All Kinds Of Romance

Trip Start Jan 31, 2010
Trip End Jul 21, 2010

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Where I stayed
Robert's House

Flag of Netherlands  , Utrecht,
Monday, March 1, 2010

I wake early and can't remember where I am, the rain on the skylight doesn’t sound familiar.

It takes a few moments as I look out the window onto the back yard, the morning just waking up. Birds and what not doing there thing.

Breakfast is egg, cheese, bread, meats and cereal – all the glorious staples of a Dutch diet. Marien pulls out some strange crazy coffee bags he received from Japan, that come with their own cup holder poury thing that sit over the top. I’m more amazed at the instruction graphics, but the coffee tastes pretty good too.

As I’m leaving they both let me know if I ma ever in any trouble to just call, I am always welcome in their home. I thank them dearly, and will see them again I am sure. We have a family photo and both learn how to use the timers on our cameras.

The sun is shining when I arrive back in Utrecht. Still cold from the wind but lovely and bright.

I’m back a little later than planned so Robert and I need to moved quickly to meet Marja and take the edumacational romance that is the canal ride. At first Robert was all "romance" and I’m like “Romance? Wicked”. But it turns out said romance is a no

1 – The dog is coming, there is no way there’s romance there

2 – Marja is coming, there is no way he romance is for me

3- There is a tour guide. Five people on a romance canal tour does sound right

and it’s true. The romance is not to be had. The fifty-seat canal boat has wicked red faux-leather seats, water for the dog, and a group of possibly French tourists up the back.

The tour guide is great, doubling up everything in Dutch an English, and playing excerpts from a tourist cd as well.

The old canal used to be part of the river Ryne, which is why it meanders so (both the guide and the recording actually use the word meander, which I thought was rather poetic). There are three rings of canals in Utrecht, two of which were used a battlefronts to defend against the Spanish and any others seeking to claim the land. When we were walking through the parks Marja mentioned a collection of houses that were made of wood, and she always wondered why, as it was not exactly allowed according to the building laws they have. Some research showed that they are houses from earlier times, when they would keep the cannons. As a form of defense, the army would fine the cannons through these buildings; so having them made of wood reduced the amount of resistance to the canon ball while providing enough cover. The canons have since been removed but the houses remain.

The guide points out the remaining fortress areas (now well dilapidated), the narrowest house in Utrecht (which was once an alleyway, as mentioned before) and the shops that back onto the canal, where they receive their goods for sale still today.

After the canal ride I’m feeling rather educated. We make plans to see Marja for dinner, then Robert and I head off to find the Music Box Museum. It has moved rather recently, so Marja’s directions have us somewhere else, until I get another map from the tourist office. After all this I remember it’s a Monday, museums close on Monday. Crap balls. The other thing I am yet to do is climb the Dom tower. Robert says it’s worthwhile, but will not go with me. I will see him at home later on.

The Dom church and Dom tower used to be connected when they were first built. Due to lack of money things took time, much longer than anyone expected. It got the point where the connecting piece was all that remained to be erected, but by then the extravagant fashion of the gothic church was that people got over it and they church basically said just finish it so we can use it. In models you can see the point where all this changed. In the windowpanes, the flying buttresses, all detail is removed from the middle passage, leaving it with the strange feel feel of a disused portable in a primary school. Apparently the man upstairs didn’t really approve of it either, as tornado struck the town years later, and while much of the city survived, the middle section was destroyed, leaving the tower and the church separate buildings.

The info desk says I need to wait two hours for the next tour. As I’m about to head out for a coffee I find another tour group about to start. This is apparently a private one. Make no noise and people will not ask questions. Once inside the tour guide has a Canadian accent and leads us through the building and up the tower. The staircases are narrow, the kids in the group very loud and making me feel rather old.

The tour group is from Italy. They school is on exchange with a sister school in Rotterdam and they are on a day trip to Utrecht. One teacher is originally from Canada, two from Italy, one from Netherlands and one from Australia. She moved about ten years ago to be an English teacher and never looked back.

The view from the top of the tower is amazing. With a beautiful blue sky above us you can see all the way to Amsterdam. The bells up the top run on an automatic system, going off every fifteen minutes, so we’re here for at least on of those. The tour guide says this is a similar system used by the music boxes in the museum that’s closed and while it runs automatically, there is also an opportunity to play like a piano, with a collection of levels connected to hammers. But not for us, oh well.

On the walk back and around I come across the strangest sight. Someone else tied and hung a teddy bear from a tree, suspending it over the canal. It’s not the smallest of soft toys and I do wonder how and when they would actually do something like that. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t there yesterday.

Back home and both of us play and practice on separate floors until Robert hears something I’m playing that he could play along with, so we’re busting out chords and covers and solos for a good hour or so until we’re expected at Marja’s.

Open mic is at the Pothouse, correctly name 't Oud Pothuis. The pub is wicked, beside the canal and underneath with a restaurant bit to one side, then a bar and band room in the other large room. Musical instruments are stapled to the walls and seeing – an accordion, cymbals, a banjo mandolin. None of these can really be used, but they look freaking wicked. The stage is full of instruments too. Apparently any of these are for the taking, which is not something I’m used to in Melbourne. I have a nice fruity beer with a gnome on it and am greeted by another muso who is just making his return to the stage. He plays with half capos and talks a lot of nerves and pacing his drinking and dropping his guitar all in very quick succession.

Mary from the Museum said she’d most likely be here; I don’t spot her until I’m just about to play. Her friends from fashion school all seem pretty wicked.

I blast out five songs – Dancing, Rainbow Connection, Flying Na´ve, Charming Man, Waiting – to a warm applause, which is freaking sweet. I get of stage and am congratulated by Mary, who did not know what to expect “seeing such a big person with such a small guitar. It was great” and wants to sing now too, but has no song practiced or any instrument to play.

 I also meet Patrick, who played keys for Eric’s band at the start of the night. He’s really talented and a little crazy, and also produces a lot of electronic music which he has had released under a label in Portugal. He’s currently working with a singer songwriter – they come with vocals guitars and melody, and he produces everything behind it. The night is great, the other acts are amazing and I leave a little earl to try and find some hot food. No luck, I’m home and on the internet for way to long with bowls of cereal.
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mary on

haha, so sweet
and yess, i did not have a song or instrument... sad

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