Desenzano del Garda Travel Guide

The most beautiful thing about Desenzano del Garda is that you don’t need to know anything at all about the area to still be awed by it

desenzano del garda travel guide small harbour with boats docked

The most beautiful thing about Desenzano del Garda is that you don’t need to know anything at all about the area to still be awed by it and have the best time. Without having any plans at all, Desenzano del Garda will be a truly wonderful place. The relaxed atmosphere, the way the mountains provide a gorgeous backdrop on the lake and the lazy feel around the old town, it was one of our absolute favourites on our road trip from Benidorm to Leicester.

desenzano del garda travel guide sunset over lago di garda

Desenzano is a relatively small town located on the southern shore of Lake Garda in Northern Italy. The town is in the Lombardy region and is easy to get to from Milan airports, Verona Airport, or like us, by car.

The area of Desenzano is fairly flat making it an ideal place to stay for those who prefer light walking and flatter grounds. Without having to battle with steep hills and constant inclines, the area of Desenzano is perfect for those with reduced mobility too. It’s a great base to see other areas of Lake Garda, like Sirmione, which is accessible by boat or car.

desenzano del garda travel guide lauren standing in front of boats at the small harbour

Desenzano del Garda has beautiful winding historic streets situated between the castle and the lake. The inland small peaceful harbour is an absolutely wonderful place to enjoy a latte or a pasta dish whilst watching the ducks float by and the small boats sway.

Quick Guide:

Time Zone: GMT + 1

Plug Socket: European

Currency: Euro

Language: Italian. English was widely spoken.

Climate: Summers are hot and sunny, but there are also quite frequent thunderstorms. Winters are quite cold and there is a moderate amount of rainy days, even though winter is drier than the other seasons. The best times to visit Lake Garda are spring and early summer due to its pleasing temperatures.

How long to stay: We only visited Lake Garda for one night and it definitely wasn’t enough. Although we were able to see everything we set out to see, we’d have loved to spend longer on Lake Garda and exploring the surrounding towns. We’d have also liked to have had a few more days just wandering around the lake. When we return to Lake Garda, we’ll be doing two nights minimum. If you’re looking to explore the surrounding towns then I’d say three nights is a good call.

Where to stay in Desenzano del Garda

beautiful sunset over desenzano del garda travel guide

Hotel Oliveto: We stayed at the Hotel Oliveto which is located on Via Tito Malaguti, 2 Desenzano DI Garda , Lago Di Garda, 25015, Italy. It was a comfortable four star hotel which was an excellent choice for location, comfort and pet friendliness. It was also a fantastic choice thanks to its free parking outside. The hotel balcony provided wonderful views over the lake, which looked absolutely stunning at sunset and the hotel location meant it was a pleasant walk into the old town. The hotel was comfortable and clean. We paid 137€ for the night which was the double room on the top floor with a jacuzzi in the bedroom. We also had breakfast included in our room rate.

hotel oliveto desenzano del garda travel guide

What to do and see in Desenzano del Garda

A trip to Sirmione: We absolutely loved wandering around the cobbled streets and stunning castle in Sirmione. There were some beautiful boutique shops and quaint restaurants which we’d have loved to have spent more time in.

desenzano del garda travel guide sirmione castle day trip

Take a boat trip: You could pair this off with a day trip to Sirmione, but if we had more time in Desenzano del Garda, we’d have definitely loved to have gone on a boat trip to somewhere else on the Lake.

Eat Pasta: Can you go to places in Italy without gorging on pasta and pizza? I don’t think so! There are lots of lovely bars around Desenzano del Garda where you can relax and enjoy Italian cuisine (the best cuisine in the world, am I right?). We ate at Bar Pizzeria Gelateria Cristallo, I had a lovely pasta with tomato based sauce and Alex had a lasagna which were both tasty and quick to be served.

desenzano del garda travel guide dinner in garda pasta and wine

Relax around the lake: Holidays need those moments are pure relaxation and around the lake you’re sure to find it. With the dramatic backdrop of the mountains and the soft sounds of the lake running over the pebbles, it’s a beautiful place to just sit and chill.

Water sports on the lake: With the exact contrast, if you’re not down for chilling and more of an adventurous sort, there are plenty of water sports that were on offer during the summer months.

Explore the old town: With plenty of boutique shops, the castle and interesting corners to discover, a walk around the old town is sure to be a lovely past-time.

We absolutely loved Desenzano del Garda, and I know for a fact that at some point we’ll be back. If you get the chance to visit, I recommend it.

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Our Road Trip Map Route from Benidorm to Leicestershire

A few days before quarantine was implemented between Spain and The U.K., we embarked on our road trip heading to the U.K.

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.

Day One

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.

Day Two

watching sunrise from hotel columbus monte carlo monaco

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.

Day Three

smiling on the castle of sirmione lake garda lombardy italy

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.

Day Four

wearing a swimsuit looking out the window at bellagio italy lake como

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.

Day Five

sitting looking at chapel bridge in lucerne switzerland

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.

Day Six

walking the streets of munich road trip germany

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.

Day Eight

cavalier king charles asleep on the chaise lounge next to mum in hilton cologne

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.

Day Ten

girl wearing long dress in maastricht netherlands blog post road trip

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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What it’s like to travel on the Eurotunnel during COVID

What it’s like to travel on the Eurotunnel during Covid

Spending time in Maastricht with our dog

As some of you may already know, we recently embarked on a road trip from Spain to the U.K., stopping off at France, Monaco, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Liechtenstein. All of these countries were placed on the safe list for travel to England when we were travelling.

Unfortunately, Spain is no longer on the safe list but as we left long before quarantine was implemented we are not subject to quarantine in England. Anybody who leaves Spain on or after July 26th however is subject to quarantine.

I’ll post more about our road trip including the route and different bits and pieces in due time, but there has been a few requests to talk about the eurotunnel experience and what it’s like to stay in hotels in different countries at the moment so here we are!

We arrived at the Eurotunnel on July 31st 2020 at around 4pm. We had travelled directly from Cologne, Germany but did stop for a drink in Maastricht, Netherlands. It took us 6 hours to do the drive from Cologne and we made sure we had left plenty of time to arrive and check in. We couldn’t get on a train before 5pm to ensure that the 24 hours had passed since Rio had taken his worming tablet from the vet in Cologne.

Safe travel on the Eurotunnel

Travelling by the Eurotunnel was relatively similar to it has been in the past. When we arrived, we first had to check in Rio at the pet centre. It was a drive through process. We handed over his pet passport which showed his worming tablet and up to date vaccinations which are required to enter the U.K. He was also scanned to ensure he had a chip. This then provided us with a hanger to put up to show that we had a dog onboard.

We then drove round to the French customs. We didn’t need to do anything at the French customs and just drove straight through. You then drive straight the way into the British customs.

We had filled in our visa and immigration form 24 hours before travelling. As soon as we booked our Eurotunnel crossing, we completed the enter the U.K. form. This is compulsory for everybody entering the U.K. regardless of whether you are British citizen, resident or tourist. On this form, we had to fill in where we would be staying in the U.K., what time we would be entering the U.K., where we have stayed in the past 14 days, our booking confirmation for the tunnel and other personal data like passport information and emergency contact information.

We didn’t need to show this form at customs, but it does say you need to have it downloaded or printed in case they ask to see it. The customs desk did open our form on their computer and double checked when we’d left the various countries. He said we were exempt from quarantine as everywhere is a safe country and travelling for tourism is allowed. He did have to double check that we left Spain before quarantine was imposed.

During customs, we had to take our masks down so he could check our faces to the passport.

We then drove straight round to the waiting area. Inside, there was takeaways open, Starbucks, WH SMITHS and the toilets. There was still a lot of shops and restaurants closed in the Eurotunnel waiting area. There was hand sanitiser when you walked in, masks were also compulsory and social distancing stickers were placed in the shops that were open and it was a one way system. You were able to enter through one day and exit through another.

Rio cavalier in the pet relief in Eurotunnel

Due to the current situation, there was a lot of delays at the Eurotunnel. The trains were all full and it was very busy. Although, like us, most people just stayed and waited in their cars. We took Rio into the pet relief garden where he had a little runaround. You had to socially distance in the pet area.

Our train was delayed by around an hour. After we were called, we drove straight round to the Eurotunnel embarking area. The staff were wearing masks but we weren’t required to do anything at all other than queue.

Once we were on the train, we had to follow the same procedure as before. Have windows half open, hand break on and engine off. Everybody had to remain in their vehicle at all times.

The experience with the Eurotunnel was pleasant and not stressful at all. We opted to travel by car as we feel this is the safest way to travel at the moment. We didn’t need to have contact with anybody at all during our trip across the Eurotunnel, except the customs desk where we remained in our car at a distance.

Lauren x

Visiting the Benitatxell, Alicante Cave: La Cova dels Arcs

we decided to head up to Javea to see the famous caves for ourselves. It is known as one of the most photographed spots around that area and a massive pull for snorkellers. 

costa blanca caves

La Cova dels Arcs, one of the most magical corners to watch the sunrise, take photos of the caves and, the most popular of all, snorkel, is one of the longest underground watercourses in Spain to the sea. For those who love snorkelling, or love doing something different, a trip to La Cova dels Arcs is essential.

To the right of Cala del Moraig, in El Poble Nou de Benitatxell, Alicante, you’ll find La Cova dels Arcs, a cool cave that is considered to be one of the best examples of history and drainage. For thousands of years, La Cova dels Arcs has taken batterings from weather, water and who knows what else, giving it its unique appearance today.

la cova dels arcs costa blanca spain

It is said that La Cova dels Arcs served as a refuge for sailors and an important water supply for the population of the surrounding areas.

After searching Benitatxell and things to do around Javea, Spain, and Alex being advised to visit by a colleague, we decided to head up to Javea to see the famous caves for ourselves. It is known as one of the most photographed spots around that area and a massive pull for snorkellers.

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Arriving at the caves, I probably wasn’t wearing the most appropriate of clothes. Especially shoes-wise. Extreme caution is to be taken when heading into the caves as the rocks get extremely slippery from the seawater crashing against them. It’s also recommended not to go in when the sea is even a little rough, one slight wave can cause you to slip and fall into the sea and potentially get hurt by all the rocks below.

DIARY OF A SPANGLISH GIRL la cova dels arcs costa blanca spain

Anyway, the cave itself is protected by a small entrance with a series of artificial stairs. It’s also considered the exit to sea from the underground watercourse. Of course, to snorkel and take part in the longest underground watercourse in Spain, you should be an advanced caver, strong swimmer and snorkeller and be with a group.

BOY AT la cova dels arcs costa blanca spain

Once you’re off the stairs, it’s a case of trudging along the rocks. Through wearing sandals and not wanting to venture too far in, we stood by the arcs, the famous photography spot of the caves. It’s here where, daily, people gather to watch the supposedly stunning sunset, renowned to be one of the best places to watch the sunset across the Costa Blanca.

How do I get to La Cova dels Arcs?

From Poble Nou of Benitaxell, take the road that leads to the urbanization of Cumbre del Sol, “Carretera del Puig”. After around 2000 metres you’ll see the entrance to the community, where you’ll be able to continue on.

Around 500 metres later, there is a triple crossing in the form of a trident, take the wider, central road, following the last stretch of nearing 3000 metres. The route takes you to the beautiful Cala del Moraig, after a very steep downhill slope. At the end of this road, you’ll find the cave and the beach parking. You’ll see the entrance to the coves to the right of the beach, which is signposted.

Hasta luego,

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WHERE TO SEE la cova dels arcs

Spur of the moment trips and why we travel

Memories that last a lifetime. New experiences. New memories. Moments where you laugh so much that your sides ache.

king can rio travel dog la concha beach san sebastian travelling with a dog

If you’ve been following along on my social media for a while, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, you’ll have seen we had a very busy week back in August. We decided to pack our bags, rent a car and take our dog on a little tour of Northern Spain, somewhere we’d been talking about going for years.

Now, in no means are we finished with exploring Spain. We still have a lot of places both up North and down South that we want to visit and some little quaint places in between, but we did manage to tick off a lot of places we wanted to go. We finally got to watch the lights dance across the fountains in Barcelona, we finally got to walk the famous promenade of San Sebastian and we finally got to see the legend that is the Pilar in Zaragoza. Alex also got to visit Madrid for the first time, and that wasn’t all!

Now Christmas has passed, it’s got me thinking about past travels and upcoming travels. Travels that I should write about, future travel that I should plan for. It’s unbelievable to think that when this gets published, I’ll probably be sitting in a little corner cafe in Edinburgh with my mum admiring the Edinburgh Castle. Somewhere else I’ve always wanted to go. Travel makes you richer in knowledge and emotional awareness.

If it looked like we’d been planning our Summer 2018 trip for ages, then that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, it was only Saturday that we decided to go for it.

Do you ever have those afternoons where you’re bored, so you just plan a holiday? Well, it was one of those.

We have always talked about taking our dog on a trip. We’ve always wanted to see if it’s possible to actually see places with a dog and Spain is probably the perfect place to try it out. On the whole, Spain is so dog-friendly but it took a lot of phone calls on Saturday afternoon.

king can rio travel dog sagrada familia barcelona

We decided renting a car would be the best way to do it. We’d have the flexibility to go where we wanted to go at the pace we wanted to do it at. It would also be so much more comfortable for our dog and us.

We rented our car from Enterprise, which I wish I could say was sponsored, but it really wasn’t! I mean, is it really paying if it goes on plastic? That’s a problem for future us to deal with, right?

Enterprise in Benidorm closes at 14:00 on Saturdays so at 13:30 I was running to a taxi to deliver Alex’s driving license! Who’d have thought driving licenses would be essential for hiring cars? Please pick up on this sarcasm.

It was then back to pick up essentials and pack what we’d be taking and actually book a route! So far, we were £250 down with no actual plan. Life is for living though!

You forget just how easy having a car makes things. Day to day, we don’t necessarily miss a car, but when you have one, you wonder how you ever coped without one.

What we packed for our road trip to the North of Spain

We decided on Barcelona. We’d stop off in La Seu and finish for a night at Zaragoza, whilst doing a few day stops on route. Though, we didn’t end up finishing in Zaragoza!

The North gets cold. Especially inland, so it meant packing a bit more sensibly. Well, Alex packed more sensibly, I thought that 17 degrees wouldn’t feel too cold, how wrong I was.

Clothes:

  • Hoodies
  • Sandals
  • Trainers
  • Two dresses
  • Three shorts
  • A t-shirt
  • Four tops
  • A bikini

Alex was really good at writing a list for what we would need for Rio, our dog. He was super organised at getting everything together, things that I don’t think I’d have thought of, or things we’d have forgotten about if we didn’t check them off. There’s so much to pack for a dog, it’s almost like having a baby on board!

Dog essentials for a road trip

  • Bed
  • Toys
  • Dentastix
  • Food
  • Bowls
  • Treats
  • Blanket
  • Lead
  • Collar
  • Seatbelt or pet carrier
  • Sheets to protect the seats
  • Pet passport
  • Proof of up to date vaccinations
  • Dog towel

We tried to pack light, having less to have to carry to hotel rooms every night, so light that we forgot the snacks that we’d bought for the journey!

Why did we do it?

king cavalier spaniel rio travel dog park guell dog friendly travelling with a dog barcelona spain

There’s something so exciting about going on a trip that you’ve not scheduled for. There were no months of countdowns and no overthinking. Given the time, we’d have most likely dropped out of the idea. We’d have talked about it and decided to save the money. But, we didn’t have time to do that. It had to be done now.

Benidorm goes very quiet in the winter and we spend a lot of time working in the winter. Summer was our time. We always go on a summer holiday and even though we had a few days in Mallorca and we had holiday time in Benidorm, it wasn’t a full trip. You can always make money, you can’t always make memories.

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Travel is one of those things you can buy that brings you things that money can’t buy.

Memories that last a lifetime. New experiences. New memories. Moments where you laugh so much that your sides ache. Things you’ll never forget. There are always new things to see and new people to meet. There is always somewhere new to visit.

truprint memories book why we travel couple orcheta spain

We love creating our photobook with Truprint and each year we love to have travel incorporated in some way or another. Each year has features from new trips and we didn’t have anywhere new to add to our Truprint book, so we certainly had to change that.

I was watching my one second everyday and every day was the same. Coffee and dog walks. Things that I love about my routine, I love everyday normalness, but I just wanted that bit of adventure to come to life in my video. Summer certainly brought it to life. It has certainly made my one second everyday video for 2018 a lot more interesting.

I knew that booking to go now and sorting the details later worked for us. We had worked out a budget and knew how long it would take for us to fix it. This worked for us. It would not work for everybody.

We booked our hotels through Booking.com and I’ll cover the places and the hotels in more details soon. We even booked a hotel for the next day and it only cost us 35€. If you want to book through booking.com you can use my affiliate link to get 10% off your next booking here: 10% Discount Accommodation Code

Have you ever done a last-minute trip? Where did you go?

Hasta luego,

 

Why You Should Visit Pamplona, Spain

Ernest Hemingway’s first obsession and a city he held so dear, it’s not hard to see why.

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Hear the city “Pamplona” and everyone thinks of bulls. The Bull Run, The Bull Fight. But there’s so much more to Pamplona than just that. Ernest Hemingway’s first obsession and a city he held so dear, it’s not hard to see why.

Even when the bulls aren’t thundering down the streets with the cheers and screams of the townspeople, Pamplona is still a fascinating and vibrant place to visit. Pamplona is certainly captivating.

Other than being home to the famous “bull run”, we didn’t know anything about Pamplona either. It was somewhere we headed to purely because it was a name we recognised and we were already going to pretty much drive through it, it made sense to stop and take a look.

Pamplona is in the North of Spain, it’s the capital of the Navarre autonomous area. Navarre truly is a beautiful region in Spain. Driving through the North, it changed so drastically. From green silhouettes of the Pyrannese to low river plains. The diversity was incredible. It was even more noticeable since we’d just came back from our trip to Sevilla and Granada, and driving through the Andalusia region, there are not a lot of changes!

Considering it was the height of summer, the morning was cold. The chill in the air punished me for wearing a strapless top and bright yellow skirt. I stood out. Passing me by are locals in coats and trousers, how was I to know? It was late August! It’s impossible to believe that once the sun made an appearance, it would soar up to 30 degrees.

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We arrived at 8:00a.m and left the car at the Plaza del Castillo. From there, we followed the route towards the beautiful ayuntamiento. The 17th century Town Hall.

Once we arrived in Pamplona, I almost knew I was going to love it. Which was bizarre because it was somewhere that we thought we wouldn’t like, that much.

We ended up spending a little bit more time in Pamplona than we originally planned, purely because it was so interesting. The coloured houses lined the winding cobbled streets that opened into a quaint, but bustling plaza. The streets were filled with people wandering around and meeting up for a morning coffee.

why you should visit pamplona

They have a great coffee shop over the road from the city hall in the plaza where there was an amazing deal on cookies and coffee. Who am I to turn down coffee? Who is Alex to turn down cookies? They had bar stools set outside and a hatch to pass your coffee through. The whole plaza felt Spanish. It probably sounds weird to say that, but not everywhere always feels Spanish!

why you should visit pamplona

Lined next to the Town Hall is a permanent gate structure, one that is part of the San Fermin celebrations. Walking around Pamplona, you really feel the atmosphere. You can feel like you’re there. You can imagine what it’s like. It feels like San Fermin never stops.

Most places, once a festival is over, it’s over. But, in Pamplona, San Fermin is a way of life. It’s instilled. There’s no forgetting about it until next year. It’s truly their pride.

why you should visit pamplona

Alex and I weren’t sure about Pamplona, Alex wasn’t even too keen about stopping in Pamplona, but I wanted to go out of curiosity. Once you’re there the city pulls you in. Pamplona surprised me, in the best possible way.

why you should visit pamplona

I wouldn’t want to be in Pamplona whilst the Bullrun is happening. I wouldn’t any part of it. But, I wouldn’t be against returning to Pamplona and spending more time wandering around the cobbled, winding and taking in the city. For such a small city, there are so many reasons to visit Pamplona, if you’re in the area.

Rich with History

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Pamplona has some beautiful historic sites, especially in the Old Town which is lined with medieval city walls. Pamplona is bursting with history, taken over by the Romans in around 75BC by Julius Caesar’s rival, Pompey, it was named accordingly.

San Fermin

why you should visit pamplona

Aside from the Bullrun, San Fermin is renowned to be an amazing festival. With street markets, dancing, traditional music and full-on feasting. The fiestas run from 6th July until 14th July.

Celebrations of San Fermin date back to the 12th century, when it was originally celebrated in October. The festivities officially begin at 12p.m on 6th July, marked by a “txupinazo”, which is basically a rocket fired from the City Hall balcony.

During the week, Pamplona is filled with red handkerchiefs and white t-shirts, which are on sale all of the time! Walk along the shops in Pamplona and everything is geared around San Fermin.

The Bullrun, “encierro”, is the most famous and talked about feature of San Fermin. Every morning during the festivities at 8 o’clock, the runners are chased by six bulls for around 800 metres from the City Hall to the bullring (Plaza de Toros).

San Fermin is a way of life when this is something they’ve always done. It’s celebrated, it’s their history.

Alex’s words to me when he pulled up “but.. you’re sure that Bullrun isn’t on?“. I did have to do a quick Google check first!

Food

Spain is such a foodie country on the whole, so the fact it has a wide range of bars and restaurants is barely revolutionary. Nonetheless, it’s a city that has combined influences from the Basque Country and the Peninsula. It has a variety of pintxos bars and traditional modern restaurants. Pamplona, surprisingly, also has a very vibrant nightlife. Spots that look like garage doors in the day open up to reveal nightclubs, music venues and wine bars.

Quaint Cafe’s

One of my favourite bits about Pamplona was the cute little coffee shops. Especially the one perched next to the City Hall that had amazing views, a spot perfect for people watching. Not to mention they had a scrumptious coffee and cookie deal. Scattered around Pamplona, like many parts of Spain, friends had met up to drink a morning cafe con leche, it’s a cultural routine that I have been more than happy to adapt to.

Friendly and Safe

why you should visit pamplona

There were some places that didn’t feel as welcoming and safe to go to but Pamplona wasn’t one of them. Whilst I definitely stood out as a tourist, it didn’t stop the locals saying good morning and the barista recommending me the best cookie. It’s not often I stand out. But that day, I did.

Pamplona is said to have one of the highest standards of living across the whole of Spain. With a wealth of recreation parks and outdoor space, quality industry, a high standard of education and health system – it’s a desired place to be in Spain. It also has one of the lowest rates of crime across Spain, making it a fantastic choice for a city break in the North of Spain. Friendly and tranquil, it was one of my favourite stop off points on our road trip.

Hasta luego,

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7 Steps to planning a last minute road trip

Let me take you back to just before the road trip. In fact, let me take you back to the day before the road trip. Here is the story behind our 5-day road trip to Northern Spain. 

“La Carretera de la Vida”

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Let me take you back to just before the road trip. In fact, let me take you back to the day before the road trip. Here is the story behind our 5-day road trip to Northern Spain. 

It’s Saturday afternoon, 11:45A.M. We must have our bags packed, tickets at the ready and the car parked outside filled with petrol, right? Wrong.

Instead, we’re planning the very basis of a road trip. A road trip for tomorrow.

“Shall we just go? We start back work next week and all we’ll do is work and stay in.”

So, we went.

Step One: Get a car

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It’s funny how extensive the trip planning can be when you have so much time on your hands. When it’s tomorrow, it’s a completely different story.

We got on to the Enterprise website, we needed a car. We weren’t going to get very far on the road trip without one. We managed to find a great deal on a car for around 200€ for the week, plus we’d have to leave a 150€ deposit. Not bad!

Enterprise closes at 14:00, and of course, it’s located all the way in Benidorm. At this point, Alex is running to get the bus so that we don’t miss out altogether.

Step Two: Accommodation

So, we’ll have a car. But, it’s all well and good getting there if we haven’t got anywhere to stay.

On booking.com they have a handy feature for filtering down to exactly what you need.

Parking? Yes. Accepts pets? Essential. Order? Low-to-High!

I’m always sceptical when hotels state they accept pets. Do they accept all pets or just small pets? Do they accept dogs or do they only mean service dogs? Especially in Spain, many places accept dogs under 10kg, but not necessarily any others.

I made sure I rang each place before booking to find out what charge it would be and if they even accepted our dog, at all.

Some places didn’t accept over 10kg dogs. Rio is 11kg I mean, come on! Other places charged more than others, which altered which one was the cheapest in each city. On the whole, we paid around 10€ per night for our dog.

Step Three: Documentation

At this point, it’s 13:30 and I get a phone call from Alex.

“I’ve left my driving license at home…”

Let me just paint the picture, Enterprise is 40 minutes away on the bus which only comes twice an hour. Enterprise closes at 14:00 on a Saturday. No re-opening. That’s it.

Of course, without a driving license, nobody is passing their rental car over.

Picture me calling Radio Taxi for a taxi right now. Whilst trying to get ready to be downstairs for when the taxi arrives. I don’t know if you’ve ever called a Taxi in Benidorm before, but they’re quickOr they just don’t come, at all.

Luckily, we made it to Enterprise before they closed and managed to get a nice, comfortable Citroen C3, which we later found out had the most annoying music system on it. Now, what car these days doesn’t have Bluetooth music connection without downloading their App first?

We made sure we had all of the documentation together, including booking confirmations for hotels on the phone, car paperwork, driving license, ID and dog passport and proof of vaccinations.

Step Four: Shop for snacks

I don’t know if you’ve ever been on a fairly long road trip before, but on our first one a few years ago, we were stocked up with snacks. Crisps, chocolate, sweets, you name it we had it.

This year, we packed crisps, fruit and drink. Only to later leave the crisps at home.

Instead, we ended up stopping at Mercadona’s in the cities and getting what we wanted for that day. It meant a lot less food waste.

Step Four: Pack your bags

One of the best parts about travelling by car as opposed to a bus or plane is having no restrictions on bags.

We like to pack light, but it definitely made a change to have our own bags rather than Alex lumping his backpack around with our stuff in.

You’ve probably noticed that I wore the same top at least 3 times and definitely wore every outfit more than once. Packing light is the best, plus you don’t waste time in the morning wondering what to wear because you’ve not got a lot to choose from!

Step Five: Establish a leaving time and set an alarm

We had agreed on a set time to get going. 5:30a.m. Early enough that we’d be in Barcelona before midday and miss some traffic, but not too early so Alex could have a full night sleep before the drive.

Except all night, neither of us slept.

“Are you asleep? No.”

The last I remember looking at my phone, it was 4:00a.m and Alex was now attempting to sleep on the balcony. Okay, great we’re going to have a full day in Barcelona on 90 minutes sleep and Alex has to get us there.

At some point, I must have fallen asleep. It wasn’t until I woke up at 8:45a.m that we realised that we had missed the alarm.

Step Six: Get the music playlist sorted

Does it drive anybody else crazy that radio stations play the same songs on loop?

Well, Spanish radio is no exception. In fact, I think it’s worse.

When we found out that the Citroen C3 music system is borderline hopeless, it meant the radio had to go on. I know all the words to three songs. They were the only three that were played. Every so often, they’d throw an old throwback song or relatively new song in the mix, but it was never for long before heading back to the same three.

The Citroen C3 music system was so temperamental. We also didn’t know you needed to download their App to be able to use the Bluetooth music system. I could only charge my phone into the USB slot which meant the only time the iPod could use the “dips in then dips out again” music system was when my phone didn’t need charging.

You might have already seen the vlog, so you’ll know this already, but I took a lot of videos and photos. Inbetween that, I was playing my games. Now, unless I wanted to go to the new city and have no battery, not going to happen, the phone being charged had to take priority!

If we’d have known that the Citroen needed an App, we’d have downloaded it at home on WiFi, but there was no way I was downloading on the road. Data doesn’t grow on trees!

Step Seven: Plan what you want to see

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We knew we were on a tight schedule. We wanted to make sure that we had plenty of rest stops for our dog so he could go and relieve himself and keep comfortable.

Instead of stopping at a service station, that can look a little sketchy in some places, we decided to swap motorway stops for city or village stops. Some places, like Martinet, were completely unplanned. We just drove through, liked it and stopped. Other places, like Pamplona, we headed for.

This meant, there wasn’t time to wander through the streets and find what we wanted to see. We had to know in advance.

The easiest place to plan what we wanted to see was whilst we were already on the road. You have a lot of spare times on your hands anyway and it keeps everything fresh in your mind.

I created a Pinterest board of different spots we’d like to see and made sure that we parked relatively close to them. It meant, we were able to see the main photo spots in the cities.

If you haven’t already, you can watch our road trip through Northern Spain below:

Have you ever been on a road trip? Where did you go?

Hasta luego,

laurensignature-final

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