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2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary

If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll know that in spring I bought a van with the goal to go traveling around Europe with my fiancée and our pet dog, Alfie. Fast-forward eight months later, and we’ve just arrived back home after an epic 2 month road-trip! It’s been a crazy adventure and there’s so much to write about.

Here’s our trip in a nutshell: 6,150 kilometers, 920,692~ steps between the 2 of us, 9 countries, 15 cities, 10 towns, 24 areas of natural beauty, 17 lakes, 3 summits, over 48,000ft altitude gain (4,265ft of which was a toboggan run!), 19 bucket list items, 2 roadside assistance breakdowns, 1 gas leak that resulted in the van catching fire. Still with me!?

Our route is slightly different to what we planned… the idea was to chase the sunshine, starting in France and working our way through Portugal and Spain. The goal was to end up in Milan, Italy by the end of November because I’m talking at a conference for work. We had some pins on a map of where we wanted to go but not much of a route. We wanted to find places along the way and make it up as we went along because that’s the beauty of having a van.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

Almost immediately after we arrived in France, we decided to dip into Belgium to grab some chocolate waffles next thing we knew, we completely ended up changing our route. We never made it to Spain but instead we toured the Alps, and it was the best decision we could have made. We had a suitcase full of vest tops and shorts, and no hiking gear which was frustrating, but we got by (and I never go anywhere without my Sorel snow boots and Berghaus GORE-TEX® shell anyway, so I was slightly prepared!). It was so fun waking up each day and having no idea where we’d be going next, and just exploring wherever we wanted.

I’m currently in the process of writing posts about the trip but there’s so much to write and never enough hours on the day! Keep an eye out of the upcoming posts though:

  • Must-Have #Vanlife Apps To Download Now 
  • Why We Came Home from Our Roadtrip Early
  • FAQ: Traveling Europe for 2 Months in a Van with a Dog
  • Things Nobody Tells You About #vanlife

This post details the places that we visited during our road-trip and over the coming months I’ll continue to update it and link to new posts about specific areas we went to. I’ve broken it down to particular places on our bucket list (castles, lakes etc) or listed it by town/city if we explored more than just that specific spot. I’m still writing about some of the locations but I’m 50% of the way there!


1. London, England 🇬🇧

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

2. Canterbury, england 🇬🇧

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

3. Dunkirk, France 🇫🇷

We got the ferry over from Dover to Calais then drove directly to Dunkirk. This trip was the first time I’d driven on the right-hand side of the road, and I knew I was going to have to get used to it soon because we would be covering thousands of miles. We made sure the van adhere to EU regulations (stickers on our headlights, first aid kit at the ready etc), but there wasn’t anything to prepare me for driving on the correct side of the road or going the right way around the roundabout. Surprisingly, we settled into it almost immediately with no major disasters. Once we arrived and parked up, we spent the afternoon strolling up and down Dunkirk beach, reading the info signs about the evacuation of Allied soldiers during World War II, which was really interesting. It’s definitely worth the short drive from the ferry port 👌

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

4. ghent, belgium 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

As I mentioned above, almost immediately after we arrived in France we decided to dip into Belgium to grab some chocolate waffles next thing we knew, we completely ended up changing our route. Ghent is a little city in North-west Belgium, famous for medieval architecture such as the 12th-century Gravensteen castle. It’s a popular city that’s been on our bucket list for a while because we’ve heard a lot of good things, and it’s clear to see why! This place is gorgeous, as is the rest of the places we visited in Belgium. My fiancée Sam even said it was perhaps his favourite place on our entire trip, which is quite a statement (the waffles were phenomenal, too!). I would 100% recommend Ghent for a couple of days to soak up the atmosphere in the city centre, enjoy some chocolate and the architecture.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

5. Brussels, Belgium 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

Brussels hasn’t ever really appealed to me, although I was excited to see the Atomium. As soon as we drove into Brussels (we didn’t know about Low Emission Zones at this point…), my perception of Brussels changed – this place is buzzing. There’s something going on in every corner of the city and the architecture will make your jaw drop to the ground. If we do get a LEZ fine for driving through the city, it’ll be worth every penny. Oops!

Some of the highlights from our trip to Brussels:

⭐️ The iconic steel atom sculpture, the Atomium
⭐️ The Grand Place in the market square
⭐️ The Church of Our Lady of Laeken neo-Gothic church.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

6. Brugge*, Belgium 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

We drove straight past Brugge, waving as we went by. The week before we left for our road trip we went on a mini-cruise with my family to celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday, and Brugge was one of the stops! Honestly, I’d never thought of coming to Belgium (as I mentioned before about Brussels!) but soon fell in love with the quaint shops, beautiful architecture and tasty chocolate. We ate waffles, rode a canal boat and explored the markets. 100% worth a visit if you’re planning a route similar to this. The funny thing is, if we didn’t go on a cruise with my family just before leaving for our road-trip, we wouldn’t have thought about detouring for some chocolate, which means our route would have been so different 🦋

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

7. Diest, Belgium 🇧🇪

If you travel around Europe in a 20 year old van, you’ve got to expect some problems. Next thing we know we’re on the side of the motorway waiting for roadside assistance with no breakdown cover (nobody offers it for a van as old as ours!). We spent 5 days in a Hyundai garage in Belgium whilst they tried to fix it. This gave us plenty of time to explore the area and enjoy the gorgeous parks and lakes nearby. It was a beautiful town to breakdown in… We were told at one point he wouldn’t be back on the road and we’d need to tow him to the UK, then we accidentally set him on fire because of a gas leak. It’s a story for another time, but they found the problem and re-built the engine. Once we cleared the fire extinguisher powder from the van, we were back on the road feeling a little defeated an €2,000 lighter.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

8. Maastricht, Netherlands 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

9. Eltz Castle, Germany 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

10. Eifel National Park 🇩🇪

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

11. Nürburgring, Germany 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

Visiting the Nürbergring had always been one of S’s dreams, after years of racing around it on Gran Turismo (a PlayStation game apparently!) So he was really excited that our German detour allowed us to take a look at the beautiful but loud 12 mile long racetrack through the German woodland. As a bit of a speed-freak myself I was secretly excited to see some Porsches and Ferraris flying around the ring! The Nordschleife circuit is so large that we could only sit at a couple of corners and watch the sponsored supercars zoom past us, but it was a moment to remember, and pretty cool considering you can watch for free! We were mildly disappointed we could take Boris around the ring but it was so fun and interesting watching all the different race cars speeding around the track.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

12. Hängeseilbrücke, Germany 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

13. Lingenfeld, Germany 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

14. The Rhine, Germany 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

15. Hohenzollern Castle 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

Perched on the top of a hill, you can see it for miles off as you drive towards it, which was striking – with battlements and towers, this castle looks straight out of a storybook. You might even recognise it from the horror movie A Cure for Wellness (2016). If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a hardworking Wall Street stockbroker who attempts to find refuge in a remote mountain spa but instead gets trapped in something far more sinister. The coolest thing about going to this castle, is we had no idea it was where A Cure for Wellness was filmed, until we passed the draw bridge. From then, we ran around excitingly trying to remember shots from the movie. There’s plenty of explore here, by far one of the most interesting castles we visited on our trip, and mostly likely my favourite out of all of them.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

16. Lichtenstein Castle, Germany 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

Less than an hours drive from Hohenzollern Castle is Lichtenstein Castle. Not to be confused with the tiny European nation of Liechtenstein, Lichtenstein Castle is located in the southwest state of Baden Wurttemberg, in Germany. Might I add, the scenery is absolutely epic, especially when the castle and blooming flowers frame the view overlooking the village of Honau. This castle is completely different to Hohenzollern – it’s far smaller and has a different presence, it’s also built right on the edge of a cliff, which is like something out of a fairytale. There are a few walks in the area that are perfect for exploring and taking the dog for a run. Lichtenstein Castle was probably one of the quietest castles we visited and it didn’t seem overly touristy, just a few magnets here and there, and a small coffee shop nearby.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

17. Hopfen am See, Germany 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

Driving towards the Alps as the sun went down was magical. The sky gradients from pink to purple and the light bounced off the mountains in the distance. We pulled up next to a lake and cozied up for the night. In the morning we popped our backdoor snd was greeted with the best breakfast-view of the trip. We sat in bed with a cuppa tea and swooned over the epic scenery. Once the sun rose, luckily so did the temperature. We decided to hire a paddle boat and explored the lake. The day continued to get hotter, big regret wearing snow boots on this day! Other than going for walks, playing on the lake and enjoying the views, we didn’t do much here. It was nice after a busy and cold week to just enjoy the weather and relax. We stayed for a couple of nights o marvel at the sunsets before moving onto our next stop.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

18. Neuschwanstein, Germany 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

Neuschwanstein Castle is the most visited castles in Germany and one of the most popular tourist destination in Europe. What’s the big deal? Well, this is the real-life palace that Disney based their castle on. We’d dreamed of visiting this castle for ages and it’s always been on our list of places to see. We naively wasn’t prepared for it to be so touristy; signs in Chinese and English, souvenir shops everywhere and €5 bottles of water. We hiked for 40 minutes to the top of a steep hill to be greeted by crowded-scaffold covered castle. The pictures we saw online didn’t even slightly resemble from the hideous building we saw. Needless to say, we quickly left Neuschwanstein Castle after leaving a 1-star review on Google, warning other travellers not to waste their time walking up the hill.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

19. Plansee, Austria 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

I’d never been to Austria, but always swooned over their gorgeous mountains and log cabins on Instagram. Over and over again, I’d see Plansee come up on my feed. When I discovered our route was taking us near Austria I was so excited. The lake was so relaxing, and it remains one of my favourite spots on the trip. I’ve never seen water as clear as the lakes in the Alps. The water quality of Level I, which apparently means you can see 15 metres ahead of you, enabling divers to perfectly explore the world under the water surface. We actually came back here 2 days in a row because we enjoyed it so much, and we wanted to see the lake at different times on day. In the day, it’s beautiful and turquoise, but at night there’s a moody atmosphere which is magical. You can camp overnight at Plansee, but you can pull up and have dinner like we did, with a beautiful view!

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

20. Biberwier, Austria 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

Located between the Fernpass mountain pass, connecting Austria and Germany, and the Zugpsitze, Germany’s highest mountain, the small village of Biberwier lies on a steep mountain slope near the Wetterstein Mountains. In the morning we caught a cable car to middle station Marienbergbahn to do Tyrol’s longest summer toboggan run. The track is 1,300 metres long, has an altitude difference of 2,300 ft (700 m) from the top to the bottom, with 40 curves and 1 tunnel passage. It was so much fun, we wanted to do it over and over again, and it only cost €7,80!! 100% recommend coming here and doing the toboggan run, alternatively, you can hire mountain bikes and scooters to come down the mountain on. It’s was so quiet, we only saw a couple of other people, which is good considering I screamed all the way.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

21. Blindsee Lake, Austria 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

22. Innsbruck, Austria 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

23. Pettnau, Austria 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

24. Maria am See, Austria 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

25. Pragser Wildsee, Italy 🇮🇹

The Pragser Wildsee, or Lake Prags, Lake Braies is a lake in the Prags Dolomites in South Tyrol, Italy. This was right at the top of places I wanted to go, so I was so happy when I found out our route passed here. Before we arrived I was aware that I was hyping up this lake more than I should, and I’d probably be let down by having high expectations. I wasn’t disappointed though, instead I was left picking my jaw up from the ground with every step we took. Never in my life have I seen water as blue as the lake at Pragser Wildsee. Everything about this place is beautiful, from the towering trees to the floating pontoons, I could spend all day here. The only downside is the fact it was slightly touristy but the views made up for it. This was undoubtably the best lake, and one of my favourite stops on the entire trip.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

26. Brunico, Italy 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

27. Vahrn, Italy 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

28. Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy 🇮🇹

Cortina d’Ampezzo is a ski resort in northern Italy surrounded by the Dolomites in the southern part of the Alps. Driving into this town we got our first glimpse of the famous peaks, which was so exciting. If you’re not familiar with the area, the Dolomites are widely regarded as being among the most attractive mountain landscapes in the world (… and it’s easy to see why!). It’s a clean town with lots of boutiques and coffee shops, just like your usual ski resort town.  Even during low-season there was still a buzz with plenty of shops and restaurants were still open, making it the perfect base for our week in the Dolomites. It’s slightly expensive, we paid €25~ for 2 hot drinks and 2 pastries but that’s pretty normal in a ski town, and you can’t argue when you’ve got the amazing mountains views all around you.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

29. Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Italy 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

No trip to the Dolomites would be complete without completing the 6 miles long and mostly flat loop circumnavigating the three colossal pinnacles. The Tre Cime di Lavaredo hike is 10.3km, has about 400m of ascent and descent, and is easy. The paths are well signposted and clearly shown on Google Maps. The hike begins nearby a car park (€25 fee for a minimum of 24 hours to be paid at the bottom of the road before heading up) at Rifugio Auronzo 7,677ft above the sea level. The drive is about a 40 minutes from Cortina d’Ampezzo and it’s the highest we ever took our van! He’s old, so he did struggle with the hairpin turns and the steep ascent but we made it up there mostly in 1st and 2nd gear. Coming back down we had to break with our engine and pull over so our brakes wouldn’t burnout!

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

30. Zwölferkopf, Austria 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

During our trip we’d planned lots of hikes and typically spent at least 12 hours a day walking, so when we found opportunities to cheat and get cable cars, we did. We caught the Karwendel Bergbahn cable car that takes you from Pertisau to the small Zwölferkopf skiing area high above Lake Achensee. We visited in the summer, so of course, there was no snow here. We ate the best turkey burgers 5,394 feet above sea level, overlooking the incredible views and had a little wander in the area. Considering the views and the quality of the food, it was pretty affordable here, too (surprisingly!). There’s a ton of summer hikes here and you can continue up higher to reach more summits such as or you can just enjoy the views of Lake Achensee from where the cable car takes you, like we did.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

31. Achen Lake, Austria 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

32. Bad Reichenhall 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

33. Berchtesgaden, Germany 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

34. Königssee, Germany 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

35. Hallstatt, Austria 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

36. Lake Bled, Slovenia 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

Lake Bled is Slovenia’s most popular tourist attraction and although it’s getting more and more famous, it’s still relatively unknown comparing to other European landmarks. Lake Bled sits in a picturesque environment, surrounded by mountains and forests. Medieval Bled Castle stands above the lake on the north shore. The area was significantly larger than I imagined it would be with far more going on. It’s a whopping 2,120 m (6,960 ft) long and 1,380 m (4,530 ft) wide, with a maximum depth of 29.5 m (97 ft)! We walked our dog Alfie around the entire lake, watching people stand-up paddle boarding, sunbathing and row boating. There’s a few different areas around the lakes that have diving boards and areas to swim but none were in use when we were here. We got this snap of us all together at the Heart of Bled ❤️👉

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

37. Lake Bohinj, Slovenia 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

Lake Bohinj, covering 318 hectares, is the largest permanent lake in Slovenia. It is located within the Bohinj Valley of the Julian Alps, in the northwestern Upper Carniola region, and part of Triglav National Park. This was more exciting to me than visiting the commercial Lake Bled, Lake Bohinj is less crowded, and in my opinion, more beautiful. The entire trip I’d be going on about hiring a row boat, and this was the perfect spot. The lighting was just perfect for the time that we were out on the water. It was one of the most peaceful and awe-inspiring moments of our trip. The pictures on my iPhone which are completely unedited, really don’t do this gorgeous lake justice. If you’re going anywhere in Slovenia, make sure you stop here.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

38. Verona, Italy 🇮🇹

Best known for its Shakespeare associations attracting a multinational gaggle of tourists to its pretty piazzas and knot of lanes. Verona is a bustling centre, its heart dominated by a mammoth, remarkably well-preserved 1st-century amphitheatre, the venue for the city’s annual summer opera festival (which I’m now desperate to attend!). Verona is completely underrated, which I found much more inviting and romantic than Venice.

Highlights of our time in Verona include:

⭐️ Seeing Juliet’s balcony and statue
⭐️ Viewing the city from Piazzale Castel San Pietro
⭐️ Walking around the Arena di Verona.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

39. Venice, Italy 🇮🇹

Highlight of our time in Venice:

⭐️ Exploring the the basilica-dominated square, Piazza San Marco
⭐️ Private gondola tour of the city from the Grande Canal.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

40. Milan*, Italy 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

Milan was always on our road trip itinerary, even before we changed our route. This is because at the end of November I’m delivering a presentation at a digital marketing conference.

We ended up passing Milan earlier than anticipated because of our route change, so we’ve decided to miss this stop as we’re going to fly out a couple weeks after we get back.

If you’re planning a road trip like this, it would be silly not to drop by! We’ve got a couple of things planned when we visit, such as:

⭐️ Get a snap in front of Milan Cathedral
⭐️ Explore Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

41. Sirmione, Lake Garda, Italy 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

⭐️ Exploring the grounds of the gorgeous Scaligero Castle.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

42. Jamaica Beach, Italy 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

Naturally, living in Cornwall, I’ve become a little bit of a ‘beach snob’. We’re so lucky where we live, we’re surrounded with gorgeous coastline, so a beach has to be pretty outstanding for me to rate it above some of the places we have right on our doorstep at home. Jamaica Beach is nothing like what we have in England though. Of course, this is Lake Garda, it isn’t the ocean crashing onto a beach like you’d expect. Instead, Jamaica Beach is still lake like a sheet of glass across smooth rocks. The vibe at Jamaica Beach is what makes it really special though. Everyone is quiet, it’s not busy, and there’s a sense of calm. Quite a few people were just doing yoga or meditating by the edge of the water, others were taking a dip in the lake. Ridiculously beautiful and a zen vibe, this is my jam.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

43. Varenna, Lake Como, Italy 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

We’ve been spoilt with incredible lake views on this trip but one of the lakes we thought was going to impress us the most, did the very opposite. We arrived at Lake Como after driving from Lake Garda – these two lakes are relatively close to each other. We had a great couple of days in Garda, so we anticipated a different, but equally great time in Como. When we arrived we could barely see the other side of the lake due to thick smog, after a bit of research we learnt this was normal and we would be considered lucky, should the smog lift. The lake was filled with litter, and we learnt that the lake was 68% above the safe limit to bath in the water; very different to the crystal clear water at Garda. Perhaps on a clearer day we could have appreciated this more but we didn’t stick around – I guess we’ll never know.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

44. Laguno, Switzerland 🇨🇭

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

45. Swiss mountain pass 🇨🇭

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

46. Täsch, Switzerland 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

We spent a couple days parked up in Alphubel camp site in Tasch whilst we explored the car-free mountain town, Zermatt (see below!). The plot is located about a 3 minute walk from Matterhorn Terminal Täsch railway station that takes you directly to Zermatt. The train comes every 12 minutes from 7am until 10pm, so there’s never any hanging around. We could hear the train when we were in our van each time it passed, but we’ve been so tired traveling that as soon as our heads hit the pillow, we were out like a light anyway! The campsite had hot showers, toilets and an area to empty your chemical toilet, as well as top up your water. It was a little pricey at 33CHF pp but given the average price of a hotel in this area, it’s not too bad.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

47. Zermatt, Switzerland 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

Coined one of the most popular ski resorts in the world, Zermatt is a car-free mountain town in Switzerland. The streets are lined with boutique shops, cozy restaurants and luxury hotels. Switzerland generally tends to be quite expensive, but Zermatt is particularly pricey. I did a little bit of shopping in the North Face shop and picked myself up a new duffel bag, but I didn’t dare poke my head into the Rolex or Omega stores. Zermatt was great to explore for the day, and I’d love to come back in the height of ski-season to soak in the atmosphere, but to get the most out of your stay, I’d say you need to head there with a lot of disposable cash to really enjoy it. We paid €7~ for a takeaway coffee in Zermatt, which is significantly more than any other place we bought coffee for in Italy, France, Slovenia, Austria or Germany.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

48. Matterhorn, Switzerland 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

Viewing of the iconic Toblerone peak, Matterhorn, has been at the top of my bucket list for years. I honestly never thought I’d be so lucky to see it in the flesh, and I certainly never expected to get so close. Standing at Riffelsee lake 9,045 feet underneath the world’s most beautiful mountain was one of the most humbling and breathtaking experiences of my life. We couldn’t have been luckier with the weather; there wasn’t a cloud in sight! We woke up at sunrise to ensure we’d get to the viewing point with plenty of time before the sun moved behind the mountain, and our efforts to pull ourselves out of bed when it was 0 degrees were rewarded 100%. We spent 3 – 4 hour at high-elevation and the afternoon views weren’t nearly as impressive as the morning, so I’m really glad we got to see it when we did.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

49. Gornergrat, Switzerland 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

Once we finished swooning over Matterhorn, we continued up to the Gornergrat summit (10,285 feet) to marvel at the Monte Rosa massif. The Gornergrat is a rocky ridge of the Pennine Alps, overlooking the Gorner Glacier south-east of Zermatt in Switzerland. The pictures really don’t do the view justice but I can assure you, it was EPIC! Nothing beats the panoramic you’re rewarded with when you reach high-elevations; it’s no wonder that climbing mountains is addictive. A cool perk about this summit is the 360 AR viewfinders that show you the name of peaks and glaciers wherever you point it – pretty smart. We ate lunch in the sunshine, overlooking the snow capped peaks before making our descent to Zermatt via Riffelsee.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

50. Lac d’Emosson, Switzerland 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

On our way to Chamonix we decided to stop at Lac d’Émosson, a reservoir in the canton of Valais. knowing it was a short-drive from where we were heading, it felt like the perfect detour to break up our drive. Little did we know that the drive to get there would take up to an elevation of 6,332 feet on mountain roads. Our 20 year old van struggled to pull us up the windy roads even more so than when we drove up the Dolomites, but eventually we get there and had our first view (on this trip!) of Mount Blanc. There’s some incredible hikes in the area that lead you to find the 150 million year old dinosaur tracks. We wanted to do this but we arrived later than we anticipated so we didn’t have a chance to squeeze it into our schedule. Something to put on the list for our next trip to the Alps!

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

51. Chamonix, France 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

We first visited Chamonix two years ago when for my birthday and I instantly fell in love with the mountain town. From the gorgeous log cabin we were staying in at the foot of Mount Blanc, to the chalet food, the buzzing atmosphere during ski-season, and the magical views. I could be bias though, because the summit of Aiguille du Midi is where S proposed (coincidently, we were here 6 months before our wedding day). We decided to book a luxury hotel room with a king-size bed, bath and balcony with mountain views. Having a bath and sleeping in a proper bed for the first time in 2 months was he BEST. The next day we re-visited our favourite places but sadly the Midi cable car wasn’t running due to maintenance. In the evening we met with one of our friends from Cornwall that now lives in her van in Chamonix.

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

52. Annecy, France 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

53. Lyon, France 🇫🇷

⭐️ Exploring Musée Miniature et Cinéma in the city
⭐️ Swooning over plants at Jardin botanique de Lyon

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

54. Paris, France 2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

55. Calais, France 🇫🇷

2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog
2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog2 Month European Road-trip in our van (with our dog!): Travel Diary | UK Lifestyle Blog

2018-11-16T00:06:37+00:00 November 16, 2018|Popular, Van Life|

Van Life Tour: Our Custom 1999 Hyundai H100 Van Conversion

Introducing the quickest camper conversion and surf van, Boris!

Boris is a 1999 LWB Hyundai Grace H100 2.5 turbo with bags of personality and a rebuilt engine. He inherited his name from the previous owner, and because he obviously loved the van so much, we decided not to change it. I bought him back in March with the goal to travel around Europe with my fiancée and our dog, and that’s exactly what we did. We’ve just got home from an epic 2 month road-trip around Europe. So far, he’s traveled around England, Wales, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Italy and Switzerland in him.

Pretty much everything about this van is custom, from the bluey purple paintwork to the genuine cowhide seats. The inside is kitted out with a small kitchen and a sofa bed when we bought it (you can see what it used to look like here) but we’ve made a few minor tweaks inside to make it feel like home. It’s surprising how much time it takes to wire in some new lights, change a worktop and do a bit of painting though. We spent so long getting Boris ready to hit the road and we ended up rushing it a bit in the end.

Van Life Tour: Our Custom 1999 Hyundai H100 Van Conversion | UK Lifestyle Blog

Windows and Curtains

The backdoor is a tailgate meaning we get stunning views from our blackout privacy windows when we park up. I always forget that if it’s lighter inside the van than it is outside, people can see in! We have black out and thermal double lined grey curtains throughout which were made especially for our van.

The walls are padded with faux white leather and thermal insulated with building grade insulation for extra warmth. Amazingly, Boris has working heating and air con – which is pretty rare for a van as old as this!

Van Life Tour: Our Custom 1999 Hyundai H100 Van Conversion | UK Lifestyle Blog

Plugging in

We’ve got a 100W solar panel mounted on the roof. We charge our laptops, phones, GoPro and use our lights (either our 4 ceiling spotlights or just our 5m of LED fairy lights), and we never run out of electricity! Even if the battery did get low, we can always charge our leisure batteries off the van battery and vice-versa.

We’ve got plugs in the front and the back, so we can charge our devices when we’re driving or lying in bed. There’s also the option to wire up shore power for when staying at a campsite for electricity.

Van Life Tour: Our Custom 1999 Hyundai H100 Van Conversion | UK Lifestyle Blog

The ‘Bedroom’

In the back we have a futon pull out double sofa bed with hard-wearing water resistant cover. We always keep the bed pulled out, this way we have more storage under the frame and we don’t have to worry about making the bed every night, we can just jump straight in!

We sleep with a warm duvet, along with some throws and a bedspread for cooler nights. When we were sleeping in the mountains and it was below freezing, we used our sleeping bags which zip together (cute!) and they’re are suitable for temperatures as low as -25 degrees celsius.

Van Life Tour: Our Custom 1999 Hyundai H100 Van Conversion | UK Lifestyle Blog

Storage and Space

Boris is smaller than most vans but that’s why I fell in love with him. Parking isn’t too much of an issue and nobody really bothers us because we go under the radar. It’s just short enough to get into carparks without any hassle (unless you’re in Paris!), and things like ferry crossings and tolls are cheaper, too.

We’re clever with our use of space and have storage hammocks, hanging hooks, Velcro nets, and a rack behind the seats with pockets. Underneath the bed we can fit 4 cabin sized suitcases (or 2 when being used as a sofa). There’s enough room for a toilet, 2 mountain bikes and it easily fits a couple of surfboards.

Van Life Tour: Our Custom 1999 Hyundai H100 Van Conversion | UK Lifestyle Blog

Our lil Kitchen

To the right-hand side of the bed we’ve got a 6ft grey wood effect kitchen worktop with a small stainless steel sink with an electric tap and a fixed gas hob. Underneath we’ve got a storage hammock for our food, our water tank and plumbing, and our gas. Above we’ve got a little built-in kitchen cupboard for our bowls, cutlery etc.

We did have a fridge but we replaced it for an electric cool box, which was miles better until it broke. We’ve got 2x powder fire extinguishers, carbon monoxide alarm and fire alarm – and I’m so glad we did because we’ve had to use it during our trip, which was one of the most terrifying moments of my life.

Van Life Tour: Our Custom 1999 Hyundai H100 Van Conversion | UK Lifestyle Blog

Built-in Speakers

If you’re going on a long road trip, it’s crucial to have a decent sound-system. Boris has 4 built in speakers in the ceiling with Bluetooth connectivity. There’s the option to hook up a subwoofer, too. We didn’t do this because of space but it’s awesome to know we can put one in, if we want to.

When we’re watching movies in the van we can connected the audio up to the ceiling mounted speakers in the back, which acts as surround sound (amazing for watching a horror movies!). A couple of times we’ve driven somewhere just to watch the sunset then cuddle up in the van with a takeaway and Netflix, it beats staying in!    

Van Life Tour: Our Custom 1999 Hyundai H100 Van Conversion | UK Lifestyle Blog

His Quirks!

When we were in Belgium S accidentally snapped the handle off the passenger door. It was stressful at the time but it’s funny when we look back on it. We had peace-of-mind knowing that nobody could just open the door to get into our van 😂 It’s only £12 to replace on eBay, so it’s not the end of the world.

In that same week, the wing-mirror snapped off, too. We held it together with a bunch of masking tape and superglue, and somehow it stayed put for the entirety of our 2 month road-trip.

Van Life Tour: Our Custom 1999 Hyundai H100 Van Conversion | UK Lifestyle Blog

Other people probably think he’s a piece of shit, but I’m bias. He’s given us so many amazing adventures that I just love him (despite him costing me a small fortune, thanks to being in the garage!). The best bit about Boris: Freedom to cook dinner and sleep anywhere you can drive.

2018-11-02T01:14:31+00:00 November 1, 2018|Popular, Van Life|

How to Get in Shape and Build Stamina for a Mountain Trek

If you want to increase endurance and tackle bigger mountains, building your muscles and getting stronger is one way to do it. Most treks rely on stamina in one way or another, so being strong can really help you achieve what you want to. But how do you gain that muscle in the correct and sustainable way? We’ve been doing quite a bit of mountain trekking recently in the Alps and we’re planning lots more. This means we’re going to need to get in better shape and build stamina to tackle bigger mountains and longer treks.

How to Get in Shape and Build Stamina for a Mountain Trek | UK Lifestyle BlogCheeky snap from last month hiking the Tre Cime di Lavaredo Loop in the Dolomites

Work the Right Muscles

There are certain muscles that are most useful to people focusing on certain sports. You should try to make sure that you’re working the muscles that are going to help you get to where you want to be in sport. There’s no point in working on the wrong muscle groups, so give this some thought and be clear about which muscles are going to be most important for you.

If you’re going to a long trek, consider these exercises to prep your body:

  • Goblet squats
  • Step-ups
  • Downhill lunges
  • Hanging knee raises
  • Kettlebell deadlift

Eat Calorie-Dense Meals

It’s important to pack plenty of calories into your diet when you’re trying to gain muscle because you’ll be working out at the gym pretty regularly. You need to make sure that your body has the fuel it needs, and a calorie-rich diet full of lots of protein will help with all that.If you’re stuck for ideas, try this protein-rich lemon chicken quinoa bowls recipe. Many people who are serious about building muscle eat 5 or 6 smaller meals throughout the day.

How to Get in Shape and Build Stamina for a Mountain Trek | UK Lifestyle Blog

Choose the Right Protein Supplements

Having the right protein supplement as part of your diet will help you to build muscle faster and easier. It’s all about finding bodybuilding supplements or protein supplements that will do what you need it to. There are lots out there, so do some research and think hard about what you’re going to need from a protein supplement. Most people looking to gain muscle use one.

Train With Weights in Short Bursts

When you train with weights at the gym, it’s best not to push yourself for more than an hour. There is no research to show that you benefit from training for longer than that and you could damage your muscles if you push too hard without taking breaks. So keep it simple and train in shorter bursts each day.

How to Get in Shape and Build Stamina for a Mountain Trek | UK Lifestyle Blog

Track Your Progress to Spur You On

When you track the progress you making, it will spur you on because you will be able to see the improvements and the successes for yourself. It’s a way of proving to yourself exactly what you’re capable of. Seeing the results really proves that you’re on the right track and you’re doing the right things, and that’s worth a lot. It’s what you need when you need the extra push. I track my progress by choosing a bigger and bigger mountain. Alternatively, you can use this cool free-printable for tracking your workout progress I found online.

Gaining muscle isn’t as difficult as you might think, and once you get into the right routine, you’ll start to see success relatively quickly. It’s in your best interests to get to work on this if you feel it’s important to achieving your goals in sport and other activities you do on a regular basis.

2018-11-02T01:11:20+00:00 October 31, 2018|Popular, Travel|
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