Where we’ve been

A list of where we have been and when…plus a few comments.

We decided to maintain the “Where and When” page to reflect, well, where we have been and when we were there. Included in this section is a short description of the weather while there and whether we camped or hosteled or rented or “resorted”. I have included the cost of accommodation to give you an idea of costs. Bear in mind, 1 € = approx. $1.4

I have added links to Wikipedia for the towns and cities we have visited, as well as links to the hostels and campsites at which we have slept. I have also embedded links to our photo albums on Picasa for each place we have visited…the photo albums include a description of the things we did and saw while at that destination.

So here goes…

Paris (Aug 10-22)

Weather: mostly cool with a few rainy days and some fine weather
Accommodation: we rented an apartment through www.abritel.fr. (99 Euros per night)
Photos: Since we were here for almost two weeks, we have lots of photo albums
Highlights: Since we were there for 12 days, we did a LOT of stuff. There are too many highlights to mention here. Check out the photos to get an idea. Paris is an expensive city…it was a bit of a shock at first. We were able to bring costs down by eating picnics and at home and doing as many free things as possible. All in all, it was a great start to our adventure.

Reims, France (Aug 23-24)
Weather: cool and fine
Accommodation: CIS Champagne (a hostel). (66 Euros per night)
Highlights: Reims is home to Champagne. We had personal tour of a “vigneron” and visited the Museum of Capitulation (where the German high command surrendered unconditionally to General Eisenhower.
Photos here!

Arras & Vimy, France (Aug 25-26)
Weather: cool and rainy
Accommodation: We camped at “La Paille-Haute“, a campground in Boiry-Notre-Dame, a village near Arras. (25 Euros per night)
Highlights: Arras is the site of the WWI Battle of Arras, of which the Vimy Ridge was the Canadian component. It is a vibrant town with beautiful squares and fascinating war history. The main reason to visit, for Canadians, is the stirring Vimy Memorial. While there, we took the tour of the tunnels…a must-do.
Photos Here!

Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Aug 27-28)
Weather: Rain showers and periodic sunshine but cool
Accommodation: We camped across the harbour from Amsterdam Zentrum in theCamping Vliegenbos. It was another rainy stay. Really rainy! (50 Euros per night)
Highlights: The centre of Amsterdam is a zoo! Bikes and pedestrians are everywhere…your head has to be on a swivel. A ripple of concentric canals, lined with beautiful “canal houses”, divide the old city. It is a city that embraces personal freedom. The smell of pot permeates the air, sex-shops and the red-light district are easily stumbled into. We visited the Ann Frank Museum, a must-see attraction. But the main thing we will remember is the bikes…by the thousands.
Photos Here!

Scheemda, The Netherlands (Aug 29-30)
Weather: Sunny, cool, and windy.
Accommodation: Hostel (comfy, dry and warm but expensive (90 Euros per night))
Photos HERE
Highlights: We dried out and enjoyed a comfortable stay in warmth. We poked around this lovely village and the neighbouring village of Winschoten.

Goslar, Germany (Aug 31-Sep 2)
Weather: rainy and cold
Accommodation: Camping at Sennhütte Kampingplatz. Very basic but inexpensive (18 Euros per night)
Highlights:Goslar is a beautifully preserved renaissance town. It is a UNESCO town with many charming streets and a fantastic town square with a huge `cuckoo-style`glockenspiel that plays 4 times a day. We hiked in the mountains outside of town and generally had a great stay…if a little damp.
Photos HERE

Wittenberg, Germany (Sep 3)
Weather: sunny and warm
Accommodation: We stopped in Wittenberg for picnic…it lasted all afternoon. No accommodation.
Highlights: This city has a beautiful old town. It is the city of Martin Luther, leader of the German reformation and so much of it is devoted to his memory. We climbed the 283 steps up to the bell level of the tower of schlosskirke (Caslte Church).
Photos HERE

Berlin, Germany (Sep 3-4)
Weather: Fine, with occasional showers
Accommodation: We camped at Krossingsee Kampingplatz which is located south of the city (within city limits) on the lovely Krossing Lake. It looked like many lakes in Eastern Ontario. (23 Euros per night)
Highlights: Berlin, as you might imagine, is a fascinating city. Architecturally, it is a mix of modern, GDR Design, pre-war Roman influenced NAZI buildings, a pre-NAZI structures. In many places, it still seemed to be a city in reconstruction. The heart of the city, Alexanderplatz, which was formerly in East German controlled Berlin has become a shopping mecca…ironic, eh? We visited the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie (too touristy but a must-see), the Topography of Terrors (home of the former Gestapo HQ and a large chunk of the wall).
Photos HERE

Bad Schandau, Germany (Sep 5-6)
Weather: Cool nights (frost warning) and comfortable, sunny days
Accommodation: We stayed at a hostel in the small town of Ostrau (a village overlooking the main town of Bad Schandau). (56 Euros per night)
Highlights: Bad Schandau is a small German Banff. It is situated in a steep valley along the Elba River among rolling hills pumctuated with sandstone towers. It is a stunningly beautiful area. The town is lovely, but the attraction is the very well marked and organized hiking trails that criss-cross the area. We had the best family hike, ever! We walked for 6 hours, reached soaring heights, and were rewarded with gorgeous views!!
Photos HERE

Prague, Czech Republic (Sep 7-8)
Weather: overcast and cool, but no rain.
Accommodation: We stayed at the best private little campground ever. Autocamp Trojska is located just north of the main city of Prague and a 10 minute walk east of the Prague Zoo (7th best in the world according to Forbes). (20 Euros per night)
Highlights: Prague rewarded us with a beautiful downtown, inexpensive food, great views of the city from the castle. It has some beautiful parks, lovely side-streets and a vibrant downtown core. Wenslas Square is a shoppers’ heaven and Old Town Square is a fun place to watch people and the Astronomical Clock…watch it at the top of the hour. Found a great English bookstore.
Photos HERE

Vienna, Austria (Sep 9-11)
Weather: Sunny and cool…comfortable for walking around.
Accommodation: Camping at Wien Kampingplatz. The campsite is huge and very busy. The campground is located across the Danube from the old city and it is wedged between a busy highway and a railroad track…I put my earplugs to use! (26 Euros per night)
Highlights: Vienna is a lovely city that delights the eye at every turn. We visited both palaces and enjoyed a konzert presented by the Wien-Hofburg Orchester in the Hofburg Palace.  Coffee and cake in an outdoor café.
Photos HERE

Keszthely, Hungary (Sep 12-18)
Weather: Sunny and comfortably warm.
Accommodation: Abbazia Resort (part of the RCI Chain of timeshare resorts…thanks maman & papa). This is luxurious accommodation: kitchen, livingroom, diningroom, 2 bathrooms, separate bedrooms, balcony and backyard pool. (16 Euros per night)
Highlights: Keszthely is a important Hungarian resort town. It is located on the banks of Lake Balaton in western Hungary. It has a population of approximately 20,000. The people are definitely less prosperous than the Dutch or the Germans|Autrians, but is an interesting and lively little town. There are many, many restaurants and the food is quite inexpensive, although calculating the exchange is a bit of a headache (275 Hungarian Forint to the Euro).
Photos HERE

Budapest, Hungary (Sept 15)
Weather: fine, cloudy with sunny periods
Accommodations: none as this was a day trip from Keszthely. We drove into town as it was cheaper and easier than either the bus or the train.
Highlights: Budapest is a beautiful city with great historic quarters, stunning architecture, wide boulevards and meandering lanes. It has the best fountain ever (according to two fountain experts: Owen and Anique). Prices are good…history interesting. A great city to visit. We would have liked to stay longer.
Photos HERE

Judenburg, Austria (Sep 18)
Weather: rainy and cloudy and cool (too bad)
Accommodations: Jugendgastehaus in an ancient monastary and infantry barracks for WW1 troops of the Kronprinz. (99 Euros per night)
Highlights: We intended to camp but the pouring rain changed our minds. This a beautiful town set on a river in a steep valley. Unfortunately the weather prevented us from enjoying much of it. The tower was closed Sunday morning so we couldn’t climb it. Shannon and I had a very difficult run up the side of a mountain, searching in vain for some ruins we could see from the road.
Photos  of Austria (including a few from Judenburg) HERE

Salzburg, Austria (Sept 19, 20, 21)
Weather: perfect: sunny and warm
Accommodation: Camping at Nord-Sam campground north of Salzburg (within walking distance of downtown…a long walk) (25 Euros per night)
Highlights: We loved Salzburg. It is gorgeous. The scenery is wonderful, the gardens stunning, the architecture magnificent, the castle impressive and the playgrounds unsurpassed. We took the Sound of Music tour, visited the castle, drank beer in a huge Bierstub, visited Mozart’s birthplace, ate Mozart Kugeln and bretzl. Great!
PHOTOS OF SALZBURG HERE

Innsbruck, Austria (and a little of Kitzbuhel) (Sept 22-24)
Weather: perfect. Sunny and warm.
Accommodation: Camping at a noisy campground overlooking the airport and beside a highway. Beautiful scenery however. (25 Euros per night)
HIghlights: We visited Kitzbuhel on the way to Innsbruck. It is the site of the famously difficult World Cup Downhill: The Hahnenkamm. On Shannon’s birthday, we hiked up Nordkette Mountain which overlooks Innsbruck. It was a gruelling, but fantastic, 6.5 hour hike. Stunning views and scenery. The kids were fantastic.
Photos of Innsbruck, Kitzbuhel HERE

Langensoultzbach, Alsace, France (Sept 24-Nov 6)
Weather: since we were so long, the weather has varied. We have had some nice weather but it is definitely autumn.
Accommodation: gîte in Langensoultzbach in the northern department of Bas-Rhin. Our fantastic hosts, Marina & Éric Zirnheld, treated us like family. We highly recommend this gîte…and Alsace.  (34 Euros per night)
Highlights: Too numerous to mention…but I’ll try. Medieval castles in the hills, Maginot Line WW2 defences everywhere, tarte flambée, maisons à colombages, beautiful hills and villages, twisty roads, great runs and fantastic bike rides, friendly people, Alsatian language, Strasbourg, day trips to Stuttgart (Porsche Museum), and much more.
PHOTOS:   Alsace /    Langensoutlzbach /     Porsche Museum

Soulzeren, Alsace, France (Nov 6- Nov 11)
Weather: lots of rain, cloud and fog, cool
Accommodation: gîte in Soulzeren, a small town in the Haut-Rhin, not far from Colmar. We rented the bottom floor of a house. The view was outstanding as we looked out over the Munster Valley. At night, it was as if we were flying over the town. Very comfortable gîte. The owner, André, kept chickens of which he was quite proud. (85 Euros per night)
Highlights: we visited Colmar (the most Alsatian town of Alsace, or so they say). We also visited the Château of Haut-Koenigsbourg, a fully restored medieval castle. On a rainy Sunday, we visited «La cité de l’automobile» in Mulhouse. Apparently, it is the world`s largest auto museum….it’s pretty big. Since the Bugatti is located a few kms away, it houses a huge collection of Bugattis through the ages. It’s quite impressive. We also visited a monument to the battle of Le Linge. It is a museum and the preserved german trenches from a WW1 battle. It is very impressive. We ate Munster cheese and ate our last tarte flambée.
PHOTOS HERE

Maso Corto, Dolomites, Italy (Nov 11-18)
Accommodation: RCI Timeshare condominium
($150 exchange fee paid a long time ago J) (16 Euros per night)
Weather: It was rainy, snowy, or cloudy every day but one during our week in Maso Corto/Val Senales.  It was near freezing every day. We had sun on Sat. Nov 13th.
Highlights: Anique, Owen, and Marco skied on the glacier on Nov 14th. It was a fantastic day of skiing above the clouds on beautiful mid-winter snow. We were well above treeline (3200m ASL) so it was wide open skiing in beautiful sunshine…heaven!
During our stay here, we swam every day in a 25m pool since running was almost out of the question (straight down turn around straight up!). We also hit the books again.
PHOTOS OF SKIING HERE!
PHOTOS OF SWISS AND ITALIAN ALPS HERE!

Venice, Italy (Nov 18-21)
Accommodation: rented apartment near Piazza San Marco (110 Euros per night)
Weather: we got lucky. It rained most nights but was lovely most of the day. High tide caused some flooding in our area, particularly in Piazza San Marco
Highlights: THE WHOLE PLACE!! We had a blast walking around this iconic city. Fantastic runs, walks, traghetto rides, etc. Great
PHOTOS of Venice HERE!

Florence, Italy (Nov 21-22)
Accommodation: the first night we rented two B&B rooms for 50 Euros each, since we was pouring rain out. It was difficult to find in the dark amid crazy traffic, but we made. The next day we packed up and headed to the campground (39 Euros). It is situated near Piazza Michelangiolo on the south side of the city looking over the old town and the stunning cathedral. Unfortunately, it poured again and we got soaked. We spent our second morning drying our mattresses and sleeping bags. There was only 1 other tent in the whole site.
Weather: rain and periodic sun, mild temps
Highlights: gelato on the Ponte Vecchia. A warm night and free espresso in the Alla Dimora Altea B&B. The stunning cathedral, seeing David (even the copy).
PHOTOS HERE!

Rome, Italy (Nov 23-26)
Accommodation: back in the tent in the Flaminio Village campground with the nicest bathroom facilities ever!! Classical music played day and night. Only one other tenter…a solo mountain climber from Grenoble. Hmmm. (40 Euros per night)
Weather: rain at night, shower in the afternoon, sun in the morning.
Highlights: Ahh, Rome. It really impressed us. The ruins, the history, the life on the streets, the crazy traffic, the omnipresent police, the high leather boots, the stunning rainbows and sunsets. Wow.
Lowlights: Anique threw up in the train station just as we were to board to go home. The prospects of a second vomit in a crowded commuter train, didn’t appeal to us so we took a taxi to our campsite. It cost us 20 Euros vs a fee train, but at least it was a puke-free ride. And it was quite fun, driving in Roman traffic without the stress of doing it yourself.
PHOTOS OF ROME HERE!

Castel del Piano, Tuscany, Italy (Nov 27-28)
Accommodation: we had intended to camp but the weather forecast was terrible (rain or snow and temperatures near freezing). Since Castel del Piano is at a high elevation we opted for the small apartment available at the campsite (Camping Amiata). The apartment hadn’t been used in a year and it smelled pretty musty. But once the heat was turned on, the smell disappeared (or we got used to it). Lucky we did. It poured again. We arrived in sunshine, but the following day, it poured all day. (80 Euros a night)
Weather: Sun followed by torrential rain and very cool temperatures.
Highlights: the drive from Castel del Piano to Siena on very fun, twisty mountain roads. Siena was cool, but hard to enjoy in the rain. The drive home in the fog, rain, and dark was stressful and long. On our drive out we stopped at an olive oil producer perched in a mountaintop village. We had an olive oil tasting (a degustation) and then toured the facility to see how it is made. We bought 17 Euros worth of fine Tuscan olive oil.
PHOTOS OF TUSCANY AND BEYOND HERE!

Deiva Marina, Italy (Nov 29-30)
Accommodation: camping in a closed campsite in the 24 hour glare of the bathroom complex lights. We arrived late on Monday afternoon, and the lady told us it was closed. She then decided to let us stay for two night. We had working plumbing, hot water, and no neighbours. All for 0 Euros per night. Our cheapest stay.
Weather: again, lady luck smiled on us. Our first night was very cold, but it didn’t rain. The second night, it poured rain from suppertime on….right through breakfast, pack up and our 3 hour drive to France. Sheesh.
Highlights: we camped in Deiva Marina because it is a short train ride to the northern most town in the Cinque Terre. So on our first and only day there, we had perfect weather. It was warm and sunny for our hike in Cinque Terre.
PHOTOS OF CINQUE TERRE HERE!

Menton, France (Dec 1-Feb 17)
Accommodation: our cushiest digs yet. We have a large apartment in a former hotel called the Winter Palace. It has two bedrooms, 2 ½ baths, a large kitchen, and a very large livingroom/diningroom. Each room, also has French doors leading to small balconies which overlook the Mediterranean Sea. Heaven. This apartment costs 56 Euros per night…a real bargain for this part of the world.
Weather: Menton enjoys the warmest weather in continental France, due to its tropical microclimate. Palm trees, cactus, and citrus trees are everywhere.
Highlights: Beach, hill walks, medieval towns perched on mountain peaks, easy access to Nice, Monaco and other Côte d’Azur cities. Cheap regional trains and busses. Daily markets close to our apartment. Kids have swum with the Menton swim team 2-3 times per week. We can walk to Italy or Monaco from our apartment. THE WEATHER is fantastic.
PHOTOS OF MENTON HERE

Provence, France (19-22 January)
Accommodation: we rented an apartment in the old part of Avignon, inside the walls that still surround the city.  50 Euros per night.
Weather: Sunny, near freezing and windy. «Le Mistral» is an icy wind that howls through this part of France. We were chilled to the bone.
Highlights:  Owen bought a  new camera with Christmas money. We ate out. We visited the «Palais des Papes» home of the papacy in the 14th century. We checked out the Pont d’Avignon. We sang and danced and then «Le Mistral» stole Owen’s fedora and sent it into the Rhône. He was distraught. We visited Châteauneuf-du-pape, the famous wine town. We inspected the fantastic Pont-du-Gard, a roman aqueduct. We also spent an afternoon in Orange, crawling all over the wonderfully preserved Théâtre Antique, a roman amphitheatre that still holds concerts in the summer. We visited Gordes before retiring to our apartment for pizza. On the way back to Menton, we drove cross-country (avoiding the autoroutes and their tolls) across the heart of Provence. We stopped in Lourmarin, home to Peter Mayle (author of «A Year in Provence») before heading to the Gorges du Verdon. The Gorges is a grand canyon with a road along one side. It is a stunning drive. The best part of this visit: the total lack of crowds. We were often completely alone to wander and discover.
Pictures of our trip to the heart of Provence

Nice, France (various dates) and Monaco (various dates)
Accommodation: none necessary as both locations are a short train ride away (in fact, we walked to Monaco from our Menton apartment)
Weather: both places enjoy similar climate to Menton. Nice is a little cooler for some reason.
Highlights: Nice is a lovely city with fantastic public squares and parks. It looks a little like Paris in certain areas. The old town is a charming collection of narrow streets populated with trendy shops, restaurants, and artists studios. The former castle occupied the high ground above the town. Now it is a lovely garden and playground. We went to Nice for Marco’s 10km run in January and for Shannon’s half-marathon in February.
Link to Monaco Photos Here
LINK TO NICE PICTURES HERE

Carvoeiro, Portugal (Feb 19 – Mar 18)
Accommodation: Marco’s parents rented a house, called Casa na Colina, in the former fishing village of Carvoeiro which is situated East of Faro on the south coast of Portugal in the province of Algarve.
Weather: We had 2 weeks of beautiful cloudless days and temperatures in the low 20s. Then a week and a half of cloud periodic rain and high teens. Then sun again. It was quite spectacular.
Highlights: The house was huge, with a large private yard and a swimming pool. We swam everyday, sometimes twice a day. The beaches in the Algarve are stunningly beautiful and well worth the trip. It is a highly eroded coastline with 75 metre cliffs and secluded beaches. Gorgeous. The food…well the oranges, were fantastic and fantastically cheap. We bought kilos and kilos of oranges and squeezed them for “sumo” and ate them constantly. We spent a month with Marco’s parents. Then, for the last week, Marco’s sister, Kathy, and her family joined us. We had fun discovering The Algarve together and the kids loved the kid-sized company.
Pictures of Casa na Coliina HERE.
Pictures of our hikes HERE.
Pictures of the fantastic beaches HERE.
Pictures of our day trips HERE.

Lisbon, Portugal (Mar 18-20)
Accommodation: We camped at Lisbon Camping in the huge Monsanto Park within the city limits. (30Euros per night)
Weather: Perfect. Sunny and warm. The nights were cool but the mercury hit the mid-20s during the day. Not too tough for a “winter camping” trip!
Highlights: The old town is great. The funicular ride. The police arrest on our bus! The Piri-piri incident, well the supper actually. The great waterfront. The ease of getting in and out….a breeze. The two marvellous bridges: one is a copy of the Golden Gate and the other, much newer, is the 2nd longest in Europe at 14km in length.
Pictures of Lisbon HERE

Faro, Portugal (March 20)
Accommodation: We spent one night in a pension in Faro before returning the rental car and taking a bus to Seville, Spain. Our requirements: clean, near the bus station, and cheap. It fit. But it smelled of sweet disinfectant. (60 euros for the night for adjoining rooms…not that cheap)
Weather: unimportant but it was perfect.
Highlights: Walking the cobbled streets of the old town, after supper. It was quite atmospheric.
NO PHOTOS…no really.

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Responses

  1. I am super physiced!!! 😛

  2. EEK ur going to Spain? Awesome it’s beautiful and amazing and…BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. wow you guys have coverd so many places already!!!!! 😛 😀

  4. That is lot of of places

  5. Hello again, have just been engrossed in your travels, you have seen so many
    beautiful places, and what a great itinerary – congratulations, you have seen the
    best of the best. We love travelling and have been to lots of places in the world
    over the past 14 years – It gets into your blood, and you yearn to travel more.
    Wonderful photos, great family times, and memories that you will always remember, and really, will not be able to repeat, because the world is changing every day.
    We wish you all a very happy life, and these experiences are just the best way education one can get. Keep well and happy.
    Rose and Vic, Auckland, New Zealand.

    • Thanks for the kind words. You’re right about travel getting into your blood. My wife and I have spent a year in Korea and S-E Asia, sometime in Africa and S-America, but it had been more than a decade since we had travelled. This experience has been fantastic, especially for the kids. We all recognize how lucky we are. Thanks for your interest. Marco


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