Sunday, May 1, 2016

Travel Adventures 2016 - Venice, Reykjavik, Paris and English Island

After two years of touring Europe for 6 to 7 consecutive weeks on a couple of amazing home swaps to the South of France and to homes in Amsterdam and Ireland, our intention was to scale back and only travel for 2-3 weeks in 2016.  Those plans quickly fell to the wayside as new opportunities arose to tempt us. 

Last year while we were in Ireland and our place was unoccupied, we agreed to a non-simultaneous home swap with a couple from Paris.  They could stay in our place while we were away and in exchange, we would stay in their place the following year. Being retired and totally flexible, we could be available to visit Paris whenever they confirmed the dates for their 2016 vacation, tentatively targeted for the first two weeks of July.  We would be staying in the Boulogne-Billancourt area in the 16th arrondisment, within walking distance to the Seine River, the Eiffel Tower (which we can see from the apartment balcony) and the Bois de Boulogne, which is the second largest park in Paris.

Yet before these tentative Paris plans could be finalized, a new opportunity came up.  We could exchange for the last two weeks of May with a couple from Venice whose apartment is located right on the Lagoon.  We were immediately sold on the idea by the photo they sent us of the gorgeous view taken from their balcony!  Since the perfect home swap offer does not come along that often in terms of location and timing, we felt we had to grab this opportunity when it presented itself to us.  If we turned this down and then the Paris trip fell through, we would be left with nothing.

While investigating flights to Venice, we discovered that it was cheaper to take a flight from Toronto to Paris, and then a second short flight from Paris to Venice than to to try fly directly from Toronto to Venice.  In fact, we found an excellent deal on Icelandic Air that offered a return flight from Toronto to Paris with the option of up to 7 days free layover in Reykjavic for a mere $750 including taxes.  From there, we could take an Air France flight from Paris to Venice for $150 for a total of $900.  We had always intended to take advantage of the Icelandic Air free layover offer at some point, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

As it turned out, our Paris swap for the first 2 weeks in July did come through.  Now we were up to 4.5 weeks of vacation, but it did not end there.  Shortly after, we were contacted by the friends who had so generously allowed us to stay in their Dublin home last summer while we were touring Ireland.  At the time we promised ourselves that in repayment,  if they ever wanted to come to Toronto, we would make our home available to them somehow, even if we had to take an unplanned vacation.  It would have worked out perfectly if they had wanted to come during the same period that we were going to be in Paris, but instead, they needed accommodations for the last 2 weeks of July.  We cut our Paris vacation short by 3 days so that we would have time at home to prepare for our guests.

Now we needed to take yet another trip and looked for the most economical way to do this, since we were already paying for two flights to Europe.  It has been 4 years since we last made the trek up to the family cottage, located on a remote island near Sioux Lookout in North-West Ontario.  We were overdue for a visit anyways and fortunately, the timing coincided with the dates when the rest of the extended family would also be staying at English Island.  Our plan is to take 4 days to make the 18 hour drive up to Sioux Lookout, spend 7 days on the island and take 3-4 days to drive home again.

So our adventures for 2016 have been finalized.  What started out as a light travel year has morphed into another 6-7 weeks of vacation, although at least the weeks are not consecutive this time.  We will have four distinctive experiences in Venice, Reykjavik, Paris and English Island.  This should make for some interesting blogs ... stay tuned.

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