Last day in Maastricht, first night in Paris
Champs-Elysees. 11:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Last day in Maastricht. Very cold, in the low 30s. Early breakfast at the hotel, served buffet style. A sure way of stuffing yourself: Scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, all kinds of breads — croissants, brioches, buns, juices, trays of fresh fruit — pineapples, melons, oranges, strawberries, cereals, sliced hams (both brown and pink), prosciutto, whitefish, smoked trout, pate, salami, smoked salmon, cheeses, and of course coffee, tea or milk.

For some of us, it was an array that was absolutely irresistable. What is interesting, as one of the guests commented to me later on in the morning during a walking tour, was how you see very few people on the streets or in the restaurants who are fat, and none who is obese. In fact, neither of us could recall seeing even one. Yet, my friend pointed out, we were all helping ourselves to all the food around us. However, she added, the Dutch eat all the time; they just don’t eat in quantity.

I am not Dutch. I eat all the time, under circumstances such as these trips abroad, and I eat in quantity. I am embarrassed to say.
Our final breakfast at the Kruisherenhotel, Maastricht on Tuesday morning
After our breakfast at the Kruisheren we were invited by Michel Witmer, the art consultant who is the only American on the TEFAF board, on a walking tour of the old part of the city. JH and I covered some of this ground (and he photographed it) the day before.

Our guide was an older Dutch woman, a native of Maastricht who spoke very quickly and walked even more quickly from site to site. This was not a bad thing: she was charming in her sincere desire not to waste our time, and keeping up with her speedy gait kept us (those of us who could and did) warmer than we might have been on this frigid cloudy morning.

Mainly her message was to point out how the city had transformed over centuries from a Roman town 400 years before Christ into a Roman Catholic town that also transmogrified with the emergence of Protestantism. The church of St. Servutius had 21 bishops and the city experienced 21 wars. I may not have that quite right, but her information was along those lines.

Along the way we saw pieces of the walls that were built first in the 11th and then secondly in the 14th century as fortifications for keeping out the constantly re-cycling marauders. She told us how although the town was very prosperous, there were also lots of poor and many of them found shelter under the arches of the walls. They’d cover the archway with a cloth and behind it set up a house. Sometimes families of eight or twelve lived in these tiny, dark, filthy spaces. I was reminded of the term: A Hole In The Wall, which some people used to describe tiny, hardly habitable New York apartments.

Our guide also pointed out how with the albeit brief period of Napoleon, his taxes (on windows) changed the architecture. The fewer the windows, the less the taxes. So people found ways to keep their windows while having fewer. I may not have got that detail quite right either, but the emphasis was again on the history of politics and economics, going along as they always do, hand-in-glove, in the area. We also were shown two ancient economic necessities, now deemed by modern energy to be archaic (although they seem quite sensible in light of the current energy situation in the world) — the watermill. We saw one, by a very pretty and competely restored house on a stream, and a second down at the end of a very pretty alley, which is still in use today by a baker.

It was Monday, however, and the baker was closed. Mondays in Europe are half-days in many places. Did you know that? People don’t go to work, shops don’t open before noon or one. As a result, someone pointed out, Sunday night can be a fun night for many because they can sleep in Monday mornings. Interestingly, many of the ancient buildings we were shown on our tour that exist today were constructed to house soldiers and a variety of “security forces” of the various governments. Today those same buildings house students and classrooms for the university — an apparent improvement in the ways of the modern world.

Another notable characteristic of life in the town, and evidently one found all over Holland, were the people on bicycles. So many people, especially the young through the middle-agers, cycle everywhere. I couldn’t help thinking of their much healthier cardio-vascular systems and the savings on fossil fuels. I noticed in the early mornings during the “rush hour,” the cyclists were a large part of the traffic, including women transporting their children who would also be bicycling alongside them or on bicycles that had pedals for the little ones to work to help carry the load. Aside from the charm of the sight of these young families traveling together, there was something very sensible and inspiring about it. Bicyclists in Holland appear to be unharried gentle cyclists, unlike New York where many of the cyclists are either super-aggressive messengers or obnoxiously aggressive 20 to 50-something people whose tunnel-vision passion is their own imagined good health (and cardio-vascular).
Our walking tour through Maastricht. Above, left: A plaque identifies a house where the sister of Karl Marx lived and where he visited.
Residents of Maastricht
Above, left: The arches of the walls where the poor found shelter.
After our walking tour, we returned to the hotel where the VW Phaetons with drivers were waiting to transport us over to the Fair. By the time we arrived at noon, the place was already crowded. And when I say crowded, it is important remember that the place is vast holding almost four times as many booths at the very large fairs at the 67th Street Armory in Manhattan and with much larger booth space.

A Warhol silkscreen of Judy Green at TEFAF
Michel Witmer also met us there and took a group of us on a brief tour pointing out some (very few comparatively) of the highlights of the exhibition. On a personal note, I saw a Warhol silkscreen of my late lamented friend Judy Green (see The List In Memoriam) that was done when she was a very young woman in New York. Judy was a quickwitted, smart woman full of enthusiasm for life, especially cosmopolitan life. I met and knew her long after this Warhol was done and so it filled me with reverie to see her lovely young face, knowing how much she must have loved being part of Andy Warhol’s artistic process and how amazed and impressed she would have been just to know that image of herself would be on exhibition in these halls of the The European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht. It was a bittersweet consideration for her own lamp of life burnt out too soon for many of us who loved her.
A selection of Boudins at Noortman Master Paintings
Johnny van Haeften Ltd
A Jim Dine at Galerie Thomas
A 1936 Kandinsky at Galerie Thomas
Hendrick Avercamp's Winter landscape with skaters at de Jonckheere
Michel Witmer in front of a Louise Nevelson at Wildenstein & Co/Pace Wildenstein
A Leger at Landau Fine Art, Inc.
An earlier Leger pre-Cubism at Landau Fine Art, Inc.
A $6 million Picasso at Landau Fine Art, Inc.
Mrs. Landau waves goodbye to the group
A Chagall at Kunsthandel Frans Jacobs
Marlborough Galerie GmbH
Denise Hermanns, Truuske Verloop, and Titia Velenga in the Rembrandt Suite
Keitelman Gallery
A Gauguin at Wildenstein & Co/Pace Wildenstein
I always think when traveling that my days will be quieter than they are in the thick of it in New York, but alas, it was not so in Maastricht. Back from our final tour of TEFAF exhibition, we changed for dinner and were driven several miles out of town to another one of hotelier Camille Oostwegel’s fascinating and historic establishments — the Chateau Neercanne.

The chateau celebrated its tricentennial in 1998. Three hundred years before it had been accquired by the military governor of Maastricht, Daniel Wolff, Baron von Dopff as a country residence in what is known as the valley of the Jeker. The baron’s purchase also gave him the manorial rights to Neercanne, an autonomous state with the tiny population of 200. There he built a stately home and gardens.

Among the baron’s important guests was Peter the Great in 1717 who was making his second European tour. The baron died there the following year in 1718.

Our dinner began with champagne in the wine storage caves behind the chateau, after which we moved to one of the great rooms (now a restaurant) for dinner. Again the menu was amazing and even complex and somewhat exotic to this country boy’s palatte: starting with Carpaccio de coquiles Saint-Jacques au scampi, then on to Mousseline des champignons des grottes aux champignons des bois et sauce beurre aux truffes (how’s your French?), following by Contre-filet de boeuf au sauce coriandre and finished off with a Mousse de cafe au chocolat et saucce Angglaise au cademon.
The wine cellar at Chateau Neercanne
One of the dining rooms at Chateau Neercanne
A flower arrangement at our table
Madge Bender and Joel van Leuwen
Carole Poet and Dee Larson
Michel Witmer
Mark Carthy, Dr. Dino Rivera, Rosheen Carthy, and Dominick Rotundi
Nora Schaeffer, Roger Webster, and Michele Gerber Klein
Dr. John de Guzman and Joan Vinson
Pepi Kelman
An after-dinner scene at the chateau
Again, sated and exhausted, we returned to the Kruisheren for a final night and a very early morn rise (6) to pack and breakfast. At 8:15 we were met and driven to the train in Liege, Belgium twenty miles away by Patrick Herion, the young German actor, who moonlights as a driver for a service in Berlin, and who had also first picked us up at the airport in Amsterdam. Patrick, like so many Europeans we meet, speaks English impressively and much to the relief of this mono-lingual traveler. In Liege, we boarded the train bound for Brussels where we changed trains for what turned out to be, in total, a two and a half hour train ride through the beautiful countryside of Belgium and France, to Paris (the Paris Nord station) and the Hotel Plaza Athenee on the Avenue Montaigne.
Our arrival into Liege, Belgium
Patrick Herion
The Paris Nord
DPC in Paris



March 15, 2006, Volume VI, Number 44
Photographs by Jeff Hirsch/NYSD.com

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© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/NewYorkSocialDiary.com