“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”
I firmly believe in travel. Travel recharges me. It opens me to new experiences, challenges me, provides an opportunity to not just observe different cultures, but participate in them. I was raised to travel, with whole heart and no fear, and have embraced that mentality all my life. I started traveling to Europe when I was young. My grandmother, who I called Baba (Polish for grandmother, if you’re curious) cultivated the joy of adventure within me and brought me with her on hers. I was in Paris as a 9 year old, participating in a Pilgrimage, touring about in a bus full of old Catholic ladies who wanted to see some of Western Europe’s holiest sites.
As a young adult, travel beyond a few Caribbean islands and the annual vacations to the Jersey shore (hey, Wildwood) were all we could afford. But right before I graduated college, a good friend of mine moved to Utrecht in the Netherlands and I very much wanted to visit her but didn’t have the funds. A feisty woman named Ilsa, who believed travel was an opportunity never to be missed, was working for a doctor’s office where I was also working for the summer, and she offered to pay my way. I could hardly refuse! And so it began.
In the years that followed I saw Holland on multiple visits, often times annually, starting with my friend’s home country of Holland as a jumping off point. Together we would travel far and wide by car beyond the borders. With her, I visited some of the most memorable, most historic cities in Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium. And without her I experienced some of the most isolating but also most authentic moments. In the early part of the new millennium, many people were still not fluent in English, or didn’t want to be, and I learned to point and smile, say “hello” “goodbye”, thank you” and “excuse me” in the local language, and took my camera everywhere with me. But I craved more, and so I began to go farther afield alone. I took a photo excursion to Ireland for 10 days and tacked on a trip to England, Scotland and back to Holland. I booked photo sessions for paid clients associated with the Air Force and living in Germany and went back there twice for work and play. I agreed to teach at a Photography Conference in Prague, and went with my then-spouse to Austria, Germany and Luxembourg on that trip. I took a cruise with family to Greece, Spain, Italy, Sicily and Croatia. In later years I spent 10 days in Sicily and spent most of that time driving from the top to the bottom along the Western edge of the island. I taught portrait photography in Bali. I went to China and Japan. And now, as I continue to prioritize travel as the thing I want to spend my time, energy, and extra money on : ) I find myself going to new places, re-familiarizing myself with old, and building bucket lists that will take me far into the future.
So please share my latest adventure – a 12 day trip in the Spring to Gent, Paris, Heidelburg, Luxembourg City, Trier, Beaune, Dijon, Strasbourg, and Etoges.
Let us begin in Gent, which was by far my favorite city on the trip. It was lovely, and old, and charming. The hotel was divine (Hotel Hancelot http://www.hancelot.be/), with great sweeping floor to ceiling windows letting in the light and sound, a huge bed with a down comforter and feather pillows, and the most scrumptious, truly European breakfast – the first bite of the first fresh-baked, warm from the oven roll, lightly dusted with flour, transported me to food heaven. Every turn brought new discoveries, the rain came and went but didn’t dampen the enthusiasm, and every meal was worth repeating. Oh, Gent. I would visit you again and again!
For more on Belgium head over to Lonely Planet and research their guide books! I still love buying or downloading guide books because I feel like they have sooooo many options in just one place!