The Return of the Road Trip
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!!
Miss you and plan on a visit in 2022!
big hugs always –
Sounds like you made the best of a challenging year with some good travels. I guess you will have to hunker down as the new variant hits. Hope to see you both in 22
Don & Ann
Love the stories of travels. Love the stories of love and friendships. Love the couple who are Harrison and Sharene.
Safe travels, safe 2022.
It sounds like a lovely year remembering the past and enjoying the present! May 2022 bring you continued joy!
Hugs from California,
Dana and Sharon
Merry Christmas dear friend and a very Happy New Yesr!
Marvelous photos of the year (and especially your travels), Sharene! The garden/window renovation is beautiful. Wishing you and Harrison a wonderful 2022!
I love receiving your Christmas Letters.
Congratulations on what I can see was a fabulous year. I enjoyed seeing all of your pictures, but the one overlooking the village in the Alps brought back fond memories of when I was in Switzerland in 1965.
Take care and stay well.
Sending you warmest Aloha from Maui.
Switzerland is one of my dream trips. I know who can help me when the time comes…
Wishing you both the very best as we all hope for a New Year of Health and Peace!
Michelle and Bill
Well, it`s up to others to answer the question whether the cow or I am cuter or more charming. But there must be something special about that cow as it appears not only in the christmas letter of Sharene and Harrison but also in the one I shared with my friends. That is because something special happened a few seconds after this picture was taken. And as you can see that Harrison is already 30 meters further down the mountain with his back turned towards us, he missed the moment when Sharene overcame her lifelong fear of cows and bravely stroked the head. Luckily my camera didn`t miss it. And if there is one thing to criticise about your christmas letter, it`s that this picture should have been included…
Hugs and kisses from Bavaria,
Dear friends, my compliments on how you achieved to have a great, fun, social and interesting year during this surrealistic time, I really enjoyed your newsletter.
Great road trips! Your photo looking over Vernazza is identical to one we took a few years ago (of course, EVERYONE who hikes that trail takes that same photo 😉
Best wishes for a wonderful 2022!
Dan & Terry
You both look wonderful, and I’m so happy that you are enjoying life. Looking at these images, and reading your story, gives me hope for the future! I am retiring in March, and if we ever get over there, we will send you a note ahead of time. Have a very Merry Christmas!
(FYI, a mutual WR friend shared your letter with me – I think I may have changed emails or something, and somewhere along the line, stopped getting them).
Thanks for the compliments, Susan. We’ve put your current email on the list so you’ll get future letters. Hope to see you in Amsterdam!
It is so nice to see you both smiling and all the other smiling faces! So nice in such times as these! Thank you for sharing your year with us! We to, just keep on moving, I guess that’s what we all still have to do! I am happy you guys stayed healthy, we did to!
Merry Christmas Harrison & Sharene! Your holiday letter is always a nice recap of the past year but is especially welcome during these times. May we stay healthy and happy in 2022!
Hi Harrison and Sharene…You two are the perfect couple and so happy you found each other. You have seen so much of the world and made friends with so many. It is amazing remembering the month you met 35 years ago…and congratulations on being married 35 years. I really like what you did with your with the 2 feet extension. Makes a big difference and lets more light in. On the house we live in now the garage has a high pitched roof. So I built my art room up there…12 x 18…Say hello to Mr. Spaghetti…I bet he is good company. Take Care, Have a Very Merry Christmas and happy New Year…let’s hope the pandemic gets over. We are all missing friends and family. And remember…” Where Ever You Go, There You Are”….
A very very nice Xmas my dear and beloved Sharene & Harrison. Always a treat to read your annual story. I am stunned by that extension of 60 cm in your current and my former estate…! So I understand there is now enough room for Sharene’s knees when she is “doing office”.
“Last Xmas I gave you my heart ….” (W) at my entrance.. eh…down stairs, How fastly a year passes, Our time goes by. Walk(ing) on by (DW) your house these days I saw you are out. Abroad? Most Dutch people keep their curtains opened, so (potential) burglars know (think) you are “in” and Walk away (MM). So take care. Enjoy and have fun. We’ll meet again (VL). Ciao.
Any potential burglars would be surprised when they discover the house-sitters who have been in our apartment while we’re away!
You mean that very fat cat on the couch. haha. who is afraid of… but it is true. one day the front door was wide open and I thought omg there is nobody (after ringing the doorbell). until that friend came. you know. so yes a house sitter!!! have a jolly time Harrison!
I am sooo happy for you! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I look forward to meeting you in Amsterdam soon. Please take care, Dori Davari
Loved seeing and reading about your 2021! Fabulous photos!