Utrecht, The Netherlands

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I have a confession. I’m not sure I get the whole “music thing.” You know, those people who proclaim that music is their lives; that they cannot study without music in the background. Those people that have stood in line to buy a CD (or downloaded it, rather, on the date of release.) Sure, I can appreciate some types of music, and I most certainly can appreciate the talent, drive, and hard work that goes into making it, but, usually, the extent of my music listening is car radio when driving, world music when cooking, and acoustic sounds when doing yoga. And while I greatly enjoy outdoor music festivals it is, ashamedly admittedly, the antics and the beer that keep me entertained moreso than the tunes. The Frenchman on the other hand is a bit of a music fanatic – at least when he can stop his ADHD fingers from twitching towards the dial every 30 seconds. It should come as no surprise, thus, that the background to his days is hip-hop-driven mashups through which he finds a new favorite artist each week.

One type of music that we can agree on and never get bored with is the Spanish guitar. Our favorite group is a former metal rocking duo from Mexico City – Rodrigo y Gabriela. Of all the concerts I have been to – a number which is quite low compared to many –  the talented guitarists are the only group that I have seen twice by my own volition. When I learned that the group was coming to the Netherlands on tour for its new album I immediately bought tickets and tried to keep the event a surprise for the Frenchman. Of course, as always, I could not: I am quite possibly the world’s worst surprise giver, invariably bursting out with excitement long before the surprise itself.

The concert was in Utrecht – the Netherlands’ university city located roughly 1.5 hours from us by an easy afternoon train ride – so we took time the next day to explore the city before returning home. The concert itself was amazing, better than the last time we saw the duo, with a great energy coming from the free invitation to sit on the stage for the duration of the concert and a set comprised only of shouted-out requests. Utrecht has the same energetic vibrancy about it.

A large city of 330,000, Utrecht easily reminds one of Amsterdam. It has the same winding canals  and similar Dutch-style brick architecture. Here, too, the shops are many and the streets narrow and largely vehicle-free. The religious center of the Netherlands, Utrecht is dominated by the gothic Dom Tower, the highest building in the country. Formerly part of St. Martin’s Protestant Cathedral, the tower has been freestanding since a tornado destroyed the church’s nave in 1674. Never ones to say no to a good view, we huffed up the tower’s many steps, weaving around bells and admiring the massive carillon, until we, too, were in the clouds.

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