Maggie's Return to Holland
by Maggie Worman
My love for Holland began when I was seven years old. It took decades for me to get there, but that emotion
remained true over all those long years. My first visit in October, 2005, was a dream come true. Friends I knew
only from emails were all at once transformed into five dear, enchanting
people who made my stay a delight from the moment I walked off the airport
concourse and saw them waiting for me.
July 10, 2006, I went back and it was like returning home. Beautiful
Maastricht, especially, was very familiar.
Long famous for windmills, tulips, master painters, and the legend of Hans
Brinker, it was also a Dutchman, Anton van Leeuwenhouk, who began the
field of microbiology in the mid 17th century. The Netherlands now has a new
legacy of fame. Andre Rieu, and none who have gone before him personify
The Flying Dutchman as he does.
I had come to see his concert in Maastricht, and to show my daughter, Robin, the wonderful country I've loved
since childhood. We arrived at Schipol Airport, Tuesday morning at 7:00 A.M, took a shuttle to The Aalders, our
little hotel in Amsterdam, and spent the rest of the day wandering historic streets, marveling at magnificent
architecture, and visiting museums. The Anne Frank House was first. Across from it, the Westerkerk (church) is
said to have the loudest carillon in Holland. A crowd gathered as a man in a small boat on the canal in front of the
church began playing bits of Vivaldi on a small trumpet. As he finished a phrase, he would pause while the carillon
repeated it. They went back and forth for about ten minutes of delightful entertainment.
Nearby is the Van Gogh Museum and Concert Gebouw (building), Amsterdam’s magnificent theater for performing
arts with its perfect acoustics. We walked down PC Hoofdstraat, the most expensive shopping street in
Amsterdam. It is haute couture, ladies, and well out of my price range. After dinner
at a little restaurant – Dutch food is delicious – it was back to the hotel. The
Aalders is a small, inexpensive hotel in a quiet neighborhood only two blocks from
The Rijks museum. Owned and operated by the same family for 4 generations,
they were warm, friendly hosts who went to great lengths to make us feel
welcome and at home. Bart, Sabina, Dorreth, and their mom, Nettie, were just
wonderful, and I recommend it to anyone visiting Amsterdam.
Wednesday, we went back to the airport, rented a cute little Opel Astra, and set
out for Maastricht. I love driving in Holland! The highways, even secondary ones, are
incredibly smooth, and well marked - ours should be that good. The roadsides are clean and remarkably free of
litter. Robin played navigator and watched the map, we did just fine and didn’t
get lost. We had lunch at Katwijk, on the North Sea shore – I had a “Seafruit
Salad.” It was just what you’d expect – sea food, and it was great, but
the octopus was a little rubbery. Heading back through the little town, I did
manage to turn the wrong way on a one-way street. Robin got me out of it fast
and had a blast trying to pronounce the street names. Then it was south to
Valkenbrug near the German border and not far from Maastricht. We spent the
night in another nice little hotel – these are so much nicer than the international
Thursday morning we walked through the castle ruins there, a fascinating trip back in
time, and also stopped at the Nederlands/American Memorial Cemetery at Margraten.
My children grew up only reading about World War II, and I wanted her to see first hand
some of the reality of it. She was touched and impressed. We arrived in Maastricht
about two o’clock, followed the directions to our Bed and Breakfast, then walked to the
Vrijthof Square and Dino’s Restaurant.
Sitting at a sidewalk table, enjoying a brown beer, I
saw John and Bobbie deJong walking in the street
and waved to them to join us. With them was John’s
lovely sister, Theresa. It was great seeing them again,
and as we were talking who should walk past our table,
but Andre, himself, followed by his bodyguard. No one
spoke, asked for autographs, or bothered him in any way, and I saw no one taking
pictures of him. As a courtesy, neither did we. I thought how nice it must be for
him to be able to do that in such a crowd and not be hounded by fans. He went
into a café a couple of doors down from us, and a few minutes later, Marjorie
walked by and went in, too. Ruth Morgan from Nevada came up and joined us. It wasn’t long before Andre walked
quietly back by again, and Marjorie followed soon after. He did notice John and Bobbie, who he knows, and
smiled at them. Not long after that, Robin and I went to the Hotel du Casque for another round of warm reunions
with Ineke, her husband Ruud, and Sigrun from Germany. I also met Gemma and Nand Korthoudt, from Belgium,
Anne Manning from Tasmania, and Norma Dickson from Australia. Where else could you do this but at an Andre
Rieu concert? From Ineke’s window we watched Andre riding his bicycle back and forth doing sound checks.
Pierre, we saw several times over the next couple of days and got to speak to him briefly.
Friday, we did some sightseeing and that afternoon went back to Dino’s to meet
Janny, Thea, and Monique. Janny and Thea had been to the Vienna concert the
week end before. "The Rieu Girlzzz" had hit town – Bengel, (Monique) Grapjes,
(Janny) Dromer, (Thea) and Koppie, (Ineke) — four Dutchies and me, the crazy
American they call Duizel (Dizzy). It was great fun to all be together at the same
place at the same time again. Sonja and her wonderful mom, Leida came that
afternoon. Sonja had been to the Vienna concert too, and everyone talked about
how fabulous it was. While we were visiting, Andre’s son, Marc, came by and
several of us had the pleasure of talking to him. I just listened without
A bit later, I heard someone call my name and turned to see a man and lady walking up. It was Mary Reburn, my
email friend from Ireland. I’d sent her my picture, and she recognized me. What a nice surprise that was. In the
evening we attended the fan dinner Ineke had organized. (see Maastricht dinner) Thirty-eight fan-friends gathered at
the Charlemagne Restaurant and had a great time “meeting and greeting” each other. I got to see Laurie Crowley
again, and meet her husband Noel. I saw my Swiss friends, Dora and Gerda, who I’d met in Dallas, and met Ellen
Webber from Pennsylvania, who I‘d e-mailed. And there was Arie Bussemaker from Eindhoven who was full of
wonderful stories and great fun to talk with. I know I’m missing people I met, and I apologize for it. I have the names
written somewhere – I just haven’t found them again. Janny brought me a statue of Johann Strauss and a beautiful
plate with a portrait of Sisi on it from Vienna. Thea brought me precious little glass angel. Monique gave me a
wonderful oil painting she did of a winter windmill scene, and also a beautiful wood inlay of a windmill she found in
a flea market. I gave Janny and Wim jewelry boxes made from Missouri cedar wood, and surprised Thea, Monique
and Ineke with quilts. (Janny got her quilt last October) It was a wonderful evening and after dinner, Robin and I
went back to our B and B while others attended Friday’s concert.
Saturday, we had to make a choice. Go to the picnic in the park, or take the boat trip up the Maas and tour the
marl caves at St. Pietersburg. Robin would probably not be back, and we’d see my friends again that evening, so
we chose the trip. The Maas is a beautiful river and the caves are fascinating. They are only about a mile from
where Andre lives, and it’s a long climb up to them.
In the caves, marvelous artwork done in chalk covers the walls and the bones of prehistoric animals have been
found there. Rembrandt’s Night Watch was hidden there during World War II, and the people of Maastricht
sheltered in them during troubled times over the centuries. It wasn’t a pleasant experience for them, either. The
temperature is a constant 50 degrees and they are damp. A great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live in them.
We rested at the top before going back and had lemonade at the café there. I was surprised to see Marc Rieu and
a very lovely girl having lunch at the table behind us.
Saturday night – Robin’s first Andre Rieu concert and she enjoyed it very much. Will she become a fan? Probably
not, but she does have great appreciation for classical music. She also thinks we are all a bit on the nutty side
about Andre. Well, we are, but isn’t it fun? As always, the music was beautiful,
and I was delighted to see the St. Petersburg Trio again. Carmen was back for
a guest appearance and, hopefully, she’ll do many more. Suzan again sang Don’
Cry For Me Argentina, and gave another very moving performance. I still marvel
at the tremendous voice coming from Carla’s tiny little form, and of course, all
the gowns were gorgeous. The Platin Tenors were simply great – Bela is my
favorite, he has such twinkly blue eyes. At the intermission, I met the ladies
from Ireland who bought my extra tickets, Mary Barry, Mary Murphy, Margo
Wood, and Susan Woods. Quite a coincidence those names. I didn’t get many
pictures of the concert because I was too far from the stage, so others are
lending me some of theirs. But with the huge screens, I didn’t miss a thing.
There were no balloons floating down, but the confetti shot from cannons made
up for it, falling in a colorful “snow” storm on all of us. It was over too soon, even
with encores. I could have stayed all night.
Sunday, Robin and I drove over to Aachen, Germany and had lunch, then spent the night with Sonja and her mom.
They had shared a house with Monique, Janny and Thea, who left for home that morning. The rooms were
empty, so Sonja invited us to stay with them.
Monday, we said good bye to Sonja and her Mom and went back to Amsterdam, stopping at Kinderdijk to see the
windmills on the way.
We had a great dinner – I had sole, Robin had eel. I tried it, and believe it or not, it tastes amazingly like bacon. I
like it. We spent a pleasant evening at The Aalders, chatting with the family at the little hotel bar. Robin learned
Bart rides a Harley Davidson he bought in America and had shipped to Holland. There are a lot of Harley's in
Holland, but it’s cheaper to buy them in America. Then the fairytale ended. We flew home to our real world
Tuesday morning, but it was a trip neither of us would have missed, and the wonderful memories will last
forever. It is something we can thank Andre for, without him and his music I may have never made it to Holland.
Oops on September 12, I received a Surprise from Holland.
I received a letter from Holland, a Souvenir of my trip. It was in Dutch, of course. Mine is pretty limited, but with the
help of my dictionary I was able to figure out what it said. I had to laugh. It was a speeding ticket. I haven't had a
speeding ticket in 15 years! I assure you it was not intentional, but it seems I was going 103 kph and the speed
limit was 90 (that's about 64 mph and 55 on the limit) Nine miles an hour too fast. I didn't get stopped, I got caught
by cameras. They traced the license plate to the rental agency, got my name and address, and now I have a 31
Euro ticket. I'll pay it, be more watchful next time, and grateful I only have one, I understand Andre has a collection.
Oh, well, at least I'm in good company.
The Rieu Girlzzz. Thea, (
Dromer), Ineke ( Koppie), Janny
(Grapjes) and Monique (Bengel)
Music man, the name of the boat
is Music boat
The Queen's palace on the dam.
The concert building.
Visiting the Rijksmuseum was the highlight of
my day. Standing before 400 year old
paintings by Rembrandt, the greatest of the
great masters in my opinion, was awesome.
The Night Watch is the most incredible painting
I’ve ever seen. It’s huge, takes up a whole wall,
and appears almost three dimensional when
you look at it.
I had no idea Rembrandt was such a radical
rebel though, and that painting put him in great
disfavor with the government of his day. He
never prospered after it.
The Rijks Museum
A flowercart, with not "Tulips
from Amsterdam, but Flowers
Robin in Katwijk
Maggie, John, Res and Robin
Ineke and Nand from the hotel
rooms of Du Casque
Andre on a folding bike
John, Bobbie, Maggie, Monique,
Sonja, Marc, Ineke and Gemma
Monique, Sonja, Marc, Ineke and
Mary Reburn and her husband
Come on, Mom, it is not much
View from the top
Surprise, Marc is right behind Maggie
View from the hotel
Maas River in front of Andre's castle
Mary Barry, Mary Murphy, Margo
Wood, and Susan Woods.
Thea, Monique, Janny, Sonja en
Goodbye have a good trip
For some of you who have seen the video clip of the second Waltz or
the pictures where Andre skates, those were made at Kinderdijk.