Our plan was to make it through Arches National Park, the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon in one week. In order to do that we alternated drive days with one full day at each park. Each park was about 4 hours from the next so we’d have plenty of time, theoretically, to pack up in the morning and get to the next campground before dark.
Wednesday, October 22nd 2014. We had packed the boat and truck to the brim with all our worldly possessions. Though, in hind sight, we had much more room than anticipated and probably didn’t need to get rid of quite so much stuff. Around 8 am we left Brian’s brother’s house and hit I-90, heading to Denver and then on to Arches, the Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce Canyon.
It’s hard to believe that our EPIC year abroad has come to a conclusion. Brian and I have been having some serious snuggle time with our puppy dog and settling down in our new Adirondack digs. Reflecting on the past year, we had some thoughts:
Things we have learned
- FaceTime is a wonderful invention.
- I have a strong marriage.
- How to say “thank you” in about 10 languages.
- We are amazingly blessed.
- People are generally good.
- I can live with my mother-in-law (at least for a month!)
- Being homeless makes it possible to travel the world. I’m glad I don’t own a house.
- Not owning a car for a full year and only using public transportation is relatively painless, easy and cheap – at least in Europe!
- I’ve (mostly) successfully taught Europeans how to use an American credit card, as we don’t have an electronic chip in our cards.
- I’ve learned that seafood isn’t so bad when it’s caught locally that morning.
- Every country in the world has some form of delicious dried meat and some cheese – all very different, all very delicious.
Nice is a popular destination for honeymooners. The views are gorgeous, the beach is alluring, the food is delicious and the shopping is so very French. So it’s not surprising that a few of the people we have met along the way mentioned that they were stopping in Nice as part of their honeymoon. We met a fantastic young newlywed couple from Canada living across the hall from us in our airbnb apartment. It was wonderful to speak English and we enjoyed gushing about various wedding/love stories.
Monaco is just a little ways down the road from Nice – so how could we pass up the opportunity to see another country? We debated the best way to do it. We’d heard lovely things about the train that winds through the mountains or there are tour companies that offer bus trips. We didn’t want to rent another car and the hike seemed a bit too far. I read some blogs about people who biked the whole way, and the idea appealed to me. Although I am NOT a strong biker and I am insanely glad I didn’t rent us road bikes. We instead chose to rent electric bikes.
After working a full day BrianÂ joined me for a walk through the city of Nice. We are staying right in the heart of the old city, which means we are surrounded by super cute restaurants and quaint shops. It’s a little touristy but not nearly as overrun as the port. We meandered towards the Promenade des Anglais, strolling past large yachts and expensive hotels. The road was blocked off to car traffic and it looked as though people were setting up stages. In fact, we had stumbled upon an annual street festival in honor of France’s independence day. As we admired the stunning view, jazz music started echoing from the stages as the first bands took up their instruments.
Our road trip on our last day in Bordeaux seemed to never start. We returned the scooter and walked the rest of the way to the train station to pick up our car. After arriving we realized our folly – no passport! So off we headed back to our apartment. We tried to grab a bus instead of hiking the 2 kilometers back but we got on the wrong one. Luckily, Google maps didn’t lead us astray and we made it back to the apartment relatively quickly. On the way I distracted us with the story of Eleanor of Aquitaine’s life. It was her marriage to Henry (later king of England) that brought Bordeaux wine to the fame it now enjoys. Walking the distance back to the train station I marveled at how far we have come in the first year of our marriage. Neither of us complained about the walk, no blame was placed on the forgotten passport, instead we just held hands and enjoyed our time together.
We weren’t expecting fireworks or any other sort of celebration of American Independence Day. So rather than plan the day around a BBQ or baseball game we rented a scooter and bumped along back county roads outside of Bordeaux, France. Miles and miles of vineyards passed us, the view occasionally obstructed by enormous chateaus and estate houses. Despite leaving Bordeaux with sunny skies and the promise of a nice day the weather started turning. As the dark – almost black – clouds rolled in, we scooted along searching for shelter. I’m not sure who saw it first but the 40 foot silver rooster perched on a small hill to our right seemed to call to us. Cock-a-doodle-doo he said, come in out of the rain and drink my wine.
For our first wedding anniversary Brian and I headed to Bruges, Belgium. The weather was gorgeous, the beer was delicious and the company couldn’t be beat. Although we had a difficult journey (several trains were cancelled) we arrived early enough to wander around the beautiful neighborhood we were staying in. The next morning, after Brian gave me a lovely necklace as an anniversary present, we found a bike rental shop. We have been through many challenges in the past year, some we have conquered successfully while others have given us wounds to lick. The challenge for our anniversary was mastering the tandem bikeâ€¦ or if not mastering, than at least somehow plowing through 20 miles.
The question of when to visit Copenhagen had been playing on our minds for several months. We didn’t want to do winter travel and weren’t sure we wanted to witness the superstitious witch burning during the summer solstice. We discovered, by accident, that our chosen weekend in early June was the same weekend as Distortion – a city wide, 3 day block party. Rearranging our travel plans so we weren’t hauling suitcases through the thick of the festivities was a wise choice and we were happy to arrive with no problems the day before. The apartment we were staying in (yay airbnb!) was 2 stories above the mayhem that started around 3pm the next day.