Foto Vrijdag 2.29

Artfully Arranged
We’ve started taking a walk in the evening after dinner. It’s a nice way to get a bit of exercise and enjoy the summer evening. Sometimes I take my camera, sometimes I don’t. Last night I did, and got a few shots that I specifically wanted to get, and I got some like this one that I wasn’t expecting, but couldn’t resist. This is a building at the Pausdam. There was something so charming and lovely about the arrangement and colors that I just couldn’t resist. I love the single bike, the lamp, the color of the door, the flowers in the flower boxes, all coming together to create a feeling of calm tranquility.

Fijne weekend! If you’re in the Jaarbeurs area, watch out for the 10,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses who are converging on the area this weekend!

Some Win and Some Fail

Yesterday, or perhaps this morning, I had a great idea for a blog post. Now? I have no idea what it was, nor even when I had the idea. Fail.

The sun is shining, the temperature is 17C, and it’s Culturele Zondag (Cultural Sunday, a monthly Utrecht event). Win!

Pippo and I went for a long walk today around the Nieuwegracht, Nieuwestraat, Oudegracht, and lots of smaller side streets. Win!

We were originally aiming for Twijnstraat, so I could get a photo of a building that has “De Olifant” painted on it. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up going the route I had originally planned and it got too busy with people and dogs, so that Pippo was getting overexcited. Fail.

We did get to the Domplein, which was my other goal for the walk, since I knew that there were some Culturele Zondag events going on there. Win!

I thought there was supposed to be some sort of sculpture installed for the day, but either it wasn’t up yet, or it was just a bunch of doors lying flat or propped against some stuff. Fail.

There was some music being played, though, by some people singing and playing guitar. Quite pleasant. We also came across some at Pieterskerkhof, which we passed on our way home. Win!

I didn’t get any photos of any of this, because toward the end of the walk, realizing I hadn’t taken any photos at all, I decided to at least get a shot of one of the side doors of the cathedral. When I turned on my camera, I suddenly found out that I had forgotten my memory card at home. Along with my brain, it would seem. Fail.

Pippo and I still had fun and he got a few compliments along the way and we generally had a gezellig time. That outweighs any minor failings. Win!

I hope your weekend is full of win!

Utrechtsche Melk Centrale

The sun! It actually came out today! Sure, it’s back to being a bit overcast now at 3 p.m. but the sun was out and shining brightly this morning. Pippo and I took advantage of this lull in the rain and hit the streets.

A few weeks ago, on the Flickr Utrecht group, I saw a photo of a building with a cute old-fashioned advertising sign. I found out where it was — in a part of town I hadn’t yet explored — and kept note of it for my next photographic outing. Sadly, the rain has put that outing on hold until today. After checking the map and hoping it wouldn’t be too long of a trek or too hard to find, Pippo and I were off on our search. Maps of Utrecht are deceptive, in that distances look much further than they really are. We were at our destination in no time, even with a stop at the Griftpark honden toilet for Pippo.

I found my sign and got my shot and admired some of the other buildings in the area. It’s a nice quiet area, with lots of charming little houses. Definitely worth another visit someday. With our goal accomplished, we decided to head back over to the Griftpark since it was nearby and the weather was so nice. I took another panorama shot from the top of the man-made hill, when I discovered that various landmarks were visible now that the leaves were gone from the trees. I also got a few more shots of the Three Large Figures sculpture group that I posted about a few weeks ago. I admit I had a bit of fun playing with the contrast levels for this shot:

So, today marks the last day of November, which means I’ve successfully completed the National Blog Posting Month challenge. Thank goodness! I think I’ll try to return to quality over quantity in regards to my posting schedule.

Shaky Camera

Fields of Flowers
Spring is in the air and the bloemen are blooming. I figured with the sun shining today, I might as well take Pippo, the camera, and myself out for some fresh air and fun. Sadly, the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Be careful what you wish for. And other proverbs and quotes.

What should have been a lovely outing left me a bit shaken. We headed over to the honden toilet area, since the area is covered with lovely flower blooms and I wanted to get a few shots. We calmly meandered around the area, stopping for shots here and there, happily minding our own business. We had moved halfway down the area, just before heading up the slight hill next to the theater. I knew there were a few other people in the area, including a man with a young child and two small terrier dogs. We were far enough away that I wasn’t too concerned at that point.

Of course, Pippo saw the dogs and decided to drop to the ground and watch them. I didn’t want to deal with that, so I pulled him up and grabbed his harness to try and maneuver him up the hill and hopefully leave the other dogs out of sight. Of course, at this point, the two dogs saw us and came running. I held Pippo tight and he was actually fairly calm, even when one of the other dogs started to yap at him. His only reaction was to wag his tail happily.  I heard the owner, an older gentleman, yelling, but I thought he was yelling at his dogs to get them to go back to him. I had my bad turned slightly, so I wasn’t really looking at him at first, since I was trying to keep an eye on the dogs to make sure they weren’t going to lunge at Pippo.

When I did finally look up at the guy as he was approaching, I realized that he seemed to be yelling at me! He was scowling and gesturing as if I had done something awful and should leave! May I remind you that my dog, although big, was on a lead and I was holding him firmly in place. My dog was also relatively calm and quiet. This man’s two dogs, on the other hand, were both off lead and had come running up to us and had barked at us. I’m clueless as to what horrible thing I did to deserve the reaction I received.

I’m not even positive he was speaking Dutch, and as he seemed to be walking away, I held my ground and stood still while he walked away.  I was feeling a bit shaken up, as I don’t like confrontation, especially when I don’t know what I’m being accused of, but I pulled out the camera and took a few more shots of the flowers, including the one above. I think any blurring in the shots was down to accidentally focusing on the wrong area, rather than shaky hands.

I thought the man had left, but eventually I realized he was on the other side of the hill down by the theater and seemed to be waiting for me to leave. At that point, I was pissed off and annoyed and wasn’t much in the mood to continue on, so we turned around and came home. The guy is an idiot obviously, as we were doing nothing wrong.  He might have issues with big dogs, but that’s his problem, not mine. Pippo was leashed and under control at all times. If you don’t like big dogs, keep your little dogs and child away from them. It’s a big enough area that we were no threat. Bah! What a lousy ending to an otherwise lovely afternoon.

A Walk in the Park

The weather was lovely and Pippo was whining, so we all headed out for a walk this afternoon. Rather than our usual southerly stroll, we decided to head north for a change. After a first stop at the honden toilet, we set out along Wittevrouwensingel and meandered along the canal. As soon as Pippo realized we were going in a new direction, his excitement became palpable, as his steps suddenly quickened. Eventually, we looped around and came across Griftpark. We hadn’t been there before, so we decided to take a walk through. It’s quite lovely, especially once you get further back past the skateboard basin.

Many people seemed to have the same idea. The park was filled with parents and nannies with their young charges playing the grass and feeding the duckies. We felt right at home with our own furry kid! Pippo was particularly well-behaved, ignoring the duckies (as usual) and not even paying attention to the young children and the occasional dog. When we reached the area where they have some goats and sheep, he didn’t seem to think much of them, one way or the other. In fact, the sheep seemed more curious about him!

If the weather is still as nice, I plan on going back again tomorrow or sometime this week and taking my camera. I’d liked to walk back via Kapelstraat, too; it was a charming little residential street.

Fabric and Flowers

This morning, despite the drizzling rain, Pippo and I went out to explore the stoffenmarkt (fabric market) on Broodstraat and the flower market at Janskerkhof. Both are Saturday institutions that I’ve been wanting to see since we’ve been here, but somehow have missed until now.

First we headed over to Broodstraat (the other house we came close to buying is located there) to check out the fabric. It’s really quite impressive! The whole street was filled on both sides with stall after stall selling all sorts of fabrics, as well as buttons, patches, thread and I’m sure many other sewing-related bits and pieces. It was almost overwhelming with the sheer volume of fabric. We didn’t even see all of it, because Pippo seemed a bit overwhelmed, as well.

I should point out that I used the Halti on Pippo to avoid the constant pulling we usually have to deal with. We’d originally bought it when we were living in Manhattan and it made an immediate difference. It hasn’t lost its power. Pippo was incredibly well-behaved and didn’t jump or pull or perform any of his usual antics. We eventually left the fabric market, because he truly seemed overwhelmed. Despite the rain, there were large crowds of people. Perhaps between the sheer volume of people, as well as the inhibition of the Halti, he seemed almost hesitant to move on any further. That, or he really liked a particular fabric and was trying to get me to buy it. 😉 As a result of Pippo not wanting to move, I did find a fabric that I’ll probably go back for next week. It’s a great upholstery fabric that I think will make perfect pillows for our sofa.

Not wanting to make Pippo suffer after he’d been such a good boy, we headed out to begin our walk back home. Along the way, we passed a street leading to Janskerkhof, so we decided to take a quick walk through the flower market. Hippie that he is, Pippo would have loved to have stopped and sniffed all of the flowers, but with the rain coming down harder, I figured it should just be a quick walkthrough. It was quite inspiring, though, and I’m tempted to maybe start a bit of gardening on the terrace. The inside is pointless, unfortunately, because both cats will immediately begin to chew on any flowers. Such a shame, because there are a number of flower stands around the city with some beautiful blooms.

Once I do decide to buy something — be it flowers or fabric — I now know how to ask for what I want. We met up with the usual crowd last night and I worked on my Dutch a bit, and have managed to remember some of it! If I want to buy some fabric, I should say “Mag ik twee meters van deze stof” or “Ik wil graag twee meters.” I also worked on the pronunciation of ij, but that still seems to be more a matter of luck when I get it right.

Around the Bend

We went to dinner last night at Mick O’Connor’s, an Irish Pub as you might have guessed. They have really good fish and chips and provide you with malt vinegar, mayonnaise, HP Sauce, and ketchup, along with the tartar sauce of sorts that comes actually on the plate. They also pour a nice Guinness. In all, a very nice dinner.

Afterward, as we were walking home, we couldn’t help but notice what a gorgeous night it was. It was around 8:30 or 9 as we were walking home, and the temperature was lovely — not too warm, not too cold — and the summer evening light was golden. It seemed awful to simply go home, so we stopped off and picked up Pippo and headed out for a leisurely stroll along the canals and through the museumkwartier. I took my camera and ended up taking a ridiculous number of photos, so you’ve got a lot to go through if you want to hit up my Flickr site (accessed by clicking on the picture above, by the way).

A few more favorites:
Along the Curve
Along the Canal

Witches and Walks

Friday evening turned into an enjoyable night out with friends, where we met new people and learned a few interesting facts. After dinner, we went over to Café Potdeksel, as we do, and met up with René and a few other regulars; Merian joined us later. We also met a good friend of René’s and proceeded to have an entertaining evening discussing religion, politics and witchcraft, among other topics. Seemingly iffy topics of conversation, but ultimately fun and light-hearted.

R and M were telling us about a festival of sorts they were going to in their new village on Saturday. It seems that there were official weigh stations for witches a few centuries ago, but the one in their new village had a reputation of being honest and fair. If you were accused of being a witch, that was the weigh place you wanted to go to; as long as you had the proper height to weight ratio, you were given an official form stating that you were definitely not a witch. I think it was good for life. Many people running similar scales in other cities could be bribed to say that someone was a witch, but this particular town was honest and, in fact, never actually accused someone of not weighing enough and thus being a witch. (The idea was that witches must weigh very little in order to ride on their brooms.)

The scales are still there, and I gather you can still get weighed and receive your official paper stating you are not a witch, although it’s purely entertainment-driven now.

Oh, and yes, the requisite Monty Python jokes were made and appreciated during the conversation.

Saturday was a quiet, rainy, lazy day. Today has been a quiet, lazy day, as well, although the weather is nicer. We took Pippo for a walk along some of the canals this afternoon and enjoyed a bit of the music being played at one of the park areas. It was all very gezellig.


De Ramen

Pippo and I took a walk today down Nobelstraat, past Janskerkhof, and then back home via Voorstraat. Despite the constant pulling on his part, he was actually quite the good boy and put up with me stopping constantly to take photos. He even let me have a bit of fun with him. I didn’t mean to end up on Voorstraat, since it’s a street I already know quite well (one of the Albert Heijn groceries we go to is there), but it did give me the chance to photograph the building you see here. It’s one of my favorites (more of the building can be seen in my Flickr photostream). These red and white shutters are fairly common around town and just seem so very Utrecht to me for some reason. Café Tilt, at the end of our street, also has some which I’d like to photograph. Maybe that will be our destination tomorrow.

While we were walking on Voorstraat, we also went past Stein, an interior decorating sort of store. They have some lamps vaguely similar to the one we saw in Nisha, so I might have to go in and give their lamps a closer look. They’re a bit cheaper than the Nisha lamp, although ultimately, they’re probably a bit heavier and not as nice as the Nisha one.

I also did a bit of online exploring today, looking for expat groups. I’m feeling social and wouldn’t mind meeting some more people.  One I’m definitely interested in is the International Women’s Contact Utrecht, which seems to be quite active and involved in a variety of activities. Also of interest is SENSE (Society of Native-English-Speaking Editors), which could prove to be a valuable resource professionally.

Walk on the Pretty Side

Hidden Garden

A week later, I’m finally starting to feel a bit more human after that awful cold. Still not completely better, but I finally felt well enough to get out and wander around a bit. Plus, I was getting a bit stir crazy.

Today, I decided to go check out Pipoos, which is an arts and crafts store nearby. They didn’t have what I was looking for (linoleum for carving and making prints), but they did have quite a lot of other stuff, so it’s good to know where it is. Since that little visit didn’t take that long and I didn’t feel like going home yet, I decided to go wandering. I ended up over at the Oudegracht again and decided to see what was around. I know there are some art supply stores there, I just don’t know where. I didn’t find them today, either.

I did find a nice kitchen store called Dille en Kamille. It’s sort of like Williams-Sonoma. A fun shop to wander around in, and I ended up buying a wine stopper for sparkling wine, since the one we currently have is a bit cheap and flimsy. I also got to go into a store that G and I had window-shopped a couple of weeks ago (it had been closed at the time). It’s basically a Marimekko shop — lots of the fabrics and various tablewear items in some of the famous Unikko floral prints, among others. I saw some kitchen tins in the yellow/green print that would be handy and pretty for our own kitchen. I might go back and get them.

The photo at the top is some sort of garden patio area of what looks to be quite a nice restaurant. The hidden nature of it, along with the simple purple color accents and the bamboo, really piqued my interest. I don’t even know what street I was on, although I could probably find it again — hopefully! I’d like to go there some evening.