In 2005, I left New York to move to Utrecht, Netherlands. I went with just a suitcase, pack, laptop and my best friend Megan. It was there that I met SVV on my second day. This was our neighborhood:
Megan and I lived in the attic of a 72-year-old Surinamese bitch’s palatial pad, though she kept us cooped up in a tiny room on the third floor with just a bed and sink. We had to share a bathroom (no shower) with her, and weren’t allowed to use it after 10pm. Don’t believe me? Behold, our quarters:
The big catch is that, collectively, we paid 700 euro a month for this room. It’s not like we were even living on the cheap. The university set us up with such stellar accommodation, while our classmates had proper student flats in the center of town (we were in the outskirts, the senior citizen residential area if you will). It might have been partially our faults—out of confusion, we marked the “partner” box on our application. Oops. But still… Here’s the outside of the digs; our window was the tiny one on the top floor.
We did luck out, though: For the first few months we lived there, there was no drizzle and cold like you might expect from Holland. Instead, we were wearing shorts (or, in my case, skirts) all the way through mid-November.
Right down the street from our “home,” there was a stream. It was eternally green. We called it the Jello River. In fact, all the tributaries in the area were this exact color and consistency.
Often, we would see swans leisurely swimming about among the Jello. They were green, too. We all owned bicycles—actually, more than a few, as on average your bike will get swiped every two months or so, no matter how janky and chained up—as that was the preferred method of transportation. No, that is not just a stereotype.
Sometimes we took canoes or paddlebikes instead, just to mix it up a bit.
Downtown Utrecht is situated around the Oudegracht, or central canal. Many a night was spent drinking wine and eating crepes at one of the numerous cafes that dotted the waterfront.
Even after several months there, I was always getting lost. Every cobblestone street looked like the next. But I could always find my way if I could just glimpse the Domkirken in the center of town as my compass.
I (perhaps not so secretly) didn’t love it while I was there, but now I long to move back to such a quintessential European town, if just for a few short months. Maybe someday…after SVV and I have sold our Great American Novels…
*That’s SVV and me at our standard bar, Cafe Belgie, just weeks after meeting for the first time.
**All taken with a crappy Nikon Coolpix, before I switched exclusively to Canon (I left my SLF at home, as I didn’t trust myself traveling with it—good thing, too, I went through three P&Ss in as many months), pre-Photoshop days, as well (and I don’t have the original files anymore to touch them up, unfortunately). I know these pictures are terrible, but I was too consumed with other endeavors—like um, wooing SVV, gorging myself on stroopwafels, and visiting every pub in Utrecht—through the duration of my stay to take proper pictures. If nothing else, it gives you a little taste of living abroad.