Friday, June 15, 2007

visitors! (utrecht)

The next exciting adventure in store for our visitors was a daytrip to Utrecht, also called the domstad in reference to the the Dom Tower in the middle of town. The 14th century Dom is the tallest church tower in the Netherlands, and it used to be attached to the Dom Church until 1674 when a tornado destroyed the nave. This was shortly after the fervent iconoclasm, which is still apparent if you go inside the church. The two structures have never been rejoined.
In addition to Amber, Adam, Joe, J.J., and Camille, Stu (my American friend and colleague from work at the University) and Juanba were also in attendance. I met Juanba when he was working for Carl Mitcham at the Colorado School of Mines a couple of years ago. He is now back in his homeland of the Basque Country, an autonomous community within Spain. But at the time of this daytrip he was spending a month at my university as a guest researcher.

When you arrive at Utrecht Centraal train station, you are immediately ensconced in the Hoog Catharijne, an enormous indoor shopping mall. It never fails that we get lost before we even step foot outdoors. We wandered toward the Dom through Utrecht's quaint streets until somehow me and all the guys were stopped by a quasi-misogynist French Israeli ex-pat who spoke Dutch and English. We had a rambling, culturally ambivalent and altogether unproductive exchange, though it was amicable enough due to his inexplicable Americaphily.

We met up with the ladies in front of the Dom Church and thought briefly about a tour of the Dom, but decided against it. Instead, we decided to wander along the central canal, which used to carry water from the Rhine river, but does not anymore.

We stopped at one point along the canal at a little cafe to have a drink, in this photo of me below, you can see the Dom.

After walking some more and taking pictures here and there, we decided to eat at an Italian joint and it was lekker. (at least I think it was Italian, but it has been a while ago now and Amber will remember better).
To wrap up the evening, we went to the other side of the canal and found a very tiny bar with just some chairs lined up in a row waiting for us to sit and admire the canal. There was a nice bartender who stood in the doorway behind us and brought us our beer, cassis, wine, spa rood, etc. Amber thought it would be a good idea to play telephone, which was fun until Joe ruined it all by censoring Camille's dirty joke about miss piggy and kermit. Even after his studies in the big east-coast cities he is still a decent midwesterner.

Amber took some lovely photos of us having our drinks. I especially like the bicycles in the foreground - it does not get anymore typically Dutch.

Joe and J.J. ordered some fries at the trainstation while I noticed the next train left in three minutes. We ran frantically in the wrong direction at first, but just barely made it. Amber had to hold the door open so that it would not close before Joe, bearer of the all important french fries, could get on board. We met a nice woman on board thanks to Camille's outgoing nature and so we taught her how to play go fish.
At the end of the night, back on our little patio under the stars in Hengelo, we shared one of our Bordeaux wine bottles with the whole gang and sat around for a while telling stories and singing songs. We especially enjoyed Juanba's great sense of humor and his attempts to tell us jokes that really do not translate well at all outside of his local culture and language. But they were funny nonetheless, because he could not stop laughing at his own jokes, which none of us could understand. Then the party broke up and sadly we had to say goodbye to Joe, J.J., and Juanba, who all left over the coming days for their various destinations elsewhere in Europe.

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