Greetings one and all! The time has finally come to regale you with the tales from the Epic Road Trip (later referred to as ERT)!
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be sharing the story of our journey overland from Lyon to Lisbon – and all the crazy shenanigans that happened along the way – and back again!
It’s been a memorable adventure, full of highs and lows – quite literally – as we have travelled across southern Europe as high as the Pyrenees mountains and as low as an underground car park in Lisbon. We’ve experienced a smorgasbord of sights, attractions and activities, and it is our pleasure to share the discoveries we made along the way – and hopefully arm you with some top tips should you decide to visit some of these fantastic destinations yourselves.
Well, the key is in the ignition and we’re raring to go, so buckle-up for this introduction to The Epic Road Trip Series!
A Little Background to the Beginnings
Hello Etrampers – it’s Cez here, just in case there was any confusion. Before we get underway in our journey through time and space, a little background is required. I must inform you that for the duration of this particular trip my companion isn’t going to be Agness.
I hear you cry!
Before you start worrying that we’re going our separate ways, allow me to allay your fears. We are still best friends, and we will still continue to travel together!
We both attended the TBEX seminar in Ireland at the beginning of the last October, and there we met Lydia from LydiaScapes! That’s the fun thing about travel blog gatherings – you always meet like-minded people.
So, with Agness planning on solo trips to Malta, Amsterdam and Kenya (watch this space) I had an opportunity to go somewhere else on my own. Then I discovered that Lydia also had some free time – so the next thing we know – the Epic Road Trip idea was born!
Christmas and Beyond
There was just a small issue of Christmas standing in our way, which you may know Agness and I spent in Belarus.
Meanwhile, Lydia was enjoying a ski session in Val Thorens – the highest resort in Europe – which just happened to be a significant influence on our road trip starting point.
With the festivities over, Agness and I temporarily parted ways, and I chugged my faithful car across the continent from Poland to France – arriving in Lyon just in time to meet Lydia as she slid off the snowy slopes. And we were off!
A natural first stop on the ERT was a visit to nearby Lyon, which is an ancient city full of fascinating art and architecture – particularly when it comes to learning about the influence of the silk trade. Our walking tour here will take you to some of its most historic sights – both above ground and below!
The board game favourite around the world is actually based on a real place – and our scheduled next stop. Carcassonne is one of the finest medieval castles in the world, and one of the most beautiful locations on the famous Canal du Midi – a historically busy waterway linking the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. Don’t miss our guide on what to see in this time travelling town.
Andorra and the Drive of Doom!
It was a nerve-wracking drive up into the heavens as we ascended the Pyrenees Mountains and negotiated some seriously crazy roads! Chicane turns and icy conditions made it the most challenging leg of the ERT, but we rewarded ourselves with a trip to the famous Caldea Spa in the shopping mall/tax haven capital of Andorra La Vella. Those thermal waters will make you forget all your troubles!
Cardona Castle and New Year’s Eve!
Down from the treacherous snowy inclines and on into Spain, our first port of call was the fabulous Cardona Castle. We clearly hadn’t seen enough of medieval architecture! But the last moments of 2017 were slowly eking away as we made one more trip around the sun – and we pushed on into Barcelona to bring in the New Year in style. Well – Lydia had style at least. I need a new wardrobe.
Biking in Barcelona
Next up was an exciting exploration of one of the world’s most amazing cities. Beautiful Barcelona from the back of a bike! It really is worth all the hype – and as such it’s extremely popular all year round. Check out our guide to seeing the city with a bike hire, and we’ll be back when that cathedral is finally finished!
Monks, Mountains and Montserrat
It was back up to nose-bleeding altitudes again as we visited the Santa Maria Monastery, high in the razor-edged Montserrat mountain range. Be careful up here, as although the view is absolutely breath-taking – so is the wind. I’m terrified of heights too!
Rock climbing in Siurana
Right, I’ve just said I’m afraid of heights, so what on earth am I doing attached to a length of rope trying to climb up a rock?! Lydia is very passionate about climbing – so much so that her blog is dedicated to the sport and she tries to go as many times a week as possible. I wasn’t going to back out though, and it turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip! Check out my sheer terror and see how I got on and Climbing Siurana with whom we did it.
As you can imagine we were pretty exhausted when we made it to the Spanish capital – especially after the daring exploits up a rock face and driving all day. But there’s a lot of great stuff here that shouldn’t be missed, and although we were feeling under the weather, we managed a whistle-stop tour of this awesome city. Oh – and an indoor rock climbing session. Lydia just can’t get enough!
We turned north-west and headed towards the historic town of Segovia. A small settlement with plenty of charm, it’s perhaps most notable for a colossal, iconic, Roman aqueduct that cuts its way through the heart of the city. It’s a real hotchpotch of architectural influence and design echoing down the centuries. Well worth a visit if you’re ever close to Madrid.
We’d finally shaken off the flu upon reaching Salamanca – which is basically a giant open-air museum and UNESCO world heritage site. One of the most beautiful cities you’re ever likely to experience, and with so much to see and do, we made you a handy walking guide so you don’t miss the best sights and attractions. And we indulged in arguably the finest tapas known to man!
Pushing on to Portugal – Aveiro!
Another border was crossed as we finally made it to the coast and the magical seaside town of Aveiro. It’s sort of like a miniature Venice – only thankfully without the hordes of tourists blocking every canal! We were lucky enough to arrive during the Festas de São Gonçalinho, which involves throwing chunks of hard bread at a crowd from the roof of a church.
Alas, all good things must come to an end, and end they did on the 16th January. We had arrived in the Portuguese capital a few days prior, and had a delightful stay at the Goodmorning Hostel – which is where Agness stayed with her mum a few years ago!
Once again, we enjoyed a walking tour of Lisbon, so feel free to use our guide which includes some great places to eat. From there we took in a day tour of the fabulous Sintra Castles, but with the finish line crossed and flights to be caught, Lydia and myself parted ways at the end of our Epic Road Trip. And epic indeed it was.
From leaving Gdansk in Poland to making the round trip, I drove some 8000 kilometres – 3500 of them with a busted clutch. The car broke an hour after Lydia was on her flight, which is not bad, considering what we’d put the old ‘gal through! Although it’s always sad when such a journey comes to an end, you have to be thankful that you were there to experience it in the first place, and Lydia and I created a more than a few lasting memories along the way.
Now, when can we do it all again?!