Our own story.I don't know if it is just my personal feeling, but I thought 2016 was the most spectacular year ever! We experienced more "wow" factors than ever before.Thursday 7th.We arrived on Thursday, July 7, in the Center of the Universe after a 2.5-hour car trip. That is near for the Center of the Universe, isn’t it?As usual on Thursday we had a mass greeting with the entire world on Gauchos' terrace. The Aussies, who had been saving money for the trip for an entire year, were there again. They are the most cheerful fans in the world. They even celebrated a Christmas party in July!We unpacked and hung the banners on the hotel facade.At 9 PM we rushed onto the square for the free dress rehearsal; very interesting to see the Maestro at work. He spoke his lyrics in German, for German TV. There was a wardrobe malfunction with Mirusia's rainbow dress. The spiral under the dress did not light up and a technician had to find the error under the dress. You most probably understand why André was joking all the time! (Click HERE).Agnes Fizzano had announced a small exhibition of her head/hair pieces on Facebook and I had asked her if she could make a special ear ornament for me. That was new to her, but she designed and created a wonderful piece, with which I am very happy! It fitted perfectly and I felt like a princess! (Click HERE).
Friday 8th.Today there was dancing on the ancient St. Servaas Bridge with professional dancers. What an experience that was! The waltz was over by the time I arrived and we had to do the Greek Sirtaki. Both professionals beside me turned in different directions which was confusing for me. Who cares? We had fun. I could not wait for the waltz again, because we had to decorate the fan dinner ship. Our cooperation with the shipping company, Stiphout, is great! After so many years they know exactly what we need and the buffet is always exquisite. This year 143 fans from 15 nationalities attended. The big surprise came at 6 PM (after the sound check on the Vrijthof square): Carmen Monarcha and Gary Bennett entered the ship followed by André's camera crew, who were filming for the British SKY TV’s road soap. How sensational! (Click HERE).In the evening we met Dutch friends in the balcony room of Hotel DuCasque, and here I took the opportunity to dance the waltz with Monique's husband Ron. We were unaware of the camera man on the aerial platform above us, who was watching (and filming?) us. Maybe we will be on the big screens in the cinema next weekend? Who knows!Saturday 9th.As usual on Saturdays, we had the (first) fan picnic in the City Park between 12 and 2 PM.It was crowded! Fans came and went, because Mirusia had a signing session at the Dominican bookstore at 1 PM, so they tried to attend both. Other fans visited Agnes's exhibition at Pauline's Atelier, near the Our Dear Lady Square, which is not far from the fan picnic venue. We counted about 100 fans including the Danish fan-chiwawa: Miki.We had another “wow" feeling when Agnes appeared at the fan picnic, followed by the same camera crew. And Gary came and Laura Engel!! The fans loved it! (Click HERE).We heard about Berys's adventures in the Netherlands. She was traveling with her son, Steve, through the Netherlands and before proceeding to Maastricht they had visited the lovely town of Hoorn (home of the original Red Rose Café). Close to the café is a hotel in a former prison (Easter Island) and they had booked a room (cell) there. Of course it was uncomfortable and even horrible, but it is an adventure having stayed behind bars for once in your life. The following day, when they had already arrived at another town, they discovered that they had been robbed of all their souvenirs for Sue. They were not in the suitcase any more. After Maastricht, Berys and Steve are going to visit Sue Berry in California and now all the souvenirs are gone! It is a sad story. Sorry Sue, but I could not stop laughing about the idea: being robbed while staying in a prison behind bars! Isn't that ironic? Berys also had us enjoy on Facebook the continuing story of Kermit the frog, who traveled in their company. But suddenly Kermit escaped. He disappeared at the three-country point at Vaals. From then on they wondered every day: where did Kermit find a new home? Would it be in the Netherlands, Belgium or Germany? Alice in Vancouver created a nice search notice for Kermit, but no one ever heard of him again!
In the meantime we were solving a few problems, such as a letter under the wrong hotel room's door, but fortunately we knew the right room number. The British Johnson family had to cancel their trip at the very last moment and couldn’t manage to sell their concert tickets. So they told us: please give them away, that is better than empty seats and wasted money. We made a few people very happy with the tickets!! After the first concert on Friday, a nice Maastricht lady found an André Rieu Travel bag with a camera and other items, in the parking lot at midnight. Someone had forgotten the bag under the cash machine. The lady found something in the bag which referred to our e-mail address, so she mailed us. We put it on Facebook and..... yes!!! Arie from Eindhoven was so happy to pick up the bag and his camera the next day! A big bravo to the honest lady!!That night we attended the concert. I enjoyed every minute. Donij was stunning. We were breathless at the sight of the 170 dancing couples in their wonderful outfits. And then there was Mirusia's dress that lit up like a rainbow. I have never seen a more spectacular ‘Bolero’ in my life. The previous day we saw it from above; now we were under the laser lights. Exquisitely beautiful! The concert ended with a Vrijthof swaying on Lou Bega's hit ‘Mambo # 5’ and Stephanie showing us her tapping skills on the piano with ‘Tutti Frutti’. These are hits from our youth and we could still remember every word so we could sing along! Suddenly we felt at least 20 years younger! (Click HERE).As usual, after the concerts we had after-parties in several hotel rooms, so the 12 days in Maastricht are a real attrition: too late in bed with too much wine! I need a full week afterwards to recover!
Above: the lock of Lanayen. To the right: The composer André Grétry from Liège, Belgium, (“Pantomime”), with a pigeon nest on his head.
To the left: The third Maastricht Mosasaurus “Lars”, still in the sandstone, to be extracted.
Sunday 10th.We met fans everywhere in Maastricht: on the streets, in shops, even in the church! As we lit a candle at "Sterre der Zee" and visited the OLV Basilica in the dark, we felt a tap on the shoulder: Kira, a Danish fan, who we only know from Facebook, had recognized us!Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, July 11,12,13. These are the days in between the concerts.We visited Marc's exhibition and admired his paintings (Click HERE).These are also the days we have time to work on the website. When we are back at home, Ruud has to go to work again, so this is the opportunity!One day we went on a boat trip to Liège in Belgium, through the big locks of Lanayen. In the lock the ship sinks or rises about 10 meters! The scenery of this trip is not very beautiful: cement factories in Holland, cement factories in Belgium, industrial areas. We could stay in Liège for 2.5 hours and we saw the statue of the Belgian composer, André Grétry (the Maestro plays his ‘Pantomime’) with a pigeon's nest on his head.We also visited the Natural History Museum to meet the Mosasaurus and see how the latest find, named "Lars" is being extracted in the Museum. And then a visit to the dear Choy family in the restaurant ‘La Chine’! And another day to the Belgian restaurant ‘Witloof’. In the Belgian restaurant we found cards on the table providing access to the Internet by typing the phrase: "Iamthecoziestofthistable" (in Dutch). Awaaah, they have a sense of Flemish (Belgian) humor..… fantastic!!! No one dared to use their smart phone during dinner there!Thursday 14th.Laura Engel had announced a solo concert with the band ‘Latin Breeze’ in the open air theater in Valkenburg. André later announced a 7th concert on this Thursday. We had tickets for Laura’s show and we decided to drive a roundtrip through the very south of the province of Limburg. By chance we met one of the dancing couples on a terrace where we had lunch. They told us that they were enjoying the performances to the fullest!
Laura sang about the timeline of her life. It was a program full of variety: Opera, musical and Dutch songs.The venue was magical: Half inside a grotto in the woods, illuminated by colored lights. It was an enjoyable evening. Click HERE for Laura’s concert.Friday 15th.Today our four Dutch guests arrived. Two of them are members of the Rieu entertainment (mime) group from our hometown The Hague: "The Golden Oldies at Full Speed" (Click HERE). Joke, who plays the part of André Rieu in this group, had never attended a live concert! So we thought that she had to attend this year, with us! She talked to Carmen about the oldies group, and Carmen spontaneous kneeled and kissed her hand like she does with the real André during their rendition of ‘Oh, Mio Babbino Caro’ (Click HERE). Joke also talked to Marc Rieu who concluded: If something happens to my father, could we hire you? Oh goodness.... just the idea..... it’s so funny! Saturday, 16th.A spectacular day again with the fan picnic at 12 PM. I counted about 55 fans. Mirusia had a signing session again, but we had to stay at the picnic until 2 PM. Again we had three celebrities amongst us: Agnes, Gary, and Laura. A group of Romanians had arrived at Maastricht for this weekend. Rodica returned the banner which she had used in Bucharest for the fan picnic there. We were enchanted to meet Sjef Jansen, and his assistant (André's promotors in Romania/Bucharest).Walking back to the hotel... could we believe what we were seeing?? Was that the Australian talk host Richard Wilkins, riding a bicycle in Maastricht?? Yes it was!!In the hotel we heard that Carmen would give a signing session in the DuCasque hotel from 3-4 PM. Again, "Wow!" Her husband Octavio and her best friend, Priske, (from the conservatory) joined her. We had a lot of fun. It happened to be Angela's birthday and Carmen sang ‘Happy Birthday’ for her. In the evening there was another concert on the square with our Dutch friends. The show took their breaths away.
Sunday 17th.Quiet day with last concert.Conclusion: 2016 was a year of spectacular concert series and fan events with celebrities and a film crew. We loved the fan gatherings, meeting old and new friends. On Monday 18th we packed and drove back to The Hague. We had the most wonderful time in the Center of the Universe. Thanks to all our lovely friends who spoilt us with warm words, hugs, kisses, cards, flowers, and gifts. Thanks to André and Co. for the most spectacular concert series. Thanks to the sopranos, tenor and JSO members who attended our fan events. Thanks to the fans who allowed me to use their Facebook photos. Who else should I thank? Definitely St. Peter or Nun Clara for the beautiful weather and dry evenings. Back to normal now. André Rieu family, Johann Strauss Orchestra and crew, have a wonderful and well deserved holiday!Ineke.Thanks to Entia from South Africa, who edited my English lyrics.