Elma Exploring Family Kitty Photography Pip

The Grand European Adventure 2016: Plotting


Space for the Butterflies - Cherbourg

I’d say that as soon as the ferry left Cherbourg harbour last August we knew we’d be going back, but to be honest it was probably sooner, maybe in the falling snow on top of Gornergrat in Switzerland, or the first time we rounded the corner and saw Lake Annecy unfold before us, or in the quiet early morning of a Black Forest campsite.  As a phrase, “life changing” gets rather overused but I think our travels last summer genuinely were life changing.  They set the pattern for how we want to spend our summer holidays; travelling, exploring, adventuring and just being together as a family.

It won’t be quite the same this year, for one thing we will have to have a return date set, and probably a ferry or the tunnel booked, because I’m not sure I can really stretch “working from home” to mean “still in France on the beach with the laptop”, though for the record, I’m certain that sunshine, sea and readily available ice cream does make me terribly efficient at my job!

So two weeks it is, and with the whole of Europe opened up before us both H and I are indulging a few daydreams and planning out our trip.  We’ve thought about seeing some more of the Alps, going through the Mont Blanc tunnel to Italy, and maybe even as far over as Venice and the Dolomites, or heading down the Atlantic coast of France and in to the top of Spain, but the thought that we keep coming back to time and again is basically starting where we left off.

Space for the Butterflies - the Black Forest

In the very beautiful and deeply green Black Forest.  Our final campsite of the summer was just so lovely, so peaceful and so perfect for letting us relax and unwind while the children made friends and ran off all of their wriggles that I can’t think of a better way to begin than hot footing it east.  If I drive us down to Kent to the Chunnel in the wee small hours of the morning, and then H drives us through northern France and into Germany (lovely nice clear motorways almost all the way through France and speed limit free autobahn in Germany) then we could possibly even do it in a day, and easily do it in two.  And then we will sit, and listen to the stream and eat a lot of cake from the bakery down the hill. And I absolutely forbid it to rain on us.

But more than that, and to show you that I’m definitely not just wanting to go back to Germany for the cake, now that Pip is big enough to be walking, and the girls are even sturdier than last summer, we could try a few gentle little walks into the forrest itself.  We could see so many inviting trails and routes last year but we just weren’t quite ready for that level of exploring.  This year though it could be perfect.

Space for the Butterflies - the Black Forest

That’s as far as I’ve got to in terms of definite planning, and like last year we’re unlikely to book anything beyond the first night’s accommodation, but we’re also considering exploring Munich and the surrounding area (which I’m trying to wangle to include a trip to Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm to the north west, home of the headquarters (and shop) of the very lovely Wollmeise yarn).  Yarn aside, there are some very lovely looking lakes just to the south and it would make a great stopping off point too or from another serious contender on the list: Salzburg.

I’m told it’s a beautiful beautiful part of the world, and some campsite friends we made last year highly recommended it, but mostly, we just want to twirl across a mountain meadow singing “the hills are alive”. I’m only short four children; we’ll have to rope in some teddies to help make up the numbers.

If we then headed back along through Austria we could pop out in Switzerland for more mountains, and, if we’re going for a holiday theme of making my childhood reading come to life then there’s a little hamlet just up the mountain from Maienfeld in Switzerland that’s declared itself to be the fictional Dorfli and has Heidi this that and everything.  Some of it is supposedly incredibly tacky, but I hear good things about the Heidi Haus, and even just seeing the mountains that inspired the story would have me putting the girls hair in plaits and feeding them goat’s milk for breakfast.

I’ve just finished listening to the audiobook of A Year of Living Danishly, which H and I both loved, it’s a great read/listen, and I had Denmark and Sweden on the list last year so there is a little bit of me that wants to try to head north as well to, as H puts it, “eat pastries and build Lego” and I think that one day we will have to do a Scandinavian trip, but it might just be a smidgen too far from a Bavarian starting point.

I think that’s as far as I’ve got, but as last year asking you all for suggestions brought us to Annecy (for which we are most thankful), I thought I’d ask again – if you were travelling in a Germany/Austria/Switzerland sort of direction, where would you absolutely not miss out?

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  • sustainablemum 17/02/2016 at 9:12 am

    Salzburg is beautiful but I haven’t been with children (I was there with work reviewing possible hotels) so I am not sure what there is in the way of things for them. But if you love music you could go to a concert every afternoon and evening!

    The Dolomites is somewhere I definitely want to return to. It is a stunning area and all the local people we met were so friendly and welcoming. We saw many families when we were there and the children were loved and welcomed everywhere, not like here in the UK where there presence can be frowned upon! We are waiting until youngest is a bit older to go for a big adventure in the high mountains 😉

    I haven’t travelled with both my children abroad, my eldest made a few journeys before he was two but none since then. I used to travel abroad for work but that is not quite the same as travelling as a family so I am not sure anywhere I would suggest would necessarily be suitable as I wasn’t considering that perspective at the time!

    • Carie 17/02/2016 at 10:30 pm

      Oh Salzburg sounds like it could be our kind of place!! I’ve never been to the Dolomites, only Venice, but my Dad went on one walking holiday there, came home and promptly booked the winter version of the same holiday and if that’s not a recommendation …! I think we might need our three to be a bit bigger too though before we try somewhere that’s really set up for hiking – and the mountains aren’t going anywhere – well not fast anyway 🙂

  • Kim 17/02/2016 at 4:39 pm

    Oh the planning for a trip is so exciting!!! Another wonderful adventure awaits you from the sounds of it 🙂

    • Carie 17/02/2016 at 10:28 pm

      it is – I think we’ll end up a little more planned than last year, but with the flexibility to change things up as we need and it’s so exciting just thinking about it 🙂

  • Anja 17/02/2016 at 7:53 pm

    Being partly a Black Forest girl on my mother’s side I’m thrilled that you liked it there so much. If you haven’t been to the southern part of the Black Forest yet, I’d recommend the Bernau valley near St. Blasien. On your way to Munich you should stop in the Hegau area to visit the extinguished volcanos hills and the remnants of its many castles. And since you are so close to Lake Constance now, Constance itself is a very pretty city 🙂
    And when (not if) you decide to go to Scandinavia for another holiday, you really can’t go wrong there. We’ve been a few times now (mostly camping) and we’ve never been disappointed. A Swedish summer is as good as it gets and Norway is simply spectacular. Have fun planning your holiday – that is almost as much fun as the trip itself – almost… 😉

    • Carie 17/02/2016 at 10:27 pm

      Oh how wonderful, that’s our Black Forest itinerary sorted then 🙂 We didn’t have long there last summer, it was right at the tail end of the trip and we spent a good bit of time just relaxing but I know we’d all like to see a bit more. As for Sweden and Norway, I’ve been to Norway (sailing in on the Tall Ships Race) and I absolutely loved it and I’ve always said I needed to go back there – maybe next year!

      • Buff 12/10/2016 at 2:47 am

        So lange war ich schon nicht mehr hier bei dir. …und nun sehe ich so süsse Neuigkeiten! Ich wünsche euch ganz viele wunderbare Glücksmomente als kleine Falicie!Herzlimhe GrüsseDoris

      • prämienrechner autoversicherung axa 22/10/2016 at 4:23 pm

        Oh boy, Gatekeeper you need to be good cause this looks awesome. Gatekeeper looks better but Full Throttle looks really cool too! Has anyone else noticed that Gatekeeper’s spiral has an almost 90 degree angle. Or am I just seeing things.

  • Nasreen 17/02/2016 at 8:28 pm

    The town near Munich that stood out for me was Regensburg, picturesque and lovely for walks and picnics, I can imagine it would be good with little ones too. Happy planning!

    • Carie 17/02/2016 at 10:24 pm

      Oooh good to know, thank you – I’ll put a pin in it on our map 🙂

  • Maria Marcus 18/02/2016 at 3:22 am

    My husband and I like to travel, we work a lot but the moment we can get away we try to go to Europe. Last year we went to Salzburg and Vienna. We loved both places, I can see in Salzburg going camping, the scenery is magnificent. I am more a city person and enjoy cultural events which can be found in both cities.

    • Carie 18/02/2016 at 8:15 pm

      From everything I’m hearing we’re going to love Salzburg!!

  • Alina 18/02/2016 at 2:06 pm

    So excited to follow you on one more trip!! You take such beautiful and inspiring photos!

    • Carie 18/02/2016 at 8:16 pm

      Aww thank you very much 🙂

    • Andi 12/10/2016 at 3:22 am

      Now it is summer your way, and we are ready for the deep January plunge in temps. My birthday is in January, and I should come your way to celebrate it in the &#2em0;su8m2r time.” Thank you for stopping by, and have a Merry Christmas.

  • Claire @ Clarina's Comtemplations 21/02/2016 at 7:20 pm

    Oh you must do a Scandinavian trip sometime Carie… I promise you’ll never look back! As for this coming summer… It sounds wonderful!!x

    • Carie 23/02/2016 at 8:20 am

      I think we’re going to have to one day, even if not this summer. I sailed into Trondheim many years ago now but the memories are still very vivid and I knew then that I’d need to go back some day 🙂

  • Ailsa 27/02/2016 at 2:27 pm

    Me and my husband are also off on an European adventure late summer. We had one in 2013 with our 2 grown up children, this year it is just us, so looking forward to it!

    • Carie 27/02/2016 at 9:11 pm

      Oh that sounds wonderful – hopefully the weather will be nice for all of us!

  • Sally 08/03/2016 at 11:57 am

    I’ve just had my time on here curtailed so I’ve been very bad and skipped to this post as my last catch up in this sitting because I was itching to read about what you were plotting! I can’t add much to most of your itinerary ideas, Germany/Austria were kind of out of our childhood holiday areas. I’d definitely vote for Venice, but especially having spent quite a reasonable length of time there (one term whilst at university) I’d vote more for you keeping in mind your ‘less is more’ principles for the year. There are obviously so many amazing places you’d love to go to but you only have 2 weeks this time around and you don’t want (and even more, children won’t want!) to spend too high a proportion of it travelling, especially if camping. Are you just wanting a tiny taster of each place or do you want to relax into each place and get to see a little more of it? One of my most vivid memories of Venice, for example, is the fish market there (amazing! so worth a visit, I still dream of tiny, soft skinned crabs they sold there, no shelling them and incredibly delicious!) – so basically do you want to get down to the fish market level of experience or the whizz around it, seeing the obvious sights level? (Maybe not the best example to appeal to children or non fish lovers!) So my vote goes to first up choosing a proportion of time traveling that you’re happy with and then making sure you stay within the appropriate range to achieve that, and then planning another adventure in a different patch for next year!