75, as a test, and by 1977, a total of 18 were built in Helmond, although there were plans to built many more.

In Rotterdam, 38 cubes were built, along with two “super cubes”. All of the cubes are attached together. Per the Wikipedia description: “Blom tilted the cube of a conventional house 45 degrees, and rested it upon a hexagon-shaped pylon. His design represents a village within a city, where each house represents a tree, and all the houses together, a forest.”
Cube Houses
The cubes are used as residences, while the space in the pylons below is used for commercial purposes. The cubes themselves are divided into three levels, with the first floor serving as an open-plan living room and kitchen, the second floor has two bedrooms and a bathroom, and the top floor is sometimes used as a small garden. The walls and windows are angled at 54.7 degrees.

So many people have been curious to see the inside of the cube homes, that one owner converted one of the cubes into a show cube, to give people a feel for how the space is used residentially. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to see it for myself. Next time!
Cube Houses
Cube Houses
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Cube Houses

Happy Sinterklaas

Today is St. Nicholas Day, when all the Sinterklaas celebrations come to a sugar-filled finale. I missed the Sint’s intocht (arrival) this year and I think I’m being punished for it with a cold that won’t go away. No gifts for me this pakjesavond, except maybe a neti pot. If you’re celebrating, I hope you get some lekkere pepernoten or kruidnoten or a chocolate letter.

(Correction, 6 December is St. Nicholas Day. The Dutch celebrate St. Nicholas Eve, so to speak, on 5 December.)
Red BalloonPepernoten

The Dutch Connection to Thanksgiving


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the US and I won’t be celebrating as I have in the past, since I’ll be working. (Take pity on me working on a “holiday” and come visit!) Since I’m usually starting the cooking today (cornbread, pecan pie), I thought I’d reblog this old post about the Dutch connection to Thanksgiving, particularly as it’s been getting a few hits in recent weeks. Also, if you’re in Utrecht and looking for baking soda or molasses, or corn meal, I recommend visiting one of the tokos in town. There’s one across from Blokker by Hoog Catherijne, and there’s a new one that has opened across from Tivoli-Vredenburg (next to a Chinese restaurant). They’re the best places to find baking soda and corn meal (I use the dry polenta). There’s an expat food shop on Steenweg, but be prepared to spend an arm and a leg on anything there. I think €6+ was the going price for one can of Libby’s pumpkin purée, so consider buying the frozen pumpkin pieces in the grocery store and making your own if you’re desperate and broke. Whether you’re celebrating or not, try to take a moment to think about what you have to be thankful for. It’s good to remember the positives.

Originally posted on A Flamingo in Utrecht:

Old Greensboro

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate, and happy Thursday to those who don’t. Regardless of your nationality, it’s always nice to take a moment to think about the good things in your life and be thankful for them, be they big or small. It’s a nice reminder when things aren’t always going so well.

Although Thanksgiving is seen primarily as a North American holiday (our Canadian neighbors to the north celebrate a few weeks before we do in the US), there still is a Dutch connection to the holiday. In fact, the Pilgrims spent approximately 12 years in the Netherlands, around Leiden, before actually heading to the new world. There’s even a Pilgrim museum in Leiden, which gives a bit of history on their time there, and includes information about the origins of the Thanksgiving celebration, which may have begun during their time in the Netherlands. As mentioned in

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Caturday: Ginger Edition

Flora's Hof Kitty
Lurking in the shadows — or on a wall, or under a bench, or beneath a grate, or out a window — at Flora’s Hof and the connecting bookstore, you’re bound to come across a fearless ginger cat. I’ve seen this cat grow from kitten to adult, and it’s always doing something crazy or cute. In other words, a classic cat.

A few weeks ago, while taking the Utrecht Free Tour with visiting friends, everyone got to see this charming cat for themselves. Many photos were taken, especially by my fellow cat lovers, as on that day, the orange tabby was relaxing in the shade of the palm tree in the center of the garden. Yes, a palm tree! No wonder it’s one of my favorite spots in town!
Flora's Hof KittySo the next time you’re in the little garden area off Servetstraat, next to the Domtoren, keep an eye out for this crazy kitty. She’ll typically pose for photos, but be fast, as she may suddenly change her mind and race off to parts unknown, through her own secret system of tunnels and bolt holes. But beware if she’s hanging out in one of the gratings along the garden path. She’s been known to swipe at hands reaching down irresistibly to pet her. Ouch!
Flora's Hof Kitty

Domtoren in the Mist

Last week, Utrecht turned a bit misty, but that didn’t stop the city from looking stunning as usual. A number of people took amazing photos of the Domtoren with its own shadows in the mist. And now it turns out someone else captured some beautiful aerial footage with a drone of the Domtoren in the mist. I’m just envious that I didn’t see it for myself.