Europe / On the road with Melody and Zephyr

Melody is best known as a talented fashion photographer, residing in Byron Bay's hinterland. She and her four year old son Zephyr recently packed their bags and headed to Europe for a journey which would fulfil their hearts and build memories to last a lifetime...

(Hauling my stubborn minded boy down the empty back streets, siesta time in Alicante, Spain)

Europe is a destination which many parents may shy away from, yet you took it on with gusto, and as a single mum no less. Well done you!

It was my first time to Europe, I felt like it would be a pretty easy option to travel solo with my 4yo son, versus a trip to India or Guatemala, but I’m sure some parents are going to correct me on that one! The places we visited, France, Spain & Italy seemed to have such an abundance of small farms, which I really wanted to do some work exchange on to not only get to know some local families but experience everyday life over there firsthand! To share something like this with Zephyr was an amazing opportunity I knew I had to make happen, and it was the perfect timing for me being a freshly single mumma and feeling ready for some soul nourishing adventure with my boy!

(Tiny work truck peeping in Cetona, Tuscany)

(Blooms surrounding in central France)

(Textured everything in Tuscany, the peeling paint, the cave walls, the stone pathways, such a treat to           the senses)

Europe is a large area to cover, tell us which areas you chose and why?
We passed through and spent a day or so in quite a few cities and tiny villages, and then stayed a week or more in some more where we did our farm work exchanges or just camped out for a while and soaked it all in. We had our friends, another mumma friend and her son Zephyrs age join us for the France journey of 2 weeks.

We flew into Paris and spent a couple of days here to wind down from the wild ride of 30 hours of flights with our very excited, almost un-tamable children.

After Paris, off to the pretty French countryside we went, here we spent a week on a farm, in a Sunflower lined village called Cressanges, in the heart of the Allier in Central France. We stayed in a 400 year old rambling farmhouse and did gardening, cooking, painting old barn doors and tending to the many animals the family kept. Oh when I say tending I mean that, the kids were often found setting their bunnies free or letting the goat out of its barn to eat the garden. Time to head off!

Next we went down south to a beautiful area just north west of Nice, at the foot of the Alps (I really wish I could remember the name of the area properly!!!) This was another work exchange on a permaculture property with a lovely couple and their 3 young daughters. Surrounded by the mountains the property was so surreal, sunken into a wedge between the mountains with a big rocky bottomed river running through it and a long rope bridge to walk into the property, some of our most beautiful moments were spent down by this river with all the kids playing. Nice was one city I absolutely fell in love with, the scenery & the general atmosphere of the place was just filled with so much energy and beauty.

(Positano, I feel like I’ve seen a thousand different versions of this same image, a bloggers paradise)

We parted ways with our friends and headed to Florence. Hire car disaster from hell and 3 trains and 3 days later we opted for biking the city and it was so much fun! Defiantly the best option in the cities here!! We just rode around all day and found all sorts of things we never would have come by. Visited the typical tourist sites and were eye boggled at the architecture. We filled ourselves with too many ice creams and carousel rides and had to leave!

(Doorway dreams line every single street in Italy)

(Pizza with mates in the square. Always)

Next stop was Tuscany! Beautiful Tuscany! We stayed in an AirBnB in a ancient village called Cetona in the province of Siena. Just magic here and I would highly recommend Cetona and specially this BnB! Probably the most stunning and interesting village we visited. Some of the oldest settlements in Central Italy were discovered here 40–80th century BC. The houses are build into a cliff face, with views out onto the stunning Tuscan landscape, cobblestone streets only fit for motorbikes wind through the village and meet at the main square which like many village squares, is quiet all day and comes alive at sunset filling with families pouring out of their homes ready to laugh and play. We stayed in a creative journalists home filled with amazing antique artefacts that he had collected the world over, Francisco sure had the stories to tell! I would go back to this town in an instant!

(The day we spent in Nice, full tummies & tired feet, I think we were all quite content by the end of it)

(This was at the mind blowing my beautiful Villa d’Este Gardens in Tivoli, Italy. You MUST google this place at least to have a look if not fly to Italy to visit!!)

We headed to the Amalfi coast, we were missing the ocean and had been dreaming of visiting the picturesque coastline there. We stayed just up the cliff from Amalfi at a village called Agerola. There wasn’t much right here in the village, couple of restaurants and a local grocery. It ended being the perfect peaceful spot for us to rest easy at night in our BnB and instead of driving down the famous dreaded cliff road to the beach we caught the local buses down everyday. One of the strongest memories from this whole trip was that crazy road!!! Anyone who has been there will resonate with this, I think one lady on the bus actually fainted with fright. It was all worth it! Such a breathtaking place to visit. We caught the boat over to Positano a few times and ate pizza and ice cream on the black pebbled shore. It was amazing. On the day we were leaving I got the offer to stay on an organic tomato farm at the top of Amalfi looking over the coast, a work exchange dream! Can just picture ourselves picking tomatoes in an Italian paradise there. Saving that one for next time!

(Zephyr boy with his one eyed kitty he adopted at the farm exchange in central France)

(Making animals friends & setting them free because ‘animals shouldn’t be kept locked up’, uh oh. Central France)

Naples was one rough ride, haha thats all I can say. We had 4 days there, these were filled with hours upon hours of walking alll the streets and tiny alleys until we could walk no more. I just decided we should explore all we can by just having no plans and just walking everyday, call me crazy, yes I defiantly am. I’m grateful we got to see it as we did because we got to see the reality of it, the very gritty streets, feeling a little un-sure in moments and getting lost and feeling in awe noticing their great love of literature, music and art. To get the most out of Naples, it would be wonderful having a local friend guide you and show you what they love about their city. They are extremely passionate about it!

(The bridge to our farm exchange accomodation, nestled beneath the Alps, South of France)

(It was so beautiful playing with the kids down by the river with the beautiful mountains around us. Take me back to this day, any day!!)

We left Italy and flew over to Spain, into Barcelona where I had clearly high ambitions of visiting all the Gaudi sights & the Miro museum, in our only 2 days here. Worst timing as they had a public transport strike the whole time we were there, we took a bike, I wasn’t going to give up, biking it should be easy!! The bikes don’t have baby seats, so I popped Zephyr on the bike rack at the back but we didn’t have anything with us to cushion his bum! Huge fail and we walked a couple hours to the Joan Miro park, it does have a big Miro sculpture which was nice to see but its basically just a big kids park. Defiantly didn’t do Barcelona as I wanted too!

(The warm Spain air making us feel all lovey & relaxed. At our work exchange property in Alicante)

We got a hire car and stayed in a village close to Allicante in the South East of Spain on the Costa Blanca. We did another work exchange here with a woman and her son who is Zephyrs age. She has an animal rescue farm with about 60 animals of all kinds. We spent our days tending to the animals under the scorching Spanish sun! We visited a few small surrounding villages with them and got to play with many lovely local kids in the streets. I did a huge drive down to Marebella from here, it was a rushed trip for a photo job, so I just drive straight there for one night then rushed back. Driving through that deserted countryside (on the A7) was just amazing and all I wanted to do was stop and experience it for a few weeks! So very barren yet fully planted up with olive groves forever, it was just stunning…

(Positano daydreams! Catching the boats over from Amalfi and eyeing the stunning landscapes surround us was such a treat!)

(Long hot days calls for nothing more. I’ve never eaten so much ice cream in my life)

(When you gotta go you gotta go!!! Too many of these moments eventually have you laughing)

Highlights and any tips or tricks for other families who may like to experience this part of the world too…

A hire car is an absolute must! This is the key to your freedom! I found them tricky to secure though even though booking in advance from Australia. Get as much local knowledge as you can & get amongst it, walk or bike ride as much as you can and just enjoy every moment for what it is, even the crazy ones, because travelling with kids is purely one crazy trip.. and thats if you do it right 🙂 Just be open minded and flexible and everything will be a wonderful memory in the end.

(This photo was at the very end of our trip, such a special trip for us!!)

For more of Melody’s beautiful work, follow her adventures HERE

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