Weekendje in Maastricht

Weekendje is a “little weekend”. I think you can take care of the rest. And that’s what Hubs and I had this past weekend! For the wedding, we were given a gift certificate to any 4-5 star hotel in the Netherlands. All we had to do was pay for dinner and spa services (which we didn’t have time to do). We went to a hotel nextdoor to Kasteel Vaalsbroek and spent a day in Maastricht’s City Center.

Maastricht lies in the south of Holland (about a 2 hour drive from Utrecht) and the language there is, as Erik aptly described it, like they took French, Dutch, and German, put them all in a bag, mixed them up and pulled out an all-new language. While shopping in Maastricht on Saturday, we stopped in a liquor store to purchase a bottle of wine for our Turner-sitter for the weekend. The ladies working there were having a conversation and all the sudden one of them said “Michael Jackson”. The only word I understood. As I always do when I pick out words or phrases I understand, I turned to Hubs and whispered “Michael Jackson! I understood that!” He turned to me and breathed, “That’s all I got, too.” This from a man fluent in Dutch and French!

We got into Maastricht at about 1pm, parked in a garage and headed to a cafe terrace for some lunch. There was a bit of chaos thanks to Andre Rieu and the hubbub surrounding his concert that evening. We parked right underneath what was to be his stage for that evening’s performance! We had a quick lunch and a bit of entertainment from a street performer on stilts. I was surprised at the number of English speakers I heard throughout the day, though I shouldn’t have been, seeing as it’s a very popular tourist area. After that, we walked around and did some window shopping and a bit of actual shopping, too! We went into our first Lush and later that afternoon I got some really great outfits. The architecture of the two big shopping centrums was pretty fantastic – very modern-chic! One was an outdoor mall of sorts with 3 levels of stores and another was a one-storey with a very impressive facade. The highlight, however, was the church-turned-bookstore!

And, of course, we got enough religion in to last us quite a while by going to several churches! The name of the first has, unfortunately escapes me, but the building was just positively impressive on the inside. Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed to be used. Hubs had been there years ago for the wedding of one of his former colleagues. A room just left of the entrance contained so many lit memorial candles that just standing on the threshold was unbearably hot! I did get several pictures of the outside of the enormous church, though! Our second stop was St. John’s of Maastricht, named after John the Baptist. The tower of the church is painted red and has been since the Middle Ages. The last paint job was done in 1982. Probably in preparation for my birth a year later in ’83 😉 The final stop on our religious pilgrimage was St. Servaas Basilica. Our tour included the treasury and the church itself, the crypt of St. Servaas, and the cloister.

After a bit of a tiff with Rieu’s traffic control staff, we finally made it to the car and headed to the hotel which is located about 25 km out of the city center. The view along the way was FANTASTIC! So many massive, castle-like structures, green as far as the eye can see, lush wooded areas, and farms. Once at the hotel, we checked in, put our things away, and headed to dinner.

At 7pm, we were the only ones in the dining area! We ordered the most delicious bottle of red wine and tore into the rolls! Soon the waiter came around with a savory creamy tuna hors-d’oeuvre for each of us. I had the most fantastic spinach soup for my appetizer and Hubs got a fish dish served in excellent sauce. About halfway through the bottle of wine, we were served our entrees. They looked roughly the same, although mine was duck and Hubs’s was pork, and they were both extravagantly delicious! The meat was just falling of the bones! Our dessert was creme broulee served with whipped cream, ice cream and a Tia Maria sauce and we rounded off the evening with a cup of coffee and Hubs’s cognac! Hubs spent Monday looking up the wine and where to buy it, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do (it’s roughly 30 euro cheaper that way!)! After dinner, we took a walk around the hotel grounds over to the neighboring castle. It was a gorgeous romantic walk before retiring to our hotel room.

The next morning, we ate breakfast in the castle and redid our evening stroll in daylight. Then, we went to the hotel room, donned our bathing suits and headed downstairs for the spa/pool/sauna/tanning bed/workout room arena. The pool was no bigger than the one at my parent’s house, except for the hidden cove at the end where every 20 minutes or so, a jacuzzi effect took place with pressure spouts and bubbles. We played around in the pool and then retired to beach chairs to read. Hubs hit up the sauna and then it was time to shower, pack and head home.

Before we left, Hubs took me to the American World War II cemetery in Margraten. Margraten is a town located roughly 6 km outside of Maastricht, so we had to backtrack a little. Unfortunately my phone/camera died before we got to the actual burial ground. The ground keeper and all staff are, of course, American. A small information office is located to the right of the memorial. A large flat-topped tower stands in the center just before the entrance to the burial ground. The chapel is located inside this structure and the front is the engraving:

EACH FOR HIS OWN MEMORIAL
EARNED PRAISE THAT WILL NEVER DIE
AND WITH IT
THE GRANDEST OF ALL SEPULCHRES
NOT THAT IN WHICH
HIS MORTAL BONES ARE LAID
BUT A HOME
IN THE MINDS OF MEN

On either side of the tower is a long wall with the names of those American soldiers that fell during the battles in the Netherlands. Just in front of the left wall, opposite the main office is a little alcove with maps and inscriptions in both Dutch and English of World War II in the Netherlands. The cemetery itself is very reminiscent of the one in Normandy, France: row upon row of stark white crosses and stars of David. The sight hits you like a fist to the stomach.

We headed back home, picking up Turner on the way. I don’t think any of us wanted the weekend to end! This was the first real date that Hubs and I have had since the night he proposed and it made us both realize that we can never let it go this long again!

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