An Adventure A Day

Because "life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all" – Helen Keller

Where is it Wednesday?

April 1, 2020

Can you tell where this is by the flowers and fauna?

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Maybe the food will give it away?

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How about the animals?

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Maybe the landscapes will give you a clue….

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Anything yet? How about some local architecture?

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Maybe you still need another hint?

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Think you know? Maybe a look at the airport will help.

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Have you figured it out yet?


Where were we? Rovaniemi, Finland.

Rovaniemi is the capital of Lapland, the official hometown of Santa Claus and one of our favorite vacations in Europe. During our visit, we stayed at the incredible Arctic Treehouse Hotel, which is surrounded by forest trails and fresh blueberries. We visited the Arktikum museum, Santa Claus Village (including the arctic circle, Santa’s post office, and the big guy himself! ), and Ranua Wildlife Park – one of the nicest zoos I’ve ever seen, with a fantastic playground for the kids.

Finland was one of the most beautiful countries we’ve visited, everyone found something they enjoyed. The food was wonderful -we especially enjoyed tasting reindeer, which was found in everything – from burgers to Indian cuisine.  The surroundings were phenomenal, and the hiking trails were built up so the ecosystem was not harmed while you enjoyed the forests. 

We went in August, and because the skies were bright nearly all night, it wasn’t optimal for viewing the Northern Lights. We didn’t mind though. It provided us with a welcome break from the heat of the Roman summer.

Have you visited Finland? What did you think? Is it on your list of places to visit?


Lately, my adventures have been a little closer to home. Right now, I guess that’s true for just about everyone.

When I started this blog, I was still new to life overseas – everything was an adventure and I wanted to share it. Ten years and three countries later, what I’ve discovered is that the biggest adventures aren’t necessarily the trips you take, but the life you choose to live along the way.

I’ve noticed that the longer I live in Europe, the less I write. I have transitioned from a wide-eyed wanderer to a more worldly version of myself. I am no longer living the life of a constant traveler; I am just living my life. What I’ve discovered is that I don’t need – or crave the same big adventures I did ten years ago. What I’ve learned is that small things hold big adventures. What I’ve found is that must-see places, and must-do events aren’t for everyone. Adventure is as unique as the individual, and the travel itinerary you love isn’t the same as the travel itinerary I love.

I’ve seen the rise of Instagram travelers and have friends with goals to check every site off their bucket list. Plenty of people love quick, see it all travel. They love to go there, see every must-see site, get the perfect picture and go, but I’ve discovered that doesn’t work for me. Although we’ve done the multi-country trips, and quick day trips, I’ve found that I prefer a slower travel. I may not see everything, but what I do see, I will see and enjoy in my own way.

Before we made the move from Key West, Florida to Pfullendorf in the state of Baden Württemberg Germany I wanted to see everything I could, cross everything off of my travel bucket list, visit every site I’d seen through the eyes of the travel channel. Our initial two-year assignment extended to three, then we received three additional assignments, taking us to Bavaria, Rome, and finally Belgium. Living somewhere longer doesn’t mean your bucket list gets shorter, it means you have an opportunity to keep adding things to it. Over the years, I’ve let go of my bucket list. I found that some of the things I’d dreamed of seeing were a disappointment, and some of the things I’ve discovered along the way far exceeded my expectations.

I’ve seen a lot, and I’ve written about some of our adventures. But life continues, and even in living in Europe we have everyday concerns. When the children started primary school, it became a little more difficult to take off on unscheduled adventures, and as they’ve grown, they prefer to do average kid stuff. They want to participate in after-school activities, and play with friends on the weekends, and just laze around after a long week in school.

Weekends aren’t always filled with travel these days. They’re filled with grocery shopping and homework and getting ready for the week ahead. But that’s ok. I’ve found that for us, when we travel every week – no matter how much we enjoy it – we get sick of traveling. These days we may travel less frequently, but I’ve found the strategy that works for us, and we enjoy every trip we take.

Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, we had plans to travel over spring break, and a couple of trips over the summer. Right now, our travels are on hold, as Belgium is locked down until 20 April, and we really don’t know what international travel or even travel within Belgium will look like after that. We’ll figure that out along the way, but this does give us an opportunity to get ready for the next chapter in our adventure.

We’ve reached the mid-point of our final three-year tour, not just in Europe, but in the Army. After more than 20 years as part of a military family, we are rapidly approaching the completion of another major segment of our lives.

My focus has changed, and although I still enjoy discussing travel, cultures, languages, and intercultural interactions, today I am more focused on how things are similar rather than how things are different. We’ve now had two postings affiliated with NATO, which has provided me with an opportunity to really get to know people from different countries, exploring different cultures not just through travel, but through friendships and meaningful interactions. This more than anything has changed how I see the world. Travel doesn’t change you. It’s the people you meet along the way.

I still have plenty of tales to tell, and quarantine provides a lot of downtime to tell them. Thanks for stopping by to take a look at my blog, send me a message – I’d love to hear from you.

The weather here in Belgium hasn’t seemed exactly autumnal, but even with temperatures reaching the 70’s, the leaves are beginning to turn, crops are being harvested, and the days are growing shorter. Autumn is my favorite season. I love the weather as it turns crisp and the expectations it holds for the holiday seasons ahead. I love the changing colors and the leaves that crunch underfoot, and here in Europe I love the festivals it brings.

We recently headed to Rongy for Fête de la Pomme – the Apple Festival in Rongy Belgium.

This festival is held annually on the first weekend of October to celebrate the apples (and some pears) as well as the local products. It was a delicious way to spend a Sunday afternoon. We arrived early, before the crowds really started to gather and walked through the various tents, sampling various apples and products.

Your entrance to the festival includes quite a few free samples. The fresh pressed apple juice was divine, and the local apples were delicious. Of course most of the vendors were willing to let you sample their products as well, and I tried some interesting apple and pear based liqueurs, Normandy ciders, local honey, and delicious handmade candies!

The vendor tent was definitely a feast for the eyes, but for me, the smell of all those beautiful apples was the best. One of the products not to be missed is the apple fritters – slices of apple dipped in batter and fried to perfection, then dusted with powdered sugar.

Although our visit didn’t coincide with any of the biggest events, like hot air balloons or riding demonstrations, we did find quite a bit to entertain ourselves. My daughter was even able to take a ride on a “unicorn”.

It was a lovely afternoon, and the best part was when we were able to join a group of friends on a tour of the local orchards.

While we stood in line waiting to take our wagon tour through the orchards, we were able to watch a bit of the birds of prey demonstration and catch sight of a sheepdog in action. Our group managed to fit in a wagon drawn by two young draft horses, and we took a beautiful trip through a nearby orchard.

Mark your calendars for next year, according to the Wallonia tourism website, the festival will be Saturday 05 – Sunday 06 October 2019!

The largest Pumpkin Festival

Spending time at a festival devoted to apples reminded me of another festival we’d attended during our second year in Germany, the Ludwigsburg Kürbisfest at Blühendes Barock.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, this is the largest pumpkin festival in the world. Each year, the festival has a theme. This year’s theme is “Pumpkin Forest”. The festival runs through November 4th, so there is still plenty of time to visit.

The year we attended, the theme was Jurassic Park, with dinosaurs crafted from pumpkins. Not pumpkins carved into dinosaurs, mind you, but enormous dinosaurs completely covered with different varieties of squash.

The lovely thing about this festival is that it runs so long (from late August to early November) it’s an easy one to visit and not experience overwhelming crowds. We visited on a beautiful autumn day, and enjoyed a long stroll around the park. The kids enjoyed the dinosaurs and playing in the hay playground.

We watched a giant pumpkin carving demonstration, and when we got hungry we headed over to the fest tents for our pumpkin based foods.

The food, if you are a fan of all things pumpkin, is fantastic. There are of course the expected pumpkin breads and muffins, but it’s the unexpected that are really special. After living in Germany, one of our favorite pumpkin specialties is pumpkin-cream soup – which not only do they have at Ludwigsburg, but they make the largest batch of pumpkin-cream soup annually. We also tested pumpkin maultashen, pumpkin drinks, and toasted pumpkin seeds. It was truly pumpkinrific!

After we had explored all of the pumpkins we could possibly handle, we headed next door to the fairytale village!

My week on Instagram:

I hear it all the time – you are so lucky to live in (insert city here). I am not going to argue that fact. I will be the first to admit that is the absolute truth. I am not going to sit here and complain about how difficult my life is. Because most of the time it’s pretty good. I have been really blessed to live in some pretty amazing places both stateside and abroad in the 20 years I’ve been married to a military service member. I have met some incredible people who have made this crazy journey worthwhile. I have had some fantastic opportunities and my children are already more worldly than people three times their age. In truth, I can’t complain about anything. I just want to inject a bit of reality into whatever vision you have of our life.

Before we moved abroad, I had a vastly different idea of what living overseas would be like. I imagined that I would be traveling to a new exotic and exciting location every weekend. I thought the travels would never end. It wasn’t long before I realized that reality was going to be just a bit different.

The truth of the  matter is, much like any other family in the world, our days and weeks are filled with the mundane and ordinary tasks of living. Far from the exotic, most weekends are spent catching up on laundry or recovering from the week. In fact, most of my weeks and weekends are spent a lot like yours, except for the past 8 years, I’ve spent mine in countries and languages that are not my own.

I find that to be the true challenge of expat life. Finding a way to feel at home enough in your new environment that your everyday life ceases to add to the stress and becomes a source of pleasure.

Sometimes that can be the challenge, especially when you aren’t fluent enough in the new language to handle life the way you are used to.

Take this scenario for example – you need a haircut. Simple enough in your home country. You call your favorite stylist and schedule an appointment. Now imagine that you’ve just moved to a new country and don’t speak much of the language. You certainly don’t understand enough to make the appointment over the phone. What do you do? You either give up haircuts until you figure out your new language, or you grab a phrasebook and head to a salon and try to schedule an appointment. This has happened to me. Not a terrible situation by any means, but it adds a level of complexity to your day.

Think about all of the things you take care of over the phone in any given day, and now imagine that you can’t do that. Because rely too heavily on the nonverbal cues in a conversation, you can’t communicate over the phone.

Now take this scenario: You have a sick child and have to make an appointment, take them to the doctor, pick up medicine from the pharmacy, all in a language you don’t completely understand. Imagine you need to administer medicines and you can’t figure out the dosages. Imagine you try to check in for a doctor’s appointment and nearly admit your child for  two weeks. Again, these things have happened to me. When your kids aren’t feeling well, you’re already stressed. When you have to try to navigate a foreign hospital, a foreign healthcare system, a different approach to medicine, it’s hard to keep an open mind.

Imagine that you have a spouse that travels for their job. Occasionally, that travel is dangerous. Now imagine that you are alone trying to navigate everyday life in a new country. It’s happened to me.

Of course, there are many less serious examples as well. Like the  time I bought what I thought were marinated steak strips on a skewer that ended up being slabs of fat on a stick. Or the time I thought the sample attached to my soap was shampoo, until I used it and realized it was lotion. Or the time I thought the conditioner was shampoo. Or the time I thought it was a holiday and kept my kid home from school until the school called looking for him. Or the time I was invited to a costume party and wore formal clothes because when I was invited they said to “dress up”. Or the days I’d show up at the school and wonder why no one was there – because it was a holiday I’d never heard of. There is no end to the list of misunderstandings I’ve had over the years. Most of them are laughable, and even in the most serious of incidents, I’ve found that most people are willing to help you out.

Yes, there are plenty of glamorous aspects to living abroad. Opportunity to travel is probably top on the list, and the best part is having the time to take in the places that only the locals really know about. My favorite part about living abroad is really getting to experience a different culture. This can also be the part that causes you the most stress.

There are the everyday things that are different, like grocery shopping or banking or paying bills, or trying to figure out the recycling or the school holiday schedules. Everything is just different enough to make life an adventure everyday.

Most of my days are spent making sure everyone is where they need to be when they need to be. Just like you. Most of my “free” time is spent making sure we have clean clothes, a clean house and meals to eat. Just like you.

Why not just let people think that my life is all glamour and travel to beautiful places? Because life abroad is first and foremost just that. Life. Like anyone else, we have our ups and downs. We have exciting weekends and boring ones. We are living – just like you. We’re just doing it in a different language.

If there is one lesson that I have learned living abroad for the past 8 years abroad (and 12 years stateside) it’s this: starting life over in any new place is difficult. Trying to figure out how to live everyday in a foreign language and a foreign culture is even harder.

If you have never been the only person in a room that isn’t speaking a language, you’ll never completely understand how difficult it can be. If you’ve never been somewhere and not been able to explain to yourself exactly why it is that everyone is doing something that seems completely foreign to you, you’ll never understand how unnerving that can be. If you don’t expose yourself to the differences in the world, you’ll never learn to appreciate them. If you don’t allow yourself to be the outsider, you’ll never truly empathize with those who are.


Lately I’ve just felt exhausted. Weary. Tired to the very recesses of my soul.

My load has been full since we’ve moved, and we’re all still trying to adjust to new schedules, new places, new languages, new cultures, new people.

It’s the kind of soul weariness where all you want is some time with your dearest friends, a comfy outfit and a warm beverage. But it’s a new place with new friends, our tried and true friends are scattered across the globe.

So we do what we can. We make new friends and try not to compare them to the people who’ve filled our communities in the places we’ve been. We spend time with new friends. We make time to write, Skype, FaceTime, message, and maintain relationships with old friends

It’s times like these when nostalgia becomes a double edged sword. When you look back and become lost in memories and forget to continue the forward progression of adapting to a new place.

Each of us is adjusting in their own way, sometimes gracefully, sometimes fighting it every step of the way.

For me, this is the most difficult and painful part of any move. After the nonstop action of the actual move, after the initial newness wears off, when real life takes over and you enter the cycle of adapting to a new culture.

Most everyone is familiar with the term culture shock. Most sources will tell you there are four stages, the honeymoon, frustration, adjustment, and accepting. You’ll find them referred to by different names, and some sources include more stages, but they are generally similar. You won’t necessarily reach them in order, and not everyone spends the same amount of time in each. Being familiar with what to expect is important – especially when you find yourself breaking into tears for something insignificant. The stress of a new culture can be tough.

The first stage of culture shock is the honeymoon stage. This is the time when you find yourself enamored with everything in your new hometown. This is the stage you experience during a vacation or trip, when everything is an adventure and you aren’t there long enough to move into the next stage of culture shock.

The second stage of culture shock is the frustration stage. I think it depends on the individual as to how long each stage takes, and it is possible to vacillate continually through them. Three months in, and this is the stage where I currently find myself. For me, this is the time when you are trying to live your everyday life, and you just can’t do it alone. It is the loss of independence, the loss of being able to navigate things, from the grocery store to doctors appointments without intervention from someone. This is the time when you are still building a community and still yearning to spend time with the friends you’ve left behind. This is the most difficult part of a move.

So how do you move past the frustration stage? Recognize that you are going through a stage. Most likely a stage that everyone will experience sooner or later.

It’s important to get out. Grab a coffee with new friends. Engage with your neighbors. Try to learn the new language, the new customs, the new celebrations. Find something to get involved in. The new friends you make will become the ones you miss when you leave, and it’s more fun to navigate new experiences with someone than alone.

Talk to someone. Watch for signs of depression in yourself and those around you. This is a difficult stage to navigate. Exercise, get out of your house, explore. Take time to care for yourself. Ask for help.

The frustration stage is the most difficult part of adjusting to a new place. What makes it more difficult is that you aren’t the only one. Every member of your family is going through the same process in a different way, and it’s difficult to be there to support someone else when you are wearing thin yourself.

At our home, my husband is in a new job, I am navigating daily life in a new culture, my oldest is adjusting to middle school on top of a move, and my youngest chose to participate in a French immersion class. Everyone is feeling some degree of stress. Each of it deals with it differently, and some days are just hard for all of us.

I think it’s necessary to actively work towards the final two stages, the adjustment stage and the acceptance stage. It is also possible to slip back and forth between the stages at various times.

Having been through this before, I know what I need to do – and not do to succeed. For me, a big part of a successful transition is not comparing where you are to where you’ve been. Its also important to maintain a sense of humor about what you’re experiencing, it feels better than being frustrated all the time. It’s so important to learn at least some of the language you are living in. You will never understand a culture completely if you can’t speak the language. If you don’t try to adapt at least a little, you will perpetually feel like an outsider.

During the third stage, you’ve established your new routines, begun to create your new community, maybe you understand a little more of the language and culture than you did. This is where you begin to feel at ease. Where you start to gain back some of the independence you lost at the start of your journey. I think I’m currently on the cusp of this stage, my French is improving, I’m beginning to navigate the different systems, I feel a little more confident and comfortable in my new surroundings.

The final stage is acceptance. At this stage, you can see the benefits and negative aspects of both your New culture and your home culture more readily. It is the time when you can easily adapt to most anything thrown at you and daily life becomes just that once more.

Going through the stages of culture shock is not limited to overseas moves. You can experience it in a move within a country as well. I’ve moved from New York to Georgia to North Carolina to Colorado to Florida to Kansas. Each of those places had their own unique culture, but it was contained within a larger shared culture. When we moved from Baden Württemberg to Bayern in Germany, I wasn’t anticipating as much of a culture shock as I found. When we moved to Rome, I expected culture shock, but I didn’t expect to remain in the frustration stage as long as I did. Moving to Belgium I knew that we’d be riding the roller coaster of culture shock once more. It will take some time, but we’ll move through this phase eventually.

One of my favorite books dealing with culture shock is “The Art of Crossing Cultures” by Craig Storti. I think this book should be required reading for anyone moving to a new culture. I studied communication theory, and I found that this book makes those concepts easily accessible to a non-academic reader.

How do you navigate culture shock?

This week, I started a French class. For anyone keeping track this is my fifth language other than English. Sounds impressive, right? English, Spanish, Russian, German, and now French – I’m like a one person United Nations!

It would be impressive, if I could actually speak any of them, but right now I feel like I have a mental logjam of languages somewhere deep in the recesses of my brain. Words leak through, but I have little actual control over which language comes out.

I studied Spanish from junior high through my first semester of college. The method of learning was very traditional – lots of memorization – vocabulary, verb conjugations, dialogues – but very little conversation.

I started studying Russian in college. I loved the language, but the first course I took ended up being heavy on culture and light on language, making the following course more than I could understand. I picked it up again in grad school, and finished with an ability to read, speak and understand Russian – and nothing to do with it, so it began to fade.

I learned German through living it. My vocabulary progressed in a haphazard manner, as I learned the words I needed to survive. I started with groceries and doctor visits. I learned how difficult it is not to be able to do the everyday tasks you take for granted – making appointments over the phone, ordering meat from the deli or vegetables from the farmers market. How overwhelming it was to not understand what was going on around you.

I began taking lessons, and found that German speakers were generally helpful and patient with people trying to tackle the language.

Then I started learning Italian. I began an Italian course at the local Volkshochschule (the German adult learning center). Attempting to learn a new language in a language that was not my mother tongue was challenging to say the least, I’m not sure how much Italian I picked up, but it did help my German.

After I finished with that course, I participated in an online course. I found the online course difficult, because I was taking the course with people of varying abilities, the course moved around a lot. I also discovered that I had a lot of difficulty hearing the subtle variations in spoken Italian.

When we finally moved to Italy, I worked with a tutor for the first year, but I was not making the gains I made in Germany. I can attribute this to a couple of things. The first, and most important was that most of the people I interacted with on any given day were native English speakers, or fluent English speakers. I was not driven by the same necessity that I had to learn German. For me, that made a difference. I got too busy living my life – conducted mainly in English to devote much time to improving my Italian.

The second thing that inhibited my Italian was that most of the time, when I spoke Italian people answered me in English.

When I found out we were moving to another country, where they spoke yet another language, I half-heartedly began studying on my own. But, trying to get by with my substandard Italian while teaching myself French was not a winning strategy.

We arrived in Belgium, armed with a single phrase book. Because in the chaos of school ending and moving, I hadn’t thought far enough ahead to order anything else. In Germany and Italy, at least initially we had relied on my husband’s mastery of the languages to get by. Because he had studied both of those languages it worked until I could figure things out. This time we were flying blind. As a participant of an after school French Club, our nine year-old was our best translator. Someone needed to learn some French – fast.

I’ve just finished my first week of an intensive course. I prefer to learn in this manner, structured and quickly – it works for me. Not since I learned Spanish and Russian have I learned in a truly structured manner. Now, between the other languages I’ve studied and spoken along the way, I’m seeing that I can pick up on grammatical structures more quickly than in the past.

The most difficult part of French for me so far is getting the pronunciation down. I see words, and want to read them exactly as they are written. Not so fast says the French language, because these letters are pronounced differently than they are written, and these letters are never acknowledged at all. These other letters sound like this, except when they don’t, and these letters are always pronounced, except when they aren’t. And my head is spinning.

So here are my two cents on learning languages:

1. Start as early as you possibly can. While it’s never too late to learn a new language, it’s also never too early.

2. US schools begin language classes too late. I started learning languages in seventh grade – way too late for an introduction to Spanish. My husband’s family included Italian native speakers, and my children began speaking German at ages 2 & 3. Guess which one of us struggles the most – yeah, that would be me.

And my two cents on French so far :

1. How is it possible for one language to pronounce so many letter combinations the exact same way?

2. Those exact same pronunciations make French verb conjugations a little easier to remember.

And on people who speak another language:

1. Be kind to people speaking your native language with a foreign accent. It isn’t easy living in your second (or third, or fourth….) language.

2. Don’t assume that because someone has a strong accent that they can’t speak your native language. If I speak to you in a language that obviously isn’t my first, don’t automatically answer me in my native language. Respect the fact that I’m trying, and ask if I’d prefer to switch languages.

My tips for learning languages?

1. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You are going to make mistakes. You are going to say the wrong thing. Sometimes you’re really going to say the wrong thing. Say it anyway. Keep trying. Eventually you will understand one thing someone says, and that’s a good thing. Keep practicing and each day you will understand more.

2. Surround yourself with native speakers as often as you can. Immersion is the best way to learn a language.

3. Take as much formal training as you can. I’ve heard stories of people teaching themselves language by going to the cinema or watching I Love Lucy, but this type of passive learning has never worked for me. I require feedback and a schedule to learn from. That being said:

4. Augment your formal training. Listen to the radio, watch television, read books – whatever will familiarize you with the cadence and speech patterns of your target language.

This week, after one week in French, I understood something on the radio, read and understood most of a children’s picture book, gave someone my phone number and spelled my name for them in French – correctly. Did I do any of them perfectly – no, of course not. But I tried. And that is the secret to learning any language.

Be fearless. Keep trying. Have fun!

Almost exactly three years to the day after we arrived, we left Rome. It was late in the afternoon when we began retracing our route to the North. Three years ago, we’d come from Germany to Bolzano to Montepulciano before arriving in the overwhelming city of Rome. This time we were heading to the west. After three years, we were making another move. Most likely our final move in Europe, and the final move to a new duty station. It was the end and the beginning of so many different things.
As we headed out, I began to realize that the further we drove from the city, the lighter the knot of stress I’d been carrying became. I could feel myself letting go, slowly. The further North we drove, the cleaner the roadsides became, the smoother the roads became, the more beautiful the day became.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed my time in Rome. I agree with everyone who told me how lucky I was to call the Eternal City home. It is a glorious place to visit, but I found it a very difficult place to live. I am glad that we had the opportunity, but I am relieved that our time there is finished.
Our destination on day one was Parma. I wasn’t expecting much, and I wasn’t expecting it to be easy to get to. I was wrong on both counts. Once we arrived in Parma, we found our hotel without a problem, and it was a wonderful place to stay. During our drive that afternoon, I told my family that I wasn’t sure I’d be too anxious to return to Italy, but I found myself enticed by Parma.
You see, Parma, located in the Emilia Romagna Region, was designated by UNESCO as a Creative UNESCO City for Gastronomy. A whole city devoted to food? What’s not to love about that? Many people will speak to you about the unparalleled food found in Italy. I found Italian food no better, and no worse than food in other countries. What I found was that, in Rome at least, you had to really know where to go. If you didn’t, it’s the city of a thousand restaurants with only one menu. Parma, it seemed, was different.


Our lovely Hotel in Parma – Villa Ducale. A beautiful building with fantastic food!

We didn’t visit the city, but even the hotel restaurant took its food seriously. We had dinner and breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Everything we tried was delicious – better than some stand alone restaurants I’ve eaten at.
Around lunch on the second day, we reached the Swiss border. The borders with Switzerland are usually the only ones in Europe where anyone actually works at the border. This guarded border was a concrete symbol of our departure from Italy. Soon we were breathing in the fresh Swiss mountain air, waiting in the line to cross the tunnel through the Alps to our final destination for the day – Basel.

Arrivederci Italia

One last shot in Italia

I adore everything about Switzerland, except the prices. It is usually one of the most expensive places we travel through, making it the reason we don’t stay there often.
We arrived at Basel and settled into our hotel, which was fantastic, but everything from parking to breakfast was an additional fee. The city looked like a great place to explore, but everyone was tired from the trip, so we opted to meander along the river path, enjoying the sunset, the orderly Swiss pathways, and the cool evening air.

Basel Switzerland

Trails lined the waterway in Basel, right across from our hotel –

The penultimate day of our journey brought us to Bastogne. It was a shorter drive, so we arrived with plenty of time to get settled and explore the city. The hotel in Bastogne was a bit rustic in comparison to the places we had stayed, but it was clean and the staff was friendly.
After checking into our room, we took a walk around the city. The city center is absolutely charming.


A collection of animal statues was on display in the Bastogne town square.


Delicious pastry shops tempted us along our walk.

Rainbow of umbrellas

Another street art project in Bastogne

One of the first things you notice, aside from the lovely Belgian buildings, is WWII is everywhere. From the Nuts Café to the 70th Anniversary Commemoration signs adorning the Town Hall to the tank in the town square. It was a visible difference from the ways that wars of the past are honored and remembered in other European countries.


A tank was just one of the WWII remembrances in Bastogne

Recalling the sacrifice


And a collection of war themed beer – of course.

After touring the city and grabbing a bite, we decided to follow the area map to the trails that skirt the town.
Our walk took us past the bus station and introduced us to the trail system in Belgium. We followed the trail about a mile out of town – right through the center of a donkey farm. It was precisely the ending we needed. A bucolic walk through the Belgian countryside to wash away the last remnants of stress accumulated during our three years in Rome.
In the morning, and during the weeks to come, we would all experience the stress of relocating, but in that moment, life was good.

Donkeystub troughRavel Trail in BastogneTub Trough

Edge of the City

Just on the edge of Bastogne, the beautiful farmland begins.

“For us to go to Italy and to penetrate into Italy is like a most fascinating act of self-discovery.” – D.H. Lawrence (writer)

In June, we packed up our life once again, this time setting in Belgium. After three years living in the mayhem of Rome, it is a welcome change. Unlike Shelley, Keats, Goethe, Byron, James, Twain, Anderson, Gogol and many others who found their literary muse in Rome over the centuries, I found Rome overwhelming.

Everyday life was more complex than it had been elsewhere. I was constantly frustrated, angered, and awed, but I rarely found myself inspired to write about the culture I was immersed in.

I found that unlike Germany, where I could see the reasons behind what was going on, I could rarely find the logic for things in Rome. Perhaps now that I am not trying to live there, I can gain a little perspective on the experiences I had.

I feel fortunate to have called the Eternal City home for a little while, and I look forward to getting to know Belgium. Check back for our more of our adventures from Wallonia!

Friday Fotos: Wanderlust

April 28, 2017

April brings with it quite a few long weekends in Italy. We took advantage of one of those and headed south to visit the Sassi di Matera in Basilicata. It was an amazing four days, which I will share in detail eventually. I’ll leave you with just a taste today – maybe just enough to satisfy a bit of wanderlust.

You can see what has inspired others wanderlust at the Daily Post