May 3, 2016
Maastricht is obviously becoming a popular tourist destination for a day or a weekend. The city surely knows how to market itself. But then again, it is a lovely place to spend one or two days. It is small, easy to discover on foot, it is very cosy with plenty of hip bars and restaurants, and a great place for shopping. No wonder you see so many small groups of girl friends, taking an all female (read “shopping”) day off.
Maastricht is famous for its “vlaai”, a pastry originally filled with prunes, now also available with cherries, berries or apples. One bakery is famous for its “vlaai” as well as their spelt flour bread. The bakery is housed in an old watermill, that still works and still grinds grain into flour. I wanted to take a “vlaai” home to treat my family. For that I wanted to buy a “vlaai” first thing in the morning, before it could be sold out in the afternoon. I chose a parking spot close to the bakery, that would also be a good starting point for my visit. I followed the signs to the “Onze Lieve Vrouweparking” car park, at the outside of the remains of the old city walls.
I visited the old watermill of the bakery “Bisschopsmolen“, bought my “vlaai” with prunes, put it in the trunk of my car, and started my visit in a happy mood.
I entered the “Onze Lieve Vrouwe-church“, to see the chapel dedicated to the holy Mary. The wooden statue of the holy Mary is 600 years old, and usually wears a blue or red cape, depending on the day.
The square where the church stands gets more lively through the day, when the terraces slowly fill up. I walked through the beautiful shopping street “Stokstraat”, filled with luxury boutiques. Do not forget to look up at the beautiful façades of the old houses. Together with the “Heggenstraat” where you find vintage shops, and the “Rechtstraat” at the other side of the river in the Wyck, where you find specialty stores, books and antiques, you have all you need for a great shopping day in Maastricht. For the main shopping brands you can go to “Grote Staat” and “Kleine Staat” which both start in front of the “tourist office” and further into the “Maastrichter Brugstraat”. If it rains there is the covered shopping boulevard “Entre Deux“; between Vrijthof and Markt (main square).
It was a Friday and Friday is market day on the Markt (main quare). From there it is a short walk to the main square of the old town; “Vrijthof”, a cosy square with many bars and terraces, the theatre “Theater aan het Vrijthof“, and the museum “Museum aan het Vrijthof” showing everything Made in Maastricht. There is a Grand café on the courtyard of the museum, which you can visit without buying a ticket for the museum.
On the other side I walk into the Capucijnenstraat, for a coffee a the “B-kantine“, a fire department turned into hip bar. It is also a cultural meeting place which can be hired for events. It is also a great place for teleworking. I drank a cappuccino and waited for the museum “Marres” where they featured an exhibition around the world famous chef “Ferran Adria“, former chef of the best restaurant in the world “El Bulli“, to open at 11 AM. The exhibition under the title “Notes on creativity” still runs until July 3, 2016. It explains Adria’s way of working, and how his creativity and search for new techniques made him the best chef in the World. The exhibition shows the history of the restaurant, the chef’s equipment and the tableware especially designed for his dishes, as well as his notes and notebooks. The exhibition is quite static, I missed the use of gustation, olfaction and touch in the exhibition. Senses that are indispensable when working with food. The best insight is given by the film “Cooking in Progress” that is shown in the last room. Beware, it is a long film, more than 2 hours! (148 min.) It shows a whole year in the life of Ferran Adria, filming the process at the El Bulli restaurant and the lab in Barcelona.
Curious I walked to the “Kruisherenhotel“, a hotel in a church. I was planning to take a lunch there but being alone it was not the best place to eat. Best come in company. The restaurant is housed in a beautiful setting.
I tried if the bookshop set in a 700 year old Dominicaner church, “Dominicanen” would be an alternative, but the place to eat is just the opposite from the hotel, very busy, and the café resembles a cafeteria and is run by “Coffeelovers“. I decided to come back later to stroll between the books.
I remembered a cute place from my last visit to Maastricht. I was then looking for a place to have breakfast, but found nothing open, not even this place “Piece of cake” that serves breakfast but only opens at 9 AM. This time I found it open, but quite full with some people still waiting for a table. Since I did not have any alternative at the time, I re-entered and saw the queue had in the mean time disappeared. I was lucky enough to get a table immediately. The coffee bar is decorated in light colours, sort of English tea style but in a minimalistic way, with colourful paintings on one wall, and glass chandeliers.
I ordered a fresh mint tea and a strawberry salad with fresh goat cheese, bacon and nuts. The counter was filled with pastries and cup cakes that looked really delicious. I decided to first finish my lunch and then see if I was still hungry. I contemplated which cake I would choose, the cheese cake looked really good. But first I savoured my salad, which was just perfect and filled me up, so I decided against a dessert. Next time I would come back for cake and coffee.
Time for some literature. I returned on my steps to the “Dominicanen” bookshop. It is a great place, but a pity that so many tourist groups enter who are totally oblivious of the books, and just enter to gawk at the building. That makes the place crowded, a bit nauseating, not a good atmosphere for such a beautiful bookstore. It made me leave earlier than I expected. Pity. Just next to the bookstore you can enter the covered shopping area “Entre Deux“.
I returned to my parked car through the shopping street “Heggenstraat”, a short street with hip vintage and second hand shops and a nice coffee bar.
Just before reaching the car park I passed a shop advertising the sale of discounted shoes. I could not resist and bought a good pair of cheap summer shoes. This made my day!