Part three of our 2014 travels is the big part – the scary into the unknown part – the OMG have we lost the plot part!!! It’s time for the EPIC ROAD TRIP!!!!!!
(NOTE: if you didn’t have a cup of tea or glass of wine handy for the last 2 blog posts you’ll need one now – it’s long (although I swear this is the brief version!!) Or alternatively just scroll through quickly and see the pretty pictures!)
So, we flew back from Cuba and had just over a week in AD during which time Kirsty ran round like a crazy loony seeing clients. The girls went into school for a week – seriously, their school is just the best to let them come in and do that! And Tommy fitted out the car!! Yup, in the mad 2 months of summer we bought a new car just for this road trip. You may have seen our old jeep, Jessie which we love and has served us well on many a previous road trip… well she was just too small for a trip of this size, so after many discussions of various requirements and budget constraints (which meant tossing out Kirsty’s dream car of a Land Rover Defender!!) we bought something new… when I say new I only mean new to us – Nellie, our beloved Nissan Patrol is actually so old she still has a tape deck!!!! But I sit here 18,000km later typing this and know that age is nothing but a number and she’s served us pretty well… so, back to the story – Tommy sorted out all our gear – camping, cooking, healthwise, clothing, car gear, paperwork, oh the paperwork…. and all the rest of it… And then off we set… to Sharjah….. where it took us many hours to export our car from the UAE before we boarded a 16 hour ferry to Bandar Abbas in Iran. At the other end it took us a mere (!!) 7 hours to get our car into Iran before we could really feel we were off and on our way!! After a night in the port town we headed to Meymand, a cave village, where we were looked after by the most lovely old lady to break ourselves into travels through Iran gently.One of the most wonderful things about Iran as how healthily we ate – fresh fruit was on sale by the roadsides everywhere and we snacked on it all day long!
Iran is a huge country so it took us some time to travel through – next stop, was Shiraz with it’s historical mosques and souks – fresh juices and a morning at the vast ancient site of Persepolis completed our stay.We picniced in stunning countryside on fresh bread and cheese – plus the wonderful fruits and veggies we’d picked up from the roadside stalls, plus nuts and dried fruits we bargained for in the souks – and many people have asked, but yes, I was allowed to drive – Iran was refreshingly accepting – the only thing I was required to do was cover my head – and believe me, the Iranian girls push their luck with showing a lot more hair than this!!! Yazd (above) was one of our favourite towns – a laid back desert town with houses made of sand and mud – we met several other travelling families there which was reasuring too Eshfahan was another favourite stop off – so rich in history and culture and so open – we found groups of men and women socialising freely there – one group that we chatted to were a mix of Iraqis and Iranians – the Iranians surprised us time and again with their openness and wonderful hospitalityWe not only visted mosques but also ventured into several churches during our time in Iran – some of which had truly exquisite interiors Let it also be said that Iran has some of the best coconut macaroons ever!!!!!!! We tried a lot of different local foods!As we travelled north it started to rain and get chillier, and we saw snow on the mountains – next time we visit we hope to ski in Iran!! The Caspian sea on a very grey day!!I LOVED the souks – I wish we’d bought a carpet, but Iran being our first road trip country we just felt we couldn’t… but next time… I’ll head back to Tabriz, or maybe Eshfahan… the souk in Tabriz was certainly one of the prettiestAnd so we left Iran… there’s a whole story to be told about our leaving which still leaves my heart racing, but in the end it’s all good – it involves a broken down car, a remote mountainside, no phone signals, the incredibly heartwarming generosity of the Iranian people, and a frantic race to the border where we left 15 minutes before our visas were due to expire… eeek!!!
Originally we were going to head to Turkey (and that’s what I told people when they asked where we were going because, honestly, I didn’t want to deal with questions about the why’s on whether we should be going to Iran – we did our planning and knew what we were in for) but as we passed through Iran things in Turkey weren’t looking great down in the SE region so we changed plans and crossed into Armenia instead, Well what an amazingly beautiful surprise that country was! Full of glorious and dramatic scenery – churches perched high on cliff tops and snow capped mountains – it was wonderful.It was also the place where “Armenia’s Silk Road” roads put paid to the quick fix botch job we’d done on the car in Iran – seriously Armenia, beautiful country, but worst roads, EVER!!! So off Nellie went to get fixed by Nissan Yerevan and the week long wait to get the parts meant we had to hang out and enjoy the country some more – no bad thing to take a rest after our mad dash through Iran!!
The apartment we rented for the week had amazing views of Mount Ararat (yep, the one where Noah’s ark got stuck!) – and no driving meant we were free to sample the delights of Yerevan’s famous Brandy factory!!!
We also got to visit Geghardt Monastery where we experienced our first real snow of the trip!!! In the first week of November – eeek, this could be a long, long winter!!!Hanging out and renting an apartment meant we could concentrate on some school work for the girls, and also some extra subjects they wanted to learn, like knitting! The girls also hand made all their Christmas presents this year – what a beautiful thing free time is for kids – I loved seeing the effort and thought they put in to what they made for everyone…. Above, more amazing churches, and the Monument to the Armenian alphabet!
Following Armenia we motored on to Georgia – where we really didn’t have enough time because of our extended stay in Yerevan – but it’s on the list for a future trip because it was also stunning.
Next up was Turkey, where we visited a monastery on a cliff, hung out and painted stones from the Black Sea, treated the girls to their first real proper hammam, ate Turkish pizza, bought more evil eye charms to add to our collection, looked at more carpets, stayed in a town named after the Saffron flower (to Saffy’s delight and Indy’s disgust!), drove on roads that felt like kittens fur after those former Soviet states, took Tommy for his first trip to Istanbul (we three girls have been before!) and ate curry – which was a pure delight after all the aubergine we’d consumed in the previous three countries!!!! Next up we stopped off in Sofia for a few days and then headed to stay with old AD friends in Bucharest. I will say here that much as we are lucky enough to truly love each others company, spending a night in a real home and with some different people and talking about some different things after all that time was just lovely!!!! Thank you lovely friends – and for replenishing our marmite supplies!! Important stuff!! In Romania we got to experience our first of the European Christmas markets – which was just wonderful – but very cold, and we were glad for hot chocolate and mulled wine!!We then sped our way across Europe – we never intended spending time in the more expensive parts (I’ll try and post about our budgeting in a future post) and some we’ve been to before in any case so we passed quickly though Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic (where we saw the bone church below!!) spending only one night in each before reaching Berlin.In Berlin we had the sweetest experience when a couple stopped and asked us about he car and it turned out they were from Abu Dhabi too! The world is very small!! Though the weather was dull we loved Berlin and it’s imposing buildings and dramatic history – some of it was hard to explain to the girls but despite some of the sadness that brings we soaked it’s hopeful atmosphere up before heading on to see clients of Kirsty’s in western Germany.If you ask the girls which their favourite place was I can guarantee they’ll say Brussels – for the very reason they had a 3 day sleepover/playdate there with Indy’s bestie from Abu Dhabi who moved there last year – up till now we’ve had to make do with skype playdates for the girls so they were in heaven!! I’ve gotta admit, the Mummies loved catching up too <3 Next stop Tommy’s sister in England – we took the Eurotunnel which was an extremely pleasant experience! And spent a day down in London meeting Paddington and seeing just how pretty London is at Christmas time. The girls and Tommy have been reading the Harry Potter books as we travel (those three and their bedtime stories make my heart sing) so we had to stop off at platform 9 3/4!!!!The girls loved helping Auntie Jo in the garden too – and made soup and bread daily for us – something I hope they’ll continue to help out with when we have a home again!!!Our travels on from there took us to Yorkshire and then up to Edinburgh, where we stopped off to see the Angel of the North for the first time – wow!!!!!! It’s fabulous!!! We then hung out at Granny and Granda’s home in Ireland – which meant lots of time for dog walking, geocaching, catching up with family and friends and sleeping!!!! Our last stop before heading back was Cork where we saw an old friend of Kirsty’s who’d just had a baby – one of the wonderful things about the trip is that it’s given us that extra bit of time to see people that often we can’t quite manage to coordinate with, and that’s been a fabulous bonus….
And so, then we were off back across the Irish sea from Dublin, to our last new country (for the girls anyway) Wales, before arriving in Yorkshire to spend Christmas there….. We did it – we drove 15,000km, though 19 countries – from Abu Dhabi to the UK for Christmas. The end of a year of travel – and the start of new adventures for 2015… for they will continue… we have to get the car back to the UAE somehow!!!!! Bring it on!!!!
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our travels and our epic road trip – we hope to post more pretty pictures and more stories as we go, but don’t hold your breath because, honestly, we’re just enjoying this time together as a family too much!! (and also the kids need schooling, and laundry still needs doing, and dinners need cooking, and we need to earn a living as we go and all that mundane regular stuff – because seriously, you didn’t honestly think we were doing this is 5 star luxury with a private tutor and housekeeper hidden in the back of the car did you?????) If you want to follow along you can check the FB page – link over on the side somewhere – or Kirsty’s instagram, cos lets face it, Instagram’s where all the cool kids are these days!!!
lots of love, Kirsty, Tommy, Saffy and Indy xxxx