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Europe 2018

You know – the real reason I blog is so someday my kids will stumble upon it and hear my voice as they read!

So, finally. Europe. 2018. This post has been a long time coming.

Every trip we start dreaming about our next one. Our family shares ideas and dream bucket lists. So far, something or someone on one adventure has always inspired us to devise the next Gendreau adventure. And with each, our family becomes stronger and more adventurous and more capable! Yes there are squabbles. Yes we weather all moods. Yes we sometimes get annoyed at each other. But mostly, we just have a blast, explore, be open, and soak it all in…….culture, food, people, curiosity, appreciation for another way of living. And just the continuous reminder that all over this planet people are awesome. People are living their lives, enjoying their families, creating amazing traditions, and just living a happy life. Let’s be real – we are all searching for love and happiness – no matter where your dot on the map is. Yes, I love this country of ours. But I literally LOVE learning about other people’s ways of living. And I am often inspired to take something away and incorporate it into our lives at home, whether it be a practice or way of life or just a way of thinking. It always takes me a while to digest after coming home from somewhere new. I mean, there is so much to absorb and find a place for in my brain and my heart. The seeds for our Europe adventure this past summer were actually planted in Costa Rica in December of 2016. Remember Audrey and Nate? We came out of the jungle covered in bug bites, found ourselves by a pool in Tamarindo and met that super awesome family that shared with us about Slovenia?

So let’s get started.

June 30th, 2018 – July 19th, 2018

Paris, France —-> Munich, Germany ——> Lake Bled, Slovenia ——> Croatia (Zadar, Bol, Dubrovnik)

And the most awesome addition to this trip – JAN LJUNGGREN (AKA Grandma Jan). My loving, adventurous, kind, super spectacular mother-in-law. You guys, she’s one of my favorite humans on the planet. I would travel anywhere with her. Her first trip out of the country was in 2013 with us (search up Spain & Italy on my blog). She got big-time bitten by the travel bug and has been on constant travel adventures ever since. She rocks.

So let’s look at some photos!

Audrey – need I say more? The girl is PREPARED – always!

First stop, Paris! We did it all in just a few days. I’m pretty sure we walked 10 miles on day #2!

Things to always remember:

  1. Dinner cruise on the Seine – totally worth it and totally fun! Seeing the 10pm front row sparkle of the Eifel Tower right was amazing.
  2. Audrey’s uncanny ability to ALWAYS find the BEST restaurant in town. This was a theme of our entire trip.
  3. Speaking of that – ESCARGOT! The kids requested and loved it! I mean you can’t go wrong drenched in garlic and pesto.
  4. Hot. Boy was it hot and muggy.
  5. Search for the best street artist canvas. On a mission!
  6. Nate and his red berries – SO SOUR – he loved them
  7. Rue Cler – Audrey’s first cappuccino. And her first espresso.
  8. Bakeries, bagguettes, all of it! SO delicious.
  9. Walking home the night after our river cruise. Such an adventure which finally ended with an uber! Thanks driver guy for cruising by.
  10. Taking the train everywhere!
  11. Just fun together !



Hello Munich! What fun! Such a cool city, loved the transportation system, nicest people, loved our guide for Dacau, loved the food and pretzels and beer! SO FUN!

Things to always remember:

  1. Dachau. Talk about humbling and horrifying and moving. Such perspective. It was a true highlight of our time here. We got a private guide who picked us up at our apartment, spent an hour building the backstory of how Dachau came to be, took us through the memorial, and took us home to process. It was a million times worth it and we were all riveted on his every word.
  2. English Gardens. The naked sunbathers, cool vibe, river surfing, and most excellent people watching.
  3. The train. We loved the train.
  4. The cool escalators that stop when no one is on them. AND they can go either way. Amazing.
  5. Our totally adorable AirBnb.
  6. The beer garden by Marien Platz. LOVED it and talking to the locals.
  7. Farmers market – yes please.
  8. Nate and I climbing St. Peter’s church for the best view.
  9. Nate’s search for the coolest flat billed hat 🙂 HA!
  10. The Greek restaurant right next to our apartment. One of the best meals of our trip.
  11. Kids trying their first sip of German beer. Audrey – thumbs down. Nate – thumbs UP!
  12. Nicest people
  13. Amazing history
  14. Hofbrauhaus!
  15. Delicious food!

The MOST beautiful bus ride through Austria brings us to the fairy-tale land of Lake Bled, Slovenia! Well, and of course Nate figured out how to make friends with the German boy on the bus who didn’t speak a lick of English. Nate – you will never know a stranger. Never ever lose that special quality in you. People are interesting everywhere. And even when you don’t speak the same language – some things are universal – like a smile and sharing potato chips!

The place that planted the seed for this entire trip. And it did not disappoint.

Things to always remember:

  1. Cream cake – yum
  2. Swans on the lake
  3. Our adorable AirBnb
  4. Vintgar Gorge hike
  5. Soca river
  6. The CRAZY hairpin curvy roads on the way to the Vrsic Pass – highest pass in the eastern Julian Alps – EEK! Everyone was screaming! And then on the way home – whoops we are in Austria – wait now we are in Slovenia – nope back in Austria (ha) 🙂 We figured it out!
  7. Audrey’s continued spectacular restaurant finds – Sova – YUM!
  8. Swimming in Lake Bled
  9. Rowing out to the Church of Mary
  10. The super awesome Castle
  11. Our day trip to the capital – Ljubljana – hello amazing parking garage that has lights on every spot so you know which are open and which have a car parked. Simple pleasures.
  12. Let’s just remember that this is basically a live fairy tale!
  13. And we CANNOT forget the World Cup quarter-finals – CROATIA won and we were going to be there for the semi-finals!


In the Baltics, getting around takes some looking into before you leave. We had a car for our time in Slovenia but knew we didn’t want to have one in Croatia – no need. SO, we hired the most awesome driver to take us on a 5 hours adventure from Slovenia to Croatia. It was the perfect amount of time to get some good local perspectives on the Croatian way of life. Then finally – holy smokes – we made it to Croatia!!! GORGEOUS! Zadar ——> Bol, Brac —–> Dubrovnik. We literally loved this country. The people, the culture, the history. I mean, I could talk for days about it all. And to top it off, Croatia made it to the 2018 World Cup Semi-finals and then the FINALS against France while we were there. The rest of the world does NOT mess around with their soccer. It is SERIOUS business!  We basically became Croatian while we were there!

Things to always remember:

  1. Jumping into the Adriatic Sea a million times.
  2. Our SWEET AirBnb in Zadar right on the water. The GORGEOUS view from our deck in Bol. And the game-changing view from our sweet apartment in Dubrovnik!
  3. The people of Croatia – SO kind and welcoming.
  4. Old City of Zadar! The sea organ, the farmers market, the food! YUM!
  5. The city’s CRAZE after the semi-final WIN! Croatia will meet France for the World Cup WIN! This country is PROUD! And they were excited!
  6. Pag cheese – seriously!
  7. The awesome waitress who reminded us how good it feels to be giving! Remember how happy she was before we left?! Kindness leads to kindness!
  8. Meet, cheese and bread for all the home meals. I mean – SO good.
  9. The MARKETS – give me a local market any day. It tells you everything about where you are!
  10. Bol – ISLAND LIFE! We loved it!
  11. Riding the electric bikes all over! SO FUN!
  12. Nate taking the bike and jetting off to the store on a mission for something delicious. Go Nate! Keep making friends around the world!
  13. Our day at Zlatni Rat beach. Loved it!
  14. Delicious sunset dinners!
  15. The views from everywhere!
  16. Our jet-setting boat that took us to Dubrovnik! Straight out of a James Bond movie!
  17. The finals for the World Cup in Dubrovnik! WOWZA! Even though France won, it was so amazing and the pride of this country was palpable!
  18. Holy smokes the 500+ stairs up to our awesome apartment.
  19. Fresh squeezed orange juice. Oh. My. Gosh. Yes, we bought a easy juicer when we got home. SO GOOD!
  20. Walking the old city wall – SO cool!
  21. The owner of our AirBnb who came to bring us wine and chat after the world cup. Hearing his story left us all awe-struck and humbled.
  22. Plitvice Lakes. WOWZA! Go search that up. What a day! We hiked about 6-7 miles and it was incredible!
  23. The friendliness of everyone! I mean, the Lyft driver, the apartment owner, everyone is so happy and has such gratitude for life. And their stories. They are so open and wanting to share their experiences. The history of Croatia and the impact of the Yugoslavian war are still fresh 25 years later! I was 10000% humbled to hear their stories!
  24. The food – YUM! So fresh and delicious. Thanks Audrey for your continued incredible skill of finding us the best food everywhere!


In summary, this was a trip for the Gendreau/Ljunggren history books. I mean, how cool is it to backpack Europe with your grandma?!?!

Traveling and experiencing other cultures is my favorite. I mean, just like anything – when you travel together it means being patient and open and curious and adventurous. It means weathering everyone’s moods and knowing that everything passes. It means ending the day with I love you. It means staying positive and figuring things out even when you might feel confused or lost or tired. It means finding ways to do small acts of kindness every day for others. It means trying new things and stepping outside your comfort zone and being brave. It means representing where you are from and showing others that the world is full of good people. And it’s a reminder to yourself that the world is full of truly awesome people who, just like you, are living their life every day and doing their best to be kind and find their happiness too! Travel is perspective. It reminds me that we are all connected on this earth and truly not so different!

And to my Audrey, Nate, Jan and Todd. Taking this trip with you was EPIC. I love you all to the moon a million times over and I would literally travel anywhere with you all. Audrey & Nate, traveling to different parts of the world has changed you. It has changed how you see others and see yourself. It has become a value of yours. It has made you better people – more empathetic, curious and loving and understanding and open to others. It’s made you brave and open and accepting. It has made you a critical thinker. It has made you notice things like stereotypes and biases.  Don’t ever lose your luster for exploring and spreading your kindness and don’t ever stop adding to your bucket-list!

Happy Travels friends!





December 13, 2018

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