Do you have a cup of tea and a couple of biscuits? This one’s a biggie!!!
Day 5 dawned in La Roche-en-Ardenne, the sun rose and we were off again to our next destination, Maastricht in the Netherlands. We were last here in April and loved it. In fact we were lucky enough to get tickets to see Andre Rieu live in the Vrijthof Square this coming Friday, so a wonderful way to kick off our adventure. I am truly excited at the prospect, the gorgeous Mr T is “looking forward to it”!! I’m more than happy with that LOL
We drove off from La Roche in the sunshine heading towards our next morning stop in Coo to see one of Belgium’s most important waterfalls. It was originally man made by Belgian monks who wanted to create an oxbow lake to use the slower flowing river for beer production – an important part of Belgium, we can vouch for that!
The waterfall , in terms of other waterfalls, is, shall we say to be polite, a bit like me….short in stature!!!! It fails to tower over anything at 15m high but the Belgians are inordinately proud of it and it is rather pretty. ‘Nuf said.
And so onward to Maastricht, which after another hour of the twists and turns of country roads, the gorgeous Mr T declared it a motorway day today and very quickly we arrived at our destination for the week with clear deep blue skies above, water twinkling in the marina and the thermometer reading a glorious 32degC. Yes, please, we’ll have us some of this and the rest of the day passed leisurely.
Day 6 dawned to more wall to wall sunshine and we decided to do a bit more exploring of Maastricht town, having not really seen everything on our previous visit. So, we hopped onto the water taxi, Moose in tow, and took a leisurely cruise up the Maas and into town – this is the way to travel (if you have buckets of money!!!! So for us, just a teeny little sip LOL).
A gentle walk around the part of town we haven’t visited before revealed a beautiful working mill, Bisschopsmoul, a shop selling their ground spelt flour (I will be back!!) and a cafe for snacks & cakes (best avoided this time!). There is something so satisfying about watching a water wheel rhythmically fill and empty with water as it turns gently round.
Then it was another leisurely cruise down the Maas back to the marina to while away the afternoon in the sun.
We woke on Day 7 to a bit of a cloudy day with the wind inside the van as gusty as it was outside LOL!!!! We’d booked to see the old fort that still sits on the only hill in Maastricht – Sint Pieters – and the tunnel system in the same hill, so we unhitched our trusty steeds and off we rode….into a storm of note!!! Crashing thunder and lightning touching down on the top of the fort (it being the highest point in the Netherlands!) urged us on to reach the fort in quick time, a bit bedraggled, a bit apprehensive that we would be climbing the fort but steaming under our raincoats…..it’s still hot, mind!
Well, what can I say, the fort is…..well, a fort. The most exciting bit was deciding whether to climb to the top in the storm, but as we put our foot on the bottom step to climb, a particularly massive crash of thunder and a lightning bolt flashing so brightly in front of us (I counted NOUGHT seconds between the 2!!!), we beat a hasty retreat into the safety of the bottom floor. Oh well, another visit to Maastricht I guess, to take the photo of the city from the top… devastated, not!!!
In contrast the tunnels were really interesting and pretty fabulous. Made by the farmers from centuries prior digging out the limestone for building blocks. And when I say blocks, I mean 1.5m x 0.75 x 075 – these megaliths weighing in at 1/2 tonne were manhandled by people traversing the tunnels with fire torches, guts and glory and being paid a pittance for their efforts. You have never quite experienced the blackness of black until someone switches off the lights and suddenly everything closes in, you feel the weight of 30 metres of limestone above you pressing on your chest as you start to pant for air and your only bearing is your hand on the cold rock next to you. What a bloody awful life to have lead. The highlight of the tunnels now though are the charcoal artworks on the rocks created by local artists to brighten up the tunnellers lives.
But besides limestone building blocks, the tunnels gave us the mesosauraus as well. Discovered in the caves by a local Dutchman, the fossilised head was recovered …… and then sacked by the French and now resides in the natural history museum in Paris. They (the French) graciously (!!!) create a model of the fossil for the Dutch to display in their natural history museum. But as the fates would have it, the local dutch tunnellers found several more, the originals of which, are now proudly displayed in Maastricht! Nowadays, the tunnels are easy places to be in ….with the right lighting, of course! And in several places, the spaces are being used to grow chicory in the very lime rich soil underground. Anyone for rhubarb????
So to blow away the cobwebs of the tunnels and retreat from the rain, we rode our e-bikes very quickly (all you need is just a little motivation!) to the closest bruin cafe that the gorgeous Mr T had discovered. So for those who missed our blog on Amsterdam…..a bruin cafe is a brown cafe so called because of the dark wood panelling used in the decor and NOT the propensity to deal in dodgy smoking paraphernalia!!! The bruin cafes are usually frequented by locals and they sell an enormous range of beers, both on tap and by the bottle, from the mild at 4% to the strong or triple at 12% (only 3 sold to the same person!) and a beguiling array of jenevers or local “gin” although not as we know it. It is more of an slightly flavoured eau de vie or schnapps – ranging from fire water to gut-rot moonshine although the Ouwde or old variety is much more pleasant and usually washed down with several pints of lager. It is served in frozen double tulip glasses. The mark of a great barman is to be able to pour it to the VERY top of the glass without spilling any precious liquor …. and the mark of a very “local” local is to take your first sip directly from the glass…. also without spilling it (or breathing in and choking on the fumes on the way down to the glass to then unceremoniously sneeze the top 25% out at your partner!!!!!!). I say nothing….what happens in a bruin cafe, stays in a bruin cafe!!!!
The gorgeous Mr T had is party frock firmly button on, so it was onto cocktails, a long and very funny supper people watching from our pavement table then a wobbly ride home on our trusty steeds that, thank goodness, know their way home now!!
Day 8: day of rest (or rather hangover recovery!) of lazing in the sun (now back out again) and catching up on washing clothes & bedding – a seemingly never ending chore but one that keeps us out of mischief for a day (or half a day at least!!)
The along came Day 9 and, for me, the very start of our adventure. Sun again, thank goodness. I have been particularly obsessed by the weather these last few days (you may not have noticed so thought I’d draw your attention to it, just in case you’d missed it!). But as the Andre Rieu show that we were planning to see, is an open air concert in the Vrijthof Square in Maastricht (hence the obsession with the weather, I hope you can understand!) it is rather important. I am not a happy bunny when drenched with water and shivering cold in the open air and I really wanted to enjoy the concert as I love Andre Rieu – he is a superb entertainer, besides being an amazing conductor and world renowned concert violinist (sorry, the gorgeous Mr T is playing second fiddle to Andre!!!!). Oh yes, back to the weather, so I didn’t want to be sitting shivering in the cold and rain, hence wanting it to be dry at least. But let me start at the beginning of the day, dear reader, because we worked our arses off for this day!!!!
Being proud owners of e-bikes is well and good but other people (shall we say, less salubrious people) believe that they should own e-bikes as well… or at least help other people to own cheap e-bikes….Meaning that e-bikes are a bit of target when left, even securely locked up, in the street. Well, obviously we must have left it there for them to help themselves!!!!! Anyhoo, it means that we have to be rather careful when parking them. Luckily as the Netherlands is a country of bikes, there are free (yes, free!) guarded underground parking areas for bicycles. As we were worried that we wouldn’t find sure parking at night (this is our excuse anyway!!) and also that we wanted to visit the market, we rode them into town on Friday morning and deposited them safely in their parking spots. Meaning a 4.5km home to Kaya….we had to, of course, make sure we had enough energy to walk through the market, so breakfast and several coffees later, we were duly caloried up for some shopping and the walk home.
Part of the trip to the market has been so we can buy a plant. Being, well, the way I am with food, we found a glorious rosemary plant that we could bring back to Kaya. I have been feeling very inadequate on the plant side and suffering serious plant envy as all our surrounding motorhoming friends set up their motorhomes, open their awnings and set their tables with table clothes and beautiful flowers and plants. This was my concession!!! Talk about envy though, the gorgeous Mr T has been suffering with incredible envy at our direct neighbour as they operate their £500,000 motorhome and stand outside chatting to each other, loving holding hands whilst remotely operating their automatic steadies to level the their home and gently wafting their hand to remotely close the blinds…. it’’s been a very hard week in our manual Kaya!!!
The 4.5km walk in the blazing sun was rather draining so we set up our chairs in the shade and snoozed away a couple of hours. I kept checking my watch in case we missed the concert!!! But we made it in time……after another 4.5km slog decked out in our best clothes and comfy shoes (we didn’t think this through thoroughly!!!!!), whiskey in one flask, cold water in the other (just in case it rained and I had to drown my sorrows) and our tickets for the concert, our bikes (to reclaim them) and Moose tucked safely in the top pocket.
The concert was amazing and even the gorgeous Mr T is still chatting about it today!! That’s how good it was. I reckon that seeing one live Andre Rieu concert in a lifetime is a bucket list item. What an entertainer, what a violinst, what an amazing show! There are no words to describe how fantastic it was. But I do remember that the gorgeous Mr T has promised to bring me back to another one AND that we will learn how to waltz so that we too can join in tho the very romantic rendition of the Blue Danube. I’m holding you to that, T xxx… and I don’t think I’ll be disappointed
Moose photo bombing!!!! The little lad was as excited, if not more, than we were
And in between we saw a trio of tenors and 2 Chinese sopranos performing a duet in Chinese that had me crying. And you know I don’t cry easily!!!
The rendition of Dante’s Inferno was breathtaking and I’m running out of words to describe the incredible spectacle of fiery backdrop, real flames leaping from the stage and the philharmonic orchestra, along with pipe band, 3 tenors, 4 soprano soloist all performing with Andre Rieu playing his violin and leading the entire cast into one big, incredible, breathtaking finale.
The biggest surprise of the night, a stage of Disney Princesses, a Prince, Scottish Pipe Band and……David Hasselhof! I kid you not!!! He was brought in during the encore (which actually lasted 1 hour!). He was sober, steady on his feet, entertaining, in tune (mostly!) and has a pleasantly nice operatic tone to his voice. Had he been brought in in the beginning, he would probably have been met with stony silence or a polite clap. But Andre is an entertainer of note and knew just the right time to introduce him, and he went down a storm with us all standing up, clapping, bopping in the aisles and singing loudly to “La Paloma Blanca”. And suddenly the orchestra broke into a big band sound as the piano soloist ripped off the bottom of her gorgeous ballgown to tap dance her way through the song!!!!!
And not a single raindrop to be seen!