European Road Trip… Part 1


Teaching English in Madrid isn’t great money. Really, it’s barely enough to be a person who eats and lives somewhere. But there are advantages, namely easy access to the rest of Europe. My friend and I went on some weekend trips to Paris and Morocco, but towards the end of my time in SpainIMG_1515 we decided to cap things off with a road trip.

Road tripping to other countries isn’t something that really happens in the US unless you live in the North and want to go to Canada. Even then it’s So. Damn. Far.

The Goal: Drive around and see some stuff. Yes, it was very well thought and meticulously planned.

The Itinerary: Drive from Madrid to Barcelona, then drive the southern coast of France, stopping in Nice. From there we would head to Genoa, Italy , then over to Venice. From Venice we would drive North through Austria to Munich. After Munich it was back west through Zurich, through some French countryside, until reaching the Spanish coast. There we would visit the beach before a final jaunt back to Madrid.

I’d originally hoped to drive east and then catch a flight back to Madrid, but the fee to leave the rental car at a different drop off location was ridiculous, almost $500, so we’d definitely be driving back.

With our flawless plan in place we set off!


Madrid to Barcelona: The Piccanto & a Missing SpireDriving through Barcelona

Our lovely compact car, the Piccanto would be our vehicle over the next weeks. We loaded our bags, and headed east with only a GPS where we typed in detailed instructions like “Barcelona City” and some vague ideas of things we’d like to see. Also included was a pedestrian understanding of European traffic laws, tolls, and driving permits. Nailing it already!

The roughly 6 hour drive to Barcelona was a fairly painless beginning. Sure, we spent an unusually long amount of time in several of the Spanish roundabouts, circling some upwards of 4 times before being confident enough to exit, but all in all a successful start.  In the beginning these befuddled moments are charming and spur copious laughter. In the beginning.

My main attraction to Barcelona was the Sagrada Familia. I could picture it pretty well in my mind’s eye – due to the bajillion pictures I’ve seen over the years.
When I finally walked up to it all I could think was “like actually where is the rest of it though? The big tall bit in the middle… yeah where is that? Pretty sure I know what this bugger looks like and there’s a massive spire in the middle which is MIA” It would seem that all of the CGI pictures of what it will  look like when it’s finished were what I’d been picturing. The big tall spire in the middle: not there yet. I hate the CGI people. If they hadn’t made the picture of a thousand lies I never would have been disappointed. ETA on completion is about 25 more years. So if you too have seen the lie picture you’ve got a bit of a wait. As it was, I decided I was being a bit dramatic as it still was one of the strangest and most awesome pieces of art / architecture.

The outside reminds me of a falling down sandcastle. I mean that in a good way. It’s a bit like someone took a bucket of water to the place and it’s melting back in to the sand and sea line, a severe contrast to the pristine lines which dominate the other buildings.

sagrada familia

The inside didn’t disappoint.

sagrada familia sagrada familia sagrada familia

The vibe in Barcelona was different than Madrid. I like Madrid better. Maybe because I’d been there for months and knew it well, but I just liked the vibe there, and I don’t really know why. With the main attraction checked off the list we decided to drive onward. We were eager to get to a new country. We drove a few hours until we reached a rest stop in France.


On to France: Rest Stops & Murderers

We weren’t in a town at this point and instead of searching for a hostel, we decided to camp out at the rest stop and get some sleep in the car. My friend being the comforting and appropriate person he is, spent the previous hour telling me grim tales of insane truckers who murder people while they’re on the move, so as you can imagine I was super ready for a restful night of sleep in the place where the truckers surely come to identify their next victim. I’m assuming truckers carry tire irons for legit reasons, but when you see the shadow of this outside your misty car window it does little to lull you to sleep.

I yell at Lance for using his electric toothbrush in the outside water fountain as I fear it marks us as targets us to the murderous truckers.

I view the men’s bathroom which is a hole in a metal room where piles of crap have piled impressively high.

I realize the blanket I brought (stolen from a previous flight) is far too thin. It’s cold.

I seriously consider peeing my pants to avoid a middle of the night nip into the facilities. I fall asleep mid internal debate


The next stop… Nice, France.

…………To Be Continued…………….

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