Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Driving in Code Orange Snow Or How We Love Visiting Valkenburg and Maastricht in Christmas Time

It is not easy to hold a car on the snow. Specially for a Portuguese that touched snow maybe eleven times in all life. 7 hours from South to North could be a really terrible experience but when a couple is together listening to nice Christmas songs and thinking about what a nice weekend we had, things become very special.

Radio news talk about how the snow is hitting all Netherlands and we were able to be on the red spot all the time. We were coming back from Maastricht, a very special city in the South of Holland, so close to Germany, so close to Belgium and with a lot of French language everywhere. I see it as a small place full of charisma. Shops are classy, cafes are full and there is a breakfast vibe you hardly see anywhere else in the Netherlands. Pastry fill windows and people fill up the tables inside with a Chocomel with chantilly to heat the hands. We were so lucky to have snow. It created us several detours on our journey and time constrains, but we had exactly what we were hoping for.

Maastricht is a Christmas city. We like to park the car next to train station, not only because it is cheaper and safe, but also because we can walk one of the main streets in direction to the bridge Sint Servaasbrug. I alway have a II World War feeling when passing it and a mix of feelings is always there. This time we were close to each other cover in thick clothes, gloves and scarfs. It was misty as snow was falling hard, but the beauty is quite impressive. The Christmas lights make the city a beautiful gigantic tree. The streets are crowded with people and different shops.

We went there for the Christmas Market that takes place in Vrijthof, the centre square of Maastricht. On the way we pass all the cafe terraces where it is always quite hard to find a place, but it is an excellent way of enjoying the vibe of the city while trying out different beers. The entrance to the market was a gigantic christmas ball where people get crazy taking their selfies. The atmosphere is beautiful as people get covered from the snow on their clothes but still walk everywhere to enjoy the "wursts", the smoked salmon sellers, berlin balls... Floor is slippery and we decided to go inside of the biggest tent in the market to have a nice warm coffee. Atmosphere is impressive as people smile all the time while listening to Christmas songs. At the same time we look outside and see how the snow makes everything even more magical!

But our trip down to the South is not only to pay a visit to Maastricht. That is not actually the main reason we go there. We are lovers of Christmas markets. We just love the music, the mechanical small toys that cost a fortune but that are amazing when put together as parts of a city, the food, the smell of a hot chocolate, the family atmosphere and the good vibes you get from people. These are the ingredients why we go to Valkenburg.

Valkenburg is close to the city of Maastricht and it is very special to Netherlands as you have a kind of mountains landscape, which is very unique here. Again we use the Train Station to park our car and then we can walk all the way to the centre. The station had last year a huge bear with christmas lights and a huge tree next to it. This year it was still there. A few meters away you have a funny house all "dressed up" for the season or... for Halloween? It has a creepy feeling like the house from the tale of the two kids that get lost in the forest and find a house made of cookies and chocolate and sweet things.

It is a 5 minute walk from the station to the market. All the streets have lights and it feels very cozy. People are everywhere and enter all shops that are open. The market gathers hundreds of people and you can hear the man playing "Last Christmas" on the accordion. This year is the twentieth edition and there are more shops than before. Over 50 they state! The underground caves are, of course, the most important landmark there. The temperatures vary so much from outside, so start clean your glasses. It is a maze inside and people go in all directions but the feeling is amazing. Entrances to the caves are paid (around 7 euros), but you get to experience something very unique for Christmas that you won't regret.

I have been in some German Christmas Markets, but still this is absolutely our favourite! See you next year Valkenburg!

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