Well.  That was fun.  And fast.

Our summer of fun has come to an end.  The summer continues for AJ for another two weeks, but Jan returns to work today.1

We had a couple of goals when we set out planning our Europen vacation.  First was to see as many of the Au Pairs that lived with us over the past decade.  Second was to show AJ where we used to live when we were stationed in Germany and show him some of our favorite places.  And lastly to find new places and see new things.

So how did we do?

Pretty darn well.

Let’s be clear. The best part of the trip for all of us was seeing the five daughters from another mother.  It was awesome seeing Susanne, Anne Marie, Anais, Celine and Annika (in the order we visited them), spending time with them, catching up with what has been happening in their lives, letting them see how their influence on AJ helped him grow into the fine young man in front of them and getting to see a small part of their lives/towns and families.  The highlight of the six weeks was sharing meals with families, hiking through fields to a castle, picking cherries on the farm, drinking champagne and walking through grape fields, walking down the green line of Nantes, wandering through Paris, playing tourist in Helsinki and a day of playing games.

Our second goal was to show AJ where we used to live and our favorite places.  Check.  Though looking at our old place in Mainz was underwhelming.

Lastly was seeing new places and we nailed that.  Most of France was new as was Barcelona, Finland and Iceland.

The recap:

Number of days:  45

Number of countries:  13/11

  1. Austria
  2. *Denmark
  3. Estonia
  4. Finland
  5. France
  6. Germany
  7. Iceland
  8. *Ireland
  9. Italy
  10. Spain
  11. USA

Type of transportation

  • Plane:  10,033 miles (over 6 hops)
  • Train:  1,861 miles (over 9 hops)
  • Boat:  1,659 miles (over 7 days/6 stops)
  • Car:  985 miles (three rentals over 16 days in Germany/Austria, France and Iceland)
  • Walked:  273  miles.  HELL YEAH BABY!!!
  • Bus:  269 miles
  • Metro:  35 miles (Berlin, Paris, Barcelona, Helsinki)
  • Tram:   11 miles (Nantes, Helsinki)
  • Bike;  5 miles (Reims)
  • Cable Car:  4.4 miles (Austria, Barcelona)
  • Fernicular:  .47 miles (Barcelona)

Where we stayed (nights in each):

  • Chain Hotels:  11
  • Small hotels/vacation resorts:  11
  • Airbnb/Apartment:  15
  • Boat cabin:  8

Best type of stay:  Airbnb and not even close.  We don’t require a lot in our place to stay.  We stayed in a couple of places that fit two beds and had a bathroom and that was all the space they had.  And that was fine because hotels provided one critical thing and that was air-conditioning during multiple heat waves.  Those were found at the major chain hotels, not the small boutique hotels.  Hotels tended to be located close to what we wanted to see, which was another plus.  Airbnbs (the ones we reserved anyway) had kitchens so we could cook for ourselves, multiple rooms to get some privacy, washer and dryers and a person to interface with if we had questions or issues.  We didn’t have a bad night in an airbnb; we certainly had nights in hotels.

Top two countries:

  • Jim:  Austria/France
  • Jan:  France/Austria
  • AJ:  Germany/Estonia

Favorite city/town

  • Jim:  Dinan
  • Jan:  Reims
  • AJ: Berlin

Favorite Activity

  • Jim:  Hiking in Austria
  • Jan:  Champagne tours
  • AJ:  Cruise

Favorite meal at a restaurant

  • Jim:  Dinan mussels
  • Jan:  Dinan mussels
  • AJ:  Burger in Austria

Favorite new food:

  • Jim:   Any number of ‘meat pies.’  Empanadas in Spain.  Meat Pie in Helsinki.
  • Jan:  Potatoes Bravas
  • AJ:  Cherries.  Nope.  He never had cherries before he got some off the tree at Suzanne’s farm.

Favorite museum/cultural activity

  • Jim:  Champagne tour with Eric.
  • Jan:  Picasso Museum.
  • AJ:  Utah Beach

How many holes past normal on belt:  One.  For Jim.  Jan and AJ lost weight.

Longest Hike:  9.34 miles, Ehrwald, Austria, high up in the Alps!

Most steps in a day that wasn’t the day we hiked 9 miles in Austria:  25,799 in Paris, France.

Number of languages attempted to speak:  4 (English, German, French, Spanish)

Number of languages spoken well:  Zero. Like not even English.   

Number of museums visited:  Too many to count!

Highest price we paid for a bottle of champagne:  $55

Percentage of that bottle that sprayed all over our hotel room in France when I failed to cover the top of the bottle which resulted in an uncontrolled (and very high speed) ejection of the cork and spraying of expensive bubbly all over the floor of our room):  25%


*Only stopped in airports, so this is probably cheating.  Thus we went to 13 countries (including the USofA), but only really saw 11.  OK.  10, because we probably shouldn’t count our home country.  Though I’m counting Denmark since it was our most expensive lunch on the trip.  Over $100 for two burgers and a salad?!?

1My summer is endless.