Day 2: Utrecht - Leeuwarden

Utrecht Travel Blog

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Utrecht Cathedral
Utrecht is about an hour or so south of Amsterdam.  A little more low-key.  More of a student town, and a huge cultural centre.  We went there A.) Because it was one of Jena's favourite places in the country, and B.) Because it was a convienent spot to meet our Ride later in the day.  More on that later.

After spending more time than was necessary trying to figure out the storage lockers at Utrecht Centraal station, we went out into the city.  Jena had one thing she really wanted to show me, so we meandered through the streets until we got to Dom Tower and it's accompanying church.  The tower is 112 metres high, and I'm sure it would have been really cool to climb if we had time, but as it was.
Dom Tower
..  
So we satisfied ourselves with snooping around the cathedral instead.  It's nice enough.  Very cool pipe organ inside.  I think I'm just officially cathedraled-out on Europe any more.  They all start to look the same to me after a while.

Interesting fact though: Dom Tower is actually across the road from the church.  At one point in history it used to be one connected building, but a hurricane in the 17th century destroyed most of the city, including the nave between the two.

At 3.00, we made back for the train station to meet up with the Annema's.  (Here's the backstory, for reference: Jena studied in The Netherlands for a year during highschool.  Eva was one of the friends she made while there.  They haven't seen each other since Eva went to visit Jena in New York a couple years ago, so Eva's family [The Annema's] were more than excited to see Jena again and have her stay with them for a few days.
Utrecht Cathedral
  I was just part of the package.)

We were told to keep our eyes open for "a girl in a pink coat, and a devilishly handsome older man" in the busy station.  I, of course, set about identifying every pink coat I saw, but Jena managed to spot them a few minutes later and it was big reunion and yay-ness and hugs all around.  Eva, her dad, and her brother Friso had all come down to meet us, and after another difficult process of retrieving our luggage from the lockers, we piled into their car for the 2-hour drive up north to Leeuwarden.

What a weirdly enjoyable car ride that was.  Jena and Eva obviously had tons to catch up on, I got to know Eva, and Friso was driving, so Mr Annema pointed out interesting sites and told me tons of interesting things about the country the whole way.

The drive was beautiful too!  And I got to cross another important Dutch sight of my list: Windmills.  (The only thing remaining that I wanted to do was Ride a Bike).  Windmills upon windmills upon windmills.  Seriously, all the mess with people who refuse to put up windmills because they're "not aesthetically pleasing" is a load of crap.  They're possibly one of the most bizarrely beautiful sights I've ever seen.  Ireland had always had a couple outside the cities, but never this many en masse.  They are so mesmerizing.  And the sky was this gorgeous purple hue, and the ground was all snow.  :)  I wish I could have stopped to take some pictures.  But naturally, by the time we were getting close to the outskirts of Leeuwarden, the sun had set and it had begun snowing again.  *le sigh* 

Eva's mom and her sister, Sara, were waiting at the house when we arrived, with warm tea and Christmas bread and the works.  And the Annema's house was so nice.  Warm and cozy and all decorated for Christmas.  So all 7 of us settled into the living room for the evening.  Everyone still had tons of catching up to do.  It'd been 5 years since Jena and the rest of the family had seen each other, so it was fun to watch them.  I sort of felt like a weird outsider at first, but everyone was making it a point to speak in English, so I got used to it all quickly enough.  Eva and Mr Annema speak perfect English (Eva sounds British when she speaks), and the rest of the family speaks amazing English, though I think they were less comfortable using it in front of me and Jena (which they shouldn't of been, because my Dutch consisted of lekker, Dank je wel, and Albert Hejn).  So occasionally I was a couple minutes behind on some really funny joke, looking around hopelessly until someone offered a translation.  Which they always did.  I appreciated that.  :]

And then we got a home-cooked meal!  Mmm... real food.  Haven't had that since we stayed with Carmel's family in Ireland back in September.

I was also all ready to be like "thank you for letting me sleep on your couch," but the Annema's treated us like royalty.  It was almost too much hospitality.  I didn't know what to do with myself.  Jena and I got a spare room all to ourselves on the third floor (technically the room was in the house nextdoor, but because their grandparents live in that house, they had just put a door between the two places on the top floor).  Not only did the room have it's own kitchen (!), but Mrs Annema had put out all sorts of teas, and biscuits, and towels and soaps and everything for us. 

Needless to say, it was a good night's sleep!


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Utrecht Cathedral
Utrecht Cathedral
Dom Tower
Dom Tower
Utrecht Cathedral
Utrecht Cathedral
Utrecht
photo by: krysleigh