St Lambert Square in Liege
Pedestrians in Liege Town Center
Dave: We finished in Bastogne around 3pm, and had a
room lined up in Maastricht at the airport Mercure. We needed to do
laundry tonight, so wanted to arrive early, have a simple dinner, and
get the clothes going. The drive was brutal. We passed through Liege.
In several versions of our travel plan, we were to going to spend a
night in Liege. We also looked around for a laundrymat, but could not
We buzzed downtown in Liege,
just in time for evening bumper-to-bumper rush hour. We stopped at
St Lambert's square to take a picture of the famous Palace of Justice
built in the 1500's. We did a loop of downtown to the shopping
district, bothered by pedestrians that confidently strode in front of
us without care. Between car traffic and foot traffic and back ups at
the roundabout, we quickly had enough of Liege and pressed on toward Maastricht.
Much is made in the tourist guides about the Limburg province, this
small protruding sliver of land that belongs to Holland but is wedged
between Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. They tell you that,
approaching it from the north, it does not "look like" the
rest of Holland; no windmills, no waterways, a different architecture
and history. But for us traveling up from the south, the French
cuisine and Burgundy architecture were just variations on a theme. As
we headed farther north tomorrow, we would finally realize what the
guide books had meant.
Some marvelously ugly apartments in Liege, Belgium
Mercure Hotel and Maastricht Airport Terminal
We arrived at Maastricht and the freeway promptly ended. Again a
horrible backup and a wrong turn cost us over 20 minutes of driving
aimlessly. Eventually we found our bearings and quick enough were
checking into the Mercure
hotel at the airport. To my surprise, it was LITERALLY at the
airport, with the parking area blocked to prevent flyers from using
it while out of town. Our room opened into a back yard area with a
bush hedge, which in the morning I realized directly abutted the
Check in was delayed and confusing, with three Dutch speakers
checking in before us (one with a crying child) and my not
understanding a single word. Soon enough we had our key and asked the
woman at the desk about a nearby laundrymat. "Sure, there is one
for you in the morning", we were told. "Tonight? Oh no,
(with a laugh) everything in Holland closes down at 6pm!". We
soon set out on a three hour odyssey, and indeed, we proved her
ominous words correct.
She pulled out the Maastricht yellow pages for us (in Dutch), looked
up "Wasserette" and "Wasserij" and wrote down the
addresses of two in the nearby town of "Meerssen". From our
room we retrieved our yellow pages and headed out to investigate.
was a tiny town just a mile or two down the road from the airport and
we were quickly lost within it, unable to find either laundry
address. Instead we stumbled upon a fantastic Gothic cathedral no
less out of place than if we had found it in Antarctica or the middle
of an Iowa cornfield. It turns out Meerssen was made famous by
the Treaty of Meerssen (in 870!) that first proposed borders that
generally evolved into Germany and France. More recent web
research said the basilica was built in the 1300's starting as a
palace chapel, was enlarged by various dukes, and later housed an
abbey. The palace and monks are long gone, but tiny Meerssen has one
nice basilica there.
We spent the next three full hours driving about in circles. We gave
up on the Meerssen "Wasserettes", and focused on the ones
in Maastricht proper. But first we parked at a vacant bus stop to
read the large, poster sized street map. We were unable to find any
of the several Maastricht addresses on our list. Out of the blue,
another man joined us, parking his car and admitting to be equally
lost. We discussed our plans and what brought us to this lonely spot.
We laughed, first with, and then at, each other. As a local, he
recognized certain Maastricht addresses on our list and recommended
we look in certain areas. We
gave him directions back to the freeway overpass we had crossed.
Sadly, we quickly parted and forgot to take this delightful man's picture.
Dave: We headed into Maastricht, getting lost, driving
for miles along side the freeway, unable to find an on ramp. We found
our street and counted addresses, only to have a skip at the one we
needed. Sure enough, after a long U-turn, we found that the
"Wasserij" had gone out of business. One last address was
on our list or we would be wearing dirty clothes (again). A mile
away, through twisty residential streets, Paydirt! The laundry, of
course, closed since 6pm!
We marked the spot with the GPS, and a couple feeder spots, too. We
would return in the morning for clean clothes. Although it was
getting dark, we had enough time for once around Maastricht town
center. Again, cobblestones and one-way streets. Soon, sadly, it was
all street lights, and stop lights, and head lights.
We drove two miles east to Belgium, just to see the border.
Completely anonymous, just one neighborhood rolling into another. We
stumbled across the Netherlands extension campus of "University
of Central Arkansas", equally bizarre. But it was getting to be
way past time for our dinner.
were both exhausted and frazzled from the intense driving, yet
barely hungry. We each passed on the notion of cafe or pub food, and
pizza or gyros. In the end, we wanted only a simple sandwich and a
long warm shower. We stopped at a BP and unbelievably could not find
anything to eat. Sheepishly, we crossed the street to McDonalds and
each had a small hamburger meal. Dinner was done without fanfare or
interest, we took no pictures, and mostly it was just to be fed and
off to bed. And although the service was familiar in prompt and
perkiness, the beef had a strange taste and consistency to our
American palates. We found the same odd-tasting beef at our one later
stop of Quick burgers, too.
From there we headed back to the hotel, reorganized the clothes for
laundry day, made a quick call home, and then crashed into bed. Good Night!