A Flamingo in Italy

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The site is still a work in progress, but you can follow my new adventures in Italy at A Flamingo in Italy. The best way to keep up is to subscribe through email. Then you get a message in your inbox any time I add a new post. Don’t worry, you won’t get inundated and you also won’t get anything other than blog updates. Promise!

What you will get are pictures of Italian architecture, pictures of bicycles, because it’s become habit, and quite a few pictures of the wall art/graffiti that is everywhere in Bologna. And the occasional coffee and pastry, because they’re delicious!

To be honest, who knows what else you’ll get. I have a lot of city to explore and there could be all sorts of surprises! Follow along and see what I find.

Centraal and the Moreelsebrug

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The Utrecht Centraal train station has been undergoing a massive renovation for what feels like years and years. I rarely go to the station, so the few times I do, usually to meet up with visiting friends, it’s been a challenge to figure out where to meet, as various sections and shops have been closed off at different times.

But the main work seems to be done now and it actually looks pretty nice. I like the rolling wave effect of the new roof, visible inside and out.

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The foggy photo was taken from the new Moreelsebrug, a bridge that allows people to cross the train tracks without having to go inside the station or take a much longer route around the station. It has some nice views already and will probably have more when the rest of the construction at the Hoog Catharijne shopping mall is finally finished.

As well as being foggy that day, it was also really cold, especially up higher in the air like that, so Charlie and I didn’t stay long and I didn’t get as many thoughtful photos. However, if you want to read more about the bridge and see some better photos and video, I highly recommend you check out the recent post at Bicycle Dutch. I’m short on time trying to pack up and sell everything, so Mark’s post couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I can just post a bunch of photos and you can read his expertly researched and interesting post. Win win!

For now, a few more photos inside and outside the train station and the bridge. Hopefully in the next day or so I can post a few pics of one of the newer art installations that has gone up outside the station on the Jaarbeurs side.

Cycling path on the right, walking path on the left of the Moreelsebrug. Definitely read the Bicycle Dutch post to learn the cool facts about the trees planted along the bridge.

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Large-scale Bicycle Parking

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If you’re walking, or better yet, cycling around Utrecht, you may start noticing more and more of these signs. Despite my photo, which was taking in strong morning sunlight, the green numbers positively glow, even from a distance. This is one of a pair that has gone up in the last month or so by Voorstraat and even in the nearby park, I can see the bright red and green of one of the signs from a fair distance.

What are they, you may ask? They’re bicycle parking signs. More specifically, they show primarily how many parking spots are available in various designated parking areas. And yes, I do mean bicycles and not cars. Keizerstraat refers to a smaller parking lot that primarily serves university students, particularly those going to the library, which is part of the building in the background. UB Plein is a larger, underground parking area in the University Library’s courtyard area. The station refers to the train station, which has space for around 30,000 bicycles at the station, with additional areas nearby for alternative options. The Centrum parking I’m not exactly sure about. I know that on weekends they set up temporary bicycle parking lots at Neude and in other areas, but I’m not sure if this is referring to a more permanent location.

Still, the numbers shown on this early Sunday morning gives you a small idea of the volume of bicycles in the city. This also doesn’t account for all the free-range bicycle parking you see everywhere, along with the smaller neighborhood bike racks. These signs are more for parking while you’re commuting, shopping, or studying. Even with all of the parking available, there seems to always be a need for more. Like the old Field of Dreams quote says, “If you build it, they will come.”
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Photo Challenge: Curves

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Fifteen hours of solid rain is expected today. Maybe more. This pretty much sums up how I feel today. Topsy, tangled, broken, with flashes of violent red and a tag marking it to be taken away as junk, and curves everywhere waiting to trip one up.

My entry for the weekly photo challenge theme of curves.

Autumn Colors Along the Maliebaan

maliebaan herfst autumn colors trees changingFinally, there was no fog on our walk this morning. Just lots of sunshine and beautiful colors. We took a stroll along the Maliebaan. The Maliebaan is a historic and scenic street that has walking paths along both sides of the street, and even some pieces of sculpture along one side. This is also where the first bicycle path was created in the Netherlands in 1885. There’s a sign post that commemorates what would be the first of many cycling paths in this country.
eerste fietspad first cycle path in the netherlandsBut for a girl and her dog, it’s just a great place to take a walk on a crisp autumn morning.

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Utrecht’s Gone a Little Yellow

Yellow Tour de France Grand Depart sunglasses along the Oudegracht
In case you haven’t seen enough yellow this past week in Utrecht, Toerisme Utrecht did a bit of guerilla marketing in the early hours of this morning, putting out yellow sunglasses along a large stretch of the Oudegracht. (As an aside, I’m writing this with the sound of helicopters roaring overhead. As the race is about to start in about half an hour, I guess it’s a mix of film crews and police overhead.) Anyway, the sunglasses are free to take and they’re promoting upcoming summer events in the city in Dutch on one side of the attached tag, and in English, on the other side, it’s targeting people visiting for the Tour de France today, encouraging them to visit local museums and shops while they’re here.
Yellow Tour de France Grand Depart sunglasses along the Oudegracht
I knew they were doing this, having received the advance press release, but wasn’t sure I’d end up getting to see it all. However, I woke up early enough this morning and while scrolling through Twitter, I saw a picture and thought, why not! I hopped out of bed (sort of), quickly got ready, and was out the door before I could change my mind. (It’s still warm and humid and it started to rain lightly just as I left the house.)
Yellow Tour de France Grand Depart sunglasses along the Oudegracht
Actually getting to the canal wasn’t so easy. The race is going through the heart of the city center today (as a display bit, rather than real racing), so lots of the streets are cordoned off to create safe lanes solely for the cyclists. I felt like a rat in a maze quite a few times trying to get around! Eventually, though, I found my way to the appropriate part of the Oudegracht and voilà! Sunglasses everywhere! They were on the ground around a lamp post. They were on the wall of the old post office. They were on bicycles. They were on bollards. They were on shop fronts. They were everywhere!
Yellow Tour de France Grand Depart sunglasses along the Oudegracht
Yellow Tour de France Grand Depart sunglasses along the Oudegracht
Yellow Tour de France Grand Depart sunglasses along the Oudegracht
Yellow Tour de France Grand Depart sunglasses along the Oudegracht
Yellow Tour de France Grand Depart sunglasses along the Oudegracht
So, the point is, there’s plenty to see and do in Utrecht, even when the race has gone. Go see the museums, go listen to the weekly Domtoren concerts. Go support local businesses. Go to Vino Veritas, but not today or tomorrow, as we’re closed after a long, hot, busy week. Go on foot or by bike. Just go!
Yellow Tour de France Grand Depart sunglasses along the Oudegracht

Domtoren Tour de France Concert

Domplein Tour de France Trees
In about an hour, at 12:30, there will be a special cycling/France-themed Domtoren concert. With the Tour de France ready to start tomorrow, the theme is obvious. Carillonneur, Malgosia Fiebig, will be performing a fantastic set list that includes Tom Waits, Queen, and Kraftwerk. You can find the full set list here. As always, you’ve got to love it when a bell tower dating back to 1382, and a carillon dating to the 17th century, performs modern music. Kraftwerk! On a carillon! Brilliant!

I hope all of the visitors who have begun to arrive take notice and enjoy the concert. That moment when you’re wandering through the city and realize what you’re hearing is bound to put a smile on your face.

The Domplein and other squares throughout the city are set up with large screens for viewing the events this week, and of course, there are lots of decorations, including the tree trunks wrapped in Tour de France jersey-themed colors. The white with red polka dots is kind of funny, since it’s for the King of the Mountain and, well, this is a very flat country. There is that one slight hill over by Park Lepelenburg where they had the team presentations last night …
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I wonder if the Domtoren made of bicycle parts is on display anywhere. I saw it this past December and thought it was brilliant.
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