This idea of hitting the road for an extended trip is not completely unprecedented for me and Chad. In 2010, we saved up our money and I saved up my paid time off at work and we managed to go to Europe for a full month. Seven countries in 30 days. I often tell people it was the best thing we’d ever done in our marriage, other than adopting our shipoo, Hodge.
In case your travel dreams include a Grand Tour of Europe, and because I love reliving it in my head, here is our basic itinerary followed by a few thoughts and highlights.
- Three nights in Paris, followed by Versailles
- Drive toward Barcelona, stopping at a roadside motel about halfway
- Continue to Barcelona for two nights, including watching Spain win its first World Cup
- One night Carcassonne, a Medieval walled city in France and the title of one of our favorite games
- One night at the Hotel Le Corbu in Marseille, staying in a Corbusier designed studio
- One night in Nice, which happened to be Bastille Day (exactly six years before the horrible Bastille Day 2016 Nice attack that killed almost 100 people, which sort of supplants in my mind our pleasant Nice memories)
- Two nights at the Cuccaro Club, an interesting mountain resort just outside the Cinque Terre area of Italy, from which we spent a day exploring the five town of the Cinque Terre (we could not afford to stay overnight in them)
- A detour through Pisa followed by a night in Florence
- A train ride down to three nights in Rome (so we wouldn’t have to try to drive in that city)
- Back to our car and a night in the town of Montecatini Terme, where we had a memorable meal of amazing tagliatelle pasta baked with seafood, accompanied by an episode of The Simpsons overdubbed in Italian (the Italian Mr. Burns voice was the best)
- Two nights near Venice, with a whole lovely night out on the island
- A day in Alpe de Suisi, then driving on to the town of Fulpmes, Austria
- Two nights in Salzburg, which we completely loved
- A night in Munich
- Three nights in Amsterdam, by which time we were completely beat and tired of tourist stuff, so spent almost a full day at the library (which is impressive) and another afternoon seeing a movie
- A night in Trier, Germany
- A night in Reims, France (and a stop at the Verdun trenches, which are completely haunting)
- A last night in Paris, which happened to be our 8th wedding anniversary, and which we declared to be the absolute best way to celebrate an anniversary
As you can see from this list (whether you read it, skimmed it or skipped it), we moved around a lot in those 30 days. By the end, we were REALLY ready to come home and get back to our normal lives and routines. And while we were really budget-conscious on the trip, we spent the equivalent of four months of expenses during those 30 days. But, it was completely worth it and we learned a ton about the world, how to travel and each other.
Our coming trip will be completely different. Over the course of our four-month Europe leg, we’ll move maybe 10 times. We’ll spend at least a week in most of the places we visit. And we won’t be driving (though I highly recommend driving in Europe). We ate out at nice restaurants pretty much every night of our Grand Tour. Our time this summer will involve a lot more dining in. During our Grand Tour, we packed every day with visits to the main attractions each city had to offer. This year, we’ll be working every day before we go out to explore the city and we may go weeks at a time without even entering a museum.
Eight years and many other travel adventures later, we still talk about that trip. We talk about our rickety leased Renault, and the moment in Nevers when the mechanic and I understood one another even though he spoke no English (and it turned out he wasn’t a mechanic – “je ne travaille pas ici” was what he kept trying to tell me). We talk about watching Spain’s World Cup win on the big screens at Plaça d’Espanya with 75,000 people singing “Yo soy español, español, español,” just one night after witnessing nearly 1 million people march for Catalan independence. We talk about Tanya, our charming host at Cuccaro Club, and her family and the German man there who loved wolves. We talk about Venice, and how mysterious it becomes at night between with its canals and fog. We talk about Paris, and how much we’re looking forward to spending our 16th anniversary there this summer.
Our 2010 Grand Tour was the best thing we’ve done in our marriage other than adopt Hodge. I have a feeling our 2018 travels will be even better.