weeknotes 19-20/24

two weeks spent catching up with the netherlands! i don’t think i realized how much i missed the country until i sat my butt on a bicycle and roamed the countryside. after you get over the pain of a different bike seat, it’s just pure bliss. you can get anywhere in the netherlands with a bike, and bike infrastructure doesn’t feel like an afterthought — it feels like the country is designed for this simple and human-sized means of transportation. i also tried an electric bike for the first time, and i think it has the potential to be a game changer in our hilly southern terrains — now i’m dreaming of my own.

flying to the netherlands was a painful experience though, courtesy of my ear infection, and my ears stayed clogged for the duration of our stay. our house swap in utrecht was a cute old house, on a quiet residential street in the north part of town, with a little backyard, wooden floors, creaky stairs, blooming roses and so much charm.

utrecht itself is probably my favourite city in the netherlands. it feels alive and livable. it’s central and has a modern train station (that puts you in amsterdam in 15 minutes). the old city center is made up of more than just tourist shops, and the countryside all around makes it easy to escape. the huge advertising banners that clutter portuguese cities are replaced here with old trees lining the streets.

since there are not so many cars in the city, the neighborhoods have kids playing in the streets, and people sitting in benches on their doorsteps. jackdaws and crows cackle constantly, and great tits flit around the trees. the museums (we visited the rietveld house and the self-playing instruments museum) were lovely and niche. and just imagine, whole shops dedicated to board games or selling just english books for kids!

and we went to keukenhof at long last! it was on the week they closed for the year, so the gardens were not as full of blooms as in previous weeks, but it was still nice, with plenty of tulips, daffodils and other flowers to show off.

we took a day trip to groningen to see my old haunts, which are still all mostly there. there’s a huge new building in the old town, a massive library and media center, with a terrace and views that stretch through the province — i would have loved working from there. the motto for this trip was the 20th anniversary of paulo’s erasmus exchange period in utrecht, so we went back to his old uni as well, and met some friends from back then in the same cheap greek-italian restaurant they all used to go to, 20 years ago. the place is still there, and still the same!

in the end, time passed quickly, in a haze of nostalgia and new discoveries. it’s nice to go back to these places that changed our lives, see them with our 40 year old eyes and realize that they’re just as lovely as the golden memories we had of them.

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