Last week we headed off in a camper van for a week long mystery Euro road trip with no idea where we would end up and only our ferry tickets booked. Being no strangers to a mystery driving tour, we wanted the trip to be spontaneous and fun, enabling us to discover more of a family-friendly Europe that we could visit again and again in the future, especially now that we were planning to have a baby later this year.
Road Trip Planning
How do you plan to have a ‘spontaneous’ trip? Well, we needed a camper van first. We would truly love just be able to climb straight into one that lived on our metaphorical front garden but we’re north-Londoners with a front door but alas, no front garden – let alone the funds to park a seldom used vehicle in one of Islington Councils’ precious parking spaces. So we hit up the web and found a bargain via Getaway Campers based in south London. The limited mileage and included camping essentials meant that we didn’t have to think about limiting the journey in any way. We could probably have hired a car for less and taken our tent, but we wanted the option of not having to put this up as it would just be a rather pot bellied pregnant Vicki “trying” to help Josh and not getting very far.
The only other planning needed to be done in advance was the booking of the ferry from Dover to Calais and back. We planned to leave on the Saturday morning and come back on the Friday, leaving just shy of seven days to try and discover as much of Europe as we could. We had a vague idea of trying to get to Prague as that’s where we were four years ago at the same time when on the Mongol Rally, but we wouldn’t make our minds up until the day.
Once on the ferry, we were inspired to visit Bruges as our first stop as we both loved the film In Bruges and couldn’t stop saying “f*cking Bruges!” whilst we looked at the map. For those that haven’t seen it, please go and watch it right now. It’s an amazing comedy about two hit-men that have to wait for instructions from their boss while staying in Bruges, Belgium. Ken, the older of the two, takes the time to soak it all in and be a tourist while he can whilst Ray can’t help but feel cooped up and claustrophobic in such a little town and rebels at having to wait for the call. Ray also loves to swear a lot about Bruges.
Our overall impression of the town was pleasant. We kind of have towns like this in the UK already with a main square and a cathedral with bells chiming on the hour (this being the famous Belfry) and medieval architecture but it’s so well preserved! Often labelled as ‘chocolate box’ in many a travel guide, you can understand why as it’s not just the main buildings that are a blast from the past but many of the shops and cobbled streets too. We stuffed our faces with mussels and chips in one of the tourist restaurants on Market Square (well, we weren’t trying to be hipsters and find the “in” place when we were so hungry) and got to watch a free show in the square while we ate. If the person singing was a UK artist, they would have been Lulu we think.
We stayed just outside Bruges at Campsite Memling which was a small site around 30 mins walk from the city centre. It would probably suit a couple of nights stay but we couldn’t recommend any more unless you were planning to visit Bruges for nay longer. Take a hint from Ray and move on after a couple of days or else your waistline might not forgive you.
Where to next? We had been told that Belguim had a bank holiday on the Monday and it was Sunday. Nothing was open. Anywhere. We had found that was the case last time we had been to Brussels and we weren’t in the mood to slow down. This was meant to be a power trip around Europe. No time to stop! Which is why we now wonder why we headed to Luxembourg City in Luxembourg. It was raining and we had no chance of finding a good camp site nearby. We managed to get lost around the city several times but after the second time pretty knew our way off by heart, it’s just a one way system makes you drive back round all over again!
Luckily we managed to stumble up on the Meliá Luxembourg just to the north of the city and subsequently made the executive decsion to park the van up for the night and stay in a nice hotel. Apart from having a luxurious bed for Vicki to rest up in (as camping had taken a slight toll on the quality of sleep the night before), it had the most mazing view of the Philharmonie and new Mudam Museum of Modern Art (see below).
At 100 euros for the night, this certainly was a massive splurge and wouldn’t be sustainable to do every night for the rest of the trip but had to consider that we were carrying a secret third passenger. We were not sure we would have wanted to either as felt we were missing out on seeing the countryside whilst cosy in a hotel. Action had to be taken, so whilst wrapped in fluffy towels and bathrobes, nibbling on our room service and sipping our mini bar drinks, we decided to use the complimentary wi-fi and see if we could put this road trip back on the adventure path again…
We’ll be publishing the rest of the trip on Way Out Far later this week, so check back for more!