Comparing Bruges and Ghent half a century ago, a friend recently told us that he liked the latter better because it felt like a real city where ordinary people lived. Bruges, on the other hand, struck him as a tourist city that existed solely for the enjoyment of foreigners. We’re sure that a similar charge could be leveled against Bruges now. As visitors to this magnificently beautiful city, however, we could not help but be completely taken in by its many enchantments.
We had a fantastic 48 hours in Amsterdam – the first stop on our whirlwind European tour – despite doing very little actual sightseeing. The primary goal for our jaunt through the Low Countries was to catch up with friends and eat and drink well, and we accomplished both aims in spades during our brief stay.
Admittedly, we did not do nearly as good a job facilitating Munchkin’s photography during our recent trip to Europe as we had the first time it had occurred to us to put a camera in his hand. During our travels in South Africa the camera had proved a good motivational tool that got Munchkin through some difficult hikes. This time around, Munchkin did not need the extra encouragement, so we mostly forgot to bring it along on our excursions.
With the end of our third overseas Foreign Service tour rapidly approaching, we took one last trip before the final push to tie up loose ends at work, pack up the house, and bid adieu to Rwanda for the foreseeable future. Rather than staying on the continent, however, we went to Europe, spending two weeks in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg with a large contingent of friends from various epochs of our lives.
Dropping more than half-a-mile in five distinct free-leaping cascades, Tugela Falls (948 meters) is Africa’s tallest waterfall, and second in the world only to Venezuela’s Angel Falls. After hiking through Royal-Natal to get a glimpse of Tugela from below, D ascended to the top of the Amphitheatre on his last day in the Drakensberg to stand at the waterfall’s edge.
“For a better marriage, act like a single person,” wrote Stephanie Coontz in a recent pre-Valentine’s Day op-ed in the NY Times. She went on to cite several interesting studies measuring couples’ happiness, which seemed to point to a measurable – and positive – difference in the happiness levels of couples that maintained their pre-marriage hobbies compared to those who devoted themselves exclusively to family. Intuitively, this makes sense. We love our kids, but they can also be too much, and if we didn’t have outlets – yoga, poker, Ultimate Frisbee – we’d drive ourselves nuts.
“There’s not much to do in Lesotho,” a South African friend told D, “except to look at it.” This struck D as reason enough to plan a brief visit to this, the highest country in the world. Having already decided to spend several days in the Drakensberg Mountains – Lesotho’s spiritual homeland, according to another South African acquaintance – it seemed silly not to make at least a day trip to Lesotho. Getting there, however, proved a bit of a challenge.