We have been home now for one month as of this past week. I originally wanted to give myself a few days to observe our transition and take note, and post in that first week, but then distraction and brain fog took over and, well, I’m finally taking some time to get out my thoughts.
We’ve done a LOT of amazing travels with the kids. And we’ve enjoyed the majority of it. But I should be transparent on how some of our travel days go. On all our trips we have many highs and many lows when it comes to family “moments”. The lows are mostly due to long days, and the ever present conflict of adults wanting to see things that kids are less interested in. Or, the food being “different”. Or, the walk too long. Or, there not being any downtime. And, while I try to be patient, I sometimes lose my cool.
Efteling is ingrained in Dutch childhoods. Generally speaking, any Dutch person you meet has been at least once in their life. We decided Mason’s birthday was the perfect time to go check it out.
We chose Gothenburg because we have Swedish friends there, the Hagman’s and the Löfgren’s, who used to live in Charleston (working with the new Volvo plant), and who have since returned to Sweden. The kids of these friends were in school with our boys for a few years – that’s how we met – and we were excited to finally get a chance to visit them in their home country! I really liked this trip because, while we did get to see the city of Gothenburg, we also got to see some places we would not have known about (Kullavik and Marstrand) – an insider’s tour of the Southwest coast, if you will. Plus, the friends we saw are just wonderful people and we had a great time together.
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.