Setting out on the road at 6 a.m., we left husband, Kees, and Anita’s husband, Rene, shaking their heads in our wake, completely convinced we were insane to willingly volunteer to spend an entire week “sitting in the car”.
“I can’t imagine anything worse. I really think you should reconsider. You’re just driving 3,500km to get back home,” says Kees who always makes me laugh. Coming from the guy who circumnavigated Africa in his own self-built truck and drove to India and back from The Netherlands… You’d think he’d understand the fun of a good ol’ fashion road trip. I think the shock mostly came from the fact that I only decided to do the trip five days before we actually left. He didn’t even have time to process the fact that I was leaving until I was already gone.
Amazingly, before we left I had convinced (or did I bully?) our good friend Mario into lending me his car for my birthday road trip. I was so thrilled when he agreed because his Volvo has A/C and runs on LPG (much cheaper fuel!). Mario was so sweet and had new tires put on, had the car professionally cleaned inside and out for us and made sure we had safety equipment, the correct LPG attachments for the different countries we’d be passing through…Everything was perfect! That’s why it was hard to accept at first, when the night before we were setting off, as we pulled into the driveway after filling up the fuel tanks and topping off the oil, I pointed out the windshield and said, “Mario? Why is steam coming from the hood?”
We were so unbelievably lucky that the car broke down in that moment in the driveway and not somewhere on the other side of Europe, leaving us stranded! Resorting to Plan B, (or was it back to Plan A?) we loaded our silver Ford with our small amount of luggage and some food. Although I was dreading having no air-conditioning, especially being 7 months pregnant, I knew our car had safely taken us on many wonderful trips in the past, including our 10-Country, 10 Capital City Road Trip last summer through Scandinavia and The Baltics.
I never imagined when we took off on my “One-Day 5-Country Birthday Road Trip” with Jess, Mom and Anita that just one year later I would be 7 months pregnant embarking on another great road trip. SO much happened in the past 12 months, including a marriage proposal, bachelorette party, Caribbean elopement and several wedding parties and now a BABY!
With Prague plugged into the GPS, we first had to pass through Germany. I love how I spent so many years to break the spy language of The Netherlands, but after all that work, just a couple hours on the road and I’m completely back to square one. Although German is still pretty close to Dutch, I was completely in the dark. Luckily Anita was a great translator when it came to Germany and Austria where they seem to speak the least English of all the countries we visited on this trip.
We were all amazed by how fast the first 7 hours raced by as we cruised down German highways, being passed by Mercedes Benz’ as we drove a 150km in the slow lane.
Prague was our first stop. We had a perfect parking space just steps from the Old Town Square (probably not allowed but we didn’t see any machines to pay).
The clip clop of horse hooves and the creaking of carriages added another dimension to the historic setting as we explored on foot.
It’s been more than a decade since I stood in front of the famous astronomical clock on our family trip around the world.
Stepping into the Basilica of St. James was a welcome sanctuary from the heat and the buzz of the day. It made me think of my recent post about quiet places and my recommendations for finding silence abroad.
After driving over a 1,000KM from The Netherlands,our night ended at the spectacular Chateau Heralec, just an hour drive through the peaceful countryside from Prague.
Every one of our jaws dropped as we pulled up to the gated entrance of the Castle-like chateau.
Full quality of service and pampering was found in this refuge in the countryside of Czech Republic. Upon arrival our bags were taken to our rooms for us while we were each warmly greeted with a hand-picked rose and a glass of champagne (which of course I could only sniff).
Our rooms were beyond our expectations with a lovely lounge area, spacious, clean bathroom, mural paintings on the walls hiding the closet and bathroom doors, top quality teas, a fruit basket for us to enjoy and a little vase for us to place our newly acquired roses in.
We explored the lush, old property inside and out enjoying its home grown garden, swinging in the hammocks in the garden and listening to the variety of beautiful birds and nature all around us. Outside is a symphony of natural music, but within the chateau’s thick walls, it is absolutely silent.
Thank you chef Michael Zapalac and baker Ms. Mirka Kuzelova of Honoria Restaurant for preparing such delicious meals so clearly made with love. I was amazed to learn that so many of the ingredients are made from the chateau’s gardens and from the surrounding land. Ms. Mirka bakes fresh bread and more every morning using fresh ground flour from the family mill and their yeast that has been passed on for generations. Now how special is that?!
I can’t recommend this place enough, especially to North Americans where this sort of castle-like accommodation is almost unheard of.
I’ll never forget the lovely server apologizing at breakfast for the freshly squeezed orange juice taking so long, “our oranges are very small”. I’ve never had such a large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and it was well worth the wait!
What a way to kick off a birthday trip!
Categories: Savannah Grace
Reblogged this on Travel Inspire Connect and commented:
Happy Birthday [again], Savannah! So many amazing stories to tell baby! Glad you had a wonderful birthday trip. Can’t wait to read the rest of your stories! As an habitual planner, I am interested in exactly what kind of planning went into this trip. Was it just 5 days of planning?
Thanks so much for sharing. I decided on it 5 days before, but didn’t do much of any planning other than deciding on a route and lining up some sponsors….I honestly don’t know how I keep managing these trips on such short notice!