This was always going to be a great trip.
Firstly it is the first trip of my 3rd season, I have been looking forward to being back on the road ever since I got off my last trip 8 months ago! Secondly, it is a trip that I haven’t done before but one that I have been requesting for the last 2 years. Thirdly, I have with me an on road chef in training. She has already done 4 weeks of intensive training trip and is now joining us for 2 weeks to see how a real trip runs! I love having lots of crew around so another friend is always welcome.
The trip itself is called the European Adventure and is 34 days of camping with all sorts of cool things included. Highlights for me are going to be my old love Barcelona, 3 days of sailing in the Greek islands, having my birthday at the UNESCO world heritage site Plitvice lakes in Croatia as well as Budapest, a city it has been 2 years since I last visited!
We have a large group, 44 to start with, with numbers only changing slightly as we pick up and drop off passengers along the way. This is where my TORC (Training On Road Chef) comes in very handy. Another pair of hands when cooking for 44 is always welcome!
I had known who my TL was weeks before we began and was so excited to work with her. We met several times last year and always had good chats and she has been excited to have such a big camping trip.
When we met everyone at Calais I was surprised to see just how many Australians were on our trip! We do have some Kiwis and Canadians and 1 girl from Guatamala but so very many are Australian which is unusual compared to other trips I have done in the past.
There looked to be SOOO many of them at Calais and there was an even split of girls and guys which is always nice. The first drive in to Paris is always a bit quiet. Nobody knows each other yet and it is basically a rush for us to get in to Paris as soon as possible. Dinner was smashed out super quick and was made much easier by the fact that I had my extra pair of hands! In the pre-departure information we had from our passengers it said that we only had one dietary requirement on board. A peanut allergy, which is easy to cater for. Just don’t do anything with peanuts! When I had asked around the coach one by one if anyone had any allergies or dietary requirements however the numbers grew and grew. In the end I had 10 dietary requirements. Some were simple like a kiwi allergy and some are more complex like a vegan and a lactose and soy allergy.
That first night culminates as most of our trips do in a driving tour of Paris lit up by it’s thousands of sparkling lights. Satisfied but tired we got home at about 11 and took the time to wash dishes and the coach and have a catch up with the site crew before crashing in to our beds at 1.30.
The start of our busiest day of the trip was early. Bacon and eggs were for breakfast and they were gulped down by passengers who had had a very cold first night. Unfortunately on every trip there are passengers who know that they are coming on a tour of Europe in summer and assume that the temperatures will be the same all over the continent. This can mean that they come ill equipped for some of the destinations like Paris and Amsterdam which are often quite cool. Over breakfast they made resolutions to purchase another jumper or a blanket that day.
My extra pair of hands and I went shopping at the large Metro supermarket next. We took the site car and got some directions and left. I had never done the drive before, in the past I have always got a taxi or my driver has taken me. This time we managed to get ridiculously lost before deciding to go back to the camp-site and start again from the start. Thank goodness that second time was better but we had already wasted an hour of our day with trying to find the place. We split up the shopping list and got to work.
It was quite a large shop because we were stocking up for the next 4 days so that we wouldn’t have to shop in Switzerland where the prices are a bit more expensive. We also had to visit a second supermarket to get some smaller bits and pieces that are not available at the first shop.
All in all it was it was about 2pm by the time we came back to our driver and TL at the camp-site. The next 3 hours were spent putting together a picnic of epic proportions. Salads, meats, cheeses, quiches, seafood, eclairs, macaroons and of course snails and frogs legs.
At the picnic the passengers were all exhausted from their huge day of walking and exploring their first European city. They filled their stomachs whilst sitting on the grass, surrounded by flowers and the hulking loom of the Eiffel tower just behind them. Straight after the picnic we headed off to the cabernet which is always my favourite way to end my stint in Paris. The girls are topless and so are the boys. The theatre is beautiful and a glass of wine at the end of such a big day always feels like a reward for getting through it again. It was another late night with cleaning and organising and I was so excited the next morning to get on the coach on the way to Switzerland and go back to sleep for the first leg of the drive.