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Our best tips for taking an epic road trip are:
How our ROADTRIP became a Reality:
“If you could have your dream wedding, where would it be?”
“I’d want a big ball gown, grand staircase in a castle in Europe.”
Michael began researching European castles….
February 2019: we are in NYC with my wedding dress in hand and 10 days free before a trip scheduled in Cancun, Mexico. My fiancé (at the time), the big dreamer, says, what about a Europe road trip in the dress? Not fully understanding what this entailed… but being a “travel trooper adventurer”, I said “all right!”
Paris, Marcei (coastal driving) , Pisa, Florence, Rome, Austria, Budapest, Vienna, Prague, Neuschenstein and back to Paris to fly to Cancun.
But with any good adventure aspiring to be GREAT, we must be willing to make changes quickly as the road bends.
Flight: NYC to Paris
We flew through the night to Paris, landing at 8:00 am. Our rental car was ready and we found ourselves in the middle of Parisian rush hour as we made our way to the Eiffel Tower.
Day 1: February 13
First stop: Eiffel Tower
The weather was PERFECT! We both changed clothes in the street and made our way to the photo spot. Many cheered and took pictures of their own… of us and offered congratulations.
We had lunch in the dress at a local cafe. Hindsight- this was not as cool as I thought it would be. Eating in the dress was uncomfortable and nerve wracking as I was still attempting to keep it clean.
Day 1, February 13, Second Stop
Third stop- Arc de Triumph
We found parking a few blocks away. I sat while Michael scoped our the photo scene and then joined him.
Literally- in the middle of the street. My dress and train inches from tire treads of cars whizzing by. But so exhilarating. Tourists and locals honked their horns and whistled and shouted well wishes. I felt like a princess bride!
It felt great to change out of the dress for the next jaunt of our drive.
Drive Time: Paris to Marcei.
Michael was a champ at driving through Paris and once we were out of the city- fatigue hit. We stopped at a McDonald’s for a coffee and internet to search for our stay for the night.
We stayed at Comfort Hotel in Orleans Sud, France.
The room was small but decorated and painted nicely.
We went to a local grocery store to find car snacks and get dinner. Our game plan was to try to keep it as healthy as possible. Note: ROADTRIP in Europe and low carb is quite hard to come by.
We did find a rotisserie chicken at the market for dinner and we devoured it— very carnivorously. (We forgot to pick up utensils or napkins).
Day 2: (February 14) Drive southern France countryside
Plan: Drive south of France to Marcei
Reality: turned left at the fork and headed to Switzerland
Lunch: A small Kabob cafe in France
Hotel: Postman8 in Stalden, Switzerland, $64/night
Dinner: more kabobs at a diner in Stalden. We split a plate at 10 pm. We were starving and exhausted. Twin beds for Valentine’s night, but after 10 hours of driving, all we wanted was sleep. This hotel included breakfast in the morning and was a lovely stay tucked away in a quaint town.
Day 3: (February 15) Matterhorn, Switzerland
One of our best days. We had a beautiful day- bright blue skies with warm sun. The train ride up was picturesque and easy and then the continued “hike” up to the top view was equally as “easy”. Relatively speaking— it was “easy”. I felt short of breath from the altitude and from carrying a big wedding dress- but the trail was easy to maneuver and didn’t take long.
We changed clothes right at the top and only gathered a few strange looks.
Drone caution: GPS signals are not very strong so flying a drone can be tricky. Ours almost went off the side of the mountain.
Lunch: We ate at the resturant on top of Gornergrat.
The taste was good- but be aware- we split the spaghetti and it was the only menu item that wasn’t $20. Packing a picnic lunch may be the more economical option.
Drive: Switzerland to Pisa, Italy
Dinner: car snacks and gas station “food”
Hotel: Casa Betonia, Pisa, $49/night
Day 4: (February 16) Pisa, Florence, Rome Italy
Breakfast of champions was provided by our hotel. And if we weren’t trying to avoid bread, It would have been amazing. They did have hard boiled eggs, so we took part of those.
Leaning Tower: easy to get to and we found parking on the street. Note: you must still pay for parking on the weekend- we did not and we were ticketed.
Those perspective shots are not as easy as they look, but are worth the effort.
Lunch: canned beans from a local grocery
Drive to Florence. Michael drove. I ate Canned beans.
Florence, Italy: (February 16)
One Euro in the meter, one hour at the lookout and back in the car to Venice.
Rome – February 16
Michael drove us out of Florence until we made it to a straight highway and then I took over after our first stop. The drive was relatively easy, until we entered the crazy streets of Rome.
Hotel: Imperial Suites, Rome, $89/night
This hotel was located literally across the street from the Colosseum. The room was spacious with Victorian decor, an armoire, and a canopy bed. The bathroom had a tub that had been converted to a shower with a modern handheld shower head.
We arrived just as the sun was setting so we dropped our bags and quickly changed clothes.
There was a fence to hop over along the way to our next spot and Michael has run ahead to set up the camera. A stranger ran over to help me over the fence without ripping my dress.
As the sun fell beneath the horizon, the colosseum began to glow against the twilight sky.
Overnight in Rome, February 16
February 17- Before driving to Venice, we had a few more Roman icons to check off our list. These are typically PACKED with crowds, unless you go before the crack of dawn. I was awake at 3:00 am to shower, makeup and dress. This morning felt like my wedding day.
A brisk and very chilly walk out to the Trevi Fountain began by passing someone throwing up in the street. I just gathered my dress a little closer to me and kept moving.
Rome to Venice, February 17
We walked back to our hotel, changed clothes, packed and checked out by 10:00 am. Breakfast was on the road and our drive to Venice had begun.
We tried to make it to the city for a sunset picture, but with traffic and parking and realizing our hotel was DEEP into the city (about 2 mile walk from parking), it was quite dark by the time we reached our AMAZING hotel.
Hotel: Hotel Marconi, Venice, Italy
This hotel is located near the famous Rialto Bridge and there are several restaurants directly in front with spectacular views. The room was clean and spacious. Breakfast was included in our stay and involved a grand buffet of eggs, sausage, bacon, gourmet breads and pastries, juices and jams.
After the drive and long walk, we were starving. I changed clothes and we splurged a bit for a romantic dinner on the water.
We walked around the city after dinner and I gave a piece of my heart to Venice with a promise to return for a longer stay very soon.
We started our photo shoot early to avoid large crowds, but we woke up to a chilly foggy morning.
Day 6, February 18: Venice to Dubrovnik, Croatia
Our original plan was to drive to Budapest and Prague, but to “touch” Croatia since the border was close. But everything I looked up for “iconic pictures” in Croatia kept pointing to Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik would add another sixteen hours of driving to our trip.
Special note: When driving from Venice to Croatia, you’ll pass through a chunk of land belonging to Bosnia. This was done to give them water access. We were unaware of this as we made last minute plans to head to Dubrovnik and it was close to ten pm when we approached the border. May I simply advise anyone reading this to be sure your rental car is insured in every country you plan to visit if you ever do a cross country Europe road trip.
We checked in to our apartment villa for the night and were greeted with a bottle of homemade wine from the family. This villa was $57 for the night and is definitely a place I would gladly and easily spend a month in.
Day 7, February 19, Old Town Dubrovnik
This was not on the original wedding tour list. I’ll be honest, I was somewhat glad to not be putting on the dress that morning. My leggings and white top felt comfortable and I was Looking forward to casual pictures and comfortably touring this old castle.
However, by the time we had walked from one end of the castle to the other, Michael had me convinced we absolutely had to go get the dress.
I’m forever grateful that we did! As you can see by the perfectly blue sky, we had a great weather day and after walking the entire wall and taking pictures, we were famished.
We had lunch on the terrace with a castle view. I enjoyed a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and a yummy salmon salad.
Coastal Drive ending in Ljubljana
Michael enjoyed the winding mountainous roads taking us out of Croatia. This section of our road trip had me thoroughly convinced that some things simply cannot be described. They must be experienced.
Ljubljana, overnight February 19
We stopped at the Apartma Nadja air bnb for the night. The host was super helpful and the apartment was stocked with tea, coffee, cookies and other breakfast items. But our favorite accessory- the laundry!!
February 20: Ljubljana to Austria to Germany
After a delicious breakfast provided by our host, we loaded the car to begin the last leg of our wedding tour. We would arrive in Hallstatt, Austria in time for lunch and then have dinner in Munich Germany.
I found a recommended restaurant with a great view on trip advisor. However, when we arrived… in FEBRUARY… we found it was closed in the off season and quickly could see why. Snow packed up to the doorway.
We walked along the lake and found Baht’s Polreich. I had a German wine with lunch and our view was stunning.
We walked around the town and made mental note of a beautiful place to return to soon for a longer stay.
Day 8: February 20,Fussen, Germany
We arrived at Steakhause Fussen around 8:30 pm and the kitchen was closing. We checked in to our hotel quickly and then sat down for dinner.
Hotel: Steakhause Fussen, $60/night
I recommend this hotel for short stays. The room and bathroom were clean but the bathroom was very small. I noticed This to be typical of Europe, however, I think a week long stay here would not be pleasant.
The view of the waterfall was very pleasant and in milder weather, I would love how close and accessible the park is.
There is a restaurant on site and we were very pleased with our dinner selections.
Day 9, February 21, Neuschwanstein Castle
This castle was the inspiration for this entire wedding tour and we have finally arrived. And as irony would have it, the road leading to the best picturesque bridge is closed due to snow.
We are not easily defeated, however. We drove to a snowy field below the castle and marched ourselves out there for the epic shot.
It was cold. I mean, it was very very cold. We were also very very tired. Both of us “sank” in the snow and had wet feet. The camera “froze up”. And despite all of these obstacles, we still managed to get the epic shot.
February 21, Germany to Luxembourg to Paris
To complete our road trip circle, we drove through Luxembourg to grab dinner and a photo and to cross off yet another country.
Michael grabbed a kabob at a street diner and I simply wanted a glass of celebratory wine with a sunset view.
Michael took the wheel and I closed my eyes. He drove through the night to get us to Paris. We crossed through Belgium on the way.
This trip was the most epic thing I’ve done to date, but I feel strongly it won’t be the top or the last.
We arrived in Paris to our hotel around midnight on February 21.
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