It’s good paper writing weather, but it’s not so fun for exploring a city/country where I have limited time, and I dislike spending so much time inside. That’s why today I resolve to purchase rain pants at long last. And probably a cappuccino while I’m at it—because how can I not?
After a few hours of wandering the streets with intermittent downpours—and about 90 seconds of pea-sized hail—I was ready for this huge, hot bowl of pumpkin soup. Thick and fragrant with curry and coriander, it featured crusty bread with garlic aioli on the side. I sipped on a little fresh-pressed apple juice that I had to continually stir with vigor to reintegrate the liquid with the pulverized fruit.
Our hosts for the Utrecht visit, a Dutch couple who befriended an international student friend of mine, had never met me before, but an earlier Internet search pointed them to a lunch spot that fit me perfectly. Keek was cozy, with lots of fruits and vegetables and baked goods and teas and coffees on the menu and quaint design touches aplenty (even their website makes me smile). I bought a little jar of their homemade raspberry-rhubarb jam to take back to Groningen. My only regret was that we didn’t order a slab of one of their homemade cakes for dessert. Maybe I’ll have to make a special return trip for a full afternoon tea.
A busy week is nearing its close. Rain and colder temperatures are blowing in.
I’m finished with lectures for the week and checking other projects off the to-do list. The big realization this week is that I need to think in earnest about pinning down my master’s thesis topic, which means lots of exploratory (and mostly fascinating, I’m happy to report) reading.
It wouldn’t feel right if I closed this post without a few words about Steve Jobs. I’ve been a fan of Apple ever since my Dad brought home one of the first color-screen laptops, the chunky gray Powerbook 520C (if memory serves), when I was about ten years old. My sister and I would took turns playing Oregon Trail and other “educational” games, and later, I used the word processing software to compose stories and homework assignments. I loved the interface, the graphics, the adorable icons. We became a PC family for a few years when I was in high school, but I selected a glossy white iBook for my college computer, and then a Powerbook G4, lovingly dubbed Mac-alicious, after its predecessor had encountered a few too many accidents. Now the whole family has Apple laptops again (and iPods, and, in my Dad’s case, iPhones), and we rely on them heavily to stay connected to each other.
Ever the shades-of-gray thinker, I know that you can’t credit one person for the success of a multinational corporation or the invention revolutionary products. That doesn’t change the fact that I’m feeling sad about Steve, about the tragedy of his leaving us at such a young age.
This afternoon, about half of my class, led by two professors in our department, cycled around Groningen and Haren to observe and learn firsthand about the cities’ innovative—and, in some areas, relatively new—bicycle infrastructure.
Our journey, which covered about 15 miles over a few hours, took us through various traffic circle designs, speed calming features (aggressive speed bumps, subtle or sometimes not-so-subtle curves in cycle paths), “shared spaces” in which roads and sidewalks form one curb-less expanse, and other features designed to make biking easier and safer for everyone involved. It was comforting to see how many motorized vehicles yielded to us as we passed through intersections on the distinctive red bike-path paving.
But, lest anyone think it’s a cyclists’ paradise, as usual, we still experienced some discomfort on our relatively vulnerable two wheels—a few tough intersections with multiple crossings of bikes and cars to anticipate, a hairy diagonal left turn through an intersection on an “all directions green” crossing for bikes (a typical Groningen thing), and some narrow cycle paths where strangers (on bikes and mopeds and in cars) didn’t hesitate to zip past us too closely and speedily.
Learning more about bike-oriented approaches to street design was a huge motivator for my decision to study here, so I really enjoyed the chance to nerd out today and take mental notes.
I bought a pine-scented candle this afternoon, and it’s amazing how cozy and luxurious my little dwelling feels as it flickers on the windowsill.
To make this purchase, I waded through the throngs of humanity out shopping in the city center—like me, taking advantage of the monthly Sunday shop openings.
I’m feeling quite accomplished after completing my last long run of half-marathon training (Amsterdam on October 16, here I come!). It was a slog, but the scenery was gorgeous, and the company, a friend from class who’s doing the race with me, was welcome.
Afterward, I treated myself (again) to lunch on the top floor of the V&D department store, where the standout from my meal this time was this freshly pressed orange-melon juice.
All of this proved a brief distraction from the research-oriented schoolwork that is piling up rather relentlessly. October is going to be a very busy month.
Look out early this week for a recap of Saturday’s class Dutch “manscape” excursion , which featured stops at lots of areas within 150 kilometers of Groningen that have been transformed from water to land, and sometimes back again.