Published on May 16, 2013 | by Ruby Sigurdardottir


Driving Around Europe

Driving down through France and Spain will certainly be a test for the little Civic. [image: Flickr: Don Gru]


IF YOU want to travel around Europe this summer and InterRailing isn’t your thing, or you can’t stomach the thought of living out of a backpack for a month, why not tour the continent by car?

Think about it: no luggage weight allowance, no manic rush at the airport and, most importantly, no having to share your choice of transport with ‘gap yah’ hipsters. It’s just you (and the boyfriend, in my case), the open road and an amazing playlist. It sounds pretty idyllic. Which is why I plan to do exactly this in September – a drive of a lifetime from Dover to Gibraltar, passing through Paris, Marseille and Barcelona. What better way to end the summer?

Travel in comfort, food whenever, stops whenever.

Before you jump into your getaway vehicle, you need to plan a route. Because I’m fairly new to this travelling business, I’m going to keep it fairly simple and stick to France and Spain. I’ve been to both countries before so it won’t huge culture shock. I know a little bit of both languages and, first and foremost, the majority of the stops along the way are within 24 hours driving distance to the UK, should we have to race back for whatever reason.

The Route:

  • Take the ferry from Dover to Calais. Prices start from £29 for two adults and a normal-size car. There’s not a lot to be seen in Calais, so we’ll head straight to Paris. Once there, we’ll do the standard trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower. I know it’s cliché, but you’ve got to do it at least once in your lifetime. It’s relatively cheap too at just €11.80 if you’re under 24 (That’s less than half the cost of going up the Shard!). After a wine-fuelled day of sightseeing we’ll crash at the highly recommended Woodstock hostel, which costs a reasonable €25 a night per person.
  • After Paris our French journey will continue southwards, and we’ll stay in a hostel in Lyon, before camping in Marseille and Montpellier. I’m not really sure what there is to see in Montpellier, but Regina Spektor (who will feature heavily in my journey playlist) mentions it in one of her songs, therefore it must be good! I’m not much of a camper, but I figure that roughing it in the sunny climes of Southern France is much more agreeable than the muddy bogs that Blighty offers. Camping in France is kind to the purse too, with a tent pitch costing between €15 and €30, including the cost of two adults.
  • Hola España! From Montpelier we will travel to Barcelona, staying at Gothic Point Hostel ­– rated by The Guardian as one of the best hostels in the city. And at just €19 per person, you really can’t go wrong.
  • After Barcelona, we’ll drive along the Southern Spanish coast, camping at Valencia and Torrevieja, and then staying at a friends apartment for a couple of nights in Marbella. Our outward journey ends at Gibraltar, where we’ll touch the big rock and play with the monkeys. Then it’s the return trip to England…
  • But, unlike many holidays, the homeward journey will be just as fun as the outward one because we’ll be stopping in Madrid for a couple of days. We’ll definitely be running low on funds, but luckily hostels in Madrid are super cheap. Prices at Way Hostel, rated 91% on, start from just £10 per night.
  • Finally our journey ends, as we drive to Santander, get the ferry to Portsmouth and then back to London!

You might think that this plan is a bit ambitious (or, if you’re a seasoned traveller, a little tame), but that’s the beauty of a driving holiday. If we’re running out of time, we can skip a stop. If we fall in love with a place, we can stay longer. If by the end of the third day my boyfriend and I are on the verge of killing each other, we can just turn around and drive home.

Road trips are a rite of passage

Call me optimistic, but as long as we’ve got petrol in the tank, change for the tolls, and my trusty little Civic doesn’t cough and die, this is going to be a holiday I’ll never forget.


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