Chicken, JLo Style

Urban Chicken
Sometimes I feel at a loss for things to write about — at least things that won’t take a ton of multi-language research — and I start to long for those early days of life as an expat when everything seemed new and amazing.

Fortunately, when I start to feel like that, it seems as if something always comes along just in the nick of time. Today was one of those days when a new blog topic arrived as if it were manna from heaven. Or in this case, chicken from heaven, or at least chicken from the block. (Thus the post title.)

You see, G came home from running a short errand, and I could hear him laughing before he’d even gotten the front door open. He then called out, “There’s a chicken in the street!” Having ascertained he meant a real, live chicken and not someone’s dropped dinner, I couldn’t resist peeking out the front door, despite still being in my less-than-lovely pajamas. Sure enough, this was the view I saw. One very big, fluffy, bird behind.
With His Feathers in a Huff

Not dressed for the occasion, I quickly handed G the camera and off he went to take these photos. When he got back, we were discussing the fact that we’d both often wondered if we were hearing things in the past when we heard the occasional clucking and cockadoodledoo. It seems one of our neighbours does indeed keep at least one very stylish, fancy-pants, free-range chicken!

I suppose this could count for a time travel post, as well, since I’m sure seeing chickens roaming the street has only become unusual in recent years. It’s not the idea of people keeping chickens that I find so amusing. We’ve had various neighbours over the years who have kept them. But there’s something about seeing such a chicken roaming the city center streets and sidewalks that just seems slightly out of place now. Which is what makes it all the more entertaining! Rock on, you urban chicken!
Kip Strut
All photos taken by G. Chiarini

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Alternative Olympic Bicycle Sports

Trajectum Fietsen
While watching some of the indoor cycling the other night — which we don’t always understand, but still enjoy — we started joking about what the sports would be if the Dutch had started the Olympics.

We decided that the velodrome bike sports would be a competition to see not only how fast you can go around, but how many people you can fit on one bike while racing. Children would be used, of course, in order to make the most of the multiple child seats. There would also be bakfiets racing.

Other competitions would involve carrying large, awkward items on a bike. Sort of like weightlifting, you’d gradually work your way from surfboards and multiple bags of groceries, up to small trees and small sofas.

There could be a dressage competition for the most interestingly decorated bicycles.

Finally, there could be a competition to “park” a bike in the highest and most difficult to reach position possible. Such as far-reaching branches of a tree over a canal.

What would be a funny Olympic sport representing your country?

The Secret Words of Walls and Windows

Forbidden to Forbid
I’ve posted before about the random bits of wall art that pop up around the city. However, not all of these bits of creativity are pictorial. There are often simple thoughts expressed in words; some are philosophical, while others simply put a smile on your face.

Sunday morning, I came across the chalked thought above: Forbidden To Forbid. Make of that what you will. There are plenty of interpretations open.

Seeing it reminded me of some window writing I saw on Lange Nieuwstraat. The two windows had simple sentences written on the bottom. If their purpose was to make passers-by smile, they succeeded, at least with me.
Hoe gaat het met jou?
This one reads, “Hoe gaat het met jou?”, which is the Dutch way of saying, “How are you?”.

The second window says, “Ik vind jou speciaal”, which means “I find you special/I think you’re special”. You’re not so bad yourself!
Ik ook

I love these random little finds throughout the city. Even if the windows are simply marketing, it’s a nice, creative touch that is positive and friendly. We can all use a bit of that!

Hup Holland Hup

Utrecht en de EK
The country is turning orange as everyone prepares for the Netherlands’ first game of the Euro 2012 tournament against Denmark this evening. Houses have been decorated — in some cases, completely wrapped in orange — and whole neighbourhoods are now decked with orange bunting, banners and more. This orange madness is called oranjegekte, and as the team progresses, so will the mania. During the World Cup, there were orange wigs, face paint, lion costumes (the lion is the symbol of the team), and much more.

We’re ready for the game tonight with some bitterballen, Dutch cheese, and orange-coloured tompouce for dessert. We’ll also be decked out in our own orange clothing and other accessories to cheer the team on to victory. The best part is that even if the Dutch don’t go all the way, based on how things were four years ago during the same tournament, the festive spirit will continue. It looks to be a fun few weeks.

Café de Potdeksel

I Thought He Was Dead …

Festival a/d Werf
The other evening, G and I decided to walk past the Stadsschouwburg to see the structure that had been going up for the Festival a/d Werf. It was opening night, so we actually got to see the building in use. The program being presented is Dat Staat (That State). As the program explains, it is “a challenging theater project in which actors, audience, and experts — in six days — establish a new state, and perhaps create history”.

Terug Naar Start

From what we could see, it does seem to be fairly interactive. The audience was seated in sections and they all seemed to be wearing sashes. I couldn’t hear very well, but it definitely seemed like audience members were being chosen to stand up and interact and perhaps give opinions. It seemed to have a humorous element to it, though, because one of the actors who was calling on audience members seemed to be dressed as Qaddafi. The show took an even more surrealistic turn when “Qaddafi” appeared up on a second level and began playing a keyboard/playing DJ while singing Lionel Ritchie’s infamous song, Hello.

The show seemed to be in a mix of Dutch and English. One of the MCs was speaking in Dutch, but the Qaddafi character was speaking in English during the part that we saw. I didn’t hear which language the audience member responded in when she was called upon. It seems like it might be an interesting program. If you’re in town and interested in seeing it, it runs May 21, 22, 25, and 26, and begins at 20:30. Tickets are €15 online.

Dit Staat

Performance

Elbow in Amsterdam

Elbow
We bought the tickets months ago, but there was no way we were going to risk missing Elbow’s concert in Amsterdam last night. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for years, having been incredibly frustrated to learn that they were playing in Amsterdam — at the picturesque Paradiso — shortly after we first moved here, but with tickets well and truly sold out. They played PinkPop, a summer festival here in the Netherlands earlier this year, but summer festivals are a heat stroke waiting to happen for me, so I had to give it a miss.
Early Arrivals
We got to the Heineken Music Hall early last night, not long after the doors opened. We knew that going for a spot on the ground in the standing-room-only section would be a nightmare for us, knowing that we’d probably be surrounded by Dutch giants and not see much at all. Instead, we headed for the seated section in the back, but still got a decent spot. The hall soon filled up, with even the steps next to me in the seated section becoming impromptu seating.
Mirrorball
By the time the show started — which included their beautiful song Mirrorball, of course — the place was packed! The show itself was amazing. So worth the years of waiting to see them live! Besides making great music, they put on a fun show, with lots of laughs, as well as some moments of heart-aching beauty. As the saying goes, “I laughed. I cried. It was better than Cats.”

One of the best moments of the show came when the band joked that since they’re celebrating 20 years together, the audience should sing Happy Birthday to them. We dutifully did, and then things took one of those wonderful turns and the audience ended up surprising the band by launching into the Dutch birthday song. It started off in patches, but eventually, the whole audience came together in one voice, singing and cheering, while the band looked on in amazement. They truly had no idea what was going on but seemed to absolutely love it all! See for yourself:

The Beer Is On Fire

DSC05243
Yesterday morning, after taking Pippo out first thing, G told me about a building made only of beer crates that some students were constructing in Zocherpark, in front of the Biton and Unitas student associations. Curious, and wanting some photos, I went with G and Pippo during the afternoon outing to witness the festivities — and the completed structure — for myself.
DSC05267

You see, yesterday began UIT2011, the week-long event that welcomes old and new students to Universiteit Utrecht and the high schools. There are events all over the city, including parties, concerts, tours and much more. The city’s population felt like it doubled yesterday, with packs of young students everywhere you looked, spurred on by the rare and beautiful weather we were having. The student associations near us were hosting their annual introductory parties, with all sorts of seating set up outdoors, beer stands everywhere, decorations, and even a mechanical bull!
Mechanical Bull

Crossroads

Take a Seat

One of the decorations they had set up was an incredibly long building made up of nothing but plastic beer crates, a tarp and some bungee rope. It was certainly the standout decoration in the park, even more impressive than the large inflatable owl that was there last year and making a return performance this year. I wasn’t clear as to what was actually meant to be going on inside the building, but it was interesting to see, nonetheless.
DSC05268

Imagine my surprise this morning when G came in from taking Pippo out and told me that the whole thing had burned down and that a car had been caught in the inferno! It seems that some time around 5 a.m., a passerby saw the flames. By 8:30 a.m. this morning when G saw it, the fire trucks (brandweer) were gone and all that remained was a small corner of the beer-crate structure. Fortunately, none of the actual buildings on the street were damaged, and it doesn’t sound like any people were injured, although there are suspicions of arson. I suspect idiot arson, rather than truly malicious arson. Hopefully! One car did get caught up in the fire and it’s front end is just a husk.
DSC05272

DSC05288

DSC05287

DSC05278

The area was cordoned off and police and what looked like a fire investigator were there looking over the remains and talking to some of the association’s students. Still, a little fire isn’t going to stop the festivities. As the investigation was going on, set-up for the day’s activities continued. The concert scheduled for this evening will also go on as planned. Lucky us.

Hopefully today is drama-free. Yesterday wasn’t exactly a great start to the introduction period, as three students were injured, one quite seriously, in an accident on an open-top double-decker bus. Added in with the fire, and things have been perhaps not gone quite as smoothly as organizers would want. I wish a speedy recovery to the injured students and hope the rest of UIT2011 is fun, informative and most of all, safe!

Welkom bij Utrecht!
Relaxing

Time Travel: Voorstraat

Voorstraat
(photo courtesy gertvr on Flickr)

Voorstraat is one of those streets that you can’t help but spend a lot of time on if you live in the north/eastern part of the city center. It’s got a variety of stores and services, and is an easy way to get from one part of town to another, since it ends up at Neude square, which can then take you to numerous other spots.

Here’s what it looks like now:
Voorstraat
If you look at the buildings themselves, they really haven’t changed much, although the ground level businesses have changed. The biggest difference is the front left corner. The old building has been replaced by the City Movie Theater.
City Animation


The only other difference, outside of the absence of tram tracks and the appearance of cars is the church steeple in the far distance. In the old photo, it’s simple rectangular. In the new photo, there’s a pointed steeple on top. What I can’t tell is if the steeple was simple under repair or if it hadn’t been added yet. Not knowing when the old photo was taken, I must say it looks more as if the steeple is simply covered in protective scaffolding.

I’m sure Voorstraat was probably just as useful last century as it is now. Nowadays, besides being home to two grocery stores, Plus and Albert Heijn, it’s also home to Plato Record Store, Tattoo Magic Store, travel agency offices, a Chinese massage/reflexology sort of place, hairdressers, a sewing supplies shop, multiple coffee shops (of the cannabis variety), Taco Mundo, multiple vintage clothing stores, along with higher-end clothing stores, a used/antique book store, a florist, an organic grocer, formal wear shops, clothing repair stores, a shoe repair shop, a locksmith, fancy furniture and lighting stores, along with numerous restaurants and cafés, with many new places opening regularly. It’s not always the prettiest street, but for daily life, it covers a lot of bases. And there are pockets of grace and whimsy along the street.
Street Scene

Sushi and Books

There’s even the occasional horse.
Goldilocks

And don’t forget the rabbit!
The Thinker