Epic European Cycle

2015-10-27 : Bruges
We're both trying not to focus on how soon our trip will be at an end... but we can't help it. We keep talking about what day it is and how many days we have left before we're back in barfy Edmonton. Sigh.
Another great day exploring Bruges. At Pascale's urging, we did a boat tour today, which was great.

2015-10-28 : To Dublin
Another long journey day. Train from Bruges to Brussels, then fly to Dublin, then shuttle bus into Dublin. We left Bruges pretty early, which was nice because it gave us a couple of hours in Brussels. We loved the Grand Place, and Rue des Bouchers was interesting. It gets a lot of bad press as a "tourist trap" and a "rip off", but we enjoyed it.
RyanAir still has some things to figure out, it would seem. Like... how to load passengers onto an airplane. They started boarding our plane today 40 minutes before departure time. By departure time, they had put everyone through the boarding card check... and into the hallway in between their desk and the jetway... where we stood for about 30 minutes before they opened the door and let us onto the plane. Very weird. When we deplaned, we saw a queue of vexed-looking people in a hallway waiting to get on the plane that we'd just left. They'd be standing there for a while yet as the plane would have to be cleaned before they could put people on it. Very weird.
We were questioned quite thoroughly by the border guard going into Ireland today, and Brent went on a bit of a runner explaining what we were doing and why. We got passport visas valid until tomorrow only... no messing around!

2015-10-29 : To Paris
Coming into Paris today (back into Schengen, 181 days after we entered at Iceland on May 2nd), the border guard didn't blink or ask us a single question. I'm dying to see how it will go when we leave Iceland on Saturday.

2015-10-30 : Paris - Prep to go home
We wandered around Paris today, largely in vain, looking for a book store and a map store. We wandered down to the tower thinking that we would go up it this time, but when Brent saw the line-ups he lost the will. We circled back to a cycle store and bought frame locks for our non-existent bikes and found out where the elusive map store was and went back there where I dropped a small fortune on cycle tour books for France. Yay!

2015-10-31 : Fly to Edmonton
An uneventful journey home, which is always nice. Doug drove out from Vancouver to pick us up at the airport which was super nice. It was still trick-or-treat time when we got home, and we were unsuccessful at getting Halloween candy at Safeway. Good thing Doug had a handful of little chocolate bars with him because we got one whole trick-or-treat-er. Ian was here packing and cleaning when we got home so the four of us had a great "welcome home" visit. Yay!
A number of people suggested to us that we ignore the Schengen laws of 90 days, but neither of us was interested in doing that. We carefully made sure we didn't exceed our welcome. When we got to passport control in Iceland, the fellow asked us when we first entered Europe. "MAY SECOND!?" he exclaimed when I told him... I could tell he was steeling himself for dealing with the Canadian scofflaws standing in front of him (I'm sure it's not his favorite thing to do). Then I clarified with, we were in and out of Schengen for a total of 90 days within Schengen, and another 90 days outside of Schengen. We were golden. He happily gave us our exit stamps and sent us on our way. I didn't even have to show him my fancy spreadsheet.
For you inquiring minds out there, here's the final financial tally for our six-month endeavor.

A couple years before our trip, Brent and I had a little "family meeting" to discuss finances, which went something like this:
"How much money do you think we should save?"
"I dunno. How much money do you think we should save?"
"I dunno. Maybe we should each save $20,000."

A month or two before our trip, we had another little "family meeting" which went something like this:
"How much money did you save?"
"$30,000. How much money did you save?"

So, we had collectively saved $60,000 for our trip, which I thought/hoped would give us a lot of wiggle room. $10,000 a month should more than sustain us, right?

Throughout the trip, I paid for online items and "big ticket" items using my credit card. Brent used his bank card to stay topped up on cash and paid for the steady stream of smaller expenses, and for accommodations that were cash-only (which we had a lot of). It worked out really well. My bank card and his credit card were not used - they spent the whole trip in the "boob safe".

We kept an eye on how we were doing as we went. Some months were hideously expensive (UK, train trip including Switzerland), and some months were quite affordable (Germany with lots of camping and dep meals, and Croatia) but overall we seemed to be on track and neither of us was concerned. Now that we're home and finished, we have figured out our final tally... wait for it... drumroll...

Total cost approximately $46,000. We both came home with about $7G left over. I'm happy we both saved extra. It let us do everything we wanted to without having to compromise at the end because we'd short-changed ourselves. We always kept an eye on the finances... we weren't throwing money around on expensive accommodation, restaurant meals and admission to every attraction we could have gone to, but we didn't cheat ourselves either. It was fantastic.
Brent and I ended up taking approximately 8000 photos on the trip. That number is actually probably 1000 files (or more) low since I already culled a bunch of my duplicates and duds, but I didn't cull Brent's. That's an average of about 50 photos per day. OneDrive was my cloud tool of choice for storing pics. I didn't want to store them just on the Windows Surface in case it got lost or damaged. Plus the Surface didn't have enough space on the hard drive for all the pics. I also sent backups home with Dawn and Laura, and mailed one backup home in mid-July "just in case". I've copied all the photos down to my hard drive at home now so I don't need the "just in case" backups anymore. Yay!

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