July 5, 2023
Hello family and friends of Chamonix 3A,
We write to you from the Paris airport, hearts full and eyes teary as we wait for the gang to board their planes and head back home to the States. The kids are safely through security and on their way back!! We had a great time here in Paris!
Our time in Paris was filled by lots of pleasant walking (and some running) through some of the oldest streets in the world, dining on cuisine in one of the best cities for food on earth, and shopping extravaganza.
Our first walk to explore the sights and sounds of the city culminated at the famed Ile de la Cite (home of The Notre Dame) the Latin Quarter (known for its old universities and cozy old cafes). We decided for a sunset stroll along the banks of Seine, the river that Paris was founded upon. Jackson got some solo shots in his favorite city in the world as the golden rays reflected on the water. As we galivanted through the various gardens of Paris, Sawyer made new friends in each spot: A Colombian dancer in Jardin de Luxembourg, two Americans turned Parisians in Jardin des Tuileries, and many kind French locals in Parc du Champ de Mars. During our walks we spotted many famous sights such as the Louvre Pyramid, the Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, the Pantheon, and many more. We continued to sight see from a height, as we took a relaxing break for our legs and rode on Roue de Paris, the largest ferris wheel in Paris! Charlie was amazed at the size of the city and couldn’t believe how far we had walked to get there. Our final stroll of the trip was less of a stroll and more of a run. We finished our banquet dinner and headed to the Eiffel Tower for Moonup, but we were met with rain. Not just rain, but downpour, cats and dogs rain. We sprinted through the streets of Paris laughing and getting soaked. Miller, without a raincoat, splashed in every puddle he saw. We caught a nice break in the rain for Moonup, but just as we finished and the Eiffel Tower sparkled, it poured again, leaving us with no other option than to run back and play in the rain one last time.
Our dining experience was nothing but spectacular! Once we arrived in the City of Love we headed for the streets, while finding a place for 13 to eat in Paris is no easy feat, we persevered through rejection after rejection before stumbling upon the Japanese Quarter in Paris and found ourselves some of the best sushi in the city! Eliza Dunn tried sushi for the first time! And loved it! Breakfast the next day was a huge hit too! We wandered through the tight cobblestone streets of central Paris and discovered a small creperie. Priyanka and Katie went down the sweet street, devouring their lemon sugar and Nutella banana crepes, while Sutton and Mae took the savory route with ham and cheese galettes. Of course, although we were abroad, we still had to celebrate the 4th of July, so we hit up an American classic and fan favorite, Five Guys Burger and Fries. The group guzzled down burgers, shakes, and fries on the two-story location on Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Our final dinner in Europe was nothing short of fantastic. We discovered a little brasserie on the left bank of the Seine, an iconic Paris neighborhood. It was the complete French meal complete with escargot, duck confit, and potatoes…the whole nine yards. And it was all thanks to Adelaide, who spoke perfect French and got us our reservation over the phone.
A trip to Paris isn’t complete without a shopping adventure. The group headed to the famous Galeries Lafayette in the fashion mecca of the world with the girls splitting off to explore nearby stores Mango and Zara. The girls perfected their catwalk down the dressing room runway, giving each other a full fashion show of each unique fit. Everyone got cute new clothes that were perfect for completing the European look in Paris, plus a few extras for home. While they were inside strutting it up, outside of the stores models and celebrities flooded out of the Palais Garnier after the Chanel Haute Couture show for Paris’s Haute Couture Fashion week. The boys stayed at the giant Galeries Lafayette and helped Landon with his shopping adventure. It only took an hour or two, but finally he re-appeared with a fantastic looking linen shirt and some clean new kicks. Sawyer and Duke grabbed some new shirts as well, Jackson tried out some colognes, Charlie looked at watches, and Miller thought about, but passed on, a new fountain pen. Contemplating gifts for their mothers, the boys headed to Cartier and Tiffany, but decided that might be a purchase that Dad can make on a future anniversary.
We have had such a wonderful time over the past 23 days exploring the different cultures, mountains, beaches, cities, and towns that Central Europe has to offer. It has been a pleasure and we are sad to say bye to everyone, but we know it won’t be long before we are reunited again, be it on the beaches of North Carolina, Washington’s Cascade Range, Wake Forest, small town Tennessee, or New York City.
With all the love in our hearts,
Duke and Ali
July 4, 2023
Bonjour from Paris (again)!! We have officially made it to our last section of the trip – Can you believe it? Because we sure can’t.
Guided by our fearless leader, Mandy, we have made it out of the Pyrenees in one piece (with only a few upset tummies along the way). The group dominated the trail jumping back and forth between Spain and France nearly daily. Surrounded by beautiful green-screen views of the Brèche and the Ordesa canyon littered with Marmots and Isards the group trekked over 60km with 6000m elevation gain. Our trip was marked best not by the countries we were in but by the spectacular locations in which each hostel was set.
In Espugettes the hostel tipped over the side of the mountain surrounded on all sides by grand views of mountain ranges and farm animals. Next to this hostel was a hidden river that must’ve spoken to Addy as she dunked multiple times and stayed put and content in the freezing snow melt. All of the girls also braved the cold and took a dip in this magic river together. Later that night, much warmer and huddled together in our shared hostel room Mae told such a scary story that Ali felt too scared to be even left alone in the room while everyone brushed their teeth.
The next hostel in Gavarnie was a fan favorite with two-story rooms fit with bunk beds and warm blankets. Jackson soaked up every second of the warmth, and took an extremely envied rest. It was here that Landon dominated the Ping Pong table in the lobby, with Mae also holding her own proving to be a difficult opponent.
On the top of the Ordesa Canyon, EDT, Katie and Sutton redeemed themselves from missing the last sunrise hike and awoke bright-eyed to catch the sunrise over the mountain peaks. Covered in blankets, beanies, and headlamps, Duke and the girls hiked up and up and up the mountain to catch the views – but didn’t quite manage to get high enough up. The group still enjoyed the pink puffy clouds and early morning giggles especially followed by the hot cocoa and coffee that awaited them in the hostel.
In Luz, Spain we watched from the finish line as runners completed a 60k race through the mountains. Priyanka used her Spanish as we ordered local veal and lamb for dinner and fresh curd and mousse for dessert and Sawyer devoured the local apple and cinnamon streusel.
On our descent from the beautiful Ordesa Canyon, Miller, Charlie and Sawyer decided to choose their own adventure and trail blazed down the mountain inspired by their role model David Goggins.
Through the peaks and valleys we had the most amazing time trekking through the Pyrenees and are excited to switch out the dirt trails for the cobblestone streets as we begin our adventure in Paris!
Ali and Duke
Jackson: This summer, I have had some of the most fun I have ever had. I feel so blessed you have been able to send me to have the experiences I have had, and the people I have met, and the places I have seen. Thank you so much! I love you guys!
Landon: Thank you so much for sending me on this trip! This was so much more fun than the Dolomites. I love you all so much and can’t wait to see you in less than 24 hours!
Dear My Parents,
I want to begin with saying thank you for letting me come on this trip. I have been blessed by your hard work and I owe you so much. Charlie and I are having a wonderful time. I have so many beyond amazing stories to tell you. I have finished two of the books and I can’t wait to tell you my thoughts. Miss you lots.
Katie: Thank you so much Mom and Dad for letting me come on this trip! I had so much fun and cannot wait to tell y’all all of the stories! Miss y’all lots.
Eliza Dunn: Thank you so much for sending me on one last unforgettable Moondance!! It has been the best 3 weeks ever and I am especially excited (but sad) night in Paris. See you soon and see you even sooner Mom! Love y’all!!!
Addy: Thank you guys so much for giving me the chance to go on this trip! I have had so much fun over these last 3 weeks exploring four countries! I cannot wait to tell you all about everything we got to do. See you soon!! Love you!
Mae: Hi everyone!! I have had the absolute best time ever, thank y’all so so much for sending me to Moondance to have all of these adventures in Europe! I’m so excited to see everyone again so soon, please give Atlas a hug for me too 🙂
Priyanka: Hi everyone! Dad, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to go on such an incredible adventure! I can’t wait to see everyone and share so many stories with you all :). Big hugs to everyone (including the doggos of course), love you all so so much!
Miller: Love u guys, trip was fun. I’m glad you made me go. Can’t wait to see you!
Sutton: Hi! Thank you so much for letting me go on this trip. I had a wonderful time, and I can’t wait to see y’all soon!
Charlie: Thank you guys so much for sending us on this trip. It is the best time Ive ever had.
June 25, 2023
Hola from Costa Brava!
After a few relaxing days at the beach and on the water, we are writing to you as we travel across Catalonia to Lourdes, France, our base city for our Pyrenean Adventure!
We left Chamonix on a bright sunny day and flawlessly navigated the French rail system as we made our way to L’Escala, a cozy beach town in Northwestern Spain where we would spend the next few days livin’ the beach life, kayaking the coast, and celebrating all things good (especially birthdays).
Immediately, even before putting our packs down, we hit the beach for an evening swim. The Mediterranean waters proved to live up to the name and welcomed us with some much-needed rejuvenation. As the group danced on the beach and splashed in the water Charlie, who hadn’t worn a shirt for the last four days, taught us all how to body surf. Relaxing on the beach was a fan favorite. Katie and Eliza Dunn decided to take it easy and catch some rays as they indulged in Acai bowls on the soft sandy shores while Adelaide dove into her book…and a chocolate milkshake. Come lunch, Landon spectacularly spoke Spanish, helping the leaders get food for all at La Supermercado. After soaking up the sun, the group headed back for another passionate futbol match that lasted for so long. Not only did we run out of light, but we lost track of the score. To cap off a successful day, a cooking contest between the tents was in store. Burgers, spaghetti, and stir fry filled and fueled us for the days to come. Although everything was tasty, Priyanka, Mae, and Adelaide took home first place with their splendid stir fry.
While our beach time was fabulous, sea kayaking was just as fun, if not more! We paddled along the orange granite coastline, in and out of caves, and along the beaches as we made our way up and down the sea. Sutton, already a master kayaker after her 17-mile journey last summer, led the charge as she magnificently guided her craft through narrow passages and up and over some rougher waters. As we traversed through the cliffs, spires, and coves our guides told stories of Romans past who first built upon the land, and the hunter gatherers who settled before them. A favorite lunch time activity was learning how to roll our kayaks, a tricky skill that Sawyer quickly picked up. Our days on the water were split up by nice long lunch breaks where everyone took the opportunity to either get their tan on or snorkel in the crystal-clear waters. We wrapped up our sea kayaking days with a tapas dinner at a local beachside restaurant and a cooking class from D.A.A.D (Duke and Ali’s Delicious) Cooking Classes where the group learned how to make a Spanish classic, Paella!
Sea kayaking and beach vibes were good, but our celebrations were the best. We were blessed with the opportunity to commemorate Miller’s 17th lap around the sun on our second day of sea kayaking. The day started at 12:01 with the first, and most definitely not last, singing of happy birthday as we rang in his new year. Breakfast in bed was also in store for the birthday boy, doughnuts and a Coca Cola, his favorite things! Miller also enjoyed a nice tow from the motorboat while he kayaked, some much needed rest on his big day. We capped the night off with a luscious dessert at dinner, bumper cars, and plenty of fireworks downtown (Miller’s birthday is a Catalonian National Holiday, they love him here!) On our humid walk back to the campsite from the busy beach town, Jackson successfully named and identified every roaring motorcycle we passed (and there were many). Everyone enjoyed the celebrations, and it was a day to remember!
Our final morning, we said goodbye to the salty sea, but not before a spectacular Spanish sunrise surpassing any sunrise seen, according to Priyanka. Shortly after we loaded on the bus and said goodbye to our favorite Spanish town. We now head from 0 to 1000 (meters) as we head into the high mountains of the French/Spanish border to put our life once again on our backs and trek through the mystical mountains.
<3 Duke, Ali, and the Chamonix gang
June 20, 2023
Greetings from Chamonix, France!!! After a beautiful and challenging trek on the Tour du Mont Blanc, the group has made it back to our home base at the Chamoniard Volant.
The team started off strong with breakfast in France, lunch in Italy, and dinner in Switzerland on the very first day of the trek. Each night we stayed at a different hostel, crossing borders between the three countries and at one point even jumping back and forth between Switzerland and France over and over and over again.
No matter how tired, the kids ended each day with original “scary” stories that sparked laughter and goosebumps, and all sounded something along the lines of this:
”guys guys guys, I swear this is a true story…
There was once a group of 11 students trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc led by their trusty leaders, Duke and Ali, and their fearless outfitter, Nemo. Each student possessed a special secret power that guided them through the snowy passes and rocky traverses on the trail. Landon held the power of mind-twister, solving every riddle and puzzle thrown his way. From Snappers to Green Glass Door, he flexed his mind-muscles to keep the group entertained on the trail. With Priyanka and Adelaide often in the lead of the group, they helped navigate the team over river crossings and up steep hills as they hiked 100km over the five days. Sutton, the cow-whisperer, used her “moo-ing” skills to enchant the cows to move out of the way as they hiked down trails littered with cows left and right. Sawyer also flexed his telepathic connection with animals to stop and pet every single dog he passed.
The group dominated the trail and followed Nemo’s words to “hike slowly like old men, to finish the trail like young men,” until one afternoon the dark stormy clouds rolled in…
The team went into action quickly, stopping for chocolate bars and lunch in the Swiss mountain-top hut as they covered their packs and threw on their rain gear. They braced themselves for the storm and then ……….
The storm passed, they put on their rain gear for nothing, and arrived dry and safe in Chamonix.
While the “scary” stories were hilarious, things got serious on the soccer field as the group engaged in a competitive futbol scrimmage in Trient, Switzerland. Charlie led his team scoring 8 of the 11 goals, and Miller stayed neck and neck leading his team to have an underdog comeback. The game went on with both Mae and Katie scoring goals and Jackson blocking shots left and right, but ultimately ended in an 11-10 nail-biting match.
The group got lucky with amazing weather on the trip and had the chance to cool off in both Champex and Argentére. Eliza Dunn, not scared of the cold, dunking not once but three times in the ice-cold snow-melted river.
Overall, we all had such an amazing time exploring the Alps and bonding as a team and cannot wait to drop our packs and hit the beach in Costa Brava, Spain!
Ali and Duke
Adelaide: Hi Mom and Dad! I hope you all are doing well! I am having so much fun here. Happy Father’s Day Dad! Love you guys so much!!
Landon: Wassup, this trip is awesome. I am having so much fun and the sights are awesome. I don’t want to leave anytime soon. Love you all and can’t wait to see you.
Priyanka: Hi Mom and Dad (and maybe Stef)! I hope you all are doing great! I am having such an amazing time here and am so grateful for the incredible memories that we’ve already made. Happy Father’s Day, Dad! Love you all so much!!
Sawyer: Hey Mom and Dad! I hope you guys are having a wonderful time working on the farm and Greystone. Amazing memories are being made and I cant wait to see you. A bunch of snow is here and I can’t wait to share some stories with you. Love yall.
Miller: You’re the best, love you guys. I’m really glad you sent me on this trip.
Katie: Hey Mom, Dad, and Lilly! I am having so much fun hiking! Love y’all and Happy Father’s Day Dad!!
Sutton: Hi Mom, Dad, and Colter, I love you all so much and I am having an awesome time! Happy Father’s Day!
Charlie: Miss y’all so much! Happy Father’s day. We accidentally packed dad’s pants. Leaders and groups is great. Love yall.
Mae: Happy Father’s Day, I love y’all!! The trip is going great, our group is vibing and Europe is so so amazing!! Give Atlas a hug for me too 🙂
Jackson: Hi Mom, Dad, Kole, and entire family! Dad, happy late fathers day! I am having an awesome time, I love you all!
Eliza Dunn: Hi Mom and Dad!!! I am having the best time ever in Europe! Happy late Father’s Day! Love, Sister
June 15, 2023
Bonjour Friends and Family of Chamonix 3A!!
We write to you as we take in the incredible views of Mont Blanc and her range from our humble hostel in the Chamonix Valley, from which we will soon depart to trek the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB). The TMB, one of Europe’s most famous trails, will take us through 3 countries (France, Italy, and Switzerland) in 5 days! We are so stoked to have such a special and iconic experience ahead of us. The kids have their packs ready, spirits high, and vibes positive to get ready to trek.
We began our journey in Paris at the Charles de Gaulle airport. Everyone arrived together safe and sound, and we headed to the metro as we navigated the subways to the central Paris train station. While we waited for our train, we played some card games and made friendship bracelets. Soon enough, our train arrived and we boarded on our way to our 2nd country of the trip. Already!! As we rode to Geneva, Switzerland, we got to know each other through name games, played card games, and took some much needed naps. Soon enough, we arrived and caught a quick bus to Chamonix, back in France! As we walked through town, we were blessed with a beautiful sunset that cast incredible colors on the snow and glacier capped mountains, of which are some of the highest on the entire continent. After a delicious dinner at our hostel, we played a game of Mafia which was won by Mae! After our round of games, we enjoyed a wonderful first Moonup with great views that rounded out a memorable first day!
Our second day started with a well-earned sleep-in and a 9 am breakfast. Landon tried coffee for the first time, although it was not his favorite, his willingness to try new things was impressive! Soon after, we headed back into Chamonix to pick up some snacks and supplies for the days hike and a quick lesson on Staying Found by Duke and Ali. We then took a short train to the village of Servoz, France where we found our trailhead. Along the way, Charlie and Katie impressed the group by testing their French skills with the conductor, and Sawyer was quick to catch on and learn some new phrases as well. Once we arrived in Servoz, we started the hike up the Gorges de la Diosaz, a beautiful canyon carved out by a raging river. The trail took us above the river and we took in the incredible views of deep pools and tall waterfalls. Priyanka and Adelaide led the group to the top of the trail which ended with a stunning narrow canyon and a large waterfall. After taking a moment to enjoy the view, we headed back down the trail and made our way back to the train station.
We had a bit of a wait for the next train to arrive, so we played a few games of Dude Don’t Touch My Rock and Ninja. As soon as the train arrived, we headed back into Chamonix for a very pleasant lunch in the center of town where Sutton caught on to some new language skills with some locals as we ate. Our LODs (Leader of the Day), Jackson and Mae, helped Duke grocery shop for the next few days’ lunches as we prepped for life on the trail, while Ali and the rest of the group continued to explore the town center. We then headed to the basketball court with arguably the most impressive view of any court in the world, right below Mont Blanc. Eliza Dunn reigned champion of our game of HORSE and Poison, even beating out the French school children who joined our game. We stayed and played soccer (“futbol” as the school kids corrected us) and basketball as we took in views and cheered on Miller as he dominated the court and field. Once we had worn ourselves out, we headed back to our hostel for a great pasta and chicken dinner with Creme Brulé for dessert. Following dinner, Duke and Ali taught the group the packing essentials for the TMB trek and then our LODs led us in Moonup under a clear star-filled sky as we ended our day in Chamonix.
We are sooooo excited to start our trek tomorrow and can’t wait to fill you in soon on how our Alps adventure went!!
Duke, Ali, and Chamonix 3A
June 14, 2023
Hello Chamonix Families!
We heard from our leaders this morning and the group has landed safely in France! 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!