On the night before we leave for Africa, we’re bracing ourselves for the next phase of our family’s journey. However, just a couple weeks ago it was the Celtic gale force winds that had us bracing ourselves. We left Ireland from Rosslare Harbour on an overnight ferry not knowing when we boarded we’d be sailing into a wind storm. While it was somewhat amusing to watch everyone stagger around as though they’d had too much of the Irish whiskey sold in the boat’s gift shop, the hilarity of it all wore off during dinner. Greasy, cafeteria-style food plus a swaying sea vessel equals five green Carisches. We went to bed that night in our little cabin with stomachs lurching, but woke up the next day to calm waters and clear skies for our cruise into the port at Cherbourg, France.
When we disembarked the boat, we drove back into the right-hand lane of traffic for the first time in almost two months. A few hours later as the sun set and the Eiffel Tower lit up the skyline, we made our way through the streets of Paris. We spent the next two days taking the girls to see Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Tuilleries, Place de la Concorde and, of course, the top of the Eiffel Tower.
One particular highlight for the girls was the “Pigeon Man.” We came upon this well known character near the Louvre. It must have been a magical time for us in Paris because I found myself watching complacently as this complete stranger encouraged pigeons (aka – rats with wings) to perch themselves on my daughters’ arms and peck bird food out of their hands. I blame the French wine for this lapse in hygiene standards.
After Paris we drove nine hours straight south through France, wound our way up through the Pyrenees mountains and landed ourselves back again at the home of our Andorran family. The week with the Mari, Ori and the cousins was fun, familiar and relaxing. Brian hiked into the mountains to capture some beautiful photos of Andorra. I got a much needed dose of “girl time” with Mari as we chatted throughout the week over coffee or wine (depending on the time of day) on everything from kids to politics. The Carisch and Taulats children celebrated Halloween together, played for hours on end, and even put on a rather impressive production of Three Billy Goats Gruff complete with costumes and makeup.
Our time in Andorra flew by and before we knew it we had said our goodbyes to our family and were driving down through the canyon into Spain. As Montserrat rose on the horizon in front of us, the realization we would soon be leaving the comforts of the western world started to sink in. Soon after we returned our little silver Renault Scenic, which has been our trusty road companion throughout most of our time in Europe. We clocked 14,119 kilometers on her over the last five months. She’s seen us happy and mad, calm and stressed, giggling together and ready to strangle each other. We’ll miss our little road warrior and how well she got us through many curves in the roads we traveled.
Tonight we’re staying in a hotel near the Barcelona airport, and first thing tomorrow morning we fly out for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Despite months of research and many discussions with our contacts there, it’s still hard to imagine what Africa will be like. We’ll be participating in an education program orchestrated by Cherokee Gives Back, a nonprofit working with local partners to advance global efforts in alleviating poverty and improving the environment. We’re excited about the opportunity to see this part of the world and learn about the programs in place to advance Africa in the world economy. We know its going to be an incredibly eye-opening experience for our family.
So here goes. Thanks for a fabulous six months Europe! Next stop: Africa.