Before I start babbling about how fantastic my vacation was, and it was so, so fantastic, I’m putting in one little disclaimer: it was a roadtrip with kids. It was not perfect. However, from now on, it will sound perfect and be perfect in my memory.

For the first time we went on vacation. A whole, week-long, proper vacation. Not 2-3-4 days. A week. Including two weekends. This is what I needed. I needed time with Dave. I needed time with the kids. I needed time to breath. And to be able to do it in Europe, to drive to Italy, through France, Switzerland, brush past Monaco & Austria, well there aren’t words enough to describe how incredibly blessed I feel. Just the drive. The beauty, the history, the culture is an amazing experience. I’d say my eyes are “all looked out” but they’re not. I could do this again tomorrow.

Roadtrips in Europe are expensive. I’m quadruple-y grateful for Veronica, not only is she beautiful, blue & big but she is diesel. We drove through Switzerland, through Italy, all the way to the South of France (Cannes) before filling up again! With controlled, highway speeds she can go 1,200 kilometers. I’d also searched diligently for reasonable hotels, hostels, gîtes (more on this Saturday) and home-away-from-homes. A must for the budget-minded traveler. None of my finds are the Ritz-Carlton, or even a Motel Six alongside the highway. They are, however, part of the experience of traveling Europe.

Our first day we had a reservation in Genova (Genoa, Italy) 600+ km away. We weren’t in a rush, and stopped to enjoy the Rheinfalls in Switzerland. Not as big as Niagara, but still the biggest plain falls in Europe, powerful, stunning and it was a perfect sunny day. My only regret is that we didn’t do the Schloss Laufen (castle walk) to see the falls from all the different viewpoints, but with wriggle-worm Dane in tow I was too nervous. I also greatly regret stopping to eat in Switzerland. I’d promised the kids McDonalds on the way down to Italy, and we found a McDonalds in Switzerland. Switzerland is not part of the EU. It is not part of the Euro. They have their own money, Swiss Francs, CHF, or as we call them “chufs”.

One McDonalds double cheeseburger was CHF 3.90 or $4.25. As a family of five, including one teenage boy, we do not eat only one McDonalds double cheeseburger. As beautiful as Switzerland is, from now on it will be day trips with a packed picnic! I can’t imagine the cost of sitting down for a cheese fondue (on my bucket list) with the perfect glass of wine.

Switzerland, and Germany, are both beautifully maintained. The roads are near-perfect. The grass alongside mowed, garbage almost non-existent. The multiple tunnels in Switzerland are well lit, well ventilated, clean, wide, seemingly brand new with emergency exits every 300 meters. Then we got to Italy. The excitement in our car overflowed. Tess almost bounced out of her seat, she is part Italian you know, from Dave’s grandfather, Sicilian by birth. Immediately it looked Italian (I’d been once before: Naples & Pompei I). It felt Italian. And the tunnels screamed Italian. They were darker, not as well-lit, not as clean, smaller with less exits. The difference in tunnels, only miles apart, clearly illustrates the difference in economics between Switzerland & Italy.

When we got to Genova, it was chaos. Italians are not as orderly, are not as sign-crazy, as the Germans. Also, Genova is a maze of teeny, tiny alleys. Many of them one-way. Our GPS was not hip to the Genova way of roadage. Finding our hostel/hotel, after four separate attempts, was a testament to Dave’s land navigation skills. On a street with towering buildings, there was one door tucked in amongst many, and that was our hotel. Inside the lobby was cool, dark, old. The actual check-in desk up stairs of worn marble curved in. The young man checking us in spoke wonderful English, though, at first, he answered my broken Italian in Dutch. It turns out I speak all languages with a strong Dutch accent, despite having left Holland at 12.

After check-in, and exploring our rooms (yes rooms, but with ceilings so low I felt like a giant! And I’m 5’2″), we walked down to the port, a mere two blocks away. The sun was setting beautiful on the water, ships and yachts(!). Behind us the city glowed with warm yellows and oranges. While the kids jumped on a trampoline by the waterfront, the wonderful operator cheering them on & helping Dane get higher, I took my camera and took pictures. I could’ve stayed in Genova for years. Just to take pictures.