May 11 - May 15
Thursday night (Ascension Day) I was having a delicious ramen meal at my go to restaurant (Hot and Spicy Chicken is my favorite) thinking of a place I'd like to visit outside the city on Friday. I asked Jerome the waiter at Sanju (yes I'm on a first name basis) where I should go and he suggested I drive out to the small village of Lage Vuursche. Not only is there room to run/hike, he mentioned there is an amazing pancake house there. Pancake house? Say no more. So the next morning I was off to Lage Vuursche. Of course I had to stop by the Village Coffee and Music shop for my "American Americano" from Marty (yes, first name basis) then I was on my way. It really is a beautiful little town, but before I partake in the pancakes, I need to get some exercise so I went for a run. The Netherlands is the 30th most densely populated country in the world yet when you drive from city to city you would never know it. There are long stretches of beautiful farmland and lush forests with canals permeating through the land every few kilometers. It really is beautiful. The area around Lage Vuursche is one of those gorgeous rural places. When I arrived I was actually able to just park the car (YES! there was parking!!!!) and set out to run off a few calories before I put them back in at the pancake house.
I staggered/limped to the imaginary finish line at the end of my run eager to sit in the morning sun and eat the well deserved pancakes. I walked to the De Vuursche Boer Pannenkoekenhuis (The Fiery Farmer Pancake House). It was 10:15 am and I asked the waiter for a menu and was told me they don't start the kitchen until 11:00 am. Uh excuse me? We are talking pancakes the breakfast food right? Oh that's right, different country, different customs. So I order a coffee and got the typical cappuccino that is served in the 4 oz cup that is sipped with the pinky out. I finished my coffee, caught up on some email and alas, time to order breakfast (nearing lunch). There were 15 different kinds and I opted for the ham and cheese and it did not disappoint. It was DELICIOUS! Nice recommendation Jerome.
I'm in a tough spot being by myself here in Utrecht. I want to get out and experience the different sights and culture but careful to wait for Cheryl to hit the really BIG stuff. Searching around I came across the Kasteel De Haar. It is an old Castle that looks interesting, that I'm betting Cheryl will not be interested in (I'll let you know how that turns out when she gets here!) The castle was originally built in 1391 by the De Haar family (go figure) but was passed on in 1440 and fell into ruins and rebuilt multiple times. The final restoration was in 1891 designed by the famous Netherlands architect Pierre Cuypers. He worked on the project for 20 years. It has 200 rooms and 30 bathrooms! See how much you can learn reading this blog?
Sunday was a particularly good day here in Utrecht. First of all it was Mother's Day and I got the opportuntiy to talk with my wonderful mother and wife (and family) which was awesome. That would have been good enough but I also did 4 loads of laundry AND decided to get a bike! In the Netherlands, having a bike is a must. Though I know road bikes, I know nothing about the cruisers most everyone here rides. Conventional wisdom is to buy a used bike which made sense to me since a) I'm not taking it home and b) it will probably get stolen anyway. I decided to go the safe route and purchase from shop as often times bikes sold on-line are stolen (see "b" above). I purchased a Sparta "stay cool" which means absolutely nothing to me but just as rescue dogs bond with their owners, I have a special feeling about my Sparta. One more box checked off!!