On June 11, 2004, our family of three embarked on a 14-month adventure that we called "Our Grand Tour of Europe."
At ages 59 and 48-- and after several vacation trips to Europe-- Charley and I found ourselves wanting a different kind of experience. We wanted to see much more of Europe and also wanted the opportunity to "live" somewhere in Europe. At one time we thought we would pursue this dream at retirement. But following a two week trip to France in the summer of 2003, we decided to accelerate our plans. We especially wanted our daughter Kelly-- age 10-- to be part of this experience.
Much to the surprise of family and friends, we announced a family sabbatical. After 27 years in corporate America, I resigned my job as a VP of Human Resources. Charley put his home renovation business on hold. We took Kelly out of school for her 6th grade year. We rented our house and put most of our personal possessions in storage.
Our 14 month trip involved 11 weeks in England and Scotland, 33 weeks in France, 11 weeks in Italy, and 6 weeks in the German/Austrian/Swiss Alps. We lived in a farmhouse in Provence France for 6-1/2 months during the off-season, and Kelly attended the local village school. Most of our trip involved one and two week rentals. We also completed two substantial walking trips: the 190 mile Coast-to-Coast walk across England and the 100-mile Alpine Pass walk in Switzerland. We stayed in big cities, small villages and in the countryside. It was an absolutely amazing experience, significantly enhanced by the people we met and the many friends we made along the way.
This blog/website tells the story of our trip, most of it written and posted during our travels. The website was designed primarily as a way to update our family and friends about our experiences. I also wanted to create a permanent record of our trip. Part of the website is a day-to-day reporting of our family's activities during the trip: what we did and saw, the people we met, the many wonderful meals. I've also tried to share the realities of our family's experience together, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
During the time we lived in Provence, I didn't keep a day-to-day journal. Instead I wrote and posted several "essays" about our experiences. (There are also a few contributions from Charley and Kelly in this part of the website.)
Right now this site is organized in reverse chronological order of our trip. Here are a couple of links that might be helpful if you are visiting Our Grand Tour for the first time:
Some background information about our trip (a letter to friends)
A list of all the entries, by week (start at the bottom and work up)
Photo albums from our trip (this is still a work-in-progress)
Much to our surprise, over the past two years many other people from all over the world have somehow found their way to this website. Several of them have even taken the time to write us, and we are always glad to answer questions or provide help to others who may be considering a similar trip. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We especially want to recognize the support of Pauline Kenny, the founder of www.slowtrav.com. Pauline set up this website and hosts it on Slow Travel. She has become a good friend. We also want to recognize the support and friendship of so many others in the truly remarkable Slow Travel community, many of whom we met during our trip and since we've been home.
We have been so encouraged by the interest in our family's adventure. We hope our story is an inspiration to others to follow their dreams, whatever they may be.