It started out looking like the trip from hell when we arrived at the airport and discovered our flight had been delayed by several hours meaning we would miss our connection at Heathrow to Copenhagen. But all the mishaps, delayed & cancelled flights, lost luggage, and a mix-up in hotel rooms actually worked to our advantage and we arrived in Copenhagen on time and our luggage was delivered the following evening so we didn’t have to haul it with us on the train from the airport … it was delivered to our hotel. Jennifer and I were so excited to be in Europe again that even having to wear the same clothes for 3 days didn’t dampen our spirits.
Jennifer is a private pilot so she wanted to see in the cockpit of the 777 from New York to Heathrow before we took off. The captain not only let her come in the cockpit, but let her sit in the left seat and wear his hat, then took her picture. When he asked why we were traveling to Europe, she told him we were going to see André Rieu in concert and he proudly announced that he was a big fan of André’s and listened to his music all the time.
Copenhagen was lovely. I’ve always wanted to visit there and see the Little Mermaid and I was not disappointed. The big highlight was Jennifer finding licorice ice cream. She hadn’t been able to find it anywhere outside of Finland where she lived for a year while attending college. We took a day trip to Sweden just to eat real Swedish meatballs and they were delicious!
The night train to Amsterdam was an experience I’ll never forget … and I’ll never do again. Imagine being packed into a room the size of a small walk-in closet with four strangers with just as much luggage as you have and having to sleep on an ironing board, then waking up to see a young man climbing down the ladder from his “bunk” in his underwear because there was no room to put on his pants. Poor guy had to step over all the luggage and go into the hallway to put his pants on. We got to know our bunkmates quite well and it was a memorable experience if nothing else. We spent a few hours in Amsterdam before taking the train on down to the Efteling. Since we had been there before, we just took a canal boat tour and slept through most of it.
Efteling was fantastic!! We took the Wonderland Walk that Ineke & Ruud have on their website and saw many of the places where the DVD was filmed. A little secret…the real reason Jennifer came with me to Holland, although she loves André’s music, was to see the talking trash cans at the Efteling. We had read about them and she couldn’t wait to “feed” them. We found the Efteling to be much less crowded, less expensive and prettier than Disneyland. We especially loved all the trees and the walking paths through the fairytale forest. And the Efteling Hotel was a welcome change from the ironing board beds we had on the train.
After seeing where the Wonderland DVD was filmed, I couldn’t wait to get to Maastricht and see Andre’s hometown in person. I had seen many pictures and heard many stories from friends who had been there several times and now it was really going to happen! I had read somewhere that it was about a 10-minute walk from the train station to the hotel so I said to Jennifer no need to take a cab, we’ll just walk. Bad idea! Half an hour later, still pulling our luggage over the cobblestone sidewalk, we arrived at the DuCasque Hotel. The first people we saw were Ineke and Ruud standing in the lobby.
Watching the sound check, dinner at Gauchos with the whole group, attending the dress rehearsal and concerts, the fan dinner and picnic, it all seems like a dream now. I do remember how amazed I was watching André work during the sound check and dress rehearsal. His attention to detail is unmatched! I have enormous respect for him. Meeting all the fans I had only known through the websites and email was the best part of the whole trip. There were lots of hugs and it seemed as if I had known some of them forever, even though we had just met. All of us from different backgrounds, nationalities, religions, and traditions, but with one common bond…the love and respect for one man and his music. I only wish there had been more time to spend with each one.
There really isn’t much I can say about Maastricht that hasn’t already been said. It’s such a beautiful, charming city and I could wander the streets for days. I love the way the narrow cobblestone streets open onto big squares with lots of sidewalk cafes. The people of Maastricht seem to have so much energy and joy for life. They really know how to enjoy themselves and each other. We took a city tour, ended up at St. Pieter’s hill, then took the boat tour back, passing by André’s castle and his home on the way. Another day we took Ineke & Ruud’s city walk where we stopped at Bishop’s Mill and ate vlaai (yum!!), saw Andre’s birth house and the Maastricht Conservatory where he studied. There was music coming from inside and I was reminded of the video where he stood listening to all the sounds coming from the music students and how much he loved that. Our plan was to rent bikes and ride back out to André’s castle, but it took me about 10 minutes to discover that yes, indeed, you CAN forget how to ride a bike, so back the bike went and the nice man at the bike shop gave me a refund (I think he was expecting me!). The last day in Maastricht I found the mustard soup I had been waiting for 8 years to eat again. It was just as delicious as I remembered and I even found some in the supermarket to bring home with me.
We had one last place to visit before flying back home and that was the Red Rose Café in Hoorn. What a lovely little harbor and city! We had dinner at the Red Rose Café and that just made the trip complete. This was a holiday of a lifetime and I’ve promised myself it won’t be my last time in Maastricht. I probably won’t be able to make it next year, but I WILL be back. Mildred has inspired me … don’t ever lose that spirit of adventure!