We have had some amazing UK road trips since Kev got his SLK and joined the owners club. Last year some of the members decided on a European road trip and we joined them this June. Here is a bit of how the first 7 days went.
Day 1: Folkestone to Saverne
We got on the Eurotunnel from Folkestone to Calais around 930 am. Always key to book in advance to get cheaper rates. The process (apart from the delay at passport control) was quick and efficient. Drive in the cabin, handbrake on and relax. Within half an hour we were in Calais.
It was our first driving holiday abroad and we just followed everyone else. The initial drive was boring – motorways after motorways but I guess we had to get to our first destination, Saverne, the quickest way so we can start the real road trip.
In France, trucks are not allowed on the road on Sunday which makes it a good day to tackle the long boring roads.
On route to France, we drove past Belgium, via a town called Namur. I could see cobblestone lanes dotted with cafes, bookstores and vintage shops. We traveled the motorway and it was a pretty straight forward but long drive.
There are adequate service stations along the way. Just remember you have to pay to use the toilets. You can, however, get a receipt which you can redeem against food and drink there. They also have machines you can get change.
Having a sports car means fuel stops are needed every so often too. Luxembourg is apparently cheaper for fuel so we stopped there to fill up. Like Belgium, I wish we had time to explore but it was fast approaching dinner time and we needed to meet some of the other drivers.
At around 7pm we arrived in Saverne. The hotel was chosen well and on a summers evenings, it looked pretty and perfect. We stayed at Hotel Villa Katz which had a beautiful courtyard and a resident pooch. The room we had was airy and had a gorgeous balcony view. Hotel Villa Katz is located about 15-minute walk to the town centre.
We forget the luxury we have in the UK to just rock up at most restaurants on a Sunday evening and expect it to be open. Saverne was pretty but quiet and after walking up and down we found a Creperie Du Griffon that would cater for 12.
The Creperie served a variety of sweet and savory crepes. I went for an Italian one (clearly not very french) followed by a banana, chocolate, and rum on I shared with Kev.
Day 2: Saverne to Lucerne
After a scrumptious breakfast, we set off for Lucerne. We left at 10 am on most mornings where we had long drives. Today we were going via the Autobahn and the Black Forest.
Kev has always wanted to drive on the de-restricted Autobahn and this was his chance. Luckily the rain cleared off to leave a dry road. It was nice to drive at your top speed however it was a bit nerve-racking too because the Autobarn is a public road and everyone has the same idea. After whizzing by Offenburg, we headed to the Blackforest in search for a Cuckoo Clock and Blackforest Gateau. It would be rude not to. Kev and I split up from the group to be tourists.
We managed to get a Cuckoo Clock (something we have wanted for a very long time) after browsing a few outlets. We bought ours from House of Black Forest Clocks and met the clockmaker himself who explained the mechanics behind it.
We also paid a visit to the Eble Uhren-Park which has the Worlds Biggest Cuckoo Clock. Compared to the shops this was a bit of a disappointment – I was expecting lots of movement on the hour but we just got a quick “cuckoo”.
It was time to get some Black Forest Gateau and the best one in the area was in Triberg. Cafe Schaefer is famous for the original Gateau. Five minutes after we got there they had sold out so it’s worth going early. It was strong but perfectly made. I am not a fan of cream cakes however Kev is so he ate all the creamy bits and I ate the rest.
Fed and watered we headed down to Lucerne. You need a vignette pass as soon as you get to the Switzerland border. Lucky for us we had others tell us what to do. Unless you do your research it’s not obvious when you have to buy your pass. We stopped at the border control and got ours from here. It cost CHF 40 and lasts for a year.
Lucerne is situated where the Alps begin. The town lies along the banks of Lake Lucerne. We checked into a basic Ibis here that was close to the city and the cheapest hotel with parking. It was very basic!
Switzerland is expensive and when there is a group of you it’s not easy to look for cheaper authentic eats. Dinner wasn’t anything special – just expensive pasta and pizza (almost 30 CHF per person). The next morning Kev & I got up early to explore the town and try and take in some Swiss culture.
The highlight was the Chapel Bridge which was attached to the Water Tower. The local markets were set up and I could have easily spent a day browsing and eating but we had to get to Austria.
Day 3: Lucerne to Solden via Klausen pass
I hadn’t quite understood the thrill of driving up the passes until I experienced it myself. Scenic windy roads that take you to snow-topped mountains where you can enjoy breathtaking views. It is nice to experience the change in weather from the bottom of the mountains to the top and just admire nature.
Once we got up to the top we enjoyed a hot drink at Klausen-Passhohe Hotel. Being so high up meant the weather and wind blew without any warning. From clear skies to not being able to see a thing it was an amazing experience to see the change and also made me realise how easy it is for hikers to get caught up on the mountains.
We drove via Linthel and many other small towns then back down to the next pass before getting to Austria. Here we needed to buy another vignette for Austria. It cost 9 euros for a week.
We had hoped to go via the Silvretta pass (the dream road for connoisseurs) but that was closed. A lot of passes were not fully open mid-June. The locals said they had a lot more snowfall than expected this year. There are websites that keep you up to date on what passes are open. The passes usually have a hotel or two for you to take a break and they are usually pretty chalet looking ones. It is always worth having a map too- mobiles and satnavs are not so good high up in the mountains when you are trying to plan a diversion.
Around 5pm we got to our hotel, Pension Sporthalm. We were greeted with a shot of peach snaps. The hotel had sauna facilities along with a relaxation room which we enjoyed once we checked in. Our room had two balconies, both with mountain views. Being woken up to the sound of cow bells was also so relaxing.
Solden is a ski resort and most shops and restaurants were closed in June. They were due to reopen in the summer.
For dinner, we found a local bar (the only one that was open after 8pm) where I enjoyed some Pork Snitzel and Kaiserschmarrn., both very delicious Austrian dishes.
Day 4: Solden to Trafoi
We had a relaxing start to the day in Solden. After breakfast, we made our way to Aqua Dome.[AD Gifted] With views of Otztal Mountain, large basins with thermal spring water and views of the Alps this was a perfect way to spend the day after all the driving we had been doing.
After experiences the three different basins we headed for the spa. This was our first experience in an Austrian Spa. Little did we know the policy was no clothes. It was daunting at first but the staff member at the desk was very good with his words and convinced us to try it. It’s not something Kev and I would have ever thought of doing however it was an experience we ticked off especially when enjoying the special Birchwood Sauna session.
Once we cooled down we headed to the relaxation room and had a snooze on their water beds. We later enjoyed cocktails in the restaurants overlooking the mountains.
The rest of the group were hoping to go on the gondola rides up to the 007 elements museum. The gondolas to the museum were not working and many of them drove straight to the next stop, Trafoi.
We drove down some hairpin bends on the Timmelsjoch pass, a high mountain pass, which connects Austria to Italy. In between, we stopped off at Gasthof Schonau down past Merano for a coffee break and more breathtaking views.
Timmelsjoch pass had 12 feet snow when we drove past which was beautiful to see. Once we past Merano we were back on normal roads driving past several Olive Groves on route to Trafoi.
At around 7pm we checked into Hotel Madatsch. Another gorgeous hotel set at the bottom of the mountains. We had another mountain view room which was always a treat to wake up to. The hotel offered a 5-course meal for 20 euros which we went for. It sure was delicious and the breakfast was amazing too.
Day 5: Trafoi to Lake Como
The plan was to go via Stelvio pass (famous from top gear) however it was closed. We managed to go up a bit before we came across a roadblock again due to the extreme weather they had and the high chance of rocks falling onto the road.
We did drive through Umbrial pass famous with the cyclists and that was beautiful. The mountains were full of snow and ski season was still on for them. With several windy roads and braking we were lucky there were not many breakdowns. When they were everyone came together which was nice. It was a good team effort which is a great benefit of traveling in groups on driving holidays.
We stopped for lunch at Bormio, a pretty cyclist, and ski town. The local dish in Bormio is I Pizzoccheri Della; buckwheat pasta tastes a lot better when made fresh. I enjoyed a bit of the pasta with an Affogato served with chocolate.
We drove via Tirano on route to Lake Como. It was very tempting (for me) to divert to Milano but I wasn’t the driver. Rows of olive trees and the smell of Jasmine invited us into the Lakes for our three-night break.
Keep an eye out for more on the second leg of the trip. For now here are some more photos of the cars with epic backdrops.