Category: Europe

The real adventure begins

So after the easy travelling around Italy, we are flying to Santiago today for a few months in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay .

We are excited but also a little apprehensive, but it’s time to put on the backpacks.

A final-night-in-UK dinner with our friends Jill and Joe who have put up with all our last minute washing and packing
Our car is taking a well deserved rest – parked up for the year at Debbie and Paul’s local stables
Our brand new Osprey backpacks are ready for boarding – we are going as light as possible

Thoughts on 2016

Roger and Hilary in Brussels on the penultimate day of 2016

Firstly a very Happy New Year to all our family and friends, and also readers of this post. We arrived back in the UK from our two months in Italy just in time to celebrate the New Year with best friends, Joe, Jill, Paul, Hazel, Suki and Giselle.

For us 2016 has been dominated by getting organised for this gap year. Preparations started as far back as January 2016 to make the house “rental-ready” and closing down all our work and social commitments.

Family wise we lost the last of our parents with the death in April of Roger’s mum Barbara. But on Hilary’s side we celebrated in Newcastle in May with a triple family birthday party.

There were weekends away – to Budapest, Vilnius and Berlin – a four week trip to the Outer Hebrides, and a return to the Wilderness festival in the Cotswolds.

And we were blessed to see our children progress in their career/study.

So wonderful moments but also changes that meant we were ready for taking our gap year.

Brussels stopover


Brussels is one of the finest unsung cities in Europe.

We’ve just spent a lovely two days with Hilary’s sister. Stephanie moved to Brussels a number of years ago and has become fluent in French and Dutch. (There is hope for us all!) She’s started a second career working for the European Commission and loves the city.

We had a really pleasant walk around Tervuren Park in the east of the city, at the end of a fun tram ride. The great thing is that Stephanie plans to meet up with us in the USA next May/June to see Yellowstone National Park and other sites.

Winter hits us

Children play around the tree at Colmar’s Christmas Market

Crikey. It got so much colder as we headed through the Alps and into France.

Our overnight was at Colmar – a place all American readers of our blog should be aware of as the birthplace of the designer of the Statue of Liberty.

In the freezing fog, a ten metre high version of the statue graced one of the roundabouts coming into town. Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi would have been proud.

But we headed to the centre which was packed with thousands for the large-scale Christmas Market. It’s considered one of the top ten throughout the whole of Europe.

The mulled wine stall was doing a roaring trade.

A walk in the woods


Unbelievably it was 19 degrees in Switzerland. We asked the locals and they said it was the warmest late December they could recall.

We had broken our journey back to the UK in the small hamlet of Sigirino. Tracks led up into the hills, through beautifully sunlit silver birch forests.

Our conversation started to turn to getting ready for South America; our flight is now just five days away.