Nuremberg – Our Last Stop

Our last stop and point of disembarkation for our Christmas Market River Cruise was Nuremberg, Germany.  We had a pretty full day here touring before heading home the next day, but I would have loved more time!

Nuremberg envoked a range of emotions for me.  Being a lifelong and enthusiastic student of history, this beautiful place is shadowed in the echos of Hitler and his reign of terror.  I often marvel at the some of the cool locations I have visited and wonder dreamily whose steps I am following.  But I STOOD where Hitler stood and it brought tears to my eyes.  Life’s contemplations resurfaced and one begins to ponder this world.  That’s pretty deep for a bus tour!

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We continued on to the location of the Nuremberg Trials, then into the Old City…which is stunning!!!  But there was that shadow….and it is hard to shake even now in reflection.

The Old City of Nuremberg, with its ancient castle on a hill, HUGE Christmas Market and warm and welcoming people, invited us in.  I am a sucker for a castle, so we gladly toured it and enjoyed the views.

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The inner courtyard of the castle.

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A beautiful view from the great hall.

Nuremberg definitely had the biggest Christmas Market – and I would say, the best prices as well!  We found a lot of our goodies there and enjoyed Nuremberg sausages and saurkraut, German ginger cookies, and my most favorite gluehwein was found at the Scotish cultural booth (amoung other nations represented in this small area of the Market) – it had whiskey in it and it was lovely!!!

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Nuremberg has something for everyone!  I can’t wait to go back and visit again!!!!

Bamburg, Germany

The vineyards continued as we sailed further into the Bavarian region of Germany.  Bamburg is another city with much of its historical architecture intack and as it was built on seven hills surround the Main, the views from the cathedral and fortress were breathtaking!

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This is the view from the hill that the cathedral sits on.  This has got to be one of the most stunning photos I have ever taken!!!!

Bamburg is known for its famous mills and wine and a unique beer – smoked beer or Rauchbier!  There is one particular pub in town that sells it and of course, we had to check it out!  We poured over two of the famous hills of Bamburg, wound our way thorught the ancient old city streets, sipped Rauchbier in the Christmas Market and felt like we belonged!

Here are my favorite pictures from this beautiful stop on the Main.

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A look into the village from one of the seven hills!

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A look upwards towards the bell tower of the fortress.

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Quaint neighborhoods are all around the old town.

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I’ve heard that allowing vines to grow on the outsides of buildings is not good for the building (you can see these are cleverly trellissed). I don’t think these guys know that – and I’m glad – because it is beautiful!

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My hubby trying out the smoked beer!

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An iconic Bamburg view of one of the most famous mills.

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I loves these details…this handsome little fellow holds back shutters.

Wurzburg, Germany

Oh, Wurzburg – what a gorgeous city.  Our 4th stop on our Rhine and Main Christmas Market River Cruise was the city of Wurzburg.  This place had it all!  A palace (Wurzburg Residence), a fortress (Fortress Marienberg) and wineries as far as the eye can see – literally!  They also had a wonderful Christmas Market, but it was almost secondary to everything else there was to see!

Our first stop in Wurzburg was the Residence.  This palace of the prince-bishops of Bavaria was modeled after Versailles and you can see it immediately as you tour!  Photos were not permitted inside, but I got some gorgeous pictures through the rain of the small but amazing gardens.

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The Residence – looks like a compact version of Versailles.

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The gardens…

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I bet they are amazing during the spring and summer!

We headed back to the boat for lunch, then began walking – over to the “Old Stone Bridge” where every day, locals gather to enjoy the company of friends and a glass of the local wine.  We hiked up to the fortress – an imposing structure – that is surrounded by vinyards and walking paths.  The view of the town from the Fortress was amazing and it was worth the climb!

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The Fortress! And a fortress it was!

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Very Cinderella-esque!

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Well, my German is pretty rusty, but I think we get the point!!

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We took the meandering walk down into the village after visiting the fortress. The hillside (and hillsides as far as the eye can see) are sprawling vineyards!

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A look down towards the river – that is our river boat in the distance!

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Statue in the vineyard.

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From the bottom – a look towards the fortress.

We strolled back over the Old Stone Bridge, partook in the local tradition of a drink, then found our way to beautiful Christmas Markets throughout the old city.  All in all, it was a great day with fabulous sights and memories to last a lifetime!!!!

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I am standing on the Old Stone Bridge here – getting ready to enjoy my glass of wine!

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Europeans take their wine consumption seriously – there are STIFF fines if an establishment gives you a short pour! Same applies to beer!

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This photo really captures the day – two glasses of white wine, enjoyed amongst new friends, with a breathtaking fortress in the background! THIS is why I travel!!!!

Wertheim, Germany

Our third day on the river docked us at Wertheim, Germany.  What an AMAZING medieval village on a bend in the Main River.  The larger cities in Germany (and much of Europe) saw a great deal of damage and rebuilding during and after the World Wars.  Many of the villages and non-strategically located towns saw little to no damage and these towns are absolute gems.  Wertheim fits this bill in some part.

Wertheim is located at the confluence of the Tauber and Main Rivers.  It is in Bavaria, but folks here are “Franconians” – a cultural distinction they will happily tell you about!  What we loved about Wertheim was the quaintness of this village.  They did not have a Christmas Market, but the beauty of the town was enchanting and around every turn there was something magical.

Another fabulous feature of this gorgeous little town was the medieval fortification.  First records show a fortification in this down between the 7th and 8th centuries and the castle proper grew out of this in the 12th and 13th centuries.  We walked to and explored all throughout this amazing structure and stood in awe of the commanding view of the Main and the town itself.  It was exactly what I was looking for on this cruise – castles!!!!

Here are some photos from Wertheim.

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This is an example of the many half-timbered homes in Wertheim. These two are situated on the main village square.

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The entrance to Burg Wertheim. This structure is only partially intact but is undergoing renovation efforts and it pen to the public for self guided walking tours for 2 Euros each. There is also a small cafe at the castle and an events room. The structure is amazing and the views…..priceless!!!

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This the view of the Main River from the top of the tower of the castle.  Absolutely stunning!!!

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These half-timbered houses are just incredible!

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Looking down into the town from the road UP to the Burg Wertheim.

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The mighty Main from the Burg (castle)

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The castle was absolutley amazing!!! How it was dug out of the hillside just boggles my mind – but it sure makes for great pictures!!

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The ultimate medieval castle!

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A defensive position “behind” the castle headed uphill.

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Looking UP the tower!

Frankfurt, Germany

Europeans have a wonderful commitment to their heritage.  After so much of Germany was destroyed during WWII, many of the cities, towns and villages vowed to rebuild in the old style.  They used photographs, paintings and what may have been remaining of architectural drawings to recreate their ancient buildings and streets.  The effort to rebuild after such devastation would have been immense to begin with, but to reinvent medieval city centers that effectively embrace a thriving citizenry was herculean!

While in Frankfurt, we enjoyed a huge Christmas Market (with the lights on), Limed our way around (even getting stopped by the German police to make sure we weren’t drinking and scooting – we weren’t, by the way), visited the Frankfurt Zoo and got a real taste of the popularity of the German Christmas Markets!

Here are my favorite pictures!

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Our first booth – classic!

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The main “old” center square – beautifully decorated.

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Christmas trees, anyone?

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A gorgeous two story carousel!

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The top of the main square.

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Sycamore trees line the walk along the Rhine.

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The Frankfurt Zoo was a lovely treat. It was quiet, well established and a fabulous example of an inner city zoo experience.

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Yes, it is a cone of French fries with sauce on top…so American! hahahaha

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The darker it got, the more magical it became.

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I love the classic quality of the Christmas tree.

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Eat, drink (but don’t drive) and be merry!

Strasbourg, France

I have to admit, I am a Francophile.  I love France and all things French, so when we arrived at our second port of call, Strasbourg, I immediately felt at home!  As this was our only port in France, I really soaked in the French culture, but also admired the unique marriage with German culture presented in Strasbourg.  After all, in 1914 alone, the Alsace region of France changed nationalities eight times!

We enjoyed our Christmas Market touring and also became truly besotted with the charm and enchantment of Strasbourg.  Some would say it is too German to be French, and too French to be German, but I think it is just right!

Here is my photo diary! I hope you enjoy it!!!

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Many of the streets of Strasbourg are lined with beautiful sycamore trees. These nests are for storks!

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The tram system in Strasbourg is pretty special! In many places, it runs on grass to help reduce noise and a couple of the trams have mower blades underneath to keep the grass neatly mowed! Cool!

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How do you deliver packages to the medieval streets of Strasbourg?

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The architecture!!!

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Notre Dame Cathedral of Strasbourg

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The decorations were beautiful and sometimes, a bit outrageous!

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We were in Strasbourg during the day and did not get to see the lights, but I bet it was gorgeous!

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Classic Europe

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The old winding city streets were so charming!

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Vin chaud? White or Red?

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Even early in the day, the Christmas Markets were busy.

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The rivers are the lifeline of Strasbourg.

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Some new friends – swans everywhere!

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I was in France – a banana and Nutella crepe was a MUST!!!

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More bird friends outside my Juliette balcony on board.

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Strasbourg river walk.

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The happy tourists!

Amazing Alps

When we travel, we love day tripping!!!  We have day tripped our way around the French countryside, southern and northern Italy, Scotland, England and now, the Alps!

Day tripping allows for a GLIMPSE of a place.  It is hard to “dive in” when you only have a short amount of time, but when we travel abroad especially, we want to see as much as we can, so the old American pastime is right up our alley!

This trip to Germany, Switzerland and France for our Christmas Market river cruise really lent itself well to a day trip.  While staying in Basel pre-cruise, we took a day and headed to the Alps.  We picked up our rental in Basel early morning, drove about an hour and 45 minutes to Interlaken, and decided to go a bit further, up to Grindewald (elevation 3,392 feet).  There, we parked and bought the world’s most expensive train tickets (about $200 US per person – YIKES) for a 45 minute cog train ride up, up, up to our first train station, Kleine Scheidegg (elevation 6762 feet).

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Grindelwald, Switzerland

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Grindewald from the window of the train.

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The cogs! The lifeline!

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This teepee is at the Kleine Scheidegg station. I do not know why!

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Time to change trains!  And yes, it was snowing.

Here, we checked out the place, and boarded the Jungfrau train – another cog that brought us THROUGH the mountains to the highest train station in Europe (which happened to be IN the mountain) – Junfraujoch, elevation 11,333 feet!!

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One of the small settlements on the way up to Jungfrau (young girl). Do you see the glaciers in the background? Amazing!!!

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The train station in the mountain.

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Outside the observatory. It was cold and windy!

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In the ice castle IN the mountain!!!

We explored but it was snowed in – but we wouldn’t have changed that experience for anything!  It was so cool!!!!!

After we got back down from Kleine Scheidegg, we drove to Lauterbrunnen, explored briefly at dusk, went to a pizza place (yeah, seriously) and then drove back to Basel.  This was a fabulous day trip and we took SO many gorgeous pictures.

Here are the rest of our favorites!!!!

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Looking back as we journey towards Klein Scheidegg.

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Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. We had spent much of the day in Grindelwald and climbing Jungfrau (by cog railway), then decided to take another small mountain pass at dusk and were treated to this delight!

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This gorgeous waterfall is the first thing you see when you enter this valley. Absolutely stunning!

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If a cemetery can be pretty, this one fits the bill.

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Well, you have to have beer with pizza!

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Any European road trip must include a stop at the Autogrill. The rest stations in Germany (just like Italy) did NOT disappoint – adorable trinkets, great food options, but expensive water – you should buy it in town at the local corner store – not here – oh, and if you need to use a bathroom – bring along a Euro!

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My German isn’t that great, but the word for “exit” is kinda funny! And I feel like a 10 year old when I say it:)

Basel, Switzerland

As with many flights to Europe from the east cost of the US, ours was an overnight affair.  We departed Boston Friday evening, arrived in Munich, Germany mid morning Saturday, then flew to Basel, Switzerland – arriving early afternoon.  We flew Lufthansa as it was the best price (paid to pick our seats and for stowed luggage) and while we were a bit cramped, we had a fine flight.  Great in-flight entertainment and the service was just fine.

We arrived easily in Basel, picked up our luggage, and sought to navigate the public transportation to our hotel in the Old Town area.  This was free (it seems that all hotels in Basel offer guests a “Basel Card” that gives them free access to public transportation – buses, trams and the like) and we are pretty adventurous, so we took on the challenge.

Public transportation is big in Europe – especially the cities where parking is at a premium – it is not unlike the US, but Europeans embrace this opportunity to take the bus, ride a bike or scooter, or walk.  Finding our bus stop at the airport was easy, thanks to the clear and helpful directions from our hotel, and while we had to figure out the switching of bus lines once, it was easy and the bus literally dropped us off outside our hotel!

Our hotel was Hotel D and the location was fabulous!  I paid $149.00 per night, which for Switzerland is a deal!  Our room was small (typical for Europe) but very comfortable and quiet.  The bathroom was great as well and we were very happy.  Our hotel stay did NOT include breakfast, so we winged it each day and were very happy with that. Breakfast at Hotel D was continental style and cost 26SF (Swiss Francs) per person – um, no thanks!  Have I told you yet that Switzerland is expensive!!!

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Outside our hotel window….

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Where do you keep your liquor cold?

Our first night we roamed, explored the walk along the Rhine, got my hubby set up with LIME (the best thing EVER), scooted and walked around a small portion of the Old City and enjoyed a most fabulous al fresco dinner (Europeans eat outside all year long….with those big propane heaters and a blanket – it was awesome!).

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Warm goat cheese salad! Heaven!

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White wine, beer and pumpkin soup!

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LIMES!  You download the app, scan your ride and off you go!  We LOVE these!!!  In Switzerland it was 1 SF to unlock it then .35cents per minute.

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People….the sweets were AMAZING!

The next day, we got up and rented a car (about $100USD for the day) and drove to the Alps (about 1.45 hours away) and spent the day fulfilling a dream!!!  That post will be coming up soon – it deserves its own!

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The Rhine River at around 7:15am.  Stunning!

We wrapped up Basel with a lot more walking around, getting breakfast and lunch from one of the many local corner stores (I HIGHLY recommend this because restaurants are SUPER expensive in Switzerland) and having a picnic lunch by the river.  It was everything I wanted it to be!!!!

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Look at the detail on the soffit of this roof!! Amazing!

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Many European cities have free flowing fountains perfect for drinking! They are functional AND beautiful!

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Gorgeous post structured home.

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The “munster” in Basel.

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Another gorgeous fountain.

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(Free) public bathrooms! Gotta love the Swiss – they aren’t uptight about life!

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Look closely at the AGE of these homes.

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The detailing of this home is amazing.

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Our stash from the corner store – about 20 Swiss Francs total!

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Best bite in the city!

 

 

 

 

 

My Yearly Travels as seen through my Ornaments

I used to find it really hard to choose a special keepsake from each of our trips.  I loved so many cool “things”, but it just isn’t reasonable to get them all!  So a while back, I decided to get an ornament from each of our trips.

Every year, when we put up our tree, it is a wonderful opportunity to remember our travels and stories as a family.  It is something I treasure and our tree is really full of US.

Here are the ornaments I got this year.

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Paris. January 2019

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Disneyland Paris. January 2019

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Symphony of the Seas. February 2019

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February 2019

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Disney World. February 2019

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Tuscon Arizona. April 2019

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Tombstone, Arizona. April 2019

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Bearizona. April 2019

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Las Vegas, Nevada. April 2019

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O’hau, Hawai’i. October 2019.

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Strasbourg, France. November 2019

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Switzerland 2019

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

If you are not one of those people who purchase Christmas presents all year long, October is the month you start to think about what you are getting those you care about for Christmas.

A few years ago, in about October, I started re-thinking my approach to gift giving.  I was thinking back to gifts I had been given as a child – either for Christmas or for my birthday.  I knew I got gifts – I saw pictures of me at Christmastime or my birthday opening presents, but my own personal memories of what I got during those special times is faded.

I DO remember ONE singular gift I received as a child – I remember waking up on the morning of my 10th birthday to find staring at me an adorable Cabbage Patch Kid.  Her name was Diana Mindy and I was SO excited to get her!!!!  But she is the only gift I can actually ever pinpoint.  Isn’t that strange?  What do you remember getting as a child?  I remember gifts I DID NOT get as a child – I wanted an Easy Bake Oven and a Lightbright but never got those.

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This is Diana Mindy – still looking good after all these years!

 

Do you know what I have specific and a multitude of memories of?  Things I DID with my family – learning to ski with my dad; going camping; going on road trips with my mom; going to Disney with my mom; going to Aruba with my mom as a senior in high school.  I could tell you a handful of details about each and every one of those experiences, and THAT is what changed my mindset about gift giving.

Experiences change our brain.  Encountering NEW situations and taking on new adventures rewires us, renews us, re-entwines us with our loved ones.  It reconnects us to ourselves, to each other and to this life.  What better gift is there?

The giving of experiences doesn’t have to be a big trip somewhere…although it could be!  Last year we gave our children a short trip to Quebec (we live within driving distance and went between Christmas and New Years last year), a concert experience, season’s passes to a local water park, a  2-week high adventure Boy Scout summer camp for my son and my daughter and I took a super cheap flight to Paris in January and spent 4 nights in an AirBnB and explored the city.  It was the BEST Christmas we have had in a long time!!!  We still talk about every single one of those adventures and will continue to do so.

Life is short.  Take the trip.  See the concert.  Go to the show.  Get the pass.  Bypass the mountain of gifts that get forgotten by January 15th and give the gift that keeps on giving…memories to last a lifetime!  Don’t miss out!

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I didn’t know she stuck her tongue out until I looked at the pictures that night!!! Notre Dame in the background.

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Lined up for the toboggan ride! Quebec City, Quebec.

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My daughter and her BFF meeting their favorite musician, Jon Foreman from Switchfoot – he signed my daughter’s Ukulele!

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Fabulous concerts at Soul Fest 2019!