Overview: European family adventure in a motorhome
Our motorhome family adventure in Europe has come to an end. 2 months of speeding (not literally) in and out of countries whilst enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of some amazing European places. But as I sit here waiting for our flight check-in to open (only 4 more hours!!) I am left to reflect on the time we have had.
We have done so much and yet I’m struggling to remember parts of it. Here’s a roundup of our motorhome tour around Europe and lessons we learnt along the way.
- No. of countries visited: 9
- Countries visited: France, Spain, Monaco, Italy (northern), Austria (Western), Slovenia, Croatia & Montenegro
- Favourite places: Austria (all of it!) – Marie, Krka National Park – Jasper & Ethan, Croatia (for the snorkelling) – Keith
- Budget: Within tolerance, darn toll roads!
Here’s where we have been:
Isle of Man
Well, if I’m doing a roundup it has to include my home country! A place that has intrigued many people when they see our registration plate with a red flag and 3 legs, instead of blue with a ring of stars. ‘Where are you from?’ the Isle of Man.
We’ve had plenty of looks of confusion but it’s been nice to speak to people, even if it is a short, broken conversation.
On a hot summers day with a gentle breeze, the Isle of Man can top any destination in the world with its array of glens, plantations, beaches and walks. Go and see for yourself!
#1 – England
Yes, this was our first country. Many people don’t know that my home, that small 32 by 14 miles of green beautiful countryside, is a country in its own right. And so our ferry across the irish sea was calm as we headed to our first destination.
What we did see, inbetween family & friends, surprised us. It’s green! When you visit a place you tend to pick a population destination or a city. Well, the countryside is a far nicer place to be in my view.
Northern England gets a bad rep sometimes, but we found an amazing Science Museum – Magna in Rotherham. Its also a much more industrial look within the northernnorther but if you turn around you find some real gems, like the Thrybergh national park, which was stunning. Sometimes you just need to look past the first glance.
There are beautiful villages near Loughborough with lovely dog friendly walks, lovely local pubs, friendly locals… great for a break from the day to day stresses.
There are quaint towns and villages in both the chiltern hills & south downs, with forests, plantations, glens and plenty of areas to explore. It has easy access to the southern coast and with a vehicle you can cover quite an area with a range of activities for all ages.
All this in a week before we boarded the Eurotunnel to France. My top tip is that England has more to offer than you first think. Get out of the cities and visit the remote country and smaller villages for a real British experience.
Read my blog post here.
#2 – France
A blur in my memory as we spent most of the time travelling. It’s bigger than you think! We had visions of meandering through quaint villages as we journeyed south. In reality the task in hand was quite arduous. I think we actually got bored before the kids did!
Thank god I’d packed lots of activities and entertainment for the boys. They were more than happy. I however, decided that for sanity reasons we needed to jump on the motorways (and expensive tolls) in order to move along quicker.
Aside from a couple of stopovers and views which flashed by my window, the first stage of France was non-eventful.
However, after our #3 Spanish stopover (I can’t really claim to have visited this time as we were staying with friends and only really had a day trip to Barcelona!) we ventured along the Cote d’Azur and enjoyed an enjoyable few days at a ‘luxury’ campsite (i.e. not a car park, it had pools and warmth and atmosphere). I was able to relax for the first time in 2 weeks.
I would suggest if visiting France, that you take your time. Absorb the stunning scenery with fields full of poppies, the most amazing symmetrical ploughed fields we had ever seen. Search for the gorgeous walks, gorges, rivers and towns which pop up out of nowhere. And above all, plan to stop to explore every few hours if you can.
My favourite destination was Gorge du Verdon. This had an abundance of activities, even though we were just outside of season, as well as walks and cycling around the area.
Read my blog post here
Again.. not really claiming to have stayed here, but purely because there was a historique race on when we arrived, which resulted in me driving around a roundabout 5 times!! Funny, but so not funny!!
It is the essence of what we perceive to be luxurious when even the train station looked like a four star hotel! It’s small and easy to navigate. We fell into a parking space in Monte Carlo (even for a motorhome) and caught a local (and frequent) bus into Monaco. This is probably easier for those commuting into the area as parking is a bit of a nightmare.
Spend the time walking the famous racecourse, gazing out at the marina with it’s fabulous floating homes and finish off with a walk in the gardens in and around the casino.
Read my blog post here
#5 Northern Italy
Having been before I wasn’t holding out much hope as it didn’t live up to the hype. But I was pleasantly surprised. We visited Verona, the smaller sister to Rome, but much more manageable in terms of walking. Renowned for it’s architechture, Italy demandsd that you walk so be prepared with comfy shoes!
We also took the boys to Venice, we couldn’t visit Italy without showing them the city on the sea. It’s an amazing place, but in order to get a real experience you need to escape the tourist areas and head down the narrow alleyways and streets. There are some hidden gems and is much quieter.
Once we escaped the cities we found beautiful countryside and amazing lakes, such as Lake Garda. There are so many cycling routes to enjoy for all the family. We enjoyed it so much we stayed longer.
But the most surprising element to our italian adventure was the mountains. The dolomites & Alps further north, were breathtaking! We had a good explore around the area and even managed to get a good family hike.
The area feels more like you are in Austria, as it’s so close to the border and there are lots of walking routes for all abilities.
Read my blog post here
Oh my goodness, I was blown away with the cute villages, stunning scenery, dramatic mountains and generally outdoors feel to every area we visited in Austria. It became my happy place.
We would just park up (as there was plenty of spaces in summer) and explore. It was well sign posted (with timescales) and for a variety of abilities.
The driving was easy as the towns were tightly compact through the alps, so you just breezed from one to another! The summer season was just getting started so not everything was open but what we did see was brilliant.
Lots of activities to do on the mountain for all abilities and great for families. We enjoyed a range of activities from tobogganing, forest walking, hiking, cycling, downhill mountain biking and cable car rides.
There are lots of ‘activity’ cards on sale in Austria. They appear to be restricted to a region but offer good deals for a week or 2 weeks stay. Be sure to investigate them before you leave as they can offer you a good deal if you enjoy outdoor activities.
I loved exploring Austria, and especially our visit to Salzburg and the many Sound of Music film set locations dotted around the town. I loved being flung back to my childhood… just for a day!
This was mine and Keith’s first ‘new’ country. We had plans to visit Lake Bohinj and Lake Bled but didn’t know what to expect. And our first impression was… just WOW!
Lake Bohinj was amazing and we ended up staying slightly longer as it was stunning. We took several walks to soak up the scenery & landscape but we could have stayed longer. It was a very chilled out place with an outdoor lifestyle.
Having been spoilt by Lake Bohinj, we found Lake Bled was a bit too similar (although more touristy). It had a different kind of beauty, but with more structure and with your everyday needs easily accessible. It was the hub for tours and excursions.
After this we headed to some local Slovenian villages with 1 night in a tiny rustic town and the final night in a Slovenian Vineyard. I have found the Slovenian people to be so accommodating and relaxed.
On our return leg we had an enjoyable few days to explore the capital Ljubljana. Only a small city, easy to negotiate but appeared to be quite modern in places. You only need a couple of days.
You may have read or seen the pictures of rugged coastlines next to clear blue crystal waters. Well I can tell you it’s all true, there wasn’t any areas, that we found, which didn’t have the same ‘Croatian’ theme. The only thing you need to bring are sea shoes, suntan lotion and snorkels.
If you become tired of the sea then head inland to either the Croatian vineyards or the national parks. They are just amazing. Having been to both parks, if I was to choose just one – I would pick Krka National Park. Check our my blog post here.
Most main areas along the Croatian coast will either have a fortress or a walled town for you to explore, plus numerous island hopping!
There is so much history surrounding this country. But alas Croatia came with a sting in its tail. For as much as we loved the dramatic coastline, the islands, the people and the sea – it nearly broke our budget!
They are working to join the EU, but for now their currency remains as Croatian Kuna.
We wrongly assumed the cost of living would be lower, but actually we found ourselves scouring the area to find the bargain deals; which were few and far between. I remember giving a ‘whoop’ to the boys when we found a pack of 4 ice-creams at the supermarket for EUR4!
Research and choose carefully when planning a trip to Croatia. It may be cheap to get here but the costs on arrival may be more than you think.
A short hop, but long land border crossing and we were in Montenegro. We had a mini blip at the border which required us to get additional insurance but once sorted it didn’t take us long to get to Kotor.
The roads aren’t really motorhome friendly so our adventure was limited to Kotor. However, it was somewhere we had always wanted to go.
A cheaper neighbour to Croatia but with a similar feel, albeit we were back to Euro’s… confusing! The drive into Kotor was striking and there was a thunderstorm echoing off the mountains all around. It made for a dramatic entrance!
We explored the old town, which was similar to most of the other walled cities so didn’t provide too much excitement. But we were looking forward to exploring the Kotor fortress on the hill. More so, because we found a route which meant we climbed the ladder of Kotor, an alternative route, to reach the fortress.
We’ve had a brilliant European adventure, and it’s given us, and hopefully you, plenty of inspiration for the future!