From the 15th of November through the 3rd of December we rented a car with our sights on visiting our (grand)children, family and friends in The Netherlands. The initial reason to go were the festivities connected to Sinterklaas (Santa Claus), more specific the fact that our youngest grandson still believes Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Pieten (Black Pete’s) are for real. Our daughter had arranged for a visit of Sinterklaas and two of his Zwartepieten in person on the 30th of November at her home – a few days earlier than the ‘official’ evening for giving presents (‘pakjesavond’), being the 5th of December. During our stay in The Netherlands we of course visited our beloved city of Utrecht. And guess what? In the city we had a brief encounter with Sinterklaas himself and three of his Zwarte Pieten, as this picture proves.

The most famous landmark of Utrecht is its Dom Tower with a height of 112,32 meters (over 370 feet). Seen from almost underneath one’s inevitably impressed by it.

Another picture of this beautiful tower, now seen from some distance – but hardly more, even less, than its height.

The building of the Dom Cathedral started in the year 1254. Initially the Dom was a Roman Catholic church, built for the diocese of Utrecht. Since 1580 it has been a Protestant church.

n Wednesday the 1st of August in 1674 a horrible tornado brought about the church partly to collapse. The tower is separated from the church ever since. Of course this disaster caused a pile of rubble. For several reasons it took 152 years (1826) before everything was cleared out and the present Dom-square was created. There have been plans to rebuild the missing part but no plan ever made it beyond the drawing-phase. Money might be an obstacle (a wild guess).

The city has got lots of beautiful historic canals, one of them encircling its centre. Some megalomaniacs decided in the sixties of last century to build a huge mall, to integrate the main railway station in it and to alter the connection between these new heap of buildings and the city centre. Filling in a part of the encircling canal and creating a motorway(!) in its channel was part of the plan. Several buildings were demolished, among the ‘victims’ one of the most important Jugendstil-buildings of The Netherlands. How could they??? Wisdom seems to have returned. After years of discussion (an obstacle again, of course, money) the motorway is removed and work is on the way to recreate the part of the encircling canal that we all have missed for too many years. On the right hand side the new prestigious music centre stands tall.

For the first time we saw this pole –inside the mall, described with the last photograph- which offers the opportunity to reload whatever electronic device fits in one of its boxes. All the different types of connection are fitted inside every box. Half an hour for free! Amazing! Just connect your i-phone or anything like it, close the box, take the key with you and go shopping for half an hour.

A poll among a representative part of the Dutch population has learnt that the HEMA-brand is the one that would be missed the most – if ever they would collapse or cease trading. HEMA is hugely popular – even with people from abroad after they get to know it, we know from our own experience. May they last forever. If you ever have the chance, buy half a hot sausage from them and eat it on the spot. Bliss! And where is one able to buy 40 roses for € 5,00? Or eat in a restaurant for a mere € 2,50? The roses are absolutely okay. The best flowers are close to ‘gratuit’ in The Netherlands. We have our doubts however about the restaurant.

Corner Oudegracht-Bakkerstraat. Just a lovely little historic shop.

Facades of the Lichte Gaard. Pretty close to the Dom Tower.

Flowers, flowers, flowers. Only € 5,00 for 30 this time. Or two bunches for just € 5,00. Even paying on the street by means of a debit- or creditcard is not a problem. It’s one of the things especially the female half of the two of us misses dearly. In France, or England for that matter, flowers are close to gold – price-wise that is.

A movable barrel organ. Not only does it look beau-ti-ful, it sounds equally great.

Oudegracht (Old Canal), seen from the Bakkerbrug.

The opposite side from the same bridge.

De Winkel van Sinkel (left) with a part of the buildings of the town hall in the middle and right of the middle. For our fellow countrymen: In de Winkel van Sinkel - Is alles te koop - Hoeden en petten - En damescorsetten - Drop om te snoepen - En pillen om te poepen. (Untranslatable unfortunately – though verbally explainable…)

Vismarkt (Fishmarket), formerly known as Zoutmarkt (Saltmarket).

Oudegracht again. Front left Lichte Gaard (Light Orchard) – buildings on one side. Rear left Donkere Gaard (Dark Orchard) – buildings on both sides. The buildings on the canalside of the Donkere Gaard are built on top of the wharf, as are the buildings of the Lijnmarkt (…market) on the right hand side.

Oudegracht on the right hand side, Lijnmarkt on the left hand side, Donkere Gaard in the background on the right, all overlooked by the mighty Dom Tower.

Picture of the Oudegracht from the same bridge after turning some 180°. It´s really ´our´ city.

A lot of attractive restaurants are nowadays ran inside the former so called ´wharf–cellars´. This is what it looks like from such a restaurant, looking up to street–level.

We can reveal that we both had a bacon pancake. Yummy!!!

The river Loire today, Sunday the 8th of December. Quiet. Low. Almost no water. Very clear (the water).