We left Cyprus bound for the U.S. November 13, 2017 for a two month stay taking us to several states throughout the mid west IN WINTER!!! and a quick foray to Florida for Kathy.
Getting from Cyprus to the US can't be done quickly or easily. Our itinerary took us from Cyprus to Belgium (looong layover), to Dublin, Ireland medium long layover) then on to Chicago, Illinois.
Arriving at the hotel, we crammed in the tiny elevator and rumbled our way up to the first floor and off loaded our bags… after dark and quite chilly, we set off to explore and find some eats. It was quite early (7 pm) so not much was open yet for eateries… many places in Europe don't open till at least 8pm usually 9 for dinner. We found an open restaurant serving american burgers (uggh) and ate; a few beers were ingested as well. Back in our room we nestled into bed to discover… the bed had a high spot in the middle… causing the sleeper to feel as though you would roll out and off the bed if not on guard. It was clean and the price was right so we made due.
Breakfast was included with the room price, very european and satisfactory. Fresh croissants, good coffee, tea and juice. Salami, jellies, cereal, hard boiled eggs…
Bundling up, we headed out with a list of ‘must sees’ for a one day visit. The city center was soon crowded with groups of tourists, their group leaders holding orange umbrellas for identification. The old square known as the Grand Place was gearing up for the holidays, power washing the buildings and statues. Hanging lights and banners. Genuine imitation gold painted on prominent parts of the architecture (spires, crosses and statues) gleaming with the occasional cloud partings.
Nearly every store front touted good eats (mussels and frites), beer, chocolate, Belgium waffles, chocolate, beer, chocolate, etc. We sampled some of each!
The ‘Manneken Pis’… the ‘small boy pissing’ tops all the tourist lists, so we set out to locate him. First impression… he’s really small, 24 inches / 61 cm! The pissing boy is a national icon and treasure. The original, there have been many over the years, dates to 1618-19… the current statue was made in 1965. There are many legends associated with how / why he became a sensation, a google search will provide lots of info. What ever the reason, he is loved by the people of Belgium.
Costumes must be approved by His committee before being displayed. Yes, the pissing boy ‘pisses’ so costumes should accommodate this feature. His costume usually commemorates a special occasion, national holidays or honorary visiting dignitaries / countries.
After touring several historical buildings and sites. We had lunch featuring the locally famous mussels and frites then on to an afternoon of beer sampling. Kathy, not much for beer tasting and certainly not outright drinking the stuff…. found a few acceptable to her palette at the Delirium Cafe… 2 floors of beer, beer and more beer. Their catalogue lists and describes their collection. Over 2000 beers, in house… How do you choose? You ask the bar keep. Tell him your tastes, likes, dislikes and he brings you something. Kathy discreetly explained her dilemma and his response … it’s my job to change that… and he did. She now is a connoisseur of sour beer! Much like a cider, it is tangy and crisp. Jim stuck with the many stouts and porters available. With so many selections, we easily sipped away the afternoon then wove out way back to the hotel where we promptly took a loooong nap.
On to Dublin the next morning and a 5 hour layover, then a pleasant enough 8+ hour flight to Chicago.
Many family members and friends, around 35, descended upon their home for an amazing meal. We spent a lot of time catching up with friends and family. The weather was phenomenal for the time of year and there were even several outdoor adventures. Taking advantage of Amazon Prime, we started making our purchases for parts and goodies to take back to Inishnee. Luci Lights, boat parts, galley gadgets and crafting / sewing supplies to name a few.
We ate at a lot of our old favs and saw lots people we had dearly missed these last couple of years. We squeezed in visits to doctors, dentist too.
A short but lovely visit up north to see Kathy’s mom Helen. Nolan (grandson) accompanied us. Again the weather was unseasonable warm, the roads open and clear.
A day trip around northern Michigan took us to Traverse City, Charlevoix and Petoskey before heading home to mom’s near Johannesburg… the edge to the Pigeon River Forest. Turkey and deer daily visitors. Occasionally bear and elk.
Several years had past since we were all in the same state / city. Days walking the beaches or hiking local parks… sight seeing alligators, manatees, and birds. Nights eating family meals and sitting around the fire pit.
Stephen and Amanda put on a feast several times including a HUGE crab boil! The turkey fryer boiled up the fixings in the back yard, the table covered in newspapers, the grankitties very attentive in hopes of a few scraps.
Grandson Kegan was a delight. Bright eyes and an ever ready smile he stole the show several times. The holiday light show at the Osborn home in a nearby neighborhood, their entire property flashing and strobing to holiday tunes.
Every few feet a different theme; traditional snowmen, santa and reindeer, the grinch! helicopters and sailing ships, mermaids and polar bears… Keegan's dance moves to the musical Christmas tree light show were impressive enough the owner presented him with a ‘light saber’ !
Keegan, certainly livened things up. By the end of the evening, Keegan was sporting loads of paraphernalia presented to him throughout the show. Thanks Dondini.
Meanwhile, Jim was chilling out in Minneapolis. Seriously. Temps holding below zero F daily. Son Alex and wife Nicki welcomed Jim to their home. Granddaughters Nora and Natalie took a bit to warm up to grandpa but his handsomeness and great nature won them over. Kid duties followed, days filled with sledding, library visits, reading stories, playing in the cushion pit (couch pillows piled mid floor) and daily lunches.
He even broke his vow to never EVER go…but went; not once, not twice… but 3 times to the Mall of America! Military family day; breakfast and free rides, the Grinch in person and finally just to get out of the house; too cold to spend any time outdoors…
What a treat it was to awake Christmas morning and watch the delight in the girls eyes, discovering their presents and seeing what cool things the Grinch brought. A doctors kit, science experiments, a Princess Tent, gymnastics outfits and a glorious indoor trampoline; perfect to burn off excess energy when grandpa and grandma need a break from hide and seek, dancing and twirling or… just need a break!
We even got to celebrate Nora's 'practice' birthday #4... we would miss the real one by 2 days...
After all these YEARS of hating the cold, she now has a medical reason to NEVER have to experience cold climates again!!!! Best news ever (insert smiley face).
Our time winding down, the holidays over. We had to head back to Inishnee and Cyprus. We said our farewells to our Minnesota family and drove south to the Chicago area.
Our mail and Amazon packages were awaiting us. The discarded packaging made a larger pile than the actual goods… we began the arduous task of packing for the long slog home. A new check bag was purchased and goods were shifted from bag to bag until; 1. everything fit and 2. each bag met the weight restrictions. We just made it… as long as ‘they’ don't count the 3rd (heavy) personal bag we are carrying…
Our mail shipment included Jim's renewal for his Captains license... Unfortunately the new wording excluded him from being able to captain a sail boat... yes, really! A call on Monday to the 'right' people, several tests and payments Tuesday... Wednesday the correct paper work was in the mail so it's was off to the international terminal for the crew of Inishnee...
Chicago: O’Hare - Dublin, Ireland - Brussel, Belgium… one of our bags got ripped during airport handling, contents peaking through but hanging on inside. Belgian duct tape to the rescue! A short night in a hotel in Brussels. and then the final, very early flight to Cyprus.
More pictures ....