Monday, 1 August 2016

Euro Tour: Brussels to Maastricht// Realising my hatred for Hall & Oats and seeing a really old wall

Public book banks in Leuven

I met a couple of French guys on the Eurostar to Brussels who were going in the same direction as me so we agreed to cycle together. They had speakers and I’d had three hours sleep so I thought musical accompaniment might be welcome. It soon transpired that the only music they had was Hall & Oats and once you’ve heard three different versions of Maneater and decided that the instrumental version is your favourite mainly because you can make the words up in your head. All my words were ‘AAARRRRGGGGGHHHHH’.  

In my politest tone I asked if they had any other music. They ignored that question. I excused myself and said I was going this way. They looked in confusion to the random field I was pointing at before looking at each other knowingly and saying au revoir.

As ever I’m constantly impressed by Belgium’s impressive cycling infrastructure. They are really nailing it and I had segregated lanes to myself most the time. 

I stopped in Leuven for lunch. I packed enough food for a couple of days. I’ll be mostly staying in hostels that are about €20 per night with breakfast buffets that I am the queen of rinsing. I spent my 20s being too hungover to make it to breakfast in hostels so I feel like it's ok to make up that deficient now. You can do it too on my behalf.

Remnants of Tongeren's Kroningsfeesten celebration

Cycling through Tongeren in the Limburg province, there were Virgin Mary statues and banners everywhere in celebration of July’s Kroningsfeesten. Once every seven years they have a massive procession to commemorate the crowning of the main statue by the bishop. My convent schooling prevented me from riding over her face.

I powered on to Maastricht. For once I managed to notice the border crossing because it’s just after the Albert Canal where World War II started for Belgium. The spot is marked on the bridge with this poignant poem:

I want to find my way home
where I’m familiar
the wind embraces me
the rustling leaves listen quietly after me
the shadows whisper my stories
the moon remembers me

Maastricht is beautiful with lots of parks and the river Meuse running through it. If you aren’t cycling 1000 miles maybe bring your running kit.

Old City Wall, Maastricht 

I arrived at Stayokay Maastricht which is a notoriously bike friendly hostel chain that I know from Rotterdam. 

I asked the guy on reception if I was going to see one thing in Maastricht what should it be? He told me I should go and see Holland’s oldest wall and he seemed really excited about it so I went to see it. I then avoided him because in my tired state I’m not sure I could equal his enthusiasm if questioned. I mean it was ok, old for sure, but that’s all I had. I’d been in three different countries in one day and was tired on account of all the cycling.

If you want to swat up, in recent history, this was the setting of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty which involved the creation of the European Union.

I’m really sorry if you have Hall & Oats Maneater stuck in your head now. Maybe if you listen to it, it will go away?

Read the next stage of Euro Tour: Maastricht to Bonn// Being glad there aren't bears in Germany anymore.

Thighs Matters Euro Tour stages:
Ulm to Ingolstadt// Bonking and trying on dresses 
Ingolstadt to Regensburg// Bike drying my hair and putting bikes on boats
10 Regensburg to Wörth an der Donau: Pimping my ride and hunting down chocolate
11 Wörth an der Donau to Passau// My last day in Germany and probably the sunburniest 
12 The Austrian bit. Not the Australian bit as autocorrect likes to think
13 Vienna to Bratislava// Five things to do that are not 'go on a stag do'
14 Bratislava to Gyor // Not checking my feast days
15 Gyor to Esztergom// Being scared of dogs and referring to my bike and I as 'we'

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