We had a house swap in Slovenia so headed from UK across mainland Europe. The driving was very easy with great highways and no real road works or delays. German autobahns were a fun experience to revisit!
The chunnel is so easy and fast. I can’ t imagine taking a ferry anymore given how simple it is to drive onto the train and sit in the car while it shoots under the sea. And so much easier with Darwin too.
We stopped in Belgium for one night and stayed across the road from the huge Stella Artois brewery (a favorite beer) but goodness the country is so expensive I’m glad it was a short visit. We pushed on and stayed a night in Bavaria and had a lovely meal in a non touristy restaurant complete with accordion/traditional musicians. Fun times.
Then we spent a couple of days in the most amazing spot: Kranjska Gora which is in the top part of Slovenia in the Julian Alps. I fell in love with this little town and really hope to get back. The colours were amazing and the mountains surrounding were impressive. There are loads of ski slopes for those who venture out in the cold too. I prefer summer!
On the way to our house we stopped at Lake Bled. Lovely but far too crowded for us and parking was a nightmare. We quickly moved on but would be worth going back to in the off season.
We had another great house swap an hour and a half away from Scarborough in Knaresborough which was a new area for us and allowed easy access to York and Harrogate etc. It’s really a lovely area and the house was so comfortable for us all with great views onto the countryside and included rainbows!
We’ve always loved York and had a couple of fun days there. The Jorvik Viking Center is always a good visit as is the Minster and of course shopping and eating in the old city.
Darwin does just fine with buses, trains, boats and crowds. He’s a trooper.
More picnics this time in the Yorkshire Dales (near Scarborough it’s the moors).
And visits to market towns including Thirsk which was the home of James Herriot and still has his museum there. Charlotte and I are also fans of the show the Yorkshire Vet which is a reality show using the old Herriot vet practice (new vets) so we were groupies and visited the clinic.
Then there were Farm Shows and more picnics with friends and of course Darwin.
One of our main goals of summer 2018 was to all spend time in Scarborough visiting the place I was born (my grandmother’s house and where I mostly grew up is the red door) and to show the 3 younger kids (my two and cousin Janet) the town and special places for our family.
This included trips to Durham to see my grandmother’s, great grandparents and great-great grandparents graves and old houses. It might sound rather heavy going but our family spends most of the time laughing and being silly so there was plenty of that going on. We got to meet up with a cousin who brainstormed the family tree and expanded the ancestry site a lot. Later we also met his lovely daughter which was very special too.
England was going through a drought and it hadn’t rained in ages which was good for us as we had unusually dry trips out.
Charlotte was happy to ride quite a few times at my old riding school in Snainton. It was quite special for both of us. She now of course wants to move there and buy her own horse.
We had some amazing picnics at Abbeys and cliff tops all around Yorkshire. I think the theme of the summer has been picnics and family.
It really is a gorgeous summer and the colors and sights of Brittany kept impressing us.
Our favorite outing and one we went back and did again was to the oyster beds in Cancale for a picnic. You can buy dozens of them quite cheaply and carry your tray to the steps for a picnic. We took wine, cheeses and bread along too and had feasts. Better than a 5 star restaurant any day! The two pictures show the same spot with the tide out and oyster beds visible and then when the tide is in. Pretty neat.
Saint Malo was lovely.
This castle was on a head land at Cap Frehel and the water color amazing. It really is this blue!
We had been offered a house swap in Brittany so happily had jumped on that. I’d spent holidays there as a child but most of my memories were of wind swept beaches and cliffs in a caravan. Having a lovely house made it a bit easier and the summer was so warm with little rain or wind that we were spoilt!
Sunset from our deck:
The area is lovely and the cliffs and beaches gorgeous. A great beach vacation spot with plenty of castles and historical towns to keep all engaged.
I think our favorite was Dinan. Gorgeous old buildings and lots of good food – galletes are the famous buckwheat crepes here. Yum.
Another pretty spot was Mont San Michel. We parked and took the shuttle bus over to the island and the trip was pretty cheap and easy although coming back we had a long wait as the crowds were high. It was hot going and loads of steep stairs so not an easy day out but interesting. Worth the effort.
We picked up Grandma, Auntie Jo, and cousin Janet at the airport in Paris as the start to our summer together – yay. We had a short week just south of Paris in a small town that allowed day trips into the city. Having a larger car with a carrier on top plus the dog and 7 people it was easier than trying to navigate and pay for somewhere right in the city.
The house was lovely and had a walled garden with big table outside plus another garden room with another large table for dining. We took full use of this and enjoyed some great meals (and sampling of wine) together. Darwin was pretty happy to have more of his pack back together too.
Our day trips into the city were fun and a chance to for the kids to again explore old and new sites.
Our time is Spain came to an end all too soon (we will be back) and we were meeting family in Paris so spent a few days road tripping up from southern Spain to France. Our favorite spot was San Sebastian which is right on the border and certainly foodie-heaven. It had a different feel than Andalusia and was cooler. The beach and surrounding hills were lovely and the buildings very interesting. It’s on our list to go back to and spend longer time in.
We had a short stop in Tours, France. Great looking city and again would enjoy going back to it.
We had a road trip and went to Jerez which is in the south and just over an hour to Seville. Cadiz is right next to it and across a peninsular so easy trips to both cities.
The trip was planned because of horses (Charlotte) and sherry (Jake and me) and all of us loved this small city. There are so many bodegas selling sherry and you can tour and sample most of them. It’s also growing in craft beer scene and is home to the Royal Andalusian Horse School:
Charlotte and I went to see the show and tour at this. It was really interesting and the horses are beautiful. Both of us were uncomfortable at the show aspect because training animals to work in order to entertain humans makes us uncomfortable (such as elephants in circuses). We appreciated the skill and culture at this horse show but probably would not go back. Charlotte did think she could be happy living in the School’s old building.
The city though was amazing. Very walkable and small enough not to exhaust us. We saw various bars with flamenco shows going on and music sounding from all over. The food was excellent and great markets and restaurant scene. One evening we did a tasting menu at a Michelin recognized restaurant where they pair sherry to the courses. The range of tastes in sherry is really interesting and not simply that of my English youth at Christmas (although Harvey’s is there and I have to admit I like the sweet taste of this one:)
The drive down and local area was really beautiful as well.
Our house in Jimena had been rented out for one week during our longer rental time so quite serendipitously we had an offer to house swap our Florida place for a Seville apartment so headed there for this week. It was rather a crazy time to try and get to the apartment which was in the very central part of the city.
Our car air conditioner was not working so we planned on leaving the car at a garage and using cabify to get a car in. Sadly that system would not work for us and we waited an hour for a taxi but none came because it was May 1 and everyone on holiday! So Jake drove us into the city center, dropped us off on a narrow street (complete with heavy honking of horns behind us) and then attempted to park the car for the night. It took him ages because with a car top carrier he couldn’t get into covered parking places but he finally found a spot. Then his phone died but luckily he had memorized the address and approximate location of where he had dropped us off. That and the sudden pouring of rain was an auspicious start. But the apartment was gorgeous with high ceilings and lovely furnishings: all white! Everyone had a comfy bed and we could look out of the balcony and see the cathedral. You couldn’t have been any closer to the old city of Seville. We were living it!
There were so many restaurants around us it was hard to choose. We ate our way around and never had to go more than a few streets for great food. Tapas reigns supreme there and we sampled many.
It was nice to have a week and just explore the city slowly rather than racing to every spot. We went to the Alcazar on Monday which was free (but you have to buy your free ticket online for one euro) and organized a tour into the cathedral as it is huge. We thought a tour would help lessen the wait time in line for tickets but in hindsight I’d just have waited as we had a pitifully bad tour guide and she didn’t add much to the process. We did make it up the tower which was part of the old Mosque there and built so a horse could walk up 5 times a day for the call to prayer. Christopher Columbus (the guide referred to him as Cristóbal Colón and I had no idea who she was talking about at first) is supposedly partly buried in the cathedral although there is controversy as to whether it is him or not.
Both places are incredibly beautiful and fun to wander around. I read not to do both in one day and while I’m glad we were able not to, it wouldn’t have been hard to.
We also went to a neat flamenco show. The city is full of shops with flamenco dresses and seems to be much more of a center than in other places. Musicians were playing the music around the city and it feels very much part of the heart of Seville. We saw a few dancers perform pieces from multiple styles of flamenco which was interesting. In a couple of them you could really hear the Arab sounds infused in the music too. The guitar player was amazing.
And of course there is the famous Plaze de Espana where one of the Star Wars movies filmed a segment:
Seville is a beautiful city. We probably missed many museums or spots but for us the beauty was just wandering old city streets and eating at sidewalk cafes etc. Very vibrant city that we enjoyed our week in.
I love train travel and so we continued the journey by train to Rabat. It was Mother’s Day so I was excited to find a tin of my favorite British chocs in the tiny shop at the station plus Digestive biscuits.
Made the journey even more enjoyable. We bought first class tickets as had seats assigned plus heard the aircon was better and there was no smoking in first class. The trains were lovely and comfortable although the air was not working very well. Smooth and easy 3 hour journey to the capital city.
Rabat was an entirely different experience again and reminded us in places of Paris with large boulevards and trees. We had rented a riad for a couple of nights as it had such rave reviews and was really lovely looking. It did not let us down in terms of being gorgeous but we (OK me) hadn’t realized that Sale is a town next to Rabat and kind of across an inlet of water.
They join together but Salat is like the deserted outpost and we were a bit discombobulated to find out there were no restaurants or any stores that we could find. We were in the Medina but there were barely any places open and no food. We wandered for about an hour and headed back worried as to where dinner would be. The owners quickly said they would cook for us and they rustled up a lovely tagine of turkey meatballs and salad. They also cooked for us the next night and it was one of the best meals we had there: meat and prune, long cooked tagine. Another one full of vegetables too. So it ended up being OK as we enjoyed eating in the riad.
But more than two nights may have had us itching for something a bit different! I can’t do justice to these pictures—it is lovely and the nicest family running it. The 300 year old riad has been in their family for 4 generations :