Epic Europe for the Holidays

If you have friends and family coming for the Holidays for their first Euro-adventure, chances are they think they are going to see all of Europe in a single trip. That happened to us last year when our “besties” came for two and a half weeks… with their parents.

Although we couldn’t show them everything, Nellie and I took it as a challenge to give them an Epic Europe Experience in 17 days. Here’s our itinerary, and hopefully it helps you as you try to create your own Epic Europe Experience with your guests this year.

First, here’s a little background. We met Bryan and Tara in 2011 at church in Leesville, Louisiana and instantly hit it off. Since then, we’ve PCS’d quite a few times, and they now live in Katy, Texas. Despite nearly a decade of friendship and multiple moves, they always find time to come see us, no matter where we are in the world. It just so happens that this time, they wanted to bring Tara’s parents.

Yup. That’s us vacationing in St. Augustine, Florida in 2017, but you don’t care about that. You want to know what we showed them over the course of 17 days. Well, here we go.

*Dec 18 (Day 1)
We picked up our guests at Frankfurt International and got them settled in. You figured that we would just let them rest for the first day, right?

Well not really. Since they flew in early morning, we got home in time to walk over to the village bakery for breakfast. It was a great way to break them in, especially as Tara got to learn the tough lesson of how water is typically served in Germany (with bubbles). After getting back home and taking a short nap, we took our guests downtown to the Kaiserslautern Christmas Market. It was a perfect way to warm them up to what they’ll be doing over the next two and a half weeks.

*Dec 19 (Day 2)
We drove up to Bingen and hopped on a two hour Rhine River cruise. This was a perfect way to show our visitors the castles on the Rhine while sipping on Glühwein. After the cruise, we took the auto ferry over to Rüdesheim and checked out the Rüdesheim Christmas Market.

*Dec 20 (Day 3)
Our friends down the road also had visitors and wanted to tag along for this day’s adventure. So a dozen of us headed to the Kaiserslautern Hauptbahnhof and took the train to two Christmas Markets. We first stopped in Mannheim, visited the Christmas Market for about an hour, and then took the train on to Heidelberg where we did the same.

*Dec 21 (Day 4)
Paris! All nine of us took the ICE train to Paris for two nights. We booked two months in advance to get the cheapest rate.

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So you’re wondering how we lodged nine people together in Paris. Just south, across the Seine, but still along the Metro, is a suburb called Alfortville. A little known secret: Airbnb prices in Alfortville are significantly lower than in the middle of Paris, but you enjoy the perk of being an easy Metro ride into the city. We booked two, two-bedroom apartments for about €100 a night, each.

For our first day in Paris, we saw the Eiffel Tower light up at night, strolled the Latin Quarter, and ended the night at our favorite joint in Paris, Galway’s Irish Pub.

*Dec 22 (Day 5)
We gave our guests a walking tour of Paris. We started off by the Notre Dame, over to the Louvre, Place de la Concorde, and then ate along the Champs Élysées. While wandering around, we stopped in the Christmas Markets spread throughout the city.

*Dec 23 (Day 6)
Our last day in Paris, but since we had an evening train, we got out early to see more of the city. After storing our luggage in the lockers at Gare de L’Est, we headed to the Sacré Cœur, and then to the Moulin Rouge. We made it to the train station with about an hour to spare for our return ICE trip. While waiting in the train station, Tara’s mom’s backpack was stolen right underneath our nose! On the bright side, at least her passport wasn’t in there.

*Dec 24 (Day 7)
A week in, and we’re already exhausted, but we wanted to give our visitors a glimpse of our life here in Germany. We invited friends from the village over for a Christmas Eve gathering and had a full house! It was a great evening of baking cookies and sipping hot chocolate, all while we had Christmas movies playing in the background.

*Dec 25 (Day 8)
Merry Christmas!

Oh wait, we had to pack for Prague.

*Dec 26 (Day 9)
We picked up two rental vehicles and drove six hours to Prague. We found an Air B&B in “Prague 2” that had three rooms and fit nine people. The apartment was large and next to the Prague Metro, which was only a 5 minute ride (or quick Uber ride) to the Prague Old Town Square.

Of course, we spent the evening wandering around the Christmas Market, followed by dinner at the Hard Rock Café.

*Dec 27 (Day 10)
We signed up for a free walking tour of the city. Although we didn’t visit the inside of any places, it was a great way to see all the city has to offer. We got to see the main attractions from the Prague Astronomical Clock to the Prague Castle, while getting a history lesson at the same time. We ended Day 10, and frankly began Day 11, with a night out in the city.

*Dec 28 (Day 11)
It was a six hour drive back to Kaiserslautern, and I couldn’t wait to get home to a good night’s sleep.

Of course that wasn’t happening. We had to pack for Amsterdam.

*Dec 29 (Day 12)
We got an early start for our five hour drive to Amsterdam. The kids stayed home so we could make this an adult’s only trip. We found a hotel in Nieuw-Vennep for €120 a night that could fit six people comfortably, named De Rustende Jager.

Nieuw-Vennep is a suburb of Amsterdam and only a 20 minute train ride to Amsterdam Centraal.

Once in Amsterdam, we did an Amsterdam Canal Cruise, followed by a trip into the coldest bar in the world, the Ice Bar. We ended the night wandering through the city, and of course trying not to inhale the “funny-smelling air.”

*Dec 30 (Day 13)
We only spent one night in The Netherlands, but decided to take the “long way” home. First stop was the Christmas Market in Liège, Belgium, where (of course) we picked up some Belgian beer and indulged in Belgian waffles. Next stop on the way back to Kaiserslautern was the Luxembourg City Christmas Market. Although quaint, with ice skating and a fire to stand around, this was probably our favorite market during the whole trip!

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*Dec 31 (Day 14)
It was great to be back in Kaiserslautern, but the adventure wasn’t finished yet. We decided to invite our village friends over, again, for a New Years celebration!

It was a great night of ringing in the New Year, and of course lighting fireworks off in the street.

*Jan 1 (Day 15)
This was a well-needed rest day. I had to get ready to go back to work. A great day to sit around, watch college football, and drink the Belgian beer we brought home.

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*Jan 2 (Day 16)
This was the last full day for our visitors. Tara actually grew up in an Army family, and she and her mom lived close to Baumholder in the 80s. So we brought her to her childhood home in Idar-Oberstein, which was a perfect way to have one last “hoorah.” We finished the night with dinner at Spinnrädl in Kaiserslautern.

*Jan 3 (Day 17)

Our guests had an early flight back to the States from Frankfurt International. Auf Wiedersehen!!

There you have it. 17 days, 9 people, 8 Christmas Markets, and 6 countries. It was a crazy awesome holiday season, but well worth it! They plan to come back again in 2020, so we’ll see what kind of crazy adventure we can put together when that happens…