Day 19: UK, Ashford – Netherlands, Maastricht

RouteSouthampton – Ashford, UK
Route Details
Overnight stop51.146977, 1.266742 (Temple Erwell parking)
Overnight Costs£0
RouteCalais, France – Maastricht, Netherlands
Route Details
Overnight stop
Overnight Costs €19.50
(Good 4G, WIFI closer to office only, all services)
Exchange rate 1.13

Yesterday afternoon had seen us make a dash to my sister, Gill, in Ashford for a last quick hug and goodbyes….and a last meal at Nandos for a while! We set off from Ashford and spent the night in Dover in a parking lot waiting for the next leg of our adventure to start.

We had a bit of a restless night having checked the weather app for information for our 9:25am crossing this morning. Jeepers creepers, storms, howling wind and lashing rain forecast for 8am. So we set our alarm for 4:30am and feeling decidedly shell-shocked, hoping we’d actually get across before the weather broke and not quite awake, made our way in 8 minutes down to the port to be scheduled on to the 6:30am crossing. The weather app was out by 2 hours!

With the ship heaving and pitching whilst still at anchor in the port and car’s alarms already blaring in the hold, we made our way to the sofas in the upstairs lounge, a hot cup of tea (finally!), lid firmly on and clutched safely in our hands with the captain assuring us that the ship was fully stabilised as we headed across the water to France at last.

We crossed swiftly from France into Belgium and made our first compulsory stop for kroketen and Belgian coffee with a Speculoos biscuit.  Have you ever had kroketen?  No?  It a crispy parcel of some soft and gooey centred mystery meat that is total addictive and utterly delicious.  And the Speculoos, a crispy caramel biscuit with warming spices of ginger, cinnamon and Allspice.

Ask no questions and just enjoy.

Well….we hadn’t had breakfast! LOL

….and for 40 days and 40 nights it rained…..or at least that what it feels like at the moment because it hasn’t let up the entire journey.

We’ve crossed over 3 countries with the rain clouds ever present. Proper rain is falling and it’s no longer a light mizzle – somehow it feels just a little bit less dreary…..although not much. We keep seeing pictures of the lovely sunshine in Spain and hankering after some warmth but we have some snow and glaciers to see first before we head any further south. Austria awaits!

But before Austria, we’re now in Maastricht. This city holds top spot along with Barcelona for our most favourites cities in the world. For different reasons, of course.

In Maastricht we have Bruin Cafés (Brown Cafés) which, in actual fact are pubs frequented by-and-large by locals (you’ll find very few tourists here). I hasten to add that these are not the “brown” coffeeshops although these are available to you – as long as you don’t mind that on entering you have to produce official ID and be fingerprinted – much less hassle in Amsterdam… I’ve been told LOL ! Bruin Cafés are so called because of the wooden panelling on the walls and are a particular favourite of ours because they sell Jenever – a schnapps type drink served cold in a frozen double tulip shot glass, poured at the table with a concave meniscus and sipped slowly (first sip directly from the glass without lifting), accompanied by a small lager chaser; often times accompanied by a small plate of local chopped fermented salami styled meat and blocks of local cheese. You seldom see locals staggering about drunk and disorderly from the Bruin Cafés, but you do see some very happy, chilled people!

So, Maastricht….one of our favourite top cities in the world. We always swore that we would be the type of adventurers that never went back to the same place twice. As we get a little older, we are no longer so demanding of ourselves and we find ourselves popping into our favourite destinations and re-visiting what we call our old haunts. Besides loving Maastricht, it has now become for us, the official start of our European adventures. So we kick back and enjoy every aspect of it and remember that according to Amelia Earhart

“Adventure is worthwhile in itself”

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