Thursday, April 2, 2009

Double "A" Towns - Maastricht and Aachen

If you know us, you know I must have been pulling your leg when I said we were going to have an entire weekend at home last weekend. We can't sit still. Not over here. There aren't enough weekends here to linger - we start to get restless. I think it might be a travel disease. So on Saturday, after our massive house clean, we headed to Maastricht, Belgium (80 miles from Brussels) and then on to Aachen, Germany (another 30 miles) to poke around. It broke from a cloudy, drizzly morning to a gorgeous, sunny afternoon - so I am glad we did get out and about. Would have been a total bummer to spend the entire day inside cleaning. And Connor napped well in the car during the travel so we didn't disrupt her routine too much with the impromptu adventure.

When we got out of our car I saw this awning proclaiming "ManifestaMaastricht!" I don't know what it means but it sounded like "Magnificent Maastricht!" to me and it made me happy to be in this bustling little university town.It was "Open Day" at the University (not sure what that is exactly) but the town was packed with students wondering all over and balloon arches at entrance doors (which you know Connor loved!). It all contributed to the trendy town atmosphere!

The main market square was enormous with cafes lining the perimeter. There were folks sitting 10 deep outside on the terraces. We flitted about on the square, taking in the church steeples all around and these funky sculptures. They were like large pastel-colored drip sand castles, but out of durable material rather than sand of course. You couldn't help but to go over and touch the texture.

Maastricht is known primarily as a shopping town. The shopping streets are all encompassing. When we made it to this district it was like being swallowed by a snake into the moving crowd. We followed the street to the water (I think it was the Rhine River?) and walked back and forth over the bridge, just for fun.

We jumped back in the car and drove to Aachen, Germany. Aachen is also called Aix-la-Chapelle - I personally think that is prettier name! The main attraction here is the Aachen Cathedral. My favorite part about this photo though isn't really the incredible church, but rather the couple just sitting there embracing and kissing in the foreground - oblivious to anyone around them. It is an impressive church from the outside, but frankly the inside is very ornate yet rather small and cramped by European standards. What cathedral snobs we have become! In this church are the remains of Charlemagne as well as supposedly four great Christian relics (in the gold case):

1) apparel of the Virgin Mary
2) swaddling clothes of Christ
3) loincloth of Christ
4) decapitation cloth of John the Baptist
If true, then that is a pretty important box!!!

After taking in the cathedral we were tired and hungry and the blue skies had turned to cloudy, windy, cold. We stopped in a local open-air market and bought three apples to eat in the car and we were off. Quite a successful afternoon - if I do say so myself! And the pink motorcycle was fitting and like the frosting on the cake. Isn't it so cute?!?!

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