Beginning of a love affair.

For someone who is yet to have a driving license, I sure love road trips. My first experience of a planned road trip was a 13 hour drive from Bulacan, our hometown in the Philippines to Caramoan in Camarines province. Frequent stops and poor road conditions resulted in us taking 23 hours to reach our destination. If you know the TV series Survivor, you will be familiar with Caramoan as most countries shoot there for their location. It is untamed, raw, beautiful and most of all, not over run by tourists.

2A view of the Pacific Ocean dotted by the many islands of the Caramoan peninsula and choices of sandy beaches.

 

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Caramoan is not easily accessible and less developed so fewer tourist go there compare to Boracay or Palawan.

 

c2The only way to explore the islands of Caramoan is by renting a boat.

After our wedding last year, my husband and I decided to take a road trip to Lake Como in Italy. If you drive non-stop it should only take 15 hours from Derby to Lake Como but we decided to avoid the toll ways (especially in France), and make the most of our trip by driving through quaint French villages and stopped for two nights in Strasbourg and in the Alpine village of Sobrio in Switzerland to break-up the journey. This way, we weren’t driving more than 5 hours in an easy and relaxed pace.

 

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Cathedral of our lady of Strasbourg.

 

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The Alsace region for which Strasbourg is the capital borders north-eastern France with Germany. This traditional German meal of pork knuckle with sauerkraut and a pint of Kronenbourg is commonly served in Strasbourg.

 

S6We drove high up in the mountains to find a place to car camp and was rewarded by this view in Sobrio.

 

S4This beautiful church high up in an Alpine village.

 

Left. People actually live in this old stone house. Right. A traditional Swiss chalet.

 

S11Although we were still in Switzerland, the noticeable Italian influence comes as people greet us in Italian and this house that looked more Italian than Swiss.

 

8Me and my husband in front of Milan cathedral.

 

11San Siro. Home of Seri A giants A.C. Milan and Inter Milan.

 

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Lake Como sits at the foot of the Italian Alps near the border Italy and Switzerland.

 

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You are surrounded by the mountains of the Alps anywhere you look around the lake.

 

P1000286The shores of Lake Como is dotted by old villages and beautiful villas.

 

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The tranquil village of Dervio in Lake Como.

 

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A walk up a busy street of Bellagio with shops lining the way.

 

c5A quieter street in Dervio with old stone houses on the way to the Lake.

This year, my father in law tagged along. We planned to visit Vienna, Budapest, Prague, Ljubljana and Bratislava. Adam and I initially wanted to drive to Croatia but we were told from the beginning by the car rental company that we couldn’t go there. My father in law would also like to go to Venice and Switzerland though my husband and I knew that with the two weeks that we have, this will be a push as we do not want to be tired and stressed out by driving. This year, we rented an SUV and were given a 7-seater Peugeot 5008. For 14 days, with an added driver and European insurance cover, this cost us £1,000. Do shop around as some of the quotes that my husband were given was as high as £1,600 with cap on the driving mileage so this from Europcar is the best deal we could get.
When we picked up the car on the day that we leave, we were given an unwelcomed news – we cannot drive to Slovenia, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Basically all of the destinations that we planned to go except for Vienna. I don’t know if this was explained to my husband when he paid for the booking on the phone, they definitely told him about Croatia but cannot remember that this was mentioned. We didn’t think that there will be restrictions to these countries as they are members of European Union so do check for driving restrictions if you plan to rent. But what I love about road trip is the spontaneity, freedom and flexibility of the travel. We basically had to scrap our plan on the day of our departure and make it up as we go along. Europe is vast, beautiful and well connected by roads so you can take your pick of destinations as you go along.
We started our trip on a 198 mile journey from Derby to Ashford in Kent where we stayed for a night. We crossed the 61 metres high Dartford crossing. This comes at a small fee of £2.50 which you will have to pay on line. As everyone seems to be leaving for France during summer, we did not want to take our chance with the traffic and so we booked a bed and breakfast half an hour’s drive from the Port of Dover. We headed early to the port the following day and embarked on a DFDS ferry to Dunkirk, France which took 2 hours. The ferry costs £69.

12The white cliffs of Dover as we leave England for France.

From Dunkirk, we drove for 8 hours, 482 miles to Nuremberg in Germany. This is the longest and most tiring part of our trip. We reached our rented apartment in Nuremberg at around 10 pm. The lady who owned the flat stayed up to welcome us. It was my father in-law’s first experience with Airbnb and he was pleasantly surprised. The flat was light, airy, clean and most of all cheap. When you are on a road trip, you need to take into consideration the prices of fuel, toll fee and the many accommodations that you have to book so this can end up to be more expensive than an all-inclusive beach holiday in Spain. This time, I worked on £1,500 budget to cover the costs of travel and accommodations for two weeks. This includes the ferry, fuel, car park and toll ways. We went over by £68 so I think we did pretty well. I used Airbnb and booking.com for all our accommodations. You can get cheaper hotel rates this way as well as flexibility as a lot of the rooms and apartments can be cancelled for free up to the day of your arrival. Another advantage of using Airbnb is meeting-up your host. Often, they are there to receive you and give you recommendations to the best places to go to and eat. I will never forget Ada, our lovely host in Dorio, Lake Como last year. Not only that we lived in a very traditional home in an old Italian village away from the crowds but Ada told us of the best places to eat in the area including Pasticceria Lorla in Bellano, frequented by the locals and they make the best gelato we have ever had in Italy.

We didn’t get to see the city centre of Nuremberg as we set off to Vienna, Austria the following morning. We only spent the night there to rest and it did helped that the apartment we rented is away from the city so therefore it was quiet.