Festive Lights in Utrecht


Despite the foggy weather – I haven’t been able to see the Domtoren for about three days now – there are still the sounds of fireworks and firecrackers going off and I’m sure people will still give it a go at midnight for the usual fireworks extravaganza. On this last day of 2016, I thought I’d share a light show of a different sort. These are some of the decorative lights to be found throughout the city, starting at Neude, then heading over to the Stadhuis, and then back toward Janskerkhof.

May your oliebollen be plentiful, your fireworks be safe, and your 2017 be wonderful!







Smoke ’em if you got ’em

headshop mural
Everyone knows about the “coffee shops” in the Netherlands (and yes, it’s not just Amsterdam), where you can purchase various forms of hash, weed, pot, marijuana, etc. Voorstraat/Wittevrouwenstraat have a couple of places where you can purchase, but there are also places in town where you can buy your own paraphernalia, AKA headshops.

Conveniently, perhaps, Magic Mind is a long-standing one at the corner of Voorstraat and Hardebollenstraat. Hardebollenstraat used to be the inner-city red-light district here in Utrecht, but no longer. It’s now a trendy shopping street with lots of great indie shops. More about that tomorrow.

With the new shop fronts on Hardebollenstraat comes a new wall mural. (OK, it’s been there for a few months at this point.) Philip Lindeman, a young graphic artist/illustrator is the artist of this latest wall art to enhance Utrecht. I really like his style and a copy of his book The Cover Art Catalog is on my wishlist. Give the mural a look-see the next time you’re in the neighborhood.
headshop mural

Please Help Find This Couple


In the Expats Utrecht group on Facebook, Pilar Pereira posted this happy photo of a proposal taken at Park Lepelenburg yesterday with the following caption:

Today (29.10.2016) I spontaneously and secretly took this photo. I would like to thank them for the pic and apologise for being an intruder in their intimacy! But maybe the couple would like to have it as well. Congrats to both of them!

It’s such a lovely photo so I offered to post it here to try and spread the word and see if anyone knows — or is — the couple and can pass the photo along to them.

So to everyone in and Utrecht, whether local or expat, will you please share this post everywhere you can think of, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. and ask others to share it, as well? Let’s find and congratulate the happy couple!

Early Morning in the Park


I thought I’d take advantage of the panoramic option on my phone this morning and get a shot of the park where I take Charlie (he’s in the midground on the path on the left, by the way). The sun was shining and casting a beautiful warm glow, and everything was peaceful, with just the sounds of students on bicycles going past.

We had the park to ourselves, so I took advantage and let Charlie wander around on his own, sniffing whatever caught his fancy. I also try to work on getting him to come back when called. That’s hit or miss, though he’s getting better. He doesn’t run away from me, like Pippo did, but he does take his time getting back to me sometimes.

Unfortunately, if he sees something he’s interested in (mainly another dog), he’s likely to ignore me and go running over to see if the other dog wants to play. That’s why I only let him off lead if there’s no other dog in the park, unless that dog wants to play, too. I know Charlie isn’t aggressive, but the other dog could be, or it could be afraid. I don’t want to upset any dogs or owners. Fortunately, he ignores most people in the park, unless they have food. Basically, I try to keep an eagle eye out at all times for any approaching dogs or food. That’s also why I tend to pick certain times to hit the park, when I know it will be fairly empty.

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

The Last of (Tour de France) 2015

Tour de France in Utrecht
The boom and bang of fireworks is pretty constant at this point. I heard the first one at 9:12 this morning. We’ve been out running last minute errands and stocking up on food and wine for tonight and tomorrow, including lots of krentebollen for dessert tonight and to ring in the new year. We also enjoyed a nice drink on one of the terraces at Neude, under the clear blue sky. Odd to have it warm enough on the last day of the year to enjoy sitting outside! We’re staying in tonight, but it’s should be a nice evening nonetheless. So far, Charlie doesn’t seem upset or anxious about the noise of the fireworks, which is a massive relief, particularly as I remember how traumatized poor Pippo was by it all.

I have one more set of Tour de France-related photos, so I thought I’d cram them into one last post for the year. In the photo above, you’ll see another bit of race-related wall art, with a hint of the Eiffel Tower spanning the Oudegracht. If I remember the race route correctly, the street this building is on is the point where the riders turned off of Biltstraat (the street in the background). We had hoped that the riders would go all the way down Biltstraat so that they would pass Vino Veritas and we could enjoy some of the action. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. At least, if they were going to steal our action, they left behind a nice bit of wall art.

It’s fun looking at some of the details of the painting. There are racers on the wharves along the canal and there’s even a yellow jersey rider being pulled out of the canal!
Tour de France in Utrecht
Tour de France in Utrecht
Have a safe and happy celebration tonight and Happy New Year to those who have already rung in 2016 and to all those still yet to celebrate! See you in 2016!

A Touch More Tour de France

2015 was the year that the Tour de France came to Utrecht. We hosted the Grand Depart, the start of the race, and the city was decked out in yellow and other race-related colors for months leading up to and even after the race. Most of the decorations are gone, but a few still remain, particularly some of the wall art.

I had seen a print of the Rietvelo piece of artwork by Menno Anker, and I think I knew it was on a wall somewhere, but I hadn’t known where that wall was. I also wasn’t walking along a stretch of the stadsbuitengracht that I used to frequent fairly often. If I had, I would have seen it much sooner. In fact, soon after adopting Charlie and taking those walks along the ring canal once again, I soon spotted the Rietvelo piece, even from across the canal. I had no idea it was so close!
I always love when one of these large solid walls is turned into an art canvas. Some change, some remain the same. The Tour de France may be over, but I do hope this one stays up for a while. Of course, now that I’ve said that, it is probably coming down soon if not already!

Utrecht’s City Walls

620px-Traiectum_-_Wttecht_-_Utrecht_(Atlas_van_Loon)This is a map of Utrecht dating back to the 1600s and much of the city is still recognizable. Certainly the general outline of the city is recognizable, although it should be noted that the section at the top of the map is the eastern side of town and the left bit is the northern side of town. Basically, it needs to be rotated one turn to the right.

The city center of Utrecht is relatively small and it is still easy to find the borders of the ancient city, since there’s a canal that nearly completely rings the city. In fact, they’re in the process of reconstructing the missing part of the canal on the western side of town, which was turned into a highway back around the 1960s. The road is gone and the canal is coming back. I think it is ready for the water, as of recent news, though I don’t know if they’ve actually filled it in yet.

However, in addition to the canal that ringed the city, there also used to be walls surrounding the city for protection. Massive three-meter-thick walls surrounded the city and there were only three main gates (east, west, and south) that let people in or out. The walls were initially wooden but eventually built of stone. I think the walls initially began in the early 1100s, although I’m not sure if that was the wood or stone wall.

While out for a walk with Charlie one morning, as we walked along the northern edge of the city, I happened to spot this marker for the stadsmuur (city wall) from the 13th century.
The walls stayed up into the 1800s, and while it’s interesting to imagine what it would look like if they were still up, ultimately, the view is much nicer now. Still, you can get a hint of some of the fortifications, particularly along the eastern side of town. When we don’t head north, we typically head south, walking along the eastern edge of the city, following the path along the canal. In one section, you can see a fragment of the old city walls. Don’t let the picture fool you. This is actually much higher than it looks, because there is earth built up in front of it and there’s a hill path that leads you up to the top. Behind the wall is a two-storey house and the roof is essentially level (or slightly lower) than the top of the wall.

Old Wall
If you keep heading south along the eastern edge, you come to one of the bastions, which is home to the Sonnenborgh Museum now. Standing next to it gives you a real sense of the perspective and just how high and imposing the walls must have seemed. If you look at the old map, this is the triangular bit on the top right, which is actually the south east corner.
11/11/11 at the Utrecht Meridian