I took Michael to Maastricht for his birthday. Maastricht is a town in the south of Holland that is heavily influenced by its surroundings, that is to say, Belgium. We stayed at an amazing hotel, the Herenkruis hotel, which was once a church and a convent. You walk through a shiny-penny copper tunnel which opens into what was once the main processional church area. Below is a red velvet bar, above is the restaurant. The ceilings paintings are preserved .There are these sort of jelly-fish/white-blood-cell looking lighting fixtures hanging from the ceiling. The woman who checked us in also escorted us personally to our room to make sure it was to our liking. The rooms are where the nuns used to live. You still feel there presence there. However, I don't think the nuns got to enjoy double thick frosted glass sliding japanese-style doors or the exquisite bedding or rain shower.
We went to dinner at Au Coins des Bon Enfant and chose the six course option. Every course, every flavor, was surprising, exquisite, bright, artful. It was one of those experiences in life that you'll remember forever right along with your first crush, a big promotion, those rare and indelible moments. The service was precise, attentive, formal, but not hovering. We ate outside like everyone else else that night. It was one of the top five best meals of my life and even with wine one of the most reasonably priced.
We were on a high for several days after that dinner and not just from the calorie intake. We discussed and wrote down every ingredient we could identify in every course. Maastricht is a two hour drive from Amsterdam and just to know it is there saves me from getting depressed about dining experiences of ALL price ranges in Amsterdam, where sushi is served buried under mayonnaise, that water you asked for is never remembered, and where restaurants like the lovely Siempre in de Pijp employ waitresses that need to be chased down where you ask ever so timidly if you might finally order, where an order for flan is recorded, but runny creme brulee is presented instead (when this is brought to the waitresses attention, she claims she was "confused", that they don't actually have flan, and will not care to admit that she truly, utterly, and thoroughly does not give a shit, and that any egg-based dessert at all should be good enough...), and where you feel grateful that the bread was finally brought to the table after having to ask for it only three times, not four.
Michael and I went through these caves created from quarrying stone. It's a 25 kilometer labyrinth, completely dark, and filled with stories and charcoal artwork on the walls. A guide takes you through with lanterns. It was a hide out during WWII where a system of was created for water and food sources, as well as a system to find the other people in your tiny village within the complex maze. We ended our weekend at the top of a foothill overlooking the gentle waves of meadows and countryside.