When Christmas Eve rolls around, one is usually excited about hanging out at home and spending time with family. We were *definitely* excited about spending time with my family this year, but in order to do so, we were flying to HAWAII! My little sister was getting married, and we couldn’t wait to celebrate with her…and also enjoy a distinctly positive change from Dutch weather in December.
That title is super clever, because we continued our Roman weekend with a wake-up call in the form of an earthquake. A 6.6-magnitude quake struck near the town of Norcia at about 7:40 in the morning, causing significant damage in the immediate area. Norcia is about 170 kilometers/105 miles to the northwest of Rome, and the tremors in the capital were significant. Mere & I both woke up wondering why the other was shaking the bed for no reason, and then our 1st Grade training kicked in and we totally stood under a doorframe. It was the first earthquake that Mere had ever felt, and definitely the strongest I had ever experienced. Somewhat unsettling even at our relatively safe distance, so our thoughts were definitely with the those that were near the epicenter.
Annnnnd we’re back! You might have thought that our holidays were fairly uneventful, but no; we were just distracted by the opportunity to eat, drink, and celebrate for awhile without judgement. WITHOUT JUDGEMENT, we said. Our story resumes at the end of October…our end-of-the-year blowout trip to Hawaii for Kelsey & Matt’s wedding was getting close enough to get really excited about, but we wanted one more weekend getaway to tide us over in the meantime. Mere had been to Rome once with her mom & sister, and she thought it was okay for the short time she was there. I’ve been to Rome several times, and it’s hands-down my favorite city in Europe. I love the history, the food, the language, the people, and the lifestyle, and I really wanted to share my view of Rome with Mere. So, off we went!
When we first learned that we were moving to the Germany/Netherlands border, Mere & I reacted somewhat differently. She began looking for trip ideas, and I immediately googled 1) ultimate teams in the area, and 2) how far we would be from Essen, Germany. Why, you ask? Each year, Essen hosts International Spieltage, which is the largest board game convention in the world. It turns out that we’re less than an hour away from this wondrous city, so this year we finally got to go!
While this year we opted not to travel south for Munich’s mad celebration, there was still plenty of revelry to be found in our neck of the woods. The base’s Oktoberfest party was supposed to be quite an affair, so we resolved to check it out in order to satisfy our fix for trachten and liters-o’-beer!
Once Mere’s parents (Jim & Becki) had gotten a feel for Maastricht, we thought it might be nice to see some of the sights in the surrounding region. Keeping the World War II train rolling, we decided to head over to Belgium to check out the highly-recommended museums of Bastogne, where the Battle of the Bulge was fought. Add a night in Luxembourg City, and you’ve got yourself a nice little road trip!
Two weeks after Chris’s family came to town, my parents took a quick jaunt across the pond for their own European adventure with us! After catching up with some friends in Munich, they made their way to Maastricht for a long weekend visit. We had made reservations for a late lunch, so we took a leisurely stroll around the town during the morning, showing them the ramparts, the Plague House, and the dead giraffe statue (obviously). Maastricht gained a couple of new fans, for sure!
The Party Van road trip continues! After we left Pont-à-Mousson, the final destination was Paris and a rendezvous with my Uncle Stu and his girlfriend Shawn, but we had time for a quick stop in Metz to check out the cathedral (Saint-Étienne de Metz). It’s a good thing we did, because it’s an absolutely stunning piece of art and architecture!
The first weekend in September, my parents (Phil & Jane) and my aunt & uncle (Dave & June) were finishing up a lavish Rhine river cruise that ended, conveniently enough, just north of us in Amsterdam. They had a few days to spare before they needed to make it to Paris to fly home, so it was exciting for us to show them our little town, and also do some World War II-related adventuring with them ourselves!
The last weekend of August found us a bit road-weary after all of the amazing places we’d seen in the heart of summer, but we had plans to tack on one more before taking a bit of a break: Copenhagen, Denmark! Mere’s sister Kelsey had studied abroad there, so trusted recommendations in hand, we packed our bags and set out for Danish delights!