On January 22, 2015 we left Virginia to begin our year of travel and adventure. We had already applied for and received (no easy feat) our French visas and had spent plenty of time researching our decision and formulating a plan to make Nice, France our base for the remainder of 2015.
After an overnight flight, we arrived in France on the 23rd. The first few months were anything but easy. Moving to a country where we didn’t speak the language, trying to get a French bank account, dealing with someone using my bank card credentials to almost clean out my US bank account (another story that ends well) and missing extended family that, in the past, were always there to rely on, led to a fair amount of stress!
While we had our share of struggles, it was an AMAZING year. The kids are on their way to speaking fluent French (while I’m just about hopeless in the language department). K wants to learn Italian next. He’s already learned a little from his school friends as well as a smattering of Greek and Spanish.
Starting in January, we explored Nice and the surrounding area. We learned how to shop at the fresh markets, how to use the bus and tram systems like pro’s and began paving our way (somewhat) to becoming French residents.
Homeschooling was also a huge adjustment. We arrived in Nice during the middle of the school year and didn’t want to throw the kids into a school where they couldn’t yet speak the language. We also wanted to be able to jet off and travel whenever we felt the urge. Having to wait for a school holiday can put quite the damper on spontaneous travel plans!
Homeschooling was never something I desired to do. It took us awhile, but we finally made it work. By homeschooling the kids , I was able to learn their weaknesses and focus on those areas for study. The kids used a standard VA curriculum in addition to having Europe as their classroom. In Antibes, we explored a tidal pool, later researching online the sealife we found. There’s also a Picasso museum there , so we studied the life and works of Picasso as part of our education. The kids learned about wine making in Costa Brava, Spain and Gladiators in Rome. We’ve discussed the different religions of the world, and the kids have learned to say “thank you” and “hello” in multiple languages.
In April my mom and step-dad came to visit us for 2 weeks during Spring Break (she’s a teacher!). We traveled around Nice and made our first trip to Ventimiglia, Italy.
In May we took off to Spain and had our first experience with how inexpensively you can travel around Europe by plane. I attended the TBEX conference for travel bloggers, then we toured the coast of Costa Brava and learned more about the Catalan region.
The summer was full of new adventures. We left Nice at the end of May and toured Europe through mid-August. We visited 8 countries in just 11 weeks! We started off in Lake Annecy, then drove to Châtel, France and on to Switzerland. From there we traveled to Strasbourg, where Derrick’s mom along with my mom and step-dad (back again) met up with us for 3 weeks.
During our time in Strasbourg, we traveled by car into Germany and explored the Black Forest and Baden-Baden. We also drove the Alsace wine region of France. From there we went to Luxembourg followed by Bruges, Belgium. Our parents spent a few days with us in Amsterdam before flying home.
After leaving the Netherlands, it was time to head into Germany by train. We visited Cologne, Heidelberg and Munich and the surrounding areas, even getting to visit Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration for the castle in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.
Next up was a stop in Innsbruck, Austria for two days, which wasn’t enough time to explore this beautiful country. Then we moved on to Northern Italy visiting Verona and Venice. To end our summer of fun, we took a cruise with NCL visiting Croatia, Greece and Turkey.
By the end of the summer we had explored the French, Italian, Swiss and Austrian Alps!
In August we came back to Nice and started the difficult task of getting the kids registered for school. The great thing about the French school system is that the kids get a 2 week break after every 6 weeks of school – perfect for a travelling family. During their October recess, we flew to Italy and spent a week in Rome, 5 days in Florence followed by 2 days in Cinque Terre!
Just before Christmas break, our friends came to visit from VA. We showed them around Nice and traveled back to Cinque Terre, Florence and Venice with them. It’s always more fun to travel with friends!
We were back in Nice in time for Christmas and have hung around the Côte d’Azur since then. It’s been a time to relax, catch up on work and plan our next adventures.
Where have we been in 2015?
# of countries visited: 14
# of cities/villages visited: 81
# UNESCO World Heritage sites visited: 14
*I only listed cities we actually explored or spent time in. Some places we just stopped and took pictures, but I don’t feel those really count. We have pictures from 116 cities since we left the States one year ago.
Sant Paul de Vence
Sant Feliu de Guíxols
Lloret de Mar
Santa Cristina d’Aro
UNESCO Sites Visited:
*Derrick needs to check into these more. He thinks I’ve missed a few in my list.
- Historic Centre of Brugge
- Historical Complex of Split with the Palace of Diocletian
- Strasbourg – Grande île
- Cologne Cathedral
- Acropolis, Athens
- Historic Centre of Florence
- Portovenere, Cinque Terre, and the Islands (Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto)
- Historic Centre of Rome
- Venice and its Lagoon
- Historic Centre of Siena
- City of Verona
- City of Luxembourg: its Old Quarters and Fortifications
- Works of Antoni Gaudí 23
Click to see our 2015 travels map.
Modes of Transportation:
Foot – in one day we might walk 10 miles!
I didn’t keep up with our travel budge this year as well as I should. I started off 2015 detailing all of our expenses, then just stopped. I’ve started keeping track of our daily expenses here in Nice again, as well as our travel expenses. Those will be posted again monthly.
Looking forward to this year…
We are planning to keep the kids in French school to finish out the year. It’s up in the air right now if we will return to Nice for another year. I’d love for the kids to come back, so they are completely comfortable with the French language.
Unfortunately, we had to cancel our February trip to Poitiers, France. I’m not sure what we will do for the kids 2 week school break. In all likelihood we will visit some other villages in the South of France.
In March we will be heading to Barcelona and Sitges to meet up with my mom and step-dad (back yet again!!). They will spending a week in Spain after a two week Viking Ocean Cruise. We’re pretty jealous about that!
In April we head off to explore Ireland for a week. We’ll base ourselves in Dublin and take days trips from there. Before returning to Nice, we’ll spend three days in Amsterdam seeing the tulip fields in bloom.
Once school ends, around the end of June, we will head back to Virginia. That will mark 1.5 years out of the US. We will spend at least 7 weeks in the US visiting family and (at least some of that time staying with my mom and step-dad !) and possibly taking a road trip along the East coast. That’s pretty much as far as I’ve gotten with planning for 2016 . I’d love to spend some time in Thailand and England as well as exploring more of Italy. I also wouldn’t say no to some time on an exotic beach next winter 🙂
I’d love to travel by hot air ballon in 2016 as well. The kids want to take a helicopter ride. I’m a little nervous about that as I was nauseous when Derrick & I took a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon a couple years ago. Lucy also wants to go parasailing this year.
The past year has been filled with learning, laughter and new experiences. We’ve made friends from all over the world and have immersed ourselves in different cultures. The kids don’t want to return to the US (to stay). They both want to keep traveling and have now set a goal of visiting 50 countries. We’re at 20 now, so we have a quite a few more to go.
Where did you travel in 2015?