The weather has not been friendly in Amsterdam lately. All last night I listened to the pounding rain and the blustering wind, and when I walked to the store yesterday I almost got blown into the street! So I figure today is a good time to relive a summer trip we took. I found photos I’ve never posted from a trip to Maastricht, Netherlands, right before we arrived in Amsterdam last August. May the blue skies and summer sunshine puncture the gray in my world and yours!

Maastricht is the southernmost city of the Netherlands, in a little hook of the country right between Belgium and Germany. We arrived there fresh from busy Paris, so the relief of a small cobbled town riddled with bicycles was perfect.

The city was started by the Romans (with ruins to show for it!) and has since passed through French, Belgian, German, and even Spanish rule. There aren’t any major sights to see–it’s just a pleasant university city with great restaurants and lovely streets to stroll. My favorite sight was a bookstore, in fact. A bookstore in an old 13th century church, a perfect example of great design and re-use. The soaring arches hold giant bookshelves, and the nave was transformed in a lovely cafe where you can sit and ponder the philosophical meaning of a cathedral of books. We left with David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, appropriate since the main character is Dutch. (I recommend it–great historical fiction!)

Another day we rented bicycles and wheeled out of town, following the Maas River south. The day was hot and sunny and we said hello to some sheep on the way before we found ourselves in a beautiful hilly country of rivers, fields, small towns, and deserted roads. At one point we accidentally crossed into Belgium; all the street signs were suddenly in French! Stopping for lunch at a sweet local cafe, the owners brought us out still-warm bread with sliced cheese and meat drizzled in olive oil. Paired with a fresh Belgian beer it was a perfect feast for tired bicyclists!

We rolled back upriver into the Netherlands, back toward our cobblestone city, soaking up the sunshine. It’s memories like this that remind me the bluster of January has to end sometime!