As we continue travelling, we have decided to reactivate our blog: Clara and Daniel Travel (old-timers might notice the new name; that’s because of technical problems with the previous one). This post is to explain what happened since our last post from St Emilion, near Bordeaux. That was in 2013, at the end of our first month back in Europe. And this post is from Ireland as we prepare to leave Europe, after 2 and a half years here.
It sounds a lot, 2.5 years, surely time to visit dozens of European countries and see most of the continent. But typically for us, we travelled slowly, and only spent time in 4 countries; France, Ireland, Portugal and Switzerland. Most of our time was in France, travelling and housesitting around the Charente Maritime, the Dordogne, the Limousin, the Pyrenees Orientales and the Jura mountains. Many of our housesits were repeat sits, where we sat several times for people / pets we were fond of, and in the process made some great friends. Our record was sitting 5 times for one couple who seemed to have as much of the travel bug as us! We spent so much time in France that we bought a car … and nearly bought a house. Charmed by the French countryside, the sunny climate, the way of life and the food and wine, we went as far as putting a cheeky offer on a wreck of a place. It had 4 good walls, a decent roof, and that was about it. Facing a full year of renovation work (probably foolish to think it would ONLY take a year), we were somewhat relieved when that didn’t go through. Not long after, we decided that we don’t want a base after all, that housesitting can provide us with enough of a break and a feeling of “home” and we set about creating a bucket list full of travel ideas.
During our travels in France we crossed into Switzerland where we housesat in Lugano, before spending a month in the Jura mountains near Geneva. It was brilliant to have our own car, and the freedom to cross Europe’s borders as we pleased. But once we had decided to travel, the car felt like a noose around our necks and we could hardly wait to have it sold, and be back to just ourselves and our backpacks. We left France in November 2015 and spent the winter in Ireland, visiting family and friends. This was our 2nd winter in Ireland, having spent the first few months of 2014 here as well. That particular winter was one of the worst on record, with once in a century winds that toppled trees and flooded the coast – quite a welcome for Daniel’s first time in Ireland. We toured the countryside, and the abundance of photographic ruins filled his memory cards and compensated for the dire weather. Just to give a fair picture of Ireland: we also spent 2 months of summer 2014 there, and in that time, had only 3 rainy days. Another record and a summer to remember!
Early in our European journey, we travelled to Portugal, to the Algarve region in the south. This was back in the days when we still thought we wanted to have a base somewhere, and so we looked at numerous Portuguese shacks for sale. We say shacks as these properties were barely weather-proof, with no cooking facilities other than an open fire, and outside toilets. But many were still lived in, and they were an eye-opener into the standard of living of many in a western European country. Although we (thankfully) didn’t buy a house there, we did enjoy the sunshine, the abundance of fresh fruit and veg, great local wine and the excellent coffee available in every village. Our favourite spot there was the old Roman town of Tavira, largely unspoilt by the large apartment blocks so prevalent in other Algarve towns, and definitely a place to return to.
Once we decided to keep travelling full-time, we each created a bucket-list – our top 20 or so things we wanted to see or do. We then merged them, and luckily found a large overlap 🙂 We are now travelling with the bucket-list in mind, and will be spending March in Norway, before heading to Iceland in April for 2 months. This will be our last leg in Europe, as we fly directly to Canada from Iceland. We are on a one-way ticket and who knows what will follow. Just the way we like it!