Greetings from Italy

I had truly meant to do one last proper goodbye post before moving, but it just didn’t happen. The move was unbelievably stressful and I’m so glad it’s over. But we survived the two-day drive with dog and cats and as much stuff as we could cram into our car and despite some snow in Switzerland and a traffic jam around Milan, we finally arrived in Bologna, tired but in one piece.

I do plan on having a proper new blog for my life in Italy, but while we wait to get phones and such sorted, you can see some of my photos at the future blog’s Facebook page, A Flamingo in Italy. You can also see some other photos on my Instagram page, oranjeflamingo. And in the meantime, I may even post a few more things here that I never got around to posting about.

I still miss the Domtoren, but I have a new tower in my life. Two, to be specific. I will always love the Domtoren, but I’m developing a new love for the Two Towers of Bologna.

So for now, doei, Domtoren, and ciao, le torri di Bologna.
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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

Early Morning in the Park

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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

Pure Puppy Love

Charlie
This week’s photo challenge theme is “pure”. It’s pretty much pure love when I look at Charlie. He has his moments, like any pet, but I am so absolutely in love with him. He’s an absolute sweetheart, well behaved, a total goofball, and pure stupid cute! That face tends to get covered in kisses. He usually kisses back.
Charlie
Charlie
Charlie
Charlie

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!

Charlie and the Black Cat

Charlie and the Cat
Charlie is a smart dog. Too smart sometimes. He can open doors with ease, give you a high five, jump through hoops, and much more. But he does have his less than brilliant moments. Such as today. We were walking around the northern part of town, following the ring canal when I stopped to take a photo of this little bit of black cat wall art. I’ve seen this cat pop up in various spots around town, so I thought I’d get a photo of it.

What you see in the photo is the exact moment that Charlie spotted the cat. He’d been looking elsewhere until then. Being a good boy, he didn’t move until I started to walk. At that point he zoomed over to the (fake) cat. Poor thing can’t be blamed, as he does live with two black cats. But it amused me that he was taken in by the shape. It also amused the three girls who were walking past at that moment and saw him go straight for the painted flat cat. I wasn’t the only one laughing. Bless his heart.

First Caturday of 2016

Cat on a wall
My friend who visited last week is a fellow cat lover, so as we were wandering around town, we invariably caught sight of quite a few cats, indoors and out. She spotted this one, who was high up on a wall, surveying his domain.
Flora's Hof Poes
I also took her to Flora’s Hof, with the express hope of seeing a cat. I was originally thinking of the marmalade cat who is usually spotted in this little garden area, but it was a lovely tuxedo cat who was out that day, enjoying a bit of the winter sun.

Eventually, he got a bit thirsty, so he headed over to the bird bath for a refreshing drink.
Flora's Hof Poes
He may stalk any birds that come for a bathe and a nice view (and perhaps a few dropped patat), but I wonder if he’s noticed the even larger cat who seems to be stalking him and anyone else in the garden!
Flora's Hof Poes