Last summer Chris, one of Jack’s Shack’s directors, took his T5 on tour to Slovenia. This is the story of his epic adventure, with his then heavily pregnant wife, Charlotte. Having visited the country once, we were keen to get back to Slovenia as we love the lakes, rivers, mountains and scenery, so we planned a rough route through Europe as our first extended trip in our recently upgraded campervan. We didn’t pre-book sites or have too many set destinations in mind, which allowed us to explore and see where the road took us.
We loaded the van the night before our trip and after an eye-wateringly early start from our home in Leicestershire, found ourselves at Calais waiting to board a ferry to Mainland Europe. Neither of us suffers nerves at the start of trips like this but, looking back, we were both definitely the most excited for a trip to Europe that we had been in many many years. A smooth 2-hour crossing later, we rolled into France in the early afternoon and from Calais, we headed southeast, towards the north of the Alsace region, which straddles France and Germany. We arrived late but found a nice aire to stay in for the night, grabbed a quick bite to eat and rested our heads.
The next day we headed further southeast, through Alsace to a town called Colmar: a picture-perfect town, known as the French Venice. Like most places, we wanted to stay longer and would highly recommend a visit.
ONWARDS INTO SWITZERLAND
Having spent too little time there, we left Colmar and continued in the same direction to Lucerne in Switzerland – what a cool town and an amazing campsite right on Lake Lucerne. Note: Switzerland is bloody pricey: 12 euros for a bottle of still water!
The next day became one of our highlights. We travelled south through Switzerland to the Italian lakes. We planned on heading through the Gotthard tunnel (21km) but it was closed. The diversion took us 6 hours and included The Gotthard and Furka passes: arguable the best two roads on the planet! The cars we saw were incredible: Ferraris, Koenigsegg, Veyrons, Gullwings, Classic 911’s (my ultimate). However, the views were even better. Getting lost with no end goal can be a lot of fun. We ended up near Lake Maggiore via a stop off at Lavertezzo – a stunning bridge and town, also home to the famous damn that Daniel Craig jumped off! After a long day’s driving, it was time to treat my pregnant wife so we decided to book a hotel in Verona. A lovely afternoon and evening in a stunning city. From Verona, we travelled to one of our favourite places: Slovenia, where we spent the next 4 days. This time, based in the Soca Valley and a town called Bovec.
Slovenia has all the positives of other Alpine countries but without the people and the prices. It’s stunningly beautiful and so laid back. We found the most amazing campsite, backing right on to the Soca river (pictured) – by the way, the coldest water on the planet as it’s melting ice from the Alps above! After a few days relaxing and hiking, we left with heavy hearts but with a fun route home planned. As we crossed back into Italy, we came across Lago del Predil – a perfect, blue lake so spent an hour or two here before heading to Austria. We stopped for a late lunch in Salzburg and fell in love with the city – we decided to book a hotel to make for easier exploring. It was a real surprise: we both want to go back during the winter.
From Salzburg we headed into Germany – not a part of the journey I was overly-excited about but as we entered the Rhine valley that all changed. We found a town called Bacharach which could have come straight out of Hansel & Gretel. It sat above the Rhine and was full of winding streets, crooked buildings and a castle. Our final night was spent in Ghent – a friend had said it was worth a trip and wow, what a place. All the charm of Brussells but with a much younger, more fun feel to it. Great bars & restaurants. From here we headed home after a funfilled 15 days. TIPS FOR THE ROAD 1. Don’t over-plan: you have your hotel room right in the van behind your driving seat, so you can stop where you like
2. Unless it’s peak season you don’t need to pre-book sites 3. You need a pop-top. We found this out the hard way and had Jack and the team fit one in record time, just before we left for our big trip - it was a god-send 4. Don’t take much! Park light and make sure to park into your cupboards, it makes moving into the van much quicker WHAT WE WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME 1. We drove a lot – I’m glad we did but there are some places I wish we could have got to know better. Maybe next time we will either go slower or go for longer 2. Buy a Highline van! AC would have been better than a fan on my dashboard 3. Book more time off. I really am not sure when I would have got bored on the road but I can you that doubling from two weeks to a month would not have made the trip even a little tiresome If you are thinking of taking a big trip around Europe get in touch with us at Jack’s Shack for those little upgrades and changes to your camper, to make your trip as special as it should be.