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.

1 2 3D Go!

Just like last year, there was a special 3D chalk art piece done behind the Stadhuis recently. I really wanted to see it before the rains came, so on a crisp and sunny morning, Charlie and I headed out to see it. (To be honest, it was supposed to be a short walk, but the day was nice and I decided to keep going and see if it was still there. Charlie didn’t mind.)
3D Chalk Art
We assumed the position necessary to see the 3D depiction properly and were suitably impressed by this year’s work of art.
3D Chalk Art
I’m not sure if this year’s piece was directly related to the Nederlands Film Festival, as last year’s was, but probably so, as it was done during the festival. Last year’s Utrecht theme was more fun than the generic sports/movement theme this year, but it’s still impressive to see!

The curves, numbering, lettering, and details are truly amazing, especially when you view it from any other angle and realize how different it looks when not viewed from the one specific angle. I remain in awe of how they are able to work out the appropriate perspective and stretching and foreshortening to create the final piece.
3D Chalk Art

Reach for the Stars on the Red Carpet

Gouden Kalf
Utrecht is covered in red carpets once again with the start of the Nederlands Film Festival. Everywhere you look, there are red carpets and golden calves (the prize awarded; think Oscar statuette). Charlie and I regularly see the setup in front of the Stadsschouwburg (City Theater) where many films have their premier. I haven’t been to watch any of the red carpet walks this year, but Charlie is ready for his big debut.
Ready for the Red Carpet
In the past, the large Gouden Kalf (golden calf) statue stood in front of the Stadsschouwburg, but with its recent renovation, along with the opening of the renovated Tivoli Music Palace on the other side of town, the Golden Calf has taken up a spot at Neude, the central square in between the two locations.

We stopped by to see the statue, but Charlie wasn’t that impressed. He was more interested in the three dogs also hanging out in the square. I was more interested in the acrobatics also going on in the square.
Gouden Kalf
(WordPress won’t let me add a video any more, so here’s the YouTube link to the acrobatics.)

After checking out the action at Neude, we wandered down the L’Or Filmboulevard. (Sorry, not the best shot, but with the sun reflecting off the sign and a dog fascinated by everything going on along the Oudegracht, it was a quick snap!)
L'or Filmboulevard
The Filmboulevard is sort of like Utrecht’s version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. There is a row of plaques in the ground with hand prints (and a pair of foot prints of Carice van Houten, who has won twice) of stars who have won best actor/actress. I think they may have been preparing for a new plaque when we were walking past that morning.
L'or Filmboulevard
Live your dream, Charlie!
L'or Filmboulevard
Carice has nothing on Charlie’s tiny paws!
L'or Filmboulevard

Back to School Festivities

return of the students
There have been signs since this weekend that our park was going to be hosting some sort of event. By Monday morning, our usually empty park with room for Charlie to meander suddenly got a lot smaller and less conducive to free-range Charlie.

It seems that the peace and quiet we’ve been enjoying over the summer is a thing of the past. The students are returning and various student associations are taking over any open spot available.

One sign does seem to be encouraging vaccinations, which is always a good thing, but perhaps a bit more schooling is needed, or at least a few more spelling lessons. I think they’re missing a T. Though hopefully it’s all part of a joke, as I don’t think I’d want to get any vaccinations there!
return of the students

Anyway, aside from the usual DJs and beer stands at any event, this year’s theme for one of the groups seems vaguely southwestern/country & western in the broadest of terms. There are hay bales, a mechanical bull, and two teepees.
return of the students
return of the students

But that’s just one group, I think. In the field by the Stadsschouwburg, there’s more of a French flair with an inflatable Eiffel Tower. Though it still doesn’t hold a candle to our Domtoren.
return of the students
return of the students
As for Charlie, he gave the mechanical bull a few tentative sniffs this morning, but what he was really interested in was the Brood (bread) Company truck. He was giving any sniffer dog a run for it’s money, sniffing every inch he could reach! (He’s way up in the wheel well.)
return of the students
But the real love of his life is patat, or in this case, frites. He’s first in line! He’s not an aggressive dog, but I wouldn’t want to get between him and his fries/chips/patat/friet/frites. Met mayonaise, alstublieft!
return of the students

Utrecht Festival Survival

Festival season is upon us, ranging from street festivals to massive music festivals. Even in the city center of Utrecht you’ll find an increasing number of festivals going from spring until autumn. Some of the newest are the Trek Food Truck Festival and Klein New Orleans. Trek is coming up on it’s third year, while Klein New Orleans is going to be celebrating it’s second year in a couple of weeks. Both have been massive successes. Plus, there’s my absolute favorite, the autumn edition of the Bock Beer Festival.

Maximize is putting together a list of top festival hacks from a variety of bloggers for all sorts of festivals and they’ve invited me to get involved. You can get involved, too, by commenting here and using the #UltimateFestHacks hashtag. I’m particularly interested in learning about others’ tips for Trek, as that festival just gets bigger and busier each year! For now, though, here are some of my tips that work for pretty much all of the three festivals I’ve mentioned.
Klein New Orleans

Get there early.
You may be tempted to go to any of these festivals later in the day/early evening, but if you wait, you’ll end up in long lines amid a crush of people. We usually hit the Bock Beer Festival around 3 p.m. on the Saturday, and it’s still busy, but you can more easily find friends in the crowd and not have to wait in too long a line to try the various beers. For the Trek festival, the earlier the better. It’s busy almost right from the start and the lines just get longer and longer as the day goes on. As for Klein New Orleans, get there from the start, as well, so you can take part in the Second Line.

Scope out your options in advance.

Most of the festivals post information on their website or Facebook page about who and what will be there. If you’re limited on time and/or budget, or there with a group of friends, you can decide what is most important to you and aim for those areas first. Trek, in particular, has so many food vendors set up throughout the Griftpark that making that first choice can be overwhelming, especially if you’re with a group of people. If you can all agree in advance on one place to start, that will tide you over while you plan your next excursion.

Have plenty of cash.

Most festivals don’t take PIN cards and there aren’t always cash machines nearby (although there is one near the Bock Beer Festival, but the lines get long there, too). Try to get some smaller denominations and coins, too, so the vendors don’t have to use up all of their change. If you’ve done some advance research, you might have an idea of how much things cost. For example, there’s a set fee for the glass you’ll get at the Bock Beer Festival and then there’s a set price for the tokens you need to get the beers. Always buy more tokens than you think you’ll want. We ALWAYS end up buying more and the lines are much longer by then. You can turn them in at the end if you don’t use them and get your money back.

Share.

Especially when it comes to the food at Trek and Klein New Orleans, the lines can be long, and if you want to try lots of things, sharing is a great way to cover all your bases. At Klein New Orleans, we ordered both the gumbo and the jambalaya and then split them between us. Though there’s a crawfish boil planned this year, which might require a serving all to myself! At the food festivals like Trek, you’re bound to want to try so many things that if you share dishes, you won’t end up too full after the first few stops.17933083269_d8605e3727_m

Be adventurous.

One of the great things about sharing is that it’s a good excuse to try things you aren’t quite sure about. With two or more people eating, it won’t go to waste if you don’t like it, but it’s also a good way to try things you might not otherwise go for on your own.

Wear comfy shoes.

Be adventurous with the food, not your footwear. At most of these festivals, you’re going to be on your feet for a long time. You’re also going to be in some big crowds where there’s the potential to have your toes stepped on or to get splashed with spilled something or other. You probably want to skip the heels and delicate sandals, as boring as that may be.

So what are your favorite festivals and tips for surviving and making the most of them?

They Startle Easily

In Search of Art

Portrait of Amalia van Solms
The Centraal Museum has undergone some renovations and expansions recently and they’ll be officially unveiling them this coming Friday and over the weekend, as part of the National Museum Weekend. To raise awareness about the museum and it’s collection of Utrecht artists, they have put up murals of some of the museum’s collection on walls around the city. Today, I went in search of one.

Charlie and I headed out for a nice walk in sunny weather with deep blue skies overhead. I took a slightly different route than I usually do to end up at the Van Asch van Wijckskade. When I got to where I thought it was supposed to be, I was clearly in the wrong spot. There was a building with a painting on it, but it wasn’t the one I was thinking of. Slightly confused, I decided to keep walking. Turns out I had stopped a block too soon.
Portrait of Amalia van SolmsBut there she was, the Portrait of Amalia van Solms (1602-1675) by Gerard van Honthorst. With the trees starting to bloom and the glorious blue sky, she was in the perfect setting. Nor was I the only one admiring her. Another girl had approached just as we did and she walked up close to pause for a moment and admire Amalia.

There are two other murals to see, but they’ll have to wait for another outing. I do have two tickets for the museum’s grand opening on Friday. I would take Charlie, as he seemed quite interested, but I suspect he may not be so welcome. I guess I’ll just have to take G instead. Charlie is disappointed.
Portrait of Amalia van Solms

One Last Nijntje

Nijntje!
On the Jaarbeurs side of the train station there was yet another Nijntje on parade last summer. She had a view of the recently completed new town hall building. This splatter version of Nijntje (called Nijntje!) was by Jurriaan van Hall. His approach was like that of a toddler, tossing colorful plaster to create something between painting and sculpture, all the while paying homage to her playful character.
Nijntje!
Nijntje!
Nijntje!

A Taste of New Orleans in Utrecht

okra

This morning, before lethargy and two jobs could distract me, Charlie and I headed out to the market at Vredenburg in search of some okra. I knew that there used to be a vegetable stall there that always had okra, but it has been a while since I’ve been to the Saturday market and I was worried they wouldn’t be there today. Fortunately, my concerns were soon allayed and I was in possession of a nice bag full of okra. And I only had to wrestle Charlie back to his sit position twice!

(Charlie is relatively well trained, but when he’s out in the world with lots of distractions, he gets a bit overwhelmed. I’m trying to get him more used to crowds and all the associated smells and such and he’s definitely making progress. I’m very proud of him!)

As for the okra, the reason I absolutely had to get some today is because I’m turning Vino Veritas into a Creole/Cajun restaurant for one night only on Tuesday, which happens to be Mardi Gras. This time of year, I always get nostalgic for my years in New Orleans and I’ve had a hankerin’ for some authentic gumbo. Since the Klein New Orleans event last summer was such a big hit (although I still question some of the recipes), I thought I’d host my own Klein Mardi Gras — on a much smaller scale, of course.

This has been a really last-minute decision, so I’m sadly short of purple, green, and gold decorations, but at least we should have some mighty fine food and a good Mardi Gras/New Orleans music playlist. I brought a small selection of some of my Mardi Gras beads with me when we moved, so maybe I’ll hang some off the cactus we have at work, in honor of the trees covered in Mardi Gras beads in New Orleans. We had one such tree right outside our dorm room freshman year. I have fond memories of sitting on the balcony and watching the plastic beads catch the light.
Mardi Gras [Day 47/365]
Oh, but the food! That’s what y’all want to know about! We’re going to be serving up gumbo, jambalaya, and shrimp etouffée, and I’m thinking about a marinated avocado and crab salad and/or a corn and black bean salad for starters. And if I can scrounge up some food coloring, I might be making mini king cakes for dessert. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it! And if you’re wondering, I have my own recipes, but also got some recipes from my friends from Louisiana, just to make sure I’m doing it right. Seriously, y’all. This is going to be the authentic taste. I guarantee! Ooo weeee!

(I had to throw that Justin Wilson link in. My grandpaw, who used to catch his own shrimp and fish in Florida and cooked a bit of Cajun-style food — despite being from Tennessee — used to watch Justin Wilson regularly and I’d watch with him when I was visiting. It’s one of my fond memories. The last time I saw my grandfather before he died was actually in New Orleans. We ended up going to the Court of Two Sisters for lunch. It was one of the first restaurants I went to in New Orleans and it was always a favorite. While we were having lunch, he told me about visiting the restaurant while he was in the Navy during WWII. They’d been stopped in New Orleans before heading out and he and some friends had dined at Court of Two Sisters. Years later, while we were cleaning out my grandparents’ home, I found a photo taken that night. It’s one of my cherished possessions. That’s him on the right.)
grandpawneworleans

So, anyway, if you’re in Utrecht this Tuesday, 9 February, head to Vino Veritas (Biltstraat 9) and pass a good time as if you were down on the bayou! Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Star Wars: A New Frontier

bioscoop
First off, I know I’m mixing my film sagas. Don’t get all freaked out.

But today, in finally going to see the new Star Wars film, I did venture into a new frontier of sorts. You see, this was the first time I’ve seen a film in a theater since moving to the Netherlands. It’s hardly the first film I’ve seen, but we just haven’t gone to the bioscoop to see any of them. No real reason, it’s just something we never got around to. To be fair, we hadn’t seen a lot of films in the theater in the US for the last few years we were there. I was tempted with the latest Mad Max, but never quite got around to it. However, with the new Star Wars film, I knew I had to see it on a big screen.

We booked our tickets and seats online this morning before we went. I guess it’s kind of cool to be able to reserve specific seats, but that’s one aspect I’m ambivalent about. One of the things I’d heard about Dutch movie theaters is that they still generally do an intermission during the film. However, we were warned by the woman checking our tickets that there would be no pause in Star Wars. I suppose since it’s such a long film already, adding any additional time would mess with scheduling.

Since we haven’t been to a theater in years, we decided to skip the 3D showing, not sure if we’d really want that experience yet. Maybe I’ll go back and see the film again, but in 3D. There’s another theater closer if I want, but the Pathé Rembrandt theater we went to was quite nice. As you can see from the top photo, it was a large room with a good-sized screen. I think one of the reasons we’d stopped going was that the rooms and screens seemed like they were getting smaller. This was a great size (and great audio) for a film like Star Wars. And hey, you can’t complain when a theater is set along a canal and next to an attractive church.
St. Augustinuskerk
So yeah, the wait to see a film in the theater was worth it, and so was the film itself. No spoilers, but I really did love it.

Charlie and the Golden Calf

Gouden Kalf
The annual Nederlands Film Festival is going on right now, and since the Stadschouwburg is undergoing renovation, the Gouden Kalf (Golden Calf) statue has been moved to Neude this year. Neude has always been one of the spots for the film festival. Pippo and I used to go check out the setup in years past. This year, the old postkantoor (post office) is also being used for some of the festival events. Charlie and I took a walk over yesterday morning to see the sights.
Gouden Kalf
Nederlands Film Festival
Nederlands Film Festival
While the Gouden Kalf was one of the things I wanted to see on the walk, my main destination was the square behind the Stadhuis. I had seen mentions on Twitter about 3D chalk art and wanted to see it for myself, especially before the festival was over or before the rains came again.

We were fortunate to have come at it from the correct angle, so it was fairly clear to see the image right away. But as we stood there at the official viewing spot, we saw people coming from the opposite direction and actually standing on the piece and not having any idea of what it was. It wasn’t until they got to the viewing spot that they realized.

Here’s Charlie sitting in the viewing spot (though getting distracted):
3D Chalk Art
3D Chalk Art
The piece depicts some of the symbols of Utrecht and the festival, with the Domtoren to the right, the Golden Calf in the center, standing in the Oudegracht, and the Inktpot with the UFO shown on the left, among other items.

As I said, if you come at it from the right angle, it’s easy to see. But when you see it from any other side, you realize how unusual and impressive it is!
Nederlands Film Festival
I’ve seen photos of work like this before, but this was the first I’ve seen in person. Definitely worth seeing, and a nice addition to the decorations around town for the festival.