Europe: Heading South – Week 1

This is our summer 2015 adventure: making our way to southern Spain from the UK – 2 people, a tent, 6 countries & 2368kms

After our 6 month tour of Asia & 2 months in the UK visiting family, we`ve decided to spend the autumn in southern Spain again.
Last year, we drove back from Spain to the UK through France, which took us 3 days (we won’t mention the car breaking down outside Paris & the extra long weekend we spent there).

This time, we plan to visit as many European countries as possible en route: Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Southern France & finally into Spain: over 2000kms, approx over 4-6 weeks. Like a lot of Brits, we haven’t really visited much of Europe outside France & Spain, so we’ve decided to put that right.

We appreciate these countries can be expensive by UK standards, let alone our daily budget of £25pp, therefore we plan to camp our way down.

In reality, how long we spend, depends mainly on whether we fall in love with any places en route & stay longer than planned; or, more likely, whether we can stick so many weeks in a small 2 man tent as it gets hotter as we head South!

Day 1
We set off from Dover to Dunkirk on a beautiful morning, our destination Brugge in Belgium. From Dunkirk the drive is easy & we made the campsite by lunchtime.

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Day 2 & 3
Brugge took us by surprise. We had heard it was beautiful, but it is amazingly so. Historic architecture, beautiful canals, chocolate & lace shops in abundance, and amazing coffee shops & bars. Our tentative schedule of 2 nights easily turned into 4 & we could have stayed longer still.
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Our campsite was the only one within walking distance of the city (45 min) & was packed.
Belgium is popular with cyclists & the campsite & city was full of bikes. It makes a lovely change from the normal buzz of traffic & the extensive, dedicated bike lanes take priority over all other transport.

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Day 4 – Gent
As we stayed a while in Brugge, we decided to take a day trip to nearby Gent. The outskirts are a modern city, but its centre is medieval, with masses of truly amazing buildings, coffee shops, chocolate & lace shops & waterways.
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Day 5 & 6
From Belgium we headed for Luxembourg. Originally we hoped to stay in Luxembourg City, but settled for the second largest town, Esch-sur-Alzette due to camp site availability.
We took most of Saturday to get there, so once the tent was up, we took advantage of a snack & beer on the on-site bar & an early night.
On Sunday we went into the quiet town to buy supplies & grab a coffee.
We have realised, we are lucky in the UK with 24hr shopping as most of the supermarkets in Europe are closed by 7 or 8oc & Sunday trading hours apply. Therefore apart from the odd bar, where we grabbed a coffee, everything was shut by lunchtime.

Day 7
Although we didn’t really give Luxembourg much of a chance, we weren’t really impressed by the bit we saw. Therefore, we were keen to head on to Germany by Monday morning.

It had rained heavily overnight & we had to pack up a soggy tent (& belongings which somehow had also got wet inside).
We set off for Germany feeling a bit gloomy (like the weather) on the longest drive so far, through the remaining part of Luxembourg, back into France, then into Germany. However, German roads are amazing: wide, great condition, generous speed limits & clearly sign posted.
As soon as we hit the pine covered mountains, ski resorts & beautiful wooden buildings on the German border, we were transfixed. As we headed for Konstanz, the scenery just kept getting better & better.

As I write this, we have set up camp in a town not far from Lake Konstanz & we are looking forward to spending some time exploring this breathtakingly beautiful part of the World.
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Next Time…
Updates & photos from Lake Konstanz then hopefully Lake Lucerne, Switzerland.

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