By now, you (my faithful reader) probably realize that we are no longer travelling through the Land of Enchantment – or Europe, as it’s most commonly known. What have we been up to since then?
You really didn’t have to ask…but since you did, allow me to give you a brief rundown in children’s book format (a first for this blog).
Millennial Nate Travels America
Millennial Nate is not a bad guy, he just has a large forehead…passed along from many former generations. As his title suggests, he thinks of himself as a Millennial – both hip and cutting-edge.
In October 2017, after returning from Europe, Millennial Nate said “I’m not going to run from the forehead anymore, I’m going to ‘Own the forehead'”. And this happened…
Whilst in Europe, Millennial Nate and his wife, Millennial Terra, saw wondrous and amazing things. But they still yearned for the pristine beauty of America’s Pacific Northwest. Upon their return they did as much as possible to lap up the amazing Fall colors. See for yourself…
But then the wind started blowing, and the rain came down. And it kept raining. And then….it kept raining. “What do we do,” Nate asked Terra “when it is so cold and miserable, and we have six months of this to look forward to?” They decided to venture down to the Land of Sun (also known as Arizona) to see Terra’s lovely 96-year-old grandma, Neva Belle. And what an amazing time it was.
One night, when the elderly folk had all gone to bed and the moon was full, Nate was very hot. He threw off his blankets in disgust. “Why is it always so hot in Arizona and yet so cold in Seattle,” Nate thought. It seems nothing could go his way. Nate got up to crack the door, and then it all got so, so much worse.
A scorpion lurked by the door, waiting for some unsuspecting human to walk by. Perhaps it was the glint off Nate’s forehead from the full moon that caused it to spring into action. One will never know. But it sunk its tentacles (is that what they are called?) deep into Nate’s right heel.
Reader, friend, random person on the Internet who found my blog…let me tell you this. I hope to live a long time. But not if I have to endure the kind of pain that commenced after the scorpion bite. And the pain kept getting worse and worse.
I’ll spare you the details of what happened next, but essentially the conversation at the ER went something like this:
Doctor: What’s wrong?
Me: (highly agitated) I was bit by a scorpion!!!
Doctor: (smirking) Well did you know that if you put ice on the bite in the first 30 seconds it doesn’t sting?
Me: Why isn’t this information on EVERY BILLBOARD IN ARIZONA!?!
Doctor: Well, you probably have about 72 hours of pain ahead of you. You should expect the pain to travel up your leg soon. Godspeed! And here are some sleeping pills…you will need them.
So there you have it…7 months in Europe, not so much as a scratch. 20 minutes in Arizona, scorpion bite. You tell me which is safer!?!
The saddest part of the story? Born in 1978, Nate isn’t even a Millenial. Which means he needed to change his name. He certainly doesn’t identify with Generation X. Thankfully Nate discovered that a new generation was recently formed for such people, the Xennials. From now on Xennial Nate will wear sandals when walking around in the dark, or just stay in bed all night.
What is a Xennial, you ask? Check out the image below…we combine both ‘Gen X cynicism’ and ‘Millenial optimism and drive’. Sounds kind of like mixing Red Bull with vodka…
If ‘Bliss’ is a Place, We Found It
Alice asked the Cheshire Cat, who was sitting in a tree, “What road do I take?”
The cat asked, “Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the cat, “it really doesn’t matter, does it?” – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Speaking of Europe – I believe, chronologically, we last left you in the romantic Cote d’Azure. How dare I leave you (my very faithful reader if you’ve made it this far) hanging without describing the rest of our trip, which happened to include a trip down the rabbit hole? I mean, look at this donkey and tell me if you think I’m lying.
To this point, most of our trip had been scripted. Fly to Germany, take care of animals. Fly to Spain, take care of animals. Fly to France, take care of animals…I think you get the picture. But this last two weeks, starting with Nice, was a true vacation from our vacation. We could literally go anywhere we wanted. The South of France had captured our imagination for a long time, and in particular, the region of Provence. Not unlike Italy’s Tuscany, Provence elicits thoughts of magic, romance, rolling hills and endless vineyards.
Deep down in my soul, I knew the perfect Provence experience was waiting for us. I didn’t want to look up hotels or book ahead. I wanted to find that experience. So, we did what any adventurers would do. We drove into the heart of Provence, hoping to find that magic. And find it we did.
Now I did at least find some routes online, replete with names and contact information for every vineyard. So, I had a starting point. But at the end of it all, we only covered about 10% of the ground we thought we would, because we found our home in the heart of Provence and stayed there.
I’ll spare you most of the details, but on our drive we discovered an amazing winery, whose owner also ran a Bed & Breakfast. That B&B was full, so he spent quite a lot of time to help us find another winery/B&B. We proceeded to go to the second winery and had some more amazing wine- but alas, they were full too. As with the previous owner, they spent a lot of time helping us find the perfect place, which happened to be the Maison Lambot, a 300-year-old charming home with an olive grove in the lovely Provencal countryside….and, a donkey.
We stayed at the Maison Lambot for three nights; as the title suggests, if ‘bliss’ is a place, we found it. The Maison Lambot sits in the middle of an adorable little town, Montfort-sur-Argens – a town with an amazing local restaurant that we frequented twice in the space of three days and were not disappointed with the menu du jour. During our time there, we drove through magical towns such as Correns, Entrecasteaux, Cotignac, Fox-Amphoux, Le Val, and La Celle. Our time in exploring these areas consisted of amazing scenery, cute little boulangeries (bakeries), miles and miles of vineyards, and amazing experiences (and food) around every corner.
We stopped at an amazing winery called Domaine des Aspras. There, we learned that the local town, Correns, is an entirely organic town. What does that mean? Every farmer, business owner, winemaker, and local citizen has decided to use zero pesticides and rely on organic means to cultivate food. The ladies who were working there (Kitty and Celine) spent two hours with us, allowing us to taste a great variety of their amazing wines and sharing their experiences (including some interactions with Brad Pitt!). And, they taught us that real organic wines – wines that are both organically cultivated in the field AND organically handled during the pressing/bottling process – have two icons on the bottle, one of a leaf and one that has the letters ‘AB’. Unfortunately it’s a little difficult to tell in the image below, but look for both of these icons next time you pick up a French wine.
But Wait, There’s More!
We left Provence both filled up in our hearts and saddened that we had to leave so quickly. We still had a week left in our European adventure. And in fact, we had enough amazing experiences in that last week that it could warrant another post. Alas, however, we are getting increasingly far away from our trip – so I’m going to give you the ‘cliff notes’ version of our last week in Europe.
Day 1 – Provence to the Alps (via Verdon Gorge)
After Provence, our next stop was visiting our great friends Marvin and Lisa Klein in the French Alps. You can read our adventures at their place in 2016 here and here. We expected this would be a cool drive, but we had no idea of the amazing beauty and experiences that were in store.
Verdon Gorge is the largest gorge in all of Europe. We had a classic French picnic on the shore. Then we rented a paddle boat and paddled our way down the gorge. It was absolutely stunning, and a great way to stretch the legs for an hour in the midst of a long drive!
Back in the car, the drive went from beautiful to absolutely stunning as we entered into the Alps. For the next few hours we were completely amazed by everything we saw…mountain lakes, sheep grazing, bucolic landscapes, and serene towns.
The best part? After arriving at 6:30, Marvin and Lisa had a spectacular dinner waiting for us at 7!
Days 2 and 3 – respite in the French Alps
We spent these days at Marvin and Lisa’s chalet in the French Alps. I never get tired of the views around here (or the Klein’s hospitality). Marvin took us on beautiful drives all over the area, and Lisa cooked us gourmet meals each evening.
Days 4 and 5 – the French Alps to the Italian Lakes
To help us get back to where we started (which, as you’ll recall, was Munich), Marvin and Lisa offered us to take us halfway there – all the way to Lake Garda and Verona!
Verona was incredible; I mean, it was, after all, the inspiration for Romeo and Juliet.
But nothing compared to Sirmione, a town that juts out into an isthmus in Lake Garda.
We had so little time here, but we definitely plan to come back in future adventures. It was such a lovely place.
Days 6 and 7 – Heading back home
From Verona, we took the train all the way up to Munich, straight through the heart of Austria. We arrived in Munich on the night before Oktoberfest began! We would have considered staying longer, but alas, our 90 days in the Schengen Area was up. (Read this post if you’d like more context on the Schengen Area.)
What an amazing adventure we had this past summer. Look for a ‘best of’ post soon that will wrap up this trip!