Meet and greet with your English-speaking guide / driver in the hotel lobby, from where you will be taken for a 2.5-hour drive, depending on traffic, by luxurious private vehicle to Château St. Gerlach in Houthem.
Chateau St. Gerlach
Located on the edge of the Ingendael nature reserve, just outside Maastricht city center, the magnificent Château St. Gerlach has been sensitively restored to provide an exceptional, luxury hotel experience. A member of Relais & Châteaux, the historic buildings, including original estate farmhouse, convent and grain lofts, have been converted to accommodate guestrooms, a renowned restaurant, a traditional coffee house and a boutique spa.
The first traces of the property date back to 1201, when it is alleged that in order to provide travelling pilgrims with a place of rest, Gosewijn IV of Valkenburg decided to build a monastery near the grave of the celebrated hermit Gerlachus. Throughout the 13th and 14th centuries the monastery became a draw for monks and nuns, particularly from distinguished decent, and in 1345 it officially became a convent for daughters of noble families.
It was Mr. Schoenmaeckers from Raar who purchased the monastery and church and converted the provost building into a noble residence. The church was bequeathed to the municipality of Houthem and became the new parish church in 1808. In 1979, the last inhabitant of the mansion – Robert De Selys de Fanson, bestowed the mansion and the church outbuildings to the church council of Houthem. The property was unoccupied for a number of years, leaving much of the estate to become increasingly dilapidated.
Camille Oostwegel Sr. submitted his idea to rebuild the estate into a luxury hotel and restaurant in 1979, but it was not until 1990 that an initial agreement was reached to completely transform the property, restoring the buildings to their former glory. The painstaking restorations took place from 1995 until 1997, when Château St. Gerlach opened as a magnificent hotel. The parish also benefitted from a new presbytery and museum with a treasury for St. Gerlach, as well as a new catechism room, sacristy and Gerlach chapel.
Today, pilgrims continue to visit the site to pay their respects to St. Gerlach, and have been joined by Château St. Gerlach’s many well-known, celebrity guests. www.oostwegelcollection.nl/en/chateau-st-gerlach/
After check in, you will be taken for a scenic 35-minute walk through the spectacular woods to Valkenburg. This charming historical little village is also known as the marlstone village (Limestone). You will notice the typical yellow marlstone throughout the village, on the surface (houses) and underground. Popular spots in Valkenburg are the historic buildings, the castle ruin, caves, heated pavement cafes and the River Geul.
Upon arrival, there will be a walk through the picturesque village center, where you will find many cozy restaurants and shops. Here, there is also leisure time for lunch.
Fully refreshed, you will be taken for an exclusive guided tour of the Velvet Cave, named after the stone marten’s skin, who’s skin is soft as velvet. This animal lived here when the cave was used as a mine for marlstone extraction. The cave or former mine accommodates numerous mysteries and a treasure of impressive charcoal mural paintings, which are between 100 and 150 years old! Besides these paintings, you will also find some exceptional marlstone sculptures and a romantic refuge chapel dating back to the French occupation period. Spectacular!
In September 1944, during World War II, for 6 days and six nights the cave served as a hospital for American soldiers and a shelter for Jewish and local people. There is a large section in the velvet cave where American soldiers left charcoal reflection paintings from their faces on the walls, including their names. In the whole section, you will find hundreds of names of soldiers who stayed in this cave.
Because of the constant temperature in the cave, everything is well preserved. A unique and surprising experience!
There is a constant temperature of about 58F in the cave. A sweater or something warm is recommended. www.kasteelvalkenburg.nl
Out of the cave, you will be taken for a walk through the castle ruin, where you have spectacular views over the area.
From here, we will walk back to the Château, where, upon arrival, you will be taken for a walk through the sculpture garden and a visit to the Gerlach Church. The hermite Gerlach of Houthem lived here during the latter part of his life, and died around 1165 AD. His grave forms the center of his worship ever since. It’s famous for its fresco paintings (1751) and southern German Baroque architecture, a combination which is unique for the Netherlands. The church itself is nowadays a pilgrim’s church on the road to Santiago de Compostela.
After this visit, you will have the remainder of the day for your own leisure.
After breakfast, your English-speaking guide / driver is ready to take you for a short scenic drive to, and guided tour of historic Maastricht, showing you all the highlights including some off the beaten sights Maastricht has to offer.
Maastricht, the oldest city in the Netherlands – a city that has ripened well with age, like good wine, with complex and lively cultural overtones added over centuries by the Romans, Germans and French. This rich cultural palette is the secret behind the city’s attractiveness, drawing visitors to the historic city center and a wealth of museums and festivals – making each visit a fascinating new experience. Besides this, it is the hometown of the famous violin player Andre Rieu.
The center of Maastricht is compact and easy to explore on foot. Large areas are pedestrians-only and most sites are within walking distance. The old St. Servaas bridge links the old center with the trendy Wyck district, and from the adjacent Céramique district you can cross back over the river via the designer suspension bridge, the ‘Hoeg Brögk’, and cut through the park back to the center.
The numerous (art) museums, historic churches, historic buildings, culinary delights, and shopping, it’s all there and close at hand. You will not want to miss the restored Stokstraat quarter, the old ramparts, the various parks and the famous Vrijthof Square. Maastricht is the art of fine living where you never feel lost but very much at home.
During the walk, there will be an exclusive guided tour of the Kazematten. Between 1575 and 1825, at the west side of Maastricht, a network of passageways and mine galleries where made. These passageways and galleries where used to enter the “city of the enemy” from under the city to defeat. During the private tour you will find out all the answers to this unique monument where subterranean and impressive bomb-free areas alternate with gunpowder rooms, stairs to galleries and others.
There is a constant temperature of about 58F in the Kazematten. A sweater or something warm is recommended!
On the beautiful ‘Vrijthof Square’, there is leisure time for lunch at one of the many local restaurants.
You will have leisure time for shopping and enjoying what the city has to offer. There is also an opportunity to stay in the city for dinner at one of the many local restaurants.
At your leisure, you will be taken back to your Château, where you have the remainder of the day for your own leisure.
After breakfast and check out, your English-speaking guide / driver is ready to take you by luxurious private vehicle for an exciting drive through to the rolling countryside. This area is totally different from the rest of the Netherlands. For most tourists, it is an unknown area, but once seen, they call it one of the best areas they have seen in the Netherlands. And it is!
Margraten American War Cemetery
Our first stop will be at the American War Cemetery in Margraten, which is the second largest American cemetery in Europe after Omaha Beach in Normandy. The tall memorial tower can be seen before reaching the cemetery, which covers 65.5 acres. The walls on either side of the Court of Honor contain 1,722 missing soldiers who gave their lives in the service of their country and who rest in unknown graves.
Beyond the chapel and tower is the burial area. Here rest 8,301 American soldiers including 6 Medal of Honor. www.abmc.gov/cemeteries/cemeteries/ne.php
We continue the tour with a scenic drive along the marlstone route. The drive will take you through little picturesque villages, each with its own spectacular views. We will make a brief stop on top of the Vaalserberg in Vaals. The Vaalserberg is a hill with a height of 322.7 meters (1,059 ft) above NAP, the highest point in the Netherlands, and is the tri-border area of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Its summit is therefore called the Drielandenpunt (“three country point”) in Dutch.
There is leisure time for lunch. This can be at one of the many local restaurants on the marlstone route or there is a possibility to have lunch at Castle Bloemendal in the village center of Vaals.
Fully refreshed, you will be taken for a 2.5-hour drive, depending on traffic, by luxurious private vehicle back to your hotel in Amsterdam. Your will arrive back around 4pm.
Wine tasting at Apostelhoeve
The historic farm of “Apostelhoeve” is located in the South of Maastricht near the Belgian border on the only mountain on Dutch lands, the St. Pietersberg. Apostelhoeve’s land had been covered with grapevines since the era of the Romans. Various varietals such as Riesling, Auxerrois, and Müller-Thurgau do quite well on the sun-drenched slopes of Jeker Valley. Since 1967, the Hulst family had been producing excellent wines, which are popular all over The Netherlands. With the use of modern cellar equipment, the quality of the wines are rapidly increasing.
World famous British wine critic Jancis Robinson stated that Apostelhoeve wines are “the most surprising tasting ever”. She claimed that this is because “the traditional bands of temperate climate are shifting to the north in Europe, the southern part of the Netherlands for instance now has the same climate the Champagne region had only 10 years ago.
Dinner at Château Neercanne: a Michelin-starred Culinary Experience
Restaurant Château Neercanne has a rich cultural and culinary tradition, was awarded its Michelin-starred status every year from 1986 to 2018. Headed by Chefs de Cuisine, Hans Snijders and Gilbert von Berg, the team creates memorable gastronomic experiences, complemented by a range of carefully selected wines. A destination in itself, guests can enjoy an aperitif in the candlelit wine cellar within the Marl Caves, and on warm summer days dine al fresco on the Terrace overlooking the Jeker countryside.
As the only terraced castle in The Netherlands, Château Neercanne commands panoramic views across the Jeker Valley and straddles two countries – Belgium and Holland. Renowned for its superb Michelin-starred à la carte restaurant and popular lunch spot l’Auberge, it also houses a network of Marl Caves, offering a unique venue for large parties and celebratory gatherings.