May 29, 2012

Portugal, Spain, France

I wanted to share a few more photos from our journey in Europe - since I did take a few thousand. For this post, here are some photos of the first 3 countries we visited on the trip.

Punta Del Gada, Portugal

 Our boat was in port on this beautiful island for one day, the only port of call for the entire trip after leaving the states.  We were excited to get off the boat and find our land legs and it was so much fun to explore this tiny island for the day.

We found a bike rental shop and rented a couple of mountain bikes for the day and set off to explore!

It is a beautiful island and we had a great day together finding off-road trails leading by old farms and small villages all along the coast.

Barcelona, Spain

A few days later the boat landed at 5 a.m. and we were free to disembark and begin our adventure!

After eating as much as we could of the breakfast buffet, knowing we had to start paying for all our food again from then on, we disembarked and explored Barcelona.

We were planning to just get to a bus station after seeing a couple sights, and were not really that excited about seeing the city since we usually prefer the rural settings - but we fell in love with Barcelona.

It is a beautiful city full of amazing architecture, great markets, and most importantly - very affordable, freshly made churros. YUM.

Ruins of Peyrepertuse 


We took a bus from Barcelona early that afternoon and headed across the border into France to pick up our rental car. From there we set course for Carcassonne, France where we planned to spend the night, but got sidetracked by a couple of castle ruins in the hills and had a great time exploring them with no one else there!

Roman Aqueduct - Pont Du Gard
We finally made it to Carcassonne after dark and after a little pleading I managed to talk an understandably tired Geoff (it was after 10) to go walk around this castle city with me. The lights around the castle at night were magical, I have loved seeing old castle ruins even in pictures since I was a kid and this place was just too good to be true. We walked all the way around the 2 1/2 mile castle exterior, and explored briefly inside the walls of the city. The lurking shadows and golden cast of the lights illuminating this 11th century stone fortress created a dramatic blend of mystery and awe.
Roman Theater in Orange, France
After the castles it just kept getting better as we drove through beautiful countryside and explored amazing Roman ruins. I had no idea how many amazing jewels southern France was hiding! Roman sites were everywhere - some of the best preserved I've ever seen!

Just when it couldn't get any better for me we spent a day traveling the Cotes du Rhone wine roads, visiting vineyards and markets and enjoying some of the most peaceful places I've ever seen.  There were vineyards everywhere we looked in France, but this region in particular stole my heart with its old, fruitful vines crisscrossing valleys and hills with endless views. My favorite biblical illustrations relate to vines, vineyards, wine, etc. so it suffices to say - I loved France. 
My favorite vineyard sat a hill overlooking the valley
 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  This is to my father's glory, that you bear fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."

May 27, 2012

There and Back Again

It has taken me longer than intended to get back on here to update you on our travels - but here goes! Geoff and I got back in the states about a week ago from an amazing month long adventure across the Atlantic and in Europe! When we got married we always said we wanted to backpack across Europe together and we set that trip as a goal for when we were debt free. After lots of beans and rice and sometimes meager housing situations we were finally able to say goodbye to the last of his student loans in December and were free to dream! We tried to talk ourselves out of it so many times, but I'm so thankful we stuck with our goal and made it happen.

We were able to spend so much good, quality time together and were so blessed with the opportunity of this month long retreat. We did not, ironically, get very much sleep in Europe as we were camping in a tent (or car as rain required) at night, and it was still a bit too cold for good rest - temperature ratings on sleeping bags mean apparently nothing to my body. But that was part of the adventure and we had so much fun! I have so many stories and pictures I could fill a book...but I won't.

Our trip began with a 2 week transatlantic cruise over to Europe. Since we are both unemployed time wasn't an issue in planning our trip but limited finances were. We found an incredible deal on this transatlantic, repositioning cruise in low season. It was actually cheaper to take this cruise over than it would have been to get round trip tickets since we had frequent flyer miles for a one way return each.  I can't feed Geoff for 2 weeks on what this all you can eat floating transport cost! We were at sea almost the entire 2 weeks so we were able to enjoy some good time together dreaming about the future, reestablishing goals, and playing ping pong!

Carcassonne, France
The boat dropped us of in Barcelona - a beautiful city, and we made our way to France. We rented a car there and spent the next 2 1/2 weeks traveling through the castles, roman ruins and vineyards of southern France, hiking the Cinque Terre in Italy, driving scenic roads in Austria, exploring castles, medieval cities and forests in Germany, and just standing in complete awe of God's beauty in Switzerland.

Cinque Terre - Italy
We were moving fast on our trip - visiting a total of 7 countries during the month and with just the two of us and backpacks we made great time. Having a rental car was a huge blessing as we were able to explore more rural regions than we have been able to with train travel in the past, and it provided alternative lodging when it was raining too much to pitch our tent! Now, it was a small car, as all European cars tend to be...but it wasn't as bad as we expected and we were so thankful for the freedom of travel and protection from the elements it provided.

View from our tent in Brienz, Switzerland
I had so much fun camping!  We originally decided to camp because it was the cheapest way to survive and something about being unemployed and planning a move to a foreign country with limited income potential helped us stick with a tighter budget. We froze almost every night, we got wet in the rain, and we were sore every morning from sleeping on the ground or in the car...but it was so much fun! I loved feeling like a kid camping in the backyard, and waking up each morning in beautiful European destinations. I loved interacting with the local crowd instead of sharing tourist dwellings.
I loved the survival mode of trying to figure out how to keep from freezing at night, wearing layers and ski hats and snuggling close together with clothes spread over the tops of our sleeping bags. I loved staying where the Europeans stayed, often being the only tent (perhaps something to do with the cold and rain) surrounded by camping trailers.  I loved borrowing the neon green alligator kayaks from our campground and paddling halfway across the turquoise waters of Lake Brienzersee to get a better look at one of the many waterfalls!

Even Geoff got too cold in the Alps
We spent the most time in Switzerland and got to see a lot of the country. We also had a four day rail pass for the last part of our time and it was so fun to return the car and enjoy the ease of sitting on a train watching beautiful scenery pass by, getting out where we wanted and not having to worry about directions. We splurged on one train ride to the highest train station in Europe at Jungfraujoch and were rewarded with breathtaking views across the alps on the only clear rain free day of our trip.

We got back to Texas physically tired, but refreshed all the same. We were very excited to be reunited with our pup who had been spoiled and pampered for a month staying with one of our favorite families in Early. We saw lots of very good dogs while in Europe and were heartsick for Reyah - Geoff especially - which doesn't help our dilemma of how/when to get her to Ecuador. We are enjoying time with family and friends and are working as fast as we can to complete some more renovations at my parents casa before we leave.  More updates and stories soon, but wanted to touch base!