Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - October 14, 2016

Through new eyes

Our multiple trips to Europe have sometimes left brother Dave shaking his head.

“Most people would be satisfied with a single trip to Europe in their lifetime,” he commented.

So he was understandably astonished when he learned husband Art and I were going again - the second time this year! And he wasn’t alone. I think family members and friends thought we were nuts when they learned we were headed back to Metz, France last month. After all, we had been there earlier this year. Even our friends in the little village of Fèves near Metz have been kidding us that it was time we began looking at property.

But this trip was special. We were accompanying Morganville, Kansas Mayor Brent Rundell and his wife Charlotte. Morganville adopted Fèves after World War II, and the Rundells would be visiting their sister village for the first time.

Before we left, we gave them advice on adapters they’d need for various electrical devices, how to pack (rolling clothes rather than folding them yields more space), what kind of clothing to take based on the weather, how much money they should plan on taking and in what form, what the weight limit for bags was, and so on. We also asked what they might like to see besides Fèves.

The weather cooperated beautifully for our 13-day adventure and our travel style seemed to work well for them as well. They were total partners when it came to meals and cleaning in our little “home away from home” in Metz. They attended official functions in Fèves, enjoyed dinners with Fèves friends, and took even more photos than I did - which is hard to do.

We took them to many of the places we like - downtown Metz, including its magnificent Saint-Étienne Cathedral and its covered market filled with fish, meat, flower, cheese, vegetable, fruit and specialty items.

We spent a day in Trier, Germany, exploring the Roman baths, well-preserved amphitheater and famous Porta Nigra, the palace gardens and city’s old market area filled with modern stores, and the cathedral. We stopped at a vineyard to take pictures and sample the purplish-reddish grapes ripening in the sun.

When I sent messages and photos to sister Gaila, she asked, “Are these places new for you two? Or have you been there before?”

I responded:

We’ve seen most of the places, but we’re seeing new things - for example, at the Roman baths in Trier, we’d seen the outside but hadn’t gone underground. And we’ve seen the grape vines, but only when the grapes were green and tiny instead of plump and purple. Kind of neat to see things through new eyes and at a different time of year ...

My comment to Gaila reminded me of a conversation with Mom a few years ago. We had stopped for the umpteenth time at the scenic overlook on our way to Council Grove. I wanted to take some pictures of the prairie grasses and wildflowers of the Flint Hills.

“But you take pictures every time we go to Council Grove!” Mom protested.

“Yes, but the light is different at different times of the day and the seasons are different and the plants are different,” I explained.

She just shook her head.

Perhaps it’s just part of my nature to be as amused or amazed the second or third or 10th time as I was on the first.

So it was inevitable I would not only enjoy seeing familiar things at a different time of year, but would also enjoy seeing Brent and Charlotte’s reactions to them. We stopped at a Cora - a large chain store similar to our Walmart Supercenters - and they were as astonished by the packages of frozen octopus and the extensive aisles of cheese and wine as we were our first time. They were as moved as we have been to see the large World War I cemetery at Fort Douamont near Verdun, France; the largest American World War II cemetery in Europe near St. Avold, France; and the Battle of the Bulge memorial near Bastogne, Belgium. And they were “like kids in a candy shop” when they spotted tractors and other farm equipment along country roads and visited a farm and an equestrian center.

Hometown friend Tom has traveled to Europe several times, too, and I shared with him stories about our latest excursion. He replied:

The mayor and his wife wanting you to go reminds me of Gary and Marilyn Jones the time I went to Switzerland-Italy with them and Gary’s niece. They wanted to go to a kind of natural foods tour in the Alps for a week and then look around for a week after that, but didn’t feel confident enough to go by themselves so they asked me to go and plan the extra week. It was a hoot. That was actually in September and the weather nice. After a week in the lodge we visited some farms in Switzerland and then I drove them into Italy. We were mostly in the Lake Como area, as I knew quite a few young people who had spent six months at Disney World when I worked there. At one farm after lunch, the parents kept bringing to the table their own vino santo from various years to have us try, then a wonderful but stout limonello that made us all quite joyous!

Our trip with Brent and Charlotte was memorable and much fun. And the copious amounts of wine, champagne and eau de vie made from the local mirabelle plum shared with our Fèves friends made for many a joyous moment. But a big part of what made this trip unique was seeing people, places and things through new eyes and at a different time of year.

And perhaps our friends in Fèves understand this too. Near the end of our stay, one said, “See you in a couple of months.” It is true that on several occasions we’ve wondered what Christmas would be like in Europe, so ????

Top-left: Art photobombing the others in front of the Roman bath in Trier; bottom-left: Brent returning the favor in front of the Porta Nigra in Trier; top-middle: Gloria, Art, Charlotte and Brent outside Hackenberg; bottom-center: Charlotte and Gloria in front of the palace and palace gardens in Trier; top-right: octopus for sale in the Cora; bottom-right: ripening grapes on the banks of the Mosel near Trier.

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