Guess who came to visit?
If you guessed Shane’s family, then you guessed Wright!
My almost in-laws and nephew (6 more weeks! – not that anyone is counting) made the trek from southwest Virginia to spend 10 days in Europe with Shane, Meatball and me.
Two planes and a train ride later put them here in Groningen for the first portion of the trip. This was their first time to Europe, and I think Groningen was the Wright place to start! They were able to relax a little, recover some from the jet lag, and see our stomping grounds!
On the last day in Groningen, we rented a car and hit the road! We drove about 45 min northeast to the village Pieterburen. Groningen, the province, is bordered by the Wadden Sea and the North Sea which are home to Harbor seals and Grey seals, respectively. Pieterburen is most known for it’s ‘Zeehondencentrum’ – translated ‘Sea dogs center’ – aka Seal Rescue Center!
Go ahead, mentally prepare for the cuteness….
Ohhh Emmmm Geeeee! Told you!
Meet Alice the Harbor seal. Darn adorable Wright? Unfortunately, she made it to the rescue center because she was trapped in a fishing net. She, and the other seals at the facility, are rehabed and then eventually released back into the wild. You can actually sign up to go on a ‘seal release’ expedition, and travel with the rescue center staff to the Wadden Sea (in this case) and watch/help with their release. I’m 100% sure we will take part in this sometime before we leave The Netherlands!
After 4 days in Groningen we packed up and headed for
The City of Light… Paris!
Heading to Paris I had three goals:
Priorities, am I Wright?
Goal #1 – Macaroons: Check!
So pretty, so delicious, so expensive!
Goal #2 – Crêpes: Double Check!
Goal #3 – Escargot: Fail
…but that’s OK because we ate dinner ON the Eiffel Tower!
I must give Marsha all the credit here, because she was the one who first told us about this. We spent our first night in Paris on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower, enjoying a beautiful sunset view and a delicious dinner. This is something that Shane and I would have seen, and talked ourselves out of doing had it been just the two of us so thank you Marsha for requesting it! It was definitley the Wright choice!
After dinner we spent some time enjoying the view. Because of dinner, we were too late to go to the summit. Maybe next time.
Oh, and this perfect (completely coincidental) picture happened.
The next day we headed to the Sacré-Cœur, or the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris. It’s located on the highest point in the city, and therefore you have quite a view from the front steps.
As one might imagine, to get to the highest point in the city you have to climb some steps. By the end of the day we had tallied 65 flights of stairs. There were reasons I needed so many crêpes…
And because we’re a glutton for punishment (OK, I was – Shane and Alex were just drug along for the ride) we hiked up some more steps and into the dome of the basilica! Worth the stairs in my opinion.
In keeping with the church theme, we made a pit stop by Notre Dame on the way back home (and no, we didn’t see the hunchback… unless you count the creatively dressed begger out font). And we ended the day at the Catacombs! These were REALLY cool! I think everyone thoroughly enjoyed this.
The catacombs started out as a limestone mine, but after extensive unregulated mining they ran into the problem of cave-ins. Long story short, in the 19th century the mines were reinforced and turned into an ossuary – aka: Bone house – for approximately 6 million Parisians. The femur bones and skulls were arranged throughout and turned into a public attraction for the privileged and eventually the public. It’s so crazy to walk these passageways and know you’re looking at ACTUAL HUMAN BONES!!! Super cool & I guess kind of creepy?
We started our last day in Paris with a lovely walking tour! (Be proud Aunt Ann!). This one was called ‘Paris Landmarks’. We started at the original Opera House and then worked our way through the Place Vendôme (where the Ritz, Chanel, and other way way fancy stores are), the Tuileries Gardens, and ended in The Place de la Concorde.
We added to our walking tour with a stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens after lunch.
And to wrap up our time in Paris, The Louvre!
One thing to note about the Louvre. We heard it was huge. No one anticipated just how HUGE this place is! I think the hardest part was finding the Wright entrance once you were inside, and then navigating to where you wanted to go. You literally needed the map. We heard stories of people getting lost in The Louvre, and I can absolutely see why! It took us about 20 min to find the exit once we decided we were ready to leave.
Attention spans and museum opening times only allowed for a few hours here, so we hit some highlights. The Mona Lisa (of course!), Nike, Napoleon III apartments, and the statue room (don’t know what it’s really called).
Last up, Amsterdam!
Shane and I were so curious for the fam to see Amsterdam and hear their impression. It’s just such a different city than Paris, and even Groningen. Compared to Groningen it’s much busier, more tourists, and a little dirtier (because of the tourists). Amsterdam’s size though can’t really compare to Paris, it’s definitely smaller, and I think it feels more friendly and welcoming. Perhaps that’s just the nature of the Dutch. Anyway, the first two days we hit some major spots.
Dam Square, The Royal Palace, Anne Frank House and THE letters. We even caught a canal cruise! Which was a fantastic decision! I know you can’t catch my oozing sarcasm in that statement but it was a total bust. The heat wave + no breeze + cheesy pre-recorded commentary made for a not so pleasant experience. I mean, Alex fell asleep.
Ya win some, ya lose some, Wright?
The final day we took a little side trip to Zaanse Schans which is about 30 minutes by bus from Amsterdam. It’s a small town that has kept the same 18-19th century feel, and they have 9 traditional windmills that are still functioning today!
So! I think that about sums up our trip! I think we picked all the Wright stuff to see for our mini-European vacation!
All in all, this really was a fantastic trip and we were happy to play hosts and tour-guide! I asked the Wrights, which of the three cities they saw was their favorite? To my surprise, it was Groningen! I think I can speak for Butch, Marsha and Alex when I say that they seemed to really enjoy the the ‘city-but-a-small-town’ feel that Groningen has, as well as the variety in the buildings – the old historic houses mixed in with the new.
Like we say after any visitors… who’s next?! The door is always open, and Meatball is waiting!
Oh, and sorry for the extra long post…