Winter with family and friends

After a second Christmas in France, we decided to spend the winter with family and friends in the Cayman Islands. On the way, we stopped in Florida to visit friends.

florida_lake_and_manatees

From France, we flew into Miami and drove to Marco Island, where we had a wonderful boat trip with our friend, Karen, and her family. Next, we visited Heather and family on the beautiful Sanibel Island. Amelia loved riding their beautiful white pony, Firefly, and we all enjoyed the CROW Clinic where Heather is the head wildlife veterinarian, the Shell Museum, beaches, shells and boating, and the beautiful nature reserves and bike paths. Unfortunately we all got COVID-19 so we had to leave too soon – we spent 10 days in isolation at an Airbnb on Pine Island watching movies, drinking orange juice, and relaxing on the sunny deck. Once recovered, we went to Tampa to spend time with our friends Rachel, Rob, Mimi and Evie. The kids especially enjoyed Mote Marine Lab , a manatee viewing area which was near where we stayed, and the playground at St. Pete pier. We then headed north and stayed in a beautiful lakeside Airbnb. Free kayaks were provided and the weather had turned chilly so we enjoyed the cosy house & fireplace. On a sunny day we kayaked the Ichetucknee River. We’ve heard the Ichetucknee can be too busy in summer but it was absolutely spectacular out of season: crystal clear water, cypress trees covered in Spanish moss, herons, ibis, and woodpeckers, hundreds of turtles and we were surrounded by manatees. Definitely a highlight of our time in Florida.

We arrived in Cayman and spent a wonderful two months with family and friends – celebrating Pop and Wendy’s wedding and revisiting many of our favourite places. Our time ended too soon, but we wanted to get back to Europe for the spring.

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When we returned to France, we spent a few days in Paris where we enjoyed staying near the Bassin de la Villette: this is a walkable area within easy reach of other areas by metro. We enjoyed pastries along the canal and a day at Disneyland Paris. Amelia finally got to climb the Eiffel Tower (a first for all of us). We took a train to Les Eyzies, where we had left the motorhome, and quickly set off for Greece – driving through many miles of snow on our way to southern France. The French Riviera is absolutely stunning but difficult for motorhome travel: many parking areas and wild camp sites have reviews about vehicle break-ins, so we found it difficult to feel confident leaving the motorhome to hike. We enjoyed visiting the Falaises de Cassis observation deck (near Parc National Des Calanques) and staying at France Passion sites such as Domaine Saint Jean de l’Arbousier during our quick visit.

It was only a flying visit to Italy, but we found time to make a quick visit to Rome, Lucca, and Pisa. We were able to meet up with friends Linda and Steven (The Chouters & Bijou) while they took a break from motorhoming to walk the Via Francigena pilgrim path, Gary’s friend from South Africa, Paul, who was working in Genoa and our friends from Cayman, Doug and Laura, who are growing olives and other produce in southern Italy. But after just two weeks, it was time to take the ferry to Greece – however our motorhome garage full of delicious Italian food and wine, and with plans to return one day.

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