Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A weekend in Utrecht

It's been more than a week since my last post, a quiet week without surprises, which is why I had nothing new to post.

Time flies, and my second weekend in Utrecht came and passed. I was planning a quiet weekend at home, with a good book and a cup of tea, since rain had been forecasted. On Saturday morning - to my big surprise - the sky was showing some blue between the clouds. I did not feel like wasting the day, so I took my bike and cycled towards the city-center for a nice breakfast.

My first stop was Sector 3, a café that - despite the horrible name that makes me think of a sci-fi B movie - is very nice and cozy. It is also a bakery and they make some delicious croissants. I sat on a couch right under the big windows facing the main canal of the city, and I spoke my first undying words in Dutch: Mag ik een latte macchiato en een croissant, alstublieft (which very mundanely means "I'd like a latte macchiato and a croissant please").

After polishing off the breakfast and reading a few pages of my book, I left the café and walked to my second stop: the Utrecht Centraal Museum. The building where the museum is located is very beautiful, with old red-brick walls and a contrasting modern and eclectic interior. The collection though is not as interesting as the location, with the exception of the famous Rietveld's De Stijl chair. Another interesting item is the 1000-year-old boat that is kept in the museum's basement and which really smells terribly! The strong smell is due to the preservative substance used to treat the wood, which is the same used for rails (that indeed smell bad, too). The boat is animated by an artistic but gloomy installation with creepy sounds and lights which made me run away in no time.  The rest of the collection is temporary exhibitions and a few paintings bu the Utrecht Caravaggisti (who, as the name suggests, were inspired by the Italian painter Caravaggio).

The third stop was cute: the price of the Centraal Museum also included access to the Dick Bruna Huis, a little museum dedicated to the character of the little rabbit Nijntje (in Italy it is known as Miffy) and her creator Dick Bruna, who was born and bred in Utrecht.
I really LOVE Miffy! The museum is full of toys, drawing materials and books that kids can use freely. The Netherlands really is a children- friendly country: you see a lot of them around, and there appears to be a large number of places and activities for kids everywhere.The best part of the museum is a documentary about the work and life of Bruna, which also shows his drawing techniques: he draws the outline of the image on a transparent sheet, and then colours it using hand-cut coloured cardboard in just 5 colours - green, blue, yellow, orangey red and sometimes brown. He draws inspirations for his work from Matisse and Mondrian.

After leaving the museum I thought I would have a little walk. Down by the Oudegracht canal I run across the Saturday flower market: it is not as huge as the one in Amsterdam, and during the autumn the variety of flowers is somehow limited, but it is truly stunning. It was fun hearing the peddlers shout just as they do in Italy at food markets!

I then entered Hema, the iconic Dutch department store where you really can find anything: from bycicles to makeup and clothing. The Hema has a reputation of selling the best smoked sausages in the Netherlands, and I could not help myself! I bought a mixed pack of sausage + stamppot (mashed potatoes with cabbage or other vegetables) and I left with a smile on my face!

On that night I had planned a girls' night out with my housemate J. After a nice dinner and a home-made mojito, around 11pm we cycled under the rain to a bar on the Oudegracht. The place was a sort of Irish pub with a lot of people standing and drinking beer before they headed to some club. It was very busy and we were sharing a small table with some very social Dutch guys with whom we had a chat. We then went to a small club where we danced the night away. It was good fun! I am lucky to have J. as a housemate.

On Sunday I had lunch at Mr. and Mrs. M, my Italian colleague and his wife (but I should say friends by now!). Mr. & Mrs. M are sweet and kind people who have helped me a lot with settling down in Utrecht. They've become an important reference in my new life. On top of it, they are generous and wonderful hosts and Mrs. M is an amazing cook! On Sunday she had prepared hand-made gnocchi for us. It was a lovely lunch with some of their friends as well, who are also fun and interesting people. I had good fun!

Thumbs up for this second weekend. Now I am looking forward the coming one, which will also be filled with love, friends and merry gatherings!

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