Wishing we were there!

Last year, around this same time in June, Andrew and I were finishing up a two and a half week long road trip style vacation through Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and France. It seems unbelievable, now, that we had time for such a trip, but the reality is, when you are already in Europe, getting somewhere else by plane within Europe isn’t that time consuming or expensive. We packed up the rest of our belongings in Laredo at the end of May, waved goodbye to the beach and our incredible balcony, and took the bus to the Santander airport to begin the final leg of our European adventure. Once at the airport, we quickly realized our suitcase weighed 25 kilograms, 10 too many for the 15 kg bag we’d already paid to check. Unfortunately, paying 20 euros a kilo for the extra weight was entirely out of the question, so we spent the better part of two hours throwing away what I can now recognize as fairly ratty clothing. Clothes we’d lived in non-stop for 9 months. It was traumatic then and I know I felt clammy and hideous, climbing onto the Ryanair flight wearing two pairs of pants and three pairs of socks, but I’ve also shelled out the two hundred euros to schlep my stuff onto an airplane and I can say that being uncomfortable for an hour or so is much better that kissing goodbye to cold hard cash.

We landed in Brussels and spent the next few days in Belgium and Luxembourg. I don’t know if it was the excitement of starting a new trip or just the plain splendor of these two countries, but the first few days of the trip were some of the best! We drank Belgian craft beer at a pub called the Dead Rat in Namur, Belgium, visited the Strawberry museum in Wépion, a small town on the Meuse River and then stained our fingers red with strawberries sold from a stand on the roadside for a euro a pint. The tiny, delicate berries grown in Northern Europe are so different than the pumped up, grown-in-Florida-sand-berries we sometimes eat here.

Drinking a Waterloo
Drinking a Waterloo

Andrew at the Tote Ratte View of the waterfront in NamurDinantWe also stopped in a town called Dinant, while impressive in this picture, wasn’t much to get excited about.  After spending only a day in Belgium (ONE DAY! Not enough!) we spent our second night of the trip in a small town in Luxembourg, which we used as our home base to explore the miniature, but very worthy country of Luxembourg. We found it to be a nice mix of Germany and France. Similar industriousness to the Germans, but a more laid back attitude thanks to the French influence. Andrew had already seen Luxembourg City, but as it was my first time in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, we had to make a stop there. In Luxembourg CityLuxembourg Citythe happy coupleIMG_7475If only we were there again this year!

Dordogne…we meet again

After passing through the delightful Bordeaux wine country our next stop was the famous Dordogne and the base city of Sarlat. Having tasted a glimpse of the region in December when it was dreary and wet, we vowed to return in a sunnier era. This time around we were blessed with above average spring temperatures and blue skies, perfect for being outdoors. The difference in weather from the previous visit and this one was incredible and made for an entirely different experience.

The Dordogne has some of France’s most pristine countryside and preserved villages, where the rural and small-town way of life is cherished. It is, in my opinion, France at its best. However, it is by no means a well-kept secret, with hordes of Brits and Europeans vacationing here every summer. Yet in the off-season and with a little wondering off the beaten path, it’s quite possible to have the countryside to yourself.

The highlight for us this time in the Dordogne was exploring the smaller villages and hiking through woods, orchards, and fields. I shouldn’t overlook Sarlat however.  The city of Sarlat-la-Canéda is handsome in its own right and is a great place to wander and spend the night. We had excellent meals and friendly waiters eager to fill in my broken French with English.

The Dordogne is an unforgettable region with a lot to offer in the way of rural tourism. There are chateaux of every variety literally every few kilometers perched on scenic hills and bathed in sunlight. It is the antithesis of Paris. I’m not saying that Paris it bad, but that it couldn’t be a more different world. Go to the Dordogne for a chance to enjoy old world charm, good food, and a break from urban life. It’s a magical place.