Andre’s Army’s Newest Recruits

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.

photo0609So 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. SAM_0638My 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.SAM_0636

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.


20 responses to “Andre’s Army’s Newest Recruits

  1. You are so fortunate to live so close to so much history and culture. Holland would be a major trip from here. A great trip that will live on in your memories. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  2. Valerie J. Patterson

    Wow! What an awesome adventure for you and AJ, Tricia! What a great guy you have there in that he simply said to book it AND he’s taking you again!! So glad you enjoyed your concert. I have to say I have never heard of the tunnels your toured. Your blog has sparked my curiosity and now I need to know more. Thank you!! I love learning new things. 😛

  3. You’re like me, Valerie, one spark of interest about something new and the research gene kicks in 🙂 We’d never heard of St Pieter’s Caves either, but so glad we took the opportunity to visit.

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      Oh yeah! That’s all it takes, too and I’m off running down information. The tunnels fascinate me. A city in the tunnels is what is seems they had there. I could not imagine life there, but it provided safety for so many in a time where safety was a necessity.

  4. OMGosh, what a great way to party! I can picture you (and a lot of other folks) waltzing your way through the square. How amazing!
    I’m with you on tight spaces, but sometimes, it’s worth the effort, isn’t it? I’m glad you had such a great trip!

  5. What an amazing trip. Lucky you!!! Love the pictures!!

  6. Oh, truly fascinating. What a great experience! I can only imagine how many people live there yet have never been in to see what is down there. I’m glad you went.

  7. You’re right, Tonette. Isn’t it interesting how we don’t always visit what’s on our doorstep yet travel half way around the world in search of interesting sights to see? Food for thought indeed.

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      Exactly, Tricia. I was just saying the same thing to a friend of mine. It seems we’re willing to go great distances to see things, but won’t go see something close to home. In my case, I was discussing what a lovely state I live in and that there’s so much to do and see that never gets done or seen because we’re too busy leaving the state to see something else. 😛

      • I know what you mean regarding seeing things in our own backyards. I’ve found I explore and see more when I have visitors. Taking them around helps me ‘see’ things too.

      • Valerie J. Patterson

        Exactly, Lavada. It seems we see far more when we are “showing off” the place where we live than we’d see otherwise. Sometimes, being the passenger as opposed to being the driver also gives us a chance to look around and see things we otherwise miss because we’re concentrating on traffic, pedestrians etc.

  8. What a fab trip. Often watch Andre on TV; his shows are amazing and fun and the orchestra always enjoy themselves too. Love visiting caves (which sounds odd because I hate enclosed spaces). So pleased you had such an amazing time. 🙂

  9. WOW! sounds fantastic. I love Andre. I sort of played the violin in my younger years but much as I love the instrument, I was never very good but I sure appreciate great musicians.

    The caves sound great too. I’m a bit claustrophobic but sounds like a cool experience. Jillian

  10. LOL, Jillian! Wonder if you’d say that had you been standing next to me 🙂

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