On November 13th, Paris was attacked by a group of assailants who chose to target what France values most: its way of life. The young men involved, while impacting the greater community, focused on cafes, concert venues, and neighborhoods because it is in these well-tread spaces that people feel comfortable. It is in these spaces people feel at home. And much like a break-in, attacking someone’s home is an easy way to keep that person feel uncomfortable for a long time.
Obviously, a key component of terrorism is to do physical harm. But a larger piece of terrorism is dissolving a sense of normalcy. It forces those impacted to be wary of familiar areas and faces, to second-guess communal events, to be constantly, exhaustingly aware of one’s surroundings. The silver lining is that it creates alliances as well. In fear, we band together and forge bonds that would not have otherwise been created- the trick is what we use those fear-based bonds to do. In Paris, citizens united with #JeSuisEnTerrasse to encourage Parisians to get back to their daily lives. The Friday following the attacks had locals and foreigners alike enjoying cafes and wine outside, business as usual. Maintaining normalcy had become an act of defiance.
Meanwhile, in the States, friends and family began asking if I was still planning on traveling to Europe, given the manhunt underway, the refugee crisis, and increasing tensions. After all, my mom and I had planned a trip six months prior that would fly us in to Brussels and then drift us south through the Alsace-Lorraine wine region, over into Germany, up the Rhein, into Brugge and back to Brussels. We had scoped out the best Christmas markets and storybook towns, chalets and castles, wineries, spas, cafes, and routes. Everything was set but we were square in high alert territory.
On the one hand, relatives called and said, “It just seems too risky. Doesn’t it just seem like asking for trouble?” And on the other, friends and co-workers said, “How could you cancel for something that can’t be planned? Shootings and tragedies happen all the time here– and we don’t just stay at home!”
My mom and I talked and talked (and talked some more) and read articles from several news outlets over the course of weeks that followed and that phrase stuck with me:
“We don’t just stay home.” #JeSuisEnTerrasse.
Belgium may still be looking for accomplices for November 13th’s Paris attack. Germany may have foiled their own. Borders are no longer fully open and streams of refugees may be pouring in from all corners but life goes on. And to stop living- to avoid that which makes you most happy- is to give those who engage in terror exactly what they want. So this Friday we are defiantly celebrating Christmas early in Europe and I hope you join us on our journey as we go.
Day 1: Arrive in Brussels, head south to Dinant for flamiche and onion domed cathedrals. Keep on keepin’ on til we hit Ostwald’s 17th Century Chateau de L’ile Hotel outside of Strasbourg in the heart of the Alsatian wine trail.
Day 2: Head south into the storybook towns of Colmar, Eguisheim, Kaysersberg, Riquewhihr, and Obernai. Spend another night at Chateau de L’ile and try to sneak in a massage or a swim.
Day 3: Cross the border into Germany. Stay at Hotel Zum Baren (famous for their food) and drink Rudesheimer coffee.
Day 4: Head north up the river to the early 900s castle Schoenburg in Oberwesel, stopping at little German towns along the way.
Day 5-7: Wind up the river, over the border into Belgium and stay at 1800’s Hotel Patritius in Brugge. Climb castle spires, eat chocolate, laze down the canals until dinner.
Day 8: Spend the day in Ghent, Antwerp or both before returning the car at Brussels’ airport and passing out in the attached hotel for the morning flight home.
Next up: The Packing List (or how I learned to stop hoarding fuzzy sweaters and embrace the near-empty bag)