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France and the Netherlands

It's really hard to believe that six days from now we'll be back in the States. . . what a long, strange trip it's been. About a month ago we flew into Amsterdam and immediately drove down to France. I'm sure it would have been a lovely drive if we hadn't taken the highway the whole way, getting stuck in terrible traffic for 2 hours in Belgium. France was great, though. . .We spent the bulk of the week in the Northeastern city of Nancy and then driving south to Burgundy.
One of the highlights of the week was the show that Josh played in the small town of Chagny in Burgundy. The Theatre Copaius was built in the 1850's by a local man who was dating an opera singer. In an over-the-top display of affection, he built this gorgeous 200 person theatre adjacent to his house. Not surprisingly, the poor man ended up bankrupt and had to sell the theatre (and I'm guessing the lady dumped him at this point). Now it is used for all kinds of city events, including the much-anticipated Josh Harty concert! The afternoon before the gig Josh went around to a couple of the local grade schools and spoke to the children (through a French interpreter) about American music, culture, etc. Some of the questions and comments were pretty hilarious (such as "Do you know Rhianna?" seriously?!)
The night of the show the theatre was packed. . . Josh played for 2 hours completely un-plugged, no amplifier or microphone. . . and at the end they called him back for 4 encores!

signing autographs for the French teenagers
before the show at Theatre Copaius
So back in the Netherlands. . . If you read my blog post from last year you know how much I respect the Dutch. They have a very lovely, well-run country, despite the fact that the first things most people think of when they think of Holland is weed and prostitutes.  I was happy that we got to spend a full two weeks there this year, including a considerable amount of time in Amsterdam. If you venture outside of the very center of Amsterdam, where most of the tourist-friendly coffee shops, pubs, gift shops, overpriced restaurants and brothels are, you will find a really unique, amazing city. We also went to several new cities this year including Nijmegen, Heusden, Rotterdam and Groningen. 
Christmas time in Amsterdam

Most people, including the Dutch, don't venture as far north as the 3 provinces of Friesland, Drenthe and Groningen. I was actually shocked at how many Dutch people in the South we spoke to who had never been up there. . .it's only about a 2 hour drive from Amsterdam to the main northern University city of Groningen! And it's a very lovely city. . .We stayed with a Couchsurfer named Willy who lives in a 500 year old building, actually built into a part of the original Roman wall that surrounded the city. For a few days, including the trip to Groningen, we were met by my sister Sam and her bf Dan who flew in from Atlanta for a quick holiday. 

Sam, Dan & Josh in Groningen
The first night with Sam & Dan was a night off for Josh and one of our favorite musicians, Jason Isbell,  happened to be playing in the central NL city of Hengelo. The 200-seat show had sold out weeks before but Sam bought tickets through some overpriced third party website. . . we were really looking forward to it. But during lunch the day of the show we realized that the tickets were supposed to be shipped to Sam's apt in Atlanta and they never arrived! And when I talked to a woman with the company we purchased the tickets through, she said "It looks like the seller backed out, sorry!" We were temporarily distraught but pulled ourselves together and got on the good ol' social media sites, pleading with anyone who would listen to help us out. Amazingly, we heard back from both the venue and Jason himself. We're still not sure who exactly left the free tickets for us at the box office, but we were so grateful (the day after Thanksgiving!) and the show was fantastic!
Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires
Now we just have 3 final shows in southern England. . . I think Josh is really looking forward to taking a break!

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