bike trips & canal tours (2004-03-04 - 12:22 p.m.)
Well, I've settled into life in Utrecht and have been keeping pretty busy. I'm lucky that the timing worked out so well on this - Rem is a bit busy because he has classes and homework, but Steph is totally free and (I suspect) would spend her entire day reading if I didn't drag her out! We read in the evenings instead, which usually suits me perfectly.
We did get out one evening this week, though. The Death Cab for Cutie concert! It was amazing, and just as I suspected was held at a small club (probably smaller than the old Rev in Edmonton). It was lucky we had tickets beforehand, because the show was sold out. It was very confusing waiting in line because they kept coming by and making announcements in Dutch - luckily there was a guy behind us who didn't mind translating, so we eventually managed to get into the right line.
It was so small that I managed to worm my way right to the front of the stage. Unfortunately the sound was screwed up and you could hardly hear the vocals for the first half, but happily they fixed that partway through. I bought tickets for Steph and Remkes as well, but the smoke and crowds were bothering Steph too much and they took off halfway through the show, which was really too bad. It didn't get really good until after they fixed the sound.
Afterwards I impressed myself by actually talking to someone next to me - she was speaking English and turned out to be an American married to a Dutch guy who had a dream of moving to Canada! Turned out her friend knew the band and they came out to say hi to her, and Ben Gibbard (the lead singer, on whose voice I'm fixated right now) stayed out and talked to people. So yes, I got to meet Ben Gibbard. I was squealing about this to Steph and she said, "Who?" so as a bit of background, Steve, Alex and I all loved the bands Ben is in (as well as his solo stuff) and for about a month there was always one or two Ben Gibbard CDs in rotation on the CD player in Edmonton. So seeing him in concert, not to mention shaking his hand, was pretty cool.
Anyway, that was my excitement for the week. (Wish Steve was around to rant about the concert with!) We have stayed in Utrecht for the last few days, but have kept busy around here. On Tuesday we went for a canal tour of Utrecht. It was well worth doing - happily, the guide spoke both Dutch and English so we did get some sort of explanation of what we were seeing out the side of the boat. (Not as much as the Dutch people, but at least an idea of building names!) We went right under the bridge down from Steph's house. Turns out the whole underside is covered with sharp nails, to discourage the pigeons. No wonder I'm seeing so many pigeons with disfigured feet... they're too dumb to stay off the nails! (I suppose I should be outraged at the cruelty of that, but being bit by so many pigeons while I was working in the Spetch lab has drastically lowered my sympathy for them.) It was neat to see all the wharf cellars, where they used to store goods brought by boat on the canal, but now are shops, restaurants and galleries. One of them used to be a brewery - they used canal water to brew. Fine, except that the canal also functioned as an open sewer! blargh.
Yesterday was a really good day. Rem came with Steph and I to the market in the morning (where I sadly still did not find a hat) and introduced me to these cool almond Dutch cookies. Then, in the afternoon, Rem lent me his bike and Steph and I went for a ride. Well, technically I suppose Steph lent me hers, as I really couldn't manage Rem's very well. The seat was too high and I felt like my butt was higher than my head! not the most comfortable way to ride. Steph's bike was pretty interesting too. I felt like I was in the 1920's, as it's one of those bikes that you sit on bolt upright with your arms in front of you. Very sedate. It's also heavy as heck and has a huge amount of inertia! You were fine once you were going, but getting it started was entertaining.
We cycled out to Westbroek, a small town about 15 km from home. We stopped and had applegebak met slagroom (apple pie with whipped cream!) at a little cafe. There were some teenage girls there who couldn't stop staring at us. Sort of offputting actually. The town of Westbroek is very pretty in an overly landscaped kind of way, with pretty brick bridges over all the canals from the road to the driveways. We saw a guy fishing in the canal and an old guy on rollerblades.
By the time we headed back into town my butt was feeling it. I think I'm bruised! Steph got a huge bruise on her shin as well from trying to start Rem's bike (the inertia thing can be a bit of a pain when you're trying to quickly get across a busy road). Also, to give you some idea of the pace we were going at - we got passed by two kids riding their bikes and holding hands, and by an old white-haired lady wearing high heels and a fur coat! gah. It's such a bike culture here - it's really neat. Everyone rides bikes, from businesspeople clutching briefcases and cellphones to teenage girls with tiny skirts and too much eyeliner, to old ladies with shopping bags. Also people think nothing of balancing on the back of someone else's bike and not holding on - sometimes you see two or three people on one bike! No one wears a helmet, but it's probably safer here because there is always a bike lane included in the road. There are even little bike traffic lights.
I was happy to finally get out biking. It's a great way to see a bit of the countryside, even if we're bad at it compared to the Dutch.
The other project I have been working on lately is pictures. I've slapped together some boring but serviceable webpages and hopefully can get them up soon. So far I've had trouble getting them uploaded, but I'm hoping to remedy that soon.
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