And Away We Go! Summer Adventures

I’ve just arrived back in Europe this weekend and am on the summer beat. The past 10 or so summers have been spent working with Rick Steves Family Europe tours, and this summer is no exception. Starting in London, we hit Paris, French countryside, Switzerland, Cinque Terre, and finish in Florence. Is it hot? Heck yes. Is it fun? You bet!

One of the great delights of guiding family tours is working with kids. It’s not for everyone, but I find it incredibly rewarding. Teens and Tweens are my favorite demographic. They listen. They get it. And the things we do may change the trajectory of their lives. It’s important and fulfilling work, that goes beyond drinking good wine and talking about art. Some kids who traveled with me a decade ago still stay in contact, and some have become amazing world citizens based on their experience on this tour. So I do love this time of year.

We’ve already hit London, where I celebrated my birthday with high tea at my favorite spot, The Wolesely. Now we are in Paris, where local temperatures were set to hit 104 F, but thankfully stayed to a balmy 90 degrees. While I do like heat, guiding in heat is a bit trying since I have to be preoccupied with keeping my people comfortable and cool. We will soon be heading to the countryside, my favorite part of the tour.

This particular summer overall will be quite different. I’ll be here in Europe almost the entire summer. I’ll be leading two Family tours, with a few days of Me-Time in between, but the fun will really begin July 21. For the first time, BOTH of my sons will be joining me in Europe.

The three of us will be on an epic journey, driving from Venice to Palermo, then traveling through France back to London. The itinerary isn’t really set at this point. The only request from the kids is to meet and stay with my friends. So far, we have some great invitations.

My older son, Lucca, is studying French in high school and would ultimately like to study at university in France. That’s what has inspired this particular adventure, I want him to spend a couple of weeks being forced to speak only French. I can get by in French, but I’ve never formally learned it, so my skills as a tutor have been stretched even by his first year class.

I’m still in the planning stages, but I hope to use this time to double task, vacation plus writing plus tour planning. I would like to write about southern Italy beyond the typical things like the Amalfi coast. That region could really use tourism, and I’m interested to see how I can help. I’ll also be gearing up to possibly expand the Sicily book. But nothing is for sure.

What I can guarantee is that I’ll be writing to you more. It may not be in formal article fashion, but more like a stream of short updates, like a letter to friends. It will be a deviation from my normal style, and much more frequent than the past year. I hope you’ll enjoy riding along with me on this adventure.

So what I’d like from you is a bit of direction. What would you like to hear about? History? Art? Family travel? Packing? Travel anecdotes? Or maybe just little snapshots of my day? And if you have any thoughts on where we should go, I’d love to hear them. My plans with the kids are still wide open.

As always, thanks for being my virtual companions. I hope to be a better friend to you this summer, we really should talk more often, no?

Bisous from Paris.



36 replies on “And Away We Go! Summer Adventures”

  1. I’d love to hear about travelling with your children. Mine are 9, 9 and 15. We love to travel and Europe is looking good for the coming years. We did Europe, Russia, Scandinavia when they were small, but now that they can take it in, understand and participate, I’d love to know what are some unique things we might see and do. We talk about renting a place in Italy for several weeks. Good idea or no?

  2. I would love to hear more about family travel. I also have 2 sons (6 & 9) and would love to take them on a trip to Italy, France and maybe Germany.

  3. You asked! I love photos of remarkable food with descriptions. I took a camper with friends in southern Italy, and can report that some campgrounds also have inexpensive motel rooms, and inexpensive cafes. The best pizza of that trip was at a campground. And since they are campgrounds, they are not downtown, so quiet at night and the streets to get to them are more navigable. In Florence, something different is the old medical school wax museum. Hard to explain why it is interesting, but it is, and it is a break from the crowds and from looking at churches & renaissance art. In the south, Matera was literally awesome, as was exploring colluseums not in Rome. In Rome there are lines and tons of people. We went to the amphitheatre at Capua in Campania. Maybe 100 people in the whole place. They have some cool dioramas in the museum, shows gladiators fighting, etc. And you can walk down below in the area where they held the combatants. The Bourbon palace at Caserta in Naples is wonderful. The roads to get there not so much. And someone stayed with our vehicle as car safety in Naples can be iffy. A hint for that – my friend saw the line up the stairs, after we got our tickets, and suggested we take the long hallway first, to see what else could be seen. I think she wanted to hurry because her husband was waiting at the camper. We ended up going up a staircase that led to the main rooms with no line and no ticket takers, so strolled around easily. Its a great thing when you can show your kids examples of being creative in viewing things. Another example, a guidebook said there were these great murals in a government building, in Foggia I believe (I may have that wrong – don’t have my travel diary with me). There were no signs at the building indicating that they received visitors, so I went to a man and asked in Italian if I could see them. He said sure, so took me upstairs, and we got to stroll around about 6 ornately painted and decorated rooms with nobody else around. Many times I have found in Italy that it helps to ask – they may have the option of opening something up, but only do so on request.

  4. HI Sarah – a suggestion

    One very happy event we had when in Paris on a mid-May Sunday afternoon a few years ago was to take a ride on a river cruse. We used one of the river cruise excursion companies that departs and returns at the Eiffel Tower. I wanted to the end of the ride just as the lights came on the tower. Worked perfectly.

    I checked the sunset time for that date in Paris and the timing for the different sunset cruise durations, etc. and calculated which ride we needed to take. The key was to have the run END just as the Tower lights went off.

    We waited to buy our tickets until right AFTER the ride ahead of was closed for boarding. We boarded at the head of the line, got good seats on top of the boat, and off we went. I think the excursions departed every 30 minutes but lasted 1+ hours. It was such a happy experience as we motored up the river. It was a “Disney Productions” event. So much fun with the views from the river, but even better, watching what all the people, young and old, along the river shore. The weather was sunny and warm. It was getting pretty dark as we returned to the dock. As if on cue, when the boat touched the dock, the Eiffel tower lit up! Perfect!

    1. I actually do this with my family groups. We take the Bateaux Mouches and I try to hit the boat that passes the tower at the right moment. Doesn’t work at the moment as the first sparkle is at 11pm

  5. I’d love to hear your travel anecdotes and also hear about family travel. Your boys are about the same age as my children so hearing about what interests them would be great.

  6. I vote snapshot of your day. With photos of local interests, not necessarily tourist things. I love following your posts. You helped me plan, pack for ( under 15lb backpack suitcase) and execute two trips to Europe. The only two I have ever taken!

  7. Sarah, what I’d love to hear about from you is ALL of the above! Definitely art, anecdotes, packing and snapshots!

    I’m always delighted to see an email from you and open it first thing!

    Have a great summer and enjoy your working-vacation with your sons.

  8. I would love to hear more about Southern Italy, specifically Puglia. In fact, I think you should do a tour in this region. I’ll sign up!

  9. I love reading your blogs about anything. Since I’ve been on tour with you, I hear your voice as I read, so it feels like you are just talking to me! Any topic is helpful, the good, the bad, and the ugly, as coping with surprises is part of travel. We have a 10 year old granddaughter whom we hope to take to Europe, maybe when she is 12. Your family tour would be perfect, so I look forward to your posts during those trips. Enjoy your trip with your boys—sounds wonderful.

  10. I love it all, snapshots of the day, travel tips, and packing tips- love it! Always interested in art and history. I love learning where a place has been historically, and seeing it reflected in art. Helps me to understand our modern world better.

  11. First of all, don’t try to do too much!!

    Love to hear about the road trip. The driving, parking, positives, negatives. Anecdotes along the way. Peculiarities of the area that day. Best places for a breather.

    How an area has changed since last time you were there would be interesting.

    But stream of consciousness is just fine.

  12. I enjoy your real life blogging. I would like to hear more aboit the people in the areas you visit. Your boys will be able to “open up” the people. I am well traveled and sites are less interesting than they used to be. Individuals are always interesting. Thanks!

  13. Perhaps your sons would like the Path of the Gods hike on Amalfi coast?
    Perhaps they’d like the drawings of bomber airplanes drawn during WWII beneath that Ortigia Church ?
    They’ve probably already done Mt ETNA?
    Whatever you choose to write about will interest all of us!
    Thanks for everything.

  14. I love reading your anecdotes of real life encounters, adventures and things you experience while on the road. Of course, I have gained much from your advice oriented articles but it’s so enjoyable to read about your experiences when I’m not traveling myself and can sit back and picture what you’re doing. So, sharing what you are doing when the boys join you will be quite fun!

    I took my grand daughter (age 18) to Paris & Barcelona just a month ago – we were blessed with mild weather the entire time. Thank God, we missed this heat wave you are dealing with!

  15. You are very insightful and a great writer so I would enjoy reading your observations and thoughts about the people you encounter during your day — both tourists and not.

  16. My husband and I are taking our two kids(ages 11 and 3) to Europe next summer. We took them to Europe in August as well. Our last trip went well but I’d love to hear more tips about packing for children and things to keep children occupied on international flights (this was the thing we struggled most with on our last trip).

  17. Family travel!
    My six year old and I just returned from a four week trip – Germany, Czech Republic, Salzburg, Belgium, Netherlands. I always rely on RS guidebooks for everything. It would be wonderful to hear more about travel from a mom with kids. There is surprisingly not much out there on this topic – travel as a woman, and travel as a woman on her own with children is very different. I always enjoy your travel tips and can’t wait to read more!

  18. I love just hearing about your day to day activities, and spots you’re particularly enjoying.

    As for the Amalfi coast, I was there many years ago on a tour, and of course we went to the Isle of Capri and the Blue Grotto. For a less (then at least) touristy activity later as we drove down the coast to Amalfi from Sorrento, our guide rented a boat south of Naples and north of Amalfi (it was blazing hot!) and we followed the coast by water. Along the way we stopped at a grotto that was green and much prettier than the Blue Grotto, with no tourists except us. And we didn’t have to listen to the caterwauling boat guides singing “O solo mio”. When we went to Pompei, we had a terrific local guide who really did a good job of having us imagine life in that city before the eruption.

  19. So excited for you and your boys. What a blast! Whatever you write about, I am certain to goble it up – I find your posts inspiring and humouris as well as educational. Many thanks!

  20. I like the idea of little snapshots of your day but it would be cool if you include things that aren’t the typical “we saw xyz awesome thing today”. Like things that surprised you – the good, bad, or ugly (let’s face it, &#* happens). Or describing a detail your kids noticed that you’ve passed by before, those fresh young, un-jaded eyes could teach us to pay attention! Better yet, have your kiddos do a couple of the updates, and tell some behind the scenes stories about traveling with their mom. Also based on some of your recent posts, the curious would enjoy a mid-trip update on how those shoe and clothing choices are working out. 🙂

  21. I love following your posts! They are very informative, and I always pick up a few good tips. I look forward to hearing about your adventure with your boys. I would love to take my almost 12 year old grandson on a European vacation, so I will look forward to your tips.

  22. Would love some family travel tips since we’re going to Europe as a family for the first time. I have 8 & 10 year old boys & we would love to go to a soccer match near the end of August.

  23. I’d like to hear about snapshots of your day, your favorite places, packing without dresses and general fun stories.

  24. Sarah, Since you’re still working on your itinerary, you might find a nugget or two in this article from last Sunday’s Washington Post about traveling with kids in Provence. (All you have to do is rent a $4500 a week vacation home like the author, right?)

    The Post has a tricky but surmountable paywall. I subscribe but let me know if you have trouble reading this. They’ll usually give you four or five free articles a month.


    1. Sarah, you asked what would we like you to write about in the coming months. For myself, anything you would like to share. I love reading about your travels, suggestions you may have, travels with your sons, etc.
      Whatever you put out there, I will be along for the ride…happy travels.

  25. I think your boys would really enjoy Matera – so weirdly wonderful and interesting. Looking forward to following your travels!

  26. Family travel and actually anything else you feel is important for us to know. My husband and I took our two oldest grandchildren on one of the first ever Family Tours (it was the only family tour and was basically the 14day itinerary-thank you, my friend Dimitri!) and next summer, I will be taking that same family on the Adriatic tour. At the time (2008), they were just-turned 7 and nearly 9 and next summer will be 19 and nearly 21. What has been accomplished in the intervening years: travel has “change(d) the trajectory of their lives. It’s important and fulfilling work, that goes beyond drinking good wine and talking about art.” They both have become amazing world citizens, this personal growth encouraged by their experiences on these tours. Since that initial tour in 2008, they have traveled with RS on 4 other tours, each one more rewarding, educational and enriching than the one before. Need I say how proud I am of the young adults they have become? This is what you look forward to accomplishing with everything you are offering your sons and those who are lucky enough to travel with you on your Family Tours and you will achieve that goal. Travel is the best gift you can give your children or grandchildren-or yourself! Thank you, Sarah.

  27. Puglia and Matera maybe? Just a thought. This fall myself and some family members are going back to the region about 3 hours south of Naples and back to Ortodonico and Casal Velino where our Italian heritage came from 150 years ago. In 2015 we stayed in Acciaroli and drove around. This time I want to see Matera, we didn’t have time before, but I am retired now!

  28. Puglia and Matera maybe? Just a thought. This fall myself and some family members are going back to the region about 3 hours south of Naples and back to Ortodonico and Casal Velino where our Italian heritage came from 150 years ago. In 2015 we stayed in Acciaroli and drove around.

  29. Love traveling ‘via the internet’ with you! I enjoy seeing what you see and look forward to reading these adventures with your boys.

  30. Sounds like a fantastic summer! I would like to learn more about how you do family travel – train versus car for routes, best times of the year for regions/cities, can’t miss family friendly activities that aren’t the usual hot spots of particular sights. Thanks!

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