Another year, another trip…Italy with a 15 month old didn’t completely turn us off from traveling – though we did need a full year to get back on that horse.
We’ll be stopping at 6 different places and are spending a full 3 weeks in Europe. A summary of the itinerary is below. The full story of how we arrived at it follows…
- San Sebastian, Spain – 4 nights
- Saint Emilion (in the Bordeaux region), France – 3 nights
- Dordogne countryside (outside of Daglan/Domme), France – 4 nights
- Collioure, France – 2 nights
- Barcelona, Spain – 4 nights
- Madrid, Spain – 4 nights
We’ll take a high speed train between Barcelona and Madrid, saving 6 hours of driving.
The Full Story
Planning for this trip was quite the effort. At first, we attempted to decide between France and Spain for the trip, and made the call to go with France for logistical reasons. The trip also started out at 2 weeks, but I was finally able to convince Alyce to add the third week in late winter 2016. I think 3 weeks is a much better duration if you can pull it off.
With the title of the post/above itinerary, you’re probably wondering how we went from France to a combination of France and Spain. It is a story of several iterations…
After deciding to go to France, I had to pick the destinations. The only thing set was that we’d end the trip with a week in Paris. That played a big part in convincing Alyce to add the third week. Next, I decided that it made sense on this trip to do Southwestern France and the Dordogne instead of French Riviera and Provence. Before finalizing the itinerary, I worked it out so we could stop in San Sebastian, Spain because we’ve been wanting to go there and it made sense for planning future trips.
I went back and forth between moving from North to South vs South to North – settling on South to North (after booking/cancelling some of the alternatives). That meant we’d do San Sebastian, then Bordeaux, then Dordogne, then Burgundy, then Paris. I booked places in all the cities and felt like we were in pretty good shape.
Then several rounds of terrorist attacks happened in Paris/Nice/France in general. Alyce was not too thrilled to be heading to France with our two year old – especially Paris. After about a month of hemming and hawing over it, she decided to go but not to go to Paris.
Sidebar – I’m not thrilled about the idea of terrorist attacks and going places where they are seemingly prevalent. However, I’m not going to let them alter my plans. The odds of being involved in a terrorist attack are very slim (a much more realistic concern is a car accident while driving in a foreign country). But, I am sympathetic to a mom struggling taking her 2 year old to a country with a seemingly high amount of terrorist attacks. I left it up to Alyce on whether we went to Paris (or at all). I was neutral…I didn’t really feel like replanning a lot of our stops on short notice, but we had been to Paris – so I wasn’t opposed to new destinations. Plus, I wanted Alyce to be happy/excited about the trip. Statistical reality means nothing if you’re dreading something that is supposed to be fun.
Back on topic…I investigated several options late in the game – Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Italy. Spain made the most logistical sense and was the place we almost decided to go to at first, so Spain it was for the additions. This meant that Burgundy was now way too far out of the way to justify going and was a casualty of the change. That was a bit of a bummer, but we’ll get there soon.
Despite a lot of changes to the itinerary and late nights planning things out, I’m very excited about where we’re headed. Alyce is too. And even James says he wants to get on a plane.
Italy was tough in a lot of ways. A 15 month old doesn’t really understand, listen, or reason with you. James’s nap schedule was entirely unpredictable, and he responded poorly if he didn’t get his full nap – whenever it was that he decided to take it. At 15 months, there was also little that would entertain him for more than a couple minutes in a best case scenario.
I’m hopeful this trip will go much more smoothly for several reasons.
First, we’re bringing our cousin (Samantha) along with us for the whole trip. Just having an extra set of hands when eating out or out and about will be a huge help. Alyce and I spent many dinners in Italy alone because the other of us was chasing after James outside. We also should be able to do a couple of things with just the two of us, which will be a very welcomed treat. Further, Alyce’s mom is flying over to meet us for Barcelona and Madrid, so we’ll have plenty of help there.
Second, James at 2 years and 3 months is very different than he was for Italy. He understands a lot of what we say and will occasionally even listen. He will watch movies on a tablet, which is not something we want him to do all the time but will be a godsend if he does so on the plane ride. Skipping a nap is no longer the end of the world. He is also amenable to bribes with suckers – again, not my favorite thing to do but is at least an option.
Third, we better know what to expect. I have zero tours scheduled and our mornings are slower/less structured in general. I still reserved about a meal a day, but we can cancel those without penalty if absolutely needed. Plus we have to eat somewhere.
Finally, we’re moving around at a slower pace. We have an additional 8 nights compared to Italy with only one additional stop. Four of our stops are 4 nights (none were 4 nights for Italy), one stop is 3 nights, and only one stop is 2 nights. Our average drive time is only a little over 2 hours, compared to 3.5 hours for Italy.
It is still a decent bit of moving, but that is just how I like to travel now. If I had all the vacation time (and funds) that I wanted, I’d spend a lot more time at each place…but that is unfortunately no our situation. So we move around experience as much as we reasonably can. Also, I think 4 nights is a pretty good length for a city stop. In all the travelling we’ve done, here is a list of the cities (excluding beach destinations) that we’ve spent more than 4 nights in:
- Hong Kong
That’s it. Even with 3 months to plan our big trip, I only stayed in one city for more than 4 nights, and it was our first stop after a 16 hour flight (not knowing how we’d respond to jet lag).
That was a little bit of a detour, but back to the point. We head out this weekend and are extremely excited. Alyce will try to keep up with the blog while we’re there. Moose and Chunk are still going strong and will be very well cared for in the comfort of our home. Let’s just hope our flight over doesn’t get turned around because of AC issues again…
[knocks on wood]