A wise man once said ‘to travel is to take a journey into yourself’. So, as August arrived fully with holiday mood, I started focusing on the Europe road trip my family would be going on along with two of our friends and their families.
Our crew was made up of a total of 6 adults and 10 children. I was curious about the experience and what parts of me would unfold as I travel.
This definitely is a first for us, so it took some deliberate planning and ironing out the logistics which was mostly done by the men on the trip, and the ladies conferred on what to pack plus how to survive with our unique children on the road for 10 days.
The children were not left out of the planning and packing, even when I thought I had things all covered, Miss J had been doing her own research watching road trip videos online and she had in-car (derived from in-door) entertainment figured out; puzzles, coloring books, iPad fully charged, head phones and snacks in both hers and her brother’s backpacks.
The Morning of August 5thcame soon enough. I almost forgot my grilled chicken in the oven and that I tell you could have spoilt my trip even before it started, in my head frozen bowls of Nigerian stews and munching chicken on the road were key elements of this trip so the thought of forgetting the chicken in the oven and having rotten chicken smell in the house upon our return was unbearable…
For Hubby the thought of returning home to dead flowers and house plants was the unbearable so he found a way to keep them watered in our absence so…. All set right?
Yeah! Lets go!
Joy sparked up within me as we arrived at our rendezvous point and I saw two cars with two different families waiting for us, these adventurers were ready and raring to go, they certainly weren’t joking, the excitement in the air was palpable and we were all smiles and hugs as we united. The men synced their maps and set course for our first destination. Zoom! Let the trip begin.
I had my road trip playlist blaring and after like two hours we arrived at Reims. Reims (pronounced more like Rance, with the R sound coming from the throat followed by a nasal vowel) is a city located to the east-northeast of Paris. This place is more or less the capital of the French Champaign region.We visited Cathedral Notre-Dame de Reims, an architectural masterpiece, up to 31 French kings were said to have been coronated in this cathedral. Here we stretched our legs and toured the area a bit before setting off for Luxembourg.
I found Luxembourg beautiful, clean and something about this small city was very appealing to me. The trains were neat and beautiful, buses multicolored and new looking. We took a tour round the city and saw some fascinating sites, here, people speak French, German, and Luxembourgish. I will like to visit again. The hours quickly sped by and after two nights in Luxembourg we continued our journey to Frankfurt, Germany.
By the time we embarked on the Germany leg of the trip which was about 3 hours drive from Luxembourg, the kids were tired of sitting still in the car, they were done with puzzles and bored with ipads without wifi, so we played ‘I spy’ many times and Josh began asking ‘are we home yet?
There was so much to see and learn along the beautiful German countryside, I read German sign posts with English accent and choked on my words, hubby teased me as speaking ‘Dothraki’.Imagine my relief to know Germany is a multilingual country, and we will find English or French speakers.
We passed some long narrow roads and experienced the no speed limit on the autobahn, and I learnt a new word ‘Ausfahrt’. This stuck with me because it was funny… i kept seeing big signs with arrows pointing off the road like leading to a city called Ausfahrt, I made a fool of myself telling hubby ‘this Ausfahrt city must be really important, everywhere leads to it! Only to later learn Ausfahrt is simply the German word for ‘exit’, like ‘sortie’ in French. Talking about ‘fart’ we had a lot of brand mixing from the four of us and kept getting fresh air into the car.
On our second day in Frankfurt we went sightseeing and it was educative touring the financial district, the opera house, the botanical garden, museums etc.
The next day we visited one of the largest Natural History Museums in Germany: The Senckenberg Museum, for me that visit was a mind expansion that is unshrinkable, all of us, children and adults were inspired, educated and connected more with our world. There was so much to see and learn.
In the mood for fun we headed off to Rebstockbad, the city´s largest aqua-fun pool and indeed it was a water -showdown! we had so much fun in the indoor and outdoor pools, artificial wave pool, and the children’s area was safe and comfy for the youngest members of our crew so Moms were able to relax and just enjoy ourselves too.
Next…Cologne, spelt Kolon in Dutch. I learnt that ‘eau de Cologne’ means ‘water from Cologne’, so cologne is a perfume originating from Cologne, Germany.
Here our adventures and city touring continued, we drove along the Rhine river and visited some major attractions and the Cologne Cathedral, the height of the cathedral facade, with its twin spires were breathtaking. I hear they’re about the tallest on earth. I also learnt something about the local beer called Kölsch, which is an integral part of the city’s culture. Here, the air was vibrant with diversity, music and culture, here I fell in love with the stunning Botanical Gardens with one sight. I Will definitely love to go back and explore more.
By now we had spent one week on the road, seen places we won’t forget soon and were hungry for home food.
We spent two days in cologne then continued our trip. The drive to Netherlands took us about two and half hours. Here, our crew had our lodgings split into two different areas and this afforded myself and hubby a view of Volendam and Central Amsterdam.
The tour of Volendam happened by accident, we were looking for an accommodation closer to our friends and were directed to visit some hotels in town. Driving round Volendam I found the town’s pretty architecture, the neatness of roads and beautiful flowers here and there adorable. We visited a water front hotel called Hotel Spaander and my artistic self was immediately drawn to the environment, old wooden buildings, creative souvenirs, perfumes and bags. It is a location for another kind of holiday. Unable to find suitable lodging in Volendam we headed off to our Amsterdam apartment and that proved to be our best accommodation for the entire trip.
On our second day in Amsterdam we hooked up with our crew for a cruise through the canals of Amsterdam. Amsterdam, i’ve been told is a city with 80% below sea level, it was a marvel seeing the nice canal streets with houses on the sides, some people actually live on the waters in houseboat apartments fully equiped and more beautiful than some houses on land.
I had never seen so many bicycles in one location like I saw in Amsterdam central, cycling seems to be an important way of life here, tulips flowers were booming here and there, I saw Europe’s highest swing; people swinging from the roof top of a tower, some risky business I tell you! The weather in Amsterdam was cold for us and we didn’t stay out much but communication was easier as many people speak English here.
In Amsterdam we found somewhere to stock up and cook foods similar to home foods. So we were recharged. Off to Belgium…
Precisely, Antwerpen in Belgium. We spent some time around Antwerp’s central station and found it fascinating, hubby told me it’s rated one of the most beautiful stations in the world. There was a zoo around there and in front of the Zoo was an open space where the kids had so much fun jumping on trampolines and climbing the Ferries wheel which gave us a very good view of the city. Antwerp seemed like a vibrant cultural hub to my tourist eyes, there was gospel music blaring and one of us even took the mic to sing, notable were the several diamond stores and some busy areas and landscapes which could be compared to Lagos Island. Infact, we saw a building with a Nigerian name, Okereke building in Belgium?! Closeby was an African restaurant where we wolfed down some jollof rice, fried plantain, grilled fish etc. This meal was like a beacon home… we sighed in satisfaction not only because of the food, but due to a trip well spent.
The next morning we all boarded our vehicles and headed back to France, Miss Jay happily announcing ‘I’m going to be farting all the way to Paris’ having eaten all sorts on the trip and Josh seemed relieved to be finally going home.
We had come full circle moving from Paris – Reims -Luxembourg-Frankfurt – Cologne – Amsterdam -Antwerp in 10 days!
So what did this trip do for me:-
- It has enriched my stories.
- Broaden my knowledge of Europe
- Connected me more with fellow travelers
- Family bonding time while stuck in the car for hours
- I had time to reflect and be inspired by nature
- Try new things and test new languages on my tongue
- Enable me to appreciate our world more and appreciate other cultures. I learnt the stranger on the road is a miracle
He is the unfamiliar path leading me to new discoveries.
In conclusion, the experience was worth the drive and about my earlier stated curiosity as to what parts of me would unfold as I travel…I met my more adventurous self, the one who wants to climb heights and cruise depths as a model to her daughter that fear is a coward, the more you try new things, the more fearless you become. I became more conscious of the fragility of life (living in the moment) and the diversity of life (embracing cultures and people who are different from me), I paid more attention to my environment and I consciously stayed grateful all through.
Oops! I forgot to mention our inhouse entertainments on this trip, we were treated to live performances by the … hnmmm I can’t call them spice girls, maybe the ‘atarodo’ girls or ‘small peppers’ but they were spicy enough to get us parents shaking our heads and their brothers asking them to please reduce their spice and shut it off. Lol. Click below to hear their top song ‘holiday’. As their manager, you can call me for bookings.
Movie nights were also part of the fun, this is where I give kudos to my gadget guru husband who brought his projector along, we would gather and watch movies, the laughing and sharing was something we don’t often do and it was a major stress relief.
Thankful for these beautiful people.