How to see the world–with your children–for under $2000.

Book a cheap European cruise.

Oh my Heavens, we’ve been home from our massive vacation forever and I can’t seem to get this finished. Posterity can be so demanding, like any of them will really ever care about our European vacations.

The morning after the split skull debacle in Garmisch we woke early and made the lovely drive to Switzerland where we stayed at the temple and visited the Swiss Alps. The temple hostel was awesome in a dorm/prison kind of style, but it had a big user-friendly kitchen and play room in the basement and the kids thought our bunk room was the coolest thing ever. I would have liked a chair to sit on but who’s counting? Jason and I woke early and did a session before heading off to the Alps. We tried to take a family picture and included everyone who was cooperating. Kind of makes you wonder which one of us might not make it on the other side…I’m kidding. Really. Just kidding.

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This was a mostly awesome day, unfortunately June came with us. We took the kids on a tram that goes right up to the village of Gimwald. It’s the only way to access the teensy community perched in the tops of the mountains. Years ago they got smart and declared themselves and “avalanche zone” to ensure that developers wouldn’t hone in on their family centered community. It’s a little farming settlement and the road zig zags it’s way past the three or four dozen houses with a view of the mountains that is enough to make you giddy. It could have been the altitude but I think it was the majesty that really got me.

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Apparently it also got June. She had three time-outs almost back to back on the steps of a boarded up gasthaus. I managed to avoid yelling (echos and avalanches, you know) and we made it off the mountain with all four children in tow.

We headed south to Genoa (a cool city, hardly saw it) to catch our cruise ship and spent the afternoon at the buffet. The ship was on the smaller end of cruise ships but the kids were thrilled to see “Crewey” and settled in without the usual “first day on the boat” drama.

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Our first stop was Marseilles (pronounced Mar-say). It might have been my favorite stop of the whole trip. The weather was phenomenal and we were having a lovely morning, getting ready for the boat ride out to the Chateau d’If (Count of Monte Cristo, anyone? Notice the boat name?) when Harrison ran smack into a pole while reading his map and just about broke his nose. Of course, this is also the day I forgot to bring wipes off the boat with me.

He survived the hemorrhaging and we  finally boarded the boat. Things were pretty good from there on out. The island was so cool, desolate and and rugged and creepy and beautiful, and the prison was perfectly old and terrifying. Georgia was freaked out the entire time. I managed to get enough great pictures of my kids to cancel out the need for a professional photo shoot this year. Our Chateau d’If photos turned out fantastic, I’ll edit them more before printing but here’s the raw stuff. I’m standing with the kids in front of the “Graffiti Wall” with stones from prisoners who had stayed there in the 1800’s. After If, we took a little trolly train up to a church for a view of the city. Breathtaking.

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Our next stop was Barcelona, we visited Goudy’s most famous church and it absolutely boggled my mind. It was…stunning. Sometimes words are stupid, there aren’t really any to describe this place. It was refreshing and thoughtful and mathematical and I swear it’s destined to turn up in a Dan Brown novel any day now. The massive inside pillars were tree stems with flowers holding the ceiling in place, and everything was designed to reflect the wind and the plants and Mother Earth. It was cool, very light and very sacred.






After visiting the church we hit the main thoroughfare where all the tourists and pick pockets congregate. They sell the typical tourist garb, but they also sell little pets. Our kids all begged for bird or a hamster or a turtle, anything that breathed. It’s hard to say no to Georgia.We found a sprawling, bustling food market. For those of you who have been to Seattle’s famous Pike Place, don’t ever go to the one in Barcelona. It will ruin Seattle for you. Last Import - 116

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In the night we went by Gibralter and Jason got a photo. I finally got up the nerve to look at his head. Totally freaked me out, but it was very effective. Taxi drivers gave him a major discount and people literally scrambled out of his way.

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After a refreshing day at sea we pulled into Morocco for a wild adventure in Casablanca. Taxi drivers there are psycho. They practically come to blows over potential customers yelling and shoving each other, it was like Jerry Springer Live, in Arabic.

We visited the third largest mosque in the world and took an amazing tour. Cool stuff. Then we hit the old shopping market and made out like banshees with totes and pottery and clothes and shoes, and Jason found a lovely Turkish lamp that got broken on the ride home. I don’t really want to talk about that, or about the stuff I didn’t buy and keep kicking myself over. Why? Why didn’t I spend more money there??

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Last Import - 167 Last Import - 168 Last Import - 169 Last Import - 176After Casablanca we went to a little Spanish almost-island called Cadiz. It was a perfect day, we walked from the one side to the other, played at the beach with our friends for a few hours, then made the thirty minute walk back across the almost-island to the boat. Not much else to report.

Lisbon was our last day. It was cool because my Father-in-law dusted off his Portuguese from a few decades in storage and managed to get us on the right trolly cars at the right time. It is definitely a city that deserved a good three-day weekend, we rode the old Trolly 28 up to the castle and browsed some amazing shops. We went in one super chic little boutique where the owner weaves all the fabric and her assistant sews all the clothes and jewelry from it. They literally hand make everything, start to finish, and every piece is a one-of-a-kind. I should have taken a photo or bought something, but Jason had the camera and the money and was two blocks away. Regretful? Yes.


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  1. You are killing me!! I WANT TO DO THIS RIGHT NOW!! I seriously need to start saving some money! HOw freaking amazing!!

  2. I have never regretted all the pictures and posts I have made of our vacations. I LOVE that you are taking the time to blog this. It is so fun to see what you guys are up to. Plus if we have to lose you all for 5 years, you’d better be getting amazing, once-in-a-lifetime vacations out of it and I wanna see proof! The pics of the kids are stellar, the pics of everything else are beautiful and I love your hair.

  3. What an amazing trip Annie !!! So many amazing things to see. Sorry about your hubby’s head. OUCH.
    I liked that photo of one of your boys in the sand and all the …what were they, tentacles (not testicles) around it. And the one of your little girl crying on the sidewalk.

  4. Great story and welcome to the blog world. Not sure what Europe does to you, but after 3 years we are definitely a different family.

  5. Tanya H says:

    Annie, Have you noticed a trend? Not yet? Every time you walk away from a steal of a purchase somewhere, you inevitably beat yourself up over it. You sit wondering “Why didn’t I buy…?”! Next time, please just buy the x,y,z.
    In other news, will you please stop beating poor Jason and leave the poor man alone? Miss you like crazy, lady.

  6. Fun fun!! I wish we could have visited the Chateau d’If. We boated around it, but it was closed! Looks like a fabulous time!

  7. Kendra says:

    I can’t believe the things you’re experiencing! I remember when you went to Jerusalem and how awesome that was for you, and now look at you! It seems like a dream to me…Wonderful pictures, thanks so much for posting them. Your kids are so beautiful, I love the one of June where she’s looking back over her shoulder. You look great, also of course! Miss and love you!