OLV Basilica

OLV Plein—Onze Lieve Vrouwe Plein (Square)

Maastricht has many squares, the largest and most important being the Vrijthof (see a few pics of squares in the next post). Many are very small, hardly more than a slight widening of the street. This one is somewhere in between. It’s in front of Onze Lieve Vrouwe Kerk (Basilica of Our Lady), a towering building from 1000 AD that looks like a fortress in a way.




The restaurants are along the street (far right) and all have tables outside in the square too

The square is lovely, as it is full of trees, making it very pretty, green and leafy, and giving it an almost Mediterranean atmosphere. It’s a superb setting for the cafes and brasseries that line the street alongside it, with their tables and chairs set out under the trees. Pick your café, depending on the color and style of the cloths and chairs (and depending on the menu, of course).

Because it’s smaller than Vritjhof and greener, it seems nicer in some ways, and is certainly more peaceful and has less motor traffic on the road between the line of cafes and the square.


Our table at Charlemagne


The delicious asparagus salad

One day we had lunch here at Charlemagne (OLV plein 24), which was great. We sat in the shade right next to the church, and had their special asparagus salad, with bread, and a glass of sauvignon blanc, followed by a double espresso. Service was friendly and good—the wait staff run in and out of the restaurant and its kitchen on the edge of the square.


Enjoying the afternoon sunshine


At Lanteern—if you look closely you’ll see me at a table on the far left

We enjoyed the more intimate atmosphere of this square again on two evenings when we ate at Lanteern, right next to Charlemagne (at OLV plein 26). We didn’t sit under the trees, but at the tables outside under the awnings against the building, slightly more protected in the evening when it was a bit cool, and in fact the heaters came on, so we were outside but warm. Plus we could more easily people-watch—coming and going to the tables, walking along the street, and the wait staff scurrying in and out.

One evening Rod had a varkenhaasje camembert (varkenhaasje is a pork


Our meal at Lanteern

tenderloin) and I had gebakken slibtongetjes (some kind of baked whole white fish). Both with plenty of fries (a Dutch staple) and a salad—served with twists of orange and slices of starfruit. With a bottle of rose wine, the total cost was only 46.80 euros. The food was good, and plenty filling.

The second night Rod had the same, as he said it was so good, but I tried a salmon (zalm) filet, and we had a bottle of sauvignon blanc, all for the same price.

We were very satisfied with the whole experience in both cafes, and would happily return.


Historic Mohawk Trail



One of the many lovely vistas on the Mohawk Trail

This historic trail is on the US National Register of Historic Places and is perfect as a Weekend Getaway and to view Fall Foliage

The US boasts an incredible variety of different terrains and scenery, wonderful National Parks of all kinds, and many national treasures. To enjoy some of them, there are numerous great scenic drives, from coast to coast, past mountains, valleys, forests, canyons, coastlines: think of the Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia, North Carolina), San Juan Skyway (Colorado), 17-mile drive (Carmel, California), the Overseas Highway (Florida Keys), the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) in California past Big Sur, Route 66, and the Great River Road along the Mississippi River.


“Hail to the Sunrise” in Mohawk Park


Rod M and “Hail to the Sunrise”

These are the ones traditionally on the list of “most scenic drives” but you can find beautiful stretches of highway just about anywhere you look.

New England has numerous drives, especially lovely during the fall, and one such is the Mohawk Trail through the Berkshires in western Massachusetts. This large highland region is a broad plateau dissected by hills and peaks and cut by river valleys. Geologically very old, it’s linked to the higher Green Mountains of Vermont. The main North Berkshires region (according to the local map we got) is around the towns of Williamstown, North Adams and Adams.

We were there one weekend in October for a family wedding and found it


View from Whitcomb Summit Inn to the Elk statue

enchanting. It’s a very pretty part of the country and the fall colors were gorgeous. It’s not densely populated, with little towns strung out along the river valleys. It’s interesting to know that this is where Indian tribes used to live and hunt and that as we drive along the Trail we are, in a way, following in the footsteps of the first people in this area.


The Elk statue

The Mohawk Trail began as a trade route for the Native Americans of the Five Nations and connected Atlantic tribes with tribes in Upstate New York, hundreds of years before European settlers arrived. They used it to pass between the Connecticut and Hudson Valleys. It followed the Millers River, Deerfield River and crossed the Hoosac Range in the area that is now northwest Massachusetts.

These days, the Trail is part of Routes 2 and 2A, following much of the view2original Indian trail for about 69 miles, from Williamstown (home of Williams College) in the west, to Greenfield in the east. When it was incorporated in 1753, Greenfield was the northern frontier before the Canadian border. The Berkshire Mountains are easily visible from some places and many people think this is the most beautiful drive in Massachusetts. There are stopping points along the way, with scenic viewpoints, roadside attractions (notably the “Hail to the Sunrise Statue” at Mohawk Park in Charlemont—a tribute to this Native American heritage), and gift shops.


The famous hairpin bend


Golden Eagle restaurant at the hairpin bend

The Trail is very tourist-oriented now, but you can imagine those old traders passing through. The road is narrow and winding, and the multiple layers of rolling hills, ablaze with color at this time of year, are generally quite gentle, although there is a steep climb up to Mount Whitcomb, the highest point of the Trail at 2173 feet. On the western side of the summit is the popular hairpin bend and look-out at Western Summit (called Spirit Mountain by Native Americans) over the city of North Adams and to the Taconic Mountains. On the eastern side the highway descends steeply down the slope of the Hoosac Range, following the Cold River and then the Deerfield River. Note the “Elk on the Trail” statue at Whitcomb Summit.


Walking on the trail in Natural Bridge State Park

foliagesigncloseEach new vista around a sharp corner had us all “oohing and aahing”. The prettiest section (we thought) was between North Adams and east to Charlemont, where often the road is winding along the edge of the Deerfield River. If you stop at some of the roadside lookouts next to the gently gurgling river the sound of water is very soothing. The river is gentle now, but gets much fuller in spring and summer—full enough for tubing and whitewater adventures, popular pastimes. Many of the outdoor activities were not open now, as it’s out of season, although winter sports season will begin soon. In summer, camping, hiking, horse riding, fishing, zip-lining etc are offered. We passed a couple of ‘Bear Crossing’ signs, and wondered how often bears are still seen around here.

It’s a spectacular drive, always lovely I’m sure, but especially now. We tried to absorb the scenery, to imprint it on our minds, as we know it’s fleeting and will be gone in a few weeks. Perhaps it’s that transitory/fleeting element that makes it even more precious.


Part of the gorge in Natural Bridge State Park


Rod M pointing out part of the natural arched stone bridge

Besides the recreational and nature possibilities and fall foliage tours, the Berkshires (Hills or Mountains) are popular with tourists because of the vibrant visual and performing arts and music scene. There are a number of good museums (for example, MASSMoCA in North Adams); performing arts institutions like Tangelwood; America’s first and longest-running dance festival, “Jacob’s Pillow”; and it’s the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, to name but a few.

The name Berkshires came from Sir Francis Bernard, the Royal Governor in office 1760-1769, who named the area “Berkshire” to honor his home county in England.

Besides the Native American history, this area has other interesting


Susan B Anthony Birth House in Adams

historical tidbits. For example, during the American Revolution, a Continental army force under Henry Knox brought captured cannons from Fort Ticonderoga by ox-drawn sleds south along the west bank of the Hudson River from the fort to Albany, where he then crossed the Hudson. Knox and his men continued east through the Berkshires and finally arrived in Boston. This feat, known as “the Noble train of Artillery” was accomplished in the dead of winter, 1775-1776.

NAdamssignAdams is also the birthplace of Susan B. Anthony (in 1820), the famous suffragette, and you can visit her birth house.

If you only have a few days, here’s what we suggest.

Where to Stay:

—at the Whitcomb Summit Retreat, 229 Mohawk Trail (about 15 minutes out of North Adams, and just next to the Elk statue). You can easily drive to places from there. www.whitcombsummitretreat.net Their logo is “stay at the top” and the views out are spectacular.

—or you could stay in North Adams at the Holiday Inn, 40 Main Street.

Where to eat In North Adams?

A good breakfast place is Renee’s Diner, 780 Massachusetts Ave (on


Brewhaha Cafe

FaceBook). A lovely coffee shop is Brewhaha, 20 Marshall Street (on FaceBook).

We had excellent meals at Public Eat and Drink, 34 Holden Street in North Adams (www.publiceatanddrink.com ), and at the Golden Eagle, right on the famous hairpin bend, at 1935 Mohawk Trail (www.thegoldeneaglerestaurant.com ). MASSMoCA has a café, called Lickety Split, and a restaurant called Gramercy Bistro.

What to Do:

First, do the drive between North Adams and Charlemont and stop to visit the “Hail to the Sunrise” statue, a memorial to the Mohawk Native Americans, sponsored by the Improved Order of the Redman. Also stop at the Elk Memorial on Whitcomb Summit.

If you have a clear day, visit the Natural Bridge State Park, just outside of North Adams. It’s an easy, pretty walk and well worth the view of the only natural water-eroded marble bridge in North America, created by the Hudson Brook. It’s about 550 million years old, and is 30 feet wide, spanning a chasm about 60 feet deep.

Drive a little south to Adams and visit the Susan B Anthony Birthplace Museum, 67 East Road, Adams, www.susanbanthonybirthplace.org




An amazingly detailed mural

In North Adams, visit MASSMoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the largest Contemporary Art Museum in USA), and then check out the colorful murals on the wall nearby, on the underpass of Route 2.

A must-see is the Western Gateway Heritage State Park, right in the center of North Adams. This freight yard district has been restored and has a variety of historical attractions, including an exhibit on the building of the Hoosac Tunnel.

North Adams was a railroad and manufacturing hub, using power generated by the Hoosic River (producing textiles and shoes), with many huge old mill buildings (MASSMoCA is in the largest now). Many of the others have been converted into art spaces, galleries, and little shops (most closed during winter).

North Adams has a Fall Foliage Festival at the end of September/beginning of October, and there’s a Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, close to the MASSMoCA.



Maastricht: Eating At The White Sheep



The restaurant is on the corner of two busy pedestrian streets

The restaurant is on the corner of two busy pedestrian streets

Au Mouton Blanc (at the White Sheep)

Kersenmarkt 10, Maastricht

Any visitor to Maastricht will soon discover that there are many places to eat and that they are generally all good. So, deciding where to go can become a bit tricky. This was our first visit to the city, so it was a case of trial and error, but mostly we were really happy with our choices. Nowhere was bad, but some cafes were definitely better than others.

This was one of the pretty good ones.

Grand-Café au Mouton Blanc is on the corner of two narrow shopping streets in Old Maastricht and we walked past here the very first day on our way to the hotel.

The name is rather beguiling, as is the sign with the white sheep, as are the red geraniums in window boxes outside. We tried to eat here a couple of times, but it was always busy—even inside on a warm summer day—so we knew it must be a popular place.


sheepstatueBut, one evening we managed to snag an outside table. It was a good evening to have an outside table as it was a Thursday (late shopping day, shops open until 9 pm), and we could watch the various shoppers passing by with an assortment of large and small bags, people with kids, people on bikes, people with dogs. It was a lot of fun.

The food was very good and our waitress was really sweet—was very helpful and wanted to be sure we got exactly what we wanted. I had a Salade Val-Dieu, Rod an entrecote with pommes frites and vegetables, and we shared a bottle of sauvignon blanc wine. My salad was wonderful and I think it will get on our list of memorable salads. Val-Dieu is a soft cheese, somewhat similar to Camembert or Brie. saladcloser

Prices are reasonable too.



Fun “Salty” Facts

Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland

Wieliczka Salt Mine, Poland

Salt pans in Korea

Salt pans in Korea

Selling bags of salt in Korea---obtained from evaporating salt ponds

Selling bags of salt in Korea—obtained from evaporating salt ponds

Seems like I’m on a ‘salt kick’ briefly. No, not an actual binge on salty foods, although for many people those salty snacks are oh so desirable. And, generally, food without any salt does taste rather bland! No, rather on a quest for salt information and interesting salty factoids.

I wrote recently about the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland near Krakow, a very deep underground rock-salt mine (see here https://easterneuropetrip.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/wieliczka-salt-mine-wieliczka-kopalnia-soli/ )

and about a Korean Salt Field (see here https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2015/10/31/korean-salt-fields/ )

That got me thinking about the importance of salt to humans and animals, which has been recognized from ancient times to the present. Thousands of years ago, animals created paths to salt licks, and men followed. Their trails became roads and next to these, settlements grew and became cities. Salt’s ability to preserve food was an important factor in the development of civilization as we know it, as it eliminated the dependence on seasonal availability, and allowed travel over long distances. However, it was difficult to obtain, so was a highly valued trade item and sign of wealth, and was used as currency before there was money. Roman soldiers who performed their duties well were said to be “worth their salt” (competent and skilled) and the word “salary” comes from the Latin “salarium” used to describe their wages in salt. They were paid in salt, literally worth its weight in gold.

Huge rock salt crystal from Wieliczska Mine

Huge rock salt crystal from Wieliczska Mine

Salt from evaporation

Salt from evaporation

Scene of salt miners in Wieliczska

Scene of salt miners in Wieliczska

There are many other phrases using “salt”—all an indication of the importance given to salt in society. Here are a few of the better-known ones.

Below the salt, meaning “common or lowly, or ordinary”. In mediaeval England, salt was expensive and only the higher ranks of society could afford it. Salt was extracted from seawater by evaporation. This was more difficult to do in northern Europe as evaporation was brought about by boiling over a fire, compared to the action of the sun in countries with warmer climates. In England this method was abandoned in the mid-1600s when they started to mine natural rock-salt commercially in Cheshire. Before that, the high value of salt gave it a high symbolic status in the day-to-day language of England in the Middle Ages.

At that time the nobility sat at the ‘high table’ and their commoner servants at lower trestle tables. Salt was placed in the centre of the high table and only those of rank could use it. Those on the lower tables were below (or beneath) the salt.

Another mining scene underground at Wieliczsak

Another mining scene underground at Wieliczsak

Salt collected in a wagon at salt pans in Korea

Salt collected in a wagon at salt pans in Korea

Green rock salt crystals from Wieliczska

Green rock salt crystals from Wieliczska

To take with a grain of salt, meaning “to consider something to be not completely true or right”. This is based on the idea that food tastes better and is easier to swallow if you add a little salt

Salt of the Earth (Matt v 13 in the Bible). Jesus used this as a metaphor to mean the best or most worthy people, embodying moral integrity

A few Interesting Facts about Salt:

— The first written reference to salt is found in the Book of Job in the Bible, recorded about 2,250 BC. There are 31 other references to salt in the Bible, the most familiar probably being the story of Lot’s wife who was turned into a pillar of salt when she disobeyed the angels and looked back at the wicked city of Sodom.

Tunnel and walls of salt in Wieliczska

Tunnel and walls of salt in Wieliczska

Salt wagon reflections, Korea

Salt wagon reflections, Korea

Pink rock salt crystals, Wieliczska

Pink rock salt crystals, Wieliczska

Hippocrates encouraged his fellow healers to use salt water for healing by immersing patients in sea water.

England’s “-wich” towns. “Wich” and “wych” are names associated with brine springs or wells in England. By the 11th century this came to be linked with places with a specialized function, including salt production. Four famous ones in Cheshire are Northwich, Leftwich, Middlewich and Nantwich. Other famous ones are Sandwich and Norwich.

Solnitsata, the earliest known town in Europe (4700-4200BC), was built around a salt production facility. The town was located in present-day Bulgaria, and archeologists believe it got wealthy by supplying salt throughout the Balkans.

The Natron Valley of Egypt was a key region that supported the Egyptian Empire in the north as it supplied a kind of salt that came to be called by its name, natron. It was used mainly as a cleaning product and in Egyptian mummification.

Saltzburg in Austria (meaning ‘salt town’) has salt mines close by. They are now tourist attractions and well worth a visit.

A wall of salt, Wieliczska

A wall of salt, Wieliczska

Another salt wall

Another salt wall

See more at


The “Wild” Side of Korea

One of the bays in the peninsula

One of the bays in the peninsula

cliffs2Chaeseonkgang Cliffs

I wrote recently about a Korean Salt Field (see here https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2015/10/31/korean-salt-fields/ ) called Komso (Gomso) Salt Field on the Byeonsan peninsula in the north part of Jeolla Province in the western part of Korea. Gomso is along the Gomsoman Bay, adjacent to the sea.

The coastline around here is very interesting, stretching from

Chaeseonkgang Cliffs to Gochang, an area that includes Gomso Salt Field. It features a very well-developed wetlands area, bays and inlets, and miles of cliffs.


Part of the 'beach'---you can see people looking for stones

Part of the ‘beach’—you can see people looking for stones

Rod M and Chang K walk onto the rocks

Rod M and Chang K walk onto the rocks

After visiting the Salt Field and having lunch at Naesosa Temple, we walked along a short stretch of the Chaeseonkgang Cliffs, which are steep and rocky, with spits of rock and rock pools running along the “beach” area and into the sea too. It was lots of fun to look at and collect some of the multi-colored stones on the small sections of pebble beach—as many other Korean visitors were doing.

This is not a big tourist destination, although there are a number of large resort hotels nearby, largely used by Koreans. So, we felt very privileged to be able to visit somewhere so off-the-beaten-track in Korea and to see the “wild side” of the countryside (not an easy feat in this small country!)

Some of the pretty stones people were collecting

Some of the pretty stones people were collecting

Korean Salt Fields

General view of Gomso Salt Field

General view of Gomso Salt Field

pansI wrote recently about the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland near Krakow, a very deep underground rock-salt mine (see here https://easterneuropetrip.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/wieliczka-salt-mine-wieliczka-kopalnia-soli/ )

That got me thinking about other ways to obtain salt, and one of the earliest in many parts of the world has been salt extraction from the sea or brine pools.

On our recent visit to South Korea our wonderful host Chang Kim took us on a road trip around the southwest part of the country. One of the days, on our way to the Naesosa Temple on the Byeonsan peninsula in the north part of Jeolla Province, we stopped to take a look at a huge salt field.

You can see the black tiles below the shallow water

You can see the black tiles below the shallow water

black tiles

black tiles

If you look carefully in the background are workers in white boots

If you look carefully in the background are workers in white boots

It’s called the Komso (Gomso) Salt Field, a large system of very shallow salt pans or salterns. It’s one of the few salterns in Korea that produces Cheonilyeom solar salt. Gomso is not on the ocean but along the Gomsoman Bay, adjacent to the sea, and covered canals bring in the sea water.

The pans are built on black tiles, which speeds up the evaporation process—it apparently takes about three days for one pond to dry out, leaving the salt ready for harvesting. Doing it this way produces very large salt crystals (which we tried to photograph but didn’t really succeed). The workers shovel the salt into a type of wheelbarrow and then in a very simple shed it’s funneled down and into bags.

During the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), salt fields covered the area from Julpoman Bay to Gomsoman Bay, producing salt that was sent, along with rice, to the bigger cities.

In the shed

In the shed

Roadside stall selling salt

Roadside stall selling salt

20kg bags of salt

20kg bags of salt

Chang told us that, aside from its long history, this sun-dried salt is known for containing around 10 times more minerals than other salt, and has a special flavor because in May and June pine seeds drift into the salt pans.

Tourists are permitted although not many seem to come, and we were lucky to see people at work on some of the pans in the distance. When the weather is too hot in the summer (and I can attest that it does get very hot and humid) work is done mostly in the early morning.

At small stalls alongside the road we saw large bags of this salt for sale. A 20kg bag (44lbs) costs 15,000-18,000 Korean won (about US$ 13-16). Amazingly cheap!

The coast from Chaeseonkgang Cliffs to Gochang, which includes Gomso Salt Field, features a very well-developed wetlands area. See next post on the cliffs.


Another stall

Another stall

The Markt and Stadhuis in evening light

The Markt and Stadhuis in evening light

Stadhuis and Markt on market day

Stadhuis and Markt on market day

The 't Mooswief statue

The ‘t Mooswief statue

The Markt is another big square in Maastricht that vies with the Vrijjthof as the city center. On Wednesdays and Fridays the Markt wins out because market days attract crowds of locals as well as day-trippers from Aachen and Liege. Even on other days the bars and cafes are crowded, the herring stall is busy and groups of students cluster around ‘t Mooswief, a statue of a plump stallholder.

The centerpiece of the square is the Stadhuis, the 17th century town hall built 1659-1664 in Classical style by architect Pieter Post, a pupil of Jacob van Campen. There are two sets of stairs to get to the interior, a reminder of the time when the two city authorities (the Dukes of Brabant and the Bishops of Liege) literally went their own way. In the entrance chamber with a rococo ceiling the Mayor hands over the keys of the city to the Carnival Prince.

The Stadhuis has a bell tower (1684) with 43 bells and if you are lucky you may hear the carillon of bells. The 17th-century council decided to abandon solemn dirges on the bells in favor of pretty folk tunes, and the custom continues—a very pretty sound.

Gorgeous fabrics

Gorgeous fabrics



asparagus2I spent a great morning wondering around the market, which is set out on the square around the City Hall. Fresh produce is roughly together on two sides—gorgeous flowers and plants, fruits and vegetables, breads, cheeses, meats—and clothes, cloths, crafts roughly on the other two sides. People browse, buy stuff, stop to chat and it’s a happening place. It was asparagus season, and the varieties and choices of the spears (green and white, thick and thin) was amazing to me—mostly in the USA we get just the green, and only one choice at that. It was also fun to see the special Dutch cheeses, such as Pinda Kaas, Boeren Kaas and Rommedou.



View of market square from a cafe

View of market square from a cafe

The cafes around offer all kinds of local snacks, such as asparagus omelette, asparagus soup, trout, Limburgse Vlaai (fruit flans), waffles, or gingerbread. Any of these treats can be washed down with beer, which is the typical local drink, or Maastrichter wine—which is not common but very good if you can find it. But, it was also fun to just order a tea and sit watching all the activity, which I did at Tijl Uilenspiegel


A relaxing cup of tea

A relaxing cup of tea

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