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.
It has been a while since a Hays family life update. We’re getting so very close to the end of
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.
early November, we had Melissa over for dinner and started listing some fun things to try/visit/do in the Netherlands. One of those things was staying in a windmill! Melissa had seen a listing on Airbnb and we went ahead and booked it for the spring.
Two years since our previous family ski trip, we took some friends’ recommendation and booked a trip to Zermatt, Switzerland. For months it has been building in our minds as a big bucket-list trip. Just before we left I was a little concerned I’d made it too big of a deal in my mind and it wouldn’t live up to it.
fries) combined with a smaller city vibe than larger northern cities, loads of good restaurants, and excellent shopping. I really think it is the best place to land! Here’s a few things to know if you plan to move here.
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…
With the Netherlands shut down for Covid concerns, we decided to take a “safe” getaway with the boys. This was actually one of our fairly last-minute Christmas presents to them. We booked our stay for just after the New Year, picking this castle spot because: 1) I wanted to stay in a castle, 2) It was in Belgium, thus tours and restaurants not shut down, 3) It showed a large garden and forest area that I knew the boys would enjoy running around, and 4) Did I mention it was a castle??
I’ve mentioned a little about our embracing of the Dutch Sinterklaas tradition here, but thought I’d share a few more details.
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.