I love road trips, always have. So when my husband, Ross, first mentioned the idea of traveling through Europe by car with his dad and stepmom, I was on board immediately! There is no better way to see the country – or in this case, multiple countries – than by car. Plus the fact that his dad, who lives in Canada, was willing to get on a plane (an act that he hasn’t done for many, many years) made the trip even more special.
The in-laws, Barry and Joan, arrived in Budapest and got over their jet-lag rather quickly. We showed them the typical sights – the Castle District, Heroes Square, Great Market Hall – took them to our favorite restaurants and strolled down Andrássy út. But the real fun was just about to begin.
Our trip was scheduled for a total of 18 days and one of the goals was for Ross and his dad to cycle together, see parts of Europe on two wheels. How inspiring, what a bonding experience between a father and his son, right? Barry had been putting some serious mileage on his bike back in Canada for the past 8 weeks or so, conditioning his body for wherever the road will lead them, whatever hill they may have to climb. Ross…not so much. Ross had been on his bike a total of one time. In fact, he didn’t even buy the bike until two weeks before Barry and Joan showed up! This “bonding” experience was either going to be the ride of a lifetime with his old man or the moment when his competitive 36 year-old self gets schooled by his equally competitive 64 year-old father, trailing behind his dad with half a lung, spaghetti for legs and a bruised ego. My first thought was, this is going to go well.
Being gone for that long did give me another concern – the pets. I wanted to be sure our two dogs and cat were going to be well taken care of and paying for a pet sitter for that long can really get to be expensive. So I decided to take a chance and use a service I had read about called Trusted Housesitters, a website that allows people to post their house that needs to be looked after while they are away. House sitters, who have their profile on the site, can contact the homeowners and ask for the job. The homeowner has complete control over who they choose to look after their home and pets. And the great news is that it costs absolutely nothing! The homeowners get their pets and house taken care of while the sitters get a free place to stay. It’s a win-win – brilliant!
The couple I chose, and I got tons of emails from people wanting the job, were Canadian (I’m a tad biased) and have been house sitting for 4 years! They are literally homeless and have been traveling the world by house sitting for people, so their lodging is always free. We offered to pick them up at the airport and when we met them for the first time, we liked them instantly. This was a huge relief – I knew my little monsters would be in good hands.
On a Wednesday morning, we loaded up the Toyota station wagon with the bikes on the back, said goodbye to our furry friends, handed over the keys to our trusted house sitters, and hit the road. Our first stop was Bled, Slovenia – a journey that takes a little under 5 hours by car. Ross and I were in Bled only a few months earlier with my parents and loved it, so we knew Barry and Joan would love it too. I won’t go into detail about Bled again, you can read about our previous trip to Bled on “The Carolyn Roup Express” here. But I will mention that we all loved Bled – it’s fantastic the first time and just as fantastic the second time!
Ross and his dad took it easy for their first ride (whew!), cruising around the lake while Joan and I walked it. We also traveled by boat to the little church on the island, tasted the sweet perfection of the Slovenian cream cake and spent our evenings playing cards. So far, the trip was off to a wonderful start.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our trip, where we thread our way through throngs of tourists, brave the crazy narrow roads in a car that’s really just too large for cobblestone streets built by the Romans, and become enchanted by the even crazier, gesticulating locals in…Italy!