Even after many years here, when I see the date of 4 July, my mind turns to the American Independence Day, even though I’m now more likely to write the date the way the rest of the world does. Typically we celebrate in some vaguely traditional way, such as grilling out and maybe setting out an Uncle Sam figurine I have.
This year, though, it’s all about yellow instead of red, white, and blue, and bicycles instead of fireworks. This year, 4 July means the start of the Tour de France. The Grand Depart is being held here in Utrecht this year and there’s no escaping it. Rows and rows of pennants flap in the wind over most streets; trees are wrapped in yellow or white with red polka dots; flags fly from homes and businesses; large bicycle statues are in major squares; tour information desks are in the Centraal Station; and on and on and on. It seems like everywhere you look, you see something race related.
This week, I’ll be posting some photos of various decorations that have begun to take over the city. Some fans may have already arrived; the rest will be arriving throughout the week, with probably the majority coming in on Friday.
We’re also expecting a significant heat wave this week, with possible temperatures as high as 38 C/100 F on Saturday. Remember, there’s no air conditioning here. This may be my last week of blogging, as there’s a chance I may die from heat stroke this week. I don’t do well in the heat as it is, and working in a tiny hot kitchen in those temps may be the death of me. Just wandering around town today to get some photos had my head pounding from the heat.
So, with that cheerful thought, here are some of the photos I took today at Jaarbeursplein, the large square by the train station/theater and also the general site of the finish for the time trials on Saturday. (The actual Grand Depart is Sunday.) As you come out of the train station, you end up at the top of a massive set of stairs that give a great view onto the square and the painting that covers the ground. The bicycles in the foreground of the first picture are just normal Dutch bikes belonging to people probably having lunch sitting on the stairs. In the second photo, notice the tree trunk wrapped in yellow.
On the left is the Jaarbeurs convention center, which houses trade shows, exhibitions, meetings, etc. on a large scale. It’s also the home of the Beatrix Theater, where you can see concerts, musicals, and more. They’ve recently decorated the building with a plethora of bikes. I can’t help but wonder if they’re some of the ones dredged up from the canals or other abandoned bikes that have been picked up around town. I should hope so, as that would be an affordable way of decorating. There’s no shortage of broken, abandoned bicycles in town.
Tomorrow, perhaps some more trees, or maybe the Winkel van Sinkel. A bientôt!
A rainbow bicycle seems the perfect image of my thoughts these days. With the Tour de France Grand Depart fast approaching — and more and more decorations going up around town that I hope to photograph tomorrow — it’s hard not to think about bicycles even more than normal. We had the Giro D’Italia through here a few years ago, but that was nothing in comparison. Crazy. I’m also hoping we’ll get some extra business out of it, since our little restaurant/wine bar is just down the street from part of the course. Too bad we weren’t open during the Giro! Now I just have to figure out how to promote Italian food for a French race.
But some great news has also been coming out of the US for the past couple of days, particularly in regard to some Supreme Court decisions. Justice Scalia may be having the worst week ever, but I have a lot of friends who have been positively affected by the upholding of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and now the decision that gay marriage should be recognized in all 50 states and protectorates. So now it’s not gay marriage, it’s just marriage. And about damn time!
My Facebook feed yesterday became one giant rainbow, and even as I type this, the WordPress CMS even has a rainbow banner. Rock on! So glad to see that once the ball started rolling in the US, with state after state beginning to recognize gay marriage, it took a surprisingly short amount of time for it to become legal nationwide. Sure, it’s been legal here in the Netherlands (the first country to legalize gay marriage) since 2001, but better late than never! There are some Gay Pride parades that were already scheduled for today in the US. I’m sure they’re going to be extra amazing now! Gefeliciteerd!
So it seems that 600,000-800,000 tourists are expected here in Utrecht for the Grand Depart of the Tour de France in July. The city’s population will double or nearly triple.
That’s a LOT of people.
I thought the Domplein seemed much too crowded with tourists as it is on a normal sunny Sunday. Hmmm. Maybe I should stop encouraging people to visit more of the country than just Amsterdam.
It’s almost impossible to take a photo at street level here in Utrecht without a bicycle in it. And on the rare occasion that there is no bicycle and you want one, you only have to wait a few seconds for one to go by. But for all the bicycles around, it’s not so common to see one proudly displayed in a window that isn’t part of a bicycle shop. This is just a residential street, with a great selection of bicycles on display, both inside and out. I must say that the window bicycle is certainly a change from the typical cats and plants I usually see in a front window.
I was looking through past May photos to find one for my new header when I saw this shot and remembered that the Weekly Photo Challenge theme this week is motion. I like the blur of the scooter, like something from a Futurist painting. But I also love the background of all those bicycles, which suggest potential motion. There had obviously been a lot of motion going on to get all of those bicycles there.
I couldn’t resist the juxtaposition of the scooter and the motorcycle when I came across them near Lepelenburg Park. Both may be motorized, but they have very different associations. One putters along, while the other zooms. (Though anyone who has had a scooter zoom past them on a bike lane is likely to dispute the puttering bit. There are frequent demands to have scooters banned from bicycle lanes.)
Of the two, the scooter is the more common sight, at least in this part of town. You’ll see rows of them near restaurants that specialize in delivery, and you’ll see both young and old riding them around town.
Invader Stu left a comment for me today on how difficult it must be to take a photo in the Netherlands without at least one bicycle getting into shot. It’s a conversation I’ve had with others, as well. Certainly when it comes to city photos, it is nearly impossible to get a street-level shot without at least one (or many more) bicycles in view.
Fortunately, bicycles add a certain charm to most photos and settings. Sometimes they even complement a scene, such as the red fietstas (bicycle bag) in this photo that pairs well with the red of the flowers. I find it best to embrace the bicycle and try to make it a part of the photo, rather than awkwardly trying to block it from the shot. Give in! Embrace our bicycle overlords!