Day 5 - Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - Travel by Bus to Maastricht, the birthplace of the EU; then Travel on to Luxembourg
Today was a travel day - we went into Belgium and Luxembourg, two new countries for us!
The wake up call was at 6:30 and our luggage had to be out at 7:00. The temperature was 49 degrees and the humidity was 87%. We have noticed that the mornings tend to be gray and cooler, but by afternoon and evening the weather improves remarkably.
Our regular driver, Michael was back with us today. Thomas talked to us briefly about the Celts and the Romans and the foundation they laid for modern Europe. We drove south on A2 along flat land; pastures, with many greenhouses, and groves of trees beginning to leaf out.
Closer to the cities, sound and visual barriers have been erected blocking any view of the land. We continued on A2 and traveled through more hilly and forested regions. Our first stop of the day was at highway rest area.
Thomas gave us 30 minutes so Michael could take his required driving break. We had a new experience; to use the restroom, one needed to gain access with a half € coin. Then one received a voucher that could be use for the purchase of an item in the cafe.
Of course, nothing costs only 50 cents, so one spends two or three € to redeem the voucher. What a deal!
As we continued on to Massstricht, the capital of the province of Limburg we found a more medieval city with a modern philosophy of Europe. This town is considered to be the birthplace of the European Union. Thomas walked with us to the Basilica of Our Lady.
We also visited the Selexyz Dominican Bookstore. The store is housed in a Medieval Dominican church and is well-known for having one of the largest selections of books in the area.
Thomas had recommended The Reitz, famed for Holland French-fries eaten with a local mayonnaise. We also had a frikandel and a kip corn - sausage like meat, one with pork and the other with chicken. We ate our lunch at the city fountain.
In the Town Hall Square we explored a flea market and Vic struck up a conversation with a group of people from Düsseldorf, Germany. They shared their drinks with him and in limited English and German we had a very lively conversation!
We had a generous amount of time to explore the city and take photos. Our group was to meet at 2:30 but two people in our group were late and we were not able to leave until after 3:00.
Back on the bus, we continued on to Luxembourg passing over the Belgian border. Thomas showed a movie about the painter, Johan Vermeer, The Girl with the Pearl Earring. Several people watched the movie, many rested, and the time to our destination went quickly.
We had one last comfort stop at 3:40 but we were on our way again by 4:15. We continued the journey and the movie. The scenery was much hillier and is also know as The Little Switzerland although the highest mount is 414 meters above sea level.
We crossed over the border into Luxembourg at 5:30. Officially known as the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, it is one of the smallest but the richest countries of the world. The economy was built on steel, banking, and now tourism.
Arriving at the hotel at 6:00 we received our room keys and Vic helped Michael and Thomas with the bags as the hotel was short-handed. Thomas had arranged for us to have dinner at the hotel at 6:30.
We did not linger after dinner but came up to the room at 8:30 and while Gennie did a little hand laundry, Vic sorted photos and we finished the journal.
It was a long day on the bus which is sometimes more tiring than hiking all day. We were happy to take a shower and get some sleep as tomorrow we explore the Principality of Luxembourg!
Accommodations: Grand Hotel Mercure Alfa - - - Meal: B & D - - Rating: B
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I am surprised we beat you to any country! We have been to Belgium (Brussels and Bruge, both great places) and we were in Luxembourg in 1977! I assume that still counts! I will be anxious to hear about Luxembourg today. I know our friends from Amsterdam love it in summer. Carol