Well today is a great day for us. We just passed the 4 week mark from the end of my job and really what could be the beginning of the rest of our lives. Not to be too dramatic, but this is the day that we’ve been looking forward to for so long, and now we can finally see the finish line.
As we are getting closer to actually strating our trip we’ve begun making some real definite plans for where we’ll start and how we’ll spend the first month of our European vacation (yes, National Lampoon reference).
First thing’s first: There are insanely cheap flights from the US to Europe. We were initially allured by Norwegian Airlines $200 one way flights. WHAT? A $200 flight to Europe? Well yes indeed. And the good news is they’re not the only show in town with these discount rates that can get you ‘across the pond’ for very cheap.
We secured direct flights from Orlando to Manchester, England for under $1,000 for the 4 of us. Bam, what way to start the trip.
Well, we’re not actually starting our trip in Manchester. We’ll actually be spending a fair bit of the Fall season in England. The late spring and summer we’re saving for continental Europe and our 3 month limited time in the Schenzen zone.
First stop once we land in Manchester is a quick connection to Dublin, Ireland, and the home of everyone’s favorite beer: Guinness. We found a fantastic looking AirBnb in DUblin for about $100/night and it’s right in the middle of the city. There’s loads of great looking attractions, pubs, parks for the kids, and the best part of all is that everything is walkable from our flat. What more can you ask for in a first stop on a European tour?
We’re pretty sure that the hustle and bustle of Dublin will be more than we’d want to handle for the long term so after 5 days there we’re going to be taking the train pretty much due west across Ireland go Galway to stay for a few days at a sheep farm on the western coast of the island.
No doubt this stark contrast in living right in the middle of one of the most vibrant cities in Europe to a working sheep farm will be an adjustment, but this is just something that Amanda and I felt we MUST do, both for ourselves and for the kids. Remembering that part of the trip is to get a feel for what Europe is really like, but also for us a great chance to get a feel for what city living, country living, and everywhere in between is really like for us as a family with kids.
Even now all of our lives as a family have been essentially in the suburbs. Getting a chance to take a 2 week stent at living in the city or a few days living on the farm is a great chance for us to immerse ourselves in what the rest of our options could be as we decide on Where and How we want to live long term.
From Galway and the sheep farm we’ll take the train back to Dublin for a flight to beautiful and cosmopolitan Madrid, Spain. Spain is regaled by many as one of the best places to live in Europe, so we’re giving it a really great chance. We’ll be in a flat right in the middle of the city and staying longer this time: 2 weeks in one place. This was our original design. Stay in one place long enough to really grok the culture, vibe, and local feel of a place. And to live not as a tourist but as a local would.
From Madrid we’ll be heading up to the northwestern provence of Spain, Galicia. In Galicia we’ll be staying in the pilgrimigae destination of Santiago de Campostella. This is the final stop in the 500 mile pilgrimage walk that many catholics take from the Pyrineese every year. Again a flat right in the city center, just across from their famous cathedral will give us a feel for local life and local culture, but this time in a relatively small town.
Santiago de Campostella is nowhere near as large as Madrid. So many of the challenges and benefits we expect to see here will be quite different than what we see in Madrid.
After that we’re stil a bit up in the air. Haven’t settled on our next stop yet, but it will likely be another week or so somewhere on the coast in Spain, and then on to Italy.
Our biggest timed stop on the trip is to see a mountain stage of the Tour de France, which comes through the Alps in late July. So we’ve got about a month to spend in Italy, maybe jump over to Vienna, and then to spend the 2 weeks we’ve always talked about in the Provencial town of Aix-En-Provence. If you could draw up a perfect place to live, i think Aix might be it, so we’re really excited about our time there already.