June 29, 2022
Before sending the kids back home this morning we spent a long day and a half in Paris!
Upon arrival, we took a few detours figuring out the metro system to our hostel. After checking in and changing into some non-trekking clothes we set out to the streets for some Paris-style ice cream. Each scoop was shaped into a rose of many colors. After we got our fix of ice cream, we checked out the Notre Dame which, unfortunately, is still temporarily closed due to construction. We ended our night with a nice American style meal of some smokehouse BBQ before putting heads on beds.
The next day we set out for a full day in Paris, which has been very different from our full days in the mountains but still the same amount of walking. After a long day roaming through the streets and some shopping, we ended our evening with a moonup by the twinkling Eiffel Tower.
The kids will be arriving home anytime now sure to be ready to catch up on some very much needed jet lagged sleep! We enjoyed every minute of the trip, and we can’t wait for everyone to share their stories with you when they get back home. Thank you for allowing us to take your kids on such an awesome journey!
Travis + Maddie
June 19, 2022
While we were sad to leave Chamonix, we should have known that Costa Brava was exactly what we needed after five days in the mountains.
Our adventure to Spain started with a travel day. We woke up early, jumped in vans, and made our way to the train station. Sophie quickly befriended the van driver and became the DJ for the ride. Throwbacks were belted between the van drivers requests in which we listened to a traditional Icelandic ballad and a heavy metal version of Adele’s “Hello”; talk about a mix that has it all. Once at the train station, we found our way to our platform all the while dreaming we were really getting on Platform 9 and 3/4, but alas, we had bigger fish to fry in Spain. So, we jumped on the train upon its arrival and let the shenanigans begin.
Our second train ride proved to be quite the puzzle upon entry. While standing in the hallway trying to find our seats, a gentleman approached and asked, “Are you Moondance?” to which we hastily replied, “Yes!” He then showed us our seats, and we sat in awe of his wizardry for knowing we were indeed Moondance, and we were indeed confused. Were we headed to Hogwarts after all? Our fancy train car inspired Jacob, Eliza, and Maddie to analyze poetry and discuss literature while Barclay, Callie, and Mason read their books. We looked very sophisticated.
We then explored the train station for two hours as we waited for our next train. While most people might moan and groan the layover, our crew took advantage of the time! Barclay got out her friendship bracelet string and taught all the girls how to make bracelets after snacking on smoothies. The boys munched on food and joked with each other about anything and everything under the sun. Time passed quickly.
After one more train ride, we arrived in Spain! Everyone, except for Charlotte, was exited to bust out their Spanish and put it to good use. Charlotte was now the one asking, “How do I say…”. Nonetheless, she took the town by storm. Sophie, Charlotte, Hailey, Eliza, and Maddie ran to the grocery store immediately upon arrival to the campground to grab food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner the next day. Sophie even used her Spanish to order three chickens for the group! Once they returned to the campground, the group feasted on pizza before our first Spanish moonup.
We awoke the next morning with an eagerness to go and do; so, we did just that. We drove to a beach and jumped in kayaks for our first day sea kayaking in the Mediterranean. The whole crew was mesmerized by the color of the sea and beauty of the quaint little towns that dotted the coastline. As we paddled through rocks and squeezed through cliffs, we also saw some wildlife! Our guide showed us little “red tomatoes” and we held some sea urchins! Zach and Eliza then tried to roll their double kayak. Though it was a valiant effort, they didn’t quite make the full roll over, so they had to break through their skirts and abandon ship. Charlotte then felt inspired to try and experienced the same fate. While they weren’t kayak rolling pros, they sure had fun trying, and we had fun watching. We then paddled to a beach for lunch, relaxation, and games. Sophie, Max, Jacob, and Zach all grabbed snorkel masks and went on the hunt for exotic fish. Little did we know, the crazy fish sightings would occur the next day. But for now, they enjoyed swimming around being one with the schools of fish. To close out our time on the beach, we played a few rounds of “don’t knock my rock.” Essentially, everyone places a rock on the back of their hand and tries to keep it on as long as possible while attempting to knock others’ rocks off. Mason, Jack, Jacob, and Maddie all left the beach as victors.
After we finished paddling, we headed back to our campsite for more friendly competition. Barclay whipped out a hacky sack and we all quickly crowded around for a few rounds of “deathsack”. Travis and Barclay had a showdown to win it all; meanwhile, Eliza was pumped she kicked the hacky sack! We were all proud. But after a few rounds, our stomachs grew hungry, so we cooked up some pasta with chicken, pesto, red sauce, onion, and zucchini. Everyone appreciated the homemade food and camping vibes to end the day.
The next morning, we cooked up eggs, bacon, and bagels! Though the breakfast may sound simple to some, the American breakfast was a welcome sight and the perfect energizer for our second day of kayaking. After a short walk to the nearby beach, we jumped in kayaks and paddled to a natural preserve. Along the way, Travis and Maddie wreaked havoc in their double kayak as they worked to turn everyone around; every sea needs some pirates/troublemakers. Mason, Callie, and Eliza were the only ones able to escape their wrath. Sophie, Max, and Zach also embarked on a sea cave adventure! They were the only ones brave enough to jump out of their kayaks, grab a flashlight, and swim through the narrow part of a cave. Though we couldn’t see what they saw, we could hear their oohs and ahhs loud and clear. Once we arrived at the natural preserve, we relaxed in the sun next to starfish, crabs, and anemone! Can you believe our luck?! Barclay, Edward, and Jacob searched for all the creatures they could find amongst the rocks. Barclay even spotted a squid! We all gawked as we watched the creature swim close.
Lunch may have given us puppy tummy, but that didn’t stop us from exploring. Our guide let us hop in his little motorboat and took us over to a rock island for cliff jumping! Hailey jumped off a cliff into the ocean for the first time and did it without letting out a single peep! She was a natural through and through. Callie and Charlotte later expressed that cliff jumping was “the best moment of their life”. And what can we say… standing on those rocks with a bright blue ocean beneath you is pretty spectacular. After we got our fair share of exhilarating fun, we paddled back to the beach. However, we would be remiss to leave out the pirates best take over. After successfully turning Jack around, he jumped on to Maddie and Travis’ kayak to tip them over and get his revenge. But guess who ended up in the water? Yep, t’was Jack. After getting left in the dust, he caught up for a second attempt; however, as soon as he got close, Maddie and Travis bumped the back of his kayak and tipped him right over. Though Jack put up an impressive fight back the rest of the paddle home, he never got his revenge. He did, however, provide a lot of laughs for everyone for the rest of the evening.
After saying goodbye to our kayaking guides, we walked back to our campsite to shower up before dinner. While one might guess that we cooked up a typical campground dinner, one would be wildly wrong. We headed back into town to a seaside restaurant for a cooking lesson! We felt like imposters because we were treated like royalty. Mason couldn’t hold back his excitement about the salmon tar tar made with avocado and seaweed while Callie proffered advice on what to add to the basil pistachio pesto that topped grilled lettuce. Once we sat at the table, the food seemed to never end. Aside from the grilled lettuce and salmon tar tar starters, we also had mussels, fried calamari, and tomato bread. Dinner was a delicious paella with caramelized onion, sausage, and squid. Hailey devoured the mussels while Charlotte and Eliza were brave and tried them for the first time! But the fine dining didn’t stop there, folks! For dessert, they brought out a fluffy, delicious key lime pie! To say the group was absolutely stuffed by the time we left would be an understatement.
For our last moonup in Costa Brava, we headed to the beach! We started with a game of death sack which proved rather difficult in the sand. Edward, Jack, Sophie, and Callie all played soccer with a young boy on the beach once they were eliminated. Though the little boy didn’t speak English, he gave us his best “thank you for playing soccer with me” before he left. Talk about cute. Zach and Charlotte then led moonup and asked, “Where are you most in your comfort zone and where are you most out of your comfort zone?”
This morning, we packed our bags and headed to Lourdes, France for our next backpacking excursion! Spirits are high, and we can’t wait to breathe in the fresh mountain air and see the sweeping sights!
See you on the other side!
Travis, Maddie, and the crew
Shoutouts from your people:
Barclay: Hey fam jam! Just finished the Tour du Mont Blanc and sea kayaking in Spain! It’s gorgeous here and so fun! Everyone in my group is great and we’re about to start the Pyrenees! Tell Susu and Madi happy birthday! Give Ms. Molly a hug from me! Love and miss y’all! Happy Father’s Day! Xoxo
Sophie: Hey Mom, Dad, Lois, Daniel, and Squid. We just finished the TMB and sea kayaking. Both were the most beautiful mountains and beaches I’ve ever seen, and I love my group so much. I miss you guys tons and hope all is good in Atl. Happy Father’s Day, Dad! I love you so much! Xoxo
Jacob: Hey Mom, Dad, Bod, and Bella! I hope y’all are doing well. I’m having the best time right now, but I miss all of you so much. I hope you had fun on your trip, Boyd! I hope you had a great birthday, Bella! Happy Father’s Day, Dad! I love all of y’all!
Mason: Hey Mom and Dad! I’m having a great time! I miss you and the girl! Love you and can’t wait to see you P.S. Happy Father’s Day, Dad!!!
Jack: What’s up mom and dad we have had a great time so far. Finished the Tour du Mont Blanc and sea kayaking. We left Spain this morning and are now in Lourdes, France. I’ve had more bread than ever before. Hope everyone’s having fun vacationing. Happy Father’s Day, Dad! See you soon!
Charlotte: Hi! We have already done the Tour du Mont Blanc and the views were amazing. Yesterday was our last day in Costa Brava Sea kayaking, and I got to cliff jump! I love everyone in this group, and I can’t wait to see y’all! Happy Father’s Day!
Hailey: Hi everyone! I am having the BEST time ever! We have already done the Tour du Mont Blanc and traveled to Costa Brava for sea kayaking. It was amazing! I hope the Utah house is done! I don’t want to leave so please pick me up as late as possible from the hotel in Paris!! Happy Father’s Day! Love and miss y’all!
Eliza: Hey Mama, Dadia, Livy, and P! I’m having so much fun! We’ve finished the Tour du Mont Blanc and sea kayaking. Last night we did a cooking class, and it was definitely the best meal I’ve had on a Moondance! Happy Father’s Day, Dadia! I love and miss y’all so much but I’m having a great time. Say hi to J for me! Love, Fly
Callie: Hi Everyone! We just finished our sea kayaking section in Costa Brava and it was so beautiful. I absolutely love the people in my group and can’t wait to see y’all! Happy Father’s Day, Dad!
Edward: Hey family, Europe is great. Thank you for sending me on this trip! I miss you guys and the dogs. Happy Father’s Day, Dad – love you! I have some stickers for you. Let’s go fishing when I get home. See y’all soon.
Zach: Hello everyone! I miss everybody a lot. I’m having a great tie on this trip and have a lot of stories to tell! Also, happy Father’s Day, Dad!! Love you all!!
Max: Hey guys! Thank you for sending me on this amazing trip to Europe. I am having a great time with some amazing people and great leaders. Happy Fathers Day as well! Love y’all and I’ll see you again soon.
June 14, 2022
I would extend a warmer, longer French greeting, but alas, Zach and Charlotte are the only ones capable of such a lofty task. Our group is grateful for their decision to take French years ago. However, we’re not here to talk about school; it’s summer break! So, let’s cut to the chase, shall we?
We arrived in Geneva a little later than expected; however, the delay led to many great surprises we won’t soon forget. Notably, Hailey and Sophie devoured fresh salads in the airport while Mason discovered rotisserie chicken chips; the jury is still out on that one. Once we landed in Geneva, Switzerland, we promptly hopped in vans and drove across the border to France. Yes, France to Switzerland then back to France. If that doesn’t boggle your brain, we don’t know what will.
Our brains were surely in need of rejuvenation after the flights, so after dropping the luggage at the hostel, we headed into Chamonix in search of the only adequate late lunch we could fathom: gelato! Travis led a wild goose chase which eventually landed us at Chamon-ice’s doorstep. We took no time ordering boules (scoops in French. We lovingly pronounced it boo-lays only to find out five days later that the correct pronunciation is closer to bowls. Ya live and ya learn, folks.) With happy tummies, we headed to a nearby open space to play a get-to-know-you game. Big takeaway: half of the group hates tomatoes while Jack and Jacob would happily devour a tomato sandwich. The food discussions beckoned us to return to the hostel for a traditional veal and rice dinner. Our first Moonup under a European sky followed. Moonup is an important nightly tradition here at Moondance where we reflect on the adventures of the day prior, get to know one another better, practice leadership skills, and laugh a lot. Eliza and Zach were named as the first Leaders of the Day (LODs) after everyone reflected on who they wanted to be while on the trip.
We awoke the next morning to cloudy skies that shielded our view of Mont Blanc, but they sure didn’t hinder our sense of adventure! We stuffed our stomachs with bread and took to the town to see what we could see! Following Mason’s directions, we soon found ourselves speed walking up a mountain towards a waterfall. The cascading river was rather picturesque – a little cafe tucked in the mountains sat next to the waterfall offering fairytale vibes. Zach didn’t hesitate to hop, jump, and skip his way around the waterfall on all the rocks he could find. Meanwhile, Jacob and Max drank from the pure mountain river. Though we could have watched the waterfall for hours, our stomachs begged us to return to the village for lunch. Naturally, we gravitated towards an American lunch. Bacon American cheeseburgers for most; fries and boo-lays for all. Next, we walked back to the hostel for a good ol’ duffle shuffle in preparation for our Tour de Mont Blanc journey with our trusty guide, Xavier.
Our trek on the trail started in Italy with Edward and Charlotte reviewing the maps and giving the group the low-down on the day’s route. They pointed to the top of the snowy peak behind us and said, “we’re going up there!” Jaws dropped instantly and the words “you’re joking” flowed continuously. But it turns out, t’was not a joke and up the mountain we went. Once at the top, we danced across the Italy/Switzerland border. A snow patch laid just beyond the border, so Callie and Max tried their hand at “skiing” down to the trail. The group quickly followed suit – some graced the snow with their feet, while others chose to sit and slide, and then there was Edward who slid down on his stomach. We all got a good laugh out of that one. The trek continued down the mountain amidst wildflowers galore until we landed at our hostel in La Foley. Upon arrival, Sophie, Max, Jack, Jacob, Zach, and Hailey soaked up the sun in the backyard while chatting and admiring the peaks towering in the distance. Eliza cherished the opportunity for some horizontal time before dinner, while the rest of the group found solace chatting in the swanky lounge. Dinner arrived shortly after to refuel us, and of course, boo-lays arrive for dessert. Streak continued.
Fresh coffee, bread, meat, yogurt, fruit, cereal, and cheese greeted the crew early the next morning. The breakfast knocked our socks off, but we quickly put them back on to start the hike with Mason and Sophie as LODs. These two really know how to take charge! They kept spirits high with jokes, frequent check-ins, and water breaks while we pushed up some major mountains. Their positivity was contagious, and the group was impressed and grateful they chose the two as a LOD pair for the day’s journey. We passed through little Swiss towns and stopped to admire a gnome garden that far surpassed any we had seen before. At our lunch spot, Barclay and Callie discovered wild strawberries and immediately had the crew searching for and devouring the delicious, fresh treat. The surprise snack gave us the push we needed to reach Champex. When we arrived in Champex, the lake in the middle of town took our breath away (sure, we were already winded from the hike, but that’s beside the point). Travis and Xavier led the charge into the cold water, but Sophie and Max outlasted everyone by far; they made the rest of us look silly for squealing and running out of the water as soon as our heads ducked under. With the sun on our skin, we laid on the grass and dried off before heading to the hostel for the evening. However, once we got to the hostel, we couldn’t help but wish we were back at the lake. So back we went to share stories, journal, and read. Later, we gathered for Moonup to discuss which vegetable we most resonated with as well as the best advice we’ve ever received. When Hailey shared that she was a blueberry (which is actually a fruit), the whole group immediately chimed in with agreement.
The next morning, we ventured into the woods for an uphill challenge. Riddles kept the group laughing and thinking for hours on end; Jack, Jacob, and Mason were truly puzzled and may still be to this day. Once we reached the top, the group thought we were stopping for a traditional mountainside lunch; but alas, a surprise lay in wait! A working farm offered us a place to sit with views of the mountains and town below and most importantly, treats! Everyone devoured a piece of cake or special juice as we reminisced on all that we had accomplished in the last few days. Zach relished the opportunity to take photos of the views while Eliza refreshed herself with a glass of lemonade. We savored the moments at the top before making our way back down to the valley floor via some serious switchbacks. However, the knees quickly recovered once we laid eyes on the quaint little town that we called home for the evening. We all circled up on the hostel porch and kept each other laughing until it was time for dinner. The group was in for a wild treat of potatoes and cheese or pork and rice for dinner. The fondue crew was amazed by the authentic meal and raved over their choice. Swiss flag ice cream came out soon after which left everyone excited because it bumped up our boo-lay streak! We have yet to go a day without a scoop of the precious treat. Moonup put a perfect close on the evening as we all shared goals we have for our lives.
The sun rose in the morning, and we kept sleeping because it was about time for a slow morning. But if we’re being honest, we were trying to wait out a storm that never formed! We went to bed accepting we would hike in a thunderstorm only to wake up and head out under blue skies! Charlotte led the group up the steep switchbacks until we reached the France/Switzerland border! Yes, we crossed yet another border on the trail and we lost our minds just as much the second time as we did the first. We embarked on a photo shoot before enjoying our last lunch on top of the Tour du Mont Blanc. The rest of the trek was downhill until we arrived in Argentiere where we enjoyed a pizza dinner! Sophie and Hailey amazed Jacob, Max, Zach, and Jack with a few rounds of Black Magic at the table. Jack practically jumped out of his chair when Sophie guessed the correct object we chose while she was away from the table. We then returned to the hotel (after enjoying boo-lays, of course) for a powerful Moonup led by Barclay and Jack. However, we decided we weren’t quite ready for bed after, so we played an intense round of mafia. Alliances were formed, people were killed (hypothetically speaking, of course), but ultimately, the townspeople found justice and took Max to prison. ‘Twas a good evening indeed.
In the morning, we had waffles! And Callie tried a hard-boiled egg for the first time! It turns out she’s a fan! Our big breakfast prepared us for our last jaunt on the trail alongside the river. Callie and Max led the group until we eventually found our way back to our first hostel in Chamonix! Upon arrival, Xavier awarded everyone with a certificate for completing the Tour du Mont Blanc and left us with the kind of inspirational words that stick with you for years to come. Tears were shed and pictures were taken as we said goodbye to Xavier and headed into town. Chamonix was full of life compared to when we saw it last which made the outing feel as though we were in a whole new city. But of course, some things never change. We returned to Chamon-ice for another boo-lay to keep our streak alive and appropriately say farewell to our time France. The boys may or may not have split 10 scoops of ice cream in a single cone – ask to see the picture. It only seems fitting to end our France/Italy/Switzerland update with boo-lay. So we shall.
We’re off to Costa Brava tomorrow via train! Eliza is excited to take in all the sights, and Mason is eagerly awaiting each page turn of his new book! If you’re shocked to read that last part, know that Mason is equally as shocked.
Travis, Maddie, and CHA 1A Squad
June 8, 2022
Hello Chamonix Families!
We just heard from our leaders that the group has landed safely in Geneva. The trip is off to a great start, and we cannot wait to hear more stories from their adventure.
Please remember our leaders and students will be unplugged during their trips but we will be posting up to three trip updates throughout the next couple of weeks! This will allow you to follow along with the trip and the students will also give a special shout out mid-way through! You can also follow us on Instagram, @moondanceadventures, to see more of what we are up to this summer!