The Lamp With A Name

Mooi
I found out today that these lamps that are found throughout the city have a specific name. They’re Pyke Koche lamp posts, named for the Dutch artist Frans Pieter Christiaan (Pyke) Koch (1901-1991). He seems to have worked primarily as a painter, in the magic realism style, but at some point he designed these lamps. He lived and worked in Utrecht for many years, with an apartment/studio located on the Oudegracht.

A restoration process has begun this month to make the workings of the lamps more efficient and easier to maintain and repair. The work will continue through September. The word I see popping up frequently these days, for this and other initiatives, is duurzaam, in the sense of sustainability. There seems to be a big push for greater sustainability in a variety of city-related issues. Or maybe it’s just that I notice it much more now that I know the word. But perhaps I know the word, because I’ve seen it come up so often. It’s all very chicken eggy. Anyway, as well as making the lamps more efficient, they will also be cleaning and repainting as needed. I hope that means that they will all be sporting the red and white colours of the city shield that is located at the bottom of the lamps. It’s a nice touch, as seen on one of the lamps at Janskerkhof.

Janskerk

I ♥ Utrecht

Adventures in Grocery Shopping

This afternoon around 1 p.m., I decided to head out to the grocery store to pick up the one or two small ingredients I needed for dinner tonight. I thought since I needed so little, I’d just head to the little grocers down the street from us. Then I got there. There was a line of high school students out the door. I forgot that they all converge on the various grocery stores at that time of day.

There was no way I was going to deal with that crowd just for a few tiny items, so I turned around and debated heading home and waiting, or just going ahead to one of the regular grocery stores since I was already out. I decided on the latter, and headed to Plus on Voorstraat. The store has undergone a makeover and reopened recently. I hadn’t been in since the renovation, but had seen a glimpse of the new inside yesterday. As I approached, I started to wonder if it was actually open, since there was a large dumpster standing where the entrance used to be. Fortunately, I saw a couple of students approach the same spot and then turn around and say something about the new entrance. Aha! I guess students are useful for some things. I looked a bit further down the street and there it was, the grand new door!

As soon as I walked in, I could tell they’d done quite a bit of work. It was all a bit fancier — certainly fancier than it had been in the past — and they even had a section that seemed to offer take-away food of some sort, staffed by actual people! What used to be the liquor store section has been turned into a small dining area. The lighting is much more ambient, otherwise known as not so glaringly fluorescent. The shelves are all a bit nicer and everything looks a bit less dusty than it did in the past.

That particular branch of Plus has always been a bit hit-or-miss with me. On one hand, they do sometimes have a few of the more interesting ingredients, including dried lentils and premade pizza crusts, not to mention a decent selection of different types of nuts. On the other hand, there was sometimes an odd smell inside, and stuff really was kind of dusty. The new design of the store definitely makes it more appealing to me and in some ways, it seems more like the grocery stores I was used to in the US, with a wider selection of both food items as well as kitchen items. They now have some simple pots and pans, even! They also have a few small sewing items, as well as some simple tools and things for your bike. It’s not the kind of stuff you necessarily need all the time, but I always appreciated being able to get some of these smaller items as I was doing my normal grocery shopping, rather than having to go to a different store. [To be fair, if you go to the Albert Heijn XL stores, they have all of this kind of stuff and more, but when you live in the city center, you don’t go all the way out to AH XL very often. It’s nice having this kind of stuff local.]

As in the past, Plus also has a few items that some expats may be happy to find. I saw two types of marshmallow fluff, as well as regular marshmallows (white and colors), along with yellow mustard, boxed mac and cheese, peanut butter, and Duncan Hines cake mix. Sadly, no ranch dressing, but they did have some Reece’s Peanut Butter cups and I treated myself to one, since that’s what we usually bought in the US to give out on Halloween. It may be a day late, but it’s still going to be enjoyed! They also stock multiple types of maple syrup, although I noticed the ones in the organic section all cost around €7,75 a bottle (I think that’s around US$10). I think some of the other “foreign” foods were also still pricier than I remember them ever being when they were “domestic” foods. It’s a good thing the Reece’s were the only thing I really wanted or am likely to buy often. Most of the other stuff on offer is stuff that I didn’t buy very often in the US, either.

I’m not sure about their new check-out counters; it seems a bit cramped and awkward now that there’s no more conveyor belt and only one small counter spot for two check-outs. Otherwise, I’m kind of digging the new Plus. I might have to give them another try when I’m doing regular shopping and see how their selection stands up.

[I’m pretty sure this post is one of the more banal ones I’ve ever written, but for fellow expats and those living near enough to Voorstraat to do some shopping, it might be of some use or interest. Now excuse me while I go have a peanut butter cup with my afternoon coffee.]

Return of the Utrecht Moat


The other day I saw this video thanks to the 24oranges blog. I know the areas being discussed, but didn’t realize that the area first mentioned had been at risk of being built up into a large motorway. As it is, it’s a beautiful, peaceful neighborhood, with trees lining the canal. It’s where I spent part of my first Koninginnedag here, and where I enjoy taking Pippo for a quiet walk.

I thought I’d post a few of my photos of the area to give you another view of some of the areas being discussed.
Life Is Good
Boulevard Canal
Mooie Brug

I might not have known that the one area in the north of the city had been at risk, but I did know about the “shortest motorway”. It’s over by the Vredenburg on the eastern edge of the city, near the station. The traffic is gone now and they’re definitely working to return the water to that spot. My first year here, I did a bit of a then-and-now project for my parents, based on a calendar of old photos I bought for them for Christmas. As you can see here, this is a photo of the main street through Utrecht. The bridge is crossing over what was then the canal.
junoud
When I took my photo of the same area in 2008, some parts looked surprisingly similar, but other parts were quite different. The road had widened, obviously, but it was no longer water running under the bridge; it was cars. The motorway was open until this year.
junnew

I’m certainly glad they never expanded the motorway. It would ruin some of the beauty of the city. I’m also quite happy to see that the water is returning to the motorway that was built. With all the renovation and construction going on in that part of town, hopefully the end result will be an improvement to the already beautiful city.