We spent three weeks exploring the Andalucía region of Spain as well as Madrid and Barcelona. We immersed ourselves in Spanish culture, which moves at a slower pace than we’re used to. We ate tapas, relaxed on the beach, saw art masterpieces, watched a Flamenco, and visited many ancient sites like the Alhambra, the Catedral de Sevilla, and the Mezquita Catedral de Córdoba.
We met up with Brian’s side of the family in Rome for a three-week family excursion in Italy. We spent a week exploring Tuscany and hiking Cinque Terre, a week relaxing at the beach on the island of Sardinia, and a week sightseeing in and around the Amalfi Coast.
Our tour of the UK began with a week in London visiting friends and continued on to Manchester, where we began our UK road trip through England and Scotland. Having a car allowed us to get away from cities and into the countryside. England was home to may firsts: our first real pub, our first Help Exchange experience, and our first time driving on the opposite side of the road (among many others).
As part of our UK road trip, we made our way through the Scotland Highlands and eventually down to Edinbugh and Dunbar. Along the way, we hiked in Glencoe and the Cairngorm Mountains, drank (too much) delicious beer, camped, touched the North Sea for the first time, and chatted with many friendly Scots.
The only downside about our time in Wales was that it was too short. We spent a long weekend camping at Brecon Beacons National Park with friends Kelly and Anita from London. We hiked to an incredible waterfall you can walk behind, listened to live music at Brecon’s Fringe Music Festival, and visited Saint Fagan’s National History Museum near Cardiff.
We spent a week with friends Danny and Arrington backpacking in the Bernese Oberland region of the Swiss Alps and exploring their home in Lugano. It was an unforgettable week filled with good friends, breathtaking scenery, beautiful lakes to swim in, challenging hiking, and delicious foods.
On our way from Switzerland to Belgium, we stopped in Paris for three days to explore the iconic city. We spent our days walking around the city, picnicking under the Eiffel Tower, visiting Notre Dam, and drinking French wine. We found Paris to be as romantic as everyone makes it seem and hope to return someday to experience it for longer.
We spent a total of three weeks in Belgium, two working on an organic CSA farm outside of Brussels, and one exploring beautiful historic Bruges. We had a feeling we would enjoy Belgium (with the copious amounts of beer, chocolate, and waffles, what’s not to enjoy), although we we were somewhat surprised by how much we fell in love with Belgium. You can bet we’ll find out way back someday.
Unfortunately, our first trip to the Netherlands allowed for only three days in Amsterdam. While we had a great time exploring the streets, canals and parks of the city where everything is legal, we hope to make it back to explore the countryside someday soon. Amsterdam was the gateway to our desire to see more of Holland.