Five Years in Utrecht

vijf
Don’t get too close. I don’t want to pass on the cold I’ve had since this weekend. I’m not really feeling better today, either. Still, I couldn’t let this anniversary pass completely unnoticed. After all, yesterday marked five years since we first arrived here in Utrecht. There have been highs and lows, and yesterday was more of a low, but we did go to the Potdeksel briefly for a witbier, just as we did five years ago.

One of the first photos I took here was of my little pink flamingo, Orlando, sitting next to one of the beer glasses. I decided to recreate that first photo last night. After all, this is “a flamingo in Utrecht”. So raise your glass! We vieren vijf jaar! Proost!
We vieren vijf jaar

Weekly Photo Challenge: Today (in Utrecht)

Kabouter Bloemen
Today is a beautiful day in Utrecht. Perfect for celebrating the city’s 890th anniversary of its official city status. There are a variety of events going on around town and I visited some today and took a few pictures along the way. Here are a few of the highlights, although I’ll probably expand on some details in other posts.

To start the day off, I walked through the bloemenmarkt (flower market) at Janskerkhof, which is where I saw the flowers above. I’d seen someone else post a photo of them on Twitter earlier in the morning and couldn’t resist seeing them for myself. So pretty! They’re called kabouter something or other, which is fun, since kabouter is the Dutch word for gnomes. It’s a great name for them!

Rode Loper Dagen
I also walked a red carpet! One of the streets has lined its sidewalks with red carpets. I think there are a lot of sales on this particular street this weekend.

Buurkerk
Then it was over to the Buurkerk (kerk=church) to see the specially opened Buurtoren (toren=tower), with information on bell ringing. The tower is part of the bigger church, which is now a museum dedicated to musical organs, music boxes, and similar musical items.

Little Blue Auto

Then it was on to the Domplein, the historic center of the city where the cathedral now stands, and where the Romans first built a fort almost 2000 years ago. The city has been an official city for 890 years, but it’s been an important site for much longer! There in the Domplein (plein=square), I saw this cute little blue car. More to come about that in another post.

Pandhof

From there, I headed into the cathedral’s cloister garden to enjoy the view and take in the wonderful gothic architecture, as well as the flowers. It’s a wonderful spot to sit and relax. From there, I could also hear the bell concert coming from the Domtoren, which was decked out in the city’s official flag.
Celebrating 890 Years

To go along with the concert, there was also some dancing as a preview of the Cultural Sunday dance events taking place tomorrow. This group of dancers was dancing along to the bell concert, moving around the memorial statue.
Utrecht Danst

Finally, I decided to head down Zadelstraat to visit one of the local bakeries that has a special chocolate treat that seemed perfect for today. This bakery has been making a Domtorentje chocolate since the early 1900s. I’ve been wanting to try one since I first heard about it recently. In the shop, I was not the only buying the Domtorentjes! I’m sure they’re selling a lot today!
Domtorentje

Next door to the bakery is a furniture shop that I mentioned recently. They’re famous for their bulldogs who like to lounge on the chairs placed out front. I posted photos of one of them last week and couldn’t resist another shot of one of them today. He looks so happy on his throne with his tongue sticking out!
Shop Dog

I hope you enjoyed my photographic tour of what I saw today in Utrecht. It’s been a beautiful day and I’m glad I got to help celebrate the city’s anniversary.

Vieren Vier

Rising Above
It was four years ago today that G and I arrived with three pets in tow to make our new life here in the Netherlands. It’s so nice of everyone to celebrate today, under the guise of 2e Pinksterdag and Memorial Day. We’re celebrating today with rookworst kebabs on the grill. I also enjoyed some time on the terrace in the sun before I gave pinksterdag new meaning.

My goal for the year is to work on my Dutch language skills and to try one of the Domtorentjes from a local chocolate shop. They date back to 1922 and are made of dark chocolate filled with a chocolate cream. Plus, they’ve got the Domtoren on them! Lekker!
Domtorentjes

10 Years

Broadway
This weekend, G and I celebrated 10 years together. To mark the occasion, we decided to go to Broadway, an American-style steak and rib restaurant. Fancy? Not really, but it was perfect for us. For one thing, we met while living in New York and even lived on the corner of Broadway. Furthermore, we love ribs, but you can’t really get baby back ribs here. Spare ribs are sometimes available, but even those are usually pre-marinated and just not the same. Broadway does an excellent American-style ribs. Sure, I still prefer the ones that we made and smoked ourselves, but this is a good substitute. Even their cole slaw is surprisingly good, although the addition of raisins and the slice of orange was a but unnecessary.

Oudegracht

We got lucky and after only waiting about five minutes, we were able to get a table outside. In fact, if you look at the first photo, we ended up sitting at the two-person table by the red door. It was a nice spot to enjoy the evening. One of the things that makes dining at the restaurant so nice is that you can sit there by the side of the Oudegracht. As you can see, it’s one of the unique canals here in Utrecht. The Oudegracht and the Nieuwegracht are the canals with a street level and a canal level. Along the Oudegracht, most of what used to be storage caverns under the street level have been turned into restaurants where you can sit indoors or outdoors (depending on the weather). It’s always a pleasure to sit outdoors and watch the various boats passing by. At one point, we saw five boats tethered together, one after the other, puttering along the canal. Each had the name of a different prince. Another boat went by with a very big dog curled up on the bow, fast asleep.

Bakkerbrug

You really do sit right by the water, so a bit of care must be taken not to drop stuff into the canal, including yourself! As it was, we did see one of the chairs end up in the canal. Someone had lost their balance on the uneven bricks and knocked into a chair, which knocked into another, which fell right into the canal. Fortunately, it was light enough to float for a while, giving one the waitresses enough time to eventually fish it out of the canal with the help of a long broom. Once she pulled it up, a round of applause went up from some of the diners on our side of the canal, as well as the diners on the other side! They probably had the best view of the rescue.

It was a fun way to celebrate our anniversary, and best of all, we had leftovers! The restaurant keeps with the American concept and gives American-size portions. Fortunately, they also offer doggy bags!

Three Years

Domtoren
Three years today and I still love it here, even if today’s weather isn’t so pretty. (This photo was from last week.) We’re celebrating with a Dutch dinner of rookworst and stamppot. Tomorrow I might ride my fiets over to one of the parks to celebrate the national Day in the Park event. My Dutch may still be pretty limited, but culturally, I seem to be getting the hang of this whole inburgering thing.

Awards and Nostalgia


The lovely Aledys Ver from the blog From Argentina to the Netherlands, For Love!, kindly mentioned me in a loyal followers posting. The award accompanies a few simple questions that I found interesting, since I’ve been meaning to check the answer to one of them anyway, so here goes:

1. Why did you start your blog? Did you expect it to become popular?
I started it mainly as a way to keep my family and friends up to date with my new life here in the Netherlands. Of course, I’m not sure how many of them actually read it that often. 😉 Fortunately, a number of other expats, as well as Dutch natives, and others as well, do seem to read my blog. I don’t know if it’s particularly popular, but I enjoy it and have been fortunate to have met some people through it. I was a bit shy about meeting people when I first started, but I’m getting much more comfortable with it now. I’m even meeting a few more people this upcoming weekend! I think blogging can help you adjust to a big move like this, because you find others going through similar things and you get a chance to track your own development and adjustment.

2. When exactly did you start your blog?

This is the question I’ve also been curious about recently. I knew my blog’s two-year anniversary must have been recently, since my two-year anniversary of living here has just passed. It turns out my first blog entry was June 1, 2008. Such a boring entry, but as I said, I really did start my blog as a way for family and friends to know what I was up to, and see photos of my new city. That Utrecht set of photos on Flickr has grown exponentially!

3. Who are three of your most loyal followers?
I’m sure there are plenty of loyal followers whose names I don’t know, since they read, but don’t leave comments. I notice certain repeat visits from various cities and countries in my Feedjit feed over on the right. I always get such a thrill to see some of the far-flung places from which people arrive! As for followers who comment, I’ve gotten a nice little group whose regular comments are always appreciated!

I’ve recently had the pleasure of meeting Kerryanne from 3continentfamily and I’m so glad I can now count her among the expats I’ve gotten to know in person. She’s a joy to know and the conversations and comments are always interesting.

In about a month I get to finally meet Ken of My Dutch Fairytale. His writing has had me wiping away tears of laughter, while also making me want to bow down in reverence for some of the things he has experienced and accomplished. I always enjoy his comments, be they here, in e-mail or on Facebook.

This weekend, I get to meet Tammy from CanaDutch. I’m really looking forward to finally meeting her, since I love her blog and the sense of humor she brings to things. I love her photos, too, and may have camera envy. 😉

There are many others and I hate to leave anyone out, since I truly appreciate everyone who both comments or simply reads my blog. Thanks for sticking around! If you want to do this too, feel free! I figure if you read my blog regularly, you deserve this award!

Cheese Anniversary

Big Ball o' Cheese
You know how each wedding anniversary supposedly has a different type of gift associated with it, such as paper, wood, silver, or diamonds? Well, perhaps there’s a similar gift symbolism for expat/immigration anniversaries. If so, it would seem that cheese is the two-year anniversary gift.

On Friday, when we went to the Potdeksel to meet up with some friends, they surprised us with that lovely wheel of cheese you see. It even came in a charmingly Dutch gift box.
Cheese Anniversary
It’s a delicious wheel of good ol’ Hollandse Edam, looking quite official with its stamps and identifiers.
Hollandse Edam
Most importantly, though, it’s delicious! Heerlijk! Lekker!
Lekker [Day 147/365]
We have fabulous friends!

Nog Twee

Orlando and the wit biertje
Two years ago today I came to the Netherlands for the very first time — and haven’t left yet!

Our plane arrived early in the morning on May 28, 2008, and after a bit of confusion with the car rental and a short soak in the morning rain, we left Schipol and headed down to Utrecht. I had never been to The Netherlands before that day, other than a layover flying back from Italy to the US, and that time I never left Schipol. A bit mad, perhaps, to move to a country you’ve never even visited, but I do have my moments of madness. I trusted G, who had been here quite a few times for business and to find us a house. I’ve found that I’m generally pretty happy wherever I live, so I figured this wouldn’t be much different. Fortunately, I was right. I’ve been very happy here these past two years and don’t regret the move at all.

This photo of Orlando, my flamingo, was taken later that first afternoon when we went to the Café de Potdeksel for an afternoon drink on the terrace. G had learned about the café from the couple who sold us the house; they had taken him there after the house closing to celebrate and introduce him to the family that owns it. We were incredibly lucky to buy the house from such a kind and friendly couple; their friendship and help has made our transition here much smoother and happier. They’ve also introduced us to some of their other friends, helping to expand our little social network. We’ll be seeing some of them tonight at the Potdeksel and I’m looking forward to it as always.

Thanks to this blog, I’ve also made some friends of my own this past year, as I’ve gotten to know some other fellow expats. I’m even meeting up with a few tomorrow night for drinks; keep your fingers crossed that the rain holds off tomorrow night!

Have the past two years been nothing but sunshine and roses? Of course not, but that’s just life. Nowhere is perfect, but in general the good has outweighed the bad and I’m very happy here, content to stay for many more years.