Sharene and Harrison’s 2021 Christmas Update
The year 2021 has been good to us, although we know it has been difficult for many, and the world is struggling through crises on multiple levels. But this time of year we want to focus on the positive aspects of our lives and show our appreciation for the friends we have been able to spend time with. We haven’t hosted any big parties or house concerts, but we have appreciated seeing friends in small groups and we had the good fortune to be able to travel some.
(Note: the photos have both a caption and a longer description. Depending on whether you are reading this on a computer, tablet, or smartphone, you may see all the captions immediately, or you might have to roll your mouse over a photo to see the caption and/or description. Clicking or tapping on any photo should bring up a full-size photo or a slide show with arrows to move between photos.)
We celebrated two personal milestones: our 30th wedding anniversary in July and the 35th anniversary of our first date this month. We often travel somewhere for those occasions, and although we haven’t owned a car since we left Hawaii in 2012, the easily available public transportation throughout Europe used to make such trips easy. But the pandemic has made spending hours on trains or planes look much less attractive and even risky, so this year we rented cars in Amsterdam and took two three-week road trips. We’re on the second one as we write this.
In July we headed for Switzerland with a brief stop on the way in Koblenz, one of the prettiest German cities on the Rhine. We saw our Swiss family and friends in and around Zürich for the first time in 1-1/2 years. We then spent a few days in the Engadin, a picturesque valley in the eastern Swiss Alps that we had heard about for years. This was a triple treat: we were able to do some hiking surrounded by gorgeous scenery, we could see Sarah for a bit longer, and we got to spend time with Stephanie Trick and Paolo Alderighi and see them perform. Stephanie and Paolo played at our final pre-pandemic house concert in November 2019 and we got to know this charming and very talented couple personally at that time. They spent much of the pandemic at their American home producing a series of monthly streaming video programs, but they happened to be in Europe and performing live in Sils Maria, the very town we were visiting! We timed our stay so we could see them, and that was a high point of the trip.
Next we drove to the Alpine village of Arosa, where Harrison had visited before he met Sharene and wanted to see again. We made the most of our one night there by taking cable cars to both the Hörnli and the Weisshorn (mountain peaks) and hiking down what in the winter would be ski slopes. We felt like we were in the middle of a picture postcard.
We then headed north back into Germany to tour the Romantic Road in Bavaria—something we did 33 years ago! It was just as picturesque as we remembered and we made a number of fun stops. The best was in Lenggries to visit our friend Stephan, who was an incredible tour guide during our stay there. He took us on a bike ride that only a local would know, stopping at fabulous local restaurants. He took us on another cable car to the top of the 1,555-meter (about 5,000 feet) Brauneck, and again we hiked back down. The scenery, watching paragliders jump off the mountain, the incredibly blue skies, the fresh air, the company, and even the cows were fantastic.
That road trip turned out to be a wonderful way to celebrate 30 years of marriage, so why not do something similar in December for the 35th anniversary of our first date? We had to twist and turn a bit to meet all the rapidly changing corona rules, but as we write this we are over halfway through the trip and have made it into Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and back into Switzerland without problems.
Most of the trip so far has been in Italy, beginning in Milan to visit that city for the first time but especially to see Stephanie and Paolo again. They were perfect tour guides and we had a very special evening together in Bergamo, a medieval town dripping with charm, especially with the winter lights.
After Milan, we made our fourth visit to the Cinque Terre, a string of centuries-old seaside villages on the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. Colorful houses and vineyards cling to steep terraces in each of the five enchanting towns, and the hikes are incredible. We discovered this region of Liguria almost exactly 10 years ago—mid-December 2011—and this time we had the same sunny and warm weather we had then. We were in t-shirts hiking one of the trails and we practically had the trail to ourselves.
The road trips were the highlight of 2021, but we also had a short vacation in August with friends to Ameland, one of the Wadden Islands off the Dutch coast. We biked the island for days beside its dunes and beaches and had some great meals, good laughs, and saw some sun! In September Sharene resumed her annual Girls Trip (over 20 years!) by flying to New Hampshire to reconnect and spend a week with her best friends. Our Amsterdam guest room has been mostly unoccupied, but we did have a few guests stay with us this past year. With the world the way it is, that was just enough for 2021.
In the fall we completed a big construction project that extended the back of the house. The extension is only 60 cm (that’s about 2 feet), but it’s all glass, including a glass roof, so Sharene now has a much brighter and more usable office space. And the double-paned windows make the house warmer and use less energy. Once again we feel so grateful to our friend and contractor Co for making our home in Amsterdam even better.
We’ll refrain from any political comments here; if you know us, you know how we think, and if we don’t agree, we won’t change each other’s minds. We’re healthy, vaccinated, and happy to be living in Amsterdam. We still study our Dutch daily and we are still not fluent, but we will keep trying! We still have Mr. Spaghetti, now 12 years old, and we feel honored to have him living out his older years on our sofa. (Tip: if you own a black sofa, do not get a white cat!)
We wish one and all happy holidays and a healthy year ahead. And we think the best present we can give each other is to be kinder than necessary and spend time with those you love.
Speaking of spending time with those who mean a lot to you, please take a look at the photos that follow. If you spent time with us this year, we probably captured it with a photo. We thought we would close with a slide show containing some of those special times as well as other memories from 2021. On to 2022!!