#24 – Nice, Monaco and Villefranche Sur Mel and how we got bowled over by a Moped!

Arriving at the Villefranche-sur-Mer Beach for the first time!

After our wonderful time in Italy. we headed west along the top coast of the Mediterranean Sea into France. Caroline had booked us a wonderful little apartment for a week in Villefranche-sur-Mer, a tiny little village inbetween Monaco and Nice. It had a bunch of delicous restaurants, a small beach, a market and a train station! It was warm and sunny and we thoroughly enjoyed our week there, with lots of beach time, hiking and exploring nearby.

Our apartment with our little slice of a view!

Our apartment had a tiny little balcony, and a slice of a view of the bay, just one block away. We were on a pedestrian only little alley with a restaurant right below us, a bakery nearby and small shop for groceries down the block. We also enjoyed the bi-weekly market up the hill for fresh veggies and cheese, olives and little croquettes, a type of roasted cornish hens that we shared for dinner! Our hosts were fantastic, and the apartment had a full kitchen, washing machine, and all the beach equipment we needed.

Enjoying some Poetry at the Fete de Rose

One of our first adventures was to go explore along the side of the bay, and we were not dissappointed! We happend upon the Fete de Roses, an annual weekend festival at the nearby Rothchild’s estate and palatial gardens. It was beautiful and extra special for all the unique presentations and beautiful experiences that were arranged for the visitors. We especially enjoyed lounging on the velour pillows and listening to engaging french poetry all about roses and flowers. It was incredibly relaxing and inspiring! We also got to enjoy a syncronized water display in the fountains, and a ballet presentation before a special ceremony to recognize a retiring gardener with his own named type of Rose plant. Then they released the doves. It was a great day!

The Rothchild’s Villa, Fete de Rose

Our next adventure was to take the train to Monaco, a few bays to the east, where we arrived after a very busy weekend hosting the historical Grand Prix. There were seating stands setup all over the roads and lots of people working hard to clean up after the event. The giant yachts and helicopters were leaving en masse all day as the wealthy spectators were all leaving town. We walked up the hill to visit the Royal Palace and got to see the changing of the Guards, which was interesting, but not as elaborate as the English Royals in London. It was very hot, and we explored the city, harbour and even went to the Monte Carlo Casino, but could not gamble as Caroline did not have any ID with her!

The historical Grand Prix in Monaco

It was incredible to see all the mega yachts, with boats inside of boats and helicopters on the back. We were gobsmacked by the wealth and oppulence of Monaco and felt very out of place. It was busy, but with mostly staff, and workers everywhere, but you could sense the wealth all around us It made us reflect a lot on the inequities of this Principality, especially as our phones would not work here and we could not even use our data to find our way around. I don’t think we will ever be back.

A boat inside your boat, for when you need to go ashore

The changing of the Guard at the Royal Palace was a formal event every couple of hours and we were able to be there when they changed over. The soldiers had pristine white uniforms and heavy automatic weapons. I’m not sure they’ve ever been invaded here, but they certainly are ready for anything.

The guard of the Palace in Monaco

Our next adventure was to go west, to the next bay over to Nice, a much more reasonable city with a long beach and beautiful walkway along the front of the bay. We did a little shopping for some warm summer clothes, as we are now south enough to not need any of our spring clothing. We had a delicous meal, and had a really nice chat with a recently engaged young woman on the beach where we compared teenagers in Canada and France. We also saw the sailing school getting towed out to practice and learn on a beautiful afternoon.

Sailing School in Nice, France

So, you are probably still reading, wondering “how did you get bowled over by a moped? Well, it was when we were in Villefranche-sur-Mer and we were returning from the market with our shopping. We were near our apartment, on a pedestrian only street and our guards were down. We did not really hear the moped coming up behind us, but soon, all we felt was a giant metal object right between us, hurtling towards a store display. We both fell outwards and the moped driver was able to stop before driving right into the shop. Both of us had our arms hit, but nothing too serious, just some light bruising. The moped was a La Poste, mail delivery moped, and the driver was super apologetic, and made sure we were both ok. The entire street of people all stoped to check us out and the shop owner came out to clean up the display. It all worked out fine and we were laughing about it in no time, but we both felt it was only a matter of time before we had a moped issue, as they are everywhere in Europe! We are glad our interaction was so minor and will keep our wits about us in the future!

Moules et Frites

Our last meal in Villefranche-sur-Mer was delicious and we especially enjoyed the Moules et Frites. We look forward to some more excellent meals as we head out to Nimes, France with lots of Roman restorations and then onto Spain next. Below is our video from this part of our trip, and a link to extra pictures below that. Enjoy!

Photos from this part of our trip: https://photos.app.goo.gl/Kog6zR6mkHvExoNbA

#23 – Vienna, Florence and Genoa! Pizza, Beaches and Sun!

St Stephen’s Cathedral Vienna, Austria

What a busy week we had in Vienna, Florence and Genoa! These three cities were each super beautiful, fun, and extremely busy! We started off in Vienna at a hip hotel, near the central train station, and were able to slowly explore this historic town. Transit there is easy, and we were able to explore the center tourist district on foot, walking along the river, and checking out the many Hapsburg palaces and gardens. It was pleasant, warm weather and we enjoyed the chance to learn a bit more about this fantastic wealthy city,

Hundertwasser House, Vienna, Austria

One of the highlights was the Hundertwasser house and museum! This inspirational architect designed new forms and structures that were not rigid, but flowing, full of nature intertwined within and without. They are definitely unique and I wish that more architecture around the world would adopt some of these ideas. It was so inviting and engaging to see and explore and I recommend it as a must see if you are ever in Vienna. We also enjoyed walking around the pemanant amusement park, the Prater, and seeing all the teenagers skipping school to go on the rides around the park.

Nightrain to Florence

We had our first overnight train from Vienna to Florence! It was on the Austrian rail line, OBB and their Nightjet service. The cars were a little older, but it worked out great. We shared our booth with a Ukrainian couple who were emigrating to Canada. It was so special to be able to meet them, answer all their questions about Canada and to become friends for when we are back home. The car was a little loud and rattling through the night, so not our best sleep, but we were happy to arrive in Florence in the morning.

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Florence was a treat! It was warm, sunny and busy, with lots to see and eat while there. We really enjoyed how walkable the city was, and the beauty around almost every corner. We explored the traditional Cathedrals, squares and markets, as well as crossed over the river many times to see the views, parks and flowers on the other side. We especially enjoyed the sculptures and frescos all around the city and the tiny alleyways interconnecting all our walks. We shopped, ate, and lounged for three days and really enjoyed our time there. It was busy with lots of English tourists, as well as Stag and Stagette parties, and there should be lots of weddings coming up this summer!

Florence Sculptures

The artwork, history and culture in Florence was unbeliveable, with so many incredible works on display. The food and people were fantastic, as we had delicious meals and met many nice Italians. Our hotel was very close to the center of the city. We were able to do some laundry, and because we had our own apartment with a kitchen, we cooked some meals on our own at home, and shopped at the wonderful Mercato Centrale. The only annoying part of staying in Florence was the mosquitos! A total suprise to find out that we had them all over our apartment in the evening. It required a special bed time routine each night to get rid of them all before sleeping.

Mpvie Prop ship from “Pirates” by Roman Polanski

The train from Florence to Genoa was quite special. First we had to transfer in Pisa, and then take the coast all the way up and around to Genoa. We got a few nice views, but much of the journey was through long tunnels. We did get to see some cruise ships and some nice beaches along the way. Once we arrived in Genoa, we got checked into our hotel, and began exploring this ancient and vibrant port city. One of the coolest things in the Harbour was a giant Pirate ship “prop” built for the Roman Polanski movie “Pirates”. Everything on the ship was fake, but it was still able to sail!

Boccadasse Bay, Genoa Italy

Our hotel was very near a tiny little bay outside Genoa, called Boccadasse Bay, or “Donkey’s mouth” as it was translated. It was super cute, and a little less busy with lots of nice patios and spots to sit and enjoy the sun and the breeze. I enjoyed a delicious “suprise” pizza at a restaurant nearby and we came down each night for some Gelato and to see the sunset. The staff at our hotel were wonderful and very helpful with all sorts of tips and advice for our time in Genoa. We also enjoyed taking a city bus east along the coast to explore some more gorgous bays, beaches and tiny villages while we were there. Genoa was a great place for us and we hope to be back on day!

Below is the video for this segment of our trip and it showcases some of the best of our time there, so check it out. For many more pictures of these cities, see the link below the video! We are now off to Villefranche Sur Mel, near Nice, France!

Photos for this post: https://photos.app.goo.gl/6vu6e2ZHdZdu3Zzv5

#22 – A full head of Steam in Dresden, Germany!

The Moritzburg Castle on a sunny morning

We just had an amazing week near Dresden, Germany visiting with my family, and exploring all that Saxon Switzerland had to offer! Our week also included a ton of fun activities with Steam: Steam Train ride to Radeburg and a Steam Boat cruise up the Elbe to the Königstein Fortress. We ended our week with a wonderful picnic watching the Steam Paddleboat fleet on parade for May 1st!

Restored Steam Engine that goes from Radebeul to Radeburg every day

Our visit to Dresden was primarily to visit with my Uncle and his family and we really enjoyed all that we were able to do with them. My Uncle toured us around to see Morritzburg, Meissen, Pilna, Radeburg, Radebeul and all around this whole region, including the Czech Republic! He was such a great tour guide! We got to see the Bastei ancient fortress in the mountains, and his old shop and favourite spots for coffee and cake!

Bastei Bridge to the old fortress
Blowing off some Steam on the Elbe river!
Felt like we were being watched! Meissen, Germany

We really enjoyed the time we had with family, exploring the region, catching up and connecting after a long time! Our personalized tours were the best, and my Uncle, who knew the whole area so well, told us fascinating bits of history and knowledge with every town. We truly appreciated all this time he spent with us and how much he was able to show us.

Beautiful views in Meissen

Learning about time in the GDR, from my family was very powerful. Because of the split in Germany after World War 2, half my family was back in East Germany and my father’s family emigrated to Canada and there was not a lot of connection for many years. It was really good to spend time, to picnic, to explore and to hear about all the events and things we missed. My Uncle and his family were so gracious and made our stay so very special and unique! We got to see so many special spots away from the tourists and busy spots. Thank you Gerhard, Petra, Eike, Stephan and Linnea!

Enjoying the May 1st Paddlewheel Steam Boat Parade!

While we were in Dresden, we also got to explore and see all that the downtown, historic city center had to offer! We especially enjoyed all the restored architecture and modern developments, the parks and the Green Vault, the collection of the most valuable and precious artifacts from the Saxon lords of the last many centuries. It was truly impressive, but no pictures allowed!

Going for a drive in my Uncle’s fully restored 1938 Mercedes Benz convertable

A highlight for me was to be able to go for a drive with my Uncle in his fully restored 1938 Mercedes Benz! This has been a project of his for over 6 years and it was an amazing experience to enjoy driving with him around Dresden on a sunny day! Of course this car got so many looks and admirers everywhere we went and I am so impressed with his work and abilities to bring this car back to glory. It was a special treat and a wonderful time!

Overall, our stay in Dresden was amazing! We loved it and would come back any chance we get. It was sad when we had to leave and we wish we had more time to spend with our amazing family there. The whole of Saxon Switzerland was incredible, the history, the Steam trains, Steam Boats and old cars, the food, beer and views all made this week a big highlight for both of us. We will definitel be back on day soon!

Below is our exciting and fun video from this visit, and below that, a link to some indivudual photos and videos. Please enjoy!

Photos from this part of our trip! https://photos.app.goo.gl/iKMazhLxaHAUQEtp8

#21 – Berlin – Trains, Museums and Schnitzel

Brandenburg Gate

We arrived in Berlin on Easter Sunday, after a long train ride from Amsterdam. It was a nice train, and we got to experience first class seats, and met a very nice German couple from Hannover, who shared our compartment with us. Our close friend Jula, met us at the Berlin Spandau train station as she was graciously letting us stay at her apartment for the week. She guided us to her apartment, showed us the basics and left us to settle in. The first day in Berlin, we headed into town on the S3 S-Bahn train and transfered to the U-Bahn to go to Alexanderplatz and catch a Hop on / Hop off bus to explore and get our bearings around this huge city!

The Richstag with the covered dome that you can walk around.

The tour was great and gave us a good sense of where things were and what we wanted to check out next. We spent a bit of time at Checkpoint Charlie, and the Jewish Holocaust Memorial, before heading back and doing a little grocery shopping for the week. It was a good day to start our adventures and plan out the rest of our week.

A mural along the East Side Gallery

We expored the East Side Gallery, a section of the Berlin Wall that is still standing that is covered with powerful murals and art depicting the time when Berlin, and Germany, was divided. It was an amazing experience and showcased the many ways, forms and messages that art can provide about this difficult division. We also explored the Science and Technology museum, a highlight for all its displays, information and collection, especially the giant boats, planes and trains from throughout German modern history.

A tram to Wollersdorf, a small village outside Berlin

We also got to enjoy a few delicious meals out and lots of amazing coffee. Jula took us to a fancy Sushi restauraunt (Sushi is fun!) and a traditional Schnitzel place (SchnitzelSei) that prepared one of the best Schnitzels I’ve ever had. We also really enjoyed her coffee from Nano Coffee, a wonderful coffee shop she works with that is super delicious! A highlight for us was the chance to go outside of the city and visit with her family, where we took a 100 year old tram through the forest to her Grandparents place, where we had a very pleasant walk and visit and got to know her Oma and Opa.

The Karl Marx Grand Alllee looking at the Berlin TV Tower

We also had the opportunity to visit the DDR Musuem, an engaging look at life in East Germany during the division. It was fascinating to learn about the jobs, people, homes, schools, products, government and challenges during this time, and how everyone lived when the Russians controlled this half of Germany. Seeing this, exploring the east side of Berlin and talking with Jula’s family provided us with a lot more knowledge and understanding of what life was like then and we greatly appreciated that opportunity.

Saying goodbye at the Haufbanhof

Our week was not long enough! We got to see one more museum before we left, the Jewish History, Culture and Holocaust museum and it was another powerful opportunity for us to learn more about their struggles, challenges and people in Germany from the middle ages until present day. The museum, from its architecture, to its displays was very emotionally evocative and incredible engaging, allowing us to learn more about what trauma and persecution they experienced. It is highly recommended for any visitor.

Below is our video from this week, with some of our experiences, meals, sights and learning. Below that is a link to some more pictures if you would like to see more of our time. We are currently in Dresden now, and enjoying all the Steam trains, Boats, Castles and Fortresses as well as visiting with my family.

Pictures from Berlin: https://photos.app.goo.gl/MHF9NMCNCpPyHYZz6

#20 – Amsterdam! Exploring Canals, Tulips, Museums and more!

All the Dutch things!

We left Paris on a high speed train, which topped out at almost 300km/hr! It was a beautiful and fast ride with comfortable seats. We arrived in Amsterdam to a sunny afternoon, and caught our first Streetcar Tram to our apartment. Caroline’s cousin arranged a private apartment for us to rent for the week, and it was perfect! Just a little bit out of the center, we easily could walk, bike, or take transit to anywehere in the city in less than 30mins.

Keukenhof Tulip Festival

One of our hightlights was the Keukenhof Tulip Festival, about 40 min drive outside of the city. This famous festival and display only lasts a few weeks each spring, and is a very popular place. It reminded us a lot of Butchart Gardens, back near our home in Victoria, BC. There were millions of tulips at their peak of dozens of colours and shades. The displays were incredible, including a Ukraine display to show care and compassion for the people of Ukraine.

Ukrainian Display

We mostly walked around Amsterdam, exploring different neighbourhoods, areas and canals. During our stay, we had beautiful spring weather, with sunshine and warmth bringing out a lot of flowers and other tourists! The Netherlands had removed most restrictions of Covid, and it felt a little strange to be around so many other tourists and locals with not much distance. We felt a little safer with our masks on during our transit rides, museum explorations and tight quarters.

Interesting boats in the Canal

There were so many interesting things to see in Amsterdam, from this incredible boat car that we happened to catch, to the infamous Red Light District. We did a little shopping, we got lost, we ate some delicous fries and schwarma and we hung out and people watched everyday. We also really enjoyed visiting with Caroline’s cousin and her family, and they introduced us to some local friends, took us out to a yummy dinner at the Vegannes restaurant and toured us through local markets and shops.

Gorgeous Canal Sunset

We also took advantage of the amazing art and history in Amsterdam, exploring the Rijksmuseum and enjoyed all the modern, traditional and historical art that was on display. It was an incredible collection that spanned thousands of years and we both really enjoyed it. Caroline’s cousin also took us to the KunstRAI, a modern art showcase that was very interesting with so many beautiful works of many different mediums and styles. It was eye-opening and very engaging. There was also a lot of street art, sculptures, and displays as we walked and explored the city.

What are you looking at? Rijksmuseum

One of the best parts of Amsterdam, was how close everything was, and yet, we continued to find beautiful little corners, canals, streets and shops to get lost in. We loved every minute of our week there and can’t wait to come back again one day. Spending time with Caroline’s family gave us a much more local feel and experience and we truly appreciated that. It also happened to be Easter weekend while we were there and so we got to experience all the tulips, chocolates and celebrations that come with a holiday weekend.

Perfect evening for a stroll along the canals

Below is our video for Amsterdam, and below that is a link to some of our best pictures. After the credits of the video, we have a time-lapse of our Canal boat tour that is really interesting. If you want to see what the city looks like from the water, stick around to check it out. We are off to Berlin next, to visit with a good friend and explore a lot of German food and history!

https://photos.app.goo.gl/uk66K7oMNkpzFF1QA

#19 – Paris, France – Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Arc de Triumph. Bikes, Cafes and Museums.

Eiffel Tower

Our grand adventure continues! After a brief stint back at home where we completed some home renos, we are now back out travelling across Europe for the next 10 weeks. This was always a major goal of our sabbatical year, and we are so glad that we are able to make it happen. We flew into Paris and landed during a major rain storm, but for the rest of our visit, we had beautiful weather to explore the city of love.

Great views of the city

Our first exploration was to the Eiffel Tower, where we hiked up many stairs to get to the second level, and enjoyed the amazing views of the city. The sun came out and we were able to see far and wide across this historical cityscape. We enjoyed many meals, museums, bike rides and art over the next 4 days as we stayed with family and got to know many parts of the city.

The Louvre

The Louvre is always a highlight for any visitor, and we especially enjoyed the Napolean Apartments, and the northern Europe paintings, as well as the classical Greek statues. It was quite busy, especially around the Mona Lisa, which we enjoyed from far away

The Mona Lisa
Cathedral de Notre Dame

We also walked past the Cathedral de Notre Dame, and were able to check out the progress on the repairs since the devastating fires a few years ago. We could not get that close, but you could learn all about the repair process and procedures they were using. I hope to see it returned to its full glory next time we come to Paris.

Below is our video for Paris, with lots of great clips of our explorations and adventures of this beautiful city. We will be flying back out of Paris on our way back home, and hope to have a few more days to take it all in. Below the video is a link to some of our favourite photos from these last few days.

Photos from this visit: https://photos.app.goo.gl/cgu18VmgAv4s3bnj9

#18 – Bucerias Mexico: Iguanas, Beaches and Sun

Bucerias main square

After spending the holidays back at home, visiting with family and riding out the last Omicron wave, we completed a few home renovations (new flooring, and bathroom refresh). We started to see some improvement and felt safer to get out travelling again. One of our wishes was to spend some time in Mexico and we went for a two-week all- inclusive vacation to Bucerias, Mexico, just north of Puerto Vallarta at a well known resort, the Royal Decameron

The resort had many Iguanas just hanging around with the guests

This resort caters to many Canadians and Mexicans and was super friendly, accessible and welcoming. We had wonderful weather while we were there, with 27c our average afternoon temperature! The beaches are beautiful, with lots of whale watching this time of year, as the Grey whales spend time in the bay with the babies teaching them how to feed, breach and have fun! We saw whales everyday, splashing their tales and fins, and leaping out of the water for huge splashes!

Another beautiful sunset

The staff at the resort made us feel very safe with lots of extra cleaning and masking protocols. We spent almost all of our time outside, eating, lounging, swimming, walking and biking. We explored the local market, ate at a delicous restaurant off the resort, and rode some bikes all the way from the marina in the south, to La Cruz in the north. It is one giant bay that Puerto Vallarta, Bucerias and La Cruz all share.

Each evening the sun set a little further up the coast

We met many Canadians, Americans and Mexicans during our stay and they were all super friendly, fun and interesting to get to know. We practiced our spanish a little bit, tried a lot of new foods and stayed healthy and well for our entire two weeks. The resort also put on a lot of excellent entertainment with a dance/music show every evening that was top notch, to activities, contests, tours and more for us to take advantage of.

Elvis rocking out!

The local community of Bucerias was amazing. It was a quaint little town that had a more authentic Mexican vibe, with friendly locals. Caroline enjoyed a massage from a nearby spa, as well as some tasty tacos at a local farmer’s market on Wednesday mornings. The town is going through a transformation however, with over a dozen new buildings going up and lots of contruction. We really enjoyed all the beautiful artwork, murals and galleries around town.

One of many amazing murals around Bucerias

This was a great rest and recharge for us after a couple of months back at home working hard on our home renos. We installed over a 1000sqft of new flooring, painted two rooms, installed new light fixtures around the house, and redid our main bath with new flooring, paint, toilet, vanity and mirror. We felt good about staying home while things were flaring up, but now that the world is opening back up slowly, we are hopeful to get our sabbatical trip going again. Our hope is to fly to Europe for 10 weeks starting in April, but we are waiting to see how things with Ukraine are going first.

Watching for whales

Below is a video of our adventures for this chapter of our sabbatical year. There is also a link to a google photos folder for many of our best pics. We hope you enjoy both!

Photos from this trip: https://photos.app.goo.gl/aUdiyXSdiGvF2cDMA

#17 – Arizona & California: Our last travel post! We explore Sedona, Pleasant Lake, Joshua Tree Park and San Diego before heading home!

Biking on Mission Bay Beach, San Diego

Our travels are now done for a bit! We are back at home and doing a ton of laundry and catching up with a lot of chores and tasks that need to be done after being away for 5.5 months! This last post is all about our final stretch of the trip through Arizona and California, before we headed north and back into the cold.

We came into Arizona along the I-40, after going through Albuquerque and then Winslow, and turned south at Flagstaff to go check out Sedona, AZ. This was a beautiful, but incredibly busy place. It was American Thanksgiving weekend, and the tourists were out in abundance. It definitely gave off a summer Whistler vibe, with lots of high end art stores and eateries. We spent a good day exploring the views, sights and stunning geography. It was so colourful and unique, warm and developed.

Enjoying the views from the Sedona Airport

There were many parks surrounding Sedona, and we hiked a couple. The city also has an incredible viewpoint from up at the Airport, as well as a beautiful church built right into the rocks that drew quite a lot of tourists while we were there. It was warm, sunny and bright for our time, perfect for hiking and gawking all around us.

Checking out some older park facilities in Sedona

After Sedona, we headed more south, to just above Phoenix, at a campground on Pleasant Lake. This is a huge man made lake that is part of the water system for Arizona and California and collects a lot of water from the area for agriculture and drinking. It also is surrounded by giant cacti and wild donkeys! This was the hotest part of our trip, with 27c days, beautiful sunrises and sunsets and even hot air ballons floating nearby.

Camping among the Cacti in Pleasant Lake, AZ

We stayed at Lake Pleasant for 2 nights and enjoyed it immensly. We explored on our bikes and hiked through the desert. After this relaxing stretch we hit the road again and found a neat day spot called Montezuma Castle, nothing to do with actual Montezuma, but instead an ancient settlement of the Sinagua people dating back to the 12th Century up in the cliffs. Very well done little park and we learned a lot about these people and the ways they lived.

Montezuma Castle, AZ

After this brief excursion we continued west and were able to secure a site at Joshua Tree National Park, a famous high altitude desert park. We were in the south entrance, and had a beautiful site with views, hikes and even Road Runner birds around our campsite. We made some friends from Canada, and chatted into the night under the stars. We also got to explore a nearby abandoned Gold mine that was very cool.

Joshua Tree National Park, CA

After Joshua Tree, we took a harrowing road up a mountain on a shortcut down to San Diego near Coachella, CA. Our time in San Diego was great! We spent 6 nights at a RV campground near the city on Mission Bay. We rode to the Beach every day and explored San Diego by transit. We even road up to La Jolla nearby and found some sea lions and sea caves, as well as delious tacos and drinks.

Riding on the beach in La Jolla, CA

After San Diego, it was time to head home. We’ve explored a lot of the Pacific West Coast before, so we knew we were going to skip over a lot of northern California, Oregon and Washington and we were eager to get home and visit with family and friends. We drove the entire length of the I5, from San Diego to Vancouver over 4.5 days. It as a nice drive, but a couple of crazy mountain passes in northern California and southern Oregon. The all too familiar rains welcomed us and we had a very nostalgic ride on the ferry back to Vancouver Island.

Ferry ride home to Vancouver Island

Overall, we had an amazing trip and could not have asked for a better time. We saw so many beautiful places. We enjoyed meeting friendly people from all over Canada and USA. We stayed safe, followed all the Covid requirements and still were able to get out and tour around a lot of North America. We had a breakdown and did some maintenance on our truck, and learned a lot about navigating together through busy cities, giant 7 lane highways and quiet country backroads with no cell service. We did it all together!

Thanks for coming along on this chapter of our Sabbatical year. Our next steps are a little up in the air as we are waiting to see what is happening around the world. We’ve got time and we are flexible for whats next and will enjoy spending the holidays with our family and friends.

Our full route over 5.5 months! 22,000kms, 1 Territory, 6 Provinces, 19 States!

Photos from this segment: https://photos.app.goo.gl/6hH2J1ppPfWzSmiK6

#16 – Exploring the Bayou and the Desert! Caddo Lake and Palo Duro State Park, Texas, and Louisiana.

Crossing the Mississippi River into Louisiana

As we left Alabama, we crossed the mighty Mississippi River and began making our way west. We decided to stay a little north, and not go too deep into the heart of Texas, and more skip along the top, visiting Arkansa, Oklahoma and Louisiana along the way. Our first stop was in Jackson Mississippi, where we boondocked at a Walmart for the night. We then made our way to Caddo Lake State park, where we planned on staying for a few days and enjoying a bayou tour!

Sasquatch sighting in the Bayou

We stayed in a little town called Karnack, which was very close to Caddo lake, and a warm spot for us to stay. We had booked our tour with Captain Ron’s Bayou Boat Tours, but his boat broke down! Our camp hosts had a good recommendation for us, and their friend John took us out for 2 hours on his own really fast boat. We had a great morning zooming through the bayou, seeing lots of birds, turtles and even some Sasquatch sightings in the bush! We did not get to see any Alligators however, as they were all hibernating already for the winter. We did get to try some fried Alligator though at the local watering hole! Very tasty and slightly like chicken!

An old steamboat on the Bayou

Staying next to the bayou was quite spooky, especially when the fog rolled in and the sun went down. We heard lots of weird noises and kept our eyes out for Armadillos and Sasquatches! Our neighbours and hosts at the RV camp were super nice, very friendly and gave us lots of tips and advice for routes going north and west.

Enjoying our day on the boat in the Bayou

After fully exploring the bayou, riding our bikes around Caddo Lake area, getting to know some locals and eating lots of fried food, we headed out and made our way north, to go above Dallas and Fort Worth, on our way west along the I-40. We made our way to Oklahoma City, and had a very windy evening there, but according to the locals, “if your RV door dosen’t blow right off, its not that bad”. Our Camper was good at keeping us warm, but the wind was loud and the trains nearby kept us up as well. We had a beautiful sunrise before we headed out and made our west, on the windiest day of our entire drive.

The drive was a white-knuckle affair, with sustained winds all morning that made it a little tougher to keep straight. We got through it however, and made our way into Texas, near Amarillo, to Palo Duro State Park. This was definitely a highlight for us, as we experiences a beautiful spot with amazing geography that was super different than anything else we’ve encountered so far. The campsite was deep into a large canyon and was surrounded by amazing hikes and beautiful vistas.

Palo Duro State Park

We saw our first Armadillo right beside our campsite rummaging through some leaves. It was not too bothered by us and Caroline was able to get quite close to it and take some photos. We heard coyotes every day at sunset and sunrise, howling to start and end their day. It was a great spot and felt very different from our time in the bayou. It was warm during the day, the stars were super bright and we were most defintely in the west.

Armadillo right by our campsite

After the sun went down, I spent a little time playing with my phone, getting some Astrophotography shots of the night sky. Where we were, we could easily see Venus, Saturn and Jupiter, all lined up in the western sky, just after sunset. It was a great way to spend our evenings, outside, staring up and talking about our trip so far, we just had to bundle up to stay warm!

Big sky full of stars!

We also found a great cave in the park, called “The Big Cave” and wanted to explore it a bit before we moved on. It was not as big as we anticipated, but was still cool to see and explore a little bit.

The Big Cave in the Park

After this, we packed up and began our last leg of our US tour, the southwest. We were excited to head to Arizona and California, as we explore Sedona, and Joshua Tree Park before hitting the west coast and slowing down in San Diego for a bit.

Photos from this chapter of our trip: https://photos.app.goo.gl/4FAVja7PF27mULiS7

#15 – Exploring the US Capital, some country music, and learning about the Civil Rights movement. Washington DC, Nashville TN and Montgomery AB!

Exploring the capital of the USA

After a very exciting and fun filled three nights in New York City, we headed the truck south towards Washington DC to explore the capital of the US. The weather was nice, but chilly, and we spent two nights camping out about 10 miles outside of downtown, in Maryland.

The main mall is huge! We walked the entire length, from the Capital building all the way to the Lincoln Memorial. It was really interesting to see the Washington Monument, the Capital building and the White House. The Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting pool were very powerful experiences and opportunities to reflect on some of the great people of US history.

Smithsonian Museum Elephant

We also enjoyed checking out the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, a free experience as are all the museums in DC. It has some incredibe exhibits on climate change, natural history, geology, gems and minerals and African orgins, and Human history. It was a great way for us to spend the morning, and we definitely learned a lot.

Breakdown in Roanoke Virginia

After Washington, we continued to head southwest, and worked our way through Virgina. Caroline happened to be driving and we were just pulling off the highway for our stop for the night when our truck complety shut down! Turns out our Alternator went bad and then our battery drained and we were stuck on the road, needing a tow. We got all fixed up in a couple of days and headed out back on the road after exploring Roanoke, Virginia, the “Magic City” for a day!

Checking out some country music in Nashville TN

Our next stop was Nashville Tennessee, where we got to enjoy some tasty BBQ and good country Music. This city definitely had a “Vegas” vibe, with the downtown Broadway street very busy with people, bars, restaurants and live music all day and evening! Most bars were three stories, with live music on each floor! We had a fun evening exploring downtown after leaving our truck and camper back at the KOA campground in Music Valley.

Learning about the Civil Rights Movement in Montgomery AB

After our visit to Nashville, we headed south in Alabama. We wanted to visit Montgomery, to learn more about the history of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. We explored the city and found many useful and insightful plaques the described the important events, people and history of this city. We talked with some locals and did a self-guided walked tour around town. We also complemented this with a visit to Selma, a very important town nearby where the march for voting rights began. It was a powerful experience and we are so glad we got to witness this historical place.

Photos from this part of our trip: https://photos.app.goo.gl/m4yeP7jHurKAHe149

Overall, this segment of our trip was great, despite the breakdown. We learned a lot of new history, witnessed interesting events and locations and explored some new music. We had great new southern food, met lots of very friendly people and made it deep into the southern US. Our next phase of the trip is to head west through Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas!