The French Alps was interesting for a variety of reasons… first off, because the entire time we were in France, the Football world cup was on and by the time we got to the final, Portugal against… wait for it… FRANCE, while we were in France, you can imagine that the locals were somewhat ambiguous about us being Portuguese. Before we wiped the floor with them, the French were polite but quite smug in their convictions that their team would beat the Portuguese. But then, they didn´t… and their smug politeness vanished into thin air. So we decided to head to Italy, where people are less polite but at least you know where you stand.
To get to Italy, you either need to pay a fortune to use one of the tunnels that cuts through the mighty Alps, or you travel one of the many steep mountain passes. Since we are not rich and were, at the time, quite unemployed, we went with the mountain pass option, via Mont Cenis, which was beautiful but very cold (even in July, peak of summer). We decided to spend the night on the shores of Lac Cenis surrounded by brown cows and decend into Italy the next morning. Luckily we didn´t choose too remote a spot to spend the night and had the company of a few other camper vans, as it was the coldest night of the entire trip (it snowed on the mountain tops around us) and the next morning, we couldn´t get the van to start. Thank goodness for jumper cables and friendly neighbours!
San Sebastian, or Donostia, is another city that we had previously visited but we spent a few days here on our trip because: pintxos. The Spanish lay claim to tapas but the Basques take it to a whole other level with their version: bigger, tastier and far more inventive than mere tapas, pintxos are more than just a pre-dinner snack or accompaniment to a few drinks. Pintxos eating is a huge part of the local culture and a social event in itself. Food is life in the Basque country, so we definitely weren´ t going to skip through town without eating as many delicious things as possible. It rained, of course… it´s always raining here, and if it´s not raining, it’s because it was raining and is going to rain again soon. But the food makes up for it, and the fact that the Spanish are much more dog-friendly than in Portugal meant we could take Zé into restaurants while we ate and he even got his own bowl of water… although I think he Would have preferred a few pintxos, really.
Several of these images were previously published by the travel blog Mr Hudson, you can see the full article HERE.
So! After a 6 month hiatus on the blog, and almost a year after we set off on our European Van Voyager Adventure (how can it be that it´s been almost a year!!!) I have finally gotten (most) of my ducks in a row and have some photos to share and stories to tell about our travels.
And an adventure it was! We knew, going into this, that we would have stressful days, that the van would break down and that our (incredibly limited) knowledge on mechanics and electrics would be challenged on a regular basis… all of which happened, but nowhere near as much as we´d expected (thankfully!). But more on that later. Our biggest challenge, which I have mentioned before, was the internet. Or more specifically, the lack of it. Which, in itself, says a lot about the society we live in currently and is actually quite sad, that a lack of internet would be such a cause of stress. But the unfortunate truth is that money makes the world go around, and we rely on the internet to be able to make money. And without money, there would be no road trip.
We also completely underestimated how hard it is to work remotely, especially when you´re in beautiful places and in holiday mode… the last thing you want to do is be chasing free wifi and trying to squeeze a weeks worth of online work into a few hours (Emails! Skype meetings! Blog posts! Downloading offline maps! Where the hell are we sleeping tonight!) If you are planning a long trip like this and want to be able to work on the road, I would definitely recommend a wifi booster arial thingie. We met a few German travellers while on the road (the Germans are always so organised) and they all had them, definitely something we would get if we ever did this again.
Anyways, this is Bilbao, a port city in the north of Spain and a place we´d been to before (see previous blog posts HERE) and most of these images were taken for a piece I wrote about the city for Mr Hudson, see it HERE.
At the beginning of the year I was introduced to the site Mr Hudson Explores by a friend and fellow photographer Emanuele Siracusa, who asked me to co-produce a a few articles with him (his photos, my text). Since then, and co-inciding with our van-life adventure across Europe, I have been able to write and photograph several pieces for the site… the latest of which is a Dubrovnik city guide. I am really enjoying working together with the Mr Hudson team and it´s been great to watch this project grow and develop over this first year of it´s existence, here´s to many more! Visit my author page to see the full list of pieces I´ve written for them.
Everyone seems to be really happy that 2016 is over (everyone on Facebook at least!) and can´t stop complaining about what a terrible year it´s been but honestly, I have to say that it´s been one of the most incredible years of my life and I´m a little bit sad that it´s almost over. If 2017 is even half as good, I will be a happy camper.
Happy New Year everyone! ❤