I’ve long been a fan of violinist Andre Rieu, also known as the King of the Waltz. Andre travels all over the world conducting the Johann Strauss orchestra and regularly visits the UK, but for one reason or another I always seem to miss his concerts.
On my wish list for 2014 was a trip to see Andre, but I couldn’t find that he was due to visit the UK this year. AJ, who enjoys his music but wasn’t especially driven to see him in person, asked where the nearest concert would be and I discovered it was in Maastrict, Holland. ‘Book it’ my lovely hubby said. Just over an hour later I was the proud owner of two Andre Rieu tickets, Eurostar tickets and several intercontinental rail connection tickets, not to mention a cute little apartment rental in the centre of Maastrict. AJ, slightly dazed by the speed at which his normally procrastinator wife could move, smiled resignedly and poured himself a large glass of wine.
So it came to pass that the Joneses found themselves in the beautiful Vrijthof Square in Maastrict during July, taking part in what was in effect the largest (and noisiest) party we’d ever been to. The whole evening was magical. AJ, who is very British and normally quite reserved, was on his feet most of the time and singing and dancing along to waltzes, songs from the musicals, anthems and popular ditties. We both loved every minute, so much so that the moment we got home, and at AJ’s suggestion, we booked again to see Andre in December here in Birmingham, UK. Which means we are now officially members of Andre’s Army 🙂
Fabulous concert aside, there was much to do in Maastrict which boasts having the oldest bridge in the Netherlands (Sint Servaasbrug) and the oldest city gate (Hell’s Gate), both built in the thirteen century. My favourite trip was to St. Pieter’s Caves, an underground network of man-made tunnels. The caves were formed through the mining of marl, and it is thought the process goes back to Roman times. Today it is a labyrinth of over 20,000 tunnels. The close proximity of Maastrict to Germany meant that during the second World War the caves were used as a refuge for the people of Maastrict. The caves were prepared to shelter 50,000 people, with chapels, a hospital and schooling for the children. Evidence of this remains in the form of altars, paintings and poems written on the walls.
While I’m not a huge fan of enclosed spaces, it was hard to miss the opportunity to visit these amazing caves. The tour took about an hour and the low temperatures provided a welcome respite from the thirty degree heat outside. Our party was about fifteen strong and our way was lit by three lanterns carried by the group. It was easy to believe the tales of how people used to mark the walls in order to find their way back out of this labyrinth, as every couple of feet the caves seemed to branch out into scores of other minor tunnels. Apologies for the poor quality of the photos, I don’t think my little camera could cope with the atmospherics, and it’s slightly damp-palmed operator, although I did get through the tour without disgracing myself by going into full-blown panic mode. It really was a fascinating experience.