Saturday, November 17, 2018

Europe Retrospective

Now that our 5 month trip is over and I've had an opportunity to catch my breath...  
sort of...
We are now unpacking boxes and moving into our new house - but I'll stop
that work for a few and talk about our trip.

I wanted to do a summary post of our fantastic summer.

7 or 8 countries
Thousands of miles by land and sea.
over 30 different homes that we've stayed in.
Many new friends.
A lifetime of memories!

Our travel map May - October 2018
It all begins Weds Oct 16 in Toms River, NJ  at a U-Haul Storage facility.  
It is here where we parked the bus and the pick up truck for 5 months.

UHaul Covered Storage in Toms River NJ

An overnight rental car took us to our first AirBnB of the trip,
and our first ever for that matter.

Our AirBnB in Princeton, NJ
We self-checked into our nice studio apartment for the 1 night of the trip.

Our AirBnB in Princeton, NJ
On Thursday morning, we return the rental car and are picked up up at the rental car agency
by a Limo that will take us to Brooklyn Cruise Ship Terminal. 

Our limo drops us off in Brooklyn right on time
Next step is getting clearance to bring the dogs aboard.
I was pretty confident I had done all the paperwork correctly, but was still nervous
until be got the green light to board.

Green light - Dogs are cleared to England!
As we slipped out of New York Harbor about 7pm it's hard to describe my emotions.
A mixture of excitement and uncertainty.   We were now past the point of no return.

Our return ship tickets are not till October...  we are now committed!

Sunset our first night at sea.

Shipboard life settled into a routine that revolved around the kennel visiting hours.
Most of the people in the photo below were also on our return sailing in October.

After 7 days at sea we arrived in Southampton, England on Thursday May 24th.
Collecting luggage in Southampton.
It was now time to learn left hand side driving in a hurry, and take care of all the arrival day tasks,
such as getting sim cards for the phones, dog food and supplies, and pet passports at the vet. 

Our first place in the UK was the Ormonde House Hotel.
About 10 miles outside of Southampton, we had a nice detached cottage for a few
days to just get our traveling Euro Feet wet.

Ormond House Hotel.

We did not plan to spend much time in the UK at the start of the trip.
So on Sunday we relocated to a small cottage outside of Dover,

Along the way we made a side trip to Downton Abbey (Hiclere Castle)

Our overnight stop near Dover was out in the country on a small farm.

Peacock Mews Air BnB

On Monday morning a Folkestone Taxi picked us up and took us on the Chunnel Train to France.

Arriving in Calais France we picked up our long term leased Car, and
immediately headed off to our AirBnB in Versailles France

It was a nice apartment on the 6th floor of a historic building right across the street
from the Palace of Versailles and the associated parklands.

Outside our Air BnB in Versailles
We spent 5 days in Versailles enjoying the parks and markets, and then headed of
to Annecy France on the border with Switzerland.

Our Air BnB in Annecy France
A view of our neighborhood in Annecy.

Canal in Annecy, France
In Annecy we received a surprise visit from our Swiss Friends who we had not expected to
see until July.   It was a great way to get the trip off to a great start!

Our Annecy Surprise!
Next on the itinerary was a stop in Lourmarin, France.
Located in Provence, it was a beautiful village with a great town market.

Our flat, another Air BnB,  overlooks the cafes on the square.
Our window is the open one,  2nd floor - to the left of the tree, just above the canopy.

Our Air BnB flat in Lourmarin, France
After about 5 days we headed east to Pisa Italy to a nice Air BnB flat just next to the
old city walls.

Our flat (left center) with closed umbrella)
Photo taken from the old city wall.
Our friends Eric & Pat arrived to spend the 4 night with us,

Pat, Eric, Kate, Greg in Pisa
It was in Pisa where we first found lumps on Gracie's throat and which started
a series of Vet visits throughout Italy.
She had swollen lymph nodes and was put on antibiotics.

Next on the list was 10 days in Rome.
Our flat was centrally located with 4 bedrooms.

Our Air BnB in Roma
Our friends Donna & Jim came to stay with us in Rome.

Donna, Kate, Jim, Greg
In Rome I visited another vet to consult with regarding Gracies lymph nodes.
It was suggested that we continue the antibiotic therapy for longer, and to visit
another vet down the road.

After 10 busy days in Rome - which flew by - the 4 of us headed south to Trecase, just outside
of Naples.

We stayed at a small villa on a winery on the slopes of Mt Vesuvius.

The view from our villa to the Mediterranean and Amalfi Coast.
Our Bedroom led out to a porch and swimming pool.

Vesuvius Wine Cottage Bedroom

After 4 days visiting Pompeii, and Herculaneum, we headed north to Florence.

Our Air BnB flat was inside the restricted ancient city, and was located in
the ancient city mint.  Our host told us the stone floors were over 800 years old.

Our Air BnB in Florence
We stayed in Florence for 3 nights and fought the summer crowds all trying to see
the same things at the same time.

Next stop was the sleep village of Noale, Italy.
Located on the rail line about 30 miles outside of Venice, it was a great location
to visit the city but then escape the crowds.

City Gate in Noale, Italy

We took the train into Venice for the day.

In Noale I visited vet #3 of the trip regarding Gracies Lymph Nodes.
The young vet - who spoke perfect English - decided that since the current therapy was
not working - that we should try something different.

So he prescribed a topical combination antibiotic/steroid and suggested it might take
4 or 5 days to see if it would work.
If it did not work - he suggested that we get a biopsy of the nodes when we arrived in Switzerland.

The good news was the next day the lumps were almost gone!
This concluded our Vet visits and Gracie scares of the trip.

Next on our travels was a 10 day visit to a lovely Air BnB flat on a hillside overlooking
Lake Como in Bellagio, Italy.

The views were stunning and it was a great base for our explorations of the local area.

Great views from our modern flat in Bellagio
Leaving Bellagio, we traveled 4 hrs north to Richterswil Switzerland where we stayed
with our adopted Swiss Family for 10 days.

The gang in Richterswil.
Leaving Switzerland it was not "good bye" - but rather "see you later" as we will again
get together at the end of the trip in Cornwall, England.

So our next home away from home was a small flat in Colmar, France.
By now (late July) Europe was sweltering in the hottest summer on record.
Our temps were in the high 90's with no air conditioning.

Our Air BnB Flat in Colmar, France
Fortunately the flat had a huge Jacuzzi tub which I filled with cold water and used
as our personal little cure for the daytime heat.

Colmar is a beautiful Medieval  town with half timbered houses and canals.
A view of the canal in Colmar France.
After a few days in Colmar we stopped next in Verdun France for 2 nights.
Our Air BnB here was a converted church.

It was a unique (and hot) place to spend two nights while we toured the historic
WW1 Battlefield sites.

Upper floor of our Air BnB in Verdun
From Verdun it was a 5 hr drive north to Amsterdam where we left the car at the
Arena P+R and took the subway into the city center.

The doodles - true to their traveling form - took this new and noisy form of transport in
perfect stride.   On the ride into the city Gracie jumped up into the lap of
one of the passengers and got some love on the ride.

The Doodles take the Amsterdam Subway
Our Air BnB flat in Amsterdam was located right in the city center, but was
on a quiet side street located on a canal.

By now our temperatures had moderated and life was again much more comfortable.  

our Air BnB flat in Amsterdam

We spent 4 nights in Amsterdam speed touring the city.
We wore out our (and the doodles) paws.

Amsterdam Canal View
Leaving Amsterdam, it was back on the Subway to the P+R Arena.
Our total cost for the 4 days parking and transportation was about 4 euros!

On the way to our next stop in Leiden, we made a side trip to visit the famous windmills
at Kinderdijk.

Kinderdijk Windmills
Leiden Holland turned out to be one of the best surprises of the trip.
I knew it was a pretty town, but it had all the elements to make it really special.

Scenic, uncrowded, great restaurants....
after visiting Amsterdam it was a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle.
If we had gone to Leiden first - Amsterdam would have been a disappointment.

Leiden, Holland

Our Air BnB flat is across the canal just in front of our car - behind the bicycles.

Leiden Canalview.
Next stop was a few hours south - the Medieval city of Brugge Belgium.

Our flat was centrally located and is in the middle of the photo below

Brugge Belgium
After 4 more night, and a visit to the vet to get the dogs the required treatment for re-entry
into England, we were off to our final stop on the continent - Calais, France.

Our last night was spend in the Holiday Inn.

Holiday Inn Calais Coquelles.
On Aug 13 we drove the car back to the Renault Eurodrive Center where we picked it up
3 months earlier.    The paperwork was simple, and a few minutes later we were loading the luggage
into our Folkestone Taxi for the trip to Dover England where we would pick up our
rental car for the final 2 months in the UK.

After a hectic day, we arrived our our first stop in the UK, a wonderful cottage on the
grounds of the West Stowe Hall.

Our Air BnB at West Stowe Hall

Our living room at West Stowe Cottage
The view out of our cottage looking at West Stowe Hall.

Friends, and former Queen Mary 2 Kennel mates, Mark & Karen came up from
their house near London to visit with us for a few days.

Kate, Gracie, Karen, Barney, Mark, Lucy
Pushing onward, our next destination was a wonderful cottage on a farm about 20 miles west of
Edinburgh Scotland.    We stayed here for a week while we enjoyed all that the area had to offer.

Our Air BnB in Dolphinton (Edinburgh)
Our hosts, Araminta, and Charles, are two extremely interesting people who have some
amazing experiences to share.
We enjoyed their wonderful hospitality.

The highlight of our time in Edinburgh was our magical night attending
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
After our week in Edinburgh, we headed 4 hours north to Ballichulish, Scotland
Here we stayed in a wonderful home - amazingly clean and well equipped.

Our Air BnB in Ballichulish

Our Air BnB in Ballichulish
The Glencoe Valley near Ballichulish

Our stop in the Highlands - only 4 nights - was way too brief.
Note for next time....   spend a month!

Pushing onward we stayed for two nights at at the Alemill Loft in Scottish Borders,

Alemill Loft Air BnB
Our flat was upstairs.
Situated near the coast we visited some of the small coastal villages

Our Alemill Cottage Flat 
Next it was time to kick it up a notch and start getting Medieval!
Our home for the next 4 nights would be Morpeth Castle.
A real castle, with real history -  and we would have it to ourselves!

Morpeth Castle

Built in 1200 - it was a wonderful place to spend a few nights.

Living room - Morpeth Castle
While at Morpeth we drove west and visited Hadrian's Wall and the
Everywhere we drove in the English Countryside was so beautiful!
Just like something out of a fairy tale.

The view out the gate of Morpeth Castle
Next on our list was 4 nights at Cawood Castle near York.
Cawood was the seat of the Archbishop of York and it was from here that
Cardinal Woolsey was arrested by King Henry VIII.

Cawood Castle
While at Cawood we visited the local pub twice for two very fine dinners.

We also day tripped to visit York, and Castle Howard.

The Doodles at Castle Howard
Next on the list was a tour of the Lake District.
First on that was a stop for 4 nights in Keswick.

Here we stayed in the "Wren Cottage" a lovely home which was not an Air BnB,
but was rented thru "Sally's Cottages"
We were very pleased with all aspects and would recommend Sally's Cottages.

Wren Cottage Keswick

Wren Cottage Living room

Fitz Park Keswick
 After our 4 days in Keswick we relocated to the southern end of the Lake District to
a lovely secluded stone cottage on a farm outside of Ulverston.

Another Air BnB - this home is named Coal Yeats. 
Coal Yeats Air BnB Cottage
It was very well equipped and made a comfortable home for 7 nights.

To reach it - you travel several miles up scenic narrow single lane roads.

Near Coal Yeats
It was a perfect base to explore Conniston Water, Wrynose and Hardknott Passes,
and much more of the local scenery

Scenic View near Wast Water in the Lake District

View from our Cottage at Coal Yeats
Leaving Coal Yeats, it was south to Conwy Wales for 4 nights of exploring
the castles in the area as well as Snowdonia National Park.

Our home was another Air BnB - this one located on Conwy Marina.

View from our house on the Marina
There are at least a half dozen major castles in the area and we visited several of them.
Of note was Beaumaris Castle

Beaumaris Castle & Moat
A scenic drive thru Snowdonia National Park.

Conwy Castle was just a short walk from our Air BnB.

Conwy Castle
Continuing the Castle theme - next stop was 15 nights at the
Sudeley Castle Gatehouse.

This turned out to be one of the best - if not the best - places of our whole trip.
Located in Winchcombe, in the Cotswolds, the area is beautiful and the people friendly.
Kate and I felt most at home here.

Sudeley Castle figures in Tudor History and sits on over 1,200 acres.
Open to the public - we had the entire place to stroll about and almost to our selves.

Sudeley Castle Gatehouse

Mark & Karen again came to visit with us here.

Karen, Kate, and Mark

Followed a few days later by our other Kennel Mates - Craig and Vicki.

Tea at the Gatehouse
While in Winchcombe we visited several pubs, rang the bells at St Peters, toured
Sudeley Castle, took many country walks, drove the countryside,
ands visited the nearby town of Bourton on the Water.

Bourton on the Water
Around every turn in the Cotswolds is either a beautiful view...
or a pheasant.

The Cotswolds

Sudeley Castle

North St in Winchcombe
Sadly - the 15 days flew by and we were off to Bath.
On the way we swung by for a quick visit to Stonehenge.

Our Air BnB was a converted barn on a hillside overlooking York.
It was another in a string of great, clean, and well equipped accommodations.

Our Air BnB in York,

Country lane - our lodge is second on the left
 While in Bath we visited the super quaint Costwolds Village of Castle Combe.

Castle Combe - Cotswolds England
Finally with our trip winding down, it was time for our rendevous with our Swiss Family
one last time this trip.
We had rented a luxury house on a hillside on the Pentire Peninsula in Newquay Cornwall.

Our home in Newquay

Living room looking towards kitchen

Looking into living room and deck beyond
The gang on the beach in Cornwall

We spent about 9 nights in Newquay and then headed back towards Bath to the town of
Thornbury, and Thornbury Castle.

Thornbury Castle is where King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn spent 10 nights of their honeymoon.

Thornbury Castle
Now a hotel and restaurant - it was deluxe accommodations.

Our room in Thornbury Castle
Our package included breakfast and dinner. 

Dinner at Thornbury Castle
The castle and surrounding gardens are quite scenic. 

Thornbury Castle Gardens
After 2 nights at Thornbury, it was off to Southampton for one last night at the Holiday Inn.
On Thursday morning - October 18th, we had a date with an Ocean Liner named after a Queen.

Queen Mary 2 at Southampton Ocean Dock Berth 46
It was one last sad good bye (see you later) with our Swiss Family,

Bon Voyage at the dock

And back to Kennel life for our 7 night crossing back to the US

Rogues Gallery
We settled easily back into our shipboard routine.
Traveling west with many of our friends from our Eastbound...
it was a week long party of sorts.

Rising moon as we steam west
Some stormy North Atlantic weather gave way to rainbows.

Finally - at the anticipated arrival time of 0445 we passed
 beneath the Verrazano Bridge and steamed into New York Harbor.

QM2 heads towards NY and the Verrazano Bridge
A setting full moon behind the Statue of Liberty combined to form an 
impressive welcoming committee for our arrival back home to the US.

Having dogs - we were sent to the head of the line and quickly disembarked.
We got cleared thru customs, in no time at all and soon our Limo Driver
 (the same one who dropped us off 5 months earlier) was wisking us 
back across the Verrazano Bridge to NJ and our sleeping Bus.

Loading luggage at Brooklyn Cruise Terminal.
Arriving at the bus - all fired up without problems, and other than it being dirty from
5 months of sitting - it was ready to roll in no time. 

Dirty bus at UHaul - Toms River NJ

Later that night - it was dinner time for the Doodles and they settled back into their routines
as if we had never even been anywhere different.

First shoreside dinner in the bus
And just like that....   this trip was over.

Those dogs know how to travel!