Burg Cochem

Burg Cochem

Castles were the theme of our weekend in Germany, and my favourite castle was Burg Cochem. A beautiful drive through rolling German hills culminated in a lovely little town on the banks of the Moselle River.

Up on the hill was a perfect little castle, surrounded by vineyards.

After climbing up the windy hill, we were ushered through a gate into an idyllic courtyard to join the guided tour through the castle.

Our guide was a seemingly non-nonsense German lady who secretly had a hilariously dry sense of humour.

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Cologne, Germany

Cologne, Germany

I’ve been wanting to visit the Cologne Cathedral since I caught a glimpse of it from the train when we visited my sister-in-law Rachel in southern Germany last year. The first thing I noticed when I saw it was how black it is. In fact, I immediately contrasted it in my mind with the Duomo in Milan, which impressed me with its sheer whiteness when we visited a million years ago when Raj was just a toddler.

One could draw some kind of metaphorical religious inference from the relative coloring of the two cathedrals. However, the truth has less to do with the religiosity of the respective congregations, and more with that train station next to the cathedral, and all the coal that was burned in the vicinity for a hundred years.

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Heimbach, Germany

Heimbach, Germany

I planned our weekend in Germany around visiting the spectacular Cologne Cathedral. When I was planning the trip, I was a bit torn between staying around the corner from the Cathedral and staying about an hour away in a tiny, picturesque German town. My first and last impulse always being to have it all, I opted for the tiny little town and after we saw it, we all agreed it was the perfect choice.

I showed you our house by the evening light yesterday, but it looked, if possible, even more delightful the next morning by daylight.

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Moyland Castle, Germany

Moyland Castle, Germany

We just finished up a delightful and fun-filled week and a half with Tony’s parents, aka Grammy and Pampa. The original plan had been to do an epic road tour through central Germany along the castle road to Prague, and then driving all the way back home through Germany. That plan was eventually scrapped, both because it involved too much driving (an average of at least 3-4 hours per day) and because we were in the middle of house hunting and didn’t feel like we could be gone for a week and a half.

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Valentine’s Day and the Naked Sauna

Valentine’s Day and the Naked Sauna

Sometimes February gets a bad rap. I remember my Seminary teacher telling us one gloomy February that more Seminary teachers commit suicide in February than any other month. I still wonder if actual studies have been done on suicide rates among Mormon Seminary teachers, although I realize now that she was probably just making a point about how much she was not enjoying getting up at 5:30 every weekday morning to teach grumpy, sleepy, inattentive teenagers.

Still, February isn’t the most advantageously positioned month. It’s cold, dark, and dreary. All the nice things about winter, like endless cups of tea or curling up by the fire or wearing cute hats and scarves, are getting old, and all the nasty things, like lack of sunshine, excessive precipitation of whatever sort, and being sick, are feeling interminable. In fact, since the beginning of the year almost everyone I know here, whether at work, home, my kids’ school, or just random acquaintances, has been sick at least once. I had a cold that lasted two weeks, and left me hoarse and coughing for another two.

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Our New House

Our New House

Last week I told you a little about our house hunting experience in Amsterdam. One thing I forgot to mention is just how much of a sellers market it is. Most realtors prefer to set up open houses rather than make individual appointments, because there are just so many people who want to see every house. The first open house we visited ended up being attended by over seventy prospective buyers. We made an offer on it, just for the heck of it (actually no, I fell in love with that house, which had a gorgeous view of a canal from (yes) a picturesque bay window). However, they had over a dozen offers, and the apartment went for ten or fifteen thousand euros over the listed price, putting it well over our budget.

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Househunters International – Amsterdam Edition

Househunters International – Amsterdam Edition

Our amazingly cool friends, Sarah and Aaron Zipp, were featured on Househunters International this week. We got to watch their episode from their couch in the very apartment they chose during the show. Our kids even got a cameo at the end as part of a scene where they demonstrate a caber toss during Highland Games in the park.

It was even more fun to watch the Zipps in their show, since we are presently engaged in our own version of Amsterdam househunting. Less than a month ago, our landlady told us she would be moving back from Germany and would require the use of her apartment, necessitating that we move out. It was a bit of a shock, especially since she neglected to give us proper notice. Fortunately, in the Netherlands, as in many European countries, renters, employees, and other underdogs are generally quite well protected by law. We were informed by our realtor that we had every right to stay another year. However, we had no desire to live in the house of a hostile landlady, or make her life unduly difficult, so we negotiated moving out six weeks after our original contract expires (so by May 15), and started looking for another house.

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Christmas in Spain – Sevilla

Christmas in Spain – Sevilla

Yes, I know it’s February. January turned out to be a bit of a crazy month, mostly because one or another of us has been sick since we got home from Spain. So here’s the long-awaited post on what we did in Sevilla on our last day in Spain.

First of all, we drove. It’s three hours from where we were staying in little Béznar to Sevilla, the longest stretch we drove during our vacation. We don’t mind driving (kind of look back on it nostalgically when we remember our time living on the West Coast), and our kids are great travelers. But poor Axa had a bit of a sensitive stomach during this whole trip, and we did end up taking at least one puke break on the way. Unfortunately, she felt no better once we arrived. So after another puke session on the doorstep of the Starbucks across the street from the Sevilla Cathedral, Tony convinced our hotel to let us check in early, and put Axa to bed, where she promptly fell asleep.

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Christmas in Spain – Christmas Eve

Christmas in Spain – Christmas Eve

It just so happened that two other families from the children’s school were also vacationing in Spain this year. For Christmas Eve, they invited us to come spend the evening in the cute little house where they were staying. The road to their house was auspiciously announced by this sign, which proclaimed it, ‘Land of Luck’.

We certainly thought we were lucky to be spending Christmas Eve with the Ords and the Bardsleys. The children disappeared immediately to go exploring together in the little canyon right outside the door, while the adults made sangria and Christmas Eve Chili.

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Christmas in Spain – Córdoba

Christmas in Spain – Córdoba

One of the disadvantages of planning as you go when it comes to travel is that the logistics don’t always end up being quite as convenient as they might have been. When I booked our cute little house near Granada, the only thing we had planned to do for sure was to visit the Alhambra. From which point of view, renting a house a half hour away made all kinds of sense. However, when you zoom out on Andalucía, you notice that Granada isn’t exactly centrally located. Córdoba, for instance, is three hours away by car. Fortunately, we like road-tripping as much as other forms of travel. The rest of the family humoured me by getting out the door pretty early for a vacation. We arrived in Córdoba around eleven, at least once we had made a few wrong turns and parked our car.

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