We were very excited to finally arrive at my sister’s home in Luxembourg. They have lived there for 7 years and while we kept planning to visit it just hadn’t happened! We looked forward to spending some time with them, getting to see their school, and also using Luxembourg as our “home base” while we were in Europe. It was so nice to unpack our bags and just “hang out” for a little while. We also rented a car – so we felt incredibly spoiled! This was definitely easier travel than what we’d had in previous locations.
Grandma finally (after much convincing) even decided to stay with us for a couple weeks! While she was there we managed a few day trips:
Saarburg, Germany. Saarburg is a cute city in Germany, on the banks of the Saar River. There is a cable car that takes you up the mountain, where you can do a nice hike and you can also go for a short luge ride.
Moselle River: France, Germany, Luxembourg. We took a nice leisurely bike ride (despite the rain) from Remich to Schengen, Luxembourg. The cool thing about this ride is that you can actually pass through three countries all in one day!
Another fun day trip was to the Caves of Han-sur-Less, in Belgium. It takes just over an hour to go through the caves (you must go with a guide) and there is a sound/light show at the end. We also enjoyed the 4D theatre that came with our tickets and told you more about the story of the caves.
We all went together to the Belgian Coast one weekend. While my sister was rather disappointed that it wasn’t sundress and sandal weather while we were there,but we all enjoyed it none-the-less!
While near the coast we spent a day in Brugge. We went on one of the free city tours, which was excellent and tasted the true Belgian waffles (yum!). We also spent an afternoon at a wonderful swimming complex so the kids good burn off some energy!
We spent an afternoon visiting The Essex Cemetery and the Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres, Belgium. This museum does an incredible job of presenting the consequences of war. Visitors are invited to reflect on both the major historical events and the personal stories of individuals, and how the First World War affected the lives of the thousands of people of many different nationalities who were involved in it.
It was very moving to sit in the cemetery and look out onto the many tombstones. Having read John McCrae’s poem many times in school I felt honoured to be able to see where he had worked and where he had written his famous poem.
After Grandma left, Clay and the boys and I took off for a few days to Switzerland. We spent a few nights just outside of Montreux (in Bouveret) and visited Chillon Castle, as well as the local Aquaparc.
We also drove out to La Maison du Gruyere and Maison Cailler, where we learned all about how Gruyere cheese and chocolate are made. (see Caleb’s blog about our chocolate tour which follows).
While in Switzerland we were also able to visit Zermatt, which is known for its year-round skiing. While it comes with quite the price tag, we managed to splurge for one day of skiing on the Matterhorn glacier. (see Connor’s skiing blog) Amazing!
There is also a nice little museum in Zermatt (the Matterhorn museum) that tells you the story about some of the people who have tried to climb the Matterhorn. It was well worth the visit.
On yet another weekend, the Harris family joined us on a trip to Munich, Germany. We stayed at an amazing house out in the countryside and visited the Neuschwanstein Castle. Also known as the Fairy Tale castle Neuschwanstein’s positioning is also like something out of a fairytale one. It is located in the Alps in Bavaria, Germany, on the top of a hill. It was a nice hike up the mountain to the castle.
From Neuschwanstein it was a quick jaunt to Reutte, Austria where we took a “stroll” across the world’s longest suspension bridge. Not for those with a fear of heights! Because it is so long it actually has a fair bit of movement to it, as you walk across. I was happy to get to the other side!
One of our main reasons to head to Munich, was actually to visit Dachau, which is about ½ hour outside of Munich. This is where you will find The Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. We spent a day at the Memorial site and it had a profound impact. We went on a 3 hour guided tour of the site. Our guide did an excellent job of addressing 3 main questions that visitors have: How could this have happened? What was going on that allowed this to happen at the time? What was life like for the people at Dachau? While many of the signs suggested that visitors be at least 12 years of age, I felt that we had prepared the boys well and they were both ready to see the site. Some of the images were disturbing but the whole concept of the Holocaust is disturbing and I think that as they said many times at Dachau, we need to keep the memories alive of those who suffered torture and were killed so we can learning from history and Never let it happen again. We had some very good conversations after this visit.
Our final stop on this visit to Germany was the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart.
Clay and the boys and I also traveled to Normandy, France where we spent time at Juno Beach, (see Clay’s blog about Juno Beach which follows)
and saw the Bayeaux Tapestry.