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Bombaround

France and Switzerland with two kids, a Campervan and one pot

1 September, 2013

Last night Tim, after a meal preparation that involved me angrily pouring cooked macaroni into the sink because I’d used up all the containers and needed the pan for the sauce, ever so sensitively, asked if he could mention something… “You’re kind of swinging from mood to mood Lu- intense happiness to extreme annoyance… What’s the story?” I haven’t been getting much sleep- Juno is waking a lot at night at the moment- but there is more to it than tiredness. This kind of living seems to provoke big emotions in me. Being in these wild and glorious places with startling beauty on our doorstep and the freedom to roam and explore makes me SO FLIPPING HAPPY. Like dance around, laugh out loud, shout WOOHOOOOO in a tunnel happy. But the fact is, that to experience this we have to live in a tiny van with one pan, a host of mosquitoes and two kids with needs (NEEDS! It’s absurd!) There is also the sometimes stress of trying to find a place to stay each night, weighing up free but possibly risky riversides and car parks against the security but crazily high prices of campsites.

It’s hard to believe we only left England 16 days ago. It feels like we’ve done SO much; how are we possibly going to survive the next 80 days?! We’ll combust with the combination of extreme feelings of joy and frustration and contendedness and stress!

We have just entered Germany. France and Switerland have been amazing… Here is the run down:

Our holiday really began once we got to Troyes, somewhere Northish in France. We went to the little lake about 20k north of there and camped and swam for two days. Bliss. We planned to go far on the third day but fell a little bit in love with Lac De Liez just in Langres where we had just stopped for lunch. It was truly gorgeous so lunch turned into an afternoon visit which turned into a night time free camp which turned into two lovely days! We then drove up to a tiny village Mouthier Haute Pierre about half an hour away from Besancon where we swam in the freezing river and climbed a waterfall. We drove an hour South to Lake Ilay and free camped in the most tranquil spot on the south of the lake, having campfires and cooking potatoes and melting cheese on there. After a couple of days we had an epic drive over the mountains through HAIL, yes! HAIL, to a village called Le Grand Bornand in the Alps by Annecy. There we met up with my sister and her family and enjoyed the biggest kid’s festival in Europe. It was spectacular- so much creativity and not a jot of consumer culture. A hand crafted merrygoround and an enormous musical garden made of recycled stuff. It was brilliant to have so much space dedicated to kid’s autonomous play and we think we might try and pull something off like this one day…. Watch this space! We were really sad to say good bye to my sister and my nephews and nieces – Ramona shed all our tears for us.

We beat a hurried path into Switzerland through Geneva and up to Gruyere where we explored this cheesey village in the pouring rain. Such an enchanting place with a castle and mountains with musical cows (well, bells) that Ramona loved. We camped in the car park there with a couple of other motorhomes- killing our first massively rainy afternoon by making hot chocolates, reading and playing our Ukelele squished in the van.

We went to drive by Lake Gruyere but spotted an island in the middle with the ruins of a monastery, that, coupled with the azure waters enticed us in. We stripped off and with a few hoots waded in completely in the nick. Gosh, skinny dipping makes your lungs explode with life!

We meandered up to Bern and after a bit of deliberation handed over £25 for a night at the campsite on the river. It gave us space to stretch out and we were able to walk in to town and float down the river and explore the free zoo right over bridge. We were only going to stay for an afternoon and night but once again just couldn’t leave! I think it might be my favourite European city. It is worth going just to sail yourself for miles down the cold, clear waters of the Aare alone. Food and accommodation is super expensive in Switzerland but there are plenty of free things for a family to enjoy.

We popped to Basel, another lovely city, free camping just on the outskirts. But Switzerland was making us feel pretty skint so we were pleased to arrive in Germany yesterday. Freiberg is where we’ll be for a little while now.

Perhaps we have come too far too quickly; perhaps for our own sanity we need to stay for longer in a place, to create microhomes and adventure from a base. And perhaps we need to invest in another pan.

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Photos take forever to upload so sorry there aren’t more! X

Bombaround

Jolly japes on our European Bombaround- Croatia bound

14 June, 2013

Sometime in the early nineties, on one of the many European adventures my parents took my sister and I on, we parked our campervan up late on a Parisian street. We rolled out the beds, fell to sleep immediately and woke a few hours later with the sunrise rising over the grandeur of the Palace of Versailles. No jokes. My folks had plopped our friendly little VW camper right on that  royal porch. We rubbed the sleep out of our eyes and patted down our bed hair and walked straight into this majestic scene. (That is what you call glamping.)Versailles
The Palace of Versailles when we took Ramona a couple of years ago

It is partly these kind of memories that have inspired our own trip over to Europe this summer. Tim and I want to embrace all the jolly japes and high jinks that buzzing around Europe in a campervan can offer.  We are leaving on August the 1st in Betty our VW Westfalia with our two girls, returning to the UK 3 months later. We were originally going to try and take in every part of Europe possible but have reined in our plans a little.  We totted up the miles of our original route and found it came to 9000 which is a bit bonkers! Although this is a once in a life time opportunity we wanted to avoid any feeling of being rushed and harried of not being rushed and getting to know places a little bit.

We’re still going to delve in to a fair few countries though:

Wild swimming in France (and cheese eating)
Forest walks in the Black Forest
Hot Pooling In Hungary
Exploring little folky villages in the Czech Republic
Ocean swimming in Croatia (this is our main destination and where we want to spend the most time – it was voted most beautiful country in the world by National Geographic – who’d a thought?)
Pizza eating and soaking up the October warmth in Italy on the way home

We don’t know how long we will spend in each spot, we are going to just roll with it and if we don’t get to them all then it isn’t a big deal. We want to see how driving with the little ladies goes- if they struggle we’ll simple strip back our itinerary even more. We are aiming for the idle, agendaless existence not three months of ticking off countries.

swimmingOur first family holiday with Ramona

I can’t wait for the simple living that van life will offer us (I’m just a little bit nervous about having only TWO pairs of shoes available) and the chance to get much better at being “present”; savouring inconsequential moments. We are stoked to be getting this much time together as a family of four and no work to get up for. (Sometimes it is okay to want to be a bit lazy eh?)

Maybe I do have a bit of an agenda though- ‘cos if we don’t get to park our camper on the driveway of at least one regal establishment I’ll be WELL MAD.