If you’re reading this to hear all about our super relaxed road trip through France, Switzerland and Germany… you’ve come to the wrong place. Light and breezy it was not. Beautiful? Yes. Expensive? Sure. Like one big game of Whackamole? Definitely. Stress-free.. Hard no.
Long story short and without giving away too many personal details bc I don’t know you like that, Dani, my sister Jesse and I were headed on a trip to France - to the world’s most incredible uncle/godfather’s house in Bordeaux - by plane with plans to return by (electric) car. This was following two weeks spent with Jess involving hikes, doener throwing, beer drinking, vespa driving, new city visiting, German-go-fish playing delight.
Our trip to Bordeaux was a long one, which is ironic considering a direct flight would only take us a few hours and as there are none which cost less than our monthly rent, we were underway for the better part of 12 hours. We arrived late and enjoyed the world’s largest most gouda-covered pizzas on the planet, which effectively hecked up our stomachs for the next week.
Our time in Bordeaux was a bit of a blur but essentially if something could go wrong, it did. No WiFi, the hotspot we bought also said no, the power went out like it was its job and we learned we couldn’t charge the aforementioned electric car while using the stove bc of course we couldn’t, the pool was more of a lawn ornament as we couldn’t get the cover off (first world problems, yes).
Working remotely was made difficult due to the lack of WiFi which worked out as we ended up in an internet cafe in Bordeaux and Dani and Jess got to explore the city while I finally got some work done, and we made the best of our days off by taking a trip to Lacanau-Ocean, walking through the vineyards near the house, and taking evening trips to neighboring towns like Saint Emilion (Dani and Jess went while I worked and loved it so much they took me back with them). On our last night there we got the cover off the pool, which resulted in a lot of jumping and dancing around before making ourselves some margaritas and jumping in, which made for a pretty incredible last night in town.
Thursday morning began what will hopefully be our first and last road trip in an electric vehicle. We planned the route about 17 different ways bc we were terrified of running out of battery somewhere and the range on the Zoe is a bit limited. Our first stop was the beautiful town of Perigeaux where we picked up some quiches and baguettes to feed the hangry humans that are Dani and Jess before driving another hour or so for a stop in a tiny cow-filled town called St. Germain where we went for a walk in the woods and picked some wildflowers bc it was as picturesque as it sounds. Our third stop was slightly less romantic as we were worried about running out of battery before making it to our next planned stop which meant we spent 30 minutes playing tag in a parking lot outside Riom. I say outside instead of outside Clermont-Ferrand (which is where we were supposed to go) bc I, the navigator (bc I don’t yet have a license in Europe so it was all I had to offer) was not and have never been particularly good at navigating. Clermont-Fernand sounds pretty.. Can’t personally recommend it seeing as how we never made it there. Riom was pretty… Pretty dead. It was the kind of town which closes between 2 and 5 PM which was exactly when we were there which was less than ideal considering the two hungry, hungry humans I had with me, but we finally found a tiny shop selling croque monsieur which saved us and allowed us to continue on to Lyon. Lyon, for anyone wondering, is absolutely 10/10 worth a visit. Absolutely gorgeous. Top 10 on my list for sure. Maybe I should make a list? Bc I don’t have one. But if I did, Lyon would be on it. We spent the evening in Lyon charging the car in town while enjoying the absolute vibe that is Lyon and had some napoletana pizza and craft beer and tiramisu… in France, the place famous for such foods. Leave us alone, it was delicious.
We woke up the next morning too late for Dani’s taste (he is a morning person, unlike Jess and I) and he made us breakfast before we made our way to the next stop: Geneva, Switzerland. Geneva itself was a lovely town (very bougie for our taste but I digress) and Dani and Jess got to add a new country to their lists. We headed to Bern, where we were wildly unsuccessful in our efforts to charge the car including a misadventure getting lost in a parking garage for an embarrassing amount of time and charging the car in someone’s personal rental spot which stressed out the German in Dani. Since we had enough battery to make it to Interlaken, we went for it.
Our next stop would have been Interlaken, but Jess had made a very special request that we freeze our asses of in a Swiss glacial lake on the side of the road… so of course, we had to do it. We stopped in the town of Spiez and wandered down the very large hill towards the water (while getting a magical free car charge bc the machine was glitching) only to realize on our arrival at the bottom that this was more of a harbor-area than a get in the water area, so we hiked all the way back up and made our way to Därligen, a tiny village right on the very, very cold water. It was an absolutely incredible moment. Well for Jess and I it was a longer moment than for Dani, who for his part is not the world’s biggest fan of swimming in general, let alone in freezing waters… who knew.
We made the world’s fastest stop in Lauterbrunnen which ended up being more of a drive through as we could only find paid parking for which we had no Swiss Franks with which to pay and there were already people giving out parking tickets so we hopped out for a look at the waterfalls and drove on. We slept outside of Lucerne in a tiny guest house cabin in the middle of nowhere built in 1615 in the middle of nowhere (which was super fun to get to in the middle of the night - shout out to Jess for not letting us die on the v precarious windy lake roads) and woke up to the world’s cutest doggo and an amazing view to greet us. Dani made breakfast and I made coffee and jess spent most of her morning banging her head into the too-short door frames which was painful if not remotely entertaining.
We headed out and drove through one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen - Lucerne - and made our way to Basel to charge the car and grab some coffee and snacks for Jess and Dani who were getting hangry. After a walk through the very expensive town, we drove up to Freiburg where for some reason the car refused to charge and met up with friends who live in the area after enjoying some Flammkuchen (literally translates to flame cake - it’s like pizza’s flatbread cousin, that’s all I can tell you.
We then drove to Strasbourg, where the real trouble began. Funnily enough I’ve wanted to go there since forever and still have somehow managed not to see it bc once we arrived, we couldn’t get the car to charge. We tried 7 different charges and took turns having mental breakdowns while Jess tried to keep it together for all of us (a difficult job). Nothing worked and we had the distinct impression that we were in trouble, so we drove back across the border to Kehl to try stations there, knowing that if we needed to get a tow then this would be easier if we could deal with people in German than in French.
So we called the Renault (French car-manufacturer) people and were informed that we would have to talk to the French Renault people anyway bc the car was registered in France. Fab. So they gave us osme numbers to call. We conversed in broken English and French and the occasional Spanish and were told they would send someone out to us. One hour later, we had heard nothing, so we grabbed a snack at the only place in the area (good old fashioned Lidl) and called again, which is when they informed us they would be sending a tow truck but couldn’t tell us how exactly WE would be getting anywhere i.e. public transport or a rental car or a hotel or or or, and they had absolutely no answer for us which was super neat. Approximately 7.000 hours later - mind you this whole time they couldn’t reach me bc in my stress gave them the wrong damn phone number - a tow truck came for the car and we were informed we would get a rental (but the tow truck came first so we unloaded the car and sat like crazy people with all our belongings in the street). When we finally got the taxi to take us to the rental car place (at around midnight, i.e. 7h after the initial call) drove us 1h SOUTH as in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION OF WHERE WE WERE HEADED to get the car and then drive 2,5h in the middle of the night to Heidelberg, where we had already booked a place to stay. We spent the car ride trying to keep each other awake so that we didn’t crash and die and passed out like it was our job in the hotel from the hours of 3 to 11am. We spent the morning enjoying golden milk and Matcha in Heidelberg (thanks to a recommendation from Amira) and wandered around town for what felt like a million years looking for a place to get Jesse some yummy kaesespaetzle and knoedel which she learned to love when Saskia made them for us literally a decade ago (she has an incredible memory) which was made more difficult what with Dani being from the region for which those dishes are known and also generally very aware of what he likes when it comes to food. We finally found an average place and I made sure my buckos and beans were well-fed before we finally made our way home.
As for the title: Dani and I call each other buckos (long story), Jess and her partner call each other beans, and my family call each other bears, so somehow at some point we became the buckos, beans and bears.
As for our trip: it was one of those “wow are we blessed to be doing this but wow was a road trip with an electric car whose gauge for how far it can actually go a bad idea” but it truly was a wonderful trip. From confusigating Dani and Jess on the road (Dani says I don’t navigate, I confusigate, bc I’m so bad at it), to Dani AND Jesse’s farts filling up our tiny car like something died inside them, to the core memories we attained swimming in a glacial lake on the side of a Swiss highway, it was one hell of a week. And I am incredibly lucky to have had it, for all of its ups and downs, with two of my favorite humans.
And now there are only 48h between me and my mama visiting Germany for the first time ever! Life is good, people.
About the Author
Mouth like a sailor, great lacker of empathy, paper cut survivor, avid arguer, harsh critic of people who put clothes on their pets, easily distracte
USA, Mexico, Iceland, Austria, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Morocco, Malta, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland, Denmark, Czech Republic, Hungary, England, Poland, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Scotland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Croatia, Greece, Vatican City, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Guatemala, Kenya