Monday, June 18, 2007

From Maastricht to Antwerpen

It took me long time now to blog about our weekend trip few weeks ago. It was a nice trip and too good to forget in which I can't help not to share it here. So better document it, till it's in my head.

We went to the province of Limburg, the southeast end of the Netherlands. A friend couple invited us to come over to their place in Bungalowpark in the small town of Simpelveld.

It was really an impression to me when we started driving through the province. It's somewhat different. It has a high distinct character. Limburg has its own language, called Limburgish . I read about it's topography but right there I was still amazed. I already saw the neigboring mountains of Belgium, Louxembourg and Germany, that I can imagine how Limburg would be like which is closed to its borders. Well, it's not a typical landscape as what we always know and see in the Netherlands.

The south of the province is remarkable when compared to the rest of the country, as it is one of the few regions that has hills. We went to the highest point of the Netherlands, the Vaalserberg with a height of 322.5meters. Don't smile...this is almost 7 times high of the Philippines Mt. Apo. Here, we stand at the Drielandenpunt, the border point of Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

All is green and even hilly :-) it's something remarkable. No wonder that this place is a haven of bikers and numerous biking races are organized. This contributes to the wide uniqueness of landscape type in the Netherlands, rendering Limburg ideal for tourism and leisure activities.

Not wasting our time, we explored Maastricht. Limburg's Provincial Government is located along the river Maas in Maastricht, the oldest city in the Netherlands. Maastricht was equally significant as a fortified city.

Many churches in Maastricht are of Romanesque or Gothic origin, often with an astounding array of treasures such as sculpture, and vestments. The city and its villages showcase a balance attraction.

We strolled around and even crossing to the west bank of the serene river Maas. We walked through the Saint Servatius bridge, the oldest bridge of the Netherlands and the new bridge where we had a peaceful stroll not minding other walkers and tourists. I took a nice view over an open landscape through which the river Maas quietly meanders after a plunging steps going up to the new bridge.

We bumped into the big shopping streets and tucked along with the bustle of the busy shoppers. We landed at the edge of the main square, the Vrijthof, where many shops and sample of varied bars standing aligned and icecream parlors as delighting attraction of that warm-sunny afternoon.

Shopping is an excellent reason for a day trip to Maastricht, I guess. The city boasts a particularly large number of fashion stores, patisseries, and antique shops - and the fashions displayed in the windows of the stores in any quarters will be almost irresistible. It's ideal place for shoppers by virtue of the large number of shops and department stores in the city-centre region. A day’s shopping maybe both an appealing and a very special experience, since the majority of the city’s stores are located in historical streets. A large number of convivial (pavement) cafes and restaurants alternating between exclusive and specialized stores, inclusive of famous fashion houses, interior stores with home accessories and furniture, jewellers, antique shops, and galleries are there to lure locals and tourists.

This is what I guess...sigh :-( I did'nt had the time to do it.

We took time to walk along the ruins of the old wall and arrived at the main gate, the Helpoort. It is the only city gate which is left standing in Maastricht and is also the oldest of its kind in the Netherlands dating back 1229.

The counties of the province offers bronze-green oak woods in the meadows and fields. An orchard full of blossoming fruit trees where you can smell it. Both hill and flat land, varying from forested slopes to vast asparagus fields. With a touch of green from the Maas valley, a dash of purple from the heather and a warm brown-reddish glow from the Peel. I enjoyed our drive with a scenic sights of bikers somewhere in a hidden bikepads.

After a long walk in Maastricht, we drove back to Simpelveld before the sun hides through the clouds. Cows and sheep are still grazing in the midst of the vast grass fields. In the beginning of the evening, we were graced by a hearty dinner. Later of the night and till early morning, we had the perfect place not forgetting to play Kolonisten. Yeah, we were under spell of the game until there. It was a tough night after perusing and exploring the historical landmarks of Holland's oldest city.

Do you think we already ended up there? We just rushed our breakfast and packed things up and get ready going to Antwerp (Antwerpen), the biggest city of Belgium. This is only a border city of the Netherlands and Belgium, a good driving diversion road to stop over :-) from Maastricht. Why not give a try :-)

This is the world diamond center, a city of fashion designers and fashion trendsetters, a world port, a bustling Burgundian city, a real shoppers’ paradise, a gallery of protected monuments and cityscapes, a welcoming and multicultural metropolis with a convivial atmosphere, only blind person who will not be interested to dig up in this area. It was long over due idea to visit Antwerp, and now we had by chance to experience it.

Our day in Antwerp started in a loopway driving. :-) We had no map of the city center. We had finally parked our cars before we got dizzy-heads. From there, we got our feet ready and try to open our eyes wide awake (we're sleepy). To stroll through Antwerp's historical city centre is to enjoy eight centuries of history though the city is a little bit look crumpled with visible old-dumped things cluttering in some areas.
Our walk journey leads through a maze of alleyways, squares and streets :-) not to miss the shopping streets again. Luckily (according to my honey), shops are closed on sunday :-(

Shopping and fashion galore. Antwerp is homed by world-trend fashion designers. A lot of features like an eclectic mix of posh boutiques and street wear stores for a hip, trendy and young audience. Some collections and designs can be found in the shop windows of the more prestigious fashion and design stores dotted around the neighbourhood where we walked.

Many town squares are taken over by enthusiastic organisers, a stage and delightful music. You can enjoy the best 'homegrown' talent in a cosy setting in the open. No need to make reservations and admission is completely free. Street Noise or entertainment is just right in the public place like outside of the old churches and monuments.

We took a break in a cafe seated in a strategic corner of the square where the Cathedral of Our Lady located while watching a street performer. After 169 years of building [1352-1521] the Cathedral raised up, like lace-work in stone, 123 metres high above. It became the largest Gothic construction of the time Belgium was still a part of the kingdom of Netherlands. The Cathedral is a vast treasure chamber, preserving masterpieces by Rubens, the world-known artist that the Flemish (Vlaams) proud of.


Along the way we came across majestic classics such as the Brabo statue and the town hall in the Grote Markt (Great Square). We ended up our walk until the Scheldt boulevard where cruise port is just at the other end. There, we reached our satisfaction to decide of going home....


Can you imagine how far we walked away from the parking ground? I even do'nt know but approximately we walked the same distance back to the car. :-( It was kind of a marathon for me. I enjoyed it, in the middle of fighting back against tiredness.

What a Roman and a Gothic experience! Inside the cities of Maastricht and Antwerpen (Antwerp) are the ancient architectures but going out backwardly, are the green ranges. A contrast side to pay a difference.

Well, it was only a weekend trip. We drove back home. It seemed that I feel like, there's no place like home :-) as we drove back through A16 highway. From the time we entered the highway, feels a distinct feeling, that is the way how smoothly we drove. Netherlands' good road system shows people's taxes. Off or within the border...always pay a difference, subtle might be, but still gives impact on preference.

Now, I'm just away from the border point. :-), however, I would still like to cross borders sometime again. See you in there then...wherever ;-9.



2 comments:

Gretel said...

great! great blog ams... continue blogging...

very inspiring indeed;)

gretel (http://greatgreta.blogspot.com)

thess said...

Hi Maria!
This is a good documentation about the 2 cities, which happen to be both my favorite. back in 94 when I saw Maastricht for the first time, I fell in love with it. I find it romantic and you're right, it's a shopping haven! I love going there during the sale season.

Napasok mo ba Diamond Museum sa Antwerp? how about Ruben's Huis? na miss ko tuloy Antwerp (^-^)

saang part ka ba ng Holland? less than an hour from my place ang Antwerp, tara, balik tayo (^-^)