As I finish the pre-trip scramble for my European vacation with my mom and sisters, I can't help but remember my last trip to Europe and adventure photography trip, and the final part of this blog I neglected all summer . . .
Mid-November, we said our final goodbye to Brad and Kerry. The first few hours away from friends turned into the most expensive on our trip.
A midnight knock from a police officer woke us on top of the Rock of Gibraltar. After explaining there was “no camping on Gibraltar,” the officer proceeded to escort us off the rock and down a road the RV had no business being on in the first place. Midway through the descent, a tree limb ripped off a vent on the roof. A few hundred yards later, we knocked the awning off when the already narrow road became impossibly narrow. We spent the next two hours filling out police reports. Somehow, we managed to escape citations, that is until we returned the RV in Germany a month later and received a hefty €1800 fine from the rental company.
After a nearly sleepless night, we licked our wounds and headed for the beach. With December approaching, we decided to burn away the remainder of November on beaches in Spain, Morocco, and Portugal. My favorites were the beaches in the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, a gorgeous stretch of coastline marked by black cliffs and floral along Portugal’s southern coast. Other highlights in Portugal included a tapa styled, melt-in-your-mouth meal in Lisbon, an exploration of the fairy lands of Sintra, and an eerie afternoon in the skull-lined chapel Capela dos Ossos.
We spent our final evenings in the RV over the Christmas holiday with Sandy and Chad in Chamonix, France. The four of us had cooked up a romantic, ski holiday in the French Alps. There were a few problems with our plan.
One: four people in an RV was far from romantic.
Two: eight inches of snow did not make for ideal ski conditions.
Three: I dislocated my shoulder on said eight inches.
Four: we ran out of propane for the heater.
Despite the less than ideal snow conditions, the four of us had a holiday we won’t likely forget. Huntley managed to speed ride the hell out of Chamonix. A pregnant Sandy and Chad took their first tandem paragliding flights. We drank copious amounts of vin chaud and chocolat chaud while strolling the cobblestoned streets. We spent Christmas morning playing dominoes and Christmas evening enjoying the most expensive meal of my life, complete with champagne and foie gras.
We did bump into the snow. It came two days after Christmas. (One day after Sandy and Chad left France, and the same day Huntley and I began the trek back to Germany.) Thankfully, we’d given ourselves several spare hours to white knuckle our way out of France and into Switzerland. Huntley drove all night while I packed and tried to scrub away three months worth of road trip dirt with baby wipes and eye makeup remover. Somehow, I thought a clean RV would camouflage the missing awning, the multiple dents speckling the formica countertop, and the vent duct taped to the roof and stuffed with towels to keep out the snow and rain. While packing, I cursed myself and all our luggage. Between the two of us, we had five pieces of luggage that we needed to transfer via an overnight bus from Munich to Paris.
A thief in the Munich bus station made the luggage transfer simple as he or she relieved us of all our luggage except for Huntley’s paragliders and my camera gear. Down to two pieces of luggage, I wiped my eyes and climbed aboard the bus. Afterall, we had homeowners insurance, and three days in Paris awaited us.
Paris did not disappoint. I loved every minute of it. We climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower. I cried when I walked around Notre Dame. We ate pan au chocolat and drank cafe au lait in the courtyard of the Louvre. We gorged on oysters, escargot, and champagne our last night in Europe. And all of this was made sweeter in our hotel room where we enjoyed the luxuries of endless hot water, flushing toilets, and a king size bed.