Beynac Castle in the Dordogne - we'll be back this summer
I always love planning a trip and feel a little bit bored when I don't have a trip I'm working on. I really enjoy the travel research and seeing a trip come together.
After lots of discussion among the three of us, we recently finalized a plan for our summer travels in Europe, and now I'm busy working on the details. Charley and I will be in Europe for 2-1/2 months and Kelly for two months. One of the "perks" of being a college professor is having summers off. And we can plan our personal travel around our work on the Experience trips, which helps make our travel less expensive too.
The last two summers Kelly has gone to three-week summer camps through the Duke TIP program, a special program for academically-gifted students in grade 7-12. Because she was away, I went to French language school in Aix-en-Provence both summers during the same time. Charley was on his own. Charley and I assumed that Kelly would want to go to camp again this summer, since she had such a great time the other two years, but she surprised us and said she didn't want to go. There wasn't a camp that really interested her, and she said the program too expensive. I think she also wants to be with us. As we are starting to think about college, we know there may not be many more family summers together, so we are excited to have more time together this summer.
Kelly is going to fly over to Europe without us for the first time. She is much more capable to fly alone than some adults, and we think this is a good growth experience for her. She will also have a friend with her, a classmate named Becka, who will be with us for almost four weeks on her first trip to Europe. The two girls are very compatible.
Kelly, Charley and I talked about several possibilities for the summer. Part of our schedule is committed with our Luberon Experience trips in Provence (three weeks) and our new trips, The Salzkammergut Experience (one week in St. Gilgen, Austria) and The Bavarian Experience (one week in Garmisch, Germany). We definitely wanted to do another long-distance walk, to include some physical exercise in our summer, And we hoped to spend a week or two in a place we've been before and loved, so that we could research another Experience trip to potentially offer in the summer of 2010.
Kelly lobbied hard for visiting some "new" places, and I worked for one long night trying to figure out how to include Amsterdam, Copenhagen and possibly Berlin. We were going to spend a lot of time and money traveling between these cities, and we finally decided to put these aside for another time when we could stay longer.
We had a couple of ideas for the walking trip and agreed that we wanted to walk two weeks again. I researched long-distance walks in England (maybe the Southwest Coastal Path or the Pennine Way), the Alps (the Mont Blanc circuit) and France (the Dordogne, Brittany or the Loire Valley). We really wanted to do Mont Blanc, which would take us through France, Switzerland and Italy, but we couldn't get the logistics to work out. I was also worried that it might be too challenging for me because of so much elevation change.
Another idea I had was that we might attend a language school together. I thought it would be fun to do this as a family. We would probably be in three different classes, and we could spend the afternoons and weekends together, visiting a new area. I was interested in going to school in Tours, so we could visit the Loire Valley. When we broached the idea with Kelly, she quickly shot it down. She does love her French studies, but says she goes to French class every day of the week. That wasn't her idea of something fun to do on vacation!
So finally we have an itinerary we have all agreed on, and now I'm working on accommodations and transportation logistics. I've booked our airline reservations, our two-week rental in the Cotswolds, our walking trip and a few of our hotels. We will be visiting mostly places where we've been before (which is something we do enjoy doing), but we'll also be exploring some new areas.
May 6 - 30: Bonnieux (Provence) for three weeks of Luberon Experience groups. Kelly and Becka will arrive on May 26. We always love being back in Bonnieux.
May 30 - June 3: Travel to St. Gilgen, Austria via the Cote d'Azur, Lake Orta in Italy, and the Engadine in Switzerland. This will all be "new territory" for us. I have hotels picked out andd need to finalize these bookings.
June 3 - 13: Salzkammergut Experience group in St. Gilgen, Austria. We'll have a couple of days on the front end to get organized.
June 13-20: Bavarian Experience in Garmisch, Germany. We'll drop Kelly's friend at the Munich airport on June 20 and take the train to Paris.
June 20-21: Overnight in Paris. Travel to the Dordogne by train.
June 21 - July 3: 133-mile walking trip in the Dordogne. I posted about our itinerary on Slow Travel here. We stayed near this area in 2004 during our long trip, and we're looking forward to getting to know it much better.
July 4 - 6 or 7 (TBD): Visit with our friends Dennis and Gloria, who live in the Dordogne. Then we'll take the train from Brive to Paris.
July 7: Eurostar from Paris to London. I get claustrophobic, so I'm a little nervous about the Chunnel.
July 7 - 10: London. We're using Marriott points to stay at the Renaissance Chancery Court. We stayed at this hotel in 2002 when it first opened, also on points. This is a five-star hotel, a splurge thanks to points! We plan to get tickets to see Mamma Mia. We haven't been to London since the beginning of our long trip in 2004, and we're excited about being back.
July 10-24: Cottage rental in Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds. We will research a possible "Cotswolds Experience" trip while we're there. We love the Cotswolds and are looking forward to a leisurely two-week stay. This will be our fourth trip to the Cotswolds.
July 24-25: Overnight near Gatwick. I've booked at The Turret based on a Slow Travel review.
July 25: Home to Knoxville and a few weeks off before school starts.
I've posted a few more photos below of some of the places we'll be this summer.
Our summer plan is coming together, and it's one we're all happy about. The biggest challenge: packing for 2-1/2 months of varied activities with only a moderately-sized suitcase and a backpack each!
Our beautiful village of Bonnieux, in Provence
We're looking forward to being back in St. Gilgen for the third time
And Garmisch too... I especially love this little street
On our walk we'll spend a night in the pilgrimage village of Rocamadour
I really love the countryside in the Cotswolds! This is one of my favorite photos of Charley and Kelly from our long trip.