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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?