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!

Our trip to The Netherlands via Luxembourg… part 10

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So today is my birthday… We started off with breakfast at the hotel and being stared down by some grumpy looking guy.  I declared him an asshole. Then we walked through an antique market and came back to the hotel, where I changed shoes and put on sandals and socks because we decided to go to Amsterdam and I knew my feet would kill me in my warmer clogs.

We walked to the main square in Haarlem and wandered around.  I was able to take some nice photos before we went into the cathedral.  It was five euros for both of us to go in, but it was well worth the cost because a choir was rehearsing.  Their singing was beautiful and the acoustics were amazing.  I got all teary as I heard it… I wanted to join in, but I also really just wanted to listen.  It was very moving.

Yes, this is an ad for an opera about the Costa Concordia…  

And there are sex shops in Haarlem too.

And cool old bikes.

Then we walked to the train station.  Haarlem is just two stops from Amsterdam.  It takes maybe fifteen minutes to get there.  Once you do, wow… Amsterdam is huge, busy, and obnoxious with people!  There were literally throngs of people pouring out of the train station.

Bill and I found our way deeper into the city and were soon confronted by lots of sex shops, coffeeshops, and prostitutes.  Amsterdam is definitely a city where a person can sin freely.  We soon ran into a group of men, one of whom was wearing a pacifier around his neck.  He was obviously drunk and waiting for his companion to finish peeing at one of the pissoirs in the city.  After we passed them, we ran across a sex shop with a replica of a woman’s butt made out of rubber.  Next to it were huge fake boobs and a couple of male versions of fake genitals.  There were plenty of didos, harness gags, and leather outfits offered, too.  I saw many bored looking hos.

We walked around for awhile and when we got hungry, stopped by a little hole in the wall restaurant.  The guy cooking and waiting tables was wearing a chef’s outfit and appeared to know what he was doing.  Bill had piri piri chicken and I had another cheeseburger.  The Dutch seem to season their meat differently than we do.  The burger tasted a little like sausage.  It wasn’t bad, but I kind of missed American burgers.

I thought about having some cheesecake, but decided I just wanted to move on…  Parts of Amsterdam are truly pretty, but it was just too busy and noisy for my liking.  We got back on the train to Haarlem and I discovered that there is free WiFi offered, which is really awesome.

On the way back to the hotel, Bill and I stopped into the coffeeshop and picked up a space cake.  I ate it about an hour ago.  It’s my first experience with marijuana ever.  I’m still waiting for it to kick in…  Maybe I will blog once it does.

Yeah… Blogging is essential.

Our trip to The Netherlands via Luxembourg… part 9

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Yesterday, we moved on from Apeldoorn to Haarlem.  Originally, I had planned to stay in Amsterdam, but Rick Steves advises that Haarlem is much homier and friendlier and less crowded.  Also, I found the hotel prices were much more affordable.  Before we went to Haarlem, we decided to visit Apenheul, a special zoo that is home to monkeys and other related creatures.  I knew it would be a very kid friendly place, but it was also fun for us to explore.  We got there fairly early.  As it turned out, getting there somewhat early was a good thing.  The park wasn’t too crowded and there was plenty of parking available.  It was 17,50 euros for each ticket, which was less than I was expecting.

We saw gorillas, ring tailed lemurs, orangutans, and other adorable primates, many of which were free range and allowed to walk among the masses.  Most of them didn’t mingle too much with park visitors, but there were a few that were practically tame.  Some people carried monkey bags with them because if you aren’t careful, they can get into your stuff.  We had no such trouble.  The only trouble we had involved rain, which got a little harder as we were leaving the park.  We got out of there at just the right time.

It took about 90 minutes to get to Haarlem.  Once we did, we found the hotel and the vast parking garage located right next to it.  We checked into the executive suite I booked.  I was lucky enough to have a $150 coupon, so it was really a steal.  We are staying at the Carlton Square Hotel, which features a full and complimentary minibar.  And when I say full, I mean full.  There are generous decanters of whisky and cognac as well as vodka, gin, wine and beer.  There are also soft drinks, peanuts, and chocolates…  We stayed at the Carlton George Hotel in Glasgow and The Dominican hotel in Brussels.  Both are sister hotels, but only the Carlton George had a free bar in it.  The Carlton George wasn’t as nice as this hotel is.  I have decided I like this chain, though.  I would have booked their Amsterdam property, but it was too pricey.

Nice bed.

After offloading our stuff, we went to a local restaurant and enjoyed some beer and burgers.  Just across the street is a coffeeshop, where one can buy weed.  Bill was a little put off by it, but I read up on it and it actually gets pretty good ratings.

Later, we went to the hotel bar, which offers a nice selection of whiskys and great 80s music, which did a lot to make me feel less old.  Bill and I downed a few rounds as I said goodbye to my 42nd year on the planet…