With the last-minute arrangement, we managed to squeeze in a short break in the south of Limburg. We booked a 3-night stay at a cozy little house within the Jocomo camping ground in Lanaken, Belgium. The drive down was relatively easy, a 45-minute ride from Weert via the Dutch highway.
The holiday house
The cozy little home belongs to a lovely Dutch couple, Maarten & Nicole. A 1 bedroom with a queen-size bed, a small bedroom for a baby and a pullout sofa-bed with TV, fast internet Wifi, and thank goodness for the air-conditioning. We were there during the hottest day of summers. The kitchen was complete with a good size fridge, gas stove, coffee machine, microwave oven, soup blender/food processor, toaster, plates, glasses, cutleries, and other cooking equipment. Quite decked up compare to other holiday homes that we have been to. Small dining table inside for 2 persons, and a bigger family dining table outdoor next to BBQ (gas and electric). 2 lounge chairs outside and my favourite XL hammock where I chill to read the book and stare at the blue summer sky.
The facilities at the compound are great for children, baby size pool, a slightly deeper pool, with a bar where you can get ice-cream or beer to cool down. A massive playground for a toddler to teens, small lake rowing boats, a fresh bakery every morning (with probably the best sausage rolls we ever had). Food-wise if you don't feel like cooking, there's a decent tavern in the compound with reasonably priced meals and a snack-bar next to it. You can also order takeaway from them such as pizza, the usual french fries, etc. Jocomo camping ground is rated 4-stars surrounded with forests and nature parks.
You can book the holiday home via AirBnB for €60 per night + cleaning fee of €30. The hosts have a bigger holiday home next door which makes it easier for things and gave lots of good recommendations for family activities around the neighbourhood.
The day trips
Alden Biesen Castle
Dated from the 1190s, this castle has a lot of history. Only 19 minutes from Jocomo camping ground, this was our first destination in the morning for our little day out. The home of The Grand Commandery (the German Order of the Teutonic Knights). You can opt for the audio guided tour or roam free on your own and explore the beauty of this castle.
The Wine Castle (Wijnkasteel Genoels Elderen)
This wine castle is located in Riemst (Belgium) between Tongeren and Maastricht. 25 hectares of vineyard, this wine castle is the largest wine domain in Belgium. The trace of wine-producing from this region can be traced back from Roman times. The winery provides a 2-hour guided tour with Dutch / French speaking tour, find out more on their programme here, you can opt for a walkabout with a minimum charge for the wine tasting. As we had the little one with us, we only visited for a quick snack and drinks by their courtyard. Their rose wine is superb to enjoy on a hot summer day.
Valkenburg Castle Ruins
Valkenburg Castle Ruins and Velvet Cave are 2 attractions next to each other alongside the city centre of Valkenburg. They are open from 10 am, we recommend to visit these two nice and early to avoid the crowd and the long queue for the ticket entrance. You can buy the e-ticket for the castle ruin online but not for the Velvet cave. The guided tour for velvet cave is scheduled in fixed hours. Tickets are free for children under 4 years old. There is a café up on the hill overlooking Valkenburg's beautiful landscape with clean toilets. For parking, you can park along the main road or there are several parking areas around as well.
Kasteel Oost Valkenburg
Kasteel Oost means East castle, located about 10 minutes drive from Castle Ruin Valkenburg. A large country house with a boutique hotel, café and supersized playground for children. The playground is gated, so the kids are safe to play while you enjoy coffee or beers at the outdoor area of the café. The café is located at the start of a forest where you can take a nice relaxing walk. The air is fresh, the atmosphere is very different than most of the Dutch forest we visited before. With large stones and old trees on one side and a small stream of river on the other.
The whole area of Limburg (Netherlands and Belgium) offers quite different scenery than the rest of the Netherlands. The hills, the cute small villages, it feels like a drive in the countryside in France; and it's only a 45-mins away from Weert. An ideal holiday destination if you are worried about the long drive and health safety during this Covid-19 pandemic.