July 30, 2022
And so our time of endless croissants, laughter, coca-cola, and trekking all over Europe has come to an end. This trip was so wonderful we wish it was starting all over again, but all of us know that Moondance Trips are once in a lifetime so we will have to rely on our thousands of photos and memories to help us relive this perfect adventure.
After finishing up the Tour du Mont Blanc, we hit the Geneva train station like old pros. We definitely know our way that place by now! Kiki quenched her craving for ice coffee and just like that we were off to Paris.
We started our day by working our way up to Notre Dame and admiring its architecture in the process of being rebuilt. As Blue said, it was crazy to turn the corner and just see such a magnificent building appear. After that, we turned the corner to Shakespeare and Company. A legendary bookstore that we are positive Holt would move into if he could. From the bookstore we hit Zara, Urban Outfitters, and anything else that struck our fancy on the streets of Paris.
Once we had our perfect outfits picked out, we rode the metro back to the hostel to get ready for dinner. We feasted at a lovely creperie. Lily finished her Nutella and Carmel dessert crepe by practically licking the plate clean. Since we all looked so fashionable, after dinner Sarah and Fiona led a photo shoot outside the restaurant. Needless to say, everyone looked amazing.
The next morning we hit the town early by starting at Sacre Coure, a beautiful church that looks out over the city. Thomas and Aidan took their time soaking in the view and the gorgeous art inside. After some more crepes and smoothies, we ventured into Galleries Layfette. We strolled around the gorgeous mall for hours and got lost in the best ways possible. Once we were done there, Henry led the charge to find the “largest candy store in Paris” and the group was absolutely successful.
Our day wrapped up with Leaders of the Day Alston and Holt crafting a perfect picnic for under the Eiffel Tower. We had tarts, berries, baguettes, everything! Under the sparkling Tower, Chandler Grace had the boys stunt her for some stunning pictures that showed off the scenery and her cheer talents. Our photo shoot came to a close and we did one final moonup where we got to see just how close this group had become. The admiration and love they have for one another is incredible. Hayden and I are so lucky to have been apart of it.
So a perfect three weeks have come to a close , but we know that these friendships go far beyond one moondance trip. The joy and laughter we felt every step of our adventure was unmatched. Hayden and I are forever grateful for getting to know each and every student so well. This is an incredible group of kids and we can’t wait to see all they accomplish in the world!
All the best,
Emmy and Hayden
July 28, 2022
We cannot believe it is time to be writing this third trip update! The Pyrenees, Costa Brava, and Tour Du Mont Blanc all finished feels surreal but thank goodness the trip isn’t over yet! This incredible group of kids is ready to take Paris by storm and soak up our last moments together. The friendship of this group has only grown through the countless kilometers we hiked together and Hayden and I could not be more grateful.
After our seaside stay in Costa Brava, we were all ready to get back to the mountains. 1 bus, 3 trains, and 2 vans later we made it to Chamonix with smiles on our faces regardless of the endless travel. We woke up the next morning ready to hit the trail with our new mountain guide, Xavier.
We started our first day with a cable car ride up the mountain to get onto the Tour Du Mont Blanc. Thomas instantly remarked he must come back here to ski, and
Lily said the same after seeing the views from up on the mountain. We started our easy descent into the lovely town of Contamines. When we arrived LODs Sarah and Henry led us to gelato, the perfect end to the hike.
The next morning we got to sleep in! It was incredible. Well rested and ready to roll, we started our 700 m ascent to our refuge for the night. It was a shorter day so we enjoyed our lunch at the refuge. We sat outside in the sun without a cloud in the sky. It only took five minutes before Alston suggested cards and the competition was on. We played Presidents and Speed for hours, we even taught Xavier how to play too! In addition to our endless games, some took an extra hike to see a nearby glacier. Fiona and Aidan were in awe of the calving ice! It was crazy to see it a moving glacier so close up.
Day 3 was our first big day of the TMB, but this group handled the challenge with ease. We saw waterfalls, cows, and Kiki even pet a few Donkeys. We arrived at an old farm to stay for the night and Xavier prepared the traditional dish of Raclette. We all loved it, especially Blue. The night ended with Moonup led by Holt with some of our biggest laughs of the whole trip when he asked “if the person to your right was on America’s Got Talent, what would their talent be?”. The answers got hysterical.
After a restful sleep we woke up ready to cross the border to Italy! We trekked up to a mountain pass and stepped right from France over to Italia. We ate buckets of Nutella for lunch and took hundreds of photos. Chandler Grace decided it was the most beautiful hike of the whole trip and we pretty much all agreed. We reached the town of Courmayuer and feasted on Italian pasta, pizza, and tiramisu.
Finally Day 5 came and it felt very bittersweet. Our last day on trail as a group and simply come to quick! We had a beautiful day hike up above the city of Courmayuer and soaked in the last views of Mont Blanc. Afterwards we hunted down the best Italian gelato we could find, treating ourselves after completing the entire southern portion of the TMB! Satisfied with our treats, we rode a bus back to Chamonix and munched on a dinner of burgers and fries while hunting for souvenirs.
These past 20 days have been unbelievable. To see this group grow so confident in their athleticism and ability on trail was amazing! They are so strong, determined, and genuinely funny, we are lucky to get to spend this time with them.
Emmy and Hayden
Now some thank yous from the team:
Alston: Hey mom and dad! We are on the way to the final stretch of our trip, Paris! I am so excited, and I just wanted to say how thankful I am for y’all allowing me the opportunity to enjoy Europe in the way I have. It has been such an outstanding and beautiful trip filled we amazing views and people. I want to do all these things again with y’all. I miss y’all so much and can’t wait to see y’all in 2 days. Thank you again for the trip of a lifetime, it really has impacted me. Love y’all a lot!
Chandler Grace: Hey mom, dad, and Wright! I’ve had the best past 3 weeks backpacking and exploring 4 different but all amazing countries! We’re headed to Paris right now for the last two days of our European adventure. Although the end is bittersweet, I am so thankful for the opportunity to go on this trip and meet so many amazing people. It has truly been an unforgettable experience and has opened my eyes to many of the wonders of the world! I can’t wait to tell you all about it! Love y’all!
Holt: Hello Mom and Dad!! Our trip is almost over… How could this be?! I’ve enjoyed truly every second of my time here in Europe with my favorite group people in the world. I’m not ready to say bye and I’m not ready to leave. Thankfully, we are currently on a train to Paris where we’ll spend two days exploring, shopping, and romanticizing our lives! The only word I can use to describe my time here is: surreal. I’ve never felt more grateful than I’ve been while soaking in the beautiful views of Chamonix, Costa Brava, and the gorgeous Pyrenees. I’ve also been able to find some peanut butter to snack on so y’all know there’s no need to worry about me! I love y’all both dearly and am excited to see you soon in Atlanta (please bring my headphones for the car ride home! Haha, thank you!) ¡Adios! ^_^
Kiki: Hey Mom and Dad! I’m so sad that our trip is coming to a close but so grateful that I was able to experience four different countries with different cultures and beautiful views every day. I am so thankful for the opportunity to go on this trip and meet all these amazing people and trek through the Pyrenees, Mont Blanc, and sea kayak in Costa Brava! We are on the train to Paris right now to end out the trip with some shopping and sightseeing, and I’m very excited to spend these last two days in an awesome city. I can’t wait to tell y’all all about the trip and how it impacted me when I get home, but for now thank you again for the most incredible three weeks ever. I love you guys and see you soon
Blue: Hey Mom and Dad! I am currently on a train to Paris where I will spend the last two days of this amazing trip draining my bank account. I am so thankful for y’all letting me go on this adventure as I have not only gained once in a lifetime experiences but have also met people I believe will be lifelong friends. I miss y’all and have some amazing stories to tell when I get home. Thank you again and I will see y’all in a couple days.
Henry: Whats up Mom, Dad, and Moosh! We’re on the final stretch of the trip, on a train to Paris right now. This has been such a crazy experience and I am so thankful for y’all letting me go on this trip. All the views, experiences, people I’ve met, have been amazing and this trip is truly like nothing I’ve done before. Can’t wait to see y’all and share tons of stories. Let’s get sushi when I get back!!! Love y’all
Thomas: Hey mom and dad, we are on our final train to Paris, getting ready to wrap up the trip. It’s been such an incredible experience in the mountains and I’m so thankful for every minute here. These last three weeks have been so impactful on me and I can’t wait to share everything. I’ve made so many amazing friendships and learned a lot about myself and others. I’m extremely grateful for everything you guys do for me and am so excited to see everyone in a few days. Love you!
Lily: Hey fam, I’m on my final train to Paris today and I’m so excited to shop! I am so grateful for this experience, Moondance has changed my life. The mountains are so magical here and I can’t wait to come back when I’m older. We just finished our tour du Mont Blanc and it was breathtaking. I loved chamonix and I even ran into my French partner there. It’s lit here. Miss and love u!
Aidan: Hey mom and dad, I’m on the last train of the trip right now heading to Paris where we’ll spend the last bit of the trip draining all the money we have left. I couldn’t be more thankful that I had the opportunity to come on this trip, see the things I seen, everything I’ve experienced, and the amazing people I met that I think will be friends for life. Can’t wait to tell y’all all about it in a few days. Thanks to y’all again and see ya in a few days. We should scoop some chipotle on the way back from the airport.
Sarah: Hi guys, we are headed to Paris right now and I couldn’t be happier. I have had the most amazing experiences here in Europe! I have made friends that I love dearly and I hope to keep in contact with for life. I am so grateful that y’all sent me on this trip, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it when I get home. I do have one request, can you please make me carnitas street tacos for when I get home? I would really appreciate that! I love and miss you guys. Beware: i am going to buy so many clothes in Paris (sorry In advance) love y’all 🙂
Fiona: Hello family, on the train again going to Paris, it’s gonna be so fun no offense prolly better than when I went with you guys. Anyways miss you guys and can’t wait to tell you everything about the trip and thank you for letting me come on this I’ve had such amazing experience and made so many friends and just had the best time. Also, can u make salmon and waffle fries and asparagus the night I come home. Thanks. Okay love you guys see u in a few days
July 22, 2022
Hola from the Mediterranean! These past couple days of sea kayaking were gorgeous, relaxing, and just what we needed to rest our legs after eight days of trekking in the mountains. From cliff jumping to snorkeling, this group did it all with smiles on their faces. They are an enthusiastic bunch who love riddles, working hard, and lots and lots of gelato.
Tired, hot, and happy to have finished the Pyrenees, we jumped on our bus out of Lourdes and started out for our next adventure. After sufficient snacking and a delicious dinner prepared by Chandler Grace once we reached our campsite, we slept soundly ready for our next day on the water. We woke up early and taxied to a protected coastline called Cap de Crues. The water was a brilliant blue, Fiona could not stop talking about it being the prettiest water she’s ever seen. It was also hot, so Sarah felt right at home in the Dallas like temperatures! We paddled our way down to a rock beach and parked for lunch. From there we snorkeled and swam. Holt took time for a relaxing float in his life jacket, soaking in his surroundings.
After lunch our guides offered to take us to see a famous sea cave via motorboat. Of course we all jumped at the chance. We set out and crashed through waves, Blue loved the adrenaline rush! The cave was known as “Hell’s Cave”, but don’t worry it wasn’t scary. It’s called that because in the morning the sun rises and turns the cave a fiery orange and red. Lily told us she’s absolutely going to come back and see it in that light. After our day on the water, we were spoiled with a cooking class at a beachfront restaurant. Overlooking the ocean we learned about traditional Catalonian dishes and how to make them! Ives helped rub tomatoes toasted bread while Alston prepared our romaine lettuce for the grill. It was divine. After we walked home to our campsite, full to our hearts content!
Stoked to be on the water again, we took off to another new beach and navigated around rocks and through caves. We spent the morning paddling through water that Fiona decided was even bluer than yesterday. At lunch we landed by a rock island that was perfect for jumping. With a GoPro in hand, Thomas leapt off the rocks to his heart’s content. Simultaneously, Henry snorkeled around the cove for a long time because it honestly felt like the place you could find buried treasure. Finally we paddled in and started to prep for a heated Iron Chef competition. Hayden and I were blown away by the culinary feats these teams pulled off. Aidan even served us food speaking in Spanish for some added pizzazz to really boost his teams score. But it was ultimately Kiki’s team that took home the win with their tropical themed menu. Hayden and I were practically licking our plates clean.
Unfortunately, Ives had to leave our journey early but she gave this trip everything she had and we are so lucky to have spent two weeks with her! We were all sad to say goodbye to Ives but this group is excited for our next trek. They have eight days in the Pyrenees under their belt and know they can conquer any challenge put in front of them. This group is going to crush the Tour du Mont Blanc with smiles and a ton of snacks.
All the best,
Emmy and Hayden
And now here are some shoutouts from the crew!
Sarah: Hi mom, dad, and Carlie!! I am currently on a train to chamonix and I’m having so much fun here in Europe. It’s crazy I’ll be home in a week. The Pyrenees were amazing, and so was costa Brava. Please give Bailey and opal lots of love for me! (P.s. Alessia and Jensen if you’re reading this i miss you too) I love and miss y’all, and I’ll see you soon <3
Holt: Hello! I just got done slaying the days away in Costa Brava (the most beautiful Spanish beach!) while sea kayaking and lounging on the sand! I’m loving ever second of this trip 🙂 Anyways, I miss y’all and Bella and my warm bed immensely but I’m totally chill with staying in Europe for another full week!! We’re going to Paris soon too, never been so excited ^_^ LOVE YOU
Kiki: Hi mom and dad, I miss y’all! We are currently on the train to Chamonix since we just finished our section in Costa Brava- we sea kayaked and it was SO beautiful. Hiking in the Pyrenees was amazing, and I’m super excited to be back in the mountains for the last few days of our trip. Everyone here is so fun and I can’t wait to show you pictures and tell you all about the trip when I get home! Tell Max, Brad, BM, and Rosie hi for me! Love you guys and see you soon <3
Lily: Hi mom and dad! Miss you guys, we just got done sea kayaking in costa Brava. It was such a beautiful place and I loved the water and everything. we should definitely go back there as a family. The group is really fun and I have a lot of great friends, we all wanted to have a reunion in watersound if possible. The Pyrenees trek was really cool but pretty hard considering we all got sick towards the end, but it was an amazing experience and I got to practice some French! Miss you all! Excited to eat some sushi when I get home, love you!
Thomas: Hey mom and dad, I’m having a blast in Europe with my new great friends and I miss you all so much. The Pyrenees were so incredible and the experience with staying in refugios was really neat. We also hiked through the Cirque de Gavarnie and I can’t wait to show you the pictures, it was incredible. Costa Brava was an relaxing break after 8 days in the mountains, but I am so excited to get into the Alps and explore Chamonix. I can’t wait to see everyone in a week, love you guys!
Chandler Grace: Hey everyone! It’s CG coming to you from the train headed to Chamonix. We’ve had a busy past two weeks from spending 8 days in the GORGEOUS Pyrenees mountains with our French guide Mathieu. Hiking around La Cirque de Gavarnie, we explored the beauty of the rock mountains that encompassed the French and Spanish mountains. Next, we took a bus to Costa Brava where we sea kayaked for two days through crystal blue waters under bright blue skies. It gave us all a well deserved break after a long week of hiking. I’m so excited to begin the Tour de Mont Blanc! Love y’all and miss y’all so much! Also, happy belated bday to Lily and Emily! We’ll celebrate for sure when I get back!
Blue: Hey mom and dad, I’m on a train headed to Chamonix playing some cards. They handed me an iPad and told me to give a trip update and I don’t really know what to say so yeah. I’m alive and chilling and really loving Europe, Y’all should see some of the places we’ve stayed they’re absolutely stunning and the weather is Immaculate. Hope y’all are doing well and I’ll see y’all on the 30.
Aidan: Hey mom and dad, playing some cards on the train to chamonix right now. I’m all good and chilling and really love everything we’ve seen here. Y’all should definitely see some of the things we’ve seen and done. It’s really been the trip of a lifetime. The weathers been so good since we’ve been here, not a single cloudy day. Kayaking in costa Brava was so fun and cool, we’ve definitely gotta come back. Hope y’all are good and see you all on the 30.
Fiona: Hi momand dad miss you guys but I’m having a blast we are currently on a train going to chamonix and we just finished kayaking and such In costa brava the Pyrenees were really cool and beautiful can’t wait to show you guys pictures anyways see you in like a week tell so I say hi you see her at the pool love you!!
Alston: Hey madre and padre! I miss y’all so much. We have been having a great time and don’t worry mom I’ve been along a bunch of pictures! We are on the way to chamonix right now for our final trek through the alps. We just went to costa Brava and I’ve never loved a place more. It was hot but the water was beautiful and blue. Our group is great but I am sad for Ives leaving I just wish we could’ve finished the trip together. I also can’t wait for Paris we were all going to go to the Zara, oooooooooo. Tell everybody I love and miss them
Henry: What’s up Mom, Dad, and Moosh, I miss you guys tons. I have been having am amazing time even though I got a little sick in the Pyrenees. We just left Costa Brava which was stunning. We had an amazing time kayaking around in the Mediterranean. We also had a ton of fun trekking around in the Pyrenees. These views were like nothing I’ve seen before. Our guide Mathieu was super cool and took us through some of the coolest trails the mountains had to offer. We’re now on the way to Chamonix and I’m super excited to see what the rest of the trip will be like. I love y’all, can’t believe we only have a week left!
July 19, 2022
Bonjour friends and family!
We can’t believe we are already halfway through this incredible adventure. After finishing up 3 days of travel and 8 days of trekking, this group has grown incredibly close and shown that they can conquer anything. From valleys to peaks, these kids are incredible and Hayden and I are so lucky to be able to spend this time with them.
Once we collected everyone in Geneva after long days of flying across oceans, our group went for a walk along the lake and got tasty burgers for a filling lunch. After munching and chatting, we headed to our hostel where all the boys promptly took naps. The girls were a little more energetic so we took a walk to old town and got some extra sightseeing in. Dinner time rolled around and we made sure to ask all the ice breakers we could. Holt stumped everyone with “What’s your favorite song of all time?” A very tough question for all of us!
The next morning, we packed up and quickly jumped on our first train of the day. We made it back to Paris and the kids did an excellent job navigating the metro for the first time to our next train station. Finally on our last train of the day, Alston, Aidan, and Ives played cards forever until we arrived in Lourdes. Once we got to the hotel, everyone jumped into action to prep for backpacking. As we repacked our packs we ate pizza, excited for the journey that awaited us.
Day 1 started with an amazing morning. The sun shining over all of us in the mountains as we started our steady climb uphill. After putting in the work we had a lovely break for lunch by a river where we took advantage to jump in and cool off. Revived after our break, we continued until we reached the “circus”. Mathieu, our mountain guide, explained that it is referred to as a Circus when every angle you can see is covered by mountains. We could even see the Cirque du Gavarnie in the distance, making us excited for days to come. We reached our refugio and Kiki immediately started a handstand contest because that is the perfect way to end the first day of trekking. Still full of energy, we played games well into the night and watched the mountains turn purple as the sun set.
Up and out of our first refugio, we trekked down to Gavarnie Village. Here we stopped at a museum of French Mountaineering and got some popsicles before heading up a steep climb to Espugettes. It was gorgeous! We saw the sweeping valley below and more cows and sheep than we could count. We reached our Refugio in the mid-afternoon. From there we played hacky sack, dipped our feet in the stream, and journaled while the sun blazed in the sky. After dinner and Moonup we headed outside to watch the sun set over the mountains, which was quickly becoming a nightly tradition for this group. They just couldn’t get enough the views!
Day 3 was our only day hike. We left our heavy layers back at the refugio and headed up Pimene or “red mountain.” Known for its rocks that contain high amounts of iron, leading to their rust color. We had lunch at the summit overlooking the gorgeous cirque from all angles. We saw vultures and marmots and of course, sheep and cows. After dinner our glorious Moonup was led by Leaders of the Day (LODs) Thomas and Sarah who made everyone participate in a singing competition. Kiki and Henry’s rendition of “Super Bass” was unbelievable but ultimately Chandler Grace, Blue, and Alston took home the win with their choreographed rendition of “I Want It That Way”. They practically were the Backstreet Boys!
Back with our full packs, we hiked down from our mountain paradise to the Cirque du Gavarnie, the largest waterfall in Europe outside of Norway. We hiked all the way up the falls and Thomas let the spray cool him down. We continued our hike and stopped for several swims in brilliant blue rivers. Once at the refugio we treated ourselves to ice cream bars and attempted to play French Monopoly. Chandler Grace helped translate all the cards! Our day ended with a restorative yoga session led by LOD Lily. We went to bed feeling calm, peaceful, and just a little sore from four days of hiking.
The next day we had a sunny scramble up a mountainside to reach our remote refugio. Tucked into the mountains we could practically see Spain from our windows. Once we arrived, some took advantage of going down on the plateau with Mathieu to get more views of the cirque. This time from right above the waterfall. Later, Fiona and Sarah got themselves some chocolate which they ultimately decided was the best they ever had.
Day 6 took us across the border! We climbed down the mountain to reach Spain after spending the last week in France. Aidan, Henry, and Thomas played hacky sack across the border while we had a photo shoot in Spain, led by Ives and Holt. Once we were satisfied with our pictures, we headed down the mountain to our refugio. We spent the afternoon lounging by the river, jumping into the cool water, and trying to catch fish with our hands. After an amazing dinner we got to bed early, gearing up for our next big day.
Day 7 was our longest day yet, but these kids took the challenge head on. Led by LOD Aidan we climbed a steep ascent to reach a beautiful view of Ordesa Canyon. We walked along the top for miles until we reached a shady spot for lunch. Munching on chocolate and sandwiches we prepared for our afternoon push. We made it up to our final refugio, in the blazing sun, sweating buckets but laughing the whole way. Once we reached the top, many took naps or just lounged outside, soaking in the view. After our Moonup that night, Mathieu pulled out his flute and played us off to sleep. Needless to say, it was perfect.
Our final day proved challenging. The elevation, rocky climbs, and sun had taken a lot out of this group but they were absolute champions. Unfortunately, our group had to split when we had to make an unexpected trip to a medical center for Ives but she was so brave and gave this section everything she had. After the stop, the rest of the group powered on and completed the hike via the Breche de Roland. Sweaty and sleepy, we piled into vans and made our way back to Lourdes where Ives was able to reunite with the group.
The Pyrenees section was demanding, intense, and incredible. These students took on every day with smiles and positivity, making each hike an absolute joy. From bartering for chocolate to constant vlogging, this group always keeps things exciting and hilarious.
Now we’re headed back to Spain for our sea kayaking section so Hayden and I will say ciao for now!
Until next time,
Emmy and Hayden
July 9, 2022
Hello Chamonix Families!
We have 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!