Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Next Big Trip

Me and my sister, Pat, in June 2012
I love that picture for so many reasons:
  • It was my 50th birthday
  • I had a Piglet birthday cake
  • My sister's visit from Oakville, Ontario was a complete surprise to me 
  • Pat and I both look pretty and healthy -- and so much alike! 
About a year after that picture was taken, Pat moved to Nyon, Switzerland, with her husband. (You may recall that we adopted their adorable dog, Scooter, who made me never want to be dog-less again.) I've missed her a great deal -- not that I saw her frequently, but it was an ever-present option. In fact, I used to squeeze in a dinner with her and our aunt Winkie whenever business took me to Toronto.

Earlier this spring, I started planning a trip to visit Pat in September, 2014, with Winkie, rather than with Stephen. (The next big trip for me and Stephen will be in spring 2015, I think.)

As icing on the cake, Winkie has added a trip to The Netherlands to visit some friends of hers, Willem and Els. Willem and Els sound like fascinating people; they run Project Innocent Smile, which supports special-needs children in developing countries. (You can just imagine the plight of physically or mentally disabled children in countries where mere subsistence is a challenge.)

Both Pat and Willem have been more than helpful as tour guides. But you know what I've realized? I really have a very weak grasp on what's where in Europe. Probably the rest of the world, too, for that matter. It wasn't until an exchange of several e-mails that I remembered that Van Gogh was Dutch and that there was likely a Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. Duh.

The same thing happened when I started looking into the Swiss leg of the trip. How did I not know that Geneva is so close to France? Like really close.

Europe is so weird.

Anyway, here's what we've penciled in so far. We arrive in Amsterdam first.

Lots of cultural attractions, and some of the pins are just cities that we may or may not visit. As well as the museums in Amsterdam, we hope to take in a canal ride, and Willem has promised us some off-the-beaten path, known-only-to-the-locals tours as well.

You may notice that I've listed la maison du Gruyère and la Maison Cailler. Gruyère, of course is home to world-renowned cheese. Maison Cailler is its counterpart for chocolate. And -- get this! -- both factories can be visited as part of a Chocolate Train package!

Can you believe it? Chocolate, cheese, and a train ride? That's my kind of tour!

Of course, the best part will be visiting friends and family. But the culture, adventure, and food -- well, I'm looking forward to the whole thing.

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