If you tell a Dutch person that you are driving to a city that is two hours away, the first thing that they will ask is  “what hotel are you staying at?”. In the Netherlands, a day trip means that the destination is an hour or less away. If it is longer than an hour, then you pack a suitcase. It is so strange to me, as this is a country that can easily be traveled. It is completely flat, the road conditions are wonderful and it is, may I remind everyone, a very small country. But the Dutch do not do long distance driving unless they are staying overnight.

In New England, people drive for hours to reach the beach or the mountains. You can leave Massachusetts and go to Vermont for the day. You can drive for two-three hours to get to Cape Cod and be back by bedtime. In the Netherlands, it is just not done.

No matter where you are driving, there is something to think about in this country: the rising cost of fuel. One liter of petrol costs 1.88 euros. In American terms, it means that an average gallon of gas is about $9.00. You read that correctly: $9.00.  It is one of the highest gas prices in the world. I looked up what fuel costs in other countries compared to the United States. The highest price was in Turkey where it is $10.11 and Italy was second with $9.35. European countries have the highest prices in the world, with the average being $8.60 a gallon. In the United States, in March, the price of a gallon of gas was $3.89.

The Netherlands has one of the highest gas taxes in the world. Taxes account for 68.84% of the fuel price. The taxes support road creation and maintenance and public transportation. The taxes also go towards environmental concerns. There are no road tolls in this country. And the road conditions are very impressive. There is one street near our house that has been going through some major work and for a few seconds I think I am back in Massachusetts, as it is rough and bumpy. I can’t even remember ever seeing a pot hole here. Granted, Dutch winters are nothing compared to the winters in New England, so the roads don’t get the same action. My point being that I can see that the fuel tax, as high as it is , does have an impact on the quality of the roads. There is a joke here that you always know when you have entered Belgium, as the road feels completely different. It is funny and true, the Dutch roads are smooth and the minute you hit Belgium, you are in for a bumpy ride.

Okay, enough about gas and roads. This was supposed to be a story about going to the beautiful city of Maastricht. It is a two hour drive from our house and yes, we did it in one day! It is supposed to the most beautiful city in the Netherlands, and that says a lot, as there is much beauty in this country. I wanted to share some photographs of the city square. It is a city filled with cafes and shops, a mecca for Dutch and Belgium residents and tourists. I felt like I was in the United Nations, as I could hear so many languages and accents.

We have a dinkie car. You have to be airlifted to get into your seat, it is that small. But to fill the gas tank costs about $80.00. So you have to be selective about where you go and how much do you want to go. That is why so many people ride a bike or take public transportation. But we drove to Maasstricht for the day, and here is the big Dutch shock, we were back by dinner time. Ladies and gentlemen, it can be done.

Here are a few images from our day in this majestic city. This is the square where we had lunch and next door to the restaurant is a McDonald’s, but in a nice old building. I have included the final photograph because I was struck by how narrow the house is…and it is for sale.

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  • Sandra  On April 12, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Thank you for such good description of your good life. The pics really let me see the wonder of it all. Such a pretty and challenging narrow house.

  • Aledys Ver  On April 13, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    The price of petrol here in the NL is incredibly high, but when you think on the excellent road system we have, you more or less begin to feel better about coughing up 1,88 euris per litre 🙂

    The photos are very nice. I see that the statue of meneer Jean-Pierre
    Minckelers called your attention. While editing my own photos after my trip to Maastricht some time ago, I looked him up and discovered that he is the inventor of gas lighting in the 18th century.

  • Stephanie  On April 22, 2012 at 3:00 am

    Jane, we just got back from Myrtle Beach-a 15 hour drive which we did in one day and yes we stayed overnight in a hotel once we got there (actually five nights!) At $9.00 a gallon though, I probably have just gone to the Cape!! Great pictures!

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