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Published: July 23rd 2017
Quite a change of scene ....from Alaska to Maastricht in the Netherlands 🇳🇱. I was only home 2 days and then packed the bags into the car and off on the ferry across the Channel. it was a bit of a crisis in those 2 days with me coming home to a power cut to my house , so guys digging holes in my driveway and me with torches and candles and not much sleep - in addition to jet lag . But it was fixed and I got away . It's not the best time to be driving round the Brussels Ring Road on a Friday afternoon in July but I made it to Maastricht and my house exchange family. They were to leave the next morning after showing me round the house and settling me in to my home for next week or so.
Maastricht is in the far southern corner of the Netherlands and borders with Belgium and Germany . in fact I can look out of my bedroom window and across the fields lies Belgium. Now a question arose " is it Holland or Netherlands " as we often use the term Holland for anything Dutch
... and the answer it seems is that the 2 northern provinces ( where Amsterdam , Rotterdam The Hague are ) are North and South Holland and so really it's the whole country which is Netherlands. Got that ?
Prime reason for coming here was to meet up with my little brother Trevor and Christine and get them to the Andre Rieu concert here in Maastricht. Trev has a special birthday this year so this is his treat. Hence the music and dancing..... in the old centre of the city is the cathedral and the square , lined with bars and restaurants ,beside it is taken over with the concert , and all so well organised . We sussed it out in the morning and after a great dinner in a local bar we hot footed it to the square For the start at 9 pm. Andre comes out of the old theatre bar with his orchestra and lets fans get up really close , then there's a parade into the square and onto the stage. I must admit we were quite a way back and the stage seemed far away , but there were some screens and there
was no problem hearing the music. The sound system was fabulous. Such a lovely atmosphere with everyone enjoying the music and of course once the Blue Danabe waltz was heard people were up and dancing . Fireworks and cannons shooting out streamers added to the event and before long Christine and I were bedecked with golden streamers and jiving . It was almost midnight when the music stopped and we revellers set off to walk home. So a wonderful experience and one that we felt we could repeat another time.
But the week wasn't only about the music as we found that Maastricht is a great old historical city, and we wandered around the cobbled streets and it's market , churches and parks. Strolled along the Maas river and sat in bars drinking grapefruit beer ...well I did, Trevor of course tried all the local ales.Days we took trips to Aachen in Germany and saw the most wonderful cathedral there with its mosaics, and another day into Belgium in a place I had never heard of Tongeren, was a fantastic modern museum - really World class - with an exhibit showing a timeline a life from Neanderthal times to
Roman . It was so interesting and had quite a lot of info in English. And the Bonnefanten art museum here in Maastricht is also a treasure with some wonderful exhibits and not many people visiting so you can get up very close to the art which is also beautifully displayed.
So in essence this is a part of Europe most Brits wouldn't think of coming to for a holiday but what a surprise you have when you are here . It's another one of those things about travelling .... there are the iconic places which everyone wants to go to and there are hordes of tourists so the experience is disapointing. But then when you strike out away from the hordes you can find hidden treasure.
That's a nice thing about home exchange - I go to places I never would have thought of visiting and have never been disappointed.
So it's off to Belgium for a few days tomorrow so I look forward to what I will find there .
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