Brick Street Tetris

Drain RepairI’m fully aware that this may be one of the most boring blog posts ever unless you like posts about general street/drain management and construction. But since living here, I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with the brick streets and sidewalks here in the old city center.

For starters, they’re hell on heels, not only making it difficult to walk in high heels but also generally tearing up sturdy, sensible shoe heels. I used to walk all over Manhattan in thin high heels, but I just can’t do it here. The sidewalks are too uneven and the heels tend to get stuck in between the bricks.

Secondly, there’s a marked difference in riding a bike on a brick street and riding on a smooth surface. When you get onto a smooth bit, there’s a sudden sense of relief as you realize you’re no longer rattling about. Ahhhhhhhhhh.Drain RepairHowever, I do admit that the brick streets are more picturesque than the typical asphalt or concrete and when it comes time to make repairs, whether to drains (the box bit at the bottom of the picture) or to actually widen the sidewalk area, it’s surprisingly simple.

Today we got a front row view of a street drain being replaced. The parking spot next to the drain was blocked off with some cones and soon enough, a yellow JCB digger showed up, along with a few shovels and picks. Then men in high-viz orange clothing began simply digging up the surface bricks of the street and sidewalk and then used the digger to get out the deeper dirt. The bricks aren’t permanently grouted or stuck down, so they’re easy to take out and replace as needed.

Once the new drain shaft was installed, they simply filled the dirt back in, put the bricks back in place, and filled in the gaps around the bricks with the remaining dirt. There are no horrible asphalt fumes, no horrendously mismatched lumpy layers, and as soon as everything is in place, you can walk on it, bike on it, or drive on it. It also takes a relatively short amount of time from start to finish. This was essentially a morning job. Drain RepairOnce they were done, everything was back in place and only a bit of excess dirt remained.

So now that I’ve bored you with the dirty underbelly of Dutch brick roads, here’s a slightly prettier view of a patterned brick street in glorious sunshine.Brick Street in the Sun

The Paushuize, Publishing, and Me

My article in Dutch the MagazineDespite my excitement in yesterday’s post about my photo and name appearing in the new book about the Domtoren, I do actually have a background in publishing. In the US, I had my first article — a software game review — published in Compute magazine while I was still in high school. (Although there was a bit of nepotism there, as my dad was one of the editors. But still, it passed muster!) In fact, I ended up following in my dad’s professional footsteps after university and worked for a group of magazines, working my way up from assistant editor to editor-in-chief. So I’ve seen my name in print plenty of times and I’ve even had the cover feature on occasion.

Even with the experience, though, there’s still a thrill to seeing your work published. I regularly write for websites (although my name isn’t always attached), but there’s an extra thrill I get from seeing my name in print on paper. I remember when I first moved to New York and saw one of my articles in a magazine for sale at the Barnes & Noble at Union Square. It gave me a real sense of satisfaction.

However, it’s been a while since my name has appeared in physical print next to my writing, so when I recently received my issue of Dutch: The Magazine with my article about the Paushuize and the Netherlands’ only pope, I got to relive that frisson of excitement. I’ve had some of my photos appear in print over the past few years, including one in the previous issue of Dutch, but this is my first full article in a while.My article in Dutch the Magazine

The magazine is published in North America, so if you’re interested in seeing it for yourself, you can try some of your area book stores, etc. I’m not sure how widespread the publication is, but it is growing, so you never know. It’s definitely worth looking for, especially since Invader Stu has a new monthly column in the magazine, as well. If you can’t pick up a copy, I really do suggest you plan a visit to Utrecht so you can take one of the guided tours of the Paushuize. There was so much great information about the palace, the pope, and the city that I didn’t have room to include!My article in Dutch the Magazine

Watery Amsterdam

Herengracht
I was in Amsterdam today for a potential job — keep your fingers crossed for me, please — and I snapped a few photos of some of the canals and river. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll finally do a real post. For now, lots of shiny water.

Herengracht

Amstel

Amstel

The Muses Are Cold

Cold Inspiration
Still working away, but every once in a while, I run up against good ol’ writer’s block when my own writing muses seem to be as cold and frozen as the muses depicted in this sculpture/fountain that stands in front of the Stadsschouwburg. Tomorrow, though, I get to go get inspired by a couple of friends in Den Haag, and if nothing else, it will be a nice break from writing. Plus, I get to see some other friends here in Utrecht in the evening, so it will be nice to get out and about and be social again.

In the meantime, apologies to those whose blogs I normally read and like/comment upon. I’m so ridiculously far behind and have no idea when I’ll get caught up again. And thanks to those who comment and like my postings here. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to reply back, but I truly do appreciate you all. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. We may get some more snow Sunday and/or Monday, so my snowy pictures may continue! Fijn weekend!

A Few Photos on Friday

Daydreaming
All that work I’ve been doing recently on the ol’ resume seems to have paid off; my proposal was chosen for one of the jobs I applied for on elance.com. So for the past few days, I’ve been editing some articles about New Zealand tourism. Who knew my interest in the country would finally pay off! The “sound of Te Awamutu had a truly sacred ring” a few decades ago when I first heard Crowded House’s song “Mean to Me”, and I’ve been curious about the country ever since.

Unfortunately, the editing work meant I didn’t get to get out and enjoy the brief bit of sunshine we had this week! All I could do was look at it out the window. Someone else who got to enjoy the sunshine was this huge bird that’s been visiting our back garden for the past couple of weeks.
Big Bird
My cat Lola has been glued to the windows in the kitchen, watching this bird — possibly bigger than Lola herself — flitting from bike to branch to brick.

The weather isn’t looking too promising this weekend, but I’m determined to get out for at least a little while. Maybe a trip to the Saturday market, if nothing else. I need some new photos! I hope you all get to enjoy your weekend!

Shameless Self-Promotion

I’ve got a couple of things to mention that require voting for me or buying stuff from me, so I thought I’d get it all over with in one post.

First off, I’ve got three photos entered in a contest at the Insego website. It’s a site for expats living in the Netherlands, and they’re running a Typically Dutch photo contest through the 5th of January. Yeah, I probably should have mentioned this sooner, but it slipped my mind. You may have to register (although that should be free and easy), but the idea is for you to “favorite” my three photos (last three photos on the second page, under the name Alison Netsel). To get to the competition, just click here.

Next up is the 2011 Bloggie Awards nomination. A very kind friend nominated my blog, so if you feel like doing so, please nominate me. The more nominations, the better. I already know I’m up against some tough competition (whom you should also nominate), and likely won’t make it to final voting, but it can’t hurt to try, right? So, please go to the website and enter A Flamingo in Utrecht (http://oranjeflamingo.wordpress.com) under the Best European Blog category.

Now onto RedBubble.com. I found out about this site recently through another expat, and finally decided — although I should have done it before Christmas! — to add some of my photos to it. What this means is that if you like my photos, you can buy them in a variety of formats (cards, laminated prints, matted prints, canvas prints, etc.) at a decent price. I’ve got a handful of photos up at the moment, but would like to add more. If you’ve seen a photo here on my blog that you’d personally like to see included, just let me know and I’ll add it. I don’t expect to sell much, but it would be nice to sell a few odds and ends. The quality is supposed to be quite good, so it’s worth a shot. For future reference, there’s a link to my work over there on the right-hand sidebar, just under the e-mail subscription link.

And finally, just because I should mention it again, if you need any English-language editing work done, please consider me! You can find all the pertinent pricing details, etc., at my website ABNediting.com. Even if you don’t have need of my services, please mention me to anyone you know who may need my services. I’m open to working on any type of project, from papers and presentations, to business documents and pamphlets, to scripts and websites, not to mention anything in between.

Take the Long Way Home

Less Traffic
They really don’t want you to drive in the city center of Utrecht. Besides every road being a one way never in the direction you want to go, half the time you can only turn in one direction onto the next street, no matter that the traffic goes both ways on the street. And then there are the random streets that are just blocked off all together.

We went to deliver some wine to Casa di David today on the Oudegracht. I think we need to consider a boat for future deliveries. It’s got to be much easier in the long run. First of all, just getting there was a bit hit or miss in terms of legalities of how we got on each street. There might have been some turns and backing up that were a bit questionable. Then we had to wedge the car into a spot that just left enough room for other vehicles to pass, while we lugged six boxes of wine down some steep stairs. Have I mentioned that I get a bit nervous going down stairs and like to have something to hold on to? Yeah, that first trip with two boxes made me a bit nervous, to say the least.

Once we actually had the wine delivered, we then had to get back home. That’s when things got really interesting. We thought we were doing ok, until the road suddenly ended, with metal posts blocking the road. Midday on a Tuesday? Sure! Excellent time to close a road off to traffic. And no, it wasn’t for construction. It was just closed. So then we tried to turn left, across the canal. That didn’t go particularly well, as the continuation of the road was also closed. We could turn left again, taking us back down the canal, but there was a truck blocking the road, as five workers were involved in cutting loose broken/abandoned bikes from the railings.

Let me rant on a tangent here for a moment. I’m all for the removal of these abandoned bikes, and I’m all for people having work, but when they’re cutting money for the arts and cutting the amount of money to help immigrants with the required assimilation programs (especially when you’ve got people like Wilders in office who are so bothered by immigrants), it seems a bit excessive to have one person driving the truck, two people cutting lose the bikes and putting them on the truck, and two other people riding along on separate scooters writing down the info and tagging the bikes removed. I’m pretty sure that task could have been cut down to just three people. I don’t think it would take that much longer to do the job with fewer personnel. I could totally be wrong, but at first glance, it seems a bit excessive.

Anyway, it turns out we could have probably turned right, but that would have lead to more questionable areas, so we just ended up turning left once the truck moved on. Eventually the truck reached a spot where it could pull over and let the following traffic pass. But then we got to the end of the Oudegracht, thinking we could turn left onto the main road, but no! More metal poles blocking the way! We’d forgotten about that! So that’s when things got a bit iffy and turns were made that may be a bit grey in their legality, but eventually we made it onto the road we wanted. And then took the long way around — because it’s the only way around — to get back home, despite passing our street on the way.

Don’t get me wrong. As a frequent walker and a rare cyclist, I appreciate that they’ve limited the amount of driving that goes on in the city center. It certainly helps keep the city more attractive, as well. Up until the 1970s or so, there was a lot more parking, a lot more cars, and narrower sidewalks from what I’ve seen. It’s much nicer now and I appreciate it all. I’m just glad I’m not the one ever having to drive here, despite my friends’ encouragement! I told G we should get a good bakfiets for any future deliveries. It’s got to be easier in the long run. They even have “trailers” you can attach to your bike. Perfect!

Wine Tasting Travel Tips

Stadsschouwburg Bus Stop Pano
Today’s the day of the wine tasting, and if you’re coming in from out of town, the easiest way to get to the Café de Potdeksel if you’re coming in by train is to take the bus. You can take Bus 4 (destination Burg Fockema Andreaelaan), Bus 11 (destination Uithof UMC WKZ) or Bus 53 (destination Zeist) and get off at the Stadsschouwburg stop. It’s a short ride, only five minutes or so. You could walk (about a 15 minute walk or so), and see a bit of the city, but with the rain today, the bus may be the drier option.

In the photo above, the far right is where the bus stops for the Stadsschouwburg. Be careful crossing the street, since that section has seen a few accidents in the past months. In the middle is the Stadsschouwburg itself, and on the left, between the bicycles is Lucasbolwerk, the street you need to walk down. The Café de Potdeksel is at the end of the street. The main entrance is at the terrace end.
Our Local
If you click on either of the photos posted, they each have notes on them that may help clarify directions. We look forward to seeing those of you who are coming!

Wine Tasting/Wijnproeven

Wine Tasting/Wijnproeven
My boyfriend, who is from Italy, has recently begun a wine distribution business, offering Italian wines primarily from the Trentino region, along the Alps. The wines from this region are excellent and the wines he is offering are particularly good; they are well-balanced, with appealing floral and fruity flavors and aromas, without being over-the-top or in your face. They go well with a variety of foods, but also stand on their own as wines to sip and savor over good conversation.

To help spread the word, we are hosting a special wine tasting event on Sunday afternoon, 14 November, from 14:00 to 16:00, at the Café de Potdeksel (Lucasbolwerk 23) here in Utrecht. The event is free. All we ask in return is that you come with the name and address of your wine store(s) of choice (other than Gall & Gall), and maybe the names of a few restaurants you enjoy. In return for that little bit of information, you get to taste a variety of wines that run the gamut: white, rosé, red, sparkling, and dessert wines. You will also have the opportunity to order any of these wines at the wholesale price. There is a six-bottle minimum, but you can mix and match any combination you want. Prices start around €6.50, so six bottles isn’t much.

With the holidays coming up, you could always use this opportunity to buy some excellent wine to give as gifts or to serve at parties, or simply to enjoy yourself when all the holiday festivities get a bit much! The tasting will be a nice party in its own right, with snacks on hand to accompany the wines.

We would love to have anyone who enjoys wine to come to the event, even if you’re not living in Utrecht. We hope to expand to restaurants and wine stores in other cities, as well. Even if you’re not a fan of wine, if you know someone who is, please tell them about the event. The only thing I ask is that anyone planning on coming e-mail me or leave me a comment here so that we know how many people are coming. I hope some of you who read my blog will come along so that we can all meet face to face over a nice glass of wine! The event will be in English, but there will be Dutch friends attending who can help with any translation if necessary. Feel free to contact me with any questions you have. I will be more than happy to answer. I look forward to seeing you!

Editing Services

ABNEditing
In my past life, as I like to say, I worked in newspaper and magazine publishing. I worked my way up, over the years, to become editor-in-chief of an international trade magazine. As a result, I spent a lot of time editing and proofreading anything that we published, and we published a lot! Because of the various magazines I worked on, I covered all sorts of topics, including business, medicine, politics, art and personal interviews. I’ve also done freelance work over the years, editing academic papers, website copy and advertising materials.

Why am I telling you this? Because like any good expat who moved without a job, I’m looking for work. Specifically English-language editing and proofreading. You see, I’ve started my own company, ABN Editing (ABN are my initials and in this case have nothing to do with the Dutch language). Having worked with a number of writers over the years who do not speak English as their native language, I’ve become used to smoothing down the rough edges of their writing, catching the typical mistakes that often arise. Living here in a country where English is used quite often, but where it is not the native language, I hope to put my skills to good use. Of course, I can help those who speak English as a first language, as well. We all need a second set of eyes to look over our work.

I enjoy the work, but I hate doing the promotional side of selling myself. I’ve been trying to get ABN Editing out there, but figured a good place to start would be here on my blog, which I know is read by people from all over the world. If you are looking for English-language editing work anywhere in the world or know someone who might be, please keep me in mind. My rates are reasonable and my work is done in a timely manner. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. I’ll do my best to work with anyone on any project.