Safe in the knowledge that, at long last, we’re fully protected by a double anti-Covid vaccination, we embarked on our first trip away from Belgium for (too) many months.

Travelling by plane has become so difficult and confusing in these times of ever-changing coloured maps and different rules and restrictions, each country having its own preferred set of rules rather than all of them agreeing on a common, sensible set of safety measures. So, we opted to stay on the ground and use a more eco-friendly means to travel: our own car. No complicated forms to fill, no officious official looking at your passport, then suspiciously at you and back at the passport, almost convincing you that you’ve committed a serious contravention, or that, surely, with your looks, you must be an international criminal. None of all that bother. You just pack your bags into the car boot and drive to your destination. Whoever dreamed up the Schengen borderless travel zone should be made a saint!

The plan: drive in stages of 5 to 6 hours plus stoppages while avoiding tolls. This is possible through another wonderful human construct: Google Maps. The extra hour of travel saves you a good deal of money and long lines of cars waiting to pay at the toll gates, apart from the fact that the route is much more picturesque than boring motorways. At each stage we stop for one whole day and two nights before driving on to the next stage.

This way we visited a good number of beautiful places that I hope to describe in future posts.

Our first stop was in the Loire valley, with its many castles.

Château de Sully-sur-Loire, France

The next drive went through Cognac and Champagne in the direction of Bordeaux. We stopped at Libourne, close to Bordeaux. My wine loving readers will be disappointed to learn that, in Libourne, I opted for a Sangria on the first night and an Alsacian beer on the second. Sorry about that, my friends, but it was thirsty weather.

Twilight at Libourne, France

I’ve been intending to drive all the way through France to Spain for years. I had planned to do this in the spring of 2020, but we all know what happened then. This time, I finally managed to get to the northern coast of Spain and sample some of their famed pintxos. Our stop was in the region of Bizkaia, which gives the name to the Bay of Biscay, at the heart of the Basque region.

Heaven, also known as Lekeitio, in Bizkaia, northern Spain

Most trips have a return journey. Coming back, we again split the distance more or less evenly, meaning that our stops were not very far from those while going out. Our penultimate stop was in Bègles, a nondescipt residential suburb within walking distance from Bordeaux.

Cathédrale Saint-André de Bordeaux, France

Our last stop was in a tiny village just south of the Loire river. We were tired at this stage and, our Airbnb being so pleasant and comfortable, we preferred to stay relaxing in the garden there most of the time, although we did venture out to buy some groceries, fuel and do some timid sightseeing.

Castle Stuart, Aubigny-sur-Nère, France

Final stage, home sweet home at good old Overijse, in Belgium.

Suzy loves her Home sweet home