England

Our next stop on our trip was England. Since we had a rental car, and we were planning on camping most of the time, we ended up taking the ferry ride from the port in France, across the channel, to the white cliffs of Dover. As we were queuing up in line we were accompanied by about 20-30 BMW minis that were obviously going to or coming from some kind of car convention. We made it on and for the next hour and a half we walked around the boat and people watched in the cafeteria. The duty free shop on board was filled with Union Jack paraphernalia and miscellaneous gifts, although tempting, we didn’t purchase anything. It was a smooth sail across and before we knew it we were driving towards London on the left side of the road in a left hand steering wheeled car, or, the proper way if you’re from the states. The round-a-bouts felt a little odd but nonetheless, we were on our way to meet up with Caro’s brother, sister in law, Caro’s dad, sister and for the first time, meet Carolin’s newborn niece. Since this was my first time to the United Kingdom we spent a fair share of a couple days site seeing and wandering through some of the markets nearby.

We stalled for a couple hours on our way to London at a town called Canterbury. We took some photos and made good use of McDonald’s two story free internet palace. We found a park to lounge around in for a while and then we continued.

For me personally, I should state that visiting England has always been high on my list. Although I don’t have any family who live in the UK, my father was born and raised outside of London. I’ve always seemed to wonder about this part of the world. More particularly the outskirts of the major cities and coastal communities.

With all the food and clothing/knickknack markets, Staying busy was not a problem in London. But just like any big city, it felt like you’d need to spend some time there to really harness all it has to offer. We ended up staying at Steve and Martina’s new house just outside of all the riff raff of downtown and then the last 2 nights at a rental apartment down the street. We had a welcome home BBQ for Carolin’s newborn niece Emmaline as it was the first time she came home from the hospital.

We spent those days walking around and even jumped on a double decker bus. Basically hit all the tourist spots, but for somebody who has never seen it before it was pretty interesting as a whole. Up until this point on our travels, big cities had been a bit overwhelming. Every time we entered a big city we felt like we couldn’t wait to get back to the countryside. Plus, Carolin and I had a particular budget to follow and the bigger the city usually, the bigger the bill was at the end of the day. With that being said, it was time to start moving on toward Cornwall.

So we heard mixed numbers about how long it would take us to drive straight to Cornwall. We set out and things seemed to be going fine until we hit the Stonehenge traffic. Stonehenge was on the way to Cornwall so we figured we’d check it out. Apparently everybody else was thinking the same thing too. We sat in hours of stop and go traffic all the way to Stonehenge. From the road we saw it off in the distance and snapped a photo. This was the closest we would get to it. Pulling into the parking lot, the parking attendant wanted a quarter of our daily budget just to park. Then she informed us they would take another large percentage of our budget and leave us trying to figure out how to eat and find accommodations for the rest of the day. That was just to get in. Once you’re in they won’t let you go within a certain distance of the unexplained relics. We didn’t go. It was a zoo and we really didn’t feel like it was worth it. So, we pushed onward. Since every Tom, Dick and Harry was at Stonehenge, the rest of the way down was much more enjoyable.

When we arrived in Newquay we learned that most of our first pick campsites were either unavailable or overbooked. We were referred to a kind of family camping/ activity park. There was a massive general store, restaurant, Game Center, deluxe aquatic park among many other amenities and daily activities which would contradict the very nature of our camping mission. Most people who were there had multi bedroom, multi faceted tents, compared to our 40 year old, duct taped, living room , dining room, master bedroom all in one special. (For the record, our tent is awesome!) These people had elaborate light systems and television sets centered in their living room vortexes of their tents. It was amazing actually. Amazingly bad. The place was a trip to say the least. The only thing they didn’t have in their tents was sound proof walls to absorb the theatre quality speakers. But, if that’s how they want to camp, more power to them and thank god they have a place that will accommodate them.

We decided to head further south the next day and we ended up posting up at Beacon cottage to call home for the next few days. It was from here we could take walks on the bluffs overlooking Chapel port and Porthtowan. We scoped out little coves and inlets hoping to find a glimpse of a wave. Well, we found surf and we found plenty of beach-goers as well. Turns out the surfing community in Cornwall is alive and thriving. I had looked up a couple forecasts and found out there was some swell on the way, although small, we welcomed anything we could surf and had a couple great little sessions. The weather was perfect.

Driving around the area was interesting at times. Since we were out on country roads mostly, navigating traffic or one lane roads kept us both on our toes. (See pictures below) I guess it makes sense having random pubs in the middle of these areas because having a drink is exactly what you want to do after maneuvering your rental car within inches of the locals.

We took day trips to fishing communities like Mevagissey and historical lands end. Coming back from lands end we stopped at the first and last inn which was actually not highly recommended. We heard some rumors about the friendliness of their hospitality. We ended have some really good beer and kinda felt like we were in the bowels of a pirate ship. If your passing through, it’s worth stopping for a pint.

As we headed back up towards London, we stopped at the Dartmoor visitor center and decided to drive through the national park. Again, see pictures below. The drive was amazing. Wildlife everywhere. Vast rolling hills and green is what we were graced with. It took a bit out of our drive heading north but it was well worth it. Our next mission was to drive back to Dover to catch the ferry back to France. From st. Agnes to Hastings usually takes about 5 and a half hours. Unfortunately for us we got stuck in traffic all day. Dover’s camp sites were sold out so we were forced to go to Hastings. Barely got there before dark. As we got to the gate to check in, (delirious from driving 12 hours straight mind you) the heavily thick accented man asked us if we would care for an iced lolli. I must have made him repeat himself a half dozen times because first of all, I have no idea what’s going on from driving, second, an iced lolli is the very last thing I’m expecting to talk about at this point in the day. Apparently he was asking us if we wanted ice cream. He said he’d offer us a beer but it was against the law. So we drove to our campsite happily enjoying our unexpected frozen treat. Posted up our tent, hit the sack because we were exhausted, and then it started pouring down with rain. To accurately describe the rain I’d say it was more like a torrential downpour.

It was a sad night. We knew it was our last night camping in Europe. We had already booked accommodations for the rest of the trip to stay in hostels and such, so the coincidence of our tent collapsing on us full of water on our last night was almost meant to be. We had a river running through half the tent and most of our gear was soaked. It was really just the perfect ending to the trip. We were up early the next day to try and dry everything out and made our way to the ferry and said good bye to beautiful England. Next stop, Netherlands…

Belgium

One thing we have learned on the road is that spending one long day driving is better than two or three short days and having to pack up and take down the tent everyday. We decided to forgo Luxembourg and head straight to Ghent, Belgium to be able to stay 2 nights instead of one.

We spent a couple hours in Ghent, sightseeing and enjoying the beautiful city center. I must say Ghent is up there with Prague and defiantly worth checking out if you are in the area. We skipped over Brugge which in hindsight I regret, but the beauty of Europe is that everything is so close and soon enough we will be in the area again.

After a couple hours in the city, we grabbed our surfboards and headed to the coast, in the off chance that we might find some surf. We arrived in Blankenberge, to be greeted by huge high-rises on the beach and a not so nice boardwalk area, but on a positive note there was some little waves. Before I knew it, Rex was already in his wetsuit and running down the beach to jump into the 1 foot surf. We spent the afternoon in the sun and surfing. It was a definite unexpected surprise to see some swell and we welcomed it with open arms!

From Ghent we just had a short 2 hours drive to Calais, France and from there we hopped onto a ferry to cross the English Channel to arrive in Dover, England.
No more sign language for us anymore……

Munich

After we visited Prague our plan was to head south to see Carolin’s aunt and sister in Munich. We rented another car and posted up a little outside of Munich at Caro’s sister’s house. But before we made it to the house, we were meeting Cathrin at a medieval jousting tournament. Yes that’s right, a jousting tournament. We pulled up to this endless grass field with probably over a thousand other cars. Most of the time this village has permanent structures and a beer garden. There’s also a castle, and an arena for training horses. During this time of year there are traditional renaissance tents set up where the workers stay in. For 3 weeks, once a year a menagerie of medieval enthusiasts come together to put on a jousting show, followed by an array of medieval/ renaissance activities. Once the show ended we walked around the village and checked out some of the goods for sale. You can buy swords, crossbows, jewelry, horns to drink beer out of, armor, etc. it’s actually more of a renaissance fair that follows the show. There’s different stages set up for different performers. Whether it’s a juggling act, or a hardcore gothic medieval punk band or a fire dance, they have it all. Caro and I really didn’t know what to expect when we showed up but it was a really interesting and vivid experience to say the least. Afterwards, we set out down the road to Cats house and crashed there for the night. The next day we set out to visit a store called the globe trotter. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s very familiar to an REI store back in the states mixed with Bass Pro Shops. Just for the record, anybody who knows me also knows that I spend days in these stores. I pretty much geek out on everything related to camping and/or gadgets I’ll probably never use outdoors. So with that being said we set aside a couple hours so we could explore the rain simulator station to try out different jackets and such, the high altitude training chamber, the 30 by 30 pool to kayak in, and the room with ice blocks as big as a Great Dane to try out negative temperature clothing. Actually we just tried some shoes on but they do have all those things there and it is a very cool store.

After the globe trotter we visited the standing wave in downtown Munich. It’s called the Eisbach river and it hosts a world renowned standing wave that brings in a pretty hefty crowd during the summer months. Last year Carolin and I saw the wave but we didn’t have our own gear to try it out. This time we did so we gave it a shot and it was not easy at all. It’s actually unlike anything I’ve ever done. I would go so far to say its a different sport from surfing all together. Nonetheless, it was super fun to surf in landlocked Munich and I’ll definitely go back and give it a try. Which is exactly what I did two days later. Our friend Steve, from France we stayed with hooked us up with with his buddy who basically pioneered river surfing in Germany. He showed me a few things and gave me some really good pointers on how to look at the river differently from an actual ocean wave and how to approach it. We had a blast surfing there and I highly recommend checking it out if you’re in Munich.

We also visited the Pinakothek der Moderne (modern art museum) with Cathrin and Carolin’s aunt Monica. We spent most of the day there checking out all kinds of different pieces. There was an interesting exhibit that had some of the first computers from the early 80’s and certain advances in technology during that time. It was fun going to the museum with Cat and Monica because they’re both so knowledgable about the art in the museum. It was also great to drive around with them because they would point out certain buildings and explain the history behind them. I personally felt like we got a little more out of the city when we where with them.

Munich is a fascinating city with a lot to offer. We only spent a few days there but with Caro’s family living there, it’s only a matter of time before we’re back. Time to push on towards Belgium and Great Britain.

Czech Republic

The best thing about being in Europe is realizing how close you are to everything. It doesn’t really matter if you’re in France or Germany or Portugal etc. You’re always a couple hours away from somewhere very cool. In the US we drive 5 hours every other weekend to go snowboarding and we never leave the state of California. Living on the west coast means you have to drive further to see the national landmarks or neighboring states. In Europe, driving 5 hours sometimes means driving through multiple countries and the mentality usually is that 5 hours in a car is an extremely long time to be driving. With that being said, Carolin and I always wanted to see Prague and it’s only a 6 hour bus ride from Mannheim which is about ten minutes from Carolin’s house in Germany. We booked a hostel and off we went. On the way there we got lucky and sat at the front of the bus on the second level so our views the entire time were amazing. Once arriving in Prague we took the metro to our hostel and just hung out and had some drinks in their basement pub. The next morning we set out to see the city. Usually when we’ve been traveling through big cities, it’s a little overwhelming and after the first day we’re ready to get back out into the wilderness and into our tent but Prague had a different vibe. Firstly, Prague was probably the most beautiful city either of us has seen. It’s hard to pinpoint why we felt that way but the way it’s situated nestled into the river and the surrounding hills, combined with a couple absolutely stunning cathedrals and architecture, makes it a visually stimulating city to walk through.

We only had a couple days in Prague and immediately felt like we could stay longer. The first day we visited a communism museum in downtown and learned a little about the history of communism in Prague. Relatively speaking it wasn’t that long ago that Prague was controlled by communists. Even before that somebody explained to us why Prague was so intact. In a nutshell during WW2 Hitler was looking to take over Czechoslovakia, Prague was basically annexed to Germany and from what we understood, there was less fighting going on in this city then in other parts during the war. There were also terrible things that happened in Prague and to the Czech people but talking about how intact the structures are and how they survived is pretty amazing. There were over 200 historical sites that had been damaged but the city feels more intact then any we’ve been to.

On our third day in Prague we jumped onto a non traditional walking tour. What that means is that our guide is someone who prefers showing tourists the non touristy areas and we see the city from different angles. Instead of seeing the front of the Prague castle we saw the back and surrounding gardens for example. Everywhere he took us he made a point to show us a different view of the city. After the walking tour Carolin and I walked down to the Charles bridge and the main square in downtown Prague. We familiarized ourselves with their efficient public transportation system and spent the rest of our time just enjoying the streets and cruising around. It was a short lived trip into Prague and we were convinced it was definitely worth a trip back. It’s funny when we book our destinations in advance and try to decide how much time we need. Usually when we only have a couple days somewhere it turns out being a cool place and we wish we would have stayed longer. But we have to push on south to Munich so we can’t stay but we will be back.

France part 2

After camping in rain/wind for a couple weeks, you well…quite frankly, get over it. With that being said, we were very very over it and an opportunity came up to rent an acquaintances apartment in Biarritz while he was away for work in London. We naturally jumped at the chance and we were excited to have a solid roof over our head for a change, and to enjoy city life a little bit again. (I think Brandi was the most excited about this, finally her wedges could come out of her bag;))
We spent 4 glorious days and 3 marvelous nights in a very cute apartment close to the city center and walking distance to the beach.
We surfed, ate, drank, laid out in the rain and shopped it up.
These were also Brandi’s last few days and it was time for her to make her way back to California to start work again. We were back to being only 2.

Our next plan of action was to start the drive along the coast, catch some more surf and eventually head inland towards my parents house. Again, our plans changed last minute.

We had stopped by Steve and Lina’s house on our way out, to say goodbye and to see their son Ash, but a quick stopover is never a quick, and 4 hours later we were still in their front yard. Finally we pulled ourselves together and got in the car to head out, we started our drive, when Rex and I agreed  how we actually wanted to stay longer, that we really enjoy it here and how we don’t want to leave. We talked about it for 30 minutes or so, while driving and then decided that we should let the weather make the final decision: if it’s suppose to rain up north and it’s nice in Capbreton, we stay. In our luck the forecast was in our favor and I immediately called Steve to ask if we could take them up on their offer, to stay a few more days in their backyard. 

We back tracked, set up the tent again and had a super fun, yet relaxing couple days with Steve, Lina, Emma, Ash and of course my love, George! It is amazing how some people can truly influence a place for you, and if it weren’t for these guys, I don’t think France would have had such a positive impact on us. We surfed, beached it up, watched Germany win the World Cup (Oleee oleee oleeeeeee, we are the champions, OLEEEEEEE!!!!!!) and enjoyed the last bit of beach life before the long drive back home. 

With feet dragging, we finally made our last attempt to head back to Germany, and this time we ripped ourselves away from Capbreton and made it in 2 days back to Limburgerhof to celebrate with my Papa his 70th birthday! 

We want to thank Caroline &  Brandi for making the long trip to come and meet us, it was great to see familiar faces and to be able to share this trip with some of our closest friends. Also thank you to our gracious hosts, the Adams family, we wouldn’t have loved it as much as we did, if you weren’t there, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for everything and letting us squat in your yard! 
See all you guys oh so soon back in California🙂

Spain

While we were in Hossegor, we started finding out how close certain places were to each other. For example, our drive to the south west coast of France from San tropez was 10 hours, we also found out Spain was only 45 minutes from where we were staying. So… In realizing how close we were to Spain I asked someone where a surf spot called Mundaka was and if it was nearby. It turns out that one of the surf spots I’ve been wanting to visit since I was 14 years old was only 2 hours away. We were also told San Sebastián was a must see destination. So Caro, Brandi and myself loaded up the sleeping bags and tent and headed towards Bilbao, Spain. We arrived at the Guggenheim museum only to be turned away. Apparently on Mondays most museums are closed. We snapped some photos and had lunch in Bilbao and then drove west to the sleepy town of Mundaka. I personally thought driving through Spain was the top three most beautiful countries I have seen. Beautiful rolling green hills with forests and farmhouses everywhere. Once you arrive on the coast and into mundaka, you begin to notice how compact everything is. The streets are very narrow and turning down any street is pretty much done blindly. Mundaka is primarily known as a fishing village but its no secret that the town hosts one of the best waves in the world. The campsite we found was interesting. Probably the most expensive one yet but perfectly situated within walking distance to the center of town. The first afternoon we took a stroll down to the water to check the surf. It was small but it was hard to tell because there was nobody really surfing. We only had two days here because we had not originally planned to come further south then Biaritz. The next morning I walked down to the town in my wetsuit, board in hand and was determined to just get wet. I really wasn’t expecting much because it looked nowhere near the “classic Mundaka” I had seen in videos growing up. A local guided me down the rocks to the waters edge simultaneously telling me it’s probably not worth it today. I told him I was only here for a day, jumped in and paddled towards the 3 other surfers out in the line up.

I sat and waited for a couple minutes and saw some bumps on the horizon. Out of nowhere a 3-4 foot set came in and caught us all off guard. For about an hour and 45 minutes there were nonstop waves. Perfect 3-5 foot mundaka with only four of us out. The four of us were all hooting at each other and all got some great waves. Looking back at the harbor and the famous st. Mary’s church was unlike any other surf spot I’ve been to. It wasn’t perfect Mundaka, but it was a perfect session in my personal book. The tide filled in and completely shut the place down and that was that.

We walked around the town for a little bit and had a bite before driving north to San Sebastián. We posted up at a surf camp in the area of Zarautz. This particular campsite was geared toward surfers. The beach itself has some great waves but the campsite seemed like it was mostly beginners staying for a week or so with other groups from all over Europe. At the campsite restaurant we watched Germany show Brazil how to play some soccer and followed it up with some celebratory beverages. (Sorry Brazil). The next day we planned to visit the downtown area of San Sebastián. Carolin and Brandi went and walked/shopped around the old town and ate some tapas, and I went surfing at a popular beach also in downtown. Hence the photos of me changing in a parking garage. The three of us met up on the beach just in time for the sun to come out along with the entirety of the cities inhabitants. Within about an hour the beach went from just a couple people here and there to shoulder to shoulder packed. We only spent a short time in Spain ( the Basque Country) but it was time well spent. The beautiful country sides, and the very quaint historic coastal towns make this area extremely appealing. I’m sure it won’t be long before the three of us come back to this part of the world.

France/Monaco

As a snowboarder, there a few places in the world that constantly come up in magazines/conversations that are must go places for avid boarders. Chamonix is one of those places and even just being there in the summer put a huge smile on my face. I was ecstatic just to be surrounded by these mountains and it was hard to contain my excitement. Rex and I posted up at one of the nicest campsites on our trip with a view of two glaciers crawling down from Mont Blonc into the valley. The weather was so-so but the sun kept on making an appearance so it was okay.

Our plan was to head up to Aiguille du Midi (3,842 m / 12,605 ft) on the gondola. It’s one of the most spendy things with have done on this leg but it was highly recommended to us & was absolutely worth every penny!

Once you get up to the top, about 20 mins with a gondola change in the halfway point, you are greeted by the first amazing platform of views. To be honest, once again words don’t do it justice, so please see pictures below. This is the starting point though for one of the routes to summit the infamous Mount Blanc and you have the perfect view to see the groups head up. My heart was fluttering like a little girl seeing a puppy!!! I wanted to get suited up and head out right away!! Needless to say that DIDNT happen butttttt another trek/climb has been added onto my dream list of things I would love to do one day!!

To give you a little bit more detail on how it’s set up there:

Two platforms-one higher and one lower. To get to the higher platform you must go into a mountain, over a crazy bridge and take an elevator up. Once up top, it’s fairly small and the “stepping into the void” glass room is up there. This is also where the people in their “squirrel” suites BASE jump and whizz by the lower platform. It’s pretty insane seeing somebody just jump into a 1000m free fall without even skipping a beat! I felt like my heart was pounding more than theirs and I was just watching! Please note: This is NOT on my bucket list of things I want to do!! Thank you for thinking that I would want to do that though😉

We spent pretty much most the day on top, enjoying the insane views and the sunshine. Once we got on the gondola to head down (which is like a roller coaster ride, free hanging for over 2000m from one pillar to the next) , we decided to get off at the mid station and hike a “horizontal” trail to the next valley over where a traditional mountain tram could take us down to Chamonix. Needless to say, it wasn’t flat but as our Nepali guide would call it “Nepali flat” which means a steady up and down rolling trail. 3 hours later, with amazing views of the valley, we ended up coming around a bend to one of the craziest valleys I have seen in this trip. Mer de glace glacier in the bottom, but the amount of recession of this glacier was crazy. You could see the definite lines where it used to be and according to the info boards, the glacier was that big not even 80 years ago, which makes it one of the fastest receding glaciers in the world! If you don’t believe in global warming, come see this and you will be a believer!

Once we checked weather, we decided to head towards Nice to escape the rain. We followed the Great Alpine Road from Chamonix area all the way along the Italian boarder to Nice which sits on the Mediterranean Sea and is just south of Monaco.

We laid a pit stop in half way, went over some of the most amazing passes I have even been over, more specifically Col du Galibier (which is part of the Tour de France ) and the highest drive-able pass in Europe, Col de I’Iseran (2770m). We drove threw rain, hail, bike races and ski resort after ski resort to be welcomed to perfect sun filled skies, warm air and clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea!! We were elated!!!

After getting settled in, reality hit us, that the following day we were going to be getting our next visitor on this trip: Caroline, one of my old roommates from 54th street & dearest friends was coming to southern france to travel with us for a couple days! We were super excited and she brought loads of sun with her!

Once arrived the following day, we spent the day relaxing, catching up and just being all around lazy. We roughly mapped out the days to come and took off for Monaco the next morning.

😉

Monaco is well… Monaco?! It’s everything you think of and more, it’s James Bond, it’s money, it’s Ferraris, gold plated Bentleys, it’s Mazaratis that are treated like beater cars, casinos, tuxedos, Yachts bigger than my elementary school… You get what I am getting at, it’s a place of opulent amounts of money. We spent the day just walking around with our jaws on the floor, adoring the charm and beauty of this 4 mile long country that is nestled between Italy and France. Seeing the size of the streets puts the famous formula one race into perspective. We wandered till we found ourselves at a pebble beach and we plopped down for a couple hours to do some swimming and napping.

A short 2 hour drive south and we found ourselves at our next campsite, right on the beach with a straight on view of the beautiful town of St. Tropez.

Today’s agenda : BIKE RIDE!!!

We rented some shabby bikes from the campsite and headed toward St. Tropez. This was one of the main places that Rex wanted to always check out and he was right, the place is absolutely beautiful. It is an extremely affluent area, with a harbor that is full of some of the prettiest yachts and boats I have ever seen. The town is right on the water, with some of the buildings being in water. Charming small streets, great shopping (even though overpriced) and one cute cafe after the other (even more overpriced) comprise the old city. Pictures are worth a million words, so see below.

Biking was a brilliant way of transport, since traffic is very high in the small area and parking overpriced and this also meant we could have a few drinks on the way home. We found ourselves a little on the tipsy side once back at the campsite and Rex and Caz found a bottle of whiskey which was taken straight to the beach for our enjoyment. We enjoyed each other company and had a fantastic evening, including another win from Germany!!!

Rain was chasing us, so we took off towards the Atlantic side of France with the hopes of getting some waves and seeing some old friends!

We arrived on the Atlantic coast after a very long day of driving and Rex was our hero! He charged all the way threw the 10 hrs with no problem, rain and all! He is such a trooper!!! Exhausted we showed up at an old colleague of mine front door step in Capbreton. We had been in touch with him for a couple weeks prior and we invited us to stay for a couple nights in his back yard and to celebrate 4th of July!

Things never really play out the way you plan while traveling, good or bad, but luckily for us, plans kept on changing for all parties concerned for the better! Caz decided to stay with us threw the 4th of July weekend and unexpectedly my other old roommate showed up in southwest France on a whim!

To give a bit of a background, there were 4 of us living together on the beach in Newport. Jess and I had moved in and were joined by Caz (Caroline) after our first year, Brandi joined us after our 2nd year and 6 years later we had all become each other’s families. Inseparable and travel happy it was one of my best times of my life till the house got sold and our little beach family went their separate ways. So needless to say, for me it was like having my extended Family show up on our trip and it was so nice to have them with us.

We spent a great weekend in Steve’s backyard, connected with some awesome new friends, celebrated 4th of July in full American style with BBQ and all, and got some good surf in too.

After our weekend was over, Caroline had to make her way back to California to move and work and then there were only 3 again!

Switzerland

Summertime in Europe is a backpackers heaven, college students and people alike flock onto the trains, buses and public transportation systems to do their summer tour of Europe. Hostel prices go up, booking in advance seems a must to get anywhere and to avoid paying outrageous prices it pays to think ahead. Needless to say, Rex and I were more keen on getting off the beaten path and being completely flexible. This is where a car and tent comes in handy, and with the help of my father we found a good deal on a rental car and off we went in the direction of Switzerland! We had a rough layout of where we wanted to head and when we wanted to be there by but ultimately we finally had the freedom to go and do without really having to plan anything out. 
First stop was Zermatt, Switzerland! After having some technical difficulty with my Papas Tom Tom(it kept on trying to take us through a mountain that didn’t have a road or tunnel), we were grateful for all the maps my dad shoved into our hands before we left.  We camped in a little town outside of Zermatt, since getting into Zermatt requires you to either hike or take a train into town, no cars are allowed. We stayed on an awesome camp site in Täsch at the base of the mountains and we had an amazing view of a glacier creeping down a valley. 
We spent our first 2 nights here and enjoyed the cool and partly cloudy weather. We took the train up to Zermatt and continued on up on one of the gondolas to get a closer look of the Matterhorn. Sadly it was covered partially in clouds, but it was still visible enough to make your jaw drop. It was great being so close to such a world renowned mountain. We hiked around the area for the day and started day dreaming of maybe one day climbing the Matterhorn. Pictures are worth a thousands words, so I won’t go into describing the area, but just a side note, it is probably one of my most favorite areas in the world from the natures perspective. The Swiss know how to do it and they know how to do it gooooddd! 

Next stop: Chamonix, France via the Saint Bernard Pass into Italy and then the Mont Blanc Tunnel. 

If you google most noteworthy drives in the alps, Saint Bernard pass is the #1 drive on there. I have memories going over this pass when I was younger in our RV and I was excited to relive that drive with Rex. It was a beautiful pass but to be honest, I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I would be, and a couple days later we crossed a couple passes that I found to be more impressive. 
We entered into Italy at the top of the pass and headed down with a complete architectural  change. It is amazing how one side of the mountain can have houses that look Swiss and the other that look italian without any obvious bleeding over effects. We were in Italy for only about 1 hour, had pizza at a rest stop and a potty break (according to our good friend Brandi, a country only counts if you leave the airport, eat outside of the airport and use the restroom) and we were off in direction of France. We headed straight into the Mont Blanc Tunnel. This tunnel is quite impressive for the following reasons:
1• it’s built under the tallest mountain in Europe – Mont Blanc 4,810 m or 15,781 ft 
2• it’s half in Italy and half in France 
3• it’s 11 km Long 
4• insanely expensive to drive through 
You drive in from Italy and come out in France, pretty cool. 

5 hours of driving, we had been in 3 countries and arrived in Chamonix, a personal dream had just come to fruition, just by being there!! 

Germany

Home sweet home!! Needless to say, I was über excited to be home & I think Rex felt a sigh of relief to be back in a familiar place! It was a weight of our back, no planning, no figuring out where things where, how to get there, what to do, when to be there and no budgeting for a few days! It was glorious, it was marvelous, it was a true treat!!! Being greeted by my papa with a 4 pack of German beer was a cherry on top! For a few days, Rex and I had our own room with a good bed, a kitchen and a fridge full of food and we took full advantage of it. We started to plan the next part of our trip, raided my dads camping gear, picked his brain on the best driving routes and must sees in the south western part of Europe. Information was abundant and slowly our plan came together for where we were going to head next.

We had planned to be in Germany to also co-inside with the 1 year anniversary of my mothers death, so this part of our trip was a double edge sword. I am grateful for all the things that my mother provided for me and my family, she is one of the main inspirations we ended up on this trip, life is too short to not live it to the fullest and to dream big! I do miss her everyday though! I am so happy I got to spend the day with Rex, my Papa and sister at my mothers tree in Limburgerhof! We dearly missed my brother and his wife but they were busy adding a new addition to our family!

We also got a chance to catch up with some of my close friends from home, my aunt and uncle, neighborhood friends and of course Wrinkles!! The days flew by and before we knew it, we were en route to Switzerland and France!!

Gallery

Portugal Extras…