Driving through Switzerland was beautiful, but marred by our first actual pull off by a policeman. To drive in Switzerland, you have to have a permit sticker on your windshield. We’d heard rumors of this, but were only planning to drive through the country and thought we’d be able to sneak through undetected. We were quite wrong, and within minutes we were driving behind a van flashing the message “follow me”. Reluctantly we followed, and though we argued ignorance, our arguments proved too weak, and we received a hefty $180 fine which had to be paid by credit card in that moment. I had visions of then canceling my credit card and sticking it to the Swiss police, but I actually needed to use the card myself, so we’d really all just be losers then.
From Switzerland we traveled back down through France. Waking up in the Piccanto on a chilly morning, we drove to the nearest rest stop to use the facilities. The women’s room was closed so everyone was using the men’s room. Of course, none of the stalls had latches, and I had to pee, so I asked Lance to stand guard outside my door. Now, this may sound like a simple request as it really just involves standing. Lance took this to mean he should walk over to the sinks and start washing up, so that when a French man burst into the room, all Lance could do was point to my stall which the man took to mean, “yes use that one.” The man exploded into my stall. I scream. He screams and runs away. I hear Lance muttering. He’s clearly hoping he never has to see me again after his grave error. I emerge, glaring at Lance with the fire of a thousand suns.
When we crossed the borders back into Spain we were excited to relax on the beach. After our surprisingly successful camping jaunt in Venice, we headed straight for the first campground we found. This was a little different as the tents did not come pre-set and ready. As it turns out having a tent is a pretty big part of camping. Not to be defeated, we headed to a supply shop and bought a tent we had every intention of returning in a few days. The tent went up easily enough so it seemed we were on track.
The beach ended up being a nude beach. I always think those sound super glamorous and sexy, but the reality was the only person topless was a gargantuan woman lying on the sand, eating chips from the bag and wiping her greasy fingers all over her expansive belly. I thought she was a man for the first hour, it wasn’t that easy to tell.
In hindsight sunblock would have been a good idea. We both got burnt, but Lance was definitely worse for wear. He sat on the sand in his sweatpants and cowboy boots, shivering from the fever he had ultimately received from the severe burns. That night I watched Lance attempt to walk to the shower huts and it took him a good twenty minutes, as he could only move his legs a few inches at a time. We were fading fast.
That night was the worst night of attempted sleep in my life. We may have found a tent, but we had no blankets or padding. The ground was hard and lumpy, and it was freezing cold. The biting cold would not go away, and I seriously considered murdering Lance to steal his sweatshirt.
When morning finally came we decided our beach trip needed to end immediately, so we packed up the tent, argued with the shop attendant for quite some time about why it was being returned, and hit the road to head back to Madrid.
Rural Spain was beautiful, and one day I want to better explore the smaller towns outside of the city.
Despite all of the mishaps and misguided steps on this trip, I made a lot of fun memories. Some of these things took a little time to find the humor in, but now it’s hilarious to look back on.
I learned that tolls in Europe are not a joke, and are an actual expense you have to budget for. We spend nearly $300 in tolls throughout the trip. I also learned that driving permits are taken pretty seriously.
My main take away from this trip is that we tried to do this way too fast. Driving is tiring, and we really should have taken more time in each place. While sleeping in the car for about 1/3 of the nights saved us a good bit of money, it also made us tired and cold and probably wasn’t worth the savings.
At least I’ll know what to do better next time!