A Sad Day for Nijntje

Nijntje
I just saw the sad news about Dick Bruna, the creator of Nijntje/Miffy passing away yesterday. Discovering his work was one of the many joys I got out of living in Utrecht. As well as the Nijntje books and related pieces, he also did some great graphic design for other book covers. I picked up some of my favorites when I visited the Dick Bruna Huis (now Nijntje Museum).

I think I have one last Nijntje statue that I never shared. This one seems appropriate today, as it is half Nijntje and half Dick Bruna. It stands in front of the conservatory at Mariaplaats.
img_4743
It depends on the side, which one you see:
Dick Bruna Nijntje
Dick Bruna Nijntje
Dick Bruna Nijntje
At the base is a short poem dedicated to them both:
Dick Bruna Nijntje

RIP, Dick Bruna. You and your art will be missed.
world peace is possible

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Sunny Sunday and St. Augustine

Augustinuskerk
After a frequently grey and misty week, this morning was a real stunner with pure blue skies over Utrecht and nary a cloud to be seen. With the trees slowly turning their summer greens to autumnal reds, oranges, and yellows, taking a walk through the quiet Sunday morning streets was irresistible.
Augustinuskerk
Augustinuskerk
Charlie and I found ourselves at the Oudegracht and decided to head north and admire the classical architectural style of Augustinuskerk (St. Augustine Church) up close. I’ve always loved the soaring Doric columns and triangular pediment that frame the entrance, but as I looked beyond these eye-catching elements, I also noticed a Greek key pattern over the three doorways, as well as some ecclesiastical decorations overhead. The gold colors, even out of the direct rays of the sun still shimmered in the morning light.
Augustinuskerk
Augustinuskerk
However, as it was approaching 11 a.m., I was surprised to see the iron gates and the large green doors closed up tight. Not what you’d expect on a Sunday morning! It turns out the church suffered some interior roof damage, with pieces of the ceiling decorations having fallen. As it stands, there’s still investigation and repairs to be done before it is deemed safe to open to the public once again. Unfortunately, it may not be open before Christmas.
Augustinuskerk

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

The Return of the Canal

The continued return of the canal
Historically, a canal has ringed the old city center of Utrecht. I posted last year about how a section along the western/northwestern side of town was drained and turned into a highway back in the late 1960s/early ’70s. Fortunately, they never got around to paving in the whole canal. Still, the road was still there when we moved here.

Fortunately, that side of town has been undergoing a massive renovation for eight+ years, though it’s got a ways to go still. Some bits I’m still a bit unsure about, but as things start to come together a little more, it’s all looking a better.

I wrote about how a large section of the canal was recently refilled (late last year/early this year), but it seems I never posted the few pictures I took. Probably because it was a rainy day and I only had my phone’s camera and a dog that didn’t feel like pausing for long to get a decent shot.

This week, I discovered that the section near the newly rebuilt Tivoli Vredenburg music hall (the one with all the circles) has had some updates and the water has been added there, as well. The picture quality remains lousy, because it was another rainy morning and Charlie wasn’t interested in stopping for long, and I still only had my phone. Still, you can see the start of things to come. The picture above is a poster showing what the final plans are and as you can see, the steps leading down to the canal on the left have just gone in. In the photos to follow, you’ll see the large central structure under construction. That area behind it all is part of the Hoog Catharijne shopping mall, which is a nightmare now with so much of it torn down and other bits being built. It was always easy to get lost and it’s even easier now!
The continued return of the canal
The continued return of the canal
Behind this view is the stretch of canal that has already been filled in.
The continued return of the canal
I managed to find the photos I took in January so you can follow the canal a bit.
This is looking toward the bridge where I stood to take today’s pictures. You can see that the large central construction is making progress.
The water returns
This is another bridge slightly further down (with bonus Charlie).
The water returns
And this is the bend in the canal along the northern section. I should go back and see what they’ve done with the dirt areas. Greenery would be nice.
The water returns

Pride and Remembrance

IMG_3613Cities around the world have been remembering those who were murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last week. While it is heart-warming to see the outpouring of support and love, it is heartbreaking that atrocities like these continue.

I was born in Orlando and lived there for the first 16 years of my life and while it has been a long time since I lived there, it will always be home. Having something so hateful and violent happen in my hometown makes it that little more personal, though I have LGBT friends who have sadly been the victims of violence on a much smaller but more frequent scale in a variety of cities.

Back in 2012, I wrote about the gay rights memorial here in Utrecht on the Domplein. At that point, gay marriage hadn’t been legalized in the US. In fact, one of the other states I used to live in was trying to make it very specifically illegal. Fortunately, that was something of a last gasp in the fight against marriage equality for all and gay marriage is now legal in all 50 states. Of course, the rights of transgendered people have since become the new battle. One step forward, two steps back is how it sometimes feels.

Yet for all the ugliness, there have certainly been large steps forward overall. IMG_3614Pride parades continue to grow and more people stand in support of equal rights for all. Utrecht has an annual Midzomergracht Festival, in its 20th year, celebrating sexuality and gender diversity. At its start on Friday, it included a remembrance at the memorial in honor of those who died in Orlando.

Early Saturday morning, while Charlie and I were out walking, we ended up at the Domplein. The street sweeping machine was out cleaning up the square, but the flowers, cards, figurines, and candles remained atop the memorial. Many of the candles were still burning. It was a sobering, yet touching display. It is awful that so many innocent lives were taken, but it is heartening that they are being remembered and honored around the world.
IMG_3612

What do you get for the 894th anniversary?

Icon
It’s that time of year again. Utrecht is celebrating its 894th year as an official city. On June 2, 1122, Keizer Henrik V officially recognized Utrecht as a city. (Of course, Utrecht’s history goes back much further. The Roman fortifications date back to around 50 CE, and people may have inhabited the area during the Stone Age, going back to 2200 BCE.)

There are usually some festivities each year. I think the ones this year are more about family history. However, throughout the year, you can find a marker along the Oudegracht commemorating the event.
stadsdag
In honor of 894 years as a city, I thought I’d post a few photos of some of my favorite, unique places that make it such a wonderful city.
Urban Invasion
Nijntje
Roman Walls [Day 126/365]
Cathedral Art
Grachtenrace ronDom
Autumn on the Oudegracht
Brug
Rietveld-Schröder Huis [Day 281/365]
Stadhuisbrug
Soaring
Winkel van Sinkel
Paushuize

Ghost in the Sunshine
Views from Neudeflat

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

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!

Paus Adrianus VI

Pope Adrian
I saw earlier this week that a statue of Pope Adrian VI had been installed in front of the Paushuize, so deciding on where to go for my long walk with Charlie this morning was a no-brainer. I’ve written about this pope and his house here in my blog and even for a magazine article, but if you need a refresher, Adrian/Adrianus was the one and only Dutch pope. He was born here in Utrecht and built a house here in town, though he never actually got to live in it. He died (was possibly poisoned) in 1523 and there wasn’t another non-Italian pope again until Pope John Paul II.

The statue, by Anno Dijkstra, is up on some fancy wooden blocks, but I assume it will be more permanently installed in the future. Or not. I honestly have no idea. (Ok, I wasn’t going to do any research, but I just couldn’t stand not to do some. It seems that the wooden blocks may be permanent. The statue, which was unveiled on Thursday, is made of bronze and was inspired by the portrait of Adrian done by Jan van Scorel.)
Pope Adrian
Pope Adrian
Pope Adrian
Pope Adrian

Domtoren Distances

Domtoren Up and Down
Utrecht’s Domtoren is the tallest bell tower in the Netherlands, standing just over 112 meters (367+ feet). I remember seeing a website a few years ago that talked about if the Domtoren fell and showed the radius of the potential destruction. I’m sure the website is still around, but I don’t really feel like searching for it.

However, last month, a plaque was put into the sidewalk on Zadelstraat, marking the spot where the tip of the Domtoren would land (assuming it fell straight and in one piece, of course). That marker is what you see in the photo above.
Domtoren Up and Down
If you stand in the spot, you can just make out the base of the Domtoren in the distance, mainly the arch. There’s also a canal in between the tower and the marker. That’s about all you see if you just look forward at eye level. It’s not until you crane your neck back that you can see the whole Domtoren.
Domtoren Up and Down
The granite tile was made and donated by an anonymous art duo known as GVR. Their idea was that when people stand on the spot, they realize just how big an icon the tower is for the city.