It has been a while since a Hays family life update. We’re getting so very close to the end of our time here, and I feel like we are now speeding through the weeks and hurdling towards the finish line (July 26). While Josh and I would be okay extending the stay here in Maastricht, the boys are holding us to our one year plan. This is not to say they are unhappy here. They love their school. They have really great friends. We all enjoy the bike riding and easy access to green space here. They have thoroughly enjoyed our travels, though Mason does still enjoy a weekend of “hanging out at home”. BUT – they miss their family (we all do). The boys are especially close to their cousins. And while they were very willing participants in this family adventure, they were not willing to extend the stay, and Josh and I weren’t going to force it. Did I mention my brother’s family got a new dog named Duke? That was the final straw. The kids nearly had their bags packed at the first picture of little Duke.
Anyway, back to Maastricht life. Spring is sloooooowwwwlllyyy making an appearance. We had a day in the 70’s this week, and I’d forgotten what it was like to sweat while walking to the train station! Tulips, daffodils, and a myriad of other flowers are everywhere. The sun is shining from about 6:30 in the morning until nearly 9:00 pm now and the cafe terraces are all open with tourists and Dutchies alike soaking up every minute of it – we all appreciate the sun more after a long grey winter.
Our part of the Netherlands celebrated Carnival hard in late February (here’s an insta reel from my friend Clare), though we were out of town then traveling to Switzerland. The next big festivities will be on King’s Day, when the royal birthday is celebrated (April 27) and this year the King is celebrating in Maastricht. From what I’m told, this will be similar to the Americans celebrating 4th of July in scale of celebrations. The royal color is Orange so there will be a ton of orange everywhere along with anything Dutch flag related. We’re ready and excited, and we leave that night for Munich to see my cousin – so it will be a BIG day!
Somehow even after being here 9 months, we’re still experiencing some firsts. The boys have continued with baseball (“honkbal” in Dutch) practice when we are in town, and they had their first game last weekend. It was a loss but they still seemed to enjoy it (and I enjoyed the cafe where I was able to sit, drink coffee, and watch them play).
I had my first major bike crash. I won’t go into many details, but it involved a steep downhill, a narrow winding road, a car coming in the opposite direction, a broken helmet, but no broken bones (thankfully). I’m bruised and achy but so very thankful the driver was Dutch, was not going fast (because she’s a good Dutch driver), and was able to come to a stop before me/my bike hit her car.
Josh and I had our first taste of rice vlaai – a very traditional Limburg pie. I was ambivalent about it until I tasted it.. . And then I tried to eat all of Josh’s portion.
We celebrated Melissa’s birthday recently and finally got to go into several museums for the first time. We participated in Museum Nacht, where many museums and other participating venues are open until late at night and your ticket gives you access to all of them. Most people walk/ride bikes to the various locations but we participated with a running group and ran (in bright yellow official looking vests) to all the different spots. It was a really fun way to experience the museums, though some of the places were a little too crowded for us.
We watched our first pro bike race – the Amstel Gold Race that started in Maastricht city center and ended just outside. We were able to go to the start, see the men and women begin their 250 km (150 ish miles) race; then we even found the guys a bit later on another part of their course and cheered them on. It was pretty cool seeing them go by and even cooler later watching them ride on TV and seeing parts of the area where we’ve ridden before.
And just before publishing this post, Josh and I participated with Flo and a new friend Ad in the amateur “tour” of Liège-Bastogne-Liège in Belgium. The pros race the course the next day and it is the oldest bike race. The course was challenging with several steep hills, and we did the “shortest” of the courses of 80 km (about 50 miles). There were so many cyclists – I’ve never ridden with so many people before. And the roads were not closed to traffic, so we were often riding alongside or in between cars (not my favorite part). The vibe was great, though, and I felt super accomplished finishing the ride with the guys. We rode through some pretty natural areas that gave beautiful glimpses of hillside villages and super old buildings. To top it all off, we got to visit with some new friends, whom we met through Melissa, at their home outside of Liege just after the race. They prepared many Belgian foods along with burgers, salads, fries, spritzes, everything we wanted to eat after riding all morning. It was a gorgeous afternoon and a great time with Frieda and her family (thank you!).
We are spending the last few months traveling, visiting with friends, having fun with our neighbors, and still exploring beautiful Maastricht. I’m trying to soak up as much time with Melissa and Flo as well, knowing July will come far too quickly.
I have several posts in the works on our recent trip to Scotland, things the Dutch do well, what we’ve learned about traveling with our kids, and the cycling life here in the Netherlands. If there’s something you’re curious about, let me know and I’ll try to get it on the list before we fly home.