When we returned from our mission in New Zealand in December 2021, we weren’t in a hurry to do any more big trips for a while—only what was necessary to see family members scattered across the United States. Almost immediately after we got home, we traveled to Seattle to visit our youngest daughter and her family; our oldest son brought his family from Pennsylvania to spend Christmas with us, and then we made another long trip to Utah to visit the son, daughter, grandchildren, and siblings who live there. We made a few more cross-country trips to see family during 2022, but we were always conscious that in order to see some other family members we had not seen for a long time, we would have to cross the Atlantic.

Michael’s brother Phillip

Michael’s brother Phillip has lived in La Rochelle on the east coast of France for forty years, having married a French woman he met through a mutual friend. (That’s another story for another time—ask us for the amusing details when you have a chance.) The last time we had seen Phillip and his family was in 2015, when we took a detour to France during our stay in Ireland (you can read about that trip here; scroll to the entries for 14-17 March for details on our stay in La Rochelle). We were definitely due for another visit.

Nancy’s niece Emery

In addition, we had another compelling reason for a trip to Europe. You may remember Nancy’s niece, Emery, as one of our traveling companions when we went to Jordan and Israel in 2015. Emery began distance-dating a Dutchman named Marc in 2019. We had a chance to meet him when he visited Utah just before we left for New Zealand that year and found him eminently acceptable, so when we heard that the two had decided to marry, we were very happy. The wedding took place in Amsterdam in April 2021, while COVID restrictions were still in effect, so the fact that we were in New Zealand did not prevent us from attending in the same way most other family members and friends had to attend: via Zoom. We did have to get up earlier in the morning than any of the other guests, however; the 4:00 p.m. ceremony in Amsterdam required us to rise at 2:00 a.m., but at least we could wear our pajamas and go back to bed for a while after it was over.

Since the wedding, Emery has gradually completed her transition from living in America to living in the Netherlands, selling her Salt Lake City townhouse, disposing of all but her most prized possessions, and helping to orient the person taking over her job at Deseret Digital Media. Now unemployed, she has dedicated herself to learning Dutch, qualifying for a European driver’s license, and becoming a good huisvrouw (housewife) and stepmother. We were eager to see Emery in her new setting, get better acquainted with Marc, and meet Mattias, Marc’s fourteen-year-old son. Michael was eager to see Amsterdam, where he had never been. So we began making tentative plans for a trip to Europe during the summer of 2023.

Michael and his sister Pat

Meanwhile, Michael’s sister Pat (whom you may remember as Emery’s roommate on the Israel trip) and their cousin, Cathy, had begun tentative plans for a cruise of the Norwegian fjords. Would we like to join them? Of course we would! We had been hoping to get to Norway ever since we had to cut it as an extension of our 2019 Baltic cruise due to a family wedding. Michael assumed responsibility for researching potential tour packages for the four of us, but not long after he had put down a deposit for a cruise that would include a bit of Scotland as well as the Norwegian coast, Cathy informed us that she would have to pull out; a couple of her grandchildren had decided to get married during the time we had scheduled for our trip. If Cathy couldn’t go this time, Michael, Nancy, and Pat decided to scrap the Norwegian cruise and focus on visiting Phillip and family in France.

Astrid and daughters Bertille and Sancie

We had a narrow window of time in which to accomplish this excursion because Pat and her progeny (numbering over forty individuals, including a great-grandchild) had already scheduled a family reunion in Utah for the last week of June. Phillip’s daughter Astrid, currently living in West Africa while her husband is on military assignment there, hoped that we would be able to visit France in mid-July during the time she and her children would be in La Rochelle for home leave. So Michael came up with a new itinerary: Beginning 30 June, he and Nancy would fly to Amsterdam and spend a few days with Emery and Marc; we’d then take a train to Paris, where we would rendezvous with Pat as she arrived from the U.S. The three of us would then take a train to La Rochelle. After several days with Phillip and family, we’d rent a car and drive around Normandy for a few days because Pat had never seen Mont Saint Michel nor the impressive American cemetery there. Then, because the three of us still had a hankering to see Norway, we would fly from Paris to Oslo and spend a few days seeing “Norway in a Nutshell” (yes, this is a real thing). We’d then fly back to Paris, say goodbye to Pat (who said she had already seen all she wanted to see of the capital) and stay for a few more days to discover what had changed and what hadn’t since 1993, the last time we had escaped the confines of Charles de Gaulle Airport and strolled around the City of Light.

So here’s our “set menu” for the month of July 2023. Bon appétit!




Entrée: Amsterdam

Plat: La Rochelle

Remise en bouche: Norway

Dessert: Paris

Though our travel dates are 30 June 2023 to 20 July 2023,  we will undoubtedly still be posting into the fall. Stay tuned.