Country Profile

Utrecht - Holland
Utrecht Gallery

May 6,2005 Friday

Off to the low countries once again - this time to join up with our travel buddies, Virginia and Harvey, for a week in Belgium. You might wonder why we fly into Amsterdam, but with such short notice, we had to catch the only flight that would get us here in time. It gives us a wonderful chance to enjoy a favorite snack place (Bagels & Beans) and head to Albert Cuypmarkt to do one of my personal favorite things - spice and herb shopping. You can find the freshest of everything and there are some remarkable seasoning blends (for things like gyros and pizzas) that are tasty and convenient. We have also wanted to visit and see more of Utrecht and have booked a room for the night. That gives us a chance to wander the town and catch the train to Brussels on Saturday. Public transportation is wonderful - no driving required - a bus to the Barcelona airport, flight to Amsterdam, trams to and from the market, quick train back and forth to Haarlem, and another train to arrive in Utrecht by 4 in the afternoon. We walked out a bit, had a Chinese dinner and got to bed early - a lot of moving around today!



May 7 Saturday

We were up and out by 9 am with a stop for coffee and then a walk up to the Oudegracht where we had the pleasure of browsing the Saturday morning food market - some great prices, smells and colors. We picked up some heavenly aged local cheese and bread for snacking on later, then allowed ourselves to get lost in town. We followed the sound of bells to the tower of Domkerk where we entered a viewed the outstanding organ, wandered along in the light drizzle to Jons Kerk, and eventually ducked into Pieterskerk where we enjoyed the choir's rehearsal. Chancebrought us to the "Blomen Markt" - at this time of year, the flowers are just beautiful - a great selection of color plants, cooking and health herbs and a bit of everything else in plants, fountains and pottery. The day remained drizzly off and on and we found the people around town to be very friendly. Another market of textiles was as replete as the others. Enough walking already - we are completely lost (hey, we like that), but we finally went in to a coffee house and asked directions back to the train station. Now that we had found ourselves, lunch was in order - a creamy asparagus soup (peak season for it) and a shared "Italian burger" served on a tasty sundried tomato and olive tapenade with slender crispy frites on the side - a good restful break in what was a traditional brown cafe - great dark wood, a lot of character, crowded and noisy and fun. We picked up our luggage from the hotel and are now training through the countryside towards Rotterdam and the transfer to Brussels. It feels good to be off our feet! This part of the low country is very flat and verdant, lots of cows and sheep, and enormous greenhouse (taller than the fruit trees inside) that must have covered several acres. We arrived in Brussels around 7 pm to the welcoming arms of our friends