From Salamanca to home in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain; the last leg of our road trips is usually the longest. Our second family camping road trip has come to an end, after some 7,538+ kilometers, 95 driving hours and 26 minutes (at least), 39 days, 26 stopovers, and 39 towns in 5 countries. . . on the road in the summer before the coronavirus pandemic with our 3 and 7-year old kids.
Unlike our first road trip with kids when we had near-absolutely NO idea about camping, this time we slept during entire trip in tents (except for when we visited our dear old friends in Bern) without making any prior reservations, except for the one in Paris, France. It was high demand city, so we had to reserve a spot, else we’d end up sleeping in the cars on a Parisian side street.
So, this time same style as the first, 3 weeks up, 3 weeks stay with family and friends in Polska, and 3 weeks down… or something like it.
Here’s where we’d been this summer (we’re still updating some of the posts, since it was quite challenging to do so on the road when WIFI was often spotty. . . and we’ve got two young kids. How’s that for an excuse? : )
Day 1-3: Las Canadas, Spain
Day 4: Pico Verde
Day 5-7: Potes, Picos de Europa, Spain
Day 8-10: Laredo
Day 7-8: Camping at Faro de Higuer and family fun at the Gugenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain on the way to the huge wall of sand in the Bay of Biscay, France.
Day 9-10: Camping La Foret in the woods next to the highest sand dunes of Europe, Dune du Pilat, near Bordeaux, France.
Day 9-10: Bordeaux, Camping du Futur
Day 11-14: Paris
Day 14-16: Beer Rules a Day in Chimay, Belgium to check out that (oh-so-good-a-) Chimay beer made by Trappist monks, for the monks and of the monks. . . and as lay people too!
Day 16-18: Camping de Oosterdriessen, Maastricht, The Netherlands; more good beer and walking in the city that seemed to have mastered the art of chilling, the city where the treaty that founded the European Union was signed, where the “euro” was born and so was that bombastic musician, Andre Rieu.
Day 18-20: Thank God and Google for making camping “on the fly” easy at Camping Lippetal and Camping Barleber See, Germany: Dancing with the ducks, watching ships along the Wesel-Datteln Kanal and the simple beauty of camping in Deutschland, after a short visit to the highest point of The Netherlands in Vaals and a stop to see a good friend in Moers, Germany.
A 3-week break to enjoy time with family and friends in POLAND.
Day 21-23: Childhood memories revived in Mainz, Germany; a childhood summer destination and to see about that Gutenberg dude who invented the printing press.
Day 23-25: Camping Kockelscheuer and a family-friendly day visit in the city of a count who married a mermaid… Luxembourg.
Day 25: What’s that thing that lets us travel from Spain to Poland and back, crisscrossing many countries, without the need to show passports or any documentation at all? EU without Borders–it was born here in Schengen. . . with kids!
Day 25: The geo-political history lessons on the road with kids continues with a pleasantly unplanned stop to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. We hardly do this–have two sightseeing/touristy stops on the way from one camping site to the next. We are a slow-flow/go-slow family, or at least try to be, for the sake of all our sanity. But here?…. well, we were passing by already.
Day 25-26: Visiting old haunts, a dear old friend, and feasting wurst and Kristallweizen in the town of the free–Freiburg, Germany.
Day 26-28: Visiting good friends in the city of BEARS–Bern, Switzerland–that is one of the most beautiful places we have visited as a family.
Day 28: A Quick Dip in Lake Geneva in Lausanne, Switzerland. Check out this short family-friendly video!
Day 28-30: Geneva, Switzerland--the capital of peace, the city of world famous watches, international center of finance and diplomacy being home to the highest number of international organizations, including the headquarters of many agencies of the United Nations, Red Cross and Red Crescent. That sounds like a bunch of gobbledygook to our kids (and me–da, DUH, dad!!!) so that’s NOT why we came here!
Day 30 : We came here for CERN! You know, the European Organization for Nuclear Research that operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world???!! NO? What about home of the Large Hadron Collider where little things crash into each other and create BIG BANG?!!? NO? Not Yet? What about the birthplace of the World Wide Web!??? Still, NO!!??? What about that matter/anti-matter thing in the Da Vinci code that could wipe out an entire city… or planet?
Day 30-31: Another unplanned stop at the medieval town of Perouges, France–a setting for a Three Musketeers movie.
Day 31-32: An accidental pilgrimage at yet another pleasantly unexpected stop at an off-the-beaten destination in Le Puy en Velay in the south of France, known for its green lentils and and one of the main roads to the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage in France.
Day 32-33: Flower Camping in the middle of nowhere in southern France and a visit to a French countryside castle, Château Du Bosc–the ancestral home of the painter Toulouse Lautrec.
Day 33-34: The wolves’ den in the land of d’Artagnan (of the Three Musketeers fame) born in the village of Lupiac (means “wolf” in French) in Gascony in the south of France. . . where wolves, apparently, used to roam free, just like the musketeers (or King Louis XIII’s riflemen), known for their wild, rowdy behavior and fighting spirit.
Day 34-36: A must-see destination of Catholic pilgrims and a place of wonder for the rest–Lourdes, France. . . where Mother Mary apparently showed herself 18 times to a teenage peasant girl named Bernadette in 1858 at the Grotto of Massabielle (aka the Cave of the Apparitions or the Miraculous Cave).
Day 36-37: A restful Family camping in the French Pyrenees mountains near the Spanish border. Camping le Gave d’Aspe offered just that–a no-frills camping in the south of France. Beautifully located, right along a mountain stream, surrounded by trees and mountain tops.
Day 37-38: No Bulls, Not Even Bull$h*t, during this sort-of rushed stop to see where angry (some, castrated) bulls would run after brave men and women in white-colored shirts and red handkerchief in a festival called San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain and Camping El Molino in the north of Spain, between Hemingway’s Pamplona and Cervantes’ Salamanca.
Day 38-39: We were running out of time. The school year was about to start. And yet, we just had to squeeze in this one last stopover, a quicky, in Salamanca to see the city of Cervantes (you know, Don Quixote?, the Shakespeare of Spain, NO?), the third oldest western University that also lies on a path of the Camino de Santiago. Plus+ Camping El Astral, in the town of slaughtering bulls, Tordesillas, in the province of Valladolid, and our last camping in northern Spain before heading home.
39 days of life on the road, of family camping with kids from Spain to Poland and back.
It wasn’t always fun or pretty or convenient. There were wet days and times when sleeping on our beds would have made for a good night’s sleep. But all in all it was a great family adventure to be able to see both familiar places and those that are off-the-beaten path.
We’re finally home in beautiful and sunny-side-up Andalucia!
And it was (as usual) still hot at 38+ degrees Celsius when we arrived.
Then, the kids had the weekend before school started. Don’t worry; they’re quite adabtable! ; )
Then, came the hard part of unloading and decompressing from life on the road. It took us 2 weeks and a laundry everyday to normalize. The good part was now we can have fresh seafood for meals. . . and fino, amontiallado, oloroso. . . sherry for drinks!
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