In case you haven’t seen enough yellow this past week in Utrecht, Toerisme Utrecht did a bit of guerilla marketing in the early hours of this morning, putting out yellow sunglasses along a large stretch of the Oudegracht. (As an aside, I’m writing this with the sound of helicopters roaring overhead. As the race is about to start in about half an hour, I guess it’s a mix of film crews and police overhead.) Anyway, the sunglasses are free to take and they’re promoting upcoming summer events in the city in Dutch on one side of the attached tag, and in English, on the other side, it’s targeting people visiting for the Tour de France today, encouraging them to visit local museums and shops while they’re here.
I knew they were doing this, having received the advance press release, but wasn’t sure I’d end up getting to see it all. However, I woke up early enough this morning and while scrolling through Twitter, I saw a picture and thought, why not! I hopped out of bed (sort of), quickly got ready, and was out the door before I could change my mind. (It’s still warm and humid and it started to rain lightly just as I left the house.)
Actually getting to the canal wasn’t so easy. The race is going through the heart of the city center today (as a display bit, rather than real racing), so lots of the streets are cordoned off to create safe lanes solely for the cyclists. I felt like a rat in a maze quite a few times trying to get around! Eventually, though, I found my way to the appropriate part of the Oudegracht and voilà! Sunglasses everywhere! They were on the ground around a lamp post. They were on the wall of the old post office. They were on bicycles. They were on bollards. They were on shop fronts. They were everywhere!
So, the point is, there’s plenty to see and do in Utrecht, even when the race has gone. Go see the museums, go listen to the weekly Domtoren concerts. Go support local businesses. Go to Vino Veritas, but not today or tomorrow, as we’re closed after a long, hot, busy week. Go on foot or by bike. Just go!
Yellow is a tough color to wear, but the caryatids at the Winkel van Sinkel on the Oudegracht seem to be pulling it off. I guess if you’re going to wear such a vivid shade, it’s not surprising that you’d need to also wear shades. On a bright, sunny day (which we’ve got an abundance of, suddenly) it’s an almost eye-searing display!
It’s not the first time the ladies have dressed up for a cycling race. When the Giro d’Italia came through a few years ago, they got into the spirit, though in perhaps a more elegant and understated way.
But as you can see, decorating with bicycles is always an option, especially on the front of buildings.
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!
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.
Today is the grand announcement of the route of the 102nd Tour De France taking place next summer. It’s relevant to Utrecht, because Utrecht is where the race begins next year! We’ve known that for a while, but the official release of the full route was just announced moments ago. I watched part of the presentation on the Cyclingnews.com website, but had to laugh/cringe at the English pronunciation of all of the Utrecht sites (Jaarbeurs, Lepelenburg), but the worst was the name of the city itself. I don’t know who was responsible for the English commentary/translation I was watching, but dear lord, I hope they get that figured out soon. You should at least be able to pronounce the name of the city!
The race kicks off on 4 July, a Saturday, and part of it even goes down Biltstraat, where Vino Veritas is, though I think they turn off before they get to us. There will also be events in town in the days leading up to the start.
For a few months now, a statue of a bicycle representing the Tour de France has been in place on the Stadhuisbrug. I’ve taken ground-level photos in the past, but last month while up on the Neudeflat, I got a few more aerial views of the statue. Someday I may get over the Jaarbeursplein to see the big ground design they in place there. I guess I have until next July. For now, enjoy these shots of the statue on the bridge over the Oudegracht. You’ll notice that the Domtoren, in the background of one, was much too tall to be fully included. Also pay attention to the boat going through the canal in the shots, particularly the shot where you can see the man essentially pushing the boat away from the canal walls to get it through a rather tight bend.
OMG, y’all! For the first time in more than a month, I left the house to go somewhere other than work! Six days a week, working two jobs, has left me little time or energy to do much of anything. But a quiet Sunday morning is one of my favorite times to go for a walk and with the heat abating a bit, as well, I set out for a short photo walk.
I had the Stadhuisbrug in mind today for a specific reason. Today is the last 137 kilometers of the Tour de France. Next stop? Utrecht! As I’ve mentioned before, Utrecht will be the site of the Grand Depart for the 2015 Tour de France. Various decorations, signs, and banners have been popping up around town already. The latest is this sculpture on the Stadhuisbrug.
I learned from experience when another sculpture representing the Vrede van Utrecht (Treaty of Utrecht) was in the same spot that it is best to go when few people are around, otherwise it’s almost impossible to get a decent shot. There’s always someone on it or in front of it. Fortunately, the people who were on it today were on the other side and don’t show up too much and the nearby tour group was focused on something else.
I managed to get it from a couple of angles, including with the Wilibrordkerk and its spire in the background, and one with a nice bit of shadow on the ground.
I haven’t followed any of the race this year, despite my best intentions, but I really hope to get to see some of it here next year. They will be going down part of Biltstraat, although I think they turn off before they get to Vino Veritas, but I’d love to see them going under the Domtoren. Regardless, best of luck to the racers today. See you in Utrecht next year!
As mentioned previously, the Tour de France Grand Depart in 2015 will take place here in Utrecht. Today, the official routes were announced and there will be a big celebration taking place at the Domplein tonight at 7 p.m.
I really wish it was any night other than tonight, because I would like to go. However, today is also the American holiday, Thanksgiving, which involves a big dinner, which will probably be going on at 7 p.m. Sure, it’s just G and I, and we could have postponed it until tomorrow or celebrated whenever we want (or not at all), but I prefer to celebrate the holidays on the actual day whenever possible.
So instead, I wandered around town a bit today and saw some of the decorations going up around town. I knew the Domtoren was flying yellow flags, but I wasn’t expecting the yellow carpets being rolled out everywhere. The Winkel van Sinkel is also home to some of the celebrations tonight, including some of the press conferences.
It looked like the police were even getting in on the yellow decorations. Or maybe they were just wearing their usual yellow hi-viz coats. Because regular people riding bicycles here don’t wear special clothing, but police on horseback do.