Back to a land of good manners and liberal attitudes

We haven’t had enough holidays this year and decided we could manage another micro adventure. What started as a seven day driving trip to some interesting French museums has been condensed to a few days experiencing the build up to Kerst in Holland. Although, quite frankly, we are here for the Christmas Markets. We visited one in Monschau the year we spent Christmas at Auderath and they are just not the same at home.

It was pouring with rain when we left at 3am and that weather kept us company until we reached Maastricht. Thankfully, it decided to give us a break and became a faint drizzle.

Our plan was to visit the Maastricht Christmas Market today and Valkenburg tomorrow. According to The Guardian, Valkenburg’s Market is the second coolest in Europe. We will leave you guessing why until tomorrow.

Our Maastricht adventure started with a bus ride into the town centre. At every stop, the bus driver announced ‘hotel Valk guests remain seated’ until finally allowing us off the bus at the correct stop with clear instructions on how to catch the bus back.

Our first stop was Vrijthof, the square where Andre Rieu hosts his famous concerts, expecting to see a traditional Christmas Market. To be fair, we could see it behind hoardings. Despite double checking our dates, it doesn’t fully open until 1st December and we made do with some fantastic cheese stalls instead.

Walking back into the pedestrianised area, we came across an unusual looking pottery shop and wandered in for a browse. The shop is run by volunteers raising money for a Children’s charity. The stock comes from a derelict ceramics factory in the town. Decades ago, the owner literally locked the doors and left everything as it was. A ceramics factory had been on the site since the early 20th century as JEMA making lustreware figurines. A useless fact – JEMA made figurines that were very like Hummels until the German Goebel manufacturer sued them.

Next stop was Bookshop Dominicanen. You could lose yourself for hours in this converted church which we resisted. As we left we were caught up in a protest March which was very peaceful despite their flags, drums and posters. Of course, we don’t actually know what they were saying but the police officers on their bikes , escorting the participants, weren’t perturbed.

Exploring the back streets away from the tourist ‘Magical Lights Trail’ we came across a cafe advertising ‘the best coffee in the world’ so John had to stop and try some. We were greeted by a very helpful lady who had obviously been indulging in the local Wiet. Various options on how best to drink espresso were provided followed by a long ramble about the correct way to orientate a table fork. John agreed it was one of the best coffees he has ever tasted and we are now fork etiquette experts.

We do love Maastricht and not just for the free samples we have indulged in – cheese, pancakes filled with lemon and fruit compotes, fruit teas. Friendly bus drivers are included too. Unfortunately, frites and mayo weren’t free so points have been deducted.