July 5, 2023
Dearest Friends and Family,
Today, sadly our journey together has finally hit its expiration date. We have had quite possibly the best summer of our lives and can’t wait to share with y’all the hundreds of stories about our adventures. While we wish our time together could last indefinitely, we are so thankful for the opportunity to have been together as one group these last three weeks.
Our first day in Paris was an adventure indeed. After a lengthy travel day maneuvering across Paris, we finally reached our last hotel. Upon our arrival, the first order of business was settling into our hotel and dropping our things off as quickly as possible before going out to grab some grub. We walked around the streets of Paris looking for something to appease our hungry bellies and came across a delicious feast. Along the way, Connor and Wilsie were quick to point out the “space invaders” or local art on different buildings scattered on buildings in the city! When we arrived at our restaurant, Bocamexa, everybody ordered their own burrito variation. Allison and Addy convinced everyone to pair their burrito with a guava soda that was a taste of heaven! Following our dinner, we got back to have an exceptional moon up and catch some Z’s before our big Paris extravaganza the next day to celebrate our adventure and Ridges big 16.
We had a later wakeup call on a sunny morning here in Paris. Giving everyone enough sleep to have the energy for what ended up being a 10-mile pursuit of excellence in the city. We started by putting on our best (and the best smelling!) outfits and headed over to a crêperie where we enjoyed a sweet to start our day of celebratory activities. Ellie had a strawberry crepe and an espresso with Whipped cream that was almost as tall as she is! Jacob had a sugar waffle that was equally delicious and had some ice cream to cap off their breakfast. Following our meal, we began to explore the shops, gardens, and monuments of the city. We made our way to a few shops, and bakeries where Booker, Jacob, and Ridge showed their 4th of July spirit by buying some New York Bagels with cream cheese as a snack, while Connor and Ellie enjoyed some coffee and Kombucha. Following our snack, we went to get some Macaroons from Ladurée, while those who had no spot for dessert explored the land of candles and cologne. Ridge bought himself a nice birthday cologne while Tanner and Wisie had some delicious almond Macaroons. We then decided to have a picnic at the Louvre where Nina and Tanner helped prepare the charcuterie board for our beautiful afternoon meal. We then headed back to our hotel to prepare for dinner where we had our last meal together as a group. We went to a wonderful Italian joint where we laughed over lemonade and pasta about the incredible journey we had been on. Campbell was quick to share her delicious 4 cheese Penne pasta, while Jacob and Ridge shared a pizza, and two different types of pasta. After dinner we decided to attempt to see the Eiffel Tower light up the city. Mother nature tried to stop us but came up short as we made it under the tower to sing Happy Birthday to Ridge. Then the weather began to pour and unfazed we danced in the rain back to our home for a birthday tiramisu and our best and final moon up.
It’s hard to believe that in a such a short amount of time a group of 13 strangers can become such an interconnected family. The amount of support, love, and, most importantly laughter, shared by this group is one of the greatest spectacles I’ve been able to witness. To say im grateful that I was able to lead your children and be a part of their lives is truly an honor.
Will and Lily Grace
July 3, 2023
Bonjour from Paris,
We’re writing to you with only a few days left of our journey, we’ve had the time of our lives completing the tour de Mont Blanc and the sights were those just short of heaven.
Day one of our Tour du Mont Blanc, TMB, journey began bright and early to catch our train to Geneva and transfer to Chamonix where we met our awesome guide, Xavier, grabbed some sandwiches, and hit the trail. There was not a cloud in the sky as we trekked along admiring the beautiful mountain range and the peak of Mont Blanc in front of us. Wilsie never failed to take a moment, look behind herself, and admire the beautiful environment we were surrounded by. When we reached our highest point of the day, we took a long break to sit, have a snack, and, of course, take some pictures of the breathtaking views. Xavier packed us yummy crepes which was the perfect treat to get us through our afternoon. We headed downhill for the rest of the day and finally stumbled upon our hostel at the base of the mountain, nestled in a tiny village. It was the most beautiful hostel location and our outdoor dinner with the view was a highlight of the trip. Dinner was finished off with the tough choice of delicious homemade lemon gelato or a berry yogurt parfait. While most went with the gelato, Ellie decided to try out the yogurt which ended up being one of her favorite desserts of the trip (and we have had a lot!). We did not waste a moment away from the perfect weather and incredible views. We spent the rest of the evening throwing the football, having our largest photo shoot of the trip, and playing with a team of huskies that were also guests of the hostel that night. Wilsie and Tanner gave the dogs lots of love and were definitely the favorites of our group. Our wonderful first day of TMB was wrapped up with another great Moonup under the stars.
Day two began with an assortment of croissants, coffee, and hot chocolate before we took off for our adventure. It was not long before we stumbled into the cute town of Les Contamines where we loaded up our bags with groceries for the next few days and made our own delicious sandwiches for another successful picnic lunch. Our leaders of the day, Addy and Jacob, did a perfect job grocery shopping, setting up our lunch, and keeping the group smiling throughout our uphill climbs. We had a short afternoon trek along a beautiful river that led us right up to our hostel. The kids filled their free time with card games, football, and many many song suggestions for Will and me to add to our trip playlist. The hostel made us an amazing dinner which consisted of chicken curry, rice, and chocolate cake for dessert. Needless to say, we had no leftovers. Our Moonup that night was interrupted by a random summer shower that seemed to come out of nowhere. We all ran back through the fields and into the hostel where we finished our Moonup with our headlamps in the middle lighting up our little room.
Day three was the longest and most challenging day of the trip. We had a huge
uphill morning gaining well over 3,000 ft in elevation, which is nothing this group hasn’t already done, but our weather was cold and rainy. We trekked through the fog, and even some snow, following closely behind one another all the way to the top. This was a very tough morning and could have easily been a low of the trip, but each and every student kept a smile on their face and a positive attitude. Will and I were beyond impressed and proud of the way our group handled our circumstances and the gratitude they continued to have the entire way up. Jacob was in the front, middle, and back of the line at different points throughout the day cheering everyone on and checking up on the group. Our LODs, Connor and Nina, took control when things got tough and never failed to yell out words of encouragement when needed most. When we finally reached the top, we were rewarded with the sight of a hostel and the smell of warm hot chocolate and lunch that awaited us inside. The group was all smiles as we took our time enjoying our accomplishments and warming up after our cold journey up. Ridge decided to try some of the hostels warm soup and bread while Booker went for the homemade chocolate cake. Our afternoon was much warmer and all downhill to our little, remote hostel known as the “cheese factory”. We were the only people occupying the hostel and enjoyed being in the company of our group only. That evening, we reflected upon our day at Moonup, and it was amazing to hear that this day ended up being a highlight of the trip because of how proud everyone was of themselves and the group for completing our climb. We ended our evening listening to Addy and Alison play the guitar and even attempted to sing along a few times.
We woke up on day four to beautiful blue, clear skies and were beyond excited to make our way from France into Italy. With a big day ahead of us, our LODs, Campbell and Booker, met with our guide to look over the map and get the rundown of the day. They both did a great job leading us up some switchbacks and around the mountain to the pass between France and Italy. We took many breaks on our way up to sit down and take some time to look at the stunning view without a cloud in the sky. The group was full of energy as we neared the top of the pass and caught a glimpse of the Italian mountain range ahead of us. We were reimbursed with a huge wave of energy as we made our way over the border. The kids were all smiles and we plopped down and enjoyed our lunch with the unbelievable view of France and Italy. Alison and Nina had the whole group laughing as they made a dance video right on the border. The most notable move with the “stanky leg” with one foot in France and the other in Italy. We were sad to leave the top but headed down to find our Italian hostel inside a small town. That night we had arguably the best dinner, I know we’ve said that a lot, of the trip. We were surprised by our guide and arrived at a local Italian restaurant where we began our meal with charcuterie boards, followed by pasta bolognese, pizza, and tiramisu for dessert. Ellie and Tanner especially liked the charcuterie board and tried every type of cheese it had to offer, while Connor and Ridge finished off the last of our pizzas. Very full and very happy we headed to bed early after our big day.
Day five marked the last day of our adventure through TMB. We had the perfect
send off of a nice day hike up to a beautiful, panoramic view that showed off the peak of Mont Blanc. We enjoyed our last mountain top picnic and headed down to say goodbye to our amazing guide Xavier. No goodbye is complete without some celebratory gelato, so we grabbed a scoop before heading out. Campbell tried the mint chocolate chip while the majority stuck to the favorite Nutella flavor. We spent the remainder of the afternoon exploring the town of Chamonix and picking up some souvenirs along the way. We completed our night with hamburgers, fries, a dance party, and of course, another amazing Moonup.
It’s truly incredible how time flies when you are having the time of your life. This
group has been resilient, strong, enthralling, and downright amazing. Each and every member of our group is entering our last section with the excitement to squeeze every drop of fun out of our last outing. Next time you’ll be hearing the stories from our adventure in Paris.
LG and Will
June 29, 2023
Hard to believe we’re about to be heading into our final section for the Tour de Mont Blanc. Since our arrival in Spain, the group has been on a roll! We’ve cooked, kayaked, baked in the sun, and had the occasional dunk in the Mediterranean Sea.
Our first day began with a long bus ride from our Hotel in Luz, we piled in and were able to catch up on sleep with a long nap while we awaited our arrival on to the beautiful beaches of Costa Brava. Once we finally arrived at our campground, we quickly found our Bungalows, unloaded our things, threw on our most aquatic suits, and sprinted to the pool to soak up some rays. The boys brought the football to the pool and Jacob put on a display of one handed grabs before he plunged in. Meanwhile, we cranked up some tunes, lathered up some sunscreen, and took in some rays on a beautiful sunny afternoon. While some of lounged, Booker and Campbell went on a mission with LG to secure some good eats at the local market in town. They picked up some fresh peaches, pineapple, oranges, and food for our stay in Spain. We capped off the night with a delicious dinner in town. Orders ranged from Ellie’s delicious mushroom gnocchi, to a poke bowl that Nina and Wilsie devoured in a split second. Everyone went home full and happy for a wonderful Moonup under a clear sky as we prepared for a day on the beach and a special surprise tomorrow!
The beach day began with a bang as one of our very own celebrated her 18th birthday today! It’s true, today marks the day sweet Tanner has been on the earth spreading joy for 18 full rotations. We were so excited to celebrate her and started our day with M&M pancakes and fresh fruit cheffed up by LG and Will with assistance from Sous Chefs Booker and Jacob. Alongside our pancake buffet, was a donut tower stacked wide with a few candles to be blown out by the birthday queen. After breakfast we took to the pool to get our tans in order before lunch and an afternoon at the beach. Connor made sure to intentionally mark his sunscreen so his shoe tan would be in full affect. After lunch we made our way to the beach to claim our spot in the sand where we posted up for the day. We all made our way down to the crystal clear waters for a dip on the hot day before our summer fun began. It was a sight for sore eyes, spike ball, music, and some good reads in the sun. Connor and Will dominated the spike ball net, and were met with Hasty challenges from The group, while the rest laid out, and took plenty of amazing photos of the day. Nina and Ridge enjoyed their time on the sand with a pair of shades and a good book. All that sun got us hungry and we grabbed a few slices of pizza on the beach before heading back for our birthday dinner. Our meal of the night was an amazing tacos night filled with homemade guacamole made by Allison, and all the fixings for a perfect end to an amazing celebration. After dinner we had ice cream dessert and Moonup before we laid down to bed in preparation for our first day of kayaking
Day one of kayaking started with a quick transport to the beach and a lesson on kayaking safety before we put on our spray skirts, helmets, and grabbed our paddles to head out onto the water. We got our warmup just going in between the rocks and paddling in the open ocean before we started to see the beautiful landscapers of the rocks along the shore. Eventually we started to paddle into the caves along the rock shore and they were magnificent to see. Ridge led the pack of kayakers grinding away at the water in the front, showcasing the line for all of us to follow. We finally reached a beach where we quenched our thirst with some lemonade and were able to catch a breather, some lunch, and snorkeling. The group, led by Wilsie followed a school of fish around the water and had a perfect view off the marine life in the waters while snorkeling. After we had our rest and food, we got back in the kayaks to paddle back the main beach where we started. On the way back, Addy capsized her Kayak and went for a dip in the cool ocean before returning to her vessel. All in all it was a great day on the water and we learned a bunch of new tricks in the kayaks, and saw some spectacular views. We got some fresh gelato once we arrived back and headed back to the campsite to freshen up for dinner. We went to a local spot for some amazing pasta and pizza, and walked throughout the town. When we got back we had a scrimmage vs another Moondance group where CHA 3B came out victorious. Goals from Nina, Campbell, Jacob, pushed us to a 5 goal lead. While excellent defense from Ridge who kept the ball on the offensive side. The true stars were alternating goalies Ellie and Tanner who only allowed 3 goals the whole match.
Day two of kayaking did not disappoint. We got an early start and headed to the beach where we met our guides and were off exploring. As we paddled along we admired the crystal clear, blue ocean below us and the stunning cliffs lining the shore. We weaved in and out of caves, but only a few attempted a small cave opening that then expanded when inside. Getting in and out was tricky, but Ridge, Nina and Campbell did it with ease and encouraged the rest of the group to give it a shot. Our lunch spot was truly one of he most unique and beautiful beaches we had been to. After filling up on lemonade and sandwiches, we snorkeled around our cove and some took a beach nap in the shade. We made our way back to our beach where we waved goodbye to our awesome guides, Albert and Pao, and put away our paddles for the trip. Our day was not over yet; we finished off the afternoon with a fruit, lemonade, and gelato pool party kindly prepared by Wilsie and Jacob. Just when we thought our time in Costa Brava couldn’t get any better, we headed to a local restaurant for a beachside cooking class. All of the kids chipped in to help learn and prepare our appetizers and meal for the night. Booker, Alison, and Nina were in charge of cooking the meat for our paella, Conner and Ellie took on the bruschetta, Addy and Tanner prepared the guacamole and salmon, while the rest of the group worked on chopping vegetables and making pesto. It was agreed by the end of the meal that it was not only one of the best dinners we’ve ever had, but also one of the best nights of the trip. Full, happy, and excited about our new culinary skills we headed back to camp for a good nights rest before beginning the Tour du Mont Blanc in the morning.
We finally started our travel to the TMB and can’t wait for all of the exciting adventures ahead. We know these last few days are going to be tough but worth the endurance for the experience of a lifetime! We are gonna make our last section one for the story books and can’t wait for y’all to read all about it!
Will & LG
June 23, 2023
Good Morning Cham 3B followers,
We are ecstatic to tell you the tale of our successful trekking in the Pyrenees. There were plenty of ups, the occasional down (hill), and hundreds of laughs, smiles, and gasps of the breathtaking scenery across the pond! It’s hard to believe it’s been over a week, and we can’t put into words how excited we are for the next two weeks of our trip.
Day 1 : Our first day began with a pickup from our first hotel in Lourdes where we connected with our Trekking guide Mandy. She gave us the rundown for our upcoming trip, and we headed on our way to drop off some extra gear and start our trek. We arrived at our first hostel and were able to unload some things at the Refugio before heading off on an 8-mile trek to warm up our legs. Our trek was capped off by a breathtaking view where we stopped for our first picnic. Here we took in some amazing views and Jacob and the group were able to learn to about the importance of leave no trace principles! We finished off our trek with a jump in the cold river where Booker and Ellie committed to the polar plunge and found a natural water slide. Our night was finished with an exceptional dinner and a Moonup and daily recap under the stars.
Day 2 was a highlight of our Pyrenees section for everyone. It was one of our
longest and toughest days, but was full of amazing views, great conversations, and lots and lots of riddles. There was no shortage of entertainment on the trail between Ellie solving the group’s tricky riddles for hours and the girls singing many many different Taylor Swift songs. We stopped for a picnic in front of the gorgeous Cirque de Gavarnie; the group was truly in awe of our panoramic view of the mountains and the roaring waterfall in front of us. Before taking off we trekked closer to the waterfall and got to see, and feel, the magnitude of the rushing water. This experience was absolutely amazing, and Ridge explained that he “couldn’t keep a smile off his face the entire time.” Just when we thought the day couldn’t get any better, we walked past a water hole that we all jumped into to refresh ourselves before the final push up to our hostel. It was a tough final stretch, but we were greeted at the top by an incredible view and two donkeys that particularly loved Addy and Wilsie; they got plenty of selfies for proof! We ended our night with more card games and Alison gave all of the girls nicknames that have stuck for everyone in the group.
Day 3 was our first bout with Mother Nature herself as the rain became a clear factor in our day. Lucky for us we didn’t have a long journey ahead of ourselves. We woke up early to beat the rain and headed down the mountain to a small mountain village called Gavarnie. We were surprised to find out we were the only guests staying in our hostel and we were very excited to discover a ping pong and Foosball table. As Jacob and Booker battled it out on the ping pong table, Wilsie, Ridge, Tanner, and Connor had a Foosball tournament while we let the rain pass. As the sun began to shine again, we headed into town to explore Gavarnie and quickly made a stop at their local gelato shop. It was agreed that Nina ordered the best with her delicious raspberry sorbet. That was not where our food tour ended; the boys headed to a pizza shop to grab a slice while the girls took on a local vender selling chocolate covered marshmallows and candied almonds. We capped off the food tour with some cheese fit for kings before our upcoming feast. We completed our amazing day of food with a home cooked dinner of trout, rice, and salad prepared by Christoph our hostel owner. Full and happy, we had one of our best Moonups that night led by Booker and Campbell that resulted in a big group hug and concluded a very special, bonding day on our trip.
Day 4: We woke up bright and early after a restful town day and were
disappointed to see that it was still rainy outside. One of the many things that makes this group so special is that no matter the circumstances there is never a complaint. The group went about the day with big smiles and excitement, as if it was the most beautiful day of the trip. Despite the weather, we were in for a treat as we hiked across the Cirque de Gavarnie from France into Spain – our highest point of the Pyrenees section. Walking through the pass, we were challenged with strong wind in our faces, but as we rounded the corner, we were nothing short of blown away by the incredible sight of Spain. We headed down the mountain taking in our surroundings, watching our steps, and even completing two impressive river crossings. We finally made it to the base where our home for the night sat along a river in a field surrounded by mountains on every side. Conner and Campbell started the trend of getting a warm croissant and hot chocolate, a favorite combination for our group, to warm us up after a chilly walk down. We headed outside to the field and played games and watched the boys slip and slide on the wet field playing football. That evening our group discovered that we love Spain for another reason, the food. Our first course was a delicious carbonara that still is Alison’s favorite dish of the trip so far. After Moonup under the stars, we all quickly fell asleep after another successful day in the Pyrenees.
Day 5: After two days of rain, and another dreary forecast, we were excited to
see some blue skies amidst the grey. Today was another big climb up, but our group stayed close together and encouraged each other all the way up. We took a snack break, and of course a mini photo shoot, in front of another waterfall. Excited and energized, we pushed up the mountain to our remote hostel that overlooked the canyon and displayed our long journey from our switchbacks up to the waterfall. It was only a matter of minutes before our packs and shoes were off and we were eating our lunch on picnic tables. As the temperature dropped, we headed inside for another afternoon of naps and card games. Wilsie and Addy ordered fully loaded hamburgers that had everyone else drooling and ordering one for themselves. Needing a break from gin rummy and poker, Jacob taught the group how to play kemps. It wasn’t long before the whole group was on their feet, yelling and demanding rematches. After dinner and moonup, we winded down to some music, journaling, and of course, a few card games.
Day 6: Today was another big day as we descended all the way down to the
town of Torla. It was not an easy day, nearly 12 miles, but the kids filled our hours with amazing conversations and trail games. There is truly never a dull moment with this group. After making it to the bottom, we crossed over a cobblestone bridge and up into the small town of Torla. We treated ourselves to croissants and pastries for our hard work and enjoyed them in the park. We had a late dinner, but for the first time in a long time, we got to order off a menu for our three-course meal. Dessert was, of course, a highlight of the night. We had some unexpected rain that evening so we improvised a top bunk Moonup that actually ended up being one of the favorites thus far.
Day 7: Today was our final day in the Pyrenees and it was everything we could
have asked for. We hiked back up to the pass between Spain and France, and although it was steep and challenging, we played music all the way up and had a blast. Nina never failed to cheer on the group as we headed up and ran into a few false peaks. We were surprised and beyond excited when we ran into another Chamonix group right as we had finished our climb at the top of the pass. The timing was impeccable. Addy, Tanner, and Ellie reunited with some old Moondance friends, and the rest of the group was eager to hear all about the others adventure so far. After completing our hike, we sadly had to part ways with our beloved guide Mandy. We were all sad to say goodbye but felt so lucky to have someone so special and integral during our Pyrenees section. We spent our afternoon exploring the town of Luz, reuniting with our day packs full of clean clothes, and preparing excitedly for our upcoming rafting section. For dinner we decided a picnic would be perfect because the weather was beautiful, and the sun was out. We picked up hamburgers and fries and sat in the park listening to music. We wrapped up our evening with a group football game that was neck to neck the whole time. Tanner proved to be the MVP of the game, catching every ball thrown her way and carrying her team in touchdowns. After completing Moonup, we headed back to our hostel ready to sleep after our long day and amazing Pyrenees section.
We want to thank you all for sending your incredible kids on this adventure with us! We also want to give a shout-out to all the amazing Fathers in our lives and want to wish you all a belated happy Father’s Day! This is a very special group, and we can’t wait for our Kayaking section and to see the continued personal growth of these amazing people throughout the duration of the trip.
Lily Grace and Will
June 16, 2023
Heya Chamonix 3B friends and families!!
After meeting our group bright and early on Wednesday morning, we headed to the metro to begin our journey to Lourdes, France. Conner helped Will navigate our group to Paris where we had a layover that allowed us to explore parts of the city. Our group took a walk along the river and stopped in a park where Booker, Jacob and Ridge threw the football, and the rest of the group played some games. Before boarding our train, we stopped at a local pizzeria to fill us up before our big commute. The students were excited to experience an overnight train ride, and after their long travel day, they looked forward to their train bunk beds. Full and happy, we boarded at 9 pm and it was only a few minutes before all the students were snoring asleep in the beds!
We arrived in Lourdes early Thursday morning, refreshed and excited for our first full day together. We began our morning with a walk to a pastry shop where Nina and Alison fully enjoyed their fresh chocolate croissants! We took our time walking back to our hostel and enjoyed the crisp, beautiful mountain air. We filled our morning with many intense poker games that brought out everyone’s competitive side. Campbell is currently our reigning champ, but Booker and Jacob are planning on taking the top position. With the beautiful weather and scenery, we thought a picnic would be the perfect lunch! Wilsie and Addy made delicious prosciutto and cheese sandwiches and we laid full and happy in the park. We wandered around the city throughout our afternoon and stopped by the beautiful Sanctuary of our Lady of Lourdes church.
Our busy morning and afternoon led us to all take an afternoon nap. We woke up to play some more card games until we walked to a Vietnamese restaurant that Ellie spotted for dinner. Conner and Tanner were our first LODs (leaders of the day) and wrapped our first full day with an amazing Moonup under the stars! We are so excited to begin our backpacking section in the Pyrenees and can’t wait to update you all soon!
Lily Grace and Will
June 14, 2023
Hello Chamonix Families!
We heard from our leaders that the group has all arrived safely in France and is altogether at their train station! 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!