The day dawns. I can’t say that I’ve been waiting for this day anxiously. Ever since I saw Andre Rieu in concert on the telly on New Year’s Eve I’ve been wanting to see his concert. My dream day would have been the New Years day concert by the Viennese Philharmonic Orchestra. There is no way I will be able to get tickets for that. So this is the next best thing. By the time I got my act together and booked the tickets, the prime seats had gone and so my expectations are not that great.
It’s only 5 in the morning and I’m wide awake. Europe is one hour ahead of the UK, which means it’s only 4 in England. ‘Go back to sleep’ I tell myself. It’s no use. I read the paper and wait for the day to begin.
After breakfast we walk to the Grand Place once again. There are free walking tours at 1030. We may not be able to stay for the whole of the tour, but it is still worth a try. We need to get back in time to catch the coach to Maastricht. Free tours are not entirely free, you need to tip your guide. Elouise, our guide comes a little late and can only start the tour if there are a minimum of 5. Luckily a lady from Hawaii and a couple with their child from Kolkata joins us and we start.
She talks to us about the buildings in the Grand Place. I see them in a different light now. The first one to be built was the City Hall, a Gothic building and then came the baroque buildings around it. She tells us about the significance of the sculptures on the buildings. Everything carved on the buildings has a significance. The fox for the haberdashery store, the horn for those in the shipping trade etc etc. Karl Mark wrote his Communist Manifesto in one of the buildings. He was caught and imprisoned in the nearby jail which is now a 5 star hotel.
Next Elouise takes us past the old Stock Exchange to the ‘Manniken Piss’, the most iconic symbol of the city. I have seen him before, but today he is dressed in French attire to mark a very important day for the French. They are serving free beer to mark the occasion, but we don’t have time to wait. As we walk along she points out the famous chocolatiers of the city and tells us about the difference between the cheap and expensive chocolates. It’s the amount of palm oil in it. She also points out the comic strips which are painted on the sides of buildings. From downtown we walk up the slope to reach the Royal Palace.
We need to get back and so say our goodbyes and hurry back to the hotel. The coach arrives at one and we make our way to Maastricht. Soon we cross the borders and are in the Netherlands. Before the concert begins at 9, we have a boat trip to take. The weather has also taken a turn for the worse. The forecast is for rain, but should clear up for this evening hopefully. It’s an open air concert.
We have a leisurely lunch at a pub and join the boat trip. Maastricht is Andre Rieu’s home town. We pass his castle and house as we go down the river. d’Artagnan of the three musketeers fame was a real person. He died in the kitchen of this castle in 1673. It pours down with rain while we are in the boat, but brightens up by the time we reach back. We have just enough time for a quick dinner before going to the concert venue.