So, we decided to head off to Europe with our van. We headed straight to Budapest and found a place to stay for one night and then a more reasonable Best Western, no less, for an amazing price and gigantic rooms! Both Buda and Pest were amazing and we had a wonderful time with the old buildings and getting around town. There were these amazing handmade, fresh cinnamon treats that we had much too much of, but were insanely amazing 🙂
We’ve realized that we like three main things (especially here in Europe) 1. closed off pedestrian walkways – I cannot get enough! 2. cafes – which funny enough, cover pedestrian walkways completely! 3. and of course insanely historical sites. Not the typical touristy things (although we do take those on as well), but the more quirky things. One more thing we like – not being a tourist. I love shopping at the grocery stores, being able to cook, and just not gawking around. Although, it is at times inescapable unless we spend more time in a place.
Budapest was definitely a keeper and a must-return-to-to-see-more-of type of town.
Vienna. Next stop. What to say? Loved it! Mike seemed to favour Budapest, but I have to say that I liked Vienna a teeny bit more. We found an amazing hotel with excellent prices and lots of room. The grocery stores took getting used to. I completely forgot (from last summers Germany experience) that everything closes at 19:00. Period. The only thing open are gas stations and restaurant/bars/strip joints, etc. We were out of luck for food/water a few nights before we realized we had to get to the grocery store earlier.
We did a lot of walking here, and saw some wonderful things. We visited a church and went underground to the catacombs. The tour was quiet and everyone whispered. The boys were promised bones/human remains, but all we saw was caskets, urns, and boring pictures on walls. When the tour guide mentioned we were going to see bones, Devlin whispered in an exasperated voice: finally! There were probably a good 50 adults on the tour and the laughter was plentiful! We only saw a few piles of bones, and all were behind bars of some sort and difficult to see.
I met up with a distant cousin for a few hours. I’d never met him before, so it was nice to connect. We finally came across a unicycle for Torrin, so we picked one up, as well as a skateboard for Devlin. We looked around for heely wheels, but alas….none to be found.
More wonderful old buildings, pedestrian walks, and a ton of historical sites and cafes and a park or two for the kids to play in.
We decided to drive from Vienna through to Paris non-stop. So, we pulled a bit of an all-nighter and arrived in Paris at 6:00am. Every city we’d been in in our sans-trailer travels has been great with last minute accommodations, sim card purchases, and free internet at all the usual places. We didn’t expect Paris to be much different. The first day was a complete bomb. From 6:00am until early evening, we’d spent looking for internet and a hotel/hostel/rental apartment. They definitely don’t like their English there, and our Quebec French wasn’t doing much to make that any better. In fact, one man told me they love Quebequa ….it’s not real French, but they love them anyway. Haha! had to laugh at that one.
We checked with many hotels, and they are all very strict about their 4 people per room policy (which has always been bendable everywhere else). They wanted us to get two rooms because we have a fifth person. With no luck finding internet, we did find a place to stay. An unusual chain of hotel/hostels all over the city that are locked up with a machine in front. You order a room through the machine, receive a key, etc. and are then allowed into the building. The only room available was a room with one bed. We took it – and snuck everyone in. Thanks of a fabulous friend from Serbia, we were hooked up with an apartment booking gentleman, who found an incredible apartment for us on a lovely cobblestoned street with everything on it….including a Subway Sandwich place and a couple of crepe places!
Then of course, we walked Paris non-stop. We found heely wheels, and saw all the typical tourist things. I had a hard time switching from German to French though and throughout our days there, I kept stopping myself from answering or asking in German. I was surprised that the German came more naturally to me, as I had spent a significantly less amount of time learning German than French. Odd.
We had decided early in the trip to skip the UK altogether. Mostly because we really want to spend a large amount of time there. A couple of days just would not have been enough, and we did not want to feel rushed. So, that will be a trip in and of itself…next summer perhaps?
So….from Paris, we drove through to Munich. We stopped overnight at a lovely little town that was incredibly adorable and *much* more our style than Paris. Loved it! In the morning, we strolled around and ended up leaving later than expected. We were to meet a friend/client in Zurich, but managed to not make it there until 18:00 (instead of the anticipated noon!). Due to a very huge lack of free internet, it was difficult to get a hold of him and wait around outside a starbucks. Plus it was getting late, and we needed to get to Munich.
Since we’d also decided to skip Milan, and other parts of Italy (we were getting sick of the driving and hotel hunting…..having your own trailer is *amazingly* low stress and much better than searching for apartments/hotels), we decided to head to Munich for a day and then take the kids to Legoland.
We arrived in Munich at 23:00. It took 3 hours to realise that no one in town had available space due to some event. Since there are no hotels or anything on the side of the highway, the nearest hotel/town alternative would have been at least another hour drive. At this point, we were starting to fall asleep. So, we overnighted in the van. More like just closed our eyes for 3 hours, but still odd.
In the morning, from there, we did not see any of Munich (as was planned originally), but drove straight to Legoland for a surprise trip for the boys and for Devlin’s birthday. It was as much a surprise and a blast as the one in California! They (we) LOVED it! 🙂 And now, Caelin was much bigger and could enjoy almost all of the rides!
Legoland closed at 18:00 and Mike and I decided another all nighter was in store. So, we drove all the way from the Munich area straight through to Kragujevac. 13 hours later we passed the Croation and Serbian borders and got into KG. Devlin spent his birthday bowling, and eating ice cream at Srce and a sandwich at his favourite restaurant.
Since then, we’ve been continuing our workouts, working our butts off with our clients, and focusing on the kids. The weather has been amazing – days and days of sun and 30C weather. We’ve spent the sunny days in the park with Torrin learning the unicycle and Devlin learning the skateboard. And rainy days in the new Plaza bowling and laser tagging. Oh! And Torrin built another boat this year! A different design then last year! It worked quite well in the water.
Mike decided to make a trip to Toronto for a few days to help out on some family matters. It’s our first time apart in well over 10 years. It’s odd having him gone and it will be good to see him again on Thursday! 🙂 Can’t wait.
We are planning a trip to Kosovo to visit a farm that our wonderful friends are building. I can’t wait to see it! Very exciting!
We are still on the hunt for land….after giving up for a while. It has been hard to secure something due to a lot of cultural nuances. There are many difficulties here, and we are now painfully aware of some very negative cultural differences. I am disappointed for a number of reasons. I guess I had set some expectations for my friends, family, and the culture in general. However, I have learned and understood a heck of a lot more about my parents with us being here for so long!
So…..the land is still something we seek, but are approaching it a little different this year. We’ll see how that all goes down. For now, we are hanging tight in KG, working and loving our monkeys.
I’ll check in again soon and perhaps upload some pix.