As much as I was looking forward to seeing friends and family, I was dreading our long car journey across Europe to get there. Our annual migration on what was forecast as the hottest day of the year in most of Western Europe.
Leaving, I procrastinated- finding all sorts of important, must-do things before I could get on with pack. Very important things, like planting some plants, rearranging my wardrobe, sorting the kids clothes; Things that I’d not done for weeks.
Thank goodness for the flexibility of our ferry tickets- we buy annual multitrip tickets from DFDS Seaways*- we could turn up almost anytime and as long as there was space on the ship we were on.
As it was we left at 1 am and made the 4am crossing by the hair of our teeth. The children slept this first stretch in the UK.
The check-in chap was very helpful and I was grateful to him for getting us onto the 4am ferry.
On the ferry we found the children’s film area- a little seating area around a TV surrounded by cushions- and watched Tinkerbell.
Since our timings were all off and we didn’t want to spend lots of time in traffic jams around major cities like Brussels and Frankfurt we decided to try a new route. The only problem was that we didn’t manage to download the relevant maps onto our Nokia Lumia before we left. On the ferry I downloaded some images from google of the areas of Europe we were planning to drive in, which were new to us- Southern part of Belgium, Luxemburg, South West Germany. Then we thought- let the adventures begin!
We stopped for breakfast after an hour or so on the road in France- just a parking place beside the motorway in France. It had some picnic tables, we had our picnic with us. Nice sunny morning breakfast. Kids picking some flowers and stretching a little.
The next stop was over 3 hours and 300km/ 190 miles away. In the meantime, we had the air con on full blast (not as cold as you may think!) and put a film on in the DVD player we had rigged up between the two front seats. (Literally rigged up, as we had sewn a little pouch for the DVD player with a cutout for the screen and power inlet and some handles to hang it off the headrests. It worked perfectly, allowing all three children to watch what was on.)
We neared Luxembourg as lunchtime neared, so we decided to take a small detour into the city. This is the beauty of a roadtrip: you go where you want when something tempts you.
As our luck would have it we ventured near a beautiful park in the centre of town with a large playground and a splash park. Perfect for a stop! Picnic and play.
The huge pirate ship and other fun climbing, sliding, swinging equipment gave the kids a perfect break from sitting in the car for so long.
Water play was perfect for such a hot day; It was over 38C according to the car’s thermometer.
It was lovely to watch all the children and adults having fun.
The shade was wonderful to relax in.
The park was pristine, even the free public toilet were like ones in a 5 star hotel.
This is exactly the break that was needed. Gave us some nice relaxed family time, time to play and giggle.
2 hours later, despite the heat, we were refreshed and ready to roll. Another DVD on and the kids took it in turns to drift off to sleep.
In the afternoon we had 2 very quick toilet stops, each time with one child or another saying: “I need a wee…NOW!”
As dinner time neared the traffic also built up. We were near Nürnberg and decided to come off the motorway and find a picnic spot in a village. We ended up in some woods; here the highlight was a MASSIVE black slug, which then stopped for a nap under the car and looked like a large turd- that’s some camouflage!
New DVD on and we were off again after an hour’s break. Within 15 minutes Angelina and Hugo were asleep, Max was playing happily and watching Happy Feet 2.
Driving through the night was tough. Not only because both Dadonthebrink and I were quite tired, but because the traffic was insane. It’s as if everyone had decided to go on holiday the first weekend of August! The parking places along the motorway were all full to the brink, there were huge queues at fuel stations, the roads were slow- we were only really able to go with 70 miles an hour on the German motorways famed for unlimited speed and not a chance of using cruise control to make driving easier.
Austria was somewhat easier- I think lots of the other long distant migrants decided to call it a night, so the 225 mi were a bit more quiet.
The Hungarian border was mayhem as all the transit cars tried to buy their motorway toll sticker, blocking each other in and partially blocking the motorway itself! I even tried to call the police, as I was afraid a fight might erupt. They failed to turn up and sort the traffic and the high tensions.
In Hungary the drivers are aggressive- getting right up close behind, flashing to overtake. No fun!
The Littlins, who’d woken up just before the Hungarian border, were entertained by Happy Feet 2 again and some oat biscuits. What a breakfast!
We arrived just after 7.30 am (6.30 am UK time) safe and shattered!
Squeezing us all into our little Volvo is always a challenge! I am grateful for our brilliant little Boostapak from Trunki, which is slimmer than most boosters and just manages to squeeze between the 2 Kiddy car seats (see my own review). All 3 of our car seats are very comfortable for the children, which I think is key to the Littlins putting up with our epic annual car journey.
Packing? I have to laugh, because a couple of weeks ago I saw this infograph of packing and I said, no that’s not true! Well it is true! I have packed so much more that Dadonthebrink and I already know that a good part of it is redundant.
* This is NOT a sponsored post! I mention DFDS Seaways because I love their mulit-trip offer and their service.