Housesitting

#NomadicNordgrens July + August Travel Update by Rachel Nordgren

#NomadicNordgrens July + August Travel Update

Happy summer, everyone!

First of all, apologies for this update being so late! Rachel's job was exceptionally busy in July and August, and so by the time she got done with work, she doesn't want to be anywhere near a computer. We're combining the last two months into one newsletter...and spoiler alert, it contains a lot of London!

Allow us to explain the photo above. At our last housesit in London, a certain canine decided to excavate a beehive four minutes before his humans were about to head out for dinner and a walking tour around the City of London. This resulted in said humans, one of whom had actually put on a full face of makeup and an outfit that did not consist of yoga pants and a tank top, having to nurse the histamine-infused canine with lavender essential oil and Benadryl for the rest of the night.

The humans were not amused.

At the end of June, we arrived back in Wellingborough for a return housesit with the sweetest little darling dog named Poppy. We were welcomed back like family by Sarah and Paul (which was such a blessing!) and had fun cheering on England in the World Cup. Other than the two days we went into London, July was a fairly quiet month. We spent a lot of time taking Poppy and Banjo on walks, working, and trying not to melt in the summer heat!

After Wellingborough, we spent a few days in an idyllic little village called Cheveley near Newmarket, the thoroughbred horse-racing capital of the UK. There were gorgeous horses everywhere and Rachel was in heaven. We made our way south to Rotherfield in Sussex, where we enjoyed a week in a beautiful countryside home watching a happy-go-lucky dog (appropriately) named Bumble, and his feline friends Munchkin and Stumpy.

Then, London! We spent just over two weeks in Blackheath near Greenwich, looking after a gentle sweetheart of a lab named Loki. His wonderful humans, Liz and Paul, gave us enough London tips to last a lifetime, and we did our best to get out and see the city when Rachel wasn't working.

Some of our July and August London favorites were...
- The Tower of London
- Strolling across bridges to catch a view of the city
- An "Influential Women of London" bike tour
- Having drinks at a rooftop bar overlooking the Thames
- Getting lost in side streets and bookstores
- Services at St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey
- Seeing a sublime performance of "As You Like It" at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
- The Museum of London
- Wandering around Covent Garden
- A Suffragette exhibition at the Houses of Parliament
- Dishoom: "from Bombay with love"
- Finding picnic provisions at Borough Market
- Biking around Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park

On to the photos!

1. Munching on watermelon on a summery afternoon walk!
2. The gorgeous Sky Garden in the City of London
3. A delightful map of London we found at Aqua Shard...it feels like we're really starting to fit together the pieces of this city in our minds!
4. A London pub being annoyingly fabulous
5. Hans having a cuddle with Poppy

8cf39219-e1da-486c-9834-b79073123fc0 (1).jpg
3e6e48cf-12c6-4c4c-962e-62e8e93afdde.jpg

1. Banjo being carried down an escalator in the London Underground. Dogs have to be carried on the escalators because their paws can get stuck in the "moving teeth" otherwise...ouch!
2. The eternally gorgeous Westminster Abbey
3. Oh, look! The Tower of London!
4. A nighttime stroll across London Bridge with Tower Bridge in the background
5. Banjo with his Rushden buddy, Max


Most Interesting Things We've Done or Seen

Hans' favorite: I had a really great time picking wild blackberries and making a pie from them when we were in Rotherfield. I also enjoyed an evening Rachel and I spent biking around London and along the Thames. On another night we had a picnic in Greenwich Park with the London skyline with the sunset. I guess the theme here is the slow moments we spent together!

Rachel's favorite: London, London, London. I absolutely loved our time in that amazing city, and it was really rewarding to start to feel like we sort of knew our way around. I really loved going to a theatre performance at the Globe, exploring museums and galleries with Hans, and walking along the Southbank of the Thames at night together.

Mutual favorite: Hans put together a walking tour of the City of London (the oldest part of London) for us. We went after dinner one evening and explored the sites of some of the oldest parts of London...without the crowds! Seeing the Tower lit up at night was stunning, and standing next to a nearly 2,000-year-old bit of the old Roman wall while also being able to see the Shard was especially poignant...two bookends of the amazing history of this city.


Bonus People! And Pie!

London brought a few friends along, too! Rachel got to meet Tsh Oxenreider (the author of one of our mutual favorite books, At Home In The World) when she was in town leading a London trip. A darling friend from Topeka named Amy met up with Rachel at the National Portrait Gallery for brunch and art browsing when she was visiting London with family. Rachel's dear friend and longtime penpal, Kayla, came through London on her way back from an internship in Bosnia, and we crammed as much sightseeing and catching-up as possible into two days.

Also, here's a picture of a very proud Hans with the Blackberry pie he made.

Best in Food

July: We went to the Castle Ashby Gardens near Wellingborough and were totally surprised by a delightful continental market in their old stable yard. There were food stalls with French cheese, Italian cured meats, and stacks of bread and pastries, gelato, an olive bar, and some sort of creamy garlic prawn situation that smelled absolutely divine. We enjoyed a Cumin Gouda and Tome de Chevre with sun-dried tomato bread and crisp, sparkling lemonade. Yum!

August: Dishoom. We ate here twice and could have easily moved in. Their tagline is "from Bombay with love," which is entirely appropriate. It's is family-style Indian food, sweet and savory and spicy and superb, served in a friendly, cosy setting. Dishoom is a culinary celebration of Indian culture and if you go to London and do not eat there, we will never speak to you again.

A Note From Banjo...

93a112dd-bf26-4eed-ae58-9de6d4be3786.jpg

I haz to be karried in da undrgrund toob. Iss embarissing. Not as embarissing as my moom takeen piktures of mee 'nd pooting dem on dee interneets wen i hud six beestungs. i knoow it wuz stoopid to try 'nd moove da beehive, but i reeely wanteed to have a wee dere 'nd eet waz in dey way. Den ma hoomans poot Deen in da wittle face talkie toy 'nd even hee laffed at mee. Eet wuz ookay tho beecuz dey poot me in the bafftub whif sum nice smelly stuff 'nd gave me sleepy pillz 'nd dat made mee happeeeeee.


After we leave Rushden towards the end of September, we're headed back to the Continent. We'll cross the Channel, spend a few days in Amsterdam and then a day or two in Copenhagen, and then head further north to visit some of Hans' extended family in Sweden! We’re not sure what our plans for the rest of the fall will be, but we will keep you posted!

Housesitting 101 by Rachel Nordgren

Rachel Nordgren Blog Housesitting 101.jpg

Over lunch in early 2017, a friend told me about housesitting. We had been talking about AirBnB and travel in general, and then she said six worlds that would literally change my life: "Have you heard of Trusted Housesitters?"

giphy (1).gif

My head snapped up from Fuji Apple Chicken Salad, spine ramrod straight. "What?"

"Yeah, it's a website where people who are going on vacation advertise that they need someone to watch their house."

I don't totally remember what else we talked about that day in that Panera booth, a weak winter sun gleaming outside. But, I do remember that after I got home I promptly spent the entire afternoon poking around the Trusted Housesitters website and got nothing done with work. I was tumbling down the the rabbit hole, utterly entranced.

There were people all over the world - France! Fiji! England! Mexico! Italy! - who were willing to let a responsible person or couple stay in their home for free in exchange for keeping an eye on things and watering the plants or walking the dog. There were even some quaint looking farmsits, too.

It was one of those things that seemed almost too good to be true, except that it was totally logical. People pay for house and pet sitters, and people pay for places to stay when they travel. It made sense that you could match those two needs in an even exchange.

Hans and I did our first housesit in the spring of 2017...five weeks in an exquisite country that felt like a dream come true. It was during that housesit that we started dreaming about the possibility of using housesitting as a way to travel around Europe, which had been a goal of ours since we got married.

And now? I'm writing this post in the living room of a home north of London where we're watching a darling dog named Poppy until the end of the month. Hans and I (and Banjo!) have been housesitting through Europe since November 2017. I love talking about this way of travel, so I thought I'd put together some answers to the most common questions we get about housesitting.

If you're interested in unique travel and love animals, read on!

How do you get started as a housesitter?

There are multiple housesitting websites and agencies out there, but the only one we currently use is Trusted Housesitters. There is a yearly membership fee of $120 for the site, which is roughly the cost of two nights in an average hotel. You can also get 20% off your membership signup by using this link or entering our referral code RAF70595 at checkout. Homeowners also pay a membership fee. After that, you set up your profile, add personal information and photos, and list your experience.

Worth noting: you are unable to apply for housesits on Trusted Housesitters unless you are a member of the site. You can browse available housesits without becoming a member, though!

To help build additional trust with potential homeowners, especially when we were just starting out and didn't have any reviews on our profile, we asked three people to provide references for us through the website. We also paid a bit more to have the extra verification of a professional background check done for our profile.

It's best to provide as much information as possible! Think about what you would like to know about a person if you were inviting them to stay in your home and look after your pets. Be honest and thorough.

Need some ideas? You can view our Trusted Housesitters profile right here.

How do you find housesits?

The Trusted Housesitters website is a wee bit clunky, but once you get the knack of it, finding housesits is pretty easy! You enter the location you're interested in (or you can search by the map function), and then filter the results by dates, length of sit, animals or lack thereof, etc. For those of you with kids, you can also search for housesits that have advertised themselves as family friendly.

After you're found a housesit that looks interesting, click on the listing and read through to see if it's going to be a good fit. Homeowners will fill out an intro, information about their home and location, and specifications about their pets and/or other responsibilities, along with a couple of photos.

If all that still looks good, go ahead and apply! Introduce yourself, tell them why you applied to their housesit, talk about why you think you would be a good fit, and invite them to get in contact with you if they've got any questions or would like to set up a video chat.

After one particularly sticky situation with a homeowner, we always ask to do a video chat before committing to a housesit. It can help you get a feel for things, and give you a sense of whether or not it will be a good fit. You're not going to be a perfect match for everyone, and that's okay.

If you get accepted, hooray! Check out this fantastic post about the 10 things you should do after landing your first housesitting job.

Do you get paid for housesitting?

Through some agencies, maybe! But through Trusted Housesitters, we do not get paid. We actually prefer it this way, because it means we're building relationships as we travel and not just conducting business transactions. We end up feeling like we're coming to stay at a friend's house instead of showing up for a job.

giphy (3).gif

We have seen some listings where homeowners have offered to pay their housesitters for extra duties like particularly large farmsits, but it's definitely not the norm.

How long can you housesit?

We've seen everything from one or two night sits all the way up to a year. People need housesitters for quick trips and summer vacations, but also longer trips to visit family or do some traveling themselves. We've also seen 6+ month housesits where people are going on a sabbatical for work or need someone to look after their vacation home.

How do you know it's safe?

99.9% of the people on Trusted Housesitters are lovely, honest, kind human beings who love their animals and want them to be well taken care of. The website is review-based, meaning that you can see what other people have said about a homeowner if they have had previous sitters. The website is still growing, so there are lots of new homeowners who have never had a housesitter before, so a lack of reviews isn't necessarily a bad thing.

I would recommend taking a careful look at the housesitting listing and photos. Do they give enough information for you to get an idea of what their home and pets are like? Do the pictures show a home that looks safe and clean? How do they describe their animals? If anything seems "off" to you, trust your gut. Either ask the homeowner specifically (perhaps they just forgot to clarify something in their listing) or pass on the housesit altogether.

Also, Trusted Housesitters has a 24/7 helpline for their housesitters to help in case of an emergency, veterinary or otherwise.

Some other tips...

  • Check the site often! Some people list that they need a housesitter months in advance, and some people wait until the last minute. You never know what you're going to find.

  • Housesitting is not like staying in an AirBnB. The homeowner will likely set you up in their guest room or spare bedroom, and you might share a meal or two with them before they leave, but don't expect them to cater to you. You are their guest, but you are also there to do the work of looking after their home and pets.

  • Leave the house just as clean (or cleaner) as it was when you arrived. It's just good manners.

Final thought: If you want to be a tourist, housesitting probably isn't for you. The homeowner likely doesn't want someone who is only going to do the bare minimum and leave their animals home alone for long stretches of time. That doesn't mean that you won't get out and about at all, but the wishes of the homeowners and the welfare of the pets should always be your first priority.

Personally, we really like housesitting because high-paced touristy travel isn't really our thing, and we'd much rather immerse ourselves in a place and get a feel for what it's like to actually live there. We genuinely love traveling this way because it feels slower and more authentic. There's a time and a place for tourist travel (hello, we did London and Paris in one week!), but housesitting isn't it.

giphy (4).gif

Interested in joining Trusted Housesitters? Get 25% off your membership signup by using this link or entering our referral code RAF70595 at checkout. Using our referral link or code gives Hans and I a discount on our own membership, so thanks in advance!

If you want to see some of the places we've traveled to with housesitting, head right on over here.

Where would your ideal housesit be? Let's chat in the comments below!

xoxo,
Rachel

#NomadicNordgrens June Travel Update by Rachel Nordgren

#NomadicNordgrens June Travel Update

Welcome back, friends!

Yesterday, the temperature was in the low 80's with 35% humidity, and the Brits (bless their hearts) were making such a fuss about how HOT it was. For us, it's the summer weather of our dreams! Kansas regularly reaches into the upper 90's in July, and the humidity is 10000% "feeling like I'm breathing through a damp washrag."

June saw us going from one end of the United Kingdom to the other and back again. We started off in the south of England, drove up to Scotland (our housesit was between Glasgow and Edinburgh) and then back down to Cornwall. All in all, we traveled over 1,000 miles!

When we started discussing places we wanted to visit on this trip, the Scottish Highlands were at the top of Hans' list. We made that happen this month, and it was absolutely beautiful! It feels like Scotland was just making up different shades of green, because it seems impossible that one little slice of the earth's surface could be that lush.

We adored exploring Glasgow and Edinburgh, and got serious Harry Potter vibes all over the place. We even went to the Elephant House Cafe, where JK Rowling wrote much of the first HP books! Our Porlock friends, Bill and Daphne, "set us up" with Daphne's granddaughter Charlotte and her partner Jamie. They live in Glasgow, and we absolutely loved getting to know them and spending time together. They showed us some of the best that Glasgow has to offer, and we're really grateful!

After Scotland, we headed back down south. Rachel spent 5 days at Buckfast Abbey in Dartmoor, giving herself the gift of time and space to read, think, and write. Hans and Banjo made a proper "Boy's Week" out of it and camped around Cornwall and Devon. Then we made our way back to Wellingborough, where we had the delightful experience of watching England play in the World Cup with Sarah and Paul before they left for their holiday.

England won 6-1 against Panama, and it was obviously because we Americans are some sort of good luck charm.

P.S.
Banjo's eye has entirely healed! Thanks for your well wishes, everyone!

On to the photos!

1. Feeling glamorous aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia
2. Hans' favorite flower is the poppy, and there are tons of them here in England!
3. The Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland, the location of this classic Harry Potter scene
4. The Abbey church at Buckfast, the monastery where Rachel did a personal retreat while Hans was camping with Banjo
5. A windblown Banjo on the Cornwall coast

548bb457-d53e-4807-8f48-69c06abdef74.jpg

Most Interesting Things We've Done or Seen

Hans' favorite: This month is hard to pick just one. There is a three-way tie between Rachel's dumbfounded reaction to the beauty and magic of Glasgow University's campus(think Hogwarts-esque), our day trip through the Scottish Highlands to see Loch Ness and Glenfinnan Viaduct, and my week of camping and hiking exploration on the historic Cornwall coastal cliffs and beaches with Banjo.

Rachel's favorite: In Scotland, my favorite was exploring Edinburgh...we barely spent any time there but I am itching to go back. In England, I loved the peace and quiet of my retreat at Buckfast Abbey.

Mutual favorite: exploring the drop-dead-gorgeous Highlands!

The funniest picture award of the month goes to the cows in the field where Hans camped one night, pictured below trying to figure out what was in the tent. Banjo did not find being used as "photo bait" very amusing.

Best in Food

Hans is turning into quite the chef! This month, we feasted on dinnertime delicacies such as Mediterranean salad (couscous and spinach as the base; caramelized onions, roasted peppers, and feta cheese for the toppings; and a balsamic vinegar olive oil dressing), grilled kebabs, curry over rice with mango chutney, and crockpot chicken tacos...here's the recipe. (you will thank us later) Also, June 29th was National Cream Tea Day, so of course, we had to indulge!


A Note From Banjo...

5db95ff4-e5a1-4190-a8da-b9dfadc51df5.jpg

Ma hoomans tink dey are sooooooo funnee. Dey triked mee into joomping in Lock Ness 'nd den dey took dis picture preetanding lik I wuz de Lock Ness munster. Wutever. I felt sumthin' brush my legz but Im not gunna tell dem dat becuz dey laffed at mee. Mwahahaha. Kamping wiff Hanz wuz reely fun. We hiked lotz and lotz and didn't take baffs and didn't sey "excuz mee" wen we farteed. The kows were reely scary tho. I tink dey were gonna eet me. Iss nice beeing bak wiff Poppy, even if shee steels my biscoots sumtimes.


We're actually not entirely sure what our August plans are just yet! We're hoping to find a housesit in or around London, but we're keeping an eye out around the rest of the country as well!

What have you been up to this summer?

#NomadicNordgrens May Travel Update by Rachel Nordgren

#NomadicNordgrens May Travel Update

Hello, friends!

We're almost halfway through our nomadic journey (how crazy is that?!) and we're working hard to make the most of our time in Europe before our crossing back to the States in December aboard the QM2.

Banjo managed to scratch up his eye pretty badly whilst galavanting through the forests of Switzerland (as one does), and it was refusing to heal despite a couple vet visits and medications. The vet in Porlock did a minor surgery that seems to have worked, so the good news is that he's on the mend...although still in the cone of shame.

Psst! This month's update has an extra special section towards the end that you won't want to miss!

After leaving Wellingborough at the beginning of the month, we did our first return housesit! Lis and Carl invited us back to look after Oscar, and we were so excited to spend more time with them (and Lis's mum, Sheila!) and enjoy the gorgeousness that is the Cotswolds in Spring.

After leaving Ilmington, we made our way back down south to Porlock. We had a lovely evening with Karen, Graeme, and Graeme's mum Tess (we housesat for them in December), catching up and talking about travel adventures with dogs! Afterwards, we spent the better part of two weeks (our housesitting plans changed) being super grateful for the hospitality of the local parish rector, Bill, and his wife Daphne, whom we got to know in December. Hans "earned our keep" by doing lots of chores for Daphne!

Then, we journeyed north towards Scotland. We stopped for a night in Manchester to visit Rachel's dear friend Katherine and then made our way to Coatbridge, where we are now. We're watching a darling little 17-year-old Yorkie named Rosie, who sounds like a baby Teletubby when she coughs.

After our time in Scotland, we're looking forward to heading back to Wellingborough for the month of July to spend more time with Paul and Sarah, and their darling girl Poppy!

On to the photos!

1. Hans standing next to the purplest tree we've ever seen at Hidcote Garden near Ilmington
2. Getting ready for a walk with Oscar and Banjo
3. Banjo overlooking Porlock Bay
4. Dunster Castle, which sits atop a hill overlooking the Bristol Channel and Exmoor. Fun fact: a castle has existed here since Norman times!
5. Our beloved Porlock

7ba1b86a-e2f3-4356-92f3-d76129693a5a.png

Most Interesting Things We've Done or Seen

Hans' favorite: seeing the difference between winter and spring in the Exmoor landscape and foliage as we walked down to the Weir for dinner at the Bottom Ship pub

Rachel's favorite: still not over the Royal Wedding...

Mutual favorite: enjoying the beauty of England in bloom, and spending lots of time with some of the kind and wonderful people we met earlier in our journey!

Best in Food

After returning from Spain, Lis and Carl treated us to a delectable dinner at their favorite Italian inspired restaurant in Chipping Camden, Huxley's. For appetizers, we enjoyed baked fondue, sun-dried tomatoes, tangy Tzatziki and pita, and our new favorite cheese, halloumi. Hans had a burger and fries because he was feeling a little homesick, and Rachel can't remember what she had because the conversation was so darn good. We topped the evening off with tiramisu and coffee, and even got a little Cotswold history lesson from Carl on the drive!


Special Wedding News!

We kept a little secret from all of you...when we were in Paris in March, Dean (Rachel's dad) proposed to Roxann! At the end of our bike tour and picnic, Hans, Leo, and Rachel conveniently "forgot to get dessert" and scampered off, leaving Dean and Roxann by the banks of the Seine. Apparently, Dean had some lovely things to say, Roxann said yes, a sparkly ring was pulled out, and a passing boat of tourists cheered! When we got back, Rachel had to peek over the embankment wall to make sure we wouldn't interrupt, and then the five of us celebrated with macarons and taking lots of pictures. They're getting married in June!

Congratulations, Dean and Roxann!!!

Oh, and Rachel went to the Royal Wedding.

Read more about her (amazing, beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime) experience right here. Special thanks to our Ilmington friends for keeping an eye out for Rachel on TV!


A Note From Banjo...

c0bddbd5-0c3d-4cb8-a180-b25c4b5ca026.jpg

Wut ded I doo 2 deseerv dis? Myhoomans keep laffin at mee and iss notfare cuz haff de tym i cant heer dembecuz oof dis stoopid lamp sheed koneting. Leetle kyds laff at mee 2 'nd deyask der mooms wut's rong wif mee. Nuthin's rong wif mee!! Iss myhoomans who r dee stoopid ones fur pooting dis dumb ting on mi face. Mehbee DEY shood ware kones oof shame. See how dey lik eet. Mi eyeewuz dooin jest fyne. I scratcheds eetevery dey cuz dat made eet feel better. Daffney wuz nise to mee 'nd she gavme lots oof coodles and shee deedn'tlaff at mee like SUM PEEPLE.


May felt full and blooming and blessed, and once again we’re just floored with gratitude. We are absolutely loving being back in the UK, and the more time we spend here, the more it feels like home.

Did you watch the Royal Wedding?

#NomadicNordgrens April Travel Update by Rachel Nordgren

#NomadicNordgrens April 2018 Travel Update

Thanks to Hans' mom, we were able to get in touch with the German relatives and spend some time with them in April. I mostly nodded and smiled and tried to remember the names of all the cousins, but I loved watching my husband get to uncover his heritage roots a bit. We'll be visiting his Swedish family later this summer!


Welcome back to our travel tales!

After our grand adventures in London and Paris during March with Dean and Roxann, we headed to Leer, Germany, where we stayed with Thilo, Hans' longtime friend and high school foreign exchange student. It was wonderful to spend time together! We celebrated Good Friday with him and his family before heading to Bielefeld (still in Germany) to meet relatives from Hans' mom's side of the family.

Our German relatives also gave us a warm welcome and showed us the old Bentemann farm as well as some significant towns and landmarks. We are so grateful for their hospitality, and for how much we learned about the Ostwestfalen-Lippe Region. We sort of felt like we were on a private tour with the best guides in Germany! Thank you so much to Annelie, Steven, Karin, Friederich, Ulrike, Elisabeth, Heinz, Karin, and Gustav for making us feel right at home.

The photo above was taken at Externsteine, a massive rock formation near Lippe in Germany. You can't really see any of the rocks in the picture because Banjo's furry face is in the way, so we suggest clicking on the link to check them out!

After Germany, we headed to Zürich, Switzerland for about two weeks to watch a lovely menagerie of animals for a couple named Julie and Eric. Fun fact: Eric is actually from Kansas! After Switzerland, we spent a day exploring Liechtenstein (the world's sixth smallest country!) before heading back to the UK, where we will be for the rest of the summer.

As always, we feel deeply thankful for everyone who has welcomed the three of us into their homes and lives during our travels. In today's crazy and often discordant world, we are grateful for the continual reminder that kindness knows no boundaries and there is much more that unites us as humans (and canines!) than divides us.

On to the photos!

1. The inscription on the Bentemann family home in Germany
2. The church in Hiden, Germany, where Hans' great-grandfather was baptized
3. Hans' German family!
4. Rachel cuddling with Ivy, one of Eric and Julie's dogs in Zürich
5. The Alps, being far more gorgeous than is socially acceptable

2e1b1025-8ccb-41f5-a53d-91b6367a93da.jpg

Most Interesting Things We've Done or Seen

Hans' favorite: connecting with his German family and re-connecting with Thilo

Rachel's favorite: Rachel is starting to think this is a dumb and restrictive question, but if forced to choose she would probably say visiting the Sparrenburg Castle in Bielefeld

Mutual favorite: it's a tie between enjoying the sheer beauty of the Alps and seeing Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London, where a live orchestra performed the music as the movie played

Best in Food

For Good Friday (technically still in March, but who's counting?), Hans' foreign exchange "parents," Udo and Dagmar, invited us to join them for a lovely family dinner. We enjoyed a simply delicious meal of salmon with a creamy filling, rice, and sauteed spinach all accompanied by a heavenly cream sauce and glasses of ice cold white wine. For dessert, chocolate...because duh, it's Germany. 

Hans' real German family made sure that we ate really well, too. We were treated to all sorts of traditional German dishes, like braided Easter bread, local meats and cheeses (including a hard cheese with peppercorns in it that Rachel adored), potato pancakes called "pickert," and of course, bratwurst! 


A Note From Banjo...

22a71803-b3bc-4453-9f07-1a1b91488aa2.jpg

Ma hoomans tell mee dat dis iss zee only paart oof da neewslitter dat peeple actoolly reed. Dat meens my hoomans kood chuk da rest of dis ting 'nd speend moor time pettin me orr gimme moor of da speshal treets dat dee niice peeple in Gerrmuny gaav us. I rode da train AND da toob in Lundun 'nd I wuz reely brave beecuz da toob soundeed lik eet wuz gooona eat me but I staid kalm 'nd karried oon. We arr bak in Engelund 'nd I lik it heer becooz der arr lotz of sheepz.

One of the biggest surprises in our travels has been how much community Hans and I have found abroad. When we started out, I mistakenly assumed that we'd get really lonely and sick of each other, because we would only have each other for company. While it's true that we spend basically all of our time together (and we do get annoyed with each other sometimes), we've also been pleasantly surprised by the relationships we've discovered and strengthened with other people we've met.

Have you ever visited extended family abroad? What was your experience like?