I can’t believe it’s been a year since we started planning and six months since we returned. I’ve started this blog post probably 25 times, and just haven’t been able to adequately put into words the experiences of this past summer. But now I’m feeling pressure to get it written down before the memories start to fade. As I’ve been pouring over pictures and editing one little piece at a time, it’s made me feel more pressure to write everything down so I don’t forget. I’ve wrestled with where to even start. How to approach all the things we learned, the amazing pieces of history we saw, the culture we experienced. It’s almost overwhelming. So, I’ve decided that I’m just going to write about things in a chronological order. From start to finish, in the order in which we traveled. That seems to make the most sense. So, if you’re a travel enthusiast like me, or just enjoy looking at pictures of pretty places around the world, I hope you will join me on this journey over the next several months as I take Tuesdays to talk about our travels throughout Europe as a family.
So, what started us on this journey you ask? In October of 2014 it was announced that the company that my husband worked for was going to be acquired by another, larger company. He would be part of the group that was asked to stay on and help the two companies transition after the merger, but then he would be out of work on June 1st, 2015. The company had been considering selling for some time, so we knew it was coming for years, and I had half-jokingly said in the past how awesome it would be if things lined up and we could go on some incredible adventure with the kids while he had a little time off in-between jobs. When the announcement was made and it looked like things were really going to happen this time, that idea popped back into my head. I had visions of renting an old farmhouse in the South of France and letting the kids frolic in the lavender fields and soak up the sun, while I went into the charming little town nearby, to gather farm fresh gourmet delicacies and antiques.
With the timing of his last day being right a the beginning of the summer, I just couldn’t believe that things might actually work out how I had imagined them, with the kids being out of school at the same time that he had some time off. These big mergers however, can be unpredictable and fall apart literally at the last minute, so nothing would be concrete until the deal was signed at the beginning of February. We started talking about the real possibility of making our travel dream a reality, and making lists of where we would want to go, how long we would want to stay in each place and everything we would want to see and do. And we watched A LOT of Rick Steves videos. 😉 As February grew closer and the deal looked like a go, we started getting more serious about things…looking up flights, picking dates etc. We were TOTALLY overwhelmed by the idea of leaving for three months and traveling to places we had never been before, but we were super excited too. The day the deal closed we booked our flights to London. There was no turning back.
It turns out, booking the flights was the easy part. The rest turned out to be very labor intensive and a bit frustrating for awhile. We read reviews, looked at website after website until our eyes were red and puffy late at night, and found that trying to book hotels/attractions and travel in Europe with little or no experience is a much different ball game than it is here in the states. Even traveling with just a family of four we were going to need to book 2 hotel rooms everywhere we went, which was going to get expensive quickly. Contacting the hotels was at best difficult because websites are not super user friendly. Just calling internationally to speak to people on the other side of the world to make arrangements was a learning experience…especially fighting through language barriers. Then there was the issue of the beds. We couldn’t even understand HOW they categorized the beds (twin, single, double etc.), which made for some fun…and that deserves a whole post on it’s own! Arranging transportation between cities and countries proved to be another adventure. We ended up using just about every type of transportation you can imagine…planes, trains, automobiles, trolleys, subways, taxis, boats…you name it, we were on it. It made for interesting and harrowing experiences at times.
Before we could start booking, we had to figure out where we were going to be and when. Creating an itinerary for traveling across Europe can be a time consuming ordeal. John wrote and re-wrote an itinerary. He was careful to put it in an order that made it so that we weren’t wasting a bunch of time in unnecessary travel days. That our travel days weren’t too long, or too close together so that the kids wouldn’t get bored, and so that we could take advantage of cooler weather in places like Salzburg and Vienna in the middle of the summer and visit places like Paris, that get very warm, earlier in the trip to take advantage of spring days. After about 30 drafts the itinerary ended up like this:
South of France (Aix en Provence, Nimes, St. Tropez, Monte Carlo, Arles, Nice, Cannes, Marseille)
Germany (Fusen and Munich)
(if you are planning a similar trip and would like more specifics on this itinerary, just let me know)
So, this is the order I’ll follow. We’ll start in London and work our way across Europe following the same itinerary we did, sharing modes of transportation, accommodations, food, culture, sights, experiences, lessons learned and helpful tips as I move through our journey. I’ll talk about what we did to prepare – not only travel for three months, but how we put things at home on hold for that length of time. I’ll let you know how I packed each of us for three months, preparing for weather ranging from cold and snowy to hot and humid, all in only one rolling duffel bag per person. I’ll let you know where to splurge and how to save, and what experiences are a must in our book and what you can really do without. We’ll talk health and safety while traveling, language barriers, grocery shopping in foreign shops and cooking in foreign kitchens, and laundry. Yep, we’ll get down to the nitty-gritty.
I hope you’ll join me on this adventure starting Tuesday!