Quick! What do all three of these things have in common?
Yes, the fourth largest city in the Netherlands (name the top three and win a prize) is the birthplace of Nijntje (‘Miffy’ to the rest of the world), the home of the national railway museum and home to a quirky museum featuring all kinds of mechanical music-making devices. Plus, it has the highest church tower in the Netherlands (35 storeys tall!) and a canal system that rivals that of Amsterdam for beauty…in a quainter sort of way.
We came down for an overnight weekend trip that was ostensibly timed to coincide with the Utrecht Marathon. Alas, I had contracted a sinus infection a few days before so was playing the marathoning part of it by ear, but the boys were keen to go and I wasn’t bedridden or anything, so off we went.
Utrecht is only about 35 minutes by train from Amsterdam, so we headed down on Saturday morning. We had reserved a morning slot at the Nijntje Museum and headed there straight from the station. Nijntje was one of our first introductions to Dutch children’s culture, but truthfully she’s a bit young now for the boys, who have moved on to more ‘sophisticated’ fare. But the museum was fun anyway, with a lot of interactive exhibits and explanatory text in Dutch, English and…Japanese. Of course.
From there, we walked to the national railway museum, which, as one would expect in such a rail-centric country, is mind-blowingly awesome. We were there for a while.
Then we walked to our hostel to check in and were pleasantly surprised when we were told that we were in the Nijntje room. Oh yes.
In a bit of wishful thinking, we headed to Utrecht’s most revered Cantonese joint for my pre-marathon meal of choice: cha siu with rice. We had planned on eating here, but they were completely booked all evening long! So we ended up taking out. Julian was not happy; he was hungry and wanted to eat RIGHT NOW. The silver lining for him (and the rest of us) was that the cha siu was good (not as good as Amsterdam). And we encountered a Nijntje walk light on the way back to our hostel.
I had hoped that by Sunday morning I would be good to go, but I was still nowhere near 100%. I’d been training hard all winter and didn’t want to run for the sake of running just to churn out a subpar performance, so I pulled the plug on running the marathon. I was disappointed, but oh well. The best part of a race-cation is the cation, especially with my favourite travel companions. So we made the most of it and visited the Museum Speelklok, which features an amazing collection of mechanical instruments, including clocks and organs. It sounds a bit old lady-ish, but we were all mesmerised. Definitely an irreverent and interesting place.
And with that, we jumped on the intercity train back home. Tot de volgende keer, Utrecht!