Holiday Home Exchange in Utrecht

Dec 25th, 2008, 06:24 AM
  #21  
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Yesterday we went to the theater, just down the street and saw the Cascades, a kerst circus. Our exchange family suggested it and arranged the tickets -- in trade they wanted to go to a hockey game.

The show was circus acts: a bike acrobat, Chinese acrobats, trapeze artist etc. with funny bits stringing them together. It was sold out and one of the funniest shows we have seen. We all enjoyed it very much.

The shops closed during the afternoon. It was fairly crowded with people picking up lots of sweets and presents. Walking home last night we could tell that many people were going visiting with food and wine in their arms.

We celebrated Christmas Eve with fresh lamb burgers, candles, our Christmas tulips (instead of a tree), and opened the final night of our lego advent calendar. We set all the legos up from the calendar and made a little city on the table. Oh, and of course we played video games -- because that just seems to be what boys like to do.
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Dec 25th, 2008, 06:47 AM
  #22  
 
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That sounds wonderful sprin2. How kind of your exchange family to suggest yesterday's trip and get you tickets!

I'm just taking a break from it all, after presents and a major cookathon. The rest have settled down to watch Indiana Jones yet again, yawn.
We have a lovely peaceful day tomorrow, just the two of us, then on Saturday my son and DIL from Friesland - the ones with the boat will be joining us, and we do it all over again.
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Dec 25th, 2008, 11:00 AM
  #23  
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Merry Christmas hetismij and enjoy having your family around, and having some time off too! Please tell your son and dil we said hello and thanks again for the treats -- we all remember the tour as one of our highlights!

Today, Christmas, we had a day full of experiences. After opening our few presents (Santa had already brought presents on Saint Nickolas Day so the boys could play with them before we left. They didn't question getting presents early and we had a large dinner for friends and family so it felt like our Christmas) and having breakfast we biked back to Holy Trinity, the English Church.

Holy Trinity had a celebratory eucharist with their beautiful choir singing a lot. We also got to sing carols again. We joined them for coffee and treats after the service and spoke to a few of the members. The boys enjoyed it, even though we don't go to church that often.

Then we hopped on our bikes and went to the Spoorwegmuseum. They were open and the skating is right inside -- skating around a big train engine that looks like the Polar Express. The museum had crafts and evergreen decorations to make and we got to ride the carousel. The skates were free and they were very helpful trying to figure out our sizes.

After this we hopped on our bikes and spent the last few hours of daylight riding to Oud-Zuilen, north of Utrecht. We had read that it was cute and easy to reach -- just out the Oudegracht. There is a castle there and a restaurant that looked very good. It was as cute as we had heard.

We biked up one side of the canal and home on the other. On the way home we passed the red-light district. The girls are standing in the windows of houseboats. It was an interesting site and I don't think the boys noticed it at all.

We're now watching the third Harry Potter. They're running on tv in English this week.

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Dec 25th, 2008, 12:36 PM
  #24  
 
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I am continuing to enjoy your trip. Keep posting. I imagine you know about the museum passes that are good for a year? I hope they still exist. We bought them during our trip to The Netherlands and the passes were great for visiting so many little and out of the way museums that we probably would have given a miss. Some of them were so small, only a room or two and we were in and out in 30 minutes. Although the names are forgotten now, the memories of some them are still there. It was great fun! I think the museum passes paid for themselves by the time you visited your third museum and surprisingly they were accepted almost everywhere though not at the Kroller-Muller museum!
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Dec 25th, 2008, 12:58 PM
  #25  
 
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sprin2-- I am puzzled by your reference to Austerlitz. I looked it up,it is a town in the Czech Republic, site of a famous Napoleonic battle. We have spent time in Utrecht,but I don't remember the name. Clarify,please??
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Dec 25th, 2008, 01:31 PM
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Travelingman76: I looked it up in my Michelin Guide. According to Michelin, it is a pyramid built by Napoleon's soldiers in 1804 and discovered in 1894, aka Austerliz Pyramid. Perhaps, this is what sprin2 is talking about?
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Dec 25th, 2008, 01:33 PM
  #27  
 
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Austerlitz is also a small village in the province of Utrecht, not far from Zeist. It is named after the battle.
It is where a great number of French were garrisoned during the Napoleonic Wars - hence my reference to the pyramid which they built out of turf.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austerlitz_(Netherlands)
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Dec 25th, 2008, 08:19 PM
  #28  
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Thanks hetismij and also for acting as our personal tour guides and translator.

Yes, this is the town and attraction.

I'll keep posting as I can find free time. My mom and sister arrive today so we'll spend a week touring more enthusiastically --
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Dec 26th, 2008, 02:32 PM
  #29  
 
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sprin2

Thanks for posting - always enjoy reading your home exchanges.

When you have time please give us a few details about the home you are staying in, size, appliances etc.

Sandy
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Dec 27th, 2008, 02:57 AM
  #30  
 
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I am enjoying reading about your experiences. Thanks for posting.
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Dec 27th, 2008, 03:36 AM
  #31  
 
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sprin2 - I've really enjoyed reading about your home exchange adventures in Utrecht. I'll patiently wait for your next installment, as I hope you are currently out and about exploring the wonderful Netherlands.

Robyn >-
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Dec 31st, 2008, 10:49 PM
  #32  
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Our house was built in 1911. It is on a quiet street of similar three-story Dutch houses. Our neighborhood looks as if it was all developed about this time. Utrecht expanded outside their walls in the mid 19th century and this area looks to be part of that expansion.

It has three floors with very steep stairs. I think the house was divided into apartments at some time because there is a sink in many of the upstairs rooms. There are three bedrooms on the second floor and two of the third floor rooms have beds in them as well.

There are large windows looking out onto the street and a nice garden in back. There is a beautiful dining room and living room with a separate back room where their children have their toys. These rooms open into one large room or can be divided with pocket doors. The doors have glass with either etchings or stained glass.

There is a long galley kitchen, recently redone. It has a gas stove and dishwasher. The fridge, freezer and oven are in a separate back room that stays colder. The fridge is large, based on what I've seen in other European houses; the freezer is a separate unit.

We have a bath / shower and another shower which is quite new. There is a washer and dryer on the top floor and toilets on every floor.

Oh, and the boys would want me to report there is a playstation and cable tv. We have had a lot of good movies on tv this week in English so that is a treat before they go to bed.

I'll write more late about what we have seen and our neighborhood.
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Jan 1st, 2009, 01:18 AM
  #33  
 
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Washbasins were normal in the bedrooms of older houses. Ours (built 1915) had them too, until we took them out, so it doesn't necessarily mean it was once apartments.
Glad you and you boys are enjoying yourselves. Did you have fireworks last night?
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Jan 1st, 2009, 01:49 AM
  #34  
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Our guide books said New Years celebrations included fireworks -- but we have never seen or heard so many fireworks!

We heard fireworks all day (and had heard them for several days). We spent the day in Amsterdam and were treated to quite a display of Roman candles and other smaller fireworks outside our restaurant during an early dinner before coming home.

This did not prepare us for midnight -- everyone poured out of their houses and there were fireworks everywhere. We could see them all over the city and we had an amazing display on our little street with several different groups shooting off all kinds. It lasted for an hour and was quite spectacular!

Where do you buy them? In many of the States (including Virginia) most fireworks are illegal, except for the littlest ones. Cities will organize displays at July 4th or New Years but individuals are not supposed to have them. We haven't seen them for sale -- but perhaps we're not looking in the right store?
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Jan 1st, 2009, 02:16 AM
  #35  
 
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Fireworks are only sold on 29,30, and 31st of December, at least legally - many come in from Belgium and Germany illegally.
Various shops sell them - hardware stores, some toy shops, that sort of thing, mostly they advertise by folders through the door, so you can pre-order them, but you can just walk in and buy them on the day too.
After the firework disaster in Enschede a few years back the rules on storing fireworks were tightened up and so fewer stores now sell them as many couldn't invest in the new bunkers needed.
Officially fireworks can be let off only on 31 December between 10 am and 2pm but they are always let off much earlier - I heard the first back at the end of November. The police do their best to enforce the law, but get a bit overwhelmed by it all.
Sadly every year people are injured or even killed by fireworks, and pets and farm animals become the victims of them.
This year a horse had to be put down after teenagers let of fireworks in it's paddock. It panicked and slipped on ice, breaking three of it's legs.
Part of the punishment was that the boys had to view the cadaver, which apparently shocked them into silence for the rest of the day.
Zoos turn the radio up loud in the giraffe's night quarters to disguise the noise somewhat as giraffe are particularly vulnerable as you can imagine.

I'm just glad my dogs aren't worried by fireworks and sleep through it all.
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Jan 1st, 2009, 11:08 AM
  #36  
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Of the many things we have done in Utrecht, one of our favorites was the Rietveld Schröder House. We made a reservation through the Centraal Museum and then you go there to board a small bus to take you to the house.

The tour goes through the construction and design of the house, the only building built entirely on the basis of the De Stijl movement (think Mondriaan's paintings). Then the tourguide shows how the open house transforms into different rooms for night and how everyday objects like toys and record players were hidden to confirm to the artistic principles.

It was a great tour and we all enjoyed it very much -- even our two kids who are still talking about the moving walls and use of color.

As part of the tour we also got to see into another Rietveld design and drove past a third construction. Our tour guide was really good and did a nice job of talking to all of the people in the tour.

The house is on the World Heritage list and is worth a trip if you are near Utrecht and intrested in modern architecture / art http://www.rietveldschroderhuis.nl/r...p?color=yellow
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Jan 2nd, 2009, 10:46 AM
  #37  
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One day we took the train to Den Hague. We stopped first at the Mauritshuis, a lovely museum not too far from the station.

There was a short line to get in but once inside it wasn't too crowded for most of our visit. They have free audio tours although the children's English tour of the permanent collection wasn't working properly. The kids made do with the adult version and enjoyed having some technology to "play" with.

The special exhibit is called "Pride of Place" and showcases 17th-century Dutch cityscapes. It was really good and the audio guide made it one of the best art exhibits I've seen in a long time. You could hear about the painting, see on a contemporary plan where the artist stood, or see what that view looks like today. It was a huge hit with all of us -- even the kids.

We spent so long on this exhibit we ate a late lunch and the Mauritshuis cafe was sold out of everything except veggie quiche and mushroom soup. These choices were fine with the adults, and the boys didn't fuss about their lunch of custard yogurt and chips, although they were hungry afterwards.

We spent a little while in the equally impressive permanent collection and got to view Girl with a Pearl Earring before a bus tour filled up the room.

We had visited the Mauritshuis many years ago, back when there were sheets in every room to describe the paintings and decoration in the rooms. We really like the intimacy of the space and that it is not too overwhelming.

One disappointment was the special exhibit poster was all sold out.
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Jan 2nd, 2009, 11:41 AM
  #38  
 
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Thank you for continuing to share your experiences - and to hetismij for the added input and information.

It sounds like you are having a wonderful time. Your boys are very fortunate to have the experience of "living" in another country. And what a great way to travel with children.
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Jan 2nd, 2009, 12:03 PM
  #39  
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After the Mauritshuis we had just enough time to walk to the Panorama Mesdag http://www.panorama-mesdag.nl/#. This is a large, cylindrical painting of Scheveningen, the coastal village next to The Hague. It was painted in 1881.

The painting is lit by natural light and the foreground is real sand scattered with objects. This gives the impression that you are really part of the scene.

It was really impressive and much more "realistic" than the other panorama that I'm familiar with, the Gettysburg Cyclorama.

Another big hit with the whole family and well worth a visit.
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Jan 3rd, 2009, 04:36 AM
  #40  
 
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sprin2:

You did not disappoint with the detailed description of your home in Utrecht.

How interesting to hear about the fire works and I also appreciate the added details by hetismij.

You must be very proud of your two boys who seem to adjust easily to the circumstance and didn't fuss about their lunch of custard yogurt and chips.

It is very kind of you to post during your holiday.

Sandy
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