Big news - we’ve just booked flights to Colombia in January! As I write this we’re on the ferry back to the UK to celebrate the festive season with family before we begin our 2018 adventures. Driving home for Christmas has taken us to the supreme Cologne xmas markets and to Bruges, which may well be the most beautiful European city we’ve visited to date. Here’s the lowdown on our festive journey and South American plans.
It’s nearly Christmas! Well, it certainly feels like it here in Prague. The streets are strung with fairy lights and the squares full of huge sparkly Christmas trees and stalls selling gifts and mulled wine. This is all set against a backdrop of Prague’s Gothic spires and domed cathedrals, cobbled streets and stone bridges. Oh, and did I mention how flipping cold it is? That’s cold of the cheek-stinging, hand-numbing variety. We’ve even had snow, as well as some family visitors who’ve come to enjoy the Prague Xmas markets.
After a fairy tale trip to Neuschwanstein Castle, we set off along Germany’s Romantic Road, driving through tiny Bavarian villages surrounded by forests and peaks. We climbed higher through the Austrian Alps, passing through ski towns where the snow lay like thick icing on rooftops and clung to the branches of pine trees. This winter wonderland followed us to the next adventure of our European road trip, a week visiting Slovenia.
In the last three months, we’ve travelled over 5,000 miles across nine countries in Europe by car. The journey has taken us from the canal-lined streets of Amsterdam and the beaches of the Algarve to Bavarian castles, Slovenian lakes and finally, to Prague. Here’s a look at our experience of travelling Europe by car, including the benefits, tips and some key things to consider if you’re planning your own Europe road trip.
Visiting Bavaria feels like stepping into a fairytale. Picture forests of tall pointy trees, rolling green fields and medieval towns set against a backdrop of the jagged, snow-topped Alps. Then there’s the castles that dot the landscape, including a turreted Disneyesque masterpiece that looks like it’s been pulled straight from the pages of a storybook. How could we resist visiting Neuschwanstein Castle?
Portugal’s capital Lisbon is a city full of winding cobbled streets, bright yellow trams, wide piazzas, historic buildings and UNESCO treasures. Picture medieval towers, dome-roofed monasteries, baroque palaces and ornate churches. If, like us, you have just a few days to explore the city, it could be worth getting a Lisbon tourist card which grants you discounts, free travel and entry to top attractions.
“Dear tourist,” the graffiti in Coimbra read, “one Airbnb tourist kicks two to three students out of our city – enjoy.” I came across this message on my first night in Portugal, and as a full-time traveller who uses Airbnb almost exclusively in expensive parts of the world, it made for uncomfortable reading. This Airbnb ban issue has been playing on my mind ever since and I can’t help asking myself, has Airbnb become an irresponsible way to travel?
We’re off again! As you’re reading this post, we’re in the midst of another mammoth 2,000-mile journey, this time from Portugal to Prague. This week we're driving through France and Germany via Neuschwanstein Castle, then spending a few days in Slovenia before we head to Prague. Despite these exciting adventures, I feel a twinge of sadness about leaving Portugal, a country where I’ve felt welcomed and largely at peace, well, minus some technical troubles.
It was late afternoon in Polonnaruwa, a Sri Lankan city filled with ancient ruins, and a meandering bicycle trip had led us to the lake just in time for sunset. We parked up and watched as the sun sank behind distant hills, streaking the sky with buttery oranges and yellows. As the daylight faded I felt a swell of gratitude for that perfect travel moment, for having the freedom to experience the simple beauty of a Sri Lankan sunset.
There was a real treat waiting for us at the end of our 2,080-mile road trip to Portugal, a house sit to rival all others in the sun-kissed Algarve. From peaceful afternoons working on the veranda and sunset dog walks on the beach to chasing down runaway pigs, this is what our house-sitting Portugal adventure was like.