Life on the Road: It’s not what we expected

We had so many thoughts, ideas, goals, and expectations for our Great Adventure . . . a whole year on the road?!?!  The possibilities are endless!

Yes, the possibilities are endless; but the realities are not.  So far our life on the road has been brilliant, wonderful . . . and exceptionally challenging.  Is it everything we had hoped?  No.  Is it more but in different ways that we expected?  Many times.  Would I trade this experience? Not on your life.

When we started planning our journey, we had specific goals.  Along the way we've had to modify many of these, drop some of them, and add in others.  For instance: I brought our full-size electric piano.  Yes, you read that correctly - not a keyboard, but a FULL-SIZE electric PIANO.  All my kids were going to learn to play piano along the way!  After all, all we would have is time . . .

The reality of living on the road is that everything is harder, and everything takes way more time than anyone could imagine.  Yes, our house is tiny - so cleaning it top to bottom doesn't take long . . . but because its tiny & we are so many, it gets messy and/or dirty constantly.  Because we have to share such a small space, each square foot is used way more than any square foot of a sticks and bricks house - and it shows.  Kids' toys?  Yes, we trimmed and purged and the amount of toys they have compared to when we were in bricks and sticks is tiny, but their play area in the house is 5' x 5' . . . and that 5' x 5' space is also our living room....so toys come out, toys get cleaned.  Toys come out, toys get cleaned (with much whining and complaining each time) - all day every day.  We can't leave anything out . . .because we need the space.

I wanted to see creameries, wineries, and breweries along the way.  If you've been following us on Instagram (TheTraveling5) or Facebook (TheTraveling5) you've seen we've hit our fair share of breweries & a few wineries.  We haven't been to nearly as many as I had expected because the cost is more than I had bargained for!  In America its common practice to charge for wine tasting - up to $20 for four pours!  Outrageous I tell you!  I would be frequenting many more wineries if tasting were free, dependent on purchasing a bottle.  And finding creameries has been much harder than expected, much to my dismay.

We also wanted to volunteer along the way - give back to the communities.  We are rarely in any one place long enough to locate & line up a volunteer opportunity; especially since most of our party is comprised of minors.  For Christmas we wanted to volunteer at a soup kitchen but our campground was over an hour from any town and my emails reaching out to the local soup kitchen went unanswered.

Each day is filled to the brim with . . . what exactly?  Some days fly by without even realizing they are gone.  Mornings are filled with reading with the boys (a more recent habit that I am quite proud of myself for finally implementing), breakfast (I cook a full breakfast of eggs, scratch pancakes, or French toast most days), and getting going.  If we have a travel day we are looking at an hour to an hour and a half of breakdown, three to six hours on the road (including lunch), then another hour to hour and a half of setup.  Travel days are full work days - but we still try to squeeze in schooling and cleaning.

Laundry?  Laundry for a family of 5, as many of you know, is never-ending.  I have switched to laundromats for ease - but laundromat day is still an hour and a half to two hours away from everything else.  Shopping can no longer be fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants and we can't Costco up on everything to have on hand 'just in case'.  Due to the extremely limited space,  menu planning is vital - and I have to shop every 3-4 days to ensure we don't run out of space in the fridge.

All said and done, life on the road simply takes longer.... for everything.  But the bond between our family has tightened and grown far more than we could have hoped or imagined - and this bond, this time together - was our #1 reason for our travels.  Yes, we all have the travel bug and yes, we all love to explore and live life on our schedule but better than all the ups and down is our family.  Together, for better or for worse, all day every day.

This family love and connection is the best thing that could have happened to any of us; I feel fulfilled and I feel our real, true goal has been realized.

If these trials, tribulations & love sound to good to be true for you and your family, please reach out to me!  I'd love to chat and share how we got here and how you can too!

#fulltimefamily #fulltimervlife #familytime #rvtravel #rvlife #travelfamily

Why would anyone move to California?

Why would anyone move to California?

You hear so much about California - the sun, the waves, the temperate year-round weather - that you just know it can't be true, right?  Anyone who lives in California also seems a bit . . .  brain-washed . . . with their 'why would I ever live anywhere else?' and their 'you just won't believe how beautiful it is!'  Well, we've seen our share of the USA by now, and we've seen our share of its beauty.  So why would anyone move to California with its tumultuous politics, its outrageous prices, its huge Great White population?

We have now been in Southern California for over three weeks and I'm starting to see the reason behind the fanaticism.  I'm still not on board with moving to California but there are some seriously amazing things here, even with what may be one of the coldest winters in history.....

The days that are beautiful & sunny are so stunningly beautiful & sunny that you tend to overlook the dismal ones.  The ocean is breathtaking and humbling - to drive along historic 101 is everything you've ever heard about it and more.  The mountainous terrain has spots that are lush and green - so green you have to squint and make sure its real.  The vast desert areas are alien and amazing to explore.  The sheer size of this state is mind-boggling; it takes up half of the entire West coast!

We first stayed at San Elijo State Beach (with an eyebrow raising price tag of $35 a night for DRY CAMPING and a $10 fee to dump).  The views from the cliffs on which the campground is located, however, are breathtaking.....

There is also a grocery store and donut shop within walking distance to the campground.  We took one for the team and decided to taste-test the donuts.  We give them two thumbs up.

Famous Balboa Park (home to numerous museums) was an amazing day of discovery and learning; if you have a reciprocal museum pass the Natural History Museum and Fleet Science center are across from each other and provided hours of entertainment at each.

San Diego Museum of Natural History

Fleet Science Center

 

La Jolla is a fun section of San Diego - well known for its seals and sea lions on the beach and amazing sunsets; we weren't disappointed!

We also swung down into Mexico for a day for the most amazing, cheap food and coffee you may have ever tasted!

Our next stop was Santa Barbara; I definitely feel as if we didn't spend enough time in the Santa Barbara area exploring.  The hiking was amazing (we even got to meet up with our full-time family friends @The5FreeSpirits!!!) and the views were phenomenal.  Unfortunately the temperatures were quite low, the winds brutal, and rain moved in, but at least we got tow great hiking days in!

 

Our next stops are Los Angeles, Joshua Tree, and Big Sur.....

Stay tuned for more SoCal fun!!!

If you are enjoying our journey please follow us on Instagram or Facebook (TheTraveling5) for up-to-date photos of our travels!

#California #SanDiego #LaJolla #Seal #SeaLion #MuseumofNaturalHistory #familytravel #exploreamerica #SantaBarbara #hike #hiking #familyhiking #nomads #travelfamily

 

Lake Havasu and Fun Things to Do(without getting on the water!!)

Lake Havasu and Fun Things to Do
(without getting on the water!!)

Lake Havasu is a beautiful spot that stretches along the border of Arizona and California with plenty of lovely state parks, BLM land for boondocking, and private or county parks.  Personally, I prefer camping on a river or lake to camping at or on the ocean for a few reasons; the first of which is safety.  I am always over-cautious and constantly cataloging safety hazards, so having a huge body of water that can sweep you away from shore creates a niggling of worry that undermines the fun of a true beach.  Second is the view – though the ocean is beautiful & powerful and can be peaceful or angry, the complete vastness – the horizon in the distance with nothing interrupting it – for me, this gets monotonous.  I prefer the soaring majesty of mountains reflected in a blue lake when I wake in the morning.

The good thing about traveling fulltime, however, is that I can always enjoy both😊

 

Slot Canyon Hiking

If you love hiking, make sure you visit the SARA park and find the yellow trail.  This will put you through an amazing and challenging slot canyon – our family’s first!  I can’t believe we didn’t know how fun slot canyons can be until a friend & fellow full time RVer Crystal (@ChasingYourWanderlust) introduced us!  Slot canyons are one of nature’s obstacle courses, set on a grand scale.  You have to climb, slide, sometimes repel or even wade, twist, turn, and jump through, around, and over boulders to traverse a narrow canyon that isn’t even noticeable until you come right up on the opening.

Hikers with dogs beware, as there is a 10 foot rappel drop and a 5 foot ladder climb along the way.  You can follow the wash all the way to Lake Havasu, or do as we did & off-road up the mountains to the right as you exit the canyon and join up with the blue trail. The blue trail is easily visible up to your right as you exit the canyon and will give you a panoramic view of Lake Havasu.The blue trail will then join back up with the yellow trail so you can return to the parking lot.

Bring plenty of water & some sugar snacks for your trip and beware - The canyon is prone to flash flooding so ensure there is NO rain on the forecast & the area has been dry for weeks (or you may not be able to pass some spots in the canyon due to flooding).

 

Swimming Year Round

The boys were severely disappointed that I would not allow them to swim in the lake because, winter.  There is a fabulous alternative to freezing waters, however, right in Lake Havasu City that the entire family enjoyed – the Aquatic Center.  This mini wave pool water park was good for 4 hours of fun and includes an Olympic sized pool that turns into a wave pool (complete with floating donuts),
a shallow 1 foot kids area with some raining umbrellas,

and the coup de grace – a 3 story twisting water slide the exits and re-enters the complex repeatedly!

Gabriel & Noah climbed and slid, climbed and slid easily 40 times.  Valentin and I joined in the fun a few times and let me tell you, that slide is FAST!  They even have mats you can ride down to make the trip smoother.  There is also a mega-sized adult-only hot tub and a huge ‘warm’ pool good for any age (for those kids like my Noah who gets blue lips at the slightest breeze). And the best thing?  Kids 7 and under are REQUIRED to wear (provided!) life jackets!!!  Yes, parents, that’s right – strap them in and let them go with no worries!
Price: $5.50 per adult and only $4 for kids.  Bring your own snacks and drinks and set up a picnic on one of the many tables provided.

 

Beer!

Microbreweries and local wineries hover near the top of my to-do list at any stop.  Lake Havasu City did not disappoint.  Though there are quite a few brewery restaurants, we chose to visit College Street Brewhouse because a) it was the top-rated restaurant brewery on TripAdvisor b) THEY HAD A HOUSE SOUR!!!!!  Anyone who knows me knows I drink two kinds of beer: sours and goses (a super sour salty sometimes fruity beer pronounced GO-za).   College Street’s blueberry sour is light, bright, refreshing and bitingly sour – just the way I like it.

Better yet, its only $4 for a pint during Happy Hour!  That’s right, only $4 per delicious, mouth-watering pint . . .  In fact, ALL of College Street’s vast draft men, house wine, house margaritas, mimosas, micheladas & well drinks are only $4 Happy Hour (this even includes their higher gravity 7% beer!).  And Happy Hour isn’t a measly couple hours during the week . . . its SEVEN DAYS A WEEK from 3pm until 6pm (actually Sunday’s Happy Hour is all day. All. Day..  CAN YOU FEEL THE EXCITEMENT?!?!  Or better yet, can you taste it?

The Reuben was phenomenal, but with a Happy Hour menu of about 10 items all around $5 each, feel free to skip the dinner menu and play tapas with the appetizers. 

Honorable mentions for fun at Lake Havasu minus the lake:
The Human Bean – get your coffee fix with a twist.  This drive-up only shop has a fabulous Mexi-Mocha, the friendliest baristas I’ve ever come across & serve their drinks with a chocolate covered espresso bean (it may seem small but a tasty bean is a big freebie for me!).  AND its not . . (Starbucks lovers close your eyes) . . . Starbucks.
London Bridge – a mini version of the British original
Buses by the Bridge – a seasonal convergence of vintage VW buses
Balloon Festival & Fair – hot air balloon extravaganza
Hiking at Cattail Cove along the lake - breathtaking views!

Can you watersport at Lake Havasu?  I’m sure it’d be grand.  But if the weather isn’t cooperating or you just don’t like the water, make sure you still schedule a visit to this wonderful corner of the world.

Have you been to Lake Havasu? Please leave a comment with your favorite things to do!
Yes, they can even be things to do on the water 😉

 

 

SARA parks
https://golakehavasu.com/activity/attractions/parks/sara-park/

Aquatic Center
https://golakehavasu.com/activity/attractions/lake-havasu-city-aquatic-center/

College Street Brewhouse
http://www.collegestreetbrewhouseandpub.com/

#LakeHavasu #funatlakehavasu #familytravel #waterpark #hiking #familyhiking #brewery #collegestreetbrewery #SARA #SARApark #slotcanyon #RVlife #nomads #happpyhour #sour #waterslide #LakeHavasuCity #familyfun

East Texas – South West – Fall 2018

Dallas area

The drive to our campsite outside of Dallas was disheartening; there had been extensive flooding through the area and the water was still high and very evident.  One of the smaller roads was flanked with flooded forests as far as we could see.

Lake Whitney Thousand Trails

We stayed at a Thousand Trails site and really enjoyed the peace and quiet - the sites at the Lake Whitney TT were spacious and tree-lined (but short trees so I didn't have to worry about one falling on our trailer!).  Sadly the pool and jacuzzi were closed (this will become a recurring theme . . . one which would soon make me doubt the validity of 'the heater just broke') but there was a fun little hike down to the Army Corp of Engineer-maintained Lake Whitney itself.  The rains and subsequent flooding had raised the lake level enough so the trail was submerged about halfway through the hike, but it was still a beautiful walk.

Though we didn't explore very much due to the 5 days of torrential rain while we were near Dallas, the places we did visit were lots of fun.

Art District

The Dallas Art District was a fun, funky place with plenty of boutique shopping (I don't shop but I'm sure those who do would appreciate the eccentric spread), bars, a cidery, and even a renowned pie-shop.  Camille and I spent the day in the Art District, snapping pictures & eating delicious pie, while the men of the family visited the Kennedy Museum.

Houston area

After reaching Houston, Valentin and I sat down to examine our finances.  Unfortunately, we had under-estimated our costs (gas, lodging, maintenance, and extracurricular activities) and needed to buckle down and trim down.  With (mostly) no income (Valentin is working some) we are on a relatively set income; we only have that which we had saved over the past 4 years for this year on the road. Our current spending was simply 'put it on the card then pay it off', and this was no longer sustainable.  We therefore decided to switch to cash only a la Dave Ramsey for food & extracurriculars, withdrawing $65/night for each stop.  Though this sounds like it should be plenty, things add up quickly - museums, groceries, tours, eating out . . .  for our family of 5 it was time to stop the bleeding.  First thing to go was eating out.  We now eat out only once a week  - and only if we aren't planning on doing lots of activities at that stop.  This includes lunch on the road - switching to cold cuts or PB&J sandwiches saves so much!!!

I now also start all my planning with a search on Trip Advisor for any places or activities that include 'free'.  Houston did not disappoint.

Sam Houston

Houston is awash with fabulous free fun!  We were able to get on a free, educational boat tour aboard the Sam Houston; they even offered free coffee & soft drinks!  We all had a great time learning about the Port & its history and the kids got the boat ride they had been asking for!

Centennial Garden

This small gem of a garden is free to enter!  I spent the time snapping away happily with my Cannon while the kids ran around like crazy people.  One of the workers was power washing a gazebo.  He not only stopped washing so the kids could explore the small area, but he took the time to point out a live owl roosting quietly in the roof of the gazebo!  We have met so many kind people on our travels - it gives me hope for our kids' future.


 

Houston Children's Museum

That's right . . . . you CAN get in to Houston's Children's Museum for FREE!  Not only that, but for the month of October they even do FREE trick-or-treating!  Make sure you go early though; we were in line 45 minutes before they opened the doors (5pm free entry) and when we left at 7pm people were STILL waiting in line to get in.  I really felt for those poor parents with disappointed, bored kids waiting so long in line.  The boys had a great time - especially with the outdoor water play area and the crafts.  They also loved the free candy (of course).


Arboretum

Again, totally free fun.  This fabulous nature preserve has a boardwalk among water plants, as well as a dry trail & a nature center.  The whole family had a great time hiking the trails and learning, playing, and reading at the nature center.


 

We spent more time in Texas than we had any other state, and for good reason.  Texas is the 2nd largest state and has such a wide variety of landscape.  Next stop, West Texas!

 

Massachusetts – New England – Fall 2018

Massachusetts

Sturbridge

Sturbridge was a small town with a few very charming spots.  We made the trek to Saint Anne's, a historic pilgrimage site. The beautiful grounds are lovingly maintained and the peaceful path through the woods is a Stations of the Cross journey.

     

We were lucky to find that there is a small one-room museum within the Saint Anne's complex showcasing Russian Icons.  These beautiful works of faith were smuggled out of the country by various priests as the Soviet Regime made owing them dangerous to the faithful families.  Any religious objects found by the government were destroyed and the priests smuggling them out to save the relics - despite the grave threat to their safety.

Rapscallion Brewery

As we travel the country one of my favorite past times is visiting local breweries.  I'm always on the lookout for a great sour or gose but I do enjoy a variety of other styles excepting IPAs.

Rapscallion brewery was a great space for a fun evening with friends (or family) - the brewery itself was charming, with hanging vines and craft wood picnic tables.  The beer itself was not memorable, but the bartender was very friendly and the location obviously popular with the locals.

Maine

Boston

I LOVE BOSTON!!!

If you haven't been, definitely put Boston on your list.  Boston is a beautiful mix of the old and the new and history is prevalent throughout the entire city.  You can tell the city takes pride in its rich American history by the clean streets and brilliant Freedom Trail - a brick trail laid throughout the city showing you to all the historic sites.  You can pay for a tour or, as we did, walked it ourselves with an online electric (free) tour map on our phone.  Each stop provides a history lesson.
https://www.thefreedomtrail.org/trail-sites

I wish we had more than one day in this amazing historical city & I definitely plan to return.

This packed Granary Burying Ground cemetery (where you walk over the remains of Hancock, Adams & Pain to name a few) in the middle of the city along the Freedom Trail has headstones in neat lines.  This was not because the  bodies were laid neatly in lines, but because when technology introduced the lawn mower, it was not easy to mow between randomly scattered headstones.  Therefore the stones were straightened, but the bodies could not be . . .. .

The amazing architecture throughout the city gives you a constant crick in the neck from gazing up:

Make sure to take a trip on the historic subway system; the oldest subway tunnel in America is in Boston!

An unexpected and heartbreaking find that was not part of the historic Freedom Trail was a walk-through Holocaust memorial.  The memorial consists of 6 glass towers, each etched with the name of a death camp.  I cried freely as I read through first-hand accounts of the atrocities suffered by millions of innocents. I highly recommend this poignant reminder of the evil that can spread so quickly in this world.

Last but not least, plan to spend some time at the breathtaking harbor.  The harbor is truly picture-perfect, and a great place for a family hang out.  There is a large lush lawn for picnics, an expansive fenced playground (complete with sand pit), live music, and shaded benches shadowed by romantic vines.  

New England has stolen my heart!  I could definitely imagine settling down in these gorgeous coastal states in the future.  The ocean that far North seems so  . . . different.  The coast is more romantic and somehow sharper and the breeze is definitely more crisp.

Stay tuned for more posts about lovely New England!

 

#NewEnland #Massachusetts #exploreAmerica #seeAmerica #nomads #travelfamily #fulltimetravel #fulltimeRVfamily #history #livinghistory #Americanhistory #Boston #FreedomTrail #holocaust #harbor #Bostonharbor

Italy is more than just Venice and Rome!

Turin

Sadly, though Turin had some good points, it was probably my least favorite city.

Coupled with the dirty streets and lack of a large historic 'old town', Turin itself is not somewhere I would suggest to another traveler, nor visit again.

We did have fabulous & friendly hosts at our Airbnb  -we had them over for drinks & snacks and they went above and beyond with kindness, tour-guideing, and even gifts!  Giuseppe and his family became friends of ours on this trip and were one of the best part of our Turin stop.

The gelato was  . . . .fine.  We went for gelato every other day (upon my insistence) while in Turin.  I feel that when Valentin and I visited Rome on our honeymoon the gelato there was much better.  So if you're visiting Italy for gelato, make Rome that stop 😉

The most fun and fabulous find in the city itself was a guided tour of the underground tunnels used during the war - this amazing & cheap find on TripAdvisor was fascinating.  Find my review here!

No matter how many times it is suggested, skip the Egyptian Museum.  It was poorly organized and the audio guides were confusing and not very helpful.

Turin as a jumping off point to visit the historic Sacra di San Michel was perfect; do not miss this breathtaking visit.

Last but not least, take the time to see the Duomo di San Giovanni Batista - home to the renowned death shroud of Jesus Christ.  I'm not religious but this stop brought tears to my eyes. The church itself is beautiful and sits adjacent to a wonderful park with remains from the original Turin fortress.  Read more about this stop here!  

 

 

Venice (I said not ONLY Venice . . . .)

Venice was as stunning and romantic as one would hope . . . the first day.  I couldn't stop taking pictures of the stunning architecture and amazing waterways.  After you take your fill of photos, however, you begin to realize the city feels like Disney - a beautiful & fun-filled set with people who work but don't live there.  Venice has very few natives who live in the city because it has become predominantly a tourist stop with not much else.  Yes, make the trip because, Venice.  But I didn't want to spend any more than the two days there that we did.  Stay outside the city and take the train in for a much more affordable visit! The Airbnb at which we stayed in Preganziol was perfect for our needs - see the listing here

Murano & Burano (islands off Venice)

TripAdvisor had a fabulous tour/trip (click here for a link to the tour!) with a very inexpensive price tag.  The tour was 5 hours - a boat to Murano with a live glass blowing demonstration and island history, then to Burano to see the brightly colored houses (this island has more natives that Venice proper) and a lace-making demonstration (a dying art).   On the return trip the guide broke out some champagne to enjoy.  Truly a fun way to spend your second day in Venice!

The next time we travel to Italy I'd love to visit Florence!  What about you?  Leave a comment with your favorite place in Italy!

France – Lyon & Chambery – Europe tour 2018

Lyon

Lyon easily became one of my absolute favorite places I've been to!  Not only is the romantic old town beautiful  - with cobble streets and narrow, winding alleys, but the modern public transportation is one of the best I've ever seen. Buses speed through  thick traffic in their own middle lane and arrive at a constant pace at each stop. Pedestrian and bike traffic is high in this picturesque city, making sight seeing without a car easy to do.

The city has plenty of fun for the family - from street shop ice cream to a fabulous botanical garden and a FREE ZOO. We learned what a coffee plant looks like!!!

We saw fabulous animals!!! 

We played on great playgrounds!!!

I could easily have spent another week or two exploring Lyon and definitely plan to return.

Chambery

Chambery had some fun spots - including a pretty & very old square,

some delicious eateries,

and original skinny passageways that are hundreds of years old

between its medieval buildings.

We visited the old castle and learned about the history of the area - Chambery was the capital of the Savoie (Savoy) Kingdom for quite some time, though the Savoie capital was eventually moved to Turin. There is a small, free museum within the castle walls that was informative & quick. The castle itself isn't open to the public but the museum whetted our appetite for the history of the place an we took some fabulous pictures of the castle itself from the outside.

We went on one beautiful hike up a steep mountain for a killer view from the top.  It had rained tremendously, though, so the first quarter of the hike was through a muddy, treacherous trail.  Valentin slipped and twisted his ankle at one point but pushed through. The views were actually best a short distance from the very top; the view was clearer and there weren't swarms of insects (as there were at the top).

One of the most interesting parts of this stop was when I discovered something I hadn't know about myself; I don't like huge mountains. Give me rolling hills or picturesque ski-able middle-sized slopes but keep your mega mountains. I do not enjoy spending time in their immense shadow, nor driving at dizzying heights between them.

France – Saint Emilion/Eymoutiers/Besanceuil – Europe tour 2018

I can’t believe we’ve already been in Europe for a month!

The kids have taken to traveling like birds to the sky – the boys’ favorite saying is “I just need to spend one night in a new place and then I’m used to it.”  We didn’t have many worries about their ability to adapt on the road, and any we did have were put to rest while I put them to bed a few nights ago after our second day in Venice (a walking self-wandering tour of Venice & a very expensive but necessary 30 minute gondola ride).  Part of my bed-time routine is to ask the boys what their favorite part of the day was and as I tucked them in and asked them this question their joint answer was immediate –   “the little fish!!!!!”   In all the canals, schools of tiny fish dart among the pilings.  And while we adults (and teen) looked up & out, the boys looked ALL around.  As Valentin, Camille & I marveled at the romantic architecture and historic canals, frowned at the cost of a gondola ride, and felt the press of tourists all around, the boys found joy in the simple beauty of the fish.

So if you have children – even small children – and are holding off on traveling because you aren’t sure how it will go – or if the kids will appreciate it – just go.  Just go & the kids will find their own joy in your travels.

We started our epic European road trip (yes, road trip! – Valentin’s uncle LENT US HIS CAR for freeeeee!!!!  Calling the vehicle a car may be a bit of a stretch though  . .  . we affectionately named this beast Tanker.  We found the learning curve on a vehicle this big is, unfortunately, just as big; we’ve both hit a few curbs & had a few close calls on the very narrow French roads (most country roads are wide enough for only 1 1/2 cars – one of the cars has to pull off on the grass!).  I thought I knew how to drive a good size vehicle after getting comfortable with Vixen (our F250) but I was wrong.  I can say with certainty, however, that my parallel parking ability has now been honed to perfection.

Saint Emilion & Bordeaux

We started our tour in Le Mans, France – Valentin’s family’s hometown (see previous post), then headed down to wine country (Saint Emilion (full album here) & Bordeaux (full album here)) with the in-laws & brother & sister-in-law.  Saint Emilion now ranks as one of my top 10 cities with its romantic medieval cobblestones and winding, uneven streets.


Bordeaux is a gorgeous city that I’ve had the pleasure to visit before. The ancient buildings that line the waterfront are truly awe-inspiring and the city itself is full of charm.

If you are visiting wine country, I highly recommend mapping out the Chateaus you wish to visit before going.  We only visited two wineries and  Melissa (fellow American and fabulous sister-in-law) and I were understandably disappointed at the lack of free authentic French wine and gorgeous French Chateaus.

Eymoutiers

From Saint Emilion, our family of almost 5 (Camille stayed behind in Bordeaux to visit with her birth mom/Valentin’s practice wife – STEALING THIS TERM FROM RORY DANNER – for a couple weeks) set out for the tiny medieval town of Eymoutier, France (full album here).  This town also made it to my top 10 cities for its undeniable authenticity & beauty.  If you are planning to travel to France  – avoid the big cities.  Yes, spend a day in Paris because its Paris, but the small towns, and the wonderful countryside in between, is where the true beauty lies.  Our Air BnB stay near Eymoutier is run by a truly amazing couple – an American (Lori) & a Brit (Chris), whom I now consider friends.  Their hospitality was moving, the Gite they converted from a goat shed to a well-equipped house was homey & charming, and and the location was beyond relaxing.  We shared a few evenings of drinks & camaraderie, swapping traveling tails, and I hope to meet up with Chris & Lori again down the road.

The property is also home to an abandoned rock quarry, which now looks like something straight from the Jungle Book.  The afternoon we spent exploring those ruins has been one of my favorite ‘day trips’.

  

Lori & Chris also suggested a visit to some ruins close by the AirBnB – Mont Gargan (full album here).  The ruins are only accessible from a hike trail that leads away from a random unmarked pull-off halfway up the mountain.  This became one of my other favorite day trips, partly because it wasn’t a tourist spot – we only say a few other hikers on the way up and back!

Le Cite Des Insects (full album here) was an unexpected gem of a find.  The museum showcased some very interesting live specimens, including a huge living ant colony.  Facts, trivia, puzzles, and discoveries abounded in this compact but impressive museum.

During our Eymoutiers stop we also visited the heartbreaking Oradour Sur Glane – a must-see for anyone near the area (full album here).  This museum detailed the massacre of almost every single man, woman, and child during WWII in Nazi-occupied Oradour Sur Glane, as well as the history of the French resistance in the area.   Make sure to pay for the audio-guides as well as entrance to the museum and town ruins. -these audio-guides correspond to numbers throughout the exhibit and have been one of the most well-organized & thorough audio-guides of any museum I have ever been to. Due to the overwhelming horror of the first-hand accounts in the movie halfway through the museum, I had to skip the last half of the museum.  The town itself was hauntingly beautiful & melancholy,  left untouched, as a tribute and reminder of the cruelties of the war.

Besanceuil

From Eymoutiers we headed further East to Besanceuil, enjoying the picturesque French countryside along the way.  During our drive, we happened upon an ALL YOU CAN EAT buffet.  In France.  I never thought I’d see the day…..  But I’ve got to say – America, we’re doing this thing all wrong.  Golden Corral who?  China King what?  The Royal Wok was simply . . .

amazing

 
Bottled beer?  Beer on tap? Wine on tap?  Bubbly from the bottle? Espresso? Schnapps? Cheese? Salad? Sushi?  Ready to eat Chinese?  Cooked to order? Anything, anything at all . . . it was all here, and all you could eat and drink.  I kid you not.  Check out the rest – full album here

Besanceuil is a slice of paradise with easy access to numerous small, romantic towns, chateaus & castles.  Chateau Cormatin (full album here) was a family favorite with several well-restored halls and chambers, as well as perfectly manicured grounds and a fun maze through the bushes.

The medieval town of Cluny (full album here) was a beautiful 20 minute drive from our Besanceuil AirBnb (a lovely Gite with pool access! Listing here).  If you visit Cluny make sure to climb all the way to the top of the bell tower for a breathtaking view!  We purchased tickets to get us into various parts of the old-town.  One of the small museums wasn’t worth the visit (though the spiral staircase caught my eye), but the Cluny Abbey museum was simply amazing.  The Abbey, founded in 910 (yes, you read that right!) was once the oldest and largest church in the world – until St Peter’s basilica was expanded.  The footprint of the building is mind-blowing, seeming to stretch from one side of the city to the other.  Sadly, only a few small parts of the original building remains because the majestic abbey was torn apart and used as a quarry from about 1800 to 1825.

So much fun, so much to see – thanks for joining us on this adventure! Our family is loving and learning on the road!  Onward and upward – my next installment of our adventures will be on the amazing Lyon & Chambery, an old town nestled at the base of the majestic Alps!

You can keep up in real time with our adventures on Instagram & Facebook (if you don’t want to have to wait for a re-cap!!!)  TheTraveling5

Thanks again!!!!

 

#france #travelfrance #europe #traveleurope #travelwithkids #familytravel #lifeontheroad #ilovefrance #eymoutiers #cluny #saintemilion #bordeaux #museum #abbey #besanceuil #roadtrip #roadtripwithkids #explorefrance #exploreeurope

 

 

 

 

 

Le Mans, France – Valentin’s Family Home

Coming home is always a special trip – visiting with family and re-connecting with friends.    This is especially true when your visit is to a different country to celebrate bringing another family member into the fold!  One of Valentin’s brothers, Ben, married Melissa (Yay!  A really fun American Sister-In-Law!!)  six months ago – and since the wedding was in the States most of Ben’s extended family wasn’t able to attend.  Valentin’s mom, Annie, and dad, Daniel, therefore planned a ‘2nd wedding’ for Ben & Melissa!  The food was a 5-Star 5-course taste of heaven – filet with fois gras, countless cheeses, bottomless champagne and wine, chocolate cake and creme brulee . . .  I’m salivating thinking about it now! The live band was amazing (and the talented lead singer wardrobe changed five times!!)  Amazingly, the older the crowd, the longer they stayed!  Valentin’s grandparents shut the place down while I pleaded off with the boys about an hour earlier (1:30am).  What a magical evening!

To make the weekend even more special, two of Daniel’s brothers hosted & celebrated their birthdays at one of their wonderful homes – which happens to be over 250 years old!  It was so much fun to have all the kids (and adults) running, playing, drinking & simply enjoying having the family together!

#BestSisterInLaw #TheTraveling5 #Family #ILoveFrance #LeMans #FamilyTravel #FamilyVacation #ComingHome #InLawsRock

 

When should we leave on our Great Adventure?

Time is flying by and I’m feeling the pressure of everything coming to a head . . .

We decided to leave on our Great Adventure at the end(ish) of the school year.    This is in less than 60 days.  Say it with me . . . . SIXTY DAYS (this is less than 2 months *gulp*).

Camille will be finishing middle school so this will be an ideal breaking point in her schooling – instead of transitioning to High School, she will transition to World School.

Though in a perfect world we would be able to leisurely pack up our household, move into our trailer, and start travelling sometime after Middle School graduation, our in-laws want to throw a huge party (in honor of my brother-in-laws’ wedding) ……   in France …………..  the weekend before school here in GA ends.  So we decided to EMBRACE THE CRAZY and spend our first couple months ‘on the road’ traveling Europe!!

This is, therefore, our current ToDo list:
1) Complete the sale of the Firehouse by the end of April/beginning of May (giving me a few weeks time to focus on our trip abroad & huge life transition to full time RVing)
2) Plan (within a tight budget) a 10-week trip to Europe, which will span 4 countries
3) Move into our trailer by the time we leave for Europe (May 17th)
4) Have our entire lives purged/packed up by the time we move into our trailer
5) Rent out our house – list it at the beginning of April (after purging our life, replacing carpet, painting the inside & deep cleaning everything) and have tenants move in May 21st, the week after we leave for Europe.

I feel like I’m juggling one too many balls right now . . .

Luckily, one major step has been completed –  WE NOW HAVE THE TRAILER!!!  We are keeping it at the RV lot from which we bought it until we go full-time and are taking it out for a few days at a time to set up our new home on wheels.

Check it OUT!!!!!
https://www.facebook.com/januaryanna/videos/10155668764347968/