A Travellerspoint blog

Thanksgiving in Belgium

So, we got a nice traditional American Thanksgiving this year thanks to our awesome Belgian friends Pieter and Liesbeth. We had them to our house last year for Thanksgiving and this year they invited us to Brugges to celebrate a Thanksgiving with their family and friends. Everyone made traditional American food and some even put a Belgian twist on it. We loved it. We brought the turkey and fryer and we even got Pieter and his vegetarian friend to do the injections! It was so fun to spend a holiday with our Belgian family and friends. They took us in and we enjoyed a fantastic evening together.

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Pieter and his mom. She made green bean casserole! Isolde and her grandma. Isolde is sporting her baby shower gift from us. Pretty sweet dress huh?!

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We even had a professional butcher to carve the turkey! Thank you Keuhn.

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Thanksgiving feast attendees (minus Pieter, I think he was putting Isolde down for a nap).

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A little out of order here but the first night we got to see Pieter's band play which was super fun. It was a sort of a Balkan, Ska mix and was super fun. I really loved the sound and feel of the music and each song had such a different feeling. No pictures from this event but we really enjoyed it.

Also, they introduced us to the holiday of Sinterklaas which turned out to be the same weekend we went to Belgium. This is kind of like Santa coming a little early with presents for the kiddies and chocolate and sweet bread. Families leave out carrots or sugar cubes for the horses and something else for St. Nicklaus that I cannot remember. There is a long history behind it with many movies, stories and songs associated with the event. The most interesting part about it for me is the black men who travel along with St Nicklaus for the event which seem to have conflicting histories. We heard from some people that they were slaves who were freed by St Nicklaus and worked as his helpers to give out toys and we heard from others that they were black from the soot in the chimneys. We enjoyed a sweet breakfast and watched our friends little baby Isolde open her gifts. She was so excited about each one and especially loved a little toy doll.

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Next year they will have baby number two because Liesbeth is pregnant again! yay! So excited for them!! Congratulations guys. Thank you again for letting us share our tradition with you and including us on your traditions. This is a memory we will always keep :)

Posted by trackers 13:28 Archived in Belgium Comments (1)

Thanksgiving in Domodossola

Where is Domodossola? Well, if you couldn't have Turkey for Thanksgiving, what is the next best food to eat? Italian of course. So we drove to Italy. I picked a random spot off the map and we drove there. It appeared to be the closest Italian town over the border but those pesky mountains proved otherwise. It was quite a winding road to get there that included multiple mountain passes and at least 3 bridges that could only fit one car one way. Actually, I am not even sure that one car should be on them. Maybe only a small compact car like a Nissan March should be on them. I chose a hotel at 10 pm the night before we left and did pretty much no research on the area or the hotel. My deciding factor was that our room had a fireplace. When we got to Domodossola we learned that we were not really in the town but up the side of a mountain. We went up and up until we thought we had gone up enough and then called our host and she instructed us to go up and up and up some more. Then we came to a dirt road. Then we passed through a village built in the 1700s. Then we found our inn. Which turned out to be a farm with a building built in the 1800s that was in the same family since that time. Cool. Our room had a roaring fire and amazing wooden beams and was the perfect place to spend a long weekend.

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Our hosts (a husband and wife team) welcomed us and were a wealth of information. Their property was a working farm with goats, rabbits, a dog (friend for Ethan), chickens, and turkeys. One of the goats peed while we were there and caught the pee in his mouth. Does anyone know anything about this kind of thing? As you can see in the picture, I was not so excited about petting the goat after he drank his pee.

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On our last night there Marco and Patricia invited us for dinner at their house, which was connected to our room. We spent such a fun evening with them chatting and laughing and drinking carafes of wine from their 55 liter wine jugs. I wish I could buy wine in 55 liter jugs. Patricia spoke English well but we spoke with Marco through gestures, Italianglish, and google translate. It was really fun. Italians are natural born communicators. When they found out that my family is from the region of Piemonte, they were even more excited to talk about all things Italian. It was really a fantastic experience. One of the things I love most about traveling is making connections like this.

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Marco is a life long hiker who was basically a walking map of the area and told us a new hike to do in the area every day. We probably could have stayed there a month without repeating a hike.Okay, out of order a bit, but hiking on day one. We went to a mountain lake. We hiked for about 4 hours the first day. Lots of icicles. I might have gotten a little excited about pictures and icicles.

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There is nothing better than relaxing by a fireplace with a roaring fire after a day of hiking. Marco had the fire roaring when we returned. What fantastic service.

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The next day we hiked through a cute mountain town onto a dammed lake.

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Our last day we hiked through the little town that we drove through on the way to our inn. It had become sort of a living museum with plaques everywhere describing life in in the 1700s and 1800s. There were also little drawn pictures hidden throughout the town. We really learned a lot about how and old little mountain town would have operated during that time. I'm not sure that the pictures do it justice.

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can you see the cat in the hay?

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We ended the weekend with trying to get some to go food for the drive home. Clearly we have learned nothing about Italy because "to go" is really not a very normal concept. So, we did it the Italian way and sat down for an amazing lunch that included pasta, meat, salad, and wine for 10 bucks a person. It was delicious.

This weekend encompassed everything I love about Italy. Our hosts were fantastic and treated us like family, we got to be outdoors and see beautiful scenery, and we had delicious food. Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by trackers 05:54 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

A baby shower for friends

So, for those of you who don't know, I am not a fan of attending babyshowers. However, I do like to throw parties so I AM a fan of throwing babyshowers but only once every 2-3 years or when the mood strikes me, or when someone is pregnant. Turns out it was time to do a triennial baby shower when two of my really great friends here announced they were preggers. My girlfriend, Megan, and I do different projects on Fridays so we put a few Fridays aside a planned a kick ass babyshower that included a "paint your art out" event. Luckily for us, Megan is an artist. I was the technical director and she was the artistic director and we had a great time.

The proud soon to be moms. Congratulations Erin and Emily! We are so excited for you both. Please note the hand made Super Mom capes.

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Many of the food items were "pinsperations."

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We also made Mocktails and Cocktails. I may have taste tested a bunch of the cocktails while Megan worked on the capes. Remember, I was the technical director, not the artistic director so I was just staying within my scope.

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Our fearless art leader (sorry its blurry). Her workstation organization is questionable.

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The Students
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The end result

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Posted by trackers 08:56 Comments (1)

Slovenia

Our friends Megan and Ian wanted to make one last trip to Slovenia before they move back to the States. They came up with the (semi) crazy plan of driving there for a long weekend and we, of course, signed up immediately. We started late after work and flew through the German countryside and we made it to Austria in the middle of the night. The hotel we booked sent us a picture of where to find our key and it was right where they said. This system cracks me up. Can you see the little envelope just below the chalk board?

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This little town in Austria, called Hallstatt, is on every "must see small towns in Europe" list out there. So I have been wanting to visit for quite a while. You can see why by the pictures. Turns out that it was only an hour round trip out of the way of our route. The town has a really unique history as it had access by only one road until the early 1900s. There was a lot of information about the renovation of the road but Ian, our group historian, is not writing this blog so you are stuck with my basic knowledge of it. Anyway, I will let the quaintness of the town speak for itself.

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My lunch looking at its previous home

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The picture postcard shots; fall was really a great time to visit this locale

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I think this is an advertisement for gummie bears

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Part of the drive popped into Italy and passed through some old mining towns that seem more reminiscent of Poland than the Italy I am used to. The mountains of this area are absolutely fantastic and are an extension of where the Dolomites run into the Julian Alps. Crossing the border into Slovenia, we ran into an old border crossing and military outpost. There are a lot of these in this area from World War I. Ultimately, we arrived at our final destination of Bovec, Slovenia. This town was picked off the map for its proximity to the mountains, and it could not have been a better choice.

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Our first restaurant that evening was quite the experience. The Slovenian and Italian forestry services were doing a joint exercise and all of the service members were eating at our restaurant. In the middle of dinner they broke out into song. I kid you not. They had phenomenal singing voices and were doing different harmonies together. Then they came over to chat with us and buy us rounds of schnapps. One of the guys (likely in his early 70s) was a professional rock climbing guide who had climbed many impressive mountains including Half Dome. Another was an Italian forestry man who had lived in the States and Canada and was a professional helicopter pilot. They regaled us with stories and basically made the evening. It was a little weird to just whip out the camera and take a picture so we only have a picture of the food. The food is a combination of Italian, Austrian, and Slovenian. There were so many things on the menu and it was delicious down home kind of cooking.

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We rented a little apartment with the most death defying staircase. It had feet specific stairs that required the utmost concentration, not an easy task when you wake up in the middle of the night and have to go down to the bathroom. Our view was fantastic.

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The next day we went for a hike. We really enjoyed seeing all of the leaves changing colors.

Clearly a leisurely hike in the woods is not complete without shots of schnapps. I have never seen this as a "thing" until moving to Europe. Apparently, this is the norm around here. Here is a series depicting how delicious this tasted.

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Our trail was a little difficult to follow and kept dead ending into different people's cabins and sheep.

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Photos from the hike
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Along the way, we ran into an ICECREAM truck! Are you kidding me? We flagged him down and were so happy to have ice cream. How often does this happen on a hike?

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I will call this color, "glacier blue."
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The leaves were spectacular the whole weekend. We must have timed this trip right, because the colors were at their peak, and all day long the scenery changed as the sun moved through the sky.

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We hiked the next day in Kobarid. This hike had beautiful views including waterfalls and fly fishermen, historical sites, and spinach pies known locally as burek. YUM!
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We also found a wine shop/fancy restaurant/fancy hotel that let us do a wine tasting. The wine tasting itself had a lot of flair with the sommelier swirling wine in the glasses to clean them before we tasted, a roaring fire in a very swanky fire place right in front of our table and locals coming in to sell their freshly picked mushrooms and wild produce to the chef for the evening meal. She paid them in cash and wine! It was quite the experience and we all made our purchases of the unique wine of the region.

It was such a fun weekend, albeit a long drive, and we bid farewell to the area with one last amazing view as we drove through the Italian side of the Julian alps. This is likely our last trip with our friends before they move back to the States and we will miss our adventurous outdoorsy couple duo immensely. All the best in Denver! We will be there to visit soon!

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Posted by trackers 10:15 Archived in Slovenia Comments (0)

de hoge veluwe national park

I was reading a buzzfeed about the Netherlands and it had some suggestions of places that looked really interesting. The Netherlands are basically right out our backdoor but sometimes we forget to take weekend trips there. I have had this national park on my radar for quite some time and a lack of something to do for our three day weekend made for perfect timing. All of the leaves are starting to change color here and a nice drive up to a national park sounded like a great idea.

There are 40 kilometers of bike path at this park and there are white bikes everywhere that you can ride for free. The first day we rode our own bikes but on the second day we hopped on the Dutchie style bike and felt like little kids again. It was super fun.

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Also, Quinn ran his first official race since his broken leg. It was so good to watch him race again and he was very pleased with his time despite basically no training. I surprised him with the race just the day before we left. This worked out to my advantage because he didn't have a lot of time to think about it and instead just jumped in and had a wonderful time enjoying the scenery while getting his racing legs back.

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There was quite a bit of hubbub surrounding the race. There was a band with awesome wooden shoes and little stands to buy things. The white bikes are quite beloved here.

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I'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking. You might notice that it looks more like some African Savannah than what you would expect in the Netherlands. It was a very unique place.

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There is also a museum in the middle of the park that has the 2nd largest collection of Vincent Van Gogh's work. There was also an outdoor sculpture park. We only saw a small part of it because we ran out of time.

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Posted by trackers 12:53 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

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