Fall 2016 European Roadtrip
In the Fall of 2016 Christina, McKenzie, and I flew into Amsterdam and rented a Citroen diesel. We planned a 9 day road trip from Amsterdam to Paris. We rented the car from Hertz Rental car for about $500. We picked the car up from the airport with no hassle. We did not want to use International Data on our phones so I was able to download “offline” sections on Google Maps. It worked out really well. Offline makes it so it can’t look up restaurants and it has a hard time recalculating routes. But it is a better option than just relying on paper maps.
(Breda, NL. McKenzie standing in front of a real Dutch windmill)
We spent two days at the BlissMobil Factory in Breda, Netherlands. We got to see how their campers are built. It was amazing to see the campers throughout the build process. The factory and build process is night and day between XPCamper and Bliss Mobil. Bliss campers take on average of 3 weeks from start to finish. It has been 15 months and my XPCamper Cube is still not finished.
We got to explore the town of Breda alittle as well. Europe loves its metered parking. We walked through Old Breda for an afternoon. The town was lovely with a huge church, which was closed for renovations. The food was yummy and people were friendly.
From Breda we drove across the border into Germany. We left around rush hour which turned our 4 hour drive into a 6 hour drive. Nothing like waiting in stop-and-go traffic on vacation. As the sun set we pulled into the parking lot of our hotel. Burghotel Staufenberg (Under $200USD). It is a castle turned into a beautiful hotel! There is no elevator and lots of stairs. We were lucky and only on the 2nd floor. Our room overlooked the valley below, which was magnificent.
We awoke early the next morning to the sun rising over the valley with fog obscuring the valley floor. Breakfast was included, coffee, bread, and cheese. Staff was nice and attentive.
We met a friend of mine, Sasha, in Old Town Wetzlar, Germany for lunch and a look around. Sasha, his wife and son showed us around Old Town. Wetzlar has a very pretty Old Town, well worth a few hours to walk around and explore. Sasha’s son is just a little younger than McKenzie and was fascinated by her. He was trying to figure out why she was speaking weird (he only speaks German). After a short hike to the top of Burg Kalsmount. This old castle remnant was built around 785AD. There is a staircase which leads to the top of the 75ft tall tower. The castle stands at the top of a hill which overlooks Wetzlar.
After saying our goodbyes we drove the short distance to Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Rothenburg is one of the best preserved walled towns in Germany. This small town is mostly vehicle free inside the walls and will transport you back into the Middle Ages.
Little shops line the cobble streets. A beautiful town square (Pictured on the right), which has a perfect Christmas Market in the winter. The town does have many tourists, and yet is does not feel like a tourist trap.
We stayed at the Romantik Hotel Markusturm (Under $150USD). This hotel is fantastic. Right on the outside of the gate, it is one of the oldest hotels in the town. The small restaurant is worth eating at and even has been brewing its own beer since before America became independent. A block from the town square it makes exploring easy. The hotel has its own parking for a small fee, which is worth not having the hassle of TRYING to find a spot to park.
Every time I go to Rothenburg, I make a stop at Kathe Wohlfahrt’s Christmas Shop, there are two so make sure you go to the one right off the main square. This shop has hundreds and hundreds of amazing hand blown glass Christmas ornaments. This shop alone is worth the trip.
From Rothenburg we made the 5 hour drive south to Garmisch, a small ski resort type town nestled at the foot of the German Alps. We stayed at Dorint Sporthotel (Under $175UDS). This is a weird place, more of a compound resort than a hotel. Our “room”, was a two bedroom plus living room, apartment. All the apartment buildings are connected with underground tunnels. Their restaurant is mediocre, I would recommend eating in town. We had a view of the Alps from our back porch which was a nice place to sit and have a beer.
The next day, we drove down the road to Neuschwanstein Castle. McKenzie loved it! It was her perfect little princess castle. The castle is on the side of a mountain and the hike up can suck if you aren’t in shape. There are horse drawn carriage rides for $15 round trip. You must have a tourguide to go inside but it is well worth the $5 or so bucks. No pictures or video inside.
The view from the castle is nothing short of amazing. The mountain to the back and sides with the view of the German countryside to the north. If you have never been, it is a must see when visiting southern Germany. It is only an hour or so drive (or train ride) from Munich.
From there we started what turned out to be a 9 hour drive to Metz, France. The drive was nothing short of miserable. We sat through about a full hour of under 5mph traffic on the outskirts of Stuttgart. After we crossed over the border into France we jumped from toll road to toll road. The last 1/3 of our drive cost about $50 of just tolls. If I could have helped it I would have driven on side roads the whole 500km, but we made a hotel reservation, so we had to make it that night. We stayed at the Novotel in downtown Metz ($100USD).
Metz was the disappointment of the trip. Metz is dirty and ugly. We tried to walk around and find the pretty part and we gave up. On a side note, after walking around for an hour plus we found the most wonderful breakfast cafe. For around $10 we had coffee and scrambled eggs.
We left Metz and headed towards Paris. We stayed at another Novotel in Versailles. The hotel was quite nice and within walking distance of the Palace. We walked to a square with amazing restaurants. We ate at Gandhi Indian food. It was the best Indian Food I have ever had. It was cheap and delicious, a MUST GO in Versailles.
The Palace was a bit of a disappointment due to the construction. About half of the inside was under construction and we could not enter. We only spent about 3 hours or so at the Palace, a lot less time than we had thought.
We headed to the airport to drop off our car. The vehicle return was super easy. We walked upstairs and hopped onto the shuttle bus to our “airport hotel” Golden Tulip. Avoid this hotel like the plague! Our thought was we wanted a hotel at the airport since our flight left early in the AM. So the hotel sucked and the shuttle from the airport ran once every 30 mins. Since we had the whole afternoon available we took the train into Paris. I wasn’t going to go all the way to France and not take McKenzie to the Eiffel Tower!
So we show up and there are armed French Army everywhere. The base of the tower is fenced off and you have to pass through “security”, like in an airport, before you could even pass one of the legs. In 2008, I took the stairs to the middle level, we took the elevator this time! We went all the way to the top! McKenzie is fearless when it comes to heights, I was very proud.
We had a very expensive dinner before heading back to the hotel from hell.
Overall it was a great trip. I loved being able to show McKenzie the continent I have such a love for. Until next time Europe.