Holiday Road Trip!

Covid has been a challenge for all this past year and while we’ve been fortunate so far not to have lost a loved one, our hearts go out to those that have.  With the EU and most of the US on lockdown for the better part of the year, we’ve been hunkered down waiting for the vaccination, and understand it’s about to be approved.  With thoughts of travel being possible once again, we’ve started planning our next adventure.  I thought I’d post our trip from last year’s Holiday season, just in case you too have been looking to book a long overdue vacation to Europe.

From Germany to Spain and back…..

We live in Germany, but we don’t own a car here (we’re only here for a few years and the public transportation is really good) so when needed, we book rentals.  Sixt is one of the largest companies in the area and usually have good deals.  We booked an Audi A4 hoping it was big enough to hold our luggage, people and Christmas gifts. Rental car for 26 days 1400.00 Euro, when we showed up, the Audi wasn’t available so they gave us a BMW that was the same size.

Like most adventures in life, we hit a few bumps before the trip even started.  What was going to be a group of 4 hitting the road turned into 2. I’ve driven a few times in Europe without Woody but never this far and through this many countries so I was nervous about tolls, google maps working (we usually stay in AirBnb’s located in remote areas where google maps isn’t always that accurate), not understanding the road signs and the always present language barrier.

Woody and I packed up the car (there is never enough room for all our stuff but the car had the “sport package” so I could hit the autobahn with confidence) and headed from Dusseldorf to Frankfurt on Dec. 18th 2019.  We booked an Airbnb near the Airport so Woody could catch his early morning flight to meet Maddison and I could pick up Kagen, who was flying from DC to Frankfurt on a Red Eye.

Frankfurt Airbnb https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/35899891?source_impression_id=p3_1579084219_hgtQ%2BBQppjH3uWpZ

Advice from a Dumb Blonde…Highly recommend this Airbnb, its close to Frankfurt airport (really close) with a grocery store around the corner and a good Italian Restaurant within walking distance, but be warned, many places in this area don’t take credit/debit card so bring Euros!(link below). 

https://www.facebook.com/pizzeria.amalfi.kelsterbach. Dinner here was about 100.00 euro with a bottle of really good wine, pasta and a whole fish!  Good deal! 

L’Etoli France 

With all our luggage, two people and Christmas gifts it was a tight squeeze but Kagen managed to lay his seat back for the ride to our first AirBNB (those red eye flights can be brutal if you are one of those people that can’t sleep during the flight).  We stayed in a Chateau in France the first night. It had a cool view but if you chose to stay here please know that this is the owner’s personal house so his things are there.  There was wine tasting downstairs but we were beat so we skipped it.

Airbnb info: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/31232829?source_impression_id=p3_1579084063_ZRcJGlA%2Bx4k5L0sT

 Advice from a Dumb Blonde…The owners don’t usually list their properties as being the home they live in so make sure you read some of the reviews, usually people who run into this mention it in their reviews.  Lesson learned.  

A few things to note about driving through France, there are a lot of tolls.  When deciding what lane to go to look for the one that has a picture of coins, credit cards and dollars.  I had a change purse sitting on the console for those tolls that don’t take cards. The tolls can be pricey, so add that to your list of expenses.

Woody flew from Frankfurt to Barcelona for 300.00 Euro to meet up with Maddison who was flying from Texas to Barcelona via France.  They drove from Barcelona to Roses Spain where they stayed one night in a condo with a view. The Airbnb owner said there would be restaurants open but unfortunately the last open restaurant closed for the season a few days before they arrived.

Advice from a Dumb Blonde….I travel with a collapsible cooler and when we stop at a gas stations I grab some staples just in case, ie, bread, meats (salami and Serrano ham is very popular in Europe and usually even the gas station meats are good), instant coffee and a few bottles of water.  

Montpellier France

The next night we all met in Montpellier, France.  We picked this place because of the location, it was halfway between Roses, Spain and L’Etoli. but would definitely go back to spend more time. Food was great, town was adorable and there was lots of shopping in the area we stayed.  

We ate at a restaurant just around the corner from the flat we rented, the place has good food and decent house wine, it’s where the owner of our Airbnb recommends you pick up the key for the flat.  We couldn’t find the restaurant from his directions, but the owner met us out and walked us in.  It worked out well, he was able to give us a tour and tell us about the property (interesting stuff) before we settled in.  If you chose to stay here ask the owner for info on the best bakery around, it’s not far from the house and had the best croissants  ever! This was just a stop on our way but we really did enjoy it.  Parking is impossible so find a garage and suck up the expense so you don’t waste time driving down one way streets trying to find a spot big enough to squeeze into!  

Advice from a Dumb Blonde: parking spaces and parking garages are small so if you can,  rent a fairly small car! 

Montpellier France Airbnb: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/6686198?source_impression_id=p3_1579083845_JsY1HVruoeibEyMU

A quick walk to the bakery the next morning for coffee and croissants and we were off to Barcelona!

Kagen jumped in Bill’s convertible (too bad they couldn’t put the top down because of all the luggage in the back 😉 ) and Maddison joined me in the Beamer.  We were so caught up in discussing wedding plans (she’s getting married in Aug. 2020) that the 3 hour drive flew by.  

Advice from a Dumb Blonde: Both Maddison and I put the next Airbnb address in our phone using two different map apps, one phone was yelling go right and the other yelling go left! It was absolute madness!  Use one map app at a time, if the first doesn’t get you to your location, turn it off and try a different one. 

As much fun as I had catching up with Maddison, we both admittedly suck at navigating, so when Woody floored the convertible out of the toll area we lost him and stayed lost for about an hour longer than we should have…that’s a whole ‘nother story! 

Castelldefels Spain (Barcelona) 

Finally at our destination (for this part of the trip), Castelldefels Spain, we check into the Airbnb and settle into our small apartment for the next week.  What we gave up in space we gained in view! This is a great town just south of Barcelona, beach front and easy to get to the city by train (about 20 min away).  Now, time to celebrate Christmas in Spain! 

Airbnb https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4609102?source_impression_id=p3_1579083893_kggSuR%2Flp2U49HK9

With Christmas behind us, we loaded Maddison onto her flight (after an all-nighter at the ER for food poisoning!) and headed to the Spanish countryside.  The Airbnb we booked was a farm in the middle of town. It was the perfect size and location. We spent the next 4 days hiking, sight seeing and hitting the thermal baths.  I highly recommend going to Caldes Montbui for the day, well worth the 42.00 euro per person.  

Airbnb info: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/28098614?source_impression_id=p3_1579083995_98Ca9lVvwMGFZZ%2FF

Advice from a Dumb Blonde: take layers with you when visiting Spain and France, we found that the airbnbs we stayed at usually had the temperatures drop during the day and heat up at night.  The Spa we visited had everything we needed to shower after your thermal bath except conditioner. I had not planned on getting my hair wet but in the 3rd bath (more like a pool) I stood under the powerful jets for a shoulder massage (just what I needed!) and my hair was soaked.

From the Countryside in Spain to the Coast of  Marseilles we, Woody, Kagen and I enjoyed more hikes and good food.  The Airbnb was located near the beach with an amazing view! Be warned, the owner is a little grumpy but she had great recommendations for hiking.

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/15224526?source_impression_id=p3_1579083782_u3LgIyPjKY6qJeYf

Marseilles France

We chose the coastal hike, I’m afraid of heights, so this was a big challenge for me but the boys and the view kept me going and I’m so glad I did.  The trail goes for many miles but we only hiked part of it so we could make it back in time to eat lunch on the deck of our Airbnb.  

There’s lots to do in Marseilles in the summer, water sports, fishing, hiking, scuba diving, etc., even gambling! But remember if you travel during off season most everything is closed beach side and be warned, it’s nearly impossible to get a taxi in the area during this time of year, (we stayed in a waterfront condo and the closest town is about a 7min drive away) so we waited about 40 min and had to pay a little extra to hire a van.  

Geneva

The next day we said good-bye to Woody (he had to get back to work) and turned the car towards Switzerland.  You need an auto sticker when driving in Switzerland, click the link below to find out more information. On the drive in Kagen asked what language they spoke, I hadn’t thought about it….they speak French near the French border and French or German near the German border. 

https://www.myswissalps.com/motorwayvignette

The drive to Geneva from France was pretty but not as mountainess as I thought it would be.  Once in Geneva we found it impossible to find parking near the Airbnb we rented. Eventually we pulled into a hotel garage and sucked up the 48.00 a night parking fee.  We stayed within walking distance to the waterfront so after unloading the car, we walked down to take in the views from the observation deck in the harbor. It was super windy and pretty cold but sunny.  There are loads of little cafes along the way so we stopped off for a cup of coffee to warm up.

The Airbnb I booked had information in the reviews about an Indian Restaurant around the corner from the condo, both Kagen and I were in the mood for something different by now and Indian food was perfect.  The restaurant was great! 100.00 Euro for food, wine and tip.

Advice from a Dumb Blonde: to save money, we hit a bakery for breakfast and while there picked up some bread for lunch, that way you’re only paying for a sit down meal once as EVERYTHING is so expensive in Switzerland.  I would even suggest if you’re driving in from somewhere else, stop and shop for bread and meats, wine/beer before you hit the border to save money…just don’t forget your collapsible cooler to keep it in. 

Airbnb in Geneva: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/23714530?source_impression_id=p3_1579085065_ls6nDr6bxd9UHEkU

Mulhouse France

We stayed in an Airbnb off the beaten path.  I’m going to put the link below because there was parking in front of the house and a good Doner  place down the street.  I believe this is more of an “up and coming’ area but I would be tempted to book something in a more “charming” area next time.  

The car Museum was worth it if you enjoy cars, they had some super displays!

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/25543185?source_impression_id=p3_1579085540_ebhZeYvF63zIbZIw

Strasbourg France/ Colmar France

From Mulhouse we drove to Strasbourg via Colmar France.  We stopped off for lunch in Colmar and enjoyed a fantastic lunch at Wistub de la Petite Venise (see link below) and would highly recommend it.  I had the pork knuckle and Kagen had steak, both were excellent! There is a wonderful German influence in this area so if you like French and German food you’re going to love this! The town itself (Colmar) was beautiful! Highly recommend going and trying some of the wine from this area.  Parking is fairly easy just don’t forget to pay the meter. Lunch was at a Michelin Rated restaurant but I thought the price was reasonable, we spent about 60.00 Euro with 2 glasses of wine (1 sparkling and two small reds that I’m counting as one for tasting)…great price for the quality of food! 

http://www.restaurantpetitevenise.com

We stayed at a cool condo in Strasbourg right in the town center, walking distance to great restaurants and sites.  I like this place for those of you that will drive because for 15.00 Euro the owner will leave the key to the garage.  It’s located around the corner so you have to do a bag drag for a short distance but at least you don’t have to spend hours looking for parking!  The place we had dinner was good but there are plenty of options around. There’s a good bakery not far from here where I had a fantastic quiche and Kagen got his usual chocolate croissant, it’s one of the few bakeries that has an area to sit down and enjoy breakfast.  I apologise, I did not get the name of this bakery, but if staying in the below Airbnb, it’s out the door to the left, go to the end of the street and take another left, the bakery will be just a few steps down on the left….hope that helps??

Airbnb info: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/36170779?source_impression_id=p3_1579087463_i3BfIjgxJn9qeaqD

With the epic road trip behind us and Kagen’s last semester of college classes starting, we drove back to Frankfurt for our last night on holiday together.  

Advice from a Dumb Blonde: I know it’s much easier to fly, but if you have the time, driving through Europe, it’s easier than you think and wow, the memories you’ll make! 

Link to photos:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/jr85z1eozfek5la/AAC1Akwm_VoUHCrb_gtvdHWfa?dl=0

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