It has been just over ten years since I have been to Europe. Then, an adventurous (but naive) 19 year old. Now, a somewhat adventurous (less naive) 28 year old. Excitement did not hit me until the plane broke through the clouds and the tiny Dutch houses and green pastures began to appear.
I am now sitting in an adorable and slanted Utrecht flat of my equally adorable friends, Samara and Leif. To add to the cuteness, you have to take a ladder up to their bed (and you move the ladder to get up to their rooftop patio!). From their west-facing windows, you get a view of this building (as pictured here with a delicious local strawberry):
Upon stepping foot in Utrecht, I realized I was better off pedaling than walking. Cobble sidewalks are narrow (my suitcase has developed a shrill squeak from dragging it from Utrecht Centraal Station to Sam and Leif’s) and sometimes non-existent. Bikes rule the city and you will feel less inadequate if on one. So, Sam kindly took me to a shop a few blocks from their flat and a young, handsome, wavy-haired man named Ivar set me up with a child-sized rental bicycle (because the Dutch are very tall and I am not). Chain of order on the road: Cyclists > Pedestrians > Motorized Vehicles. Riding abreast is encouraged (and rude to your riding partner if you don’t) and bell-ringing is a must when weaving through pedestrians.
We cycled around while I got a better feel for the city. We caught a craft market off of the canal and watched people hand-grind their own coffee beans for a cup of java-to-go and visited the Saturday flower market. I missed the tulips despite a late season this year and convinced Sam and Leif to grow kale and chard on their rooftop patio. The one and only negative thing I have learned about Utrecht is that kale is seasonal here. Gasp.
Dutch things I have learned: Particularly words that are not directly translated into English, like lekker (which means a myriad of wonderful things but is applied to anything that gives you good vibrations). The Dutch also like to use sport as a verb and unrelated but very Dutch, is the love of bad American covers, like Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It by Will Smith (as I learned while walking through the park while a cover band was rocking hard to the song and enjoyed by many hip people). Eggs are not refrigerated. Yogurt comes in a milk carton.
And now, I leave you with two cat-related Utrecht photos (and here’s to many more):