November 2017.

To celebrate Eloise’s birthday we visited Wallingford, home to Agatha Christy and film location for Midsomer Murders.  It was a miserable day, weather wise, so our first stop was for coffee at a little cafe called Riblizi Modern Cafe, it was a good call, great coffee and tasty cake.  It was in a pretty building and upstairs it had a room with a corner with a lockable gate so dogs could sit in there whilst their owners drank coffee in peace, nice touch.  As it was still drizzling when we left we went into the museum which was filled with interesting things to see especially the exhibition on Agatha Christy and the exhibition on filming Midsomer Murders.

Towards the end of November we visited Valkenburg in The Netherlands to see the caves with their Christmas markets, that was superb.   We took the car over to France on the Eurotunnel and drove straight to Oud Valkenburg (by a rather bizarre route which added an extra hour to our journey, thanks SAT NAV!)   We stayed in accommodation that had once been the stables to the Kasteel  Shaloen and we had a view over the moat to where we could see cows grazing.  We had arrived later than we’d expected so we had a meal in the restaurant  in the old gate house, it was a lovely start to our weekend.

The following day we walked into Valkenburg along the main road, we’d watched people disappear across a field earlier, wondered whether it was another route into town and then chickened out of following it in case it wasn’t.  Valkenburg was beautiful and we were thrilled to discover that the Christmas markets were held down in a cave system, we’d expected it to be a bit of a cheat and that we’d find that the stalls were cut into the face of rock above ground and that customers would walk ‘outside’ of the cave.   Our very first purchase before we’d even got right down into the market was an outdoor tap shaped like a squirrel from an ‘antique’ stall.  Walking through the caves was a magical experience.  When we’d seen all the stalls we decided to walk back to our accommodation, have a chill out and drive back in the evening for a meal.  We discovered a path that ran alongside the river so we chanced it this time and hoped it would take us back to the Kasteel, it turned out to be a lovely walk, it’s a shame we didn’t do that in the morning.

In the evening we drove back into town and visited another set of caves, also beautiful.  While we were walking around we saw a sign for an evening parade so we rushed off to eat then found a place to watch the parade.  The parade went on for a very long time, it had loads of illuminated floats which were swarming with people wearing very colourful costumes, it wasn’t painful like the parade we’d seen on 3 Kings Day in Roquetas de Mar in Spain ‘5th January.  Roquetas de Mar, Spain’ we were bombarded with boiled sweets at THAT parade which was a nice idea until a sweet hit you on the head, ouch!  When it had finished we wandered back to the car popping into a coffee shop for one last coffee and pud before we went home, it was a great choice because the floats all came past the coffee shop on their way to the storage area.  There was a bit of a float jam for a while so we got to see each one for much longer than before.

On our last day we went to visit the last market cave, this one had a huge cafe at one end and a sparkly Christmas scene beside it.  It made us feel very festive.  When we’d finished in the cave we decided that we’d drive over to Maastricht as we’d read that they hold a very good Christmas market too.  Unfortunately we arrived a week early and they were still setting it up but we still enjoyed looking round the city (after we’d stopped for an ice cream in the ice cream parlour).  When we arrived back at Valkenburg we stopped at an Indian restaurant and had a great meal but served by a Dutch man who told us all about the pains and miseries that were going on in his life every time he brought something to the table.

On our way back to the ferry we made a slight detour to Bergues to take Paula to the nice restaurant, L’Aubette, that we’d visited on our last stop before we caught the ferry home at the end of our tour ‘6th May.  Bergues, France’.  We had a nice meal there this time as well, the lady who had greeted us last year must be the owner because she was there again and as helpful as she’d been last time.