We took advantage of a two week long school break to finally see my cousin in Munich and then some friends in Sweden. Here’s part 1 of that vacation.
Getting to visit a new city and country is always exciting. Getting to do it with friends is even better. Getting to have built in local tour guides is as good as it gets and we had all of these things built into this experience.Cover photo in B&W by Florian Henning
Mason had his own bucket list item for Europe and that was to take the Chunnel to England. We did visit London nearly 7 years ago as a family (with both sets of grandparents as well) but the boys have little to no memory of that trip. Once Mason mentioned he wanted this one thing, we tacked it on to a trip to see friends in Scotland and a plan was born.
We are now officially halfway through our adventure here in Maastricht. I talked with the kids this week about that fact, and they were surprised, feeling like it had come so quickly. Highlights for them include “some of the cool trips” and “spending New Year’s with Auntie Melissa”. Goals to still accomplish include taking the Chunnel to England, visiting friends in Scotland, staying in a windmill, entertaining some family coming to visit, visiting friends in Sweden, and plans to see my cousin and her family in Germany. Here’s hoping!I’ve vented quite a bit here and on other social media about my frustrations with the Dutch, mainly in their handling of Covid vaccines etc. This time I’d like to focus on some positive things going on here…
I’ve been saving up this post because I thought, for sure, we’d visit dozens of markets and I wanted to review them all. The universe, Covid, and some European governments had other plans. Instead of dozens, we made it to four: Aachen (Germany), Brugges (Belgium), Maastricht (Netherlands), and funny enough, Valencia (Spain) where we stumbled upon one on accident. While they are all different, there are some staples that make a Christmas market a Christmas market: gluhwein and hot chocolate, chocolates and cheeses for sale, usually some sausages, small gift vendors, and usually some festive lights. Read on to see where we went and what we liked about each one!
We were supposed to go see American friends in Hamburg, but the German restrictions on unvaccinated travelers staying multiple days from the Netherlands (i.e. our children) made that impossible. While I was in the throes of a severe pity party, Josh reached out to some good friends of ours, Boo and Mikella Walker. Due to Covid restrictions and an ailing/aging senior dog, Boo, Mikella, and their son Riggs were not traveling as planned to Austria over the holiday and they welcomed us to come for a visit. Within minutes, they’d sent Airbnb links to places near their home, ideas for family activities we could do together, and started making dinner reservations, all with the promise of good wine and fun times catching up. I dried my eyes and we bought tickets.
Sometimes not everything goes according to plan. Our trip to Tuscany had many things go right and a handful of things go wrong.
Many of our trips have been spontaneous but this trip has been planned for months. Matt (Josh’s brother) and Tomi (Matt’s girlfriend) were the first people to say “we’re coming to visit!” and we picked a place (Italy) and time (the boys’ fall break) to make it happen. We visited Rome and Tuscany within a week!
Sometimes Josh gets an itch to get out of town and this trip was exactly that. He started researching national parks within a drivable distance and settled on the Voges du Nord area of France, about a 3.5 drive (4 with kids) from Maastricht. He found a cute small hotel with good reviews in the village of La Petite-Pierre and we packed our bags.
Our final 3 nights were in luxurious Santorini. I felt like we went from the equivalent of Islamorada in the Florida keys to South Beach. From a laid back vibe to high end everything. I’ll admit, getting off the crowded ferry at the port, I questioned our selection of the island. There were so many people, buses, drivers, it was hard to even pick your name out from the sea of name plates being held up.