When we decided to set off on our travel adventure there were a number of logistics to work out. We had to choose our destinations, research visas, locate rental accommodations, book travel, but one of the most important decisions was how we’d continue our son’s education while we were on the road. Education and long-term family travel, do they mix? Could we make it work?
One of the things that makes travel fun for us is the opportunity to become a temporary local. We love the adventure and discovery that travel provides, but we equally enjoy the luxury of being “homebodies” abroad. Occasionally we do stay at hotels or B&Bs, but our preference is to rent a house or apartment from a local. For us, vacation rentals offer more bang for your buck, but it also provides a fantastic opportunity for cultural immersion.
This is our third visit to San Miguel de Allende. The first two visits were typical vacations. The third visit was meant to be a more extended two or three month visit. Like so many before us, somehow our visit has transitioned into temporary residency.
Blue skies, warm sun, colorful Spanish colonial buildings, friendly locals, cobble stone streets, birds chirping. This describes our charmed life in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. It’s hard to complain, and why would you? We came here (for the 3rd time) looking to settle down for a bit, after a year of moving from country to country every month or so. We weren’t ready to give up on travel, but we wanted to give our son a chance to make some friends and establish some routines.
Below is an article from our 9-year-old son, who has decided to publish under the journalistic nickname, “The Scoop”.
This is roving reporter Ethan “The Scoop” Goodell, reporting from Barcelona, Spain. The article today is about the Picasso Museum, called the Museu Picasso in Catalan. The museum is in the old town of Barcelona, which in Catalan, is called the Ciutat Vella.
Always on the lookout for interesting museums to visit, as well as affordable sightseeing options and ways of entertaining the boy, we decided a visit to the CosmoCaixa of Barcelona was in order. The CosmoCaixa is Barcelona’s Science Museum. Originally built in the early 20th century as an asylum for the blind, it was expanded and reopened as the Barcelona Science Museum in the early 1980’s. In 1998, it underwent six years of redesign, reconstruction and expansion to open under its new name and under the guidance of the Spanish social foundation “la Caixa”.
The Picasso Museum in Barcelona contains over 4000 works of art from Picasso and focuses on his formative years and his connection to Barcelona. It was really interesting to see paintings and sketches from when Picasso was as young as 9-years-old, to see how his art changed and progressed over time, and how he was influenced by the various artists he met and studied.
People often ask us how we got started traveling and what advice we might have for others looking to do long term family travel. We were recently interviewed by Family Adventure Podcast and we touched on these common questions.
For many people, when you think of Barcelona, images of Gaudí’s Park Güell come to mind. You might not know its name, but you’re probably familiar with photos taken from its famous viewing terrace. The colorful tiles of the iconic serpentine bench and the fantastical gatehouses in the foreground with Barcelona’s rooftops and the sea beyond. It’s synonymous with Barcelona and it’s no surprise it’s one of the top five tourist attractions in the city.
It may be a surprise to learn that much of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter (Barri Gótic) is not what it seems. During the latter half of the 19th century and just prior to the International Exhibition in 1929, the heart of the once drab medieval quarter was completely transformed through a massive restoration project. A new Neo-Gothic Quarter was created using real Gothic stonework reconfigured around seven real Gothic buildings, but it also included several new buildings constructed in the Neo-Gothic style. The quarter was essentially reinvented as a tourist attraction to help project a positive image of the city for the International Exhibition.
The Barcelona Cathedral (La Seu) is one of the finest Gothic buildings in Barcelona as well as one of the largest and most impressive religious building in all of Spain. It is located in the center of Barcelona’s Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter), near the famous Las Ramblas.
The most common word in Barcelona has got to be vale (pronounced like ballet). You hear it everywhere, all the time. Vale. People say it walking down the street with friends, talking on the phone, ringing up your groceries at the store. It’s constant. We don’t really speak Catalan or Spanish, but you could easily pick it out of just about every conversation. Finally, I had to ask. What the heck does vale mean?
We set off from Avignon on January morning and found ourselves in the tiny French village of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, which is tucked in a Vaucluse or “closed valley” at the source of the River Sorgue. This is one of the most visited places in the Vaucluse and in the Summer the village of just 600 inhabitants is said to be overrun with tourists. Luckily, we were visiting in the off-season, so that wasn’t a problem for us.
If you’re interested in visiting Provence, then you’ve probably heard of the French village of Roussillon, or at least seen photos of it. It’s instantly recognizable by its houses, painted like an artist’s pallet from the pigments of the old ochre quarry that sits adjacent to the village. A glory of red, yellow, orange and pink façades.
Wow! Just wow. The French village of Gordes is a truly stunning town and one of the jewels of the Luberon region of Southern France, which is a considerable compliment given the competition. One can’t help but use the word citadel to describe the city of rock built on – perched on – this mountainside. It runs in terraces down the slope of the hill and seems to keep vigil on the fields and farms stretched out below us.
The French Village of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is absolutely enchanting. Not only is it considered ‘The Provençal Venice’, but it’s also the antiques capital of Provence. Crystal-clear, emerald water that flows through this compact medieval town. Narrow footbridges cross five branches of the Sorgue river. Ducks and the occasional swan doze on the banks. Water wheels are still seen throughout the city with quiet, mossy blades delicately tracing out time in the old city, relicts from silk and paper manufacturing ages ago.
As we walk down the Rue de la République toward the Avignon Central Train station, the air is cool and crisp. We snuggle into our winter coats to keep warm. Christmas lights are strung over the road and as we pass several bakeries the smell is intoxicating. The early morning sky is lit with red and orange as we stand on the platform where we will catch the shuttle train to the TGV station on the outskirts of town, where our rental car waits. The ride from the central station to the TGV is quick – 10 minutes at most. Outside the front of the shining post-modern train station are several rental car companies. We’ve arranged a car with Europcar today – a cute little Renault Twingo. We’re excited to visit 4 of the most beautiful villages in Provence.
Avignon is one of the major cities of Provence, in Southern France. It is the main city in the very popular Vaucluse region and is set on banks of the Rhône river. The city is steeped in history, painted with brilliant light, and crowned with gorgeous, Provençal blue skies. Avignon is simply lovely.
No visit to Avignon is complete without a walk on the Pont Saint-Bénézet, also known as the Pont d’Avignon. So, on a beautifully warm and sunny December day we made our visit. It was interesting to stand on this iconic landmark and the subject of the famous French song and nursery rhyme, Sur le pont d’Avignon. One can’t help but sing the words that date from the 16th century when you look out over the Rhône River. Like so many times during this trip, it felt like we were making a connection to history, however small and however brief those moments might be.
Standing in the courtyard in front of the Palace of the Popes in Avignon (Palais des Papes), it’s not hard to sense the power and influence that this building was meant to symbolize for the Catholic church. Its grand and imposing architecture spans 15,000 square meters and stands 50 meters high. Soaring into the blue Avignon sky, one wonders if its meant to give the impression that it’s reaching for heaven.
Medieval Carcassonne has been considered a strategic location since Neolithic times. Its first settlement dates to about 3500 BC. This ancient rocky hilltop is steeped in history and lore. The Romans were the first to build ramparts around the cité (walled town) in the 1st Century BC. The prime hilltop location made it easy to defend, and its strategic position between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean sea, as well as between the Massif Central and the Pyrénées made it an important trading place as early as the 6th century BC.
Our experiences in 2014 have been rewarding beyond our dreams. Taking the time to look back over all of our blog posts, Facebook posts, and photos has made it all seem even more unbelievable. It’s been a Year of Nomadic Family Travel and it’s hard to believe all that we’ve done and the amazing places that we’ve visited. We are truly grateful to have spent the year exploring and learning together, living abroad, and making friends.
There was so much to cover in our year-end review, that we felt that our recollections needed to be broken up into two parts for easier reading. If you haven’t read Part 1, which covers January – June, then you can find it here. Otherwise, read on as we cover our adventures from July – December.
In 2014 we set off on a Year of Nomadic Family Travel and it has been one of the best experiences in our lives. It was all about change, risk, adventure, and discovery. We took, what some would consider, a crazy leap of faith, and although we can’t say what the future holds, we wouldn’t change a thing. The experiences that we’ve had in the last year are more than most could hope for in a lifetime. We are amazed and so grateful when we look back on it all.
Avignon’s Christmas nativity scenes and Little Saints are a must-see. These elaborate and traditional displays are also known as the crèche Provençale or Provençal crib and they have been around since the French Revolution. At that time, churches were forcibly closed and sacked. Both masses and nativity scenes were banned. In response, devout Christians created their own crèche to keep the tradition alive in their homes. They crafted “santons”, or little saints, made of clay. These figurines not only included the Holy Family, shepherds and Three Kings, but also the ordinary peasants of Provence.
Avignon is a beautiful city any day of the year, but who can resist any city decorated for the holidays. Beautiful. These Avignon Christmas street scenes will inspire you to spend your next winter vacation in the South of France. Even if you’re a Scrooge, you simply can’t beat the weather. You won’t be disappointed.
The Avignon Christmas Market is located at the Place de l’Horloge, the central square of Avignon, in front […]
Our family spent a nomadic Christmas in France – and it was perfect. So, how do you celebrate Christmas with a 9-year-old while traveling? What do you do about presents when you are living out of backpacks?
We could go on and on about how beautiful Budapest is at night. The buildings, monuments, and bridges are lit up, showcasing the beautiful architecture. The city bustles with activity, but it never feels hectic or overwhelming.
The evenings offer ruin pubs, cafes, restaurants, world-class opera, concerts, night cruises on the Danube, or any variety of nightlife that you can think of. And, it’s very easy to get around by foot or public transportation.
We came to Budapest looking to embrace the chilly weather and indulge in holiday cheer. The Christmas Markets are the perfect place to begin, but another great winter activity that we enjoy is Ice Skating in Budapest. There is very little that so perfectly exemplifies the season.
How did we end up spending the holidays in Budapest? Well, it was September and, after spending 6 months in the extreme heat and humidity of Southeast Asia, the idea of spending Fall and Winter in the northern hemisphere didn’t sound bad at all. Plus, it was difficult to imagine that it would feel “Christmasy” to us in a tropical climate. I suppose that comes from growing up in the NE and NW regions of the United States.