Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Europe Ball is Rolling!

136 days until we head off on our adventure!

Everything is becoming real as we start to book more and more things. In the last few days we have made our very first campground booking! One down, 22 to go. The booking we made is for La Tuilerie de Chazelle, a tiny 6-tent campsite in Cormatin, France, run by an English/Dutch couple on the same site as two Gites. It will be our base for 5 nights as we explore Burgundy and also make a day trip to the Swiss/French Border to tour CERN, the largest Nuclear Physics Laboratory in the world (Anyone heard of the Large Hadron Collider?). Courts studies Physics so will be in his element, and I'm excited to share it with him.

The couple that run La Tuilerie de Chazelle have been so good to us. As a small family-run campsite, the price per night is a very small 7 Euros per person per night (most places we are looking at 15 Euros per person per night) and so the total to pay in order to book was only 70 Euros. As they are so small, they don't accept credit card so we were left with the option of a bank transfer - with $NZ20 fees here, and a similar cost at the other end. Sue and Cees went out of their way to help us find a cheaper alternative and we are much better off because of their efforts. I can't wait for our week with them, the size of the site will mean it is much like a holiday within a holiday for us.

When we get to Europe, I want to see a lot, but I don’t want to spend 3 and a half months putting up a tent. So, wherever possible, I've tried to simplify our plans so that we can stay in one place and day trip to the surrounding areas, such as with La Tuilerie de Chazelle, or with Castellina in Chianti, from which we can visit most of Tuscany, including Florence and Siena. 

Don't you love the feeling when you go to the beach for a summer holiday and you start to get to know the town, you know the best place to get dinner and the best route to the beach, and you recognise the neighbours walking their dogs? Hopefully by having home bases whenever possible, we will get to know Europe at least a little bit, instead of just seeing it. We do have some stretches where we move between towns quickly but usually it’s because we are stopping overnight on our way to somewhere else. In those cases, we’ve made sure to stop somewhere interesting, and I'm sure we will be back to do those towns justice.

It has taken a LOT of hours to research the trip and make it happen. Courtney is far more go-with-the-flow than I am. He has barely an organisational bone in his body, where as I thrive on it. If it were up to him, he would have visited Joanie, flown to Wacken, meandered on down to Party San and then flown home. Not because he doesn’t want to see more, but purely because he would turn up and work out the rest later!  

The idea of doing that does appeal to me – spending as long as you want in each place, getting to know the people and moving on as your thirst for new things rekindles. We chose to make life difficult for ourselves for a couple of reasons. To fit in the festivals we want to attend, we will travel in the peak of the High Season, when queues are at their longest and camp grounds fill months in advance. We could have done Italy and Greece before the festivals, but we would have had to wait until 2012 because we need every spare day before we leave to save money for the trip. Travelling in High Season means we have to book campgrounds, connecting ferries and buses quite far in advance. There are a few bonuses here – we have to carry less money with us because a lot will be prepaid, and websites often offer early bird and online-booking discounts so we save a bit here too. 

I will be sure to let you know what works and what doesn't! In the meantime, anyone have any tips for us?