September 25, 2023
The whirlwind European romance that is lasted for 50 years


Carolyn Mazzie arrived at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport in September 1971, excited to embark on a 3 week tour of Europe.

Carolyn, then 30, labored for the Southern Pacific Railroad, an American prepare community that’s since been absorbed into the Union Pacific rail firm. 50 years in the past, Southern Pacific Railroad had a number of thousand staff, and the corporate’s worker membership hosted common worldwide journeys, chartering airplanes and buses to ferry the railroad staff round Europe.

On prime of her common work duties, Carolyn was concerned in organizing these excursions. She’d spend hours at conferences, serving to coordinate plans. Arriving in Europe was all the time just a little nerve-wracking – if something went even barely improper, she felt accountable. Positive, that they had enjoyable, however Carolyn was all the time, at the least partially, in “work mode.”

On the 1971 journey, Carolyn and her colleagues had been picked up on the airport in a shiny yellow bus. As Carolyn directed her coworkers, serving to them load their baggage on board and settle into their seats, she was unaware of the journey’s tour director, watching her admiringly from afar.

“I used to be standing outdoors the bus,” the tour director, Chris De Vreeze tells CNN Journey. “And I have to say that she regarded good to me proper there.”

Chris was a twentysomething from the Netherlands. He’d not too long ago completed his then-compulsory Dutch navy service and launched into a backpacking journey throughout Europe.

Again house within the Netherlands, he’d landed a tour director job that, at the least partially, glad his wanderlust – working as a information working journeys to nations throughout Scandinavia, in addition to to Spain and Portugal.

“We had been in command of selecting the vacationers up at Schiphol Airport, after which touring all through Scandinavia for about three weeks by bus,” Chris recollects. “And that’s how we met, for the primary time, in Amsterdam.”

“I didn’t actually discover Chris that a lot, at first,” says Carolyn. She was exhausted from the flight and targeted on the journey getting off to a superb begin.

That first day, Chris’ bus drove to Lübeck, in northern Germany, so the drained transatlantic vacationers may get some relaxation earlier than the next day’s drive.

The primary leg of the journey was clean. From there, the tour group caught a automotive ferry from Germany to Denmark after which on to Sweden, and Norway.

It was on one in every of these ferry journeys that Chris and Carolyn talked one-on-one for the primary time.

“I bear in mind we had been sitting on a gangway on an in a single day ferry,” recollects Chris. “We had been simply speaking and ingesting.”

The whirlwind European romance that is lasted for 50 years

Sitting underneath the celebs, the 2 chatted about their lives up till that time – Chris’ travels, Carolyn’s job with the railroad. They mentioned the US and the Netherlands, and their nations’ variations and similarities.

“We began getting alongside higher and higher,” says Chris.

It was a transparent night time and most passengers had been asleep of their cabins. Sitting on the deck, Chris and Carolyn regarded out over the horizon. Within the distance they seen turquoise spots of sunshine dancing above the water. They couldn’t consider it, it regarded just like the Aurora Borealis.

This second, says Chris, “very romantic and soulful.”

“Though,” he provides. “To this present day I’m not certain whether or not they had been the Northern Lights or another lights from perhaps a metropolis, or God is aware of what.”

Chris and Carolyn unintentionally stayed up all night time underneath the celebs, watching the water, chatting and finally dozed off.

When the ferry docked, the opposite passengers returned to the bus however Chris and Carolyn had been nowhere to be discovered. One of many different vacationers obtained off the bus to go and search for them. Chris and Carolyn had been discovered nonetheless asleep, sitting side-by-side on the deck.

Carolyn was mortified. However she’d cherished talking to Chris towards the backdrop of the glowing Scandinavian sky.

Carolyn and Chris started to spend more and more time together on the trip. Here they are in Stockholm together.

Carolyn saved a journal chronicling the three-week European journey, which she nonetheless has at the moment. Within the pocket book, she wrote about how most nights she and Chris wouldn’t go to mattress till 3 or 4 a.m., spending all night time chatting, partying, and attending to know each other.

However though the 2 had been bonding, Carolyn was courting another person again house in California. She didn’t see the connection outlasting her time in Europe.

In direction of the top of the journey, Chris, Carolyn and among the different vacationers had been enjoyable in a Dutch resort bar, when Carolyn was knowledgeable by resort employees there was a global name ready for her.

The journey had supposedly been paid for in full upfront. However on the cellphone, Carolyn discovered there have been some fee discrepancies. Seemingly, the exterior tour firm had uncared for to pay for some resort rooms and air fares.

Carolyn ended up on the head places of work of the airline, Transavia, making an attempt to work out what was happening, and the way it may very well be resolved. Chris got here together with her, for ethical assist, and to see what sensible options they might give you.

Chris and Carolyn worked together to resolve an unexpected crisis.

It transpired there was some $5,000 lacking. What was worse is nobody knew the place it had gone, and till the scenario was resolved, Carolyn and her coworkers had been caught in Amsterdam, their constitution flight grounded.

With Chris’ assist, Carolyn obtained in contact with Southern Pacific Railroad, which organized for the funds to be wired over, however it wouldn’t be instantaneous. An settlement was organized – the constitution flight may go away the next day, however Carolyn and Chris would keep put, handing over their passports as collateral whereas they waited for the cash to reach. And so, the remainder of Carolyn’s group flew on forward.

Carolyn’s colleagues didn’t totally perceive what was taking place. A few of them thought she was simply discovering an excuse to remain behind with Chris for an additional day. Internally, Carolyn was panicking, however externally she tried to remain calm.

“Carolyn and I stayed in a single day in a resort close to the airport,” recollects Chris. “And the following morning, we went to American Specific and picked up the verify for $5,000, introduced it again to Transavia. They usually gave us our passports again.”

From there, Carolyn was capable of fly to London to affix her colleagues and fly again to California. It was an emotional curler coaster that solely introduced the American vacationer and the Dutch tour information nearer collectively.

“Oh, I used to be determined, I used to be a wreck,” recollects Carolyn. “And my hero got here to my rescue and he took care of all the pieces. That’s once I began considering, properly, this man’s actually type.”

Chris says the expertise, and the additional day they spent collectively, “solely furthered our romance.”

Chris and Carolyn sent stacks of letters to one another.

Earlier than Carolyn boarded her flight, she and Chris swapped addresses. Again house within the US, she acquired her first letter from Europe.

“We saved in touch,” Carolyn recollects.

Her Californian relationship fizzled out, however the letters to and from the Netherlands continued, and upped in frequency.

The 2 wrote, says Chris, “about all the pieces and something.”

“It was commonplace in any respect for us to get two or three letters every week,” he recollects. “Plenty of telegrams, and costly phone calls every now and then, not too typically. However it was principally all by mail. So we had stacks – we nonetheless have them – stacks and stacks of letters that had been despatched to one another.”

Chris and Carolyn each regarded ahead to the letters arriving. And the uncommon cellphone calls had been further particular.

“He has a beautiful voice, I cherished speaking to him on the cellphone,” says Carolyn.

If the seeds of their romance had been planted on the Scandinavian ferry, the couple fell in love by way of their lengthy distance correspondence.

When Chris deliberate a go to to the US that December. Carolyn had a “little feeling” he may suggest. Her intuition was appropriate.

“I all the time needed to see her once more, in fact, and I already had made up my thoughts – I used to be going to ask her to marry me,” says Chris.

To get from the Netherlands to the US, Chris spent over 24 hours touring – flying from Amsterdam to Luxembourg, then to Reykjavik, Iceland, and from there to New York, earlier than flying throughout the US to California.

Chris was properly traveled, however he’d by no means been on such a mammoth air journey. And he’d by no means launched into a visit that appeared so vital. He was nervous and excited.

“However once I obtained there, I met her household,” Chris says, calling them “fantastic folks.”

The proposal, he says, was “quaint.”

“I have to admit I used to be fairly nervous,” he says. “The nervousness disappeared when Carolyn accepted and it grew to become a joyous time for each of us.”

Carolyn says her household cherished Chris from the get-go. If her family members had hesitations about her falling in love with the European tour director she’d met simply as soon as earlier than (“Who finally ends up with their tour director on a visit to Europe?” she jokes) they didn’t categorical them.

“I used to be 30 on the time. In these days that was form of late in life to satisfy anyone,” provides Carolyn, laughing. “In order that they had been so joyful.”

Carolyn was a lot nearer to her household than Chris was, so dwelling within the US collectively appeared like the plain alternative. This turned out to be extra sophisticated than the couple anticipated. Chris’ visa was held up for a number of months, however finally Chris and Carolyn obtained married in Might 1973 within the US. Carolyn took Chris’ title, turning into Carolyn De Vreeze.

Here's Carolyn and Chris on their wedding day.

The marriage was a raucous, joyful event, with some 500 friends in attendance.

“It was only a nice celebration, reside band and all that – it was simply completely fabulous,” recollects Chris.

Many of the attendees had been Carolyn’s family and friends. “All my buddies from work, everyone I may consider I invited,” says Carolyn. Chris’ friends had been fewer in quantity.

“Within the late 60s, early 70s, a visit to the USA was like an enormous deal,” he explains. However he says he didn’t thoughts.

“I had you,” Chris says to Carolyn at the moment. “That’s all I wanted.”

On the finish of the marriage, Chris and Carolyn placed on their “going away” garments and obtained into their automotive – a Ford Mustang – to drive off into the sundown, or at the least into the brand new chapter of their life. Chris held the passenger seat door open to Carolyn, and jumped into the motive force’s seat, as was custom.

“I get within the automotive, we drive away. Everyone’s waving and cheering, ‘Goodbye, Goodbye.’ We drove across the nook out of sight and I obtained out of the automotive and she or he obtained behind the wheel.”

Chris didn’t have a US driving license but, so Carolyn needed to drive.

From there, Chris and Carolyn settled into their life collectively in Oakland, California. In 1975, they moved into the home during which they raised their two youngsters, and during which they nonetheless reside at the moment.

Chris and Carolyn, pictured here on vacation in Jamaica, have been together for over 50 years.

In the present day, Chris and Carolyn say they’re proud to have raised worldwide children, who get pleasure from their Dutch and American heritage, and still have their very own multicultural households.

“We raised them proper, with none form of prejudice,” says Chris.

The previous 50 years haven’t all been simple for Chris and Carolyn. There have been making an attempt, heartbreaking moments – corresponding to when Carolyn suffered a miscarriage within the early years of their marriage. After which, when their children had been younger, Chris’ hospitality job saved him at work into the early hours of the morning, the couple had been like ships within the night time. Chris and Carolyn say they’ve labored laborious to trip the waves of life collectively over the many years.

“There’s all the time ups and downs in each relationship and definitely in ours, at occasions it didn’t look all that promising, however we caught it out,” says Chris.

“You survive the tough occasions, and you then’re joyful that you just did,” says Carolyn. “It’s a dedication.”

In the present day, the couple treasure the reminiscences of hurtling round Scandinavia on the intense yellow bus, and delight within the years they’ve shared collectively.

“Wanting again at 50 years in the past, or so, all of it went so quick. Time goes by so quick, it’s over earlier than you recognize it,” says Chris.

However the couple hope there may be extra pleasure to come back, they dote on their grandchildren, and love spending time with their household. They’re trying ahead to celebrating their 50 12 months wedding ceremony anniversary later this 12 months.

In the present day, the couple suppose crossing paths with one another on Carolyn’s European tour was destiny.

“I cherished her from day one and I nonetheless love her to this present day,” says Chris.

“It was simply meant to be,” says Carolyn. “It was meant to be.”