Summer holiday – the great adventure

This summer we decided not to book the usual 2-weeks-by-the-sea package tour via TUI, ITAKA or whoever and to try something different. We’re not great beach-lovers anyway. Last year we were right on a good beach and we probably stepped on it all of three times in two weeks. We prefer seeing the sights, reading in the bar/cafe or playing in the pool. We’re also a little tired of the whole package tour experience, the sheep-like travel, the iffy hotels. So it was that we decided to take three weeks instead of two and just jump in the car, head south and see what happens.

This was all well and good until we started to get a little nervous about whether we would find decent places to stay given the fact that we’re going in August, the height of the season. We talked of buying a tent, just in case, or sleeping in the car. We started to convince ourselves that sleazy roadside motels have a certain attraction and not all of them are run by the family, Bates. We even went as far as searching Amazon.co.uk for a book called “Great places to stay in various countries south of Poland that won’t be fully booked in August and cost between €100-150 per night”. No luck with that one.

It was at this point that I took to the internet (where would we be without it?) and started trying to organize the trip a little. My best friend was the site TripAdvisor.com, which may have its faults but I have found to be pretty reliable at pointing me in the right direction as regards places to stay. The other tools used were Google maps to plan the route and ViaMichellin to give me an idea of how long it would take to get from A to B. These three combined with trips to numerous hotel websites and plenty of emails inquiring about availability of rooms have allowed me, only one month before we leave, to have confirmed reservations for 17 nights. I’ve been surprised actually that every one of our first choices have been available apart from Milan because the hotel is closed in August. In fact Milan hotels generally are pants at responding to mails. They obviously don’t need the business. Milan may end up as one of those “mystery nights” at this rate, along with the two nights on the way home which I’m leaving open as I’m not sure how fast we will want to do the return trip.

So, on the off-chance that a dear reader may have some tips to pass on, here is the list of places we’ll be staying in and visiting sometime next month:

Staying in:

  • Vienna
  • Bad Aussee (Grundlsee), Austria
  • Venice
  • Milan
  • Bellagio
  • Lucca
  • San Gimignano
  • Bratislava (perhaps on the way home)

Also visiting:

  • Salzburg
  • Großglockner alpine road
  • Lake Como generally (Clooney’s place for tea, of course)
  • Pisa
  • Florence
  • Siena
  • Montalcino
  • Montepulciano
  • Other Italian sounding places in Tuscany

It could be fun. I think there’s enough interest for Zosia and we’ve kept the horrid driving days down to perhaps 3 in the whole holiday. Going to be a terrible lot of photos and videos to process when we get back!

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13 thoughts on “Summer holiday – the great adventure

  1. Sounds a heap more fun that packaging it in some identikit hotel. Looking forward to the snaps (though I can’t watch your vids without some wretched plug-in or other).

    The call of the road is strong!

    Drive safely.

  2. Hey, i’m not drinking wine tonight!
    We have just returned from 2 weeks visiting Friends &family in Krakow… and drove the 2750mile round trip with 3 kids in the car! I can suggest breaking up all driving with inflight style entertainment. we had food service, drinks, games, with many pit stops. we even cooked lunch on our campstove in the torrential German rain – although the looks we got meant that i could hardly stir the pasta. i couldn’t see it through the tears of laughter. Hey ho.

  3. Scatts, isn’t it cheaper if you stay in smaller towns ? I am sure you can find “bed and breakfest” rooms in the small villages.(there are usually lots of signs on the street)
    Staying/sleeping in “downtown” Venice, Milan and Vienna is IMO waste of money.

    BTW The Groß Glockner alpine road is not very interesting. Cold, foggy, bad for the car brakes, bad for the ears(you won’t hear anything for about 15 min), and pretty expensive.

    But of course it is your holiday and you should do what YOU want ;)

  4. Michael – get the plug-in, you know it’s worth it. What’s more, I need your help with identifying the frog/toads and future video animals.

    Lizzie – inflight entertainment will be provided. I actually have a DVD installed in the roof of the car so Zosia will be able to watch a selection of movies and shows from the comfort of her seat with headphones while mum & dad listen to music or pay attention to the sat-nav.

    Didn’t know you can use Google maps for timings – I’ll go check it out.

    guest – obviously it is and this was indeed the original plan, small B&B close to somewhere we want to visit. That is in fact what we have booked in Tuscany, a small B & B in the middle of nowhere. However, these places are the hardest to find and it would be a very hit & miss affair. The amount of planning we have done has at least ensured we spend minimal time “wandering about aimlessly”, which has to be a good thing.

    Many thanks for the comment on the Grossglockner. This was in the 50/50 pile of whether we would bother to do it or not and I think we might now drop the idea and spend the time somewhere else.

  5. “See what happens”…those are the best trips. For Vienna, the Naschmarkt is an excellent place to just wander, if you like markets. Loads of different food stalls with traditional Austrian products and from abroad. Places to sit down for a cheap meal are nearby. There’s also a flea market on Saturdays.

    In the city center, avoid the “period costumed” people walking the streets selling Mozart concert tickets and the like. I know, I know, should have been obvious but I got dragged into it. Overpriced, they play only excerpts from well-known pieces, and the places are packed with disinterested tourists who can’t shut up during the performance. Ugh. There are loads of other more serious places to hear better performances for less money, like Stephansdom for organ concerts.

    Have a great trip! Looking forward to the pics.

  6. In case anyone is following this, I received a strong personal recommendation for the Grossglockner today. So, it’s back in the mix as an option at least.

    Nowt as queer as folk!

    DC – I like the sound of the Naschmarkt. On the list it goes.

  7. Lucky you with dvd in roof… we had to suffer the soundtrack of Transformers & the muppet show (although that wsn’t such an ordeal!) as ours is attached to the radio. Satnav should only be paid minor attention. Our tomtom insisted that near wroclaw we must go on the sandy track… hmmmmmmm

  8. Scatts…you forgot to check out VT. Its changed a lot since you joined. Lots of good info and can post on travelforum for questions. Usually get reponses immediately.

    I think it is the best travel site…IMHO

  9. Oh forgot to mention. They are doing a major overhaul on the website. Better photo loading, other features etc. They’ve added video. Keeps getting better and better. I think Ausgust 11th is the official launch date. I haven’t traveled anywheres in ages as I am still unemployed. :( I’ll just have to depend on you to have a great time for me.

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