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Travel Europe With A Backpack

August 22, 2020

I have offered several classes for Fredericksburg ISD Community Ed, and just proposed a new one: Europe with a Backpack. I have three sets of friends walking trails in the US at the moment, for the most part in beautiful and rugged mountains. I can tell you this for sure: they aren’t getting a shower, a bed, and a glass of wine with dinner every night. When I first booked a flight to London in 2017, the booking app showed me hotels in Europe with rates of $150 to $250 per night. I thought, “Its going to be a short trip!” I’m neither high income, rich, or retired. But just three years later, I’ve made 5 trips, seen incredible places, had fabulous food, and made many friends.

Santiago de Compostela, at the end of the trail.

This is how days end walking Europe, with friends you’ve made on the trail and the best Sangria in town; not a tent, thin foam pad, or cat hole in sight. I’ve done some scary stuff as a backpacker: a couple of actual self-arrests with an ice-ax, been lost, climbed some big mountains, carried a 40+ pound pack, jumped across crevasses on a glacier, and gone a week without bathing. Not just once, but every summer for most of my life. It was always a fantastic experience. Now, however, I’m in a romance with Europe.

Dinner at the donativo Gite Soulie in France

The system of trails in France has a support system called gite d’etape. These are limited by law to 15 guests and generally include dinner and breakfast for a fee of $40 to $50, although some are by donation. Small hotels, bed and breakfasts, casa rural, pension, or chambre d’hote are also lodging options. I can’t really explain the difference between them. Hostels are easier to explain, although on Camino trails many offer meals. And “hostal” is another word for “hotel” in some countries. 

Chambre d’hotes in rural southern France

This couple lives in an old stone house which has a wing attached for guests. There is one bathroom for 7 rooms, but we were the only guests. They served us dinner in their fabulous old style dining room and entertained us with stories, plied us with wine, and served soup, salad, the main course, cheese plate, and dessert. I think we paid $45 each. It was great fun. What a wonderful experience.

This is not just about trails – In this presentation, should I be able to give it, I’ll highlight 5 places, how to get there, and how to find affordable quality lodging, Get un-tethered from your car, and discover the Old World.

From → Writing Fiction

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