The Final Countdown!

It’s official!

In less than a month we’ll be making our way home for the holidays! To kick it off, this weekend was a weekend of celebrations! Shane turned 30, Sinterklaas arrived, and we took a little stroll through the Groningen countryside. So, the last part really isn’t a celebration but we did it, and it was cool.

First things first, Friday. Shane’s Birthday!


We kept it pretty low key, but we did go out for dinner & may or may not have eaten the entire cookie cake by the next morning.


We also took the long way home through the city. It’s that time of year when all the lights have gone up, and the city itself just feels so cozy despite the dark and cold. The Dutch word for this would be ‘gezellig’. Just that happy, warm, cozy feeling you can’t really describe, but you know it when you feel it. There was also a festival to celebrate and encourage new, city wide innovations. Part of this was a musical swing set in city center! I’m not entirely sure what the meaning behind the swings were, but they were fun to play on!

Saturday we* woke up bright and early like a kid on Sinterklaas morning! OH WAIT! It WAS Sinterklaas morning!

*we actually equals me.

Anyway, maybe you don’t know this about me, but I LOVE parades. Sinterklaas is a double whammy of awesome because it’s two parades in one! First, good ole Sint arrives from his long journey by boat from Spain. Then, he hops off and parades through town on his white horse until he meets up with the mayor to officially kick everything off. If you want a little recap on Sinterklass history I talked a little about it, here, last year.

I was particularly excited because Shane was in Switzerland last year during this time. This was his first Sinterklaas experience.

Naturally, it rained.

Did we bring an umbrella? …I’ll let you answer that.

We did manage to find a tree next to the canal which provided enough cover to not get 100% soaked. We also met up with Shane’s lab mate (the one with the giant dog!) who was also a Sinterklaas newbie.

I think the thing Shane was most impressed with was the size of Sinterklaas’ boat. Seriously, this thing was massive and it moved flawlessly (to us at least) through the canals.


Quick coffee break to dry off and warm up…


…and it’s time for part 2!


Sinterklaas’ helpers, the Zwarte Pieten, hand out fruit and pepernoten (small spice cookies) to the kids. They also collect the letters that have been written to Sinterklaas. There were some kids across the street from us are dressed up, letters in hand, screaming “Zwarte Pieeeeeeetttttt!!!”, waiting for someone to collect their letters.

Note to self: Next year, write a letter.

Sunday morning, it randomly snowed.


But then it cleared up, and we went on a little drive through the countryside with some friends. They took us to Fraeylemaborg, which is a castle in the village of Schlocteren.


They call it a castle. We called it more of a plantation style house. Although, it did have a mote which is a very castle like characteristic.

Regardless, the house itself dates back to the 1300’s, and the interior reflects the mid 20th century. We were pretty amazed at how similar this was to the old, colonial style houses you would see at home. I mean really, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it was a new perspective for us. The house was built on about 80 acres of land, and behind the house were walking trails through mud gardens.

Now if this doesn’t make you think Pride & Prejudice then I don’t know what will. I’m pretty sure Mr. Darcey will be walking up momentarily…


To all our friends and family at home, happy early Thanksgiving! We will be having a belated Friendsgiving on Saturday, so at least the holiday won’t be completely lost this year.

I’ll see you in a month, America!

Tot ziens,




  1. Rachel says:

    The view from the “castle” looks amazing! Love the update!

  2. Ann Abbas says:

    Hi Whitney! Loved the blog and the photos!

    Congratulations to Shane on his birthday! Jonathan was 40 last Fri (Nov 20). We are celebrating with our family and our other longstanding Thanksgiving family going to Napa for the weekend. R has made all the arrangements–found a large house, has a limo for Sat to go wine tasting, etc. All the dads have to do is pay!!

    Abul and I are in Munich and environs and Salzburg (visiting prof) Dec 3-14. Can’t wait! I love Europe at Christmas and plan to get to many Christmas markets! Know you are in a countdown until you leave for the US. Have a wonderful stay! David sent Rebecca and me your schedule. It’s masterful how you allocated the time! One piece of advice: don’t turn on the TV. It’s nothing but ridiculous politics. Such a relief to be out of the US and not read or see it at every turn. And the election is a year away!!

    Have a good Friendsgiving, Christmas, New Years and 30th Birthday!! Love, Ann

    On Mon, Nov 23, 2015 at 12:45 PM, – The Shwits – Crosson Europe the Wright

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