In April, we had the great privilege of taking an extended trip with John’s parents, who somehow agreed to spend 8 hours on a plane in order to spend 2 weeks in the car with us. We are incredibly grateful that they were able to take the time, and so glad to have had the opportunity to experience so many new things together. The quickest version is this: it was a pretty epic trip. As in, deserving of multiple installments, which I hope to write on the sooner side while the details are still fresh in my mind and I’m not yet busy with a newborn!
The first full day of their visit, Friday, was a rest day. We mostly hung out at home, enjoyed a leisurely brunch, took walks, and visited Ramstein Air Base for a little tour and to see John’s plane. Then we packed up the car for the first leg of our trip and hit the road first thing the next morning.
Our first stop was The American Military Cemetery in Margraten. John and I have been to a few American military cemeteries in Europe, but it was especially moving to see it with fresh eyes through Mom and Dad’s first experience. As you enter the memorial, you first pass through a courtyard with the names of 1, 722 missing servicemen. It’s an overwhelming number of names, which makes walking up the steps into the main cemetery even more staggering. 8,301 more lie buried here. Each has a story- a family, parents, a hometown. There are 36 American military cemeteries throughout Europe, honoring thousands more who sacrificed everything for freedom.
Our next stop was Moordrecht, the birthplace of John’s great grandfather. We spent a few hours with two historical society guides, who were so generous with their time and genuinely thrilled to have Americans visit their little town. Our guides have continued to research the genealogy of the Bier family since our visit, and it’s been fascinating to follow along.
That night, we settled into our cozy airbnb, put Daniel to bed, and enjoyed a dinner that I’d prepared in advance. John, Mom and I took an evening walk along the dike before falling into bed.
On Sunday morning, our host brought us a generous breakfast spread, which we enjoyed before biking over to Zaanse Schans, an (albeit touristy) little community full of wooden windmills, barns, old Dutch houses, a cheese factory, a wooden clog shop and museums. We saw newborn lambs and ducklings, sampled a ridiculous amount of cheese, watched a wooden clog demonstration, and ducked in to one of the windmills to learn about how a traditional sawmill operates while waiting out a brief shower.
After lunch and naps all around, we went to Keukenhof- the Garden of Europe. One of Daniel’s most favorite things at present is smelling flowers. Allllll the flowers. So naturally, a park with millions of daffodils and hyacinths and tulips and a gazillion others I can’t even name could keep him busy for a very, very long time. Thank goodness for the stroller and Grandpop’s shoulders!
It’s hard to capture the beauty in a photograph- or hundreds, as is tempting to take in a place like this. We have an amazing God, and I’m so glad He made us with the ability to create, cultivate and appreciate this kind of beauty.
While Keukenhof is certainly impressive, one of our most favorite parts of Holland this time of year are the vast fields of blooms- carpets of brilliant color. We were there probably a week before the peak of the season, but we can hardly complain! Many times over the course of this weekend, Mom would exclaim something like, “I’m in Holland!” “I’m on a dike!” “I’m riding a bike in Holland!” “I’m walking in a field of tulips….in HOLLAND!”
We capped this day with a delicious dinner, compliments of a generous gift from friends at our home church so that we could enjoy something extra special together.
Before our drive back on Monday, we took a little detour to visit the North Sea, which I imagine is quite lovely (and busy!) in the summer, and wandered around quaint, historic Haarlem admiring the architecture and canals and croissants. It’s a charming little country, The Netherlands. We’ve never been to Amsterdam or Rotterdam or The Hague, but the slower, quieter countryside of farmland and birds and sheep and biking–it’s worth a visit.