Road Trip Europe – 2018

#Why by car?

The introduction to this part, fair and square, is: My fear of flying dragged us to amazing places.

I now embark on smaller trips because of my fear of flying that started out of the blue after travelling by plane for years. This feels like being trapped in a cage for a person whose greatest pleasure in life is visiting new places. I want to travel but I cannot move away much.

I decided not to plough on more following several years of therapy but this urge to travel doesn’t stop. I thought about it and started making calculations as to how far I could go by car. Initially I myself didn’t even believe that I could attempt such a journey but in the end I had the opportunity to witness such beautiful routes. Here is the fun part of the story.

Yes, the routes are so fabulous but how can I stay away from work for such a long time? If you know me this won’t come as a surprise; I work 16-18 hours daily 7 days a week. But if you don’t, yes, I’m a workaholic. 🙂

Eid al-adha seemed like a perfect opportunity as the idea of getting away was fantastic since everybody would be on a 9-day holiday and wouldn’t be asking anything about work. Then I caught a glimpse of the Maison & Objet Paris fair, already marked on the calendar, which we as Barine participate twice a year; it was to commence on September 7. A plan had emerged in my mind and I decided to bond a fun visit and trade together putting the last stop in Paris.

ferry patras bari

#The Route

These were the important points that I considered in specifying the route:

  • Which places I want to see?
  • How many places can I see within this period?
  • I don’t want to merely say “this is the number of places I saw”, I truly want to live the places I visit.
  • I want to drive without getting exhausted, without making the trip torturous.
  • I don’t want to suffer at over-crowded customs gates just before the Eid.

I decided to embark on my trip in Çeşme which I thought would be more unhurried. In other words, the trip wasn’t a complete road trip but incorporated the sea and the land. I can in all fairness tell you that this was the right decision. It was both close to the place I lived, meaning I wouldn’t get tired while driving, and had a customs gate that was much less busy.

When the departure point was Çeşme, the route became:

Step 1 : Denizli – Çeşme (by car)

01 denizli çeşme

Step 2: Çeşme – Chios (ferry-car)

02 çeşme sakız adası chios

Step 3: Chios – Port of Pire (ferry-car)

03 sakız adası pire limanı

Step 4: Athens (5 day-layover)

Step 5 : Athens – Port of Patras (by car)

04 atina patras

Step 6 : Patras – Port of Bari (ferry-car)

05 patras bari

Step 7 : Bari – Amalfi Coasts (by car)

06 bari amalfi

Step 8 : Amalfi Coasts (2 day-layover)

07 amalfi

Step 9 : Amalfi Coasts – Siena (by car)

08 amalfi siena

Step 10 : Siena (4 day-layover)

Step 11 : Siena – Cannes (by car)

09 siena cannes

Step 12 : Cannes (4 day-layover)

Step 13 : Cannes – Paris (by car)

10 cannes paris

Step 14 : Paris (10 day-layover)

Step 15 : Paris – Milan (by car)

11 paris milano

Step 16 : Milan (2 day-layover)

Step 17 : Milan – Port of Ancona (by car)

12 milano ancona

Step 18 : Ancona – Port of Patras (ferry-car)

13 ancona patras

Step 19 : Port of Patras – Athens (by car)

14 patras pire

Step 20 : Port of Pire – Chios (ferry-car)

15 pire sakız adası

Step 21 : Chios – Çeşme (ferry-car)

16 sakız adası çeşme

Step 22 : Çeşme – İzmir – Denizli (by car)

Step 23 : Home Sweet Home

#Schedule

The route and the schedule became clear finally; now it’s time for the preparations.

17th August-17th September

#Preparations

1. Tickets – Reservations– Documents

1.0.1 Visa – Vehicle documents and other necessities

After setting up the route and the schedule, travel preparations started. Of course, one first of all needs a passport and visa for international travel but, thankfully, I already had them both. My Schengen visa was all that I needed since I had mapped out the whole route only within the Schengen zone.

What you will need for your vehicle is an international vehicle insurance called “green” insurance. You notify your insurance agency about how much time you are going to spend in each country, pay the fee and get your insurance. I paid 89 Euros for the term between August 17 and September 18 2018.

1.0.2 Tickets

You need to buy the tickets for the ferry beforehand. Besides you need to buy the ferry tickets well before the time you plan your travel especially if you have plans for August. After all, ferry companies offer prices according to low, mid, and high seasons. High season tickets are both more expensive and harder to find.

We travelled from Çeşme to Chios Island with Erturk Lines and the voyage lasted for about 45 minutes.

We used Hellenic Seaways for the voyage between Chios and Athens Piraeus Port but bought the tickets from Erturk Lines. We could not find a cabin on this ferry as it was a really busy period but we did not need one anyway because we were sailing in the day time. This voyage took about 8 hours.

Patras Port – Bari Port: We got the tickets from Superfast Ferries. Now a cabin would have been very nice during this voyage because it took 16 hours. J You can pass time surfing the internet after buying a connection, reading, having coffee, or eating at the restaurant, eventually dozing off in an armchair.

ferry ancona patras

1.0.3 Accommodation

We rented apartments or houses from AirBnB except for three nights. We have been renting apartments or houses because of the poorly handled hotels in Europe, especially in recent years. If you ask me to choose between a hotel and AirBnB, I would definitely say AirBnB.

One of the most important reasons why we preferred renting an apartment or a house during this trip was Jan Boran. Hotel rooms are not spacious enough with limited movement space and are boring with a 4-year-old kid. An apartment or a house made our lives quite easy with its wider space and independent areas, and to cook for him when necessary.

And, of course, there is the matter of laundry. When you plan a one-month trip it is impossible to pack clothes for a month which, in the end, necessitated laundry; an apartment or house turned out to be very practical for us in this regard.

We stayed at these cities:

  • Athens

1 night hotel – Cocomat Otel Nafsika (booking.com)

nafsika otel atina

4 nights AirBnB apartment: The apartment was not very much to our liking but its location was very convenient and close to the subway. It was also close to restaurants, cafés, supermarkets and other places. Most importantly it had parking space.

  • Amalfi Coasts

2 nights AirBnB house: Mary House Amalfi

amalfi

We rented a place in Cava di Tireni just outside the Amalfi Coast. Travel was quite easy by car but I do not know how convenient it would be by public transport. You can find everything in the vicinity. You meet with a completely different world when you visit the inner parts of the fortress in Cava di Tireni. The place was quiet, very clean and comfortable. It also had a fascinating view.

  • Siena

4 nights AirBnB house: Villa Anna Maria

We loved both the house and the owner. It was a breathtaking place with a view and peace all around. It was both really comfortable and nicely decorated as well. Its back and front yards, terraces, and rooms were really beautiful.

Our host Monica and her husband had prepared everything to help us and offered very detailed information. We stayed in touch during our whole stay. I will share the photographs and videos of the house in the Siena part of the piece.

  • Cannes

4 nights AirBnB house

Our place in Cannes was also very clean, comfortable, and central. We could do whatever we liked on foot. It was close to the beach as well. Our host was also very helpful.

  • Paris

10 nights AirBnB apartment

Oh Paris, if you had known how much I dislike you, your heart would be broken. Parisian apartments are rarely fine and this one was one of those that was not exceptional to this rule. I really disliked it; it was weird, dark, foul-smelling, uncomfortable, and messy (these are the common features of Parisian apartments).

But I am sure I would have gone through the same experience if I had stayed at a hotel in Paris, which reminds me of the same environment when I had stayed in 4-star hotels in Paris. This is my recommendation to all Parisians: less make up, more cleanliness s’il vous plait.

  • Milan

2 nights hotel: Hotel Da Vinci (booking.com)

It was a little bit outside the city but transport by car was quite easy and comfortable.

2. Luggage etc.

It was very very hard to pack up as the trip was too long involving two seasons and also some formality. While I was trying to make up my mind about whether to take jerseys or swimming suits, balls for the sea or toys, I finally prepared the formal clothing part for the Paris fair and handed them over to our friends who would be coming in later. J As for the rest, we somehow got rid of the continuous struggle of packing and unpacking by preparing separate pieces of luggage for each stop but we hit the road again after doing loads of laundry in Siena.

The weather was quite hot in Athens, much like the same in Turkey, but Italy was unexpectedly chilly, especially Siena was very chilly. We met with the Mediterranean climate again in Cannes and got chilly in Paris once again. Coming in between hot and chilly— a month passed by.

The thing that we regretted most was that we did not bring any mosquito repellents with us. They started biting us at our first stop and nothing availed afterwards despite our measures.

3. 10,000 km with a kid

We have included Jan Boran into everything in our lives. He has been travelling with us since the day he was born and, thank goodness, he is an agreeable kid. He did not cause us many problems, he himself had a great time as well. He was not bothered by the fact that different languages were spoken and different foods were served in each country.

My only preparation specific to Boran was getting antipyretic medication, sunblock for kids, and dried nuts. We hit the road only with his clothes and a few small toys.

Jan Boran was with us at all times except for a day at the Amalfi coast and another day in Tuscany blooming with sun rise. We even climbed the Acropolis in Athens together. He just got a little bit bored on the way back home and started counting the days.

He says his favorite place was France and liked the Eiffel Tower a lot. 🙂

4. Roads, Parking Lots, and the Highway Mafia

We were naturally beware of the potential incidents that we might come across on the road and in the traffic before we hit the road by our own car. Thank goodness, we were able to finish our trip with no unpleasant incidents on the road. Each country has its own dynamics in traffic and this trip happened to be quite a different experience for us. The thing that affected us the most during this trip was the highway mafia (highway fees); it still is my nightmare. You will understand what I mean by this when I tell you that we paid about 150 Euros between Paris and Milan. I will talk about highways, fees, traffic, and gasoline prices for each country.

Another challenging part of the trip was the parking lots. Parking in Europe is generally a problem and it is not really possible to park on the side of the roads but you can find parking lots almost everywhere. The most inexpensive lots were in Athens, while the priciest ones were in Portofino.

5. Return

Each beauty must end. I could not believe my eyes at some places I have seen. I rarely had a sense of yearning but I had profound pleasure each second. I could have spent several months more on the road if I did not have to return. I am also happy as I could travel by car and not by plane; it felt really pleasing to be able to turn to any road I liked, to be able to see what lied behind that hill, to be able to stop when I got tired. I think I will draw new routes and will hit the road again if live long enough.

 


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