Monday, August 23, 2010

Plateauroute - Day 1

Van Tienhoven windmill near Wolfshuis
Morning in this suburban subdivision in Velden. Not sure if Mevrouw Kusters is going to bring up my breakfast or if I need to go downstairs. The ceiling is inclined, following the shape of the tiled roof and the rear window faces the rear of other tiled roof houses. It's quite overcast but it appears that the rain has stopped.

On the Plateau route. Nice so far though there's way too much traffic. I hope the ANWB* has some more tranquil sections in store for me. I'm now taking a break at point 68, the van Tienhoven windmill (1855).  There's a patch of grass at the base and a couple of rustic split-log benches, perfect place to have my roast beef sandwich, grapes, chocolate. It's around 4:30 pm. This being a plateau, it took some work to get up here. Heading east out of Maastricht you take the Old Akerweg, go under a great tunnel, through some 'burbs, then out in the country -- cornfields, pear orchard, horses. There's a steep climb before 't Rooth (and that's the t'ruth), so I dismounted and hoofed it. 'T Rooth is a former mining village where they excavated for marl (a kind of limestone). Now it looks like a cluster of weekend retreats fronted by fields.

Plateauroute: the urban zone on the left is Maastricht (ANWB map)
The beer at the Zwarte Ruyter in Gulpen is called Ch√Ęteau Neuboorg, "the name of a castle," said my attentive waiter. It's the "best beer" by Gulpener. Now I'm having a Dort (a bit darker), also very good. The food, too, is very fine: I had a rich, creamy tomato soup, fantastic fresh baguette with a rich butter, and a huge maldtijdsalat met vis: smoked salmon, mackerel, shrimp and lots of nice greens and radicchio. The bill was outrageous of course: 25 euros.

Not even 10 pm but I'm retiring for the evening. Meneer Joseph Ploum, the patriarch of the home at Onde Akkerweg 56 in Gulpen, has been a most gracious host, and the house is quite beautiful, of modern design with lots of fine paintings, prints and sculptures. It is probably the nicest vriend's house I've stayed in yet.
View of Gulpen from up on the Plateau
By the way, this morning I put my bike on the train from Venlo to Roermond (one of those two-car deals I'd seen the other day in Grubbenvorst), then to Maastricht, without paying the supplement. No one checked up on me. Oddly, the bicycle storage section on the sprinter was in the first-class car, as a friendly young black woman who belonged to the train crew pointed out to me. So I could park my bike in first class but not myself. At Roermond, she accompanied me off the train and to the track where I was to make my connection. She took me down on the lift, then back up on another lift to the right platform. "It's summertime," said the woman, "so you can take it easy."

* The ANWB, or Algemene Nederlandse Wielrijders Bond, sort of like the AAA but which actually considers bicycles real vehicles, are the ones responsible for designing and maintaining Holland's fantastic bicycle network. They publish fiets maps of every part of the country, which indicate the knooppunts -- the numbered points along each route.

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