City Trip: Valkenburg and Maastricht

Hi everyone! We are just back from our first vacation as a family of four. We visited the south of the Netherlands, that luckily had better weather than the north, where we live. In this post I want to share with you a few pics that will hopefully inspire you to explore that part of the country. It is really worth a visit, so much so that I regret not having gone there pre-kids, because -let’s face it- kids do slow you down a bit and I saw way too many bars and pubs that I would love to visit, way too many alleys that I would like to explore, preferably slightly tipsy with a bunch of young and beautiful friends. But I digress. Maastricht with -two!- kids. Here we go.

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That’s Houthem St. Gerlach. A tiny village between Valkenburg and Maastricht. We rented a lovely airbnb apartment there, ’cause that’s what you do when you have young kids that sleep at 20:00 and you still want to enjoy the night (’till 22:00). And look! It actually has hills! Hills in the Netherlands!

That’s Houthem’s old train station building, that apparently you can also reserve as accommodation. Sounds fun, as long as there’s heating.

And that is the view from our airbnb. It has a back garden, which I can imagine is lovely to use the three days the Dutch summer lasts. We enjoyed it from our kitchen window and that was that.

That’s Valkenburg’s train station. It is the oldest still functioning train station buildings in the Netherlands and the building’s castle-like design was inspired by a palace. There is a really nice cafe in there and apparently the place to go to ask how to get around Valkenburg too.

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And that’s a witch that lost her way.

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Here are a few pics of the center of Valkenburg. The city is mostly famous for its marlstone quarries and the ruins of a castle, but the city center is lovely to visit as well, with many nice restaurants and cafes and a museum too.

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Following a few pictures from the temporary exhibition at the Land van Valkenburg museum. A very child-friendly museum I must add, not because our 3-year old was allowed to roam freely, but because she was also offered a hot chocolate to enjoy while she was watching a video about one of the artists.

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After the museum visit, it was time for the castle ruins. A castle that dates back to 1115. Loulou Maya really loved it and kept role-playing that she was a gnome, I was the mother gnome and Nikos was a knight, that was showing us around in his castle.

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After the castle we decided to visit the famous caves, which are actually not caves at all but quarries, as I mentioned before. There is a long underground network of them and there is even a Christmas market taking place there. Loulou Maya was still a gnome, I was still the mother gnome and it was time to introduce the knight to our underground kingdom. Note: if you want to visit a long, dark, humid, cold underground network of sorts with a 3-year old, it’s best to make sure you can escape in case they freak out. Luckily ours didn’t, but when she started asking when we could go out after the first 10 minutes, we realized we are complete idiots for not having a plan of escape. We were totally dependent on our guide and his lamp. Thankfully, the “caves” (that’s what they call them in Dutch, grotten = caves) have lots of art in there and our guide was pretty passionate and entertaining so we survived the 45′ tour without tantrums.

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The paintings are done by covering the wall with charcoal powder and then scratching out the images. Thanks to the humidity and temperature in the caves, they can last for many many years. The caves have been used as a shelter during war or when fires broke out and there is even a church down there, still used for weddings sometimes nowadays. The lifespan of the people working at the quarries was really short (2-3 years since they started work) not only because of the dust that accumulated in their lungs, but because of the shoot of the oil lamps that were constantly burning. All that and more fascinating facts you can learn in detail if you follow a guided tour.

Maastricht

Such a lovely city! I fell in love with it, because a) it has some kind of elevation and is not completely flat and b) it really reminds me of a Greek island at times, because of the narrow cobblestone alleys. Following are some pictures to help you get the general atmosphere of the city.

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For the museum lovers out there, following are a few pics from the Maastricht museums we visited.

Museum aan het Vrijthof

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Lovely exhibition of three artists with different styles, yet all three very vibrant and inspiring.

 

Natural History Museum (Natuurhistorisch Museum Maastricht)

Okey, that one wasn’t a success. Too many dead animals, too much darkness. And Loulou Maya has decided that though she loves her plastic T-Rex, she is scared of dinosaur skeletons so she couldn’t appreciate the main attractions of this museum. Also, the museum cafe, which -let’s face it- is an important part of any museum, was not that impressive. No one was at the bar and you could get coffee and chocolate from automatic vending machines. Meh. Still, lovely garden!

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Bonnefanten Museum Maastricht

Yes! THAT was a museum I really enjoyed visiting. An awesome temporary exhibition of the work of Raymond Pettibon, glorious permanent collection and a great cafe with an impressive menu.

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Our favorite place in Maastricht must be this: Boekhandel Dominicanen. A bookstore in a church building. Both new and used books, a children book section, some records as well as the usual bookstore gadgets (tiny reading lights, mugs with literature quotes etc). I loved it there and so did Nikos and Loulou Maya and probably Vera Jo too, since it was an interesting space to look at.

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I shall close this post with the two loves of my life: Nikos and food. Delicious Thai food.

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I hope you enjoyed my virtual tour and if you get a chance, do visit those amazing places.

 

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