We started off our day with a quick hotel breakfast followed by a tour of the Gravensteen. The castle was really impressive and worth seeing, especially before the peak heat! The audio tour is helpful for a general overview, but it is led by a comedian who is not, in my opinion, the funniest. So, it was worth shortening some of the tracks.
Before leaving, we had a snack and a drink at our favorite chocolate shop, Tailored Flavours. We still had a few chocolates from yesterday so we didn’t buy more, but we did enjoy a tea and hot chocolate, accompanied by their delicious almond cookies. It was very tasty and gave us the needed endorphins for the slightly unpleasant task of dragging rolleraboard bags along the cobblestone streets made of “Belgian Blocks,” a term used in the auto industry for a specific suspension test done over similar blocks to ensure a smooth ride in rough conditions! Our poor little suitcases barely stood a chance!
Then it was off to Maastricht! Yes, there was a late change in plans. I had planned on going to Durbuy, which inspires a lot of ambivalence on the internet. Some people love it, others think it is the tourist trap of all tourist traps. Since we had just spent time in Ghent which felt very touristy, I decided that maybe it wasn’t the best place for us. Two other key factors are 1. It is remote and we are taking public transport on a Sunday, which is even more infrequent and 2. The hotel we reserved does not have AC and it is going to be 90F today. That would result in a rough night of sleep, for sure!
So, I used Marriott points to book a hotel in Maastricht. It’s a fancy one, located in a former monastery. It was absolutely beautiful and totally worth it! They also are firmly in camp pro-AC!
On the way to Maastricht, SMS caused a minor train drama! The bathroom had been locked for the first hour. When the conductor came by, SMS asked if the bathroom was available on the train and the conductor said that one should be. When SMS and I told him it had been occupée for a long time, the conductor burst into action. Knocking on the door, Êtes-vous malade, and then sternly warning that he would be opening the door in one minute. This caused a fuss, with most people laughing when a drunk train fare dodger emerged. Then, I couldn’t believe it. SMS used the bathroom. I would have 100% used a different car- who knows what would be in there?! But SMS said it was just normal.
Our journey took us through Liège, where I was hoping to stop for a waffle. But between Sunday transportation schedules and wanting to dump our suitcases/check into our nice hotel, we decided just to pass through.
We arrive in Maastricht, which is another super cute Dutch university town. There’s a central river and no canals, but we really liked it from the start.
We took the bus to the hotel, finishing the last bit of distance rattling our suitcases over Belgian blocks. We went out to get something to eat. We had meant to go to a downtown cafe, but quickly found Friedt Maastricht, the best fries in Maastricht. They were delicious. I was in a sulk though, because SMS wanted to go back to the hotel for our deferred welcome drink and decompress in the AC while I wanted to press on. As SMS said, “How can anyone be sad eating a French fry?”
We headed back to the hotel and SMS was right, the welcome bubbles were delicious and the AC was enjoyable. Afterwards, we headed out to the shopping streets. There was a small craft fair going on in a central square, that included a DJ with a “Linger” remix that was interesting. Not a song that I ever thought to set to a beat drop.
We went to a cafe that the hotel reception had recommended, de Gouverneur. There were several beers on tap as well as many, many bottles. SMS and I got beers on tap, a Pilsner and Blonde respectively.
I had my sights set on going to Boekhandel Dominican, a bookstore in an old church from the 1200s. It was amazing! A church of books! I’m so happy we went. I was determined to buy a book from there. It was hard to pick. Ultimately, I chose Remains of the Day since it’s been on my TBR list for awhile and I wanted something that would age well. I wasn’t sure if The Guest by Emma Cline would be similarly rarified and worthy of being purchased in Book Church.
I had another place I wanted to go- the statue of the Beeld Bronzen Haan. I had found the online reviews for a rooster statue that were so funny. I wanted to see for myself and maybe add to it. I highly recommend the experience, if it isn’t too far out of your way.
Nearby, there was a large bird cage with finches and yellow birds that almost looked like C bird.
Speaking of C bird, we got a proof of life picture from our friend who stopped by to feed her yesterday. It warmed our hearts.
As we walked along the old city walls, we turned in towards the university and back to our hotel. We came across a Spanish tapas place that we decided to eat at, after a small amount of overthinking on my part. We had several tapas and I had a glass of sangria. Our bill was 42 Euros. OMG. Why do we live in Silicon Valley where the prices are so much more, not even inclusive of tax and tip? SMS points out that eating out prices have really gone up since the pandemic, which is true.
We walked back to our hotel and turned in for the night in the lovely, lovely AC. My gosh, we are so soft. Just like our delightful, comfy bed!