maandag 19 december 2016

Early Christmas activities in Utrecht

Sitting close to the heating against some pillows, with a red soft blanket covering my legs and a cold cup of tea on the table; Christmas is in six nights (or at least here, since we usually don't celebrate Christmas Eve) and there is still enough to do before multiple days of celebration, unwrapping, great food and 'gezelligheid'.
This year, because the 25th is on a sunday, we only have some days off before the festivities start and not a lot time to prepare things. However, my husband and I actually started getting in the mood early.
Trip 1:
We planned to go to the Country & Christmasfair, which is around castle De Haar, near Utrecht at the end of november.
While being accompanied by only four other people in the bus from the station to the castle, we almost thought that this event (apparently) wasn't popular, but when we rode the lane to the castle, we saw the parking lots were all full and that lots of over-middle-age women with either friends or (grand)children were walking from and to the entrance.
Well, the fair was a bit different (little less christmassy) than expected, but we still had fun. There were lots of stalls, and the castle and lights gave it a lovely atmosphere. But because the only real food-supplier there was in an overcrowded pop-up restaurant, the decision to go back to the city-centre (after visiting all the stalls) was quickly made.

Utrecht itself was crowded as well, but luckily there was still a table available at a place called 't Oude Pothuys. I love that in Utrecht you can find lots of restaurants in wharf cellars next to the canal, it gives them a pretty cozy, even romantic feeling. 't Oude Pothuys is a music venue, but you can eat there too and it was pretty decent. Next to diner they had also a pretty nice selection of drinks and after our food, beer & wine we decided to continue this night at a cocktailbar which was said to be very good.
It was funny because I almost walked past 'Behind Bars' because it looked a lot more like a closed society room, or a living room of some sorts than an actual cocktailbar. I don't know if this is 'hip' or not but I guess that sitting at the bar itself was a good idea so we could analyze their peculiar selection of Japanese whiskeys and interesting rum while watching the preperation of our drinks.

And yes, they were excellent, though Nick thought his 'Rumtastic' was a bit too strong.
Walking back to the hotel via an empty central station hall was also a pretty cool experience, it's so different late-night, otherwise it's always crowded. Just as it was the next morning when we bought our breakfast and went back home early.


Trip 2:
Two weeks later we were there (in Utrecht) again (by mistake of booking a trip on the wrong date, irreversible so we had to go), but it was not 'that' bad since we now had two days during a weekend full of christmas markets and lots of time to spend. On the first night we decided to eat at Umami, but honestly it's not such great place after all (second time I was there). A bit annoying that you have to ask for 'real' wasabi and the Umeshu was not on the menu, and besides that just quite mediocre food. Maybe we are getting spoiled.

We went back early to the hotel, where the next morning our disappointment of the last night was wiped off our brains: The breakfast at the NH hotel (near the station) was utterly amaaaazing. Even Nick, who has travelled quite a lot, thought this was the best hotel breakfast he had until now. All the ingredients were fresh and of high quality and excellent choice You could put nice extras in your tea, like lemon, star anise or mint. Or you could have a custom fried egg (including ingredients of your choice). And then I'm not even talking about the sweet cake they had (haha so bad, but of course I am enjoying what I can to the fullest)!

Detail of the back-'window'
at Subcultures.
With our happy, stuffed stomachs, we walked to Hoog Catherijne first (a big mall next to the station), which was luckily still a bit quiet. It was great to shop without the feeling of being rushed. Some interesting highlights were the pop-up store of fashion designer Aziz Bekkaoui, the food & handmade christmas-market around Mariaplaats (bought and tried some delicious things), a shop with many reed-items and the amazing looking (table top) game store Subcultures. It was only the middle afternoon that we got tired and decided to take a short break at our hotel.

Then we went to see 'Fantastic Beasts and how to find them' in the Rembrand cinema, which was a weird experience seeing that we're used to big fancy cinema-foyers but this one was quite small.
Directly after that I had booked us a table at 'Vintage', a tapas & wine bar and it was a lovely place, great to try out some things while chatting about the movie. After that we went for some awesome drinks at 'Zussen', a spacious and fancy-feeling bar/lobby if you ask me...nice location if you ever need to celebrate something in Utrecht.

After these trips (and my recent lolita meets), we have seen enough of this city for a while I guess, but it still remains quite a nice place to be at and it was great to have some pre-christmas activities before the actual holidays. Have you ever been to castle De Haar or Utrecht for shopping/walking around, what did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!
I hope to write another post about holiday celebrations soon, so I hope to see you again, thanks for reading .

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