Here's the promised blog post about my recent road trip across Europe.
In this post, I talk about ...
- The road trip day-by-day
- A note about Covid
- The hotel's list
Prefer to watch the video?
The idea for this road trip was quite old. I always thought it would be interesting to drive across Europe, between my two homes, Portugal and Sweden.
But with life running so fast all the time, I had never found the time to do it. Mainly because I never thought this could be a trip to be done in a hurry. Instead, if I were going to make this road trip one day, it would have to be with time to not rush.
I've heard about people making this trip in 3 or 4 days, but it took us eight days. We might even say 9, if we count that I started the journey one day ahead, when I left Tavira in the south of Portugal, to meet my mother, who would join me close to Lisbon.
Day 1. Portugal - Spain
It was a little nerve wrecking to leave home because the car was not in perfect condition. There was a loud squicky sound on the turn of one of the back wheels, and it would also be quite shacky every time I would accelerate, forward or in backwards.
But with all our plans arranged to this departure date, we risked leaving anyway, unsure of what was happening with the car and if it would hold itself together for the whole trip.
So we left in the afternoon in direction to Valladolid, in Spain. That's where we would be spending our first night.
Unfortunately, that was a really tough first drive. More than 600km, with a big part of it during the night, where we encountered rain and construction work on the road—all in all, a very uncomfortable first approach to the trip.
Good that the hotel we stayed in was very comfortable, and we had a good night sleep.
As for crossing the border between Portugal and Spain, it was just as simple as any other day. No stopping, just driving through.
Day 2. Spain - France
We left Valladolid towards France. We heard that the French border could be a bit tougher to pass. At that time, we had nothing with us. No tests and no vaccines. We just knew we had spent the past months in a sort of private quarantine, and we had no symptoms, but we had nothing to prove we were healthy.
The rules at that time were that foreigners needed to present a PCR test to enter France, but also here, there was no security at the border.
We were excited about our first stay in France but ended up greatly disappointed.
After having had to stop for 1 hour to let a big traffic jam pass, not overheating the car or ourselves, we arrived in a terrible room of an old country house that on Booking looked fantastic. It happens.
Day 3. France
Happy to leave the place we stayed in, we continued through France, relaxed that we didn't need to cross any borders.
This time we were staying at Rouen's city centre, the capital of Normandy. The hotel was lovely, and we ate Lebanese food delivered to our room.
The car was making more noise than ever when we arrived in the city. We were unsure if we'd make it the next day. But that would be something to figure out the next day, after some rest, for us and the car.
Day 4. France - Belgium
The next day, we took a little walk in the city, bought some incredible éclairs, and then headed to our new destination: Bruges, in Belgium.
This éclair was probably the best of my life, with cheese and nuts and God know what else... Just divine.
Miraculously, when we left our parking spot, the car was not making any sounds. Talk about relief! We figured it must be something with the heat provoking the noise. But since it was not overheating or making any weird sounds from the engine, we just continued our way.
With one more border to cross, we were a bit nervous. But super excited to be going to such a famously lovely town and a lovely hotel, right by one of the channels.
We had a lovely dinner at the hotel's restaurant and another great night sleep,
As for crossing the border, that was another one that felt inexistent.
Day 5. Belgium - Holland
We had planned to spend some time in Bruges, so we touristed around a bit. We got to see a Salvador Dali exhibition and buy some chocolate.
Then we left for Holland.
Did we stop for border control here? Neither.
We didn't have time to explore much Amsterdam because we had spent our time in Bruges and we weren't feeling for it, so we just enjoyed the view from the hotel room and had a well-deserved rest. The roads leading up to Amsterdam were some of the busiest and most attention-demanding. Not so much fun to cruise around there.
Day 6. Holland - Germany
The plan was that my mom would leave me here, and I would continue to Sweden. But at the very last minute, we decided to continue the journey together –an excellent decision. We continued our way to Germany and spent most of the day driving. Not before my mom had done a Covid test at a laboratory in Amsterdam. She would need it to come on the ferry from Germany to Sweden, while I, being a Swedish resident, didn't need one to enter the country.
That night, we thought we would be staying at a hotel near the ferry. But we were warned that we would need to present two negative Covid tests from a lab to stay at any hotel in Germany. So we just turned the car into our sofa for the night and rested right there, close to the ferry and other vehicles doing the same thing.
Day 7. Germany - Sweden
The ferry was early in the morning, and we were the first to arrive. Then we had fresh, clean sheets to sleep on during the whole 9 hours that the ferry takes from Travemünde to Malmö. This ferry trip was a delightful experience.
After arriving in Malmö, we would make another 300km to get to our hotel in Sweden, in Jönköping.
Day 8. Sweden
The hotel in Jönköping didn't even charge an extra fee for our little dog Valentina. And they even told us that if we wanted to bring her along for breakfast we would have a special area for us to sit.
It's just wonderful to have a dog in such a friendly and welcoming environment.
On the last day of this trip, we had a long breakfast, a walk by the waterfront, and got ourselves on our way to Stockholm.
It was strange to enter a world where 95% of the people weren't wearing a mask. Oddly enough, it made us feel weird to wear one too.
Here we really thought the car wouldn't make it when suddenly, after stopping at a gas station, we heard some huge banging sounds coming from under the car. We thought that was it. But it wasn't. It turns out it was some big tree branch that got caught between the wheels.
So we were able to continue our way to our final destination - Stockholm.
...AND WE MADE IT!!! 🏁 🥳
And quite remarkably, now that we are in Sweden, the car has is not been making any of the problems that it was doing when we left Portugal. As if saying: "what I really needed was to stretch my legs"! 😂 Go figure!
We travelled through 7 countries, stayed in 6 hotels and drove for 34 hours.
We only stayed in hotels that allowed dogs and, all summed up, we probably paid around 55€ extra to have her with us.
Would I do it again?
Absolutely. Yes, we paid much more than just buying a plane ticket, but we had a much richer trip along the way, visited many places and made different memories. Plus, now that I am in Sweden, I have my car and little Valentina with me, making my life easier and sweeter.
And the return is already in sight, for the end of October. When all the Autumn leaves fall in Sweden, I'll make my way back to sunny and warm Portugal for a while.
A note about Covid:
At that time, we didn't have any tests or vaccines, but we were pretty sure to be healthy since we had stayed in quarantine for a long time before departing.
Today, we are both vaccinated (with the first shot and waiting for the second).
It was strange to feel afraid to cross a border, and, in the end, if it weren't for the news, we wouldn't even know there was any border control at all.
Even more strange, the day after we had crossed the Germain border, he heard in the evening news that "Germany has very strict border control at the moment". This just comes to show how much the media doesn't necessarily always show the truth.
And that's why it's understandable that some people choose to not believe in the news and take a sort of rebellious position against it and the government recommendations.
I feel like this trip was a bit of a rebellious move from my side because, despite all the fear and restrictions, we made it across Europe, and we enjoyed ourselves.
But when it comes to the vaccine, that's a different story. If you research enough about it, you'll come to the conclusion that not being a risk group, or being young, isn't really a good enough reason not to get vaccinated.
And I'm not bitter about the world to the point of believing this vaccine is some obscure scheme. It's just another vaccine. Like so many others I have already taken in my life and am happy I did.
But that's me. If you have a different opinion I will not call you an idiot. I think it would be great if we would stop calling people idiots for having different opinions.
Ok, that's it for a little Covid rant.
Spain/Valladolid - Hotel Imperial - recommended
France/Pons - Jolysable - NOT recommended
France/Rouen - Best Western Plus Hotel Litteraire Gustave Flaubert - recommended
Belgium/Bruge - Hotel Duc De Bourgogne - recommended
Holland/Amsterdam - Holiday Inn Express North Riverside - recommended
Sweden/Jönköping - Best Western Plus John Bauer - recommended