Betty and I left for Amsterdam on Thursday (the 26th). She leaving from Washington, and myself leaving from Southern California. We met up in Atlanta with Jim and Ruth Morgan, from Incline City near Lake Tahoe , with all of us leaving on the same Delta flight to Europe. We had the pleasure of being able to go into the First Class Club at the airport with Jim and Ruth that was so nice and comfortable and with "Free" Food! :) We had a three hour layover, but the time flew right by in there.
We arrived in Amsterdam and much of the first day is a bit of a blur we were so tired! Betty and I decided to take a boat ride through the canals. It's the one thing we could do that took no energy, but would keep us awake. The goal being to stay awake until nightime so we would sleep and get up the next morning on Holland time. After the boat ride we met in the Hotel Lobby with Jim and Ruth, John and Bobbie and Doug and Joanne, and all left for the streets of Amsterdam to see some sights and get something to eat. We had French Fries and Mayonnaise! Frikandellen and kroketten, some other Dutch food you can get from vendors on the street that were all so good! We took in a museum and just walked around enjoying the busy sights of Amsterdam filled with so much excitement of the days that were ahead of us.
The next day, Friday, Sonja, Beate, Ruud and Ineke joined the rest of us for our much anticipated trip to Hoorn to see the Red Rose Cafe!! (The actual name of the cafe is "Het Schippershuis")It was one of the big highlights of my trip. Hoorn is such a beautiful seaport town and sitting in the Red Rose Cafe, with Andre's recording of it playing, while we had our Dutch Lunch brings tears to my eyes thinking back on it. It wasn't just the Red Rose Cafe itself, it was that, combined with a Group of 11 people from America, Holland and Germany that were there together, as good friends because of a guy named André. It was a wonderful heartwarming experience I will never forget. Later that day some of the group went to a Condom Shop. Yep ~ I said, "Condom Shop" and I also said "some"of the Group! I personally wasn't with them, but I DO of course have pictures that I have added. ;-) That night we all went to an Indonesian Restaurant to eat rijsttafel. It was more like a Feast! We ate and laughed and had a great time. I can't tell you the foods ~ I have no idea of the names of it all. (rijsttafel exist out of many different small foods.) It was different though, and very good! (Again have added this to the pictures)
That evening André announced at his 5:00 soundcheck that he would be having a "Dress Rehearsal" at I believe was 9:00. We were watching it from our hotel room as he was getting ready to start and then André said something (in Dutch of course) that made Sonja jump right off the window sill!! He said everyone was invited into the Vrijthof to sit and watch the rehearsal. Betty, Sonja and I immediately grabbed our sweaters and ran downstairs and went into the Vrijthof right up front. That Dress Rehearsal will forever make me look at André in a different way. It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen with him. I will always from that night on have the utmost respect for what he does. Not that I didn't before, but my God, watching what he did that night and how hard he worked at it, was mind boggling. He always makes it look so easy, but we saw it isn't. There may be some that play better violin, and some that are less corny in their delivery during a concert, but I can think of no one that puts together a concert like he did/or does! To watch him trying to get everything together the night before the actual concert when the sound sucked, the choir was off with the orchestra, so many things not occurring on time, and here's one man alone pulling it all together. And pull it together he did ... the next night the first concert came off with Perfection as it always does ~ with André alone center stage, conducting a 157 member choir, the JSO and his own chorus and singers and them all in sync following his direction to perfection! I was in total AWE of the man! I wish they would make a DVD of that entire Dress Rehearsal with all it's imperfections. We were actually worried for him ~ it seemed impossible to put it together by the next night. Seeing him at work with the problems, never losing his cool, but just correcting each part as he went along with the help of Marjorie, who was sitting a row in front of us a few seats down, taking notes, was beyond amazing! He truly is a genius at what he does ...
The next day, Saturday, was the day we would go to Andre's "World Tour Concert" in Amsterdam! Sonja, Ruud and Ineke went to Schipol Airport to pick up Anne, who was flying in from Sweden. And soon it was time to head for the concert. We were now a group of 12 heading across the street from our Hotel to the Train Station to catch the train that was going to take us to the Amsterdam ArenaA. It was a Huge Arena and to again see Schoenbrunn set up was so exciting. It was a little smaller than in Toronto, (André still hasn't found an arena since Toronto that the whole castle will fit in), but it was still very large and just as breathtaking as before. While Sonja and I were on our way in, a limousine with dark windows drove by. It must be Andre we thought so we walked to it. It had to stop for a barricade and we waved and threw a kiss, then they removed the barricade and the car could continue into theVenue. Later we saw Marjorie and figured it was probably not just Andre but also Marjorie in the car. Now we were embarrassed. It is okay to throw André a kiss but not in front of his wife! The concert was great and I won't go into it as you have heard and read so much about it already. One of the highlights for me was the little Dutch girl, Melissa that played the trumpet. It was almost surreal that a child of 13 could play with such clarity and emotion ... just beautiful! After the concert we all headed back on the train to our hotel and very hungry! It was too late to find anything open to get something to eat ... I had gone to my room to change back into my jeans real quick and when I came back down to the lobby everyone was sitting there eating all the peanuts they could find from the bar! Joanne and Doug (Santa) came down with some snacks they had in their room and we devoured everything, laughing at ourselves all the while. I don't know how late we all stayed there in the lobby, other than it was late and we laughed and had such a great time! John took some pictures of us and I will add them with this ...
Oh my Gosh this is going to be long ... we haven't even gotten to Maastricht yet! :/ Keep in mind, this isn't just a concert. It was TWELVE Days in Holland and FOUR Concerts for us!! :)
The next day, Sunday, we all went in different directions. Ineke and Ruud went home, Anne went with them. Sonja went home to her Moms, John and Bobbie went to visit relatives in Holland, Doug and Joanne went on to Germany for a few days. Jim and Ruth went on to Rotterdam and Betty and I left on the three hour train ride to Maastricht! We all hugged and said good bye to each other, with no sadness as we were going to all be together again on Thursday. Betty and I arrived in Maastricht sometime around 2:00 in the afternoon. Walking into the DuCasque Hotel on The Vrijthof was like coming home! We were SO excited!! I took my first picture from the window in our room as I did last year of the Vrijthof. What a mess it was! Things just everywhere ... it made you wonder how on earth they knew how to put everything together! We unpacked quickly and then went out to walk around the Vrijthof and look at things. We had dinner at one of the Cafe's, our favorite, Gaucho's which is right on our hotel where we could sit watch all the goings on in the Vrijthof. We didn't see Pierre anywhere, but assumed he was probably still in Amsterdam supervising the dismantling of it.We could tell Roos was in charge on the Vrijthof. It was some great entertainment with our meal watching the goings on. As Bobbie says, you have to pinch yourself to make you believe you're really back there again!
The next day we started getting "Sightings". JSO sightings, André sightings etc. Maastricht was quite calm, all the tourists and fans hadn't arrived for the weekend events yet. We could actually go to a Cafe on the Maas for breakfast or lunch and there would just be a few people there ... so peaceful and beautiful. (again, there are pictures of this) We were walking down the street of the Vrijthof in front of our hotel and saw Johan coming towards us with either his wife or girlfriend. (who was very tiny and very pretty) It was strange seeing Johan in a T-Shirt, Shorts and Flip Flops! (obviously off duty until the fans/ tourists all started arriving on Thursday) As he got up to us he looked right at me and said "Hi, how you doing ~ are you having a good time?" So I knew for sure he actually knew me! He didn't say anything to anyone else he had passed on the sidewalk coming up to us! Having Johan "know" you can be a good thing, or a bad thing ... I hope in this case it's a good thing! ;-) He always gives a wink and says, "Hi." I would have told him "hi" for you Alice, but there was that Girlfriend/Wife thing ... ;-)
For the most part, our 4 days in Maastricht alone before the city filled up for the weekend was sooooo pretty and peaceful. There were little things that always made the heart beat faster now and then. Like sitting at a Cafe (we did a lot of that) and seeing members of the JSO riding by on their bicycle, or Pierre riding by on his bicycle, or looking up while eating lunch at a cafe and just 30 feet from you André and Pierre standing there talking and then hugging each other good bye. And then there was the afternoon we were walking along the sidewalk of the Vrijthof and there was André dressed in a black shirt and jacket looking so handsome. I happened to have my camera with me that day, as we had just come back from "brunch" on the Maas. He was leaning against the Gazebo thing (the big round thing that's on the Vrijthof.) They put it in the right bottom corner of the webcam picture during the concerts and the lighting is all controlled from there. Anyway, he was leaning there talking to the guys in lighting looking SO handsome, so we stopped and I went to take his picture. He was busy and not looking at me ... and as I was looking through my lens with a beautiful, clear, closeup shot ... Marjorie walked into my frame! I of course dropped my camera down and didn't take the picture. It was going to be such a GREAT picture of him too! :/ She eventually turned her back as she was talking to him and I did take his picture as her back was to the camera and a guy had walked in front of me too which blocked her more. I still got André though! :) What struck us was, there he and Marjorie were, no bodyguards walking around like normal people where they lived. André finished talking to the techs and he and Marjorie brushed by us and walked down the street to his car. I have seen Marjorie before in Maastricht, but never side by side walking down the sidewalk with André. It was fun to see. And dear Lord she looks short next to him! He's tall and she's short, and when you see them together like that, he looks even taller and she looks even shorter! :) Betty and I knew we'd always remember that ... it was just nice. I could go on with other little things that happened in those 4 days, but if I do this will become a book, so I will move onto Thursday when all the fans arrived.
Thursday the whole city of Maastricht changed! That quiet, quaint, peaceful city turned into a circus!! They arrived from all over the world and those empty little cobblestone streets became filled and crowded with people! Betty and I had so enjoyed seeing Maastricht the way we did those four days, but we were excited now to see all the fans that were arriving!! Little by little the Hotel DuCasque's lobby, that had been so empty, was filled with fans checking in and the excitement is really off the scale! There were hugs, hello's and kisses and even "Three Dutch Kisses" everywhere! Time is never wasted too much on that though, you always get to your room, look out your window, unpack and then get down to the Vrijthof and mingle with everyone on the street, or in the cafe's ... it's just great and I don't really know how to describe it, other than it's like the largest family reunion you could ever imagine and André is there to entertain you at it!! :)
On Thursday afternoon ~ Sonja, Ineke and Ruud and I went in Ruud's car about maybe 20 minutes or so outside of Maastricht to a winery to pick up some wine. It's the first time I had seen the countryside like that other than on the trainride and it is just beautiful. We stopped at the winery (again have pictures) and then while there, Ruud pointed out that just around the bend about a half mile was Belgium! Of course I told him we HAD to ride to the border, so I could at least say I had been in Belgium! That ride was SO Beautiful and I had my picture taken next to the "Entering Belgium" sign. :)
Another little thing that was so cute that I have to tell you. As André was getting ready to start the rehearsal, he stopped and was looking all around. He kept doing that and I had whispered to Sonja, he acts like he's looking for something. Finally he called one of his Bodyguards that was in the front row over to the stage and leaned down to him, forgetting his mike was on he whispered ... "where is Marjorie?" It was so cute! He couldn't see where she was and he needed to know, so she could give him input as the rehearsal went on. She was sitting over to his left a little right by us, and for some reason he wasn't seeing her. We watched him many times during the rehearsal look over to Marjorie and she would shake her head yes, or no to let him know if what they had done looked ok or not. He being on the stage can't see it to know. She was writing notes throughout the whole rehearsal. It just goes to prove, behind every great Man ~ is a Woman! :)
We walked out of the Vrijthof with Mirusia after the rehearsal was over, and Sonja and I had our Waltzing Matilda CD's with us, so Mirusia autographed them for us! :)
Friday was our Fan Dinner and it was just wonderful. Lots of meeting with old and new friends and much good food. When we arrived, we saw Frederic Jenniges sitting at the bar and went to talk to him. Sonja told him we were having our Fan Dinner upstairs and invited him to come say hello, which he did! Our special guest for our fan dinner, Frederic Jenniges!!! Frederic did not perform, but was in Maastricht to enjoy the concerts himself and say hello to all the friends he has made in the orchestra. Earlier during the day, we walked around Maastricht and of course sat at the cafe's having ice tea and drinks while watching the activity on the Vrijthof with so many friends. We went to the market in the after noon and The Dutch Girl (Sonja) got a raw herring and ate it. Ewwwwww, but it made a great picture! ;-)
That night was the first concert. We went over to the Theater and as we walked up on the sidewalk across from it, André looked over and saw Sonja and waved to her!! There was NO talking to her after that!! :))) For the concert we had front row center seats right in front of André. It was so cool, you almost felt you were on the stage and part of it. You have all heard about the concerts by now and seen the program. The Maastrichter Staar Choir coming in from the back of the Vrijthof with their torches to the music and them singing The Conquest of Paradise was about as Dramatic as I have ever seen! It gave you Goosebumps. And I can tell you, when André stands there on stage with them coming in with such a serious face, that's not for show ... we saw all that could go wrong the night before. He was in 100% concentration mode directing and conducting it all to perfection! And we were delighted to see that the little trumpet player Melissa that was in Amsterdam, was also with him in Maastricht.
Now with all this beautiful music, it's going to sound strange when I say one of our Favorites was Tie Me Kangaroo Down by Mirusia!! Where you see all the choir doing the Kangaroo Hop on Stage ... well ~ Mirusia and André were trying to get the audience up to do it, but no one was. Sonja and I loved it and were out of our seats on every chorus doing it with Mirusia, with Sonja loudly singing the chorus which was in Dutch. We met with her after the concert and asked her if she liked our Kangaroo Hop ... she laughed and said, "YES! you were the only
two that were doing it!!" :) She also introduced us to her boyfriend (who she has been with for a year now) He's Dutch and is very cute. I thought they looked almost like brother and sister ~ a perfect match and he seemed very nice!
The next day, Saturday, was the Fan Picnic. It was so much fun and a beautiful day! It was almost like going back in time a little. We sat under the trees by the water in the shade, eating Dutch Sandwiches (that I again don't know the name of) we had bought at a bakery on the way, and Chips (Kroepoek) that are made with shrimp and are SO good. I have been told there was 70 of us at the Fan Picnic. It was so nice just sitting in the grass with friends, some that you hadn't seen in a year, and meeting new ones you hadn't met before. It was another highlight of my trip. I must say here, if you're going to the fan picnic and don't know how to get to the park ~ Don't go with "The Dutch Girl!"(Sonja) We were the last ones there and it's because we got lost! She finally had to ask someone (in Dutch) for directions how to get there and we made it ~ last but still made it. :) I should add in her defense that we did leave late, hoping to hear Frank on the carrilon, and it was the Dutch Girl, who got us to the Dress Rehearsal so quick when André announced it in Dutch!! :)
Saturday nights Concert is when our "events" escalated. We were at the Theater taking pictures with André and the JSO. (Andre again said "hello" to Sonja, who now really is beside herself, and we will never hear the end of it!!) Andre and the JSO are on the steps of the theater for an hour before each concert. It was getting close to Concert time, so Betty decided to go into the Vrijthof ahead of Sonja and I to get in her seat. We had front row center seats for Friday and Sunday night, but on Saturday night our tickets were on the inside isle (closer to André) in row 12 on the left side of the stage. When we got there we didn't see Betty and there were other people in our seats!! I was totally confused and Sonja was muttering something in Dutch. (she does have a way of talking to you in Dutch over there and then wonders why you look at her with a stupid look on your face) Next thing I know she has one of those "Ushers in Red" and is talking to them in Dutch, all the while getting more and more agitated. (Sonja, not the usher) Now the concert has started and André is playing something on his violin. I looked over at the stage and he's looking at what's going on. :/ Sonja is speaking very quietly, but also VERY firmly to the usher. I'm standing there, not having a clue what they're saying and not understanding why someone else is in our seats and not knowing where Betty is!! Finally the usher walks away and comes back with a head usher who looks at our tickets, then pulls out this book and tears two more tickets out of it and hands them to Sonja. (I still have no clue what's going on.) She looks at me smiling and says, come on. So I followed her, not knowing where we were going, but just wanting to disappear some where, so André wouldn't be mad at us! I followed her to the front of the stage and into the two empty seats, second row center stage right in front of André again! I sat quickly down and sheepishly looked up at André playing his violin. He was looking right at both of us with a raised eyebrow, kind of like ~ how did you manage THAT! Sonja, who to this day regrets it, had turned her bottom to André while she wiped her seat off that was wet from the dew, not knowing that André was watching her until she turned around ~ red faced. She quickly sat down and then told me what happened. When we bought our tickets online it showed we were sitting on the inside row, end seats closest to the stage, in the 12th row. Well, for some dumb reason, just that one row, the numbers were put on the seats in reverse, which put us way on the outside edge of the Vrijthof. Which by the way is were Betty was sitting!! The Dutch Girl would have no part of that and what she had told the usher was, that she had paid for THESE three seats and not the ones on the other end. She would not accept that and would take her money back before sitting way over there. That's when the Head Usher was called over and he gave us the tickets right in front of André in the second row!! :))
Then it came intermission time and as you may have noticed André has an early intermission in this concert because of the huge choir that comes in. Once they're on stage they don't leave, so the intermission has to be before they come in. When intermission came, Sonja and I went looking for poor Betty who is sitting way over on the side by the trees practically! Again The Dutch Girl gets an usher and tells them that Betty is with us and is in the same dilemma that we were. There is one seat empty two seats over from us and they told Betty to go take it and gave her a ticket for it. Betty came back to the front with us and there was a man sitting in the seat that she had the ticket for and he refused to leave. She showed him her ticket and he still refused to leave. Here comes André back on stage and here comes one of the Red Ushers. The Usher was telling the man that this woman (Betty) had a ticket for that seat and he would have to move ... he wouldn't do it. The Dutch Girl (Sonja) started to move to say something and I grabbed her arm and said, you stay out of this! We were in enough trouble from the beginning of the concert. At this point I figured André doesn't know that we know Betty, so he doesn't know we have anything to do with this. I was sure the usher would get it handled. Not So ........... I finally got the courage to look up at André as there was no music starting and he was standing there with his violin on his hip and then he says, "what happened, did the row get shorter?" Betty was so embarrassed by then she started walking back towards her seat that was way over on the side. André turns to Teun and says, "give me a chair" and Teun hands him one of the orchestra chairs ... André passes it down to the Red Usher for Betty and all the while Betty is leaving. We didn't want André to know we had anything to do with this, but we couldn't let Betty go back under the trees so both of us sprang from our seats at the same time yelling to Betty who's at the far end of the first row by this time to TAKE THE CHAIR BETTY!!! It reminded me of that game show The Price is Right where they're yelling Take The Door!!! Betty then sat in the chair on the end of the first row and all was well, Sonja and I sat down and looked up to see André looking at us with that eyebrow look, as if to say ~ you two have some thing to do with this??? The concert started again and the music started. Sonja and I had to keep our heads down through out the whole first song that was played because we couldn't stop laughing. It was another great concert and we did The Kangaroo Hop again with Mirusia!! :)
Sunday was our last day before all heading home on Monday. We went to the cafe on the Maas and had "Fly". That's not how to spell it, but it's how it's pronounced. We had Strawberry Fly, and it's a pastry that is to die for!! It's layers of pastry, whip cream and fresh strawberries. I'm sure I gained at least 2 pounds that day, but ohhh it was so good!
After leaving the cafe at on the Maas, we were walking back to the Vrijthof and saw the Horse and Buggy. We all decided to take a ride in it. There was me, Betty, Sonja, Laurie, Kathy, Maggie and Mary Ann. There was just enough room for all of us to fit in the large buggy. It was so much fun riding around the cobblestone streets and hearing the clop clop clop of the horses. There was a guide sitting with the driver who pointed many things out to us that we never would have known about. What a fun way to see Maastricht. (I have added some pictures of it in the photoshow.)
Sunday nights concert was uneventful, Thank God ... we all sat in the front row again right in front of André with Chris and Siggy there next to us ... when Mirusia sang the Kangaroo Song she would sing the chorus looking right at us and we were out of our chairs doing the Kangaroo Hop!! It was so much fun!!!
After the concerts about five of us hung around outside talking for quite a while and we saw many of the JSO leave and said good bye, thank you and until next year to them. We were all feeling really sad that it was the last time we'd see them all until Spring. Finally we saw Andre come out, get in his car and he drove slowly right by us. We waved to him, and he waved back to us!! That's all it took to make us happy again ... we were so happy that he waved to us, we forgot about the sadness. :)
Monday was a day for Good Byes and Tears ... it was so sad to have to say good bye to everyone, we all just had so much fun!! Everyone left in different directions, Betty and Maggie and I took the train back to Amsterdam, which got a little scary, but Maggie tells about that in her report. We stayed at the Sheraton there in the airport and met up with Doug and Joanne, Laurie, Kathy and Mary Ann and Joan and had dinner with them ... then the next morning we were on our flight for home with soooooooo many wonderful memories.
I told you this would be long ... and I left a out a lot! :) All I can say is, if you can go ~ GO! Maastricht with Andre's Concerts and all the fans is a magical week ... I can't wait for next year. I already have our room reserved again and as soon as André announces the concerts we'll get our tickets. André in his hometown is just the ultimate André Rieu Experience! And it's not just André that makes it ~ it's ALL the fans from all over the world being together in one place, Maastricht, for the most exciting and heartwarming Concert events of the year. ~ Sue :)