Not a Sit-Your-Butt-On-The-Beach-And-Don’t-Move-It Kind of Trip

I’ve been trying to decide which topic to write about this time (how vulnerability rather than strength allows us to connect with each other, or, musings on why so very few of our friends and family members “like” or comment on my blog posts, or, the enormous blessings that have resulted from therapy and a lot of hard work, for example) but I just wasn’t feeling any of those this time. Over the years I’ve learned that my best writing happens when my brain starts racing, sentences begin to form in my mind, a spurt of energy comes, and I feel a sudden rush of urgency. I’ve tried following those cues to guide me when it’s time to put thoughts onto pages.

As I was thinking about the above topics, I just wasn’t feeling any of these physical and mental signs this time. But what else is there to write about these days? Then, as soon as I started thinking about documenting our upcoming trip, all those feelings came. So that’s what I’m going to focus on today and I’m excited!

In a future post, I’ll go into specifics about my process of financing and planning our trips…because it IS a process! This time, one that’s taken 9 months to fund and 4 months to organize. However, since I finished all of that and am now in the waiting game (6 weeks to go!), I want to focus this post on the more fun side of things and just tell you want our plans entail. Eeee!! We are so excited!

Great-Britain

Through the sometimes arduous task of deciding where we go next (dependent upon airline and hotel point availability, easy flights, season and weather, where I’m not susceptible to getting sick, etc.) we settled on a road trip through parts of England, Wales, and Scotland. Ireland was included originally but it quickly became apparent how much we’d have to cut out of Great Britain to make it work. Something had to give. Actually, LOTS of things had to give. There are just too many amazingly incredible places to visit in these countries! We had to do a lot of focusing and zeroing in on the places we ultimately felt we would enjoy the most.

Here’s rundown of our itinerary, subject to any needed flexibility when we’re actually on the ground:

  1. Fly nonstop red-eye from SLC to London.
  2. Take the train to our hotel in the Bloomsbury neighborhood of London. After resting up, we’ll take a double-decker bus to Big Ben and Kensington Gardens. We’ll walk through the gardens to the Princess Diana Playground.
  3. Ride the River Thames ferry to the Tate Modern Museum and eat our way through Borough Market. We’ll also walk across the Jubilee Footbridge when it’s lit up at night.
  4. Explore the Mayfair and Marylbone neighborhoods (or Notting Hill?). Head to St. James Park to watch the Cavalrys Parade and Changing of the Guard. Then we’ll pick up our rental car and head out of town to Eastbourne, a Victorian seafront town on the south coast.
  5. Go see the white cliffs at Seven Sisters Country Park, walk along the beach, and do some rockpooling (tidepooling). That night, Rob and Nate have plans to do the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour. The girls and I will relax at the hotel.
  6. Rent a punting boat in Oxford and do a self-tour. Drive/walk through a couple of the Cotswold villages and play croquet at Hidcote Manor Garden.
  7. Stop at Ludlow (medieval town) and walk across the Pontcysyllte Aquaduct on our drive through Wales to Snowdonia National Park.
  8. Play on the beaches of the Lleyn Peninsula (most Welsh part of Wales).
  9. Try our hand at crabbing and visit Conwy Castle.
  10. Drive Winnat’s Pass to Castleton in the Peaks District and on through to York.
  11. Stop at Hadrian’s Wall and wherever else suits our fancy on the northeast coast.
  12. Visit Edinburgh’s Old Town and Royal Mile.
  13. Explore more Edinburgh, Culross, and drive to The Trossachs National Park.
  14. Hike through the forest to see Braklinn Falls and Devil’s Pulpit.
  15. Fly out of Glasgow (possibly stopping at the Necropolis on the way) back to London and catch our late afternoon flight to Boston.
  16. Walk Beacon Hill and maybe Boston Common or Feneuil Marketplace. Fly home!

Oh! One more thing I want to do while there…keep an ongoing list of all the new words/slang we can use in our speech once we are home. Their verbiage is so great and it’d be so fun to sprinkle it in whenever we feel like raising some eyebrows!

Half of our lodgings are normal Holiday Inn type of places, but I did book us in a few gems:

  • Victorian seaside row house B&B
  • YHA (youth and family hostels)
  • Mobile home by the beach
  • Hut in the woods of Snowdonia
  • A vestry (little apartment attached to an 1800s church)
  • Stately luxury hotel on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh
  • Converted manor house garage apartment in a mountain village

Animals we are endeavoring to see:

  • Shire or Clydesdale horses and Shetland ponies
  • Lots of starfish, crabs, etc.
  • Puffins
  • Highland cows

Food we are endeavoring to eat:

  • Fish and Chips
  • Scones with jam and clotted cream
  • Banoffee pie
  • Norfolk crab
  • Blakewell pudding
  • Hot cross buns
  • Rarebit
  • Jacket potatoes
  • Various cheeses
  • Sticky toffee pudding
  • Aberdeen angus beef
  • Scottish eggs
  • Lobster roll
  • Cod

That’s it! Easy peasy! Haha, don’t worry, I’m not daft. I DO realize that this itinerary (and menu) is NOT for the faint of heart or for those who actually like to RELAX on their vacation. This is more for the family who likes to see and do (and eat) as much as they can because they wonder if they’ll ever return to this part of the world again. This is for the family who loves the drive through the landscapes and towns as much as the destinations at the end of the road. This is the stuff that gets my blood flowing and my mood high. Ooooh, I LOVE it!

Maybe our next trip will just be a sit-your-butt-on-the-beach-and-don’t-move-it kind of trip…but I doubt it.

Road Tripping Northwest Europe: Planes, Trains, Buses, Cars, Boats, and Bikes

I love road trips. Taking one in Europe sure gives you one pleased-as-punch gal!

We decided to stop in NYC on the way to and from Europe for 3 reasons:

  1. Break up the long flights
  2. Help curb jet lag (it worked!)
  3. Why not?!
I will admit that the reason this plan worked so well for us is because our airport hotel allowed us to check is super early (8am!) and super late (3pm!). If we hadn’t been able to sleep off our plane rides then it would have been a LOT more difficult.
Once in Paris, we stayed put for 5 full days. Then we picked up a car (HEAVEN after all the public transit!) and spent a week and a half driving through parts of 5 countries (France, Luxembourg, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium). We spent 2 days in each, soaking up as much as we possibly could within our timeline.

Here is a snapshot of our route, not taking into account any side trips.

When posting about all the doings we did and the sights we saw, it’s easy to think that we overbooked and overextended ourselves. However, it really didn’t feel that way. Each day we would sleep in and eat breakfast at a leisurely pace before driving an hour or two to our first destination. We’d eat and explore before driving another hour or two to the next destination where we’d eat and explore again before settling in for the night.

We love seeing the lazy landscapes and the little towns. We love the freedom only driving can bring.

Here is a collection of our “traveling” pictures.

Planes

We look so happy to catch our flight!

2 hours later…

There was a 2 hour flight delay so we didn’t take off until almost 2am.

Of course once on board the kids were too hyped to go to sleep for quite a while.

That’s why we looked like this when we landed.

Our flight home also had a 2 hour delay, this time it began after we had already boarded. Argh! Oh, and there were multiple crying babies surrounding us so we got to relax real nice-like the whole way home.

Trains

Our kids decided they are not fans of subways. Usually I don’t mind too much but for whatever reasons, this time around I wasn’t feeling it either.

Buses

We opted for the bus most of the time in Paris and it was a great, convenient way to get around. Plus, you get to site-see on your way.

Cars

There is a story about picking up our rental car:

Per Rob: “We booked through Dollar and it turned out that the rental was serviced through Hertz. Nate, Madeleine, and I took an Uber to the address listed but it was not the correct address. We had to go into the train station and walk a long way to the counter only to find it closed. I called the number and was directed to walk across the street and go two floors below ground in a parking garage to find the counter. On the way into the garage, a parking gate came down on me, smacking the top of my head. Luckily it wasn’t a heavy gate and the kids sure had a good laugh.

After that, I found out that I needed my passport to get the car. It was located back at the hotel with Julie and Cara. I booked an Uber to bring them, the luggage, and the passports to the car rental location. After a dreadfully long processing time we finally drove away in our car… two hours later than planned.”

We thought the Autobahn was cool, especially the acceleration part! 175 kph = 105 mph.

But our hearts are with the country roads of Luxembourg. The winding, forested, meadowy, empty back roads where you are free to drive like you mean it.

Driving in the little towns was interesting. Those older European women have a stellar finger wag! I suppose they have much practice with tourists driving down the wrong way all the time…

Circling and circling, sometimes it took forever to drive 1 mile. The roads are tight and it’s not easy to get anywhere.

And parking! Never free. Always tight.

Boats

We went on a couple of boats. The first was our Seine river cruise. I like doing this at night so you can see the architecture all lit up. Plus, what a killer view of Ms. Eiffel!

Our next boat we captained ourselves. This was a fantastic way to see the canals of Utrecht. The kids loved piloting the s-l-o-w boat themselves while Rob and I relaxed. Toward the end we got caught in a storm at sea. The waves weren’t quite billowing but we all got drenched. Add that to the memorable list!

Caroline worked very well as an anchor… Just kidding, we tied her up because she wasn’t following orders…Actually, she was dishonoring the pirate’s code. No, that wasn’t it. Why was she tied up??

Our next boat ride was to Liberty Island and Ellis Island.

Bikes

Utrecht could be renamed Planet of the Bikes. They surrounded us at all times and they were like swarms of flies coming straight at us. Pedestrians definitely don’t have the right of way there.

The next day we rented bikes and rode to the windmills in Kinderdijk, Netherlands. It was a seriously fun way to spend time touring. The thunderheads were threatening and we weren’t keen on riding a couple of miles back in another storm so we headed back early (and it never did rain).

Transport stats:

  • 20 = Train and bus rides Taken
  • 22 = Parking Meters Paid
  • 150 = Roundabouts Driven Through

So over the river and through the woods we finally made it back home!!