Since we are staying in Holland for Christmas, and since we have been super busy (and a wee bit stressed) looking for (and hopefully closing in on) jobs, we decided to take a mini-vacation to Maastricht.
It was my (Amanda’s) brilliant idea to coordinate our 2 month bike tune-up with our trip, which would have been more smooth had the trams not been screwed up and we almost miss the train we planned to take. So, it was a rocky start. But we made it! And we didn’t even have to run.
For our 2.5 hr train ride, I studied Dutch with my new Dutch-English dictionary phone app and Teach Yourself Dutch books while Graeme read news on his phone. At the 2hr mark, the Mr. train ticket-checker came to stamp our tickets and then started to express his worry for us. He starting trying to say something (didn’t know English very well) and seemed to indicate that Maastricht was “that way” (pointing to the front of the train). We didn’t really follow so he did a charade in Dutch about how the front of the train would separate from the back and if we wanted to make it to Maastricht, we had better move ALL the way to the front at the next station stop. I can’t really remember what the “aha” moment was when we realized what he was talking about, but we are glad we did figure it out.
Arrival in Maastricht; it’s about 10* colder here! And the accent/dialect Dutch spoken here is really strange. A lot more German like.
25min walk from the station, over the bridge –Meuse River– through one of the Christmas Markets and on to our converted monastery (built c. 1430s) which was our hotel.
Our room was ready without much delay, which meant we could get settled in our room before we blasted off to Germany for the rest of the afternoon. One staff member took us up the glass elevator to the “1st” floor–still getting used to that!–and through a beech wood paneled corridor to our upgraded room with the stained glass. He explained how we had to keep a key in the slot which we were in the room in order to keep the electricity on. That brought back memories from our first European family vacation in 1998. Our room also featured a wall mural of Queen Juliana delivering a speech in Haarlam in 1948.
Ok, now on the exciting German Christmas Market in Aachen, a supposed 30min bus ride down the road. 1.5hr and what seemed like a million stops later, Graeme the hungry grump and I arrived and headed downhill (it’s been awhile since we’ve seen hills!) to the Market. Follow your frozen nose to the bratwurst, sauerkraut, onions and apple-strudel. I didn’t dare ask Graeme to stop (because he was on a food mission) so that I could a) take a photo or b) warm up in a cute homewares or fashion shop until we were almost at the food stalls but I wanted to warm up and look in this interior design store, so I used the ole “Let’s step inside so I can get my wallet out for the food” trick. (Graeme interjection: so cunning!) It was about 10* colder here and now that the sun was moving on to America we could enjoy the beautiful lights of the city. We did our rounds at the stalls–chocolates, one of a kind wool gifts, woodworking trinkets, candied nuts, jewelry and other nicknacks. Then we continued on to the modern environs of the city including a beautiful evangelical/Catholic church (Martin Luther rolling in his grave), shoe stores (who knew the Germans were king of the comfort shoe?) and more fashion boutiques. We headed back to the bus station, struggled to read the German train signs and finally boarded our 1.5hr bus back to Maastricht. We were frozen by this point.
(Graeme interjection: Things I learned about Germans. 1. They are on average fatter than the Dutch. 2. They on average don’t have a deep warm love for expats like the Dutch do. 3. Smiling is a chore. 4. They do meat right.) [ Amanda interjection: Julie, this in no way represents your lovely German family. But, I think Mennonites are different. Something about Jesus having a positive effect on your life ]
Back to Maastricht for our very delicate snack at the amazing restaurant in our hotel. We thought we had ordered 2 dishes to share until we realized the server thought we’d ordered 2 dishes each and then brought us bread & an extra pre-starter each. Amazing Waldorf salad and cheese plate! Many Euros later we headed up to our room to thaw. Good thing we got a “go eat a fancy dinner” gift from our Canadian family!
What we ate:
Rosbief van wildzwijn op waldorf salade en een mayonaise van knolselderij met een saucijzen broodje van wildgehakt op een panna cotta van aardappel en truffel met aceto balsamico
Krokante Munster met kummel Crème brulee van glühwein en Vacherin d’ mont dόr Torentje van kletzenbrood, vijgencompote en Saint maure de touraine
The next morning we had the most amazing cold European breakfast buffet EVER. The most amazing croissants, homemade jams, fresh juices (strawberry, orange, grapefruit, tomato), fruits, sausages and bacon so fresh off the pig. After this amazing breakfast and super fancy dinner/snack last night Graeme was feeling a bit full of rich food, so we scrapped our lunch-fit-for-royalty plan and will go to a fancy restaurant in Amsterdam.
Then it was off for a day of shopping, getting lost in the beautiful cobbled streets, a few museums, red stoned church bell tower, more Christmas Markets, and the most amazing bookstore, Selexyz Dominicanen.
Heading back to A’dam with an souvenir ornament, a magazine and a waffle for the train. Fortunately the train didn’t separate into two pieces this time, so we could stay in our seats (Graeme slept) and I read/translated my new Spanish magazine.
We collected our freshly tuned bikes from the shop and headed home to once again thaw and eat some greens to balance out all the sugar we’d consumed in the last 30 hours. Couldn’t have planned it better because the next day it poured rain all day and then the day after was a big snow storm. Safe and warm in our house, thinking about our next visit to Maastricht (and that breakfast!)