Holland is under-estimated…

Holland is vastly under-estimated to everyone except the Dutch.  I only visited once before (I think!) when I was doing my year abroad. (I should have been in France). We hitch-hiked through Holland and survived on chips – with mayonnaise of course! It’s flat but not boring.  You can cycle everywhere and the Dutch do.  There are cycle pathways and motorists are courteous.  You see whole families, babies in the front and toddlers at the back, older kids following.  They look cool.  Cyclists don’t seem to wear helmets, perhaps because it’s an accepted way of transport and not as risky as here in the UK.

Limburg is in the south of the Netherlands, sandwiched between Belgium and Germany.  At one point it is only 13 kilometres wide.  There are a few hills here so it’s great for old cyclists and there are lots of campsites.  We stayed in a small one and hired bikes to be able to see some of the area.  for the first couple of nights we stayed in a B&B called Greenwoods.  Yes, not very Dutch, he was British born.  Ruth and Eddie are a lovely couple who were the most gracious of hosts.  Nothing was too much trouble.  They made their own bread and cakes, lovely varieties we hadn’t tried before.  And they made pancakes with strawberries.  Not just your usual hotel standard fare.

Of course as regular readers will know we were there primarily for Andre’s concert.  In the centre of Maastricht.  The kids might be embarrassed about me mentioning this.  Although they admit they loved it too!

Remember Maastricht?  It’s where Europe decided to go for the euro. John Major was there, I understand, but we didn’t sign up.  It is the most European of cities.  Culture, cafe life, galleries, parks, restaurants.  And such elegant people, of all ages.  When we play our usual game of ‘marks out of 10 for style’, usually during a long wait at airports we struggle to give people more than a 5.  Not here! Everyone seemed to merit a 7 or more.  They looked like they might work for the Brussels Assembly.  I saw something in the media recently suggesting that young people might choose to go to university here rather than in the high-cost UK. There are 40 higher educational establishments apparently.  And the best bookshop I have ever seen.  In a Dominican church that was restored by the owners and then converted.  I always think there is something reverential about a good bookshop so it seemed a good idea.  And there’s a cafe inside that serves excellent cinnamon topped strudel.

When you’re in a new country you quickly learn about regional food.  Goulash was on all menus.  And tomato soup, onion too.  Delicious croquettes, don’t know what was inside. Mussels and chips.  Influences of surrounding countries too, I suppose.  And cake, lots of cake! My favourite cafe though served strawberry custard tart and had an adorable waiter. He managed to find us a table for dinner before the concert.  He was tall, slim, dark-skinned and black-haired.  He was so nice he even went out of his way to say goodbye at the end of his shift.  The cafe had paintings of fat ladies on the walls. No wonder with all that cake.

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