Saturday, 21 April 2018
Netherlands - Day 3 Utrecht and a long bike ride
So starting the day with a bike ride to school was an amazing experience. We found this lovely route along the waterfront, which took us about 10 minutes to get to school. There are hundreds of cycle lanes that cover the city like a web of routes. It is easy to follow and signposted everywhere. I borrowed a bike from a Dutch teacher and coupled with the beautiful weather this week it has given us this amazing experience of a Utopian existence of commuting to work in the sunshine along the beautiful waterway as an everyday occurrence. The weather here is Mediterranean all of the time but I still wouldn’t complain about a 10-minute bike ride in the rain if it meant the ride would be glorious some of the year.
Mid-morning lead us on a double-decker train to Utrecht. The city in a constant change through investment in the buildings. There is a real mix of the new and the old and European cities have kept the traditional town square which is littered with places to eat and shops that feed off the square. Utrecht is a busy city with a canal network that creates a ring right around the city center. Along the canal’s edge, there are numerous restaurants of different cuisines from all parts of the world. We took lunch at an Italian restaurant and we saw the expanding of the waterside restaurants on the other side of the canal and we enjoy a delightful lunch in the sunshine.
Our students spent some of the afternoon in one of the 2 escape rooms in Urtecht trying to break out and at the same time get some inspiration for their own escape room. Out of the 4 groups, only one managed to get out and they were given a little extra time as they were really close to getting out.
The canals are really old and have a network of bridges that connect. We took a canal tour around the city. The trilingual commentary was far from informative and simply pointed things out but gave little more than a description without any details about the parts of the city. It was a pleasant trip and sitting outside meant we were saved from the damp smell of the cabin.
Once the Canal tour a brief walk to the city square brought us to the City’s Cathedral with its detached tower. We walked around the cloisters of the cathedral but the main Cathedral itself was closed. This square was huge, a great big open space with buskers, shops, and restaurants all around. I imagine that on a market day the whole of the square would be bustling with sellers selling their wears.
We only found a couple of really touristy shops along the canal and the rest of the shops were what you would expect to find in any city, and a large helping of eateries along the way. The tourist shop had a good selection of your typical tourist wears, postcards, bottle openers, fridge magnets, clogs, and of course tulip bulbs. I bought a couple of different packets of bulbs as we last had some from a dear friend that gave us some for a wedding present but they fell victim to an aunt and a pair of scissors!
Back from Utrecht, the students all went off with their host families and our next dinner was with another teacher some 13 km from Heiderwijk. As we had got bicycles at the station we decided we could cycle it. I think we were more worried about cycling back after a big dinner but actually, both rides were really nice. The best thing has to be the continued network of cycle paths and the flat nature of the country. Obviously cycling that far meant a sweaty arrival, especially with a backpack, so tried to use the straps on the back that were obviously well stretch and wouldn’t hold my bag on for long, as I discovered as my bag went crashing to the floor! Need to think about a box on the front of my bike for future!
Dinner was at another bilingual teacher that was also hosting a group from Belgium but she cooked us a very splendid dinner of salmon and prawns and her pudding was in the colours of the Dutch flag. Strawberries on top, Cream in the middle and grapes at the bottom. Really nice tasty and not too filling before the ride home.
During the ride home, darkness fell on our road and we had to work out the lights on our 3 bikes. Mostly that was successful but of course, there was an issue with mine. The backlight was simply a switch but my front light was an old-fashioned dynamo and the light produced by it was appalling. Midway back I thought I’d try and adjust the angle of the beam but ended up breaking the light completely! Mobile to the rescue as a light!