Almost Christmas….and home !

That’s right! We are in the final days now!


By the time this posts, it will officially be 9 days until Whitney and I are heading home. Crazy right?! It’s hard to believe it has already been 18 months since we moved (and 18 months since we have been home!). Details of our upcoming trip would fill a post itself so I’ll just quickly highlight it at the end.  First, I’ll cover what we’ve been up to lately:

Thanksgiving! – only a bit delayed

This will be the case for us the entire time we live outside of the United States and, more specifically, while we live in Groningen.  Not only do we have to work on Thanksgiving (go figure, other countries don’t want to celebrate U.S. holidays), but I also have to attend a conference that takes place yearly during the last week of November.  This means that, without fail, for the next 2 years (not counting the 2 previous) I have to be away on Thanksgiving.  So, we just adjusted a bit and had Thanksgiving the following Saturday.  Luckily, we were able to find a turkey (not so easy to do) and somehow managed to get the thing cooked.  See, the problem was that we have only a small, counter-top oven and ended up with a 6.1 kg (~13 lbs) turkey.  That same 6.1 kg (~13 lbs) turkey also did not fit into our slow cooker.  However, after a bit of limb removal, it eventually fit and cooked to perfection! It may have been a few days late but Thanksgiving was a success!

Kerststad (Christmas city)

Last year we went into Germany for a Christmas Market and loved it! So we figured we would keep the tradition alive and visit a Dutch market in the south of the Netherlands.  Valkenburg is about as far south in the Netherlands as you can get (more on this in a minute) and during the holidays is aptly known as Kerststad or Christmas city.  The city has multiple markets, some of which are in caves, lots of decorations, and a Christmas parade.  In summary, Whitney read about this market last year and I haven’t heard the end of it since.  So off to Kerststad we go!

Without going into too much detail, I’ll just say that we found Kerststad to be underwhelming.  The city itself was beautiful and it was great to see some elevation change (the south of the Netherlands is so different from the north). However, the markets left a lot to be desired.  Not only did we have to wait in line and pay entry, but once getting inside we found nothing of interest.  In fact, most of the things in the market could be found at any big box store around the world (been to Wal-mart during Christmas time? You know what I mean then…). On top of that, the environment was just not, as Whitney put it, “jolly”. Food choices we extremely limited, there was no Christmas music playing, and there were way too many people crammed into tight spaces.  You would think that by saying this I would be inferring that I was disappointed in our trip but that’s not actually the case.  Which brings me to the next item…

Drielandenpunt (The three borders)

As I mentioned earlier, Valkenburg is about as far south as you can go in the Netherlands.  Because of this, we were close to the borders of Belgium and Germany, which also happens to be the highest point in the Netherlands.  Being that we got back early from the markets the night before, we decided Sunday morning would be an ideal time to visit the drielandenpunt. All in all, it was cool – definitely a place we would love to visit again in the summer.

Düsseldorf Christmas market

Since we were so close to the border and we had such a good experience with the German Christmas market last year, we figured it was worth a shot again this year.  We hadn’t planned to spend Sunday driving into Germany (this was supposed to be a quick trip) but the Kerststad experience left was wanting more. So, a quick 1.5 hour drive from the highest point in the Netherlands and we were in Düsseldorf, Germany. From the very beginning, we were impressed.  First off, what little we were able to see of the city was great. It’s definitely a place we want to visit again. As for the Christmas markets, they were just what we were looking for.  Lots of handmade, quality items, Christmas music everywhere, any food option you can think of (and many you can’t!), and gluhwein at every turn (which probably contributes to the jolly atmosphere).  We also never waited in line and paid only to park our car.  If you ask me, German Christmas markets are the way to go.  We will definitely be going back next year.

It’s comically hard to take a picture without people taking center stage…


I’m going to need everyone to click here before proceeding. Just let in play in the background…

So that’s it! We are officially out of stories/pictures/experiences. All that is left is for us to work a few more days then we are on our way! We will officially be in the United States December 20 – January 17.  However, our exact location in the U.S. is a bit complicated. We have a packed schedule and will be in numerous different states and often not together.  However, we still want to see as many of you as possible, if only for a quick bite to eat or cup of coffee. Have all your smiling faces ready because everyone we see will be featured in a January recap of the trip home!

I normally say “Until next time”, however I don’t feel that is appropriate this time.  So instead, I’ll end with:

America, we’re coming!




  1. I understand why German Christmas Markets are more appealing to!
    We, the Dutch have far less experience with Christmas Markets as the Germans and Americans for that matter. Only somewhere in the sixties St. Nicolas was pushed from the center of Dutch attention. The major influence of the media showing a lot of Christmas sentiments of the US and the UK was to much.
    The same is happening with For about 2 decades now commerce tries to to get it to stick here. I think the concept of Halloween fits in American culture an it shouldn’t be copied here.

    1. ‘For’ should be Halloween

    2. theshwits says:

      Ahh, that makes sense then. We actually like that The Netherlands is less commercial than home. It’s a nice change. And that’s not to say we didn’t enjoy our time in Valkenburg! It was just a different experience than we anticipated!

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