For many years now I have feared flying which unfortunately has prevented me from travelling to beautiful places I haven't yet visited around the world. I do, however, have a passion for driving so thought I'd write about the gorgeous places I have been privileged to visit around Europe so far. For those not in the know, road trips can actually be fantastic, you see so much more, so if you ever get the chance you must try it! (...A little cheeky monkey also joins us on our trips, not only is he a great driver, but such a joker too!)
My road trip journeys began when I was merely four years old. I left Portugal along with my mum and granny to join my dad who had already moved to England. We were part of a group of ten who were also leaving Portugal for a better life in pastures new and embarked on our journey in a small minibus. Unfortunately, we had a very bad accident on my very first road trip in the north of Spain. As there were only single lanes to drive on back in the day, drivers were forced to overtake slower vehicles. Our driver's side happened to be on the opposite side of the road and as there were hardly any motorways back then, the driver had to keep overtaking cars and lorries.
When one too many people advised him to overtake when he shouldn't have, we nearly hit a lorry head-on. The driver quickly reacted and managed to veer off the road and down a steep hill at full speed. Luckily the minibus didn't overturn, but it took quite a beating before finally coming to a halt when it hit a post head-on beside a railway line. Fortunately, no one was hurt, just a few minor scratches and bruises, but the minibus was severely damaged and undriveable. We then had to wait up to three days before finally being assisted and taken away by taxis to the nearest port and therefore ended up finishing our journey by ship instead of driving through France as originally planned.
Following my first trip across the English Channel, my dad used to drive us to Portugal every year for the summer to see the family until I reached my teens, then flying became the norm. We'd drive from London to Folkestone to catch the ferry across to Dieppe, and then the journey across the channel would take around four hours. Back then, it would take around three days to reach our destination in Portugal because we had to take one lane roads and drive through mountainous terrain. Today we have amazing motorways and drive through the mountains instead, so you can probably do the same journey in around 24 hours door to door if you wish.
As a typical child, I remember constantly saying 'are we there yet?' and 'how much longer?', which must have driven my parents mad, but try being a back seat passenger in times gone past without today's technology. I used to spend hours and hours sleeping, reading and looking out the window at the stunning landscapes and staring up at the beautiful moon and starry skies. Very long moments of boredom, but at the same time fascinating. In fact, in the past you could see so much more, motorways have somewhat taken away the wonderful views we were fortunate to have experienced back then. I also remember not having to wear a seatbelt so was able to lie right across the back seat. The heat was also unbearable, driving through the middle of Spain mid afternoon was positively a swelter - remember there also wasn't any air conditioning to keep us cool. We weren't spoilt as we are today.
Today we're very lucky to be able to enjoy more comfortable car journeys. We can watch movies, listen to great music, stop anywhere and everywhere and capture all the beauty Europe has to offer by taking photo after photo as and when we can.
There's nothing quite like being on the open road, feeling free and not seeing another soul for miles and miles. Closing my eyes with the hot breeze tingling my face (highly not recommended whilst driving), the wind blowing through my hair and the sun gleaming so bright - nothing makes me more happy, well apart from lying on the beach of course.
One of my favourite quotes is 'Life is the beauty for those who choose to look for the beauty of life' and that's how we feel about our captivating drives across Europe. Not one country is the same - each has its own uniqueness with impressive architecture and views, we just need to capture the moments and experience them whilst we can.
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