Christmastime Czech* List

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A wise friend Kelly suggested I wait to write about son Joe and his wife, Marie’s, visit to the United States until they’d actually touched down upon U.S. soil.

Just in case.

Better safe than you know what.

I’d hate for something I’d written here to jinx my daughter-in-law’s first visit to the U.S.

Joe and Marie married 18 months ago in Ostrava, Czech Republic. Since then, Joe has flown home once to visit. But Marie has never been to the United States.

Not for lack of trying. Marie applied for a U.S. visa, but our government rejected her application (without explanation).

Maybe Uncle Sam feared Marie married Joe just to wriggle into the United States and stay here.

The thing is, Joe and Marie have no desire to live in the states. They love their life in the Czech Republic. But they do want to visit Joe’s country and family sometimes.

Praise be to Skype, and a web cam and email and telephones, we talk to Joe and Marie and even see them frequently.


And although those technologies have been a godsend, there’s nothing like a real visit, complete with hugs and squeezes.

Luckily, George Bush did one good thing signed a bill that waived the visa requirement for Czechs (in exchange for a missile shield defense system in its country, and one in Poland, too).

The deal’s side effect – visa-free travel – became a joyful reality on Nov. 17, when Joe and Marie purchased airline tickets, sans visa.

So my daughter-in-law and youngest son will be here soon. (Right now Joe and Marie are in San Francisco behaving like tourists with friends.)

I confess I’m nervous, not about seeing her, because we met Marie at the wedding in Ostrava.

I’m nervous about her having a good time while she’s here. I’m nervous that her trip will fall short of her expectations and imagination. I want to show her as good a time here as she and her family showed us when we visited the Czech Republic.

While there, Marie was the most dedicated, informed, energetic tour guide as she hauled us around Prague and Ostrava and the small town in which her parents live, and even in Stramberk, the adorable village in which her grandfather lives.

Plus, Marie’s mother prepared a delicious lunch for us one day in our honor, and her entire family pulled out the stops to host the most moving and memorable wedding and reception.

Marie showed us incredible castles and impressive architecture. We ate and drank in charming old pubs (I learned to drink beer on that trip) and heard the most moving music in ancient cathedrals.

Here’s the kicker: Marie’s so well-read about the United States that she might know more about it than your average American. She’s researched it. She’s watched movies about it. That’s how she came up with such specific requests during her stay as the Winchester Mystery House and a meal in a Real American Diner.

And anything else we can think of.

I’m making a list, and checking it twice for authentic, must-see north state places for Marie to see while she’s here.

This is what I’ve got so far:
1. Sundial Bridge
2. Turtle Bay/Arboretum
3. Lassen Peak
4. Mt. Shasta
5. Old Shasta
6. French Gulch (Europeans love old West stuff)
7. Shasta Caverns (are they open in December?)
8. Christmas-light tours
9. Dinner at Maritime (Joe’s former employer)
10. La Cabana (Joe’s favorite Mexican restaurant, where he was a regular)
11. Whiskeytown Falls
12. Downtown Cottonwood (at night, so they can see the lights)
13. Shasta Dam
14. New Clairveaux Winery
15. Crab from Buz’s

What have I missed?

Marie wants to go Christmas shopping one day for Joe. And they’ll take a trip up the coast to see the ocean and the redwoods, and they’ll drive to the Portland area to see Joe’s aunt and uncle. But they’ll return before Christmas, where Marie has requested a traditional American Christmas dinner; the kind she’s read about.

No pressure.

Must go cook something. And make another list.

In the meantime, I’m open to suggestions.

* Joe and Marie, please forgive the Czech pun. It’s my last one, I promise.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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18 Responses

  1. Avatar Mary Willmon says:

    Wonderful news! Doni, it really doesn't matter what you cook, it will done to perfection with lots of love. Marie is fun, loving and full of laughter, the perfect match for Joe. We so enjoyed visiting with them in Ostrava last March. And now they are finally! in the US. Enjoy the your Christmas together. Hugs all around! Mary and Bill

  2. Avatar veph says:

    Dobre rano, Marie a Josko!

  3. Avatar veph says:

    Vítejte v Kalifornii!

  4. Avatar veph says:

    Maritime je fantastické. Musíte mít jídle tam. Ale mohu doporu?it ve?e?e v Nello je vyzkoušet n?které cioppino, Kalifornie je jeden z nejlepších p?ísp?vk? na sv?tové kuchyn?? Nello se d?lá velký cioppino.

  5. Avatar Sheila Barnes says:

    Welcome to the U.S. Maire and welcome to Shasta County! If Marie wants to do some very fun Christmas shopping, then take her to the year round Christmas shop/antique store on Main Street in Cottonwood (Country Lane Antiques) AND the House of Design in Red Bluff. Both are musts this time of year! And you don't have the Cascade Theater on your list! There MIGHT still be tickets left for Thomaseen Foley's "A Celtic Christma". Happy Holidays to all!

  6. How wonderful for you all — touring the Northstate with *new* eyes!

    It sounds like your itinerary covers just about everything that needs to be seen. One thing your daughter-in-law might enjoy is watching old home videos (or home movies) of Joe's boyhood Christmases.

    However you spend your time, I'll bet it will be a truly magical Christmas for you all.

  7. Avatar CinnamonKern says:

    While retail establishments certainly have their place in an itinerary this time of year, for sheer sense of place, pick a very good mountaintop to see far and wide from. . .without the madding crowds. I suggest a drive up ino the mountains above Lake Siskiyou, where you can see over into Trinity County and get a beautiful view of Mt. Shasta and the fall/winter landscapes. Take hot cocoa and marshmallows and build a little fire and roast hot dogs,even!

  8. Avatar River City Sue says:

    Vesele Vanoce Marie a Joska!

    I loved Prague and meeting relatives there. What a joyful Christmas this will be for the Greenberg family.

  9. We think a holiday concert by Redding Idol at Old City Hall and a spin around town for Art Hop on the 13th is in order! But, we're biased. Doni and Bruce – Enjoy your family for the holidays. We get to pick up our daughter at the airport on Christmas day, so I know how it feels. Troy is going to dress as Santa. That will be the best Christmas present ever as I'm sure seeing your son and daughter-in law will be! Happy Holidays!

    Adam & Troy

  10. Avatar Joanne Snyder says:

    Doni, park on Shasta street below Court Street and take her to Moore's Flour Mill, The Oregon St. Antique Mall, and Wild Thyme Gifts and Gardens in one short walk. She might like to know about our herbs and grains, local plants, and what we consider antiques. And she has to see the new creek overlook on Clear Creek. If you're lucky you'll get a great view of spawning salmon, a gorgeous creek canyon and deer.

  11. Avatar dennisk says:

    Looks like my last message didn't get past the Internet. But I really also recommend two other great places to eat. The first is the Klassic Kafe on Athens Avenue, where owners Millie and Kathy give you hugs and serve great Midwestern breakfast and lunch. They also know I'm on a diet and always bring me salad and magnificent soup. The other is the new Rivers restaurant on Hemsted, just down the street from my office. (You and Bruce are always welcome to bring them to visit my office also, of course, and see the magnificent northerly view). And of course bring Kelly, if she wants)

  12. Avatar 343 says:

    dam burger. aqua golf. stress ribbon bridge. jolly green flea market. the bow rack. gold street cafe. breathe.

  13. Avatar Tammy D says:


    Once Marie sees the exquisite home you and Bruce created and tastes your magnificent meals, she will not want to leave. Many blessings to you and your family. Tammy

  14. Avatar Michele E. says:

    That's quite a list! How long are they staying? Or is it your secret plan to keep them so busy they forget to leave? If so, here's my contribution to the plot:

    Locally, what about Jack's? A real Redding icon. For a (non-chain) burger: Bartel's, Gene's, Pop's, all have a genuine local feel – but Damburger is a great choice, too. Diestelhorst Bridge? a nice contrast to the Sun Dial.

    As long as you are going to Mt. Shasta anyway, Dunsmuir (especially Brown Trout Gallery with the underground creek, though that is more impressive when it's 100 degrees out) and Castle Crags are both on the way. Dunsmuir's Burger Barn is another good diner choice. The dinner train? (I've never done it, but have heard it's fun.) McCloud is also full of atmosphere – not so much a wild west feel, but great old lumber town.

    And if you are going that far, you might want to tool on up to Ashland – no Shakespeare this time of year, but we love the historic Ashland Springs and they have some great specials that include lodging, food and a movie at the theater next door – plus really pretty this time of year. And then Jackson is nearby for more old west options.

    Most important, and you can do this anywhere with no $$s – fold in lots of hugs, laughs, pictures (old and new) and add a few dashes of down time!

    I'm so happy for you. Have a wonderful time!

  15. Tammy D is right! It will probably hard to pry them away from Greenberg Acres!

    We are so thrilled for you and for Marie and Joe! It's embarrassing for me as an American citizen that it's taken so long for Marie to get a tourist visa. We should be so lucky that she and your sweet Joe would want to grace our shores as residents! But we are delighted that they're here and we know that there is no way at all that they could be disappointed with you and Bruce looking after them while they're here.

  16. Avatar GrammaLyn says:

    Hi Doni, Lots of good suggestions from your friends above. My thought would be to bring out the old photo albums to show Marie how adorable Joe was as he was growing up. You could pull out all of his old school art projects that you have in a box somewhere and have fun talking about his childhood. You are the keeper of his history, so take time to share it with his wife. Hugs to all…..

  17. Avatar Mary Burns says:

    Hi Doni,

    Loved the article of Joe and Marie and all the ideas for hosting them. It brought back memories of when we visited Scott in Prague a number of years ago. I loved it also because Scott is coming home for Christmas as well and bringing a girl friend from Greece. Scott is living and working in Moscow and she is living and working in Washington D.C. I am also a little nervous because I want her to have a good time. Thanks for giving some ideas to help me show her around this area and show her the wonderful Redding hospitality. I'm wondering what you will be serving for meals?

    Have a wonderful holiday. I'm very excited for you.

    Mary Burns