Haute Klompen

Platform Stiletto Clogs
I think I’m in love.

I love shoes. Clichéd, perhaps, but true. I particularly love shoes with pointy toes and high, thin heels. Sadly, I don’t get to wear them as often here, because the brick sidewalks and streets like to grab on to those thin heels and not let go. It ruins the look to be strutting along and suddenly walk right out of your shoe.

But I might give it another try just to be able to wear these shoes! Hilarious and gorgeous, all at once! I do like the platform stilettos that are all the rage these days, so I already like the silhouette of these shoes. When you add in that they’ve been made to look like the traditional Dutch klompen (clogs), they become irresistible in a kitschy, sexy kind of way!

I Don’t Think We’re in Kansas

Not Quite Right
Yesterday morning — despite our no-ads sticker on the mail slot — we got this flyer delivered. I can’t help but love it. It’s such a beautiful mash-up of America, Dutch-style.

The front is almost over-the-top American with the big flag and the sexy girl dressed up in Daisy Duke shorts, midriff-baring western shirt, and cowboy hat and boots. Yet, there’s just something about the girl that doesn’t look American. I keep thinking she looks a bit more Eastern European. It’s a subtle distinction. And of course, on top of all this American symbolism, there’s the almost jarring (from a US-perspective) inclusion of the Dutch text, which in this case says: De lekkerste van Nederland! (That would essentially translate to “the best tasting in the Netherlands”.)

Then you flip the flyer over and things get even funnier!
American Spareribs.NL
Things start off well enough with the spareribs, although some of the sauce options may be a bit different from what you’d get in the US. At least one of them is probably more of an Asian flavor with the sweet chili sauce (I’m not sure if that’s the Sweet or the Chilli. Chilli con carne tastes different here, too) Then you get to the cowlsalade. I’m pretty sure that’s supposed to be cole slaw. The cole slaw we’ve had at the Broadway steakhouse on the Oudegracht was quite good, but you never know. The only recipe I could find for cowlsalade didn’t actually have any mayonnaise (or any other sauce) in it at all.

But then you get to the funny part. The next item on this American-themed menu? Kipsaté. (Chicken satay) To be honest, I think you would be hard-pressed to find any restaurant in the Netherlands that doesn’t have saté on the menu, be it high end or snack bar; it’s everywhere. It’s not that it’s unknown in the US, but it’s just not something that you see all the time. When you get just a further bit down on the menu to the American Combi Grill option, it’s kind of funny to see ribs, chicken drumsticks, and good ol’ saté make up the American combination platter. Today is the Fourth of July — Independence Day — in the US, and it’s a tradition that lots of people will be grilling today to celebrate. Ribs and chicken (and burgers, hot dogs, steaks and even veggie burgers) will be sizzling on the grills today, but I’m pretty sure your average American won’t be grilling up some chicken saté. Kabobs maybe, but not saté.

They do offer the American Burger XXL, “a real American double cheeseburger”. I wonder what cheese they use. Probably goudse. The burger comes with the usual toppings such as lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle, but they also throw in cucumber for that little something different. There’s also a special “hamburger sauce”. No telling what that could be. Thousand Island dressing, just like McDonald’s Big Mac “special sauce”?

Speaking of sauces, they have a whole section devoted to sauces, but even here, they’re so very Dutch. Knoflooksaus (garlic sauce and very tasty), whiskysaus, shaslicksaus (I have NO idea, seems to be some sort of bbq sauce), currysaus, fritesaus (basically, mayonnaise), appelmoes (apple sauce), and of course, saté sauce. There’s one other sauce listed: American fritessaus. Frites are fries, so it’s American fries sauce. You’d think that would be ketchup, wouldn’t you. You’d be wrong. It’s also mayonnaise. I’m not really sure how it differs from regular fritessaus. Can anyone offer a good explanation? For what it’s worth, there’s no ketchup listed in the sauces. I’m not sure it’s available at all. I prefer mayonnaise for my fries, anyway, so it’s not a loss for me, but it’s still funny to think of an “American” restaurant not having ketchup.

When I was joking with G about the menu and the subtle differences, his response was, “Welcome to my world.” He’s right; now I know how he feels any time he goes into an “Italian” restaurant. Similar base ingredients are there, but what is done with them from then on can be quite different! It’s not bad, it’s just different.

We picked up a package of ribs at the grocery store for today’s celebration. Unfortunately, they’ve already got their own marinade/seasoning, so I can’t do my voodoo that I love to do. There were three options in the flavoring: Indian, Piri Piri, and Texan. We went with Texan. I’ll let you know how that goes.

(This post is dedicated to Kerryanne and Ken, a couple of fellow Americans I got to spend an enjoyable evening with last night. One of our topics of conversation was the differences in foods. I’ll never think of potato salad in the same way!)

Giro D’Italia in Utrecht

25 To Go
Just a quick follow-up on the Giro D’Italia that came through Utrecht yesterday. Around mid-day I took Pippo out for his mid-day break and saw that the excitement was definitely starting to build. More and more people were out, especially for a Sunday, and the barriers were out lining the main street through town, down which the racers would pass. All, and I do mean all, of the Italian shops were open and making the most of it! Italian flags were flying, banners were out, specials were on offer. Even our Italian neighbors had hung the Italian flag outside their window. (G’s not that patriotic, so we have no flag to fly.)

A little later, G and I went out to wander around a bit further and see what was going on down at the Neude. We saw the 25km-to-go marker (above) over by Janskerkhof and as the road was still open to cyclists, many people passing under the 25km gate seemed to enjoy pretending a moment of greatness, riding through it with arms in the air. Further down, we found a huge crowd of all ages over at the Neude. There were lots of Red Bull marketing items, including some sort of bouncy toy for kids, but there were also beer stands for the adults. ;) Naturally, there was a large screen so that people could watch the race while enjoying the festivities.
Neude Feest
We didn’t stick around for long, though, because Italian that he is, G wanted to get back home to see the Bologna football (soccer) match that was on that afternoon. It was an important match, after all; Bologna secured its spot in Serie A for next season and doesn’t have to worry about relegation now. It was a close thing. So while he was stressing over the Bologna match, I was watching the bicycle race on tv with my parents. The race would be passing by the end of our street, so I wanted to keep a close eye to make sure I could get down there in time to watch, but still be able to watch most of it on tv. As they got closer, I set the tv to record and finally with about a minute to go, G, my dad and I hurried down the street and then rushed to find a free spot in order to see the racers speed by.
Giro D'Italia

Chase Group

Go Speed Racer
Lousy photos, I know, and that was with the sports/action setting turned on! They went so fast! Watching tv, it looked like there were a lot more of them, but when they passed in person, it looked like a much smaller group. We really did see all of them, though! Blink and you’d miss them is what it felt like. We were surprised at just how fast it was; we were also surprised at just how many support vehicles bring up the rear! I got video of the last few racers and most of the support vehicles, along with a few shots of the helicopters hovering overhead.

Unfortunately, despite recording it, we didn’t get to see the part we were at on tv, because one of the racers had fallen earlier and they were showing him rather than the tiny bit where we were! Still, we recognized Biltstraat and some of the other areas in town, which was kind of exciting.

One of my favorite moments of the whole experience is probably when the last two police went past on bicycle. All of the racers and support vehicles and everything else had gone by, and then these two lone police officers rode past and as they approached, the crowd started cheering in much the same way as they did when the racers themselves arrived. It was a nice moment of group-think humor and even the police seemed to get a laugh out of it.

And Now For Something Completely Different

This bit of news that happened today seems like it should be something from a Monty Python sketch. I follow Utrecht_City on Twitter and they had a few tweets about sirens and fire and police somewhere near the Neude. I had heard a lot of sirens shortly before that, so I was curious as to what was going on. They soon followed up with the following tweet:

brandweer rukt groot uit nabij hardebollenstraat, utrecht. (Het werd er iets te heet!!;-)

This is where things get funny. If you put that into Google translation you get the following translation, which breaks down some of the words a bit too much:

Fire ripped off big hard balls around the streets, Utrecht. (It was a little too hot !!;-)

Hardebollenstraat is a street name, which does translate to Hard Balls Street, but obviously, something got a little lost in translation. I think a slightly better translation is something along the lines of “fire tears through nearby Hardebollenstraat.” (Anyone who has a better grasp of Dutch should feel free to leave a better translation in the comments.)

It all gets a bit funnier — and the parenthetical aside about it being a little too hot makes a bit more sense — when you realize Hardebollenstraat is the small red-light district street here in the city center. A hilariously appropriate street name, it seems! (And now all of you who find my blog while searching for the red light district in Utrecht know where to go.)

Fun With Hema

I admit that I enjoy going to Hema and just wandering around, looking at everything. It’s a tiny bit like Target in the US, with colorful, inexpensive odds and ends. It seems now that the website for Hema can be quite a bit of fun, too. Click the link and then don’t do anything. Just wait. You’ll see for yourself.

Canine Family

Afternoon Outing
I think this may be the best thing I’ve ever seen, while walking through any city. Even better than bumping into James Earl Jones one Monday morning in Manhattan. We saw them yesterday while we were out along the Oudegracht, enjoying the botenparade (boat parade) that was part of Culturele Zondag (Cultural Sunday). At first, I only saw the two large borzoi, which are quite beautiful. Then I saw the smaller terrier in between them. It wasn’t until they all started moving away that I realized that it was a dog in the pram and not an actual baby! I was amused to see that all of the dogs are roughly the same color palette. Not that I’m one to speak, since both of my cats are black.

Culture Shock

I don't think we're in Kansas anymore!

I took this picture on Wednesday, which was Koninginnenacht (Queen’s Night), when the festivities begin. They were setting up the stages — and beer stands — in the Dom Plein, the area by the Dom tower and cathedral. In fact, that’s the cathedral in the background. In fact, those trucks are parked where the nave of the cathedral used to stand, before it was destroyed in a storm.

Perhaps it’s a result of growing up in the South — the infamous Bible Belt — but the juxtaposition of seeing beer trucks parked next to the cathedral just made me laugh and feel a bit like Dorothy. “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!”

This one should be filed under: Things You’d Never See in the U.S.

I love it here!