Apocalyptic Skies and a Banana

Good ol’ Dutch weather. Sometimes it changes from one day to the next, other times it changes from one minute to the next. Mercurial easily defines the weather of the past few weeks in Utrecht, when we’ve had a stunning mix of sun and clouds, often at the same time. Today we’ve got ridiculously high winds that even managed to open our front door! (The locks are now firmly in place.)

We’ve had quite a few days of clear blue skies, without a cloud in sight, which are always a joy to see.
blue skies
And then we’ve had days with apocalyptic clouds paired with crisp sunlight.
clouds and sun
Sometimes you get a mix, depending on whether you’re looking east or west. These two photos were taken seconds apart in front of our restaurant on Biltstraat, looking right (east) and then looking left.
light and dark

And when you start to get acclimated to the bizarre weather and think you won’t see anything strange, nature pulls another trick from her sleeve: the banana bush!
banana bush

Toto, I don’t think we’re in Utrecht

If you were wondering, I made it without incident back to the US on Monday. I lived here long enough that I’m not experiencing complete reverse culture shock, but I am a bit more aware of certain things now. It feels more as if my life in the US and my life in the NL are two completely separate things. Not good or bad; just completely different.

As for photos and blogging, I’ve been taking photos, but unfortunately I forgot to get a plug converter for my European laptop (with a useless battery), so I can’t upload photos until I get an adapter for my laptop. I did take a couple of photos today with my phone’s camera, though. One of the amusing differences between Utrecht (and much of the Netherlands) and North Carolina is the matter of elevation. We’ve got a lot more hills and mountains here. For that matter, just getting to the house requires muscles I haven’t used much in the past five years. Trust me, the photo doesn’t begin to show how steep a hill this is. I’ve been on rollercoasters with easier drops.
Fortunately, there are lots of magnolia trees to enjoy on the trek.

Sun vs Clouds

sun vs clouds

Sorry for the blog silence this week. I’ve been a bit caught up in some other work and just couldn’t bear to try to wrangle any more words. I did head out today to get some more gargoyle photos and couldn’t resist a few cloud photos, as well. It wasn’t quite as dark as the photo makes it out to be, but there was some impressive cloud coverage battling with the sun that was making a valiant effort to break through. The clouds won, but the show the two put on was worth seeing. Of course, I have a fondness for a nice natural silhouette like this. Hopefully, you do too!

sun vs clouds

A Tree Disappears in Utrecht

End of an Era
Despite being buried under a pile of animals this morning, I couldn’t help but hear lots of sawing and grinding and other loud noises early in the morning. I thought it was the neighbours, who are having some work done to the house, but it doesn’t usually start that early. When I went out to take Pippo out, I discovered what all the noise was. It seems that Zocher Park is losing another tree.

The park lost one of its old trees a few months ago, and a few others have been cut down over the past year or two. It’s always sad to see them go, especially when they’re really big ones, as many of these have been. The tree today was a particularly big one and has left a big open whole. I shouldn’t be able to see that much of Biltstraat!

(I took this photo about four hours after the photo above, when the tree had been cut down completely.)
All Gone

The tree was diseased, so it had to go, but I’ll always remember the glorious autumn show it always put on, bright with colour, even on the greyest of days.

Autumnal Colors

Vote for Utrecht’s Griftpark

Twisty Bits
There’s a Dutch magazine called Roots that has been conducting a search for the best city parks in the country. After an initial round of inspection and voting, they’ve narrowed down the choice to 12. One of those is the Griftpark here in Utrecht.

It’s a park I visit often and I can see why it has made the list. It sits on land reclaimed from an industrial site, creating a large green urban oasis just outside the old city center. As well as the traditional open green spaces, it has numerous other amenities, which probably influenced its choice over other parks. It has a restaurant/cafĂ©, an area for skateboarding, basketball courts, a children’s playground, a city farm with a variety of animals, ponds, a wealth of vegetation and a nature center, art, and even a man-made hill that gives you a panoramic view of the city.

Voting is easy and doesn’t require a great deal of signing in/registering. In fact, if you have a Facebook account, it’s as simple as clicking the “Like/Vind het leuk” button on the park’s page. The photo on the park’s page shows some of the nature walk pathway. I’ll share a few other photos of things to see and do at the park. So if you like Utrecht’s Griftpark, please vote for it! Voting ends 31 August.

The Mountain

Eten en Drinken

One Big Pig

Orlando and the Pond

Bridge and Canal

Fluffy Neck

America The Beautiful

It’s time to take a pause from Dutch scenery and reflect on the beauty that is the United States of America, as its citizens, near and far, celebrate the founding of the country. Regardless of politics, the scenery can be absolutely breathtaking. There are times when I’m watching a program that features some of the country’s beautiful settings and I get a bit homesick. At times, I even get a bit homesick when I see your average suburbs. Simply because they are so very American. I feel like I’ve settled in very well here, but it doesn’t change the fact that I spent 30+ years in the US. It will always be home, in one sense or another.

So today, in honor of Independence Day, I thought I’d share a few photos of some of the beautiful natural scenery that I grew up seeing around Signal Mountain/Chattanooga, Tennessee, when I’d go visit my great-grandmother. Quite a difference from the flat landscape I grew up with in Florida, and am used to here in the Lowlands.






And two last shot of my beautiful white sandy beaches of Florida. I can practically smell the salt in the air …
Daytona Beach

Sand Dunes

Foto Vrijdag: Signs of Spring

Ice Cream Man
Spring may well be over, based on the weather today and the forecast for the next few days. But at least I got to enjoy a tiny bit of the beautiful spring weather we had last weekend. As I walked past Lepelenburg Park last Sunday, I saw this ice cream van pull up beneath the tree. I loved the bright pop of red beneath the soft green tree against the beautiful blue sky. I was also very tempted to stop for an ice cream, but figured I’d be good, especially since I was planning on going to sit on a terrace and enjoy a beer or two later!

I’ve got a Caturday post for you tomorrow, so stop by if you want to see a cute cat.

And because I can’t look at this photo without thinking of Tom Waits’ song, Ice Cream Man, here you go:

Branching Out

Sunday, on my way back from the Centraal Museum, I couldn’t resist visiting my favourite sculpture. That also meant walking through the little park in which the sculpture stands. The weather was amazing and the sky was a stunning, pure blue. Everything was so crisp and I loved the shapes of the still-bare tree branches against the sky. But then I do love a good tree.

As I continued my walk, I went past Lepelenburg Park where I saw a group of young kids learning how to fence. The safety swords they were using reminded me of some of the tree branches. You’ll have to take my word, though, as I didn’t actually take any photos of their training session.

In all, it was a gorgeous spring day in Utrecht. Hopefully, it won’t be the last!
Twee Toren

Twisty to the Right


Shady Oasis
Nope, no explosions here. Boom is the Dutch word for tree. Unfortunately, it’s not pronounced the same as it is in English (more like bome), but it’s still a fun word. I’ve always liked trees. I’m not weird about it or anything, as Tom Waits would say; I just like the way they change depending on the season. Bright and colorful in spring and autumn; cool and green in summer; stark and majestic in winter.
The thing is, with only a few exceptions, I rarely know the name of any given tree. I’m an admirer of nature, but on a superficial level. I know nothing about where different types of plants and trees grow or any other important information. Sometimes I wish I knew a bit more of the technical info, but that urge usually passes quickly.
Spring Colors
Fortunately, if I want to know about any tree here in Utrecht, there’s an app for that! (Well, there’s a website.) It turns out the Gemeente has put together a bomenkaart (tree map), with information about every tree they’ve planted here in the city, including its scientific name, its location, and even the year planted! I know that some of the trees in Zocherpark on Lucasbolwerk have little plaques with some of their information listed, but not every tree. I imagine if you’ve got some tree allergies, this information could be quite useful.
For the record, only the first photo I posted here was actually taken in Utrecht, or even in the Netherlands. The rest of the photos were taken either in our neighborhood in Greensboro, North Carolina, or in the mountains near Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’ve been feeling a bit homesick for North Carolina in the spring, with all the azaleas and dogwoods, and even the stinky Bradford pear trees. Hey! Look at that! I do know some plant/tree names!
Fall Palette
Twists and Turns
White Towers
More of our tree
Cotton Ball Tree
dogwood blooms