We went Dutch for MLK weekend 2019! Part five.

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On Sunday, we decided to visit Maastricht.  I really didn’t know what to expect, since I had never been to the city before.  I did know that there aren’t any “coffee shops” open to foreigners in Maastricht.  It’s one of the areas in the Netherlands that has chosen to restrict pot sales to people who aren’t locals.  If you want marijuana, you have to go west.

It was no big deal, though.  Maastricht proved to be entertaining without the benefit of pot.  Not only is the city beautiful, it’s also wide open on Sundays.  Yes, you can go shopping, have lunch, or simply people watch.  There was some kind of race going on there Sunday, so there were several brass bands playing along the route, along with a drum band and a group of violinists.  As a music lover, this really appealed to me.  Despite the bitter cold, I stood there and listened to a group of musicians play “Canon in D” and Vivaldi.  I’m not ashamed to admit that their version of Pachelbel’s masterpiece had me openly weeping.

We parked in a huge lot on the outskirts of town and walked in…

Right off the bat, we heard the thundering sound of drums.  An awesome drum band was beating an infectious rhythm and had attracted a crowd.  The music would be a theme in Maastricht on Sunday, as we ran into a number of bands playing in the street.  

What’s that sound?

 

You can also load up on cheese!  I wish I liked cheese more.

We rounded the corner, just out of earshot of the drummers and promptly encountered a quartet of string musicians.

I often get choked up when I hear really well played live music.  I was listening to these people with tears streaming down my cheeks.  They played so well out in the cold and their music went straight to my heart.

As you can see, other people were affected by the music, too.  

We reluctantly moved on, because it was so cold and Bill needed to get some cash.  I managed to get a few more pictures as we searched for an ATM.  We were looking for lunch and a place to pee.

Our route took us past the runners and several more excellent brass bands!

We walked through one area near a mall and several very touristy looking restaurants.  One alley smelled distinctly of cheeseburgers, which was kind of strange.  But then I noticed we were near a McDonalds.

And these guys were playing jazz… I loved that they had a tray of empty beer glasses nearby.

 

Just as we encountered our fifth musical ensemble of the day, I turned to the left and we found a place to have lunch…

 

I have a knack for finding good places to eat.  There are a few things I look for.  Mainly, I like places that aren’t either too crowded or too empty.  I prefer them to be off the main drags.  And it doesn’t hurt if it smells good outside of the restaurant, too.  A lot of people were sitting outside, despite the cold weather.  I didn’t want to sit outside, but Bill was about to bust.  So we walked inside De Twee Heeren, which turned out to be a pretty awesome bar/restaurant.  They were playing good music and had menus in English, as well as places to sit.  We ended up spending a couple of hours in there, enjoying lunch, good Dutch and Belgian beers, and fun music.

Obligatory menu shot of Bill.  They had a number of appealing choices, everything from steaks to falafel.

 

Bill had what amounted to a “sauerbraten stew”.  It came with a big basket of frites and a salad.

 

I had fish and chips.  I considered a few of the other choices and actually had some trouble deciding, but since the Netherlands is a sea faring nation, I figured the fish and chips would be good.  And they were!  I even tried the fries with mayonnaise.  That’s how they eat them…  Not bad at all, though a little bit of mayo goes a long way.

 

Bill had a double espresso while I enjoyed an excellent Belgian brew suggested by the waiter.

And one more for the road.  It’s probably a good thing German beers aren’t this interesting.

 

It was late afternoon by the time we were finished at De Twee Heeren, so we decided to get some cheese for Bill and head back to the dogs.  I might have liked to have tried another restaurant later, but I just can’t eat as much as I once did.  You’d never know it to look at me, though.

This place had lots of free samples, which Bill was happy to try.

Here he’s trying the gouda with garlic.  I think he brought some home.  I found us some beers and waffle cookies, too.  If it turns out he loves the cheese, we can order more.

We headed out of the city and I took a few more photos.

The grand looking building houses the visitor’s center, which sadly, does not have a public toilet.  Fortunately, I found one at a bustling looking hostel with a huge bar.  It was nothing to duck in, which was a huge relief.

So long, Maastricht.  We’ll be back!

 

I missed the lunar eclipse, but did manage to get a picture of the huge full moon.

 

Yesterday morning, we got up bright and early, had breakfast, let the dogs have one more romp with Yogi, and loaded up the car for the drive back to Germany.  Nel was the most awesome hostess and invited us back.  I think she said we were her first real American guests, although she has hosted Canadians.  I’m hoping a few of my American readers living in Germany might visit Vijlen.  I have a feeling we’ll go back, especially if we stay in Germany for much longer.

I love visiting small towns and talking to locals, getting a feel for the real culture.  While we always enjoy visiting big cities, I find that it’s harder to get a feel for the culture, mainly because so many other international visitors are also there.  So, if there’s anything to be learned by this trip, it’s that small towns are worth a look.  They tend to be less expensive, safer, and the locals are more likely to make a connection.  I felt like we’d made a friend when we left Nel’s place yesterday.  I hope this series will inspire a few others to visit her in lovely Vijlen!

Alsace and Burgundy… WTF is Bill eating, part deux! pt. 7

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After Thursday’s experience with entrails, Bill and I decided to be cautious on Friday.  We spent a languid afternoon hanging out with the animals and taking in the views.  I finished a book I’d been reading (and just reviewed on my main blog).  When it got to be lunchtime, we decided to try a local restaurant I’d read about on Trip Advisor.

The outside of the restaurant.  It’s very unassuming looking, but the food is outstanding.

L’Etape Charollaise is not even a five minute drive from where we were staying.  It’s a small, family owned restaurant that puts out great food at reasonable prices.  But we were still a little gun shy after Bill’s chitterling experience, so we approached the restaurant with caution.  Our waitress did not speak English, but was good enough to speak French slowly.  Bill went with the menu du jour, which was 13 euros and came with a Lyonnaise salad, a main course, cheese, and a dessert.  I went with the savory menu, which was 18 euros without cheese and, I think, 23 euros with it.  I don’t eat cold cheese, so I went with the sans fromage option.

We were a little sketchy on what Bill’s main course would consist of, as we didn’t have it written down for us (a sign was posted on the door).  My menu offered a choice of beef or fish.  I went with the fish, which was a good choice.

Bill checks out the menu.

While we were eating, a bunch of local folks came in.  There was a couple who looked like they knew the restaurant well.  They sat in the corner near us.  A couple of guys, obviously working class blokes, sat at the table next to us and shared a nice bottle of wine.  A couple of elderly men who appeared to be regulars were scattered around.  All was going normally until the couple heard us speaking English.  The male half turned and stared at us quizzically.  It was as if they wondered what the hell we were doing in rural France!  Again, it was probably not unlike the reaction people in my hometown would have if French people suddenly dropped in to have dinner at one of the local eateries.

Anyway, out came the food and it was all very good…

We enjoyed a bottle of vino and some still water, which the restaurant provided freely and without our having to ask for it.

I’m not totally sure what this was.  It was my amuse and it tasted like sun dried tomatoes with olives and bacon on top of some type of cream.  I am a little weird about creamy stuff, but I did taste it and it was interesting.  Bill liked it better than I did.  

On the other hand, I loved Bill’s Lyonnaise salad, which was greens, a perfectly poached egg, bacon, and croutons.  That’s my kind of salad.  Breakfast in a bowl!

I had a lovely filet of sole on top of pureed lentils and vegetables.  I was delighted by how colorful this dish was and that, for once, it was pretty healthy.

And this was Bill’s mystery dish…

WTF is Bill eating?  It’s rice, mushrooms, and some kind of meat…

Followed up with some very good local cheeses.  I love watching Bill eat cheese, even if I never eat it myself.

The expression on his face is why I like watching him.  He does the same when he drinks a very good wine or interesting beer.

Next came dessert.  Bill’s was basically meringue in creme anglaise and topped with caramel.  It was not too big and he liked it a lot for that reason.

My dessert was excellent!  It was a poached pear on a cookie with little mounds of chocolate mousse, a scoop of pear sorbet, and an almond cookie.  It was a great cap to a fine meal. 

Bill eats his cheese course and tries to figure out what each of the cheeses were.  He says, “This one might be Epoisses.”  Epoisses is a locally produced cheese we discovered on our last trip to Burgundy.  He later did some checking and identified the cheeses.  When I see him later, I’ll get him to tell me what he thinks they were so I can update.

 

We got all of this fine food for about fifty euros.  And, on the way out of the restaurant, I took note of the sign that listed the plate of the day.  Bill was eating “dinge”.  Looking up the word, I see that dinge in French is turkey.  The more you know!  If we go back to Saint Marcelin-de-Cray, we will for sure try to visit L’Etape Charollaise again.

A pet friendly Columbus Day weekend in France… part five

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Ah… Sunday…  It’s usually our rest day.  And it kind of did end up being our rest day, but not before we took two more lengthy walks into Semur En Auxois.  After breakfast, we got up and took another walk into town, this time going the more direct but less scenic route, using the roads.  We had read that there would be a market in the main square and that was what we were aiming for.  The clouds were out, though, and it was chilly.  When we got to the main square, there were a few vendors out with their produce.  I also noticed a well dressed couple standing off to the side.  Upon closer inspection, I saw that they were Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Adding to the excitement was the sound of a loudspeaker.  It reminded me of being in Turkey and hearing calls to prayer.  At first, Bill wondered if we were hearing some kind of sermon.  But no, it turned out there was a race going on.  The city had blocked off a route for the runners who were in the several races held on Sunday.  I swear, the guy announcing on the loudspeaker went non stop for hours.

I thought maybe we’d pick up some produce, but Bill wasn’t feeling it.  So we kept walking through the town and I got more photos.

Beautiful produce, but the market was pretty small.  We kept walking.

The town is just as pretty when it’s cloudy.

We walked down toward the Pont Pinard again.

Zane was fascinated by the water and the many fishing poles left out…

Some horses grazing across the river.  I was happy the boys didn’t notice them.

I saw this old car several times.  I also saw several more like it.

Semur En Auxois is home to ramparts and towers dating from the 7th century… They are very impressive to see.

I grabbed a shot of some kids running in the race that was going on all day Sunday.

Another photo of the charming square.

Pont Pinard on a cloudy day…

Zane liked walking along the river.

After our first walk, we went back to the Tower and Bill went to the store to load up on wine to bring back to Stuttgart.  Supermarkets in Semur En Auxois are open until noon on Sunday, so Bill took advantage.  He said at one point, a local woman was staring at him as he loaded up.  He thought maybe she disapproved of all the wine he was buying, but my guess is that she had him pegged as an outsider.  One thing I loved about this little town was that despite being very attractive, quirky, and French, it’s also quite unspoiled.  We didn’t hear any other Americans among us, though Louise the proprietor at the Hexagonal Tower said that she’d had guests from American bases in Germany at another property she and her husband owned.  I’m not sure if she’s had other Americans in her tower yet.

I read in Trip Advisor that this restaurant is very dog friendly.  It smelled good and I really wanted to try it.  But unfortunately, our pooches were too wound up on Sunday.

Destined to be a Facebook cover photo soon.

A stairway to heaven?  Or perhaps just to the town…

A picture of the viaduct we crossed on Saturday.

At about noon, we decided we wanted to take a walk back into town and attempt lunch.  We brought the dogs, who had been making some progress at restaurants over the summer.  Alas, as we approached one place, a dog off lead approached Zane.  He did fine with her.  They sniffed each other’s butts and I thought we were in the clear.  But then Arran, our more temperamental dog, got all upset and started bugling.  That caused Zane to start barking.  Then the dog off the lead started barking like mad.  A bunch of French folks sitting in a nearby cafe all started laughing at us.  We walked back through the main square in search of a place for lunch, but my mood was a bit spoiled.  We did pass a musician who caught my attention by playing guitar, harmonica, and singing at the same time.  We probably should have bought a CD.

When we walked back through the square, the same dog who had been somewhat chill when she met Zane came back over and bared her teeth.  Arran went apeshit.  Zane also talked back, but Zane’s tone was more of a “Buzz off, bitch!” than Arran’s “I’m going to tear you apart!”  Actually, I doubt Arran would have hurt her.  He’s mostly all bark.  Mostly, I say…

By the time we got back to the tower, I was really tired.  I wanted to use the Internet, too.  So I went up to the bedroom and got online.  A few minutes later, I crashed… HARD.  I slept for a solid two hours.

When I woke up, it was time for copious wine.  We enjoyed local vino and watched France’s version of Supernanny, which turned out to be surprisingly interesting despite the fact that we don’t speak French at all.  Bill also bought some local cheese called Epoisses.  He says it’s fantastic– rich and creamy.  I think it smells like feet.  Since I’m really not a cheese person, I’ll take his word for it.

If you like stinky French cheese, Semur En Auxois is the place for you.  As for me, pass the wine.

 

I’ll wrap up this series tomorrow.  Now, it’s time for some shut eye in my nice big bed.