So, I realised after looking through my blog (I was putting on all my travel related posts on to a map), that I didn’t blog about our road trip in March of 2012. I had written one post about going to Dachau but that was it.
Time to correct that! So, this blog post is going to be about that road trip.
We had decided it would be fun to rent a car and take a drive around Europe. We set about listing the places that we wanted to go and seeing if any of those places overlapped. I think we found 1 or 2 places that overlapped.
We set about looking at the map and planning out our route. We both had specifics places in mind that we felt we needed to incorporate. Jamie wanted to go to Giverny. I wanted to take Jamie through Switzerland. The other places we decided on together.
Our route would take us as follows:
Lake Como, Italy
Chaufour-lès-Bonnières (for Giverny), France
Flanders Field, Belgium
The trip was a total of 2,475 miles and well worth it
I will do my usual all-places-on-one-page-but-in-tabs bit. I won’t put anything in about Dachau as I have a separate post for it here. Makes it easier for me to enter and you to read (in theory anyway).
Our first stop was the quaint little town of Vianden in Luxembourg. It was such a pretty town. It was exactly what you think of when you think quaint European town. The drive was awesome. The scenery was more picturesque than the camera could capture. I gave it a good old try though! Coming into the town, we crossed under a lift with cabins on it. A ski life if you will and we could also see the castle.
This is the hotel we stayed at. It was a nice hotel. The price was just right. The owners of the hotel were very welcoming. They were really friendly and spoke good English. They helped us out any way they could. It was a nice base to be able to explore from.
Right across the road from the hotel was a quaint typical European style house. It was tall with wooden window shutters. You can close your eyes and almost go back in history to the finished build of the house and I doubt it would be very different from what stands there today. The architecture is one of the reasons I love mainland Europe
Well, the castle could be seen from our hotel room. It is such an impressive sight to behold. Jamie and I took a drive up to it. It is better to drive as the hills are really steep. We didn’t get to go in for one reason or another. It is a shame because it would have been fun to see Luxembourg history and to be able to get a glimpse of the town from up there would have been awesome too.
Nosbusch Boulangerie-Pâtisserie on the Grand Rue is THE place in town for pastries. We loved the ones we got from there. They were tasty and the staff were friendly
Jamie has always wanted to go to Switzerland ever since she was a wee lass in school. I had been once before and decided that it would be good to go again. This is one of the places I had said is a must. Switzerland was just as picturesque as I remember. Jamie – from what I can gather – loved Switzerland too. It was a bit on the expensive side for us. The only thing that was comparable in price was the petrol. Everything else is way more expensive.
Make sure you stock up on Swiss Francs (CHF) before you travel. If you are driving and get to the border, you need to hand over CHF40 for a vignette. This is kind of like a tax disc that allows you to drive for 1 year on Swiss roads. The tack it to your windscreen and it is tamper proof. If you pull it off, it will come off in bits so that you can’t transfer it to another vehicle.
We were given an address to catch our ride for our tour of Zurich. This is what awaited us. It was quaint, but cramped. It was a nice way to see Zurich
It wouldn’t be a Wilcox trip if it didn’t include a picture of a church. This is the Grossmünster – or Big Catherdral – in Zurich. Such a nice part of town – but then that is Zurich all over!
How can you visit Switzerland and not see the Lindt Bunny? We decided that a Swiss chocolate factory was a must. We found out it wasn’t too far out of our way on our travels to Salzburg. We decided that it was a MUST and made the detour. I think we spent more than we should have that day – it didn’t all stay with us though. It was shared
♫♪ The hills are alive with the sound of music ♪♫
Yup, you guessed it. This is The Sound of Music country and city. I think this is one of the things that attracted Jamie to Salzburg. I had wanted to go to Vienna as this was the birthplace of Strauss and I love his compositions. Since it was too far out of the way, Salzburg got my vote too.
It was quite surreal to know that this is where some of it was filmed and we were in parts of the city that they filmed in so long ago.
We were booked into one hotel and turned up only to be told that they had to get us another room as the previous guests weren’t able to vacate in time for our arrival. Luckily for us, the hotel they switched us to was just down the road. The room was massive with a distinct European smell!
We were hungry for dinner so were adventurous enough to take a stroll through town until we found something that we both would eat. The room service menu wasn’t up to much from what I remember. We walked for about 10 minutes and found a Subway and workers that spoke English. We ventured out on our own in an unknown city in a foreign land. Yay us!
We booked a guided tour for our stay in Salzburg. It was The Sound of Music tour – of course. What other tour would you take in Salzburg! The guide did the film tours then decided, since there were only 3 of us in the bus, to take us to other parts of Salzburg not on the itinerary. This was nice of him. We got to see more of Salzburg than we had banked on.
Austria as a whole is a really pretty country. A must if you go into Europe!
As Salzburg was a Catholic city, they did not like the Protestants. One way to show their dislike for them was to make them build the church facing backwards. You have to go to the back of the church to gain entry to it.
This is the Schloss Leopoldskron. It was once a palace of Salzburg. It was commissioned in 1736 by the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg – Count Leopold Anton Eleutherius von Firmian. It is now a hotel.
This is the Mozart Museum. It is located just off the river on one of the many quaint streets of Salzburg.
Well, there aren’t any pictures from our stay in Lake Como. This is mostly to do with the weather and partly to do with not having the right plug for the sockets in Italy. I asked at the front desk if they had a plug and they didn’t. So… no pics from here.
The drive to Como was adventurous to say the least. The sat nav lady had us go up over the mountain instead of through the nicely designed tunnel to avoid the mountain. Tsk Tsk sat nav lady! As we were driving up the mountain, it started to rain and then snow and snow badly. It was a task and a half to ask us to drive down the other side. We did though – as we had no other way to go! It started to rain instead of snow and it rained the whole entire time we were in Lake Como.
Not a great way to spend a night in Italy.
From Lake Como we decided that we wanted to go back into France. Jamie had been reading into Monet and decided that she would like to visit the Monet house in Giverny. We looked at the map and planned the route that would take us back into Switzerland. We had booked a hotel but it didn’t seem quite right, so we cancelled that one and booked a hotel in Bern instead.
We were lucky that the mountain pass was closed due to the weather and we got to go through the tunnel this time. On our way to the tunnel we heard an almighty thud on the top of the car. When we stopped, we were expecting to see a dent in the car – hoping not as it was a rental car. We looked and nothing was there. We can only figure out it was a massive snowball that had hid the top of the car. It scared the poop out of us that’s for sure.
We got to the hotel and it was still raining. We trundled inside with our stuff and had a little bit of a relax – as we are wont to do. It’s not my favourite thing, I like to be out and about and I was chomping at the bit to get out. Jamie on the other hand was happy to have a bit of a rest (she did all the driving) before we ventured out.
The hotel was OK, but it was somewhat old fashioned. It was the sort of hotel that required you to leave your key when you went out and pick it back up when you go back. Weird. It was also the kind of hotel that required a hefty deposit on a small plug so we could charge the camera.
We finally ventured out into a rain soaked Bern and did some sightseeing. We drove to the city centre and parked there and had a walk around the city. The city is really pretty. The architecture is quaint and ornate and very different from other parts of mainland Europe.
Remember the Francs from the vignette you had to buy on your way in? (If not, have a look at Zurich) You are gonna need some of that change if you want to eat somewhere. McDonalds here is expensive. The equivalent of around £7 for an extra value meal. We ate at a local pizza shop next to the hotel and that was just as expensive. 1 pizza and 2 portions of chips – around £18. Gulp. Be prepared
One of the things we like to do on our travels is to visit churches. It’s even more fun if there is a temple in the country that we are visiting. There was one here in Bern. It reminded me so much of the London Temple.
As we were looking for a place to park, we came across this sign. Yup, reserved for women. How cool is that for Jamie. She gets to park close to the exit from the car park to the street. Lucky her. She did tell me about this from books she was reading, but I wasn’t quite sure about it. Proven wrong yet again. LOL.
As we were wondering the streets and admiring the fact we were back in Switzerland, I started to notice slanted shutters on the pavement. Not quite sure what they were – until we walked by one that was open. Yep, they are indeed shops in the cellars. A nice way to use the space if you ask me!
After we headed out of Bern, we were on our way to Giverny – or Chaufour-lès-Bonnières – the sat nav lady took us the long way round. It wasn’t as bad as it sounded. We got to see the back roads and back country of France. It was a nice drive with a TON of nice scenery. The countryside of this part of France was beautiful. Lots of quaint towns and villages.
As we were driving, in the middle of almost nowhere, we happened upon a cemetery. How fun to find history just sat in the middle of nowhere. We, of course, had to stop and get out and have a look. We found headstones from mid to late 1800’s onwards. It looked like it was a family plot for several families. Oh to be transported back in time to see what this part of France was like.
Have plenty of Euros while driving in France. They have a LOT of toll roads and they are quite expensive. It is roughly €1 per kilometer travelled. Don’t expect then booth agents to be friendly either. I dropped a Euro on the ground and was promptly told by the booth agent it wasn’t her problem!
We finally got to the town where our hotel was. Yay for no more driving for Jamie and to relax for both of us.
This was the view of the hotel that greeted us. It looked a tad tacky from the outside that it had hotel on the roof. I guess if you are small town you need a way to attract business. The hotel turned out to be OK. We were in a rustic room that wasn’t part of the main hotel itself. The workers there were very friendly. They spoke very little – if no – English. Luckily my French was good enough to communicate with them. Phew!
After a rest, we decided to head out to Giverny so we could see the Monet house and gardens. Of course, as is the case for us, it was shut. We only managed a peak through the fence. It was still pretty cool to be here though. I think Jamie enjoyed it too. It was slightly disappointing that it was closed though.
On our way back, the sat nav took us the back roads again. It was cool to drive down them. The quaintness of the back roads seems to be a thing for the northern part of France. Jamie did have a bit of an issue on the way back. Neither of us noticed that it was a one way street and we went down it. We got some disapproving looks from the natives. I mean, we should just be able to use our crystal ball to find out the street direction! Tsk tsk natives!
We decided that since we had time before we needed to be at the train, we would head into Belgium to the Flanders Field American Cemetery. That’s exactly what we did – we promptly made our way there. I enjoying visiting the American cemeteries as they are so well kept and well preserved. Jamie’s grandpa was a soldier in WWII so it was nice for her to go there and see the war graves – even if these were WWI graves.
This is the entrance to the cemetery.
I am always impressed at the precision of the headstones. They are arranged so neatly and so respectfully. I am always impressed to see headstones other than crosses – like this Star of David. It is good to see that the Americans are so inclusive of everyone.
The memorial chapels are always full of information. If you can’t find a staff member, you can always go to the chapel and find out almost anything you need. It is good to see how much of a memory the chapels are to the war fallen.
You can see pictures from our 2012 trip here