2011 Travel Roundup
My travel calendar was pretty full this year! Though I only made one trip out of the country, I spent roughly 100 days on the road this year, which isn’t bad for someone who is juggling three part time jobs! Though this is mostly for my own record, here is a list of all the trips that I, or Marc and I, took this year!
January was one of the only months that I didn’t really travel much. I had one or two days in Texas at the beginning of the month that were the tail end of a much longer trip home for the holidays, but that was about it. I almost went to Fort Indiantown Gap, PA for the east coast’s largest WWII reenactment, but decided not to at the last minute.
January marked the start of my work as a substitute teacher and it’s a pretty miserable time to travel regardless, so I didn’t leave the apartment all that much. However, the rest of the year made up for that.
February saw Marc and I go up to Newville, PA for an Italian Front WWII reenactment. We were there for the entire weekend portraying refugees and had a great time – we even got to slaughter and cook two delicious Bantam chickens! Newville is a very familiar place to us due to the number of reenactments we go to at that site every year, but I still enjoy getting to hang out in rural Pennsylvania.
In February I also went into the city several times. I may live only 15 minutes away from DC by metro, but I go into town far less than you might expect.
March also had mostly reenacting-related travel, but this time around I was only an observer. Marc had recently joined up with a group that portrays Russian Czarist troops during WWI but I didn’t have much interest in the impression (though I have recently decided to join myself). However, when it turned out that Marc would be attending one of my favourite living history events – Military Through the Ages in Jamestown, VA – with the group, I decided to go along just as a photographer.
In addition to our trip to Jamestown, Marc and I went to Richmond, VA to say farewell to our first Ural sidecar motorcycle, Smutyanka. We sold her to a dealer in Virginia’s capitol partially in exchange for a significantly newer model of the same bike and we had to go down to sign the paperwork despite the fact that they had been keeping Smutyanka in their shop for a few weeks already.
It takes about 2.5 hours to get there, so after dealing with the paperwork we took a stroll down Richmond’s famous Cary Street and had some lunch. While Richmond definitely did not do well in the post-industrial era, I think it is really making a comeback and it has a lot of great architecture and potential.
My mom came to stay with us for a week in April, which was really nice. I don’t see my parents that often (they live in Texas) so it’s always good when I can get to see them. While she was in town Marc and I attended our other “timeline” reenactment of the year, Marching Through Time, with our French Foreign Legion group. It was the first reenactment my mom had attended in almost ten years, and I think she really enjoyed it. While she was visiting we also visited many other places in the DC area including Claude Moore Farm. Later in the month we also went down to Fredericksburg to attend a Passover dinner at a friend’s house.
Marc and I didn’t go anywhere in May, not even to a reenactment, but we did finally get our new Ural sidecar bike, named Nadezda. We plan on doing quite a bit of traveling with her as we both become more confident riders (and once her engine gets back from its current location at the factory in Washington!). The only other tangentially travel-related thing that happened in May was that I finally met the famous travel blogger Roni Weiss, who came to one of DC’s monthly travel meetups.
June was a very jam-packed month, activity-wise. We went down to Fredericksburg, VA to visit our friends Sarah and John and got to see a vintage car show while we were there that we didn’t even know about. We went down there again a week later to participate in an 18th century picnic that was being held in conjunction with a theatre production. Ironically, Marc and I go down to Fredericksburg fairly often (5-6 times a year) but have never gone just to see the town itself!
However, June also marked my departure for France. I started off WWOOFing on a chestnut farm in southern Ardeche. While the first day or two went well, I quickly realized that the woman who ran the farm viewed me as little more than free labor. She was really nasty and impatient and called me stupid and slow on more than one occasion. It was pretty miserable, to be honest.
Though the region was beautiful, I decided that after a week, I would find another farm. Well, I didn’t even make it a week and left after 6 days to go to another farm in northern Ardeche. After a day in transit, I finally made it to the second farm in northern Ardeche. It was a general farm with vegetables, chestnuts, raspberries, and cows, but I spent my first few days mostly working in the raspberry field. The second farm was a family farm and both the farmer and his wife were extremely nice.
July was my busiest month of the year, travel-wise, seeing me trek all over France. For roughly the first two weeks, I worked on the farm in northern Ardeche. I planted and pruned vegetables, fed calves, and even learned to herd cattle by hand. Towards the end of my time there, the farmer’s son and his girlfriend showed up, which helped me immensely as the girlfriend, Clemence, spoke fluent English. I had been struggling along in French before then and while I can hold my own in French conversation, it was nice to be able to speak naturally after three weeks of French immersion.
After my time on the farm, Marc’s parents came to pick me up and we drove to Auvergne, where his family is from. Marc arrived the following day, and though the weather started off cold and dreary, his parents took us around to see many of the natural sights in the region. After a few days at a gîte in Les Balayes, we went to his family reunion, which was the origin of this whole trip. I had never met any of Marc’s family except his parents, and in one afternoon I met four generations! There were more than 25 people there, and it was really interesting to get to meet and talk with them all.
A few days later, Marc and I went down to Le Puy En Velay, a medieval town near the village where Marc’s family is from, and spent about a day and a half wandering through its streets. After Le Puy, we went to Lyon for two days before his return flight was scheduled to depart. Lyon was one of the best places I visited in France. It’s big, but not too big, touristy, but not too touristy, has a great older area and a great newer area, and in general was very clean, pretty, and pleasant. Marc and I did a lot of eating in Lyon since it is known as the gastronomic capitol of France, and I was only disappointed once. We also went to see Fourvieres, quite possibly the most beautiful and decorated church I’ve ever seen. We didn’t have much time in Lyon before Marc’s flight was scheduled to depart, but we had a great time in the couple days that we were there together.
After Lyon, I headed down to the Languedoc region of France, to a tiny, tiny (112 person) village called Lagamas, where a friend of the family lives. Rosemary, the friend, generously put me up in her adorable 400 year old house for two weeks and showed me around much of the region. We went to St. Guilhem de Desert, St. Jean de Fos, Clermont l’Herault, Beziers, Montpellier, Gignac, and many other places. We went swimming in the Herault river several times, and I took many, many walks. While I was there I even got to experience something quite unique: a dinner with the entire village in attendance! I had a great time.
August was also a busy month for travel. After leaving Lagamas, I spent two days in Montpellier, then three days in Toulouse (my least favourite place in France on the trip), then went to Bordeaux to stay with some of Marc’s cousins for a week. While I was in Bordeaux I did and saw a lot! I went to the beach three times, took my first surfing lesson (never again!), visited the largest sand dune in Europe, saw several beautiful cathedrals, and had a lot of fun just hanging out with Marc’s cousins Remi and Estelle and their little girl Maelle.
After staying in Bordeaux for a week, I made my way to Paris. Unfortunately, due to some banking confusion, I found myself with no money in my bank account and no place to stay. I got everything worked out, but it soured my experience just as much as the hordes of obnoxious tourists did. I was in Paris for four days, and after a generous rescue by a fellow travel blogger, I changed my flight and flew home early.
The day after I got home, I was already on the road again! Marc and I had a reenactment in Manassas, VA with our French Foreign Legion group. Since I was still getting over jet lag, I didn’t participate, but I tagged along as a photographer and got some particularly amusing shots. Though it was very hot and one of our members got seriously dehydrated, we all had a good time, and since a thunderstorm was rolling in toward the end, our camp got put away quickly!
September brought two more weekends of reenacting-related travel. The first was a Scottish festival in Reston, VA. Once again, I didn’t participate, but I tagged along to take photos. Though it was pretty tacky, it was also kind of fun to see, and Marc had fun portraying a Celt with his Roman group. Marc ended up getting horribly sunburned with only his woad tattoos remaining un-burned, resulting in a hilarious tan-tattoo that is still there, 4 months later! This event was one of the closest events we did all year, only requiring us to drive about 30 minutes outside of town!
The following weekend was a major trip. It was our first outing with the Queen’s Own Loyal Virginia Regiment, a unit Marc and I had recently joined that portrays loyalists during the American Revolution. Marc, two other members, and I all packed into a small SUV and drove 12 hours from DC all the way up to Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York, arriving around 6am. We were there all weekend for the fort’s Struggle for Liberty event which was a blast and was my first 18th century reenactment in 10 years. It was a great event and well worth the time. It was also Marc’s first time in upstate NY and the Adirondacks and he really liked getting to see the area.
Also in September we went to both Harper’s Ferry, WV and Shepherdstown, WV for a day one weekend. We had nothing to do and both locations make for a great day trip out into the Shenandoahs and eastern West Virginia, and we will definitely go back there next year.
In October there were two major events: a WWI air show in Virginia Beach, VA that Marc participated in as a reenactor and that I photographed, and the travel event known as Meet, Plan, Go which I was on the planning committee for. Meet Plan Go went off without a hitch and was a great evening and I think it inspired many of those who were in the audience. I was in France during much of the event organizing phase, so I went to help out and photographed the event.
The WWI show definitely had one major hitch: a plane crash! The weekend was great and I got some of the best shots of my career (in my opinion) while there, but on the last day, one of their WWI replica planes crashed during its landing. The pilot came out okay, but I think the plane will need quite a bit of work. It was a great event and since I had never been to Virginia Beach I got to explore a new part of Virginia that I had been unfamiliar with before.
After a crazily hectic summer and early fall, November marked the point where my travel started to drop off a bit before one final last hurrah during the holidays. I only went out of town once in November, when I went out into the Shenandoahs with my friend Kate Connolly, a painter, to photograph the fall foliage. We both got some great shots, and it was nice to be able to geek out over photography stuff with someone.
I traveled three times in December: to New England with Marc, to New Jersey for a reenactment, and home to Texas for the holidays. The first trip was to Massachusetts and Vermont to show Marc what the area is like. I went to college in western MA and we have talked informally about moving to Vermont, so I felt that it was time to show Marc both of those places. We took a long weekend and spent two days in each state – not enough time for a thorough tour, but enough to give Marc a feel for the areas, which was my intention in the first place.
The following weekend we went up to Fort Mott, NJ for a “soldier’s Christmas” event. We were there with several of our friends and since the event had an unusual structure involving candle-light tours, we had a blast getting to talk to the many hardy souls who braved the cold to come out and see us. It was a good end to the reenacting year.
The next week I left for Houston, TX to spend two weeks with my parents for the holidays. I head home in two days and have had a great time while I’ve been here. We’ve seen many friends, taken a trip to Brenham in our small family plane (piloted by my dad), eaten a lot of amazing food, and I’ve had fun playing with Lola, our Australian Shepherd. Marc was sadly not able to join me and so he and I will likely come back for a couple days sometime this spring, as he hasn’t been to Texas with me since I got back from South Korea in 2009.
So, that was my year in travel! If you made it to the bottom of this post, I salute you!