Pandhof Sinte Marie

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By the Mariaplaats, on the western side of town, not far from the train station, is the Pandhof Sinte Marie, or St. Mary’s Courtyard. It’s part of the remnants of a covered walkway and monastery garden that was part of the Mariakerk (church) that once stood in the area.

The sunken garden is a beautiful, peaceful oasis in the city, much like the courtyard next to the cathedral. It’s one of those places to simply go and relax and ponder life.
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The last time I was there, I was pondering the colonnade (the covered walkway) that runs along two sides of the garden area. The Romanesque style colonnade — and colonnades in general — will be taking on greater meaning in my life in the future.

More on that to come …

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Caturday: Ginger Edition

Flora's Hof Kitty
Lurking in the shadows — or on a wall, or under a bench, or beneath a grate, or out a window — at Flora’s Hof and the connecting bookstore, you’re bound to come across a fearless ginger cat. I’ve seen this cat grow from kitten to adult, and it’s always doing something crazy or cute. In other words, a classic cat.

A few weeks ago, while taking the Utrecht Free Tour with visiting friends, everyone got to see this charming cat for themselves. Many photos were taken, especially by my fellow cat lovers, as on that day, the orange tabby was relaxing in the shade of the palm tree in the center of the garden. Yes, a palm tree! No wonder it’s one of my favorite spots in town!
Flora's Hof KittySo the next time you’re in the little garden area off Servetstraat, next to the Domtoren, keep an eye out for this crazy kitty. She’ll typically pose for photos, but be fast, as she may suddenly change her mind and race off to parts unknown, through her own secret system of tunnels and bolt holes. But beware if she’s hanging out in one of the gratings along the garden path. She’s been known to swipe at hands reaching down irresistibly to pet her. Ouch!
Flora's Hof Kitty

The Notary’s Garden Rooms

Notariswoning
The chair I posted Wednesday comes from a surprising stadstuin (city garden) that we visited the other week during Open Monuments Day. The original garden space belonged to the home of the local notary, dating back to 1860. Over the years, the neighbors joined together to create a larger combined garden space, with various pools, ponds, covered seating areas, and attractive garden arrangements.

Today, I’ll focus on a couple of the gazebo-like seating areas that I found particularly charming. I think one of the reasons I liked this whole garden area and the seating areas is because it all reminded me of some of the gardens I remember in Florida. If not specific gardens, at least a general atmosphere, especially with the slightly overgrown and slightly wild elements of the garden, paired with the slightly shabby, decaying furnishings. In all, it made me think of Southern Gothic in its most gloriously dishevelled sense.

On a warm, humid day, where the air is oppressive, you’d escape to these dark, shadowy corners of this garden, taking a seat that is vaguely damp to the touch, with a perfume in the air of fabric starting to mold and thick vegetation slowly decaying. It’s a heady aroma that is both off-putting yet somehow comforting.

Gazebo

Garden Room

To be honest, some of these more pleasant areas make me think of visiting my great-grandmother in Maitland, Florida, with this particular room bringing memories of “The Wee Hoose”. There may have been nothing similar at all, but it was that house and the land around it that most came to mind as I wandered through this garden.

Garden Living

As much as I feel at home here in Utrecht and in Nederland in general, sometimes I have those moments of feeling very far from home. But then I haven’t lived anywhere that has resonated with me in the sense of “home” for a long time. There’s something about Florida (and to a certain degree, New Orleans) that will always feel like home to me. Perhaps a lot of it is just the scenery you remember from your childhood that is imprinted upon you. There are certain sights, sounds, and smells that trigger those (hopefully) happy memories of childhood and make you feel calm and at peace. There was something about this garden and these gloriously decorated garden nooks that made me feel at home.

Until I saw the klompen (clogs). Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Florida any more.

Bloemen en Klompen