A few days before quarantine was implemented between Spain and The U.K., we embarked on our road trip heading to the U.K.
Travel during coronavirus is much different, and at times much more stressful. On the other hand, if you’re following all the rules, taking extra precautions and keeping updated, it’s been one of the best times to travel.
Below is the map of the route we took. We made a few stops in places that we fancied seeing, like Sirmione in Garda and Saint Tropez on the way to Monaco.
Our first night was at Toulon, France. We had to stop multiple times for toilet breaks, mainly for Rio and a food stop. We also had to stop in Girona to pick up a first aid kit as these are compulsory to have in your car in France.
We stayed at: Ibis Budget Toulon Centre which was located near the Rugby Stadium. It took us around 7 minutes to walk into the main touristic area of Toulon. We had to pay for the car parking and the pet fee (5€) on top of the daily rate. It was a small room, but pleasant enough. It was definitely a budget hotel but was perfect for a late check in and early check out place to rest our heads.
After staying in Toulon, we left at around 9am for Monaco. We stopped off at St Tropez for breakfast and lunch in Cannes.
We stayed at: Hôtel Columbus Monte Carlo, a spectacular three star hotel which definitely is more like a 4 or 5 star. It was beautifully situated outside of the main hustle and bustle of Monte Carlo and had spectacular views from the room. We had a room service breakfast which was outstanding value with a beautiful view of sunrise. Our dog had dog bowls, a treat and a Hotel Columbus blanket, which we ended up paying for (€25) to keep as a souvenir. Parking was additional but it was a secure car park. We could not fault the hotel, it was beautiful and the staff were lovely. We also had to pay an additional cleaning fee for Rio.
Leaving out relatively early from Monaco, we set out for Desenzano di Garda, which we had been told by google would be a 8 hour drive. Instead, we followed the route along as if going to Genoa which made the drive much quicker. Usually, Google maps will insist you pass through Turin, which takes around 4 hours longer. So we put in Genoa and then stopped off at a service station before the turning to change it to Garda.
We stayed at: Hotel Oliveto which was a four star hotel located in a relaxing area just outside of the main old town of Desenzano. The hotel room had a great hot tub in the corner, but the only issue we found was the speaker didn’t work in one side. The views from the top floor were spectacular of sunset. It took around 15 minutes to walk to the old town where it was truly wonderful. We’d definitely stay at this hotel again but for a few more nights. There was no additional pet or parking fee.
We stopped off at Sirmione before heading for Bellagio, Lake Como. The drive to Bellagio is rather stressful and probably one of the most difficult drives Alex did throughout the entire road trip. The roads are narrow, even by our standards living in Spain, and the route is a bit treacherous. However, the views are absolutely wonderful and Bellagio has become one of my all-time favourite places (even if we did have a minor hiccup with a flat tyre there too!), so we’ll definitely be returning time and time again, I’m sure.
We stayed at: Hotel Excelsior Splendide, which was very old fashioned and, I suppose, authentically Italian. The parking in Bellagio is crazy so be prepared to leave your car around 10 minutes away from any hotel just in the street, so make sure you take everything in with you to the hotel. The view from the hotel was stunning. In fact, it was breathtaking. So much so it made me cry and anyone who knows me knows that takes an awful lot! You’ll be able to sit watching the boats on the water and see the people wandering the streets. There’s truly no place like it for me. There was an additional pet fee. The hotel is very central, you’ll walk out the main door and be right in the heart of Bellagio and all the restaurants.
The next day was another country crossing. This also required picking up two vignettes. One for Austria and one for Switzerland. Our Switzerland vignette is valid for the year, regardless of when you buy it and the Austria one is valid for the length of time you pay for. We chose a 10 day vignette as we are only crossing through to get to Switzerland.
We had intended to leave relatively early for Switzerland, but due to a tyre blow out that made a huge delay. Due to being a Sunday, we nearly ended up staying another night in Italy with the car insurance. This meant we didn’t get to Switzerland until around 9pm. Nonetheless, we had an amazing time in Lucerne, which ended up being another favourite of ours.
We stayed at: Hotel des Balances, and how this hotel isn’t a five star baffles me. Especially after staying at a few 5 stars later… If there’s one hotel you should definitely stay at when doing a road trip, it’s this one. Spoiler alert for the return journey: we book to stay here again for two nights. That’s how much we loved it. The room was perfect. We had L’Occitane products inside which is one of my favourite toiletry brands and everything about the hotel was beautifully Swiss.
We had scrumptious nighttime chocolates laid on our pillows at night with goodnight decorated in English and German. The hotel was perfect for location and the views were fantastic, overlooking the Reuss river, Chapel Bridge and the Jesuit Church. The comfortable balcony furniture meant that relaxing on the balcony was perfect. We also had access to water and ice, plus teas and coffees. The only complaint was the downstairs restaurant were a little disorganised, so we ended up eating out where the value was better and the service was better. We couldn’t fault the other members of staff though who couldn’t do enough for us. We had to pay an additional valet parking and pet cleaning fee.
Leaving Switzerland was definitely sad so we knew that we’d have to return for longer on our return journey. We left mid morning and headed straight for Germany. We stayed for two nights in Munich meaning we got to have a much more relaxed pace.
We stayed at: Hilton Munich Park which was a complimentary stay in return for some social media and blog coverage (thanks so much!). The hotel was perfect for a relaxed change of place. Located out of the centre of Munich, you’d definitely need to take public transport or make use of your car if you’re on a road trip. The sophisticated hotel lies beside the famous English Garden, a 14-minute tram ride from Marienplatz (main centre of Munich). It had stylish rooms and a modern lobby. The staff were fantastic and very welcoming from start to finish. When the weather is fine, you can eat breakfast outside on the terrace which was perfect with our dog. The breakfast choices were really good. It’s definitely worth staying at the Hilton Munich Park to recharge your batteries a little. The park is a great place to get some fresh air and go for walks, especially if you’re with a dog and the beer garden inside is fabulous. We ended up eating there twice with our dog! Dogs carry a cleaning fee and the private parking onsite is additional at 28€ per day.
Driving through Germany was rather treacherous with lots of road works and traffic on the motorway. We had booked for one night in Cologne, but ended up asking the hotel for an extra night to be able to rest a little after Alex had done a much longer drive than anticipated. Especially as we were planning to cross the tunnel straight after Cologne.
We stayed at: Hilton Cologne which is a four star hotel right near to the Cathedral. The hotel was pretty and centrally located, but due to the current climate it was difficult to be able to judge the hotel. All the cleaning protocols were in place and it felt very safe, however, pretty much everything was closed in the hotel. We did enjoy the breakfast downstairs, which Rio was able to join us in the lobby. We had a very spacious room which was ever so comfortable. The staff were all welcoming and polite.
We booked our eurotunnel for 5pm, 24 hours after Rio took his worming tablet to enter the U.K.. We left Cologne at 10am and stopped off at Maastricht for breakfast. We travelled through Belgium and the north of France to make our Eurotunnel crossing before carrying on straight up to Leicestershire. The road trip was absolutely fantastic and we certainly won’t be forgetting it any time soon.
In the next blog post, I’ll share the route and where we stayed on our return journey, which we stretched a little longer having learnt from our mistakes on this trip. If we were doing it again, which I hope we will do something similar, I’ll be sure to make the Lakes in Italy two nights and spend longer in Switzerland again. I’d also like to include Belgium, The Netherlands and Austria, should we do it again. I think if we were to do Germany again, I’d like to spend more time around castles and small German villages.
If there’s any questions you have about road tripping then do get in contact and I’ll be happy to help if I can!
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