Holiday during Corona, part 2

The last overdose of pictures of our holiday is coming up right now. First, some relaxation shots…

… and then last Saturday afternoon we drove just across the border to Belgium, to the little town of Remouchamps which houses caves. You can walk through the caves and actually ride a boat inside. We had done that once before with the kids back in 2005 when they were 4 and 19 months young respectively.

Of course they don’t remember but why not do it again and have at least our daughter remember it this time, we thought? So, we returned again now, 15 years later, with the difference being that this time we had to walk through the caves wearing masks. The boat ride at the end to get back to the entrance was still a lot of fun to do.

We then drove on to Germany, to Aachen again, to have dinner there.

Yesterday, on Sunday, we went into Maastricht again, this time for the sole purpose of visiting the inside of the St. Servaas church and see the treasury there.

I always love when there’s a crypt to visit and there was one in this church where Servaas from the 4th century (him after whom the church is named) is buried.

We then went into the treasury which housed St. Servaas’s bowl and key…

There were many other beautiful and very old and sometimes also weird treasures, like a severed head plaque of a saint…

There were relics with the bones of saints in them…

… and very old silks from the 10th/11th centuries…

… and some really old crosses! The cross here below on the left is from the 5th/6th century, the one on the right is even older from the 2nd/3rd century (Syrian or North-African).

The inner couryard was filled with wonderfully flagrant lavender…

It was really hot, so we went back to the coolness of our holiday cottage before heading into Maastricht again in the evening for a sushi dinner in a Japanese restaurant that housed a huge Buddha statue…

We ate so much, we needed a little walk around the city before heading back again.

This morning we packed up our things and left the holiday cottage at 10.30 am. We drove to the nearby US military cemetery in Margraten where over 8000 US soldiers are buried who fought to help free The Netherlands and Europe from Nazi terror in World War II. Such places are always very sobering to visit.

We then took a scenic route to Roermond and had lunch there. As from today you need to leave your name and phone number at all restaurants in The Netherlands so that you can be traced should a Corona outbreak happen again in the area. This already happens in Germany, now with Corona cases on the rise again here in The Netherlands, it is also done here. After lunch we walked around a little bit before we headed to our own home again.

It was lovely to see Mr Esther junior again when we got home (we really missed having him around on holiday – first time in 19 years that he had not come with us). He was extremely happy with the NBA basketball jersey we got him (from his fave player Giannis Antetokounmpo from the Milwaukee Bucks, bought at an NBA store in Aachen) and he admired his father’s ever growing Corona beard…

And now it’s back to quarantine at home again. Mr Esther and I still have one more week off work left to enjoy.

Holiday in times of Corona

I never only take one picture when I’m out and about, I take tons and Mr Esther takes even more. We’ve been quite busy on holiday, seeing a lot. Today is a day for doing nothing so I thought I’d post pics of what we’ve been up to. If reading people’s holiday stories and looking at endless slide shows are a chore, feel free to skip this post!

Our holiday cottage in the southern tip of The Netherlands near Maastricht is nice.

On our first real day trip we went to the Three Countries Point where the borders of The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany meet. It’s also the location of the highest point in The Netherlands. My country is very flat, so being here in the southern tip of The Netherlands almost feels foreign in itself as the scenery is so different from the rest of the country (OK, technically the following first picture is just across the border in Belgium).

There’s a marker right near the Three Countries Point that shows the highest point of The Netherlands in Vaals (322.5 meters above sea level). Peanuts in a lot of countries but a small matter of pride here.

A few meters on at the Three Countries Point we were told in German and Dutch that wearing a mask was desired but in Belgium that wearing a mask was mandatory.

So we donned our masks for the first time this holiday (not everyone did, but better safe than sorry, we figured)…

… and admired the pie-points that signified where The Netherlands is (smallest part of the pie), followed by Belgium, and half the pie belonged to Germany.

From there we drove on to Verviers in Belgium which turned out to not be the most amazing place but we did sit down there for drinks. In the center of town masks were mandatory, so we donned ours again.

We drove through the Belgian village of Limbourg, which is the source of the name of the Dutch province Limburg (our holiday cottage is in Limburg).

We ended the day with a little stop in the woods. Mini-me chased butterflies and we even saw deer.

The next day we went into Maastricht for the day, to get to know it a bit and walk around.

Except for in public transport, masks aren’t mandatory anywhere in The Netherlands. It was quite busy, though! We did our best to keep a distance but it felt like many people didn’t pay that much attention to how much distance they were keeping. There were signs up reminding people to avoid crowds, keep a distance, stay right, adhere to one way traffic…

Mini-me needed a shirt to sleep in, so she and I went into two or three stores until we found something while Mr Esther went to a bookstore inside an old church building. We were going to join him there but by the time we got there it felt too crowded for me, so mini-me and I sat down for some drinks instead on the square in front of the store and awaited Mr. Esther. It had been doable inside, he said, but it was good to be out again.

We soon left the busy shopping streets, visited the Basilica of Our Lady Maastricht and explored the somewhat quieter other streets of Maastricht.

We still plan on returning to Maastricht to actually visit the St. Servatius church, hopefully sometime this weekend. It’s hot here now and will be for the next few days, so it will be good to do something inside.

The day after Maastricht we went to the German city of Aachen.

The cathedral is in an octagon form and is a thing of beauty, especially the ceilings. It was constructed by order of Charlemagne and he was buried there at the beginning of the 9th century. Now his bones are held in a 13th century golden chest. The church was used for coronations of German kings and queens until the 14th century.

In the gift shop they sold “Corona angels” (i.e. tiny angels with masks on)! Couldn’t resist and bought my mother one (she loves angels).

Aachen is a lovely city, with old features and modern shopping and mini-me was happy to finally eat a German bratwurst again! It was busy but a little less busy than Maastricht, which was good.

The next day we went to Heerlen. Not a special city (although there were some nice murals on houses) but we especially went to visit the museum housing the remains of an excavated Roman bath house…

We drove on to the German town of Jülich which isn’t so special either but it has a huge old fort there. I liked the little street library there in an old phone booth and as we were back in Germany, where masks are mandatory inside public spaces such as shops, we were back to carrying our masks openly on us so we could quickly put them on as needed.

After some busy days sightseeing we got lazy and spent a day at our cottage. That evening we did go out for dinner in a neighbouring village, with a nice view over the countryside that does not feel like The Netherlands.

Yesterday we drove to Luxemburg for a day. We stopped at Clervaux in the north of Luxemburg (about an hour away)…

… and then drove on to Luxemburg city (another hour on). It’s a nice city which has huge gorges, pretty cool to see. I had been there many years ago during my first holiday with Mr Esther but didn’t remember much about it, except for the gorges. Luxemburg too was busy but not too busy.

On our way back, we stopped in the Belgian city of Liege for dinner, donning face masks in the city center yet again…

So, that’s it, our summer holiday away up till now! Mr Esther and mini-me went away with the car this afternoon. Mr Esther wants to try and follow some old Roman roads and they’ll get some groceries on the way back while I sit here with my laptop at the cottage in the shade and blog.

It’s hot today, so it’s good we’re not marching through some hot, busy city right now. The battery on my laptop is running low and even in the shade I’m hot, so I’m heading inside our air-conditioned cottage soon to read. Even with restrictions, this holiday during Corona times is still fun. I just love to be travelling again, even if it isn’t that far away.

Finally off and away

On Wednesday Mr Esther put down artificial grass in our elevated and renewed front garden. Getting a lawnmower in there would be a chore, so fake grass it is…

The end result is quite pretty!

Yesterday mini-me and I took my mother and aunt to a small art museum (Singer Laren Museum, to the south east of Amsterdam) and saw some lovely pieces of art…

… and work by a sculptor called Pépé Grégoire was displayed in the garden…

And this afternoon we finally packed up and left for the southern tip of The Netherlands right outside Maastricht. It’s our first summer holiday without my son (he has to work for his internship) which makes me feel a little heavy hearted. It was bound to happen sometime, I know. It’s also the first time in years we don’t have to ask our neighbour to look after our cats, now my son can do it.

Of course we’ll be texting with Mr Esther jr to stay in touch but it still feels a little off to me that he’s not with us. He, on the other hand, is already relishing having the house all to himself. Little baby boys really do grow up, I guess.

Anyway, at just after 5 pm we arrived at the holiday park where we’ve rented a cottage, we unpacked our stuff and went and got some groceries. We then headed into Maastricht for a dinner outside, keeping safely distant from others…

We didn’t stay very long and are now sitting outside our cottage. It’s pretty nice, the cottage has a fireplace that you can see from within as well as from outside. We had it on for a little while…

… but it’s quite warm and today was the hottest day of the year so far, so we switched it off again.

We have decided it may not be a good idea to head into the city tomorrow, on a Saturday, as Saturdays tend to be the busiest days, so we’ll probably head somewhere into nature for a little hike. It feels good to be away for a bit. Time for bed now, good night!

Natural history in Naturalis

We have a great natural history museum here in The Netherlands, called Naturalis, situated in the old university town of Leiden. They opened their new, much bigger, building last year and we’d been meaning to visit for a while. Especially mini-me was eager to go to see the new T-Rex they have there. So, yesterday we went. The building looks like this from the outside…

… and inside it is quite stunning (click on images to enlarge).

The collection too was stunning, all very nicely put together, but what I think I loved most is that in some parts they displayed the work they do alongside the collection itself. In the two following pictures you can see in the background of the room that researchers were actually busy doing their thing (in this case cleaning off dinosaur bones). The floating skeletons in the middle are of whales.

The assorted animals they had were impressive…

And the dinosaur exhibit was very cool. They were even working on assembling a dinosaur right in the exhibition space.

And I also loved the landscape model of The Netherlands as it was 30.000 years ago during the ice age, accompanied by a skeleton of a mammoth put together from hundreds of different mammoth bones finds.

The early humans exhibit was alas closed to visitors as apparently 1.5 meter distance measures could not be guaranteed there, so that means we just need to come back again another time when it is open again!

We walked into town in Leiden afterwards for drinks, which is always a bit nostalgic for me, as I once lived there for 8 years when I was a student.

Social distancing was doable throughout and judging from afar it was good that we didn’t head into the shopping street as that did look terribly busy. I always long to travel abroad on my holidays, get another perspective and see new things, but this day in Leiden really felt like a holiday as well.

Evil genius & rambling on

So, Richard tweeted this the other day (doing a screen shot in case it gets deleted again)…

… and an evil genius image popped up in my head, I thought it was of a cartoon. Googled it and found it…

Apparently Evil Genius is a video game. Naturally based on the villain of villains, Blofeld from the Bond movies, so it seems…

Maybe Richie has been watching too many Bonds and has been playing a few too many video games during lockdown? Yeah… best to focus on good things (instead of supposed evil geniuses), like Guylty’s RA birthday auction that is coming up in August, see here.

Yesterday felt like the true first day of my holiday, as it was a Monday and I didn’t have to work! Went shopping in the city of Utrecht with mini-me. We figured if the city was too busy, we’d just turn back, but it wasn’t too busy. We started with lunch at a café along the canal (totally overpriced for what we got, but the spot was awesome and yes, that’s a paddle boarder on the water)…

There was this little tunnel next to where we ate which looked awesome (but I wouldn’t wanna be caught there after dark)…

Mini-me finally found the ‘mom-jeans’ she wanted (she had tried ordering online but everything she ordered wasn’t right and sent back) and in the evening we even did face masks. Now, I never do face masks, but mini-me loves them, so we bought a few and did them together for a change. I look so happy.

It was lovely bonding time with my daughter. We also had some interesting conversations about boys and men as she told me that apparently she and her friends had been catcalled by 30 something year old men last week and she had told them to shut the eff up, which she would never have dared to do if she’d been on her own. They quickly left them alone but it goes to show that male chauvinism and sexism is nowhere near gone and sadly a new generation of young women has to deal with this as well. Her fave internet joke this week that she shared with me was: “I went to the doctor today to find out if I’m having a baby girl or an abortion.” It’s cruel but I admit to laughing at that one and how sad is that?

In final news, last night I also managed to finish a third Pimpernel fan video set to Nat King Cole singing Smile (last video up on my Scarlet Pimpernel page). Now that is out of my system, time to move on to other things like tidying up the house today. I hate doing that and am procrastinating with this blog post but Mr Esther has now started the tidying, so I feel guilty now and really have to get going… This was a bit of a rambling post, sorry for that.