Our first road trip : Spain and Portugal

Quite a while since I last posted on this blog, we decided to take a step back from social media and blogging for a while and try to focus on our daily lives. Even though we didn’t share much, we still had a great time, continuing our journey in more well-known places than usual, as we embarked on a road trip around Spain, Portugal and Andorra. There was one huge difference from our previous travel : we were traveling in a car !

Kid driving a car
A future pilot in action?

Hong Kong to France overland, but what’s next ?

After managing to travel from Hong Kong to France without taking a plane, we decided to continue traveling without using a plane as long as we could. There are a few reasons for this, one of them being that it just feels so much better to cross a border instead of arriving by plane in an unknown country, but that might be only me.

We arrived in France by the end of August, we had in mind to stay for a month or two while discussing which country in Europe we wanted to spend an extensive amount of time in. Countries like Georgia, Romania or Albania were front-runners in our list, but then, as always since we met, things didn’t go as planned.

First, we did not agree on the way to get to this new country. I didn’t feel like hitchhiking or taking the train anymore. I wanted something new and for a long time, I had in mind to start a long distance bicycle trip. On the other hand, HiuYing wasn’t thrilled by the idea, she offered the possibility to walk long distance. Well, it is a good idea, but not something I feel like doing with our almost 3-year-old son. Therefore I came up with the idea of buying a second-hand car, and travel around Europe with it.

Buying a car just made so much sense

There’s a substantial reason why I also felt like buying a car was a great idea : Soon after arriving in France, we discovered that HiuYing was pregnant with another child. After deciding to keep the fetus and extend the family soon, we realized that we could use a bit more comfort. Buying a car in France is straightforward for a European resident and relatively affordable. After extensive research and patience, I found one within our budget that would fit our goals and needs, with a potential benefit when reselling. In the meantime, we decided to apply for HiuYing to become a permanent resident in France. The situation in Hong Kong isn’t getting any better and we already had in mind to spend the upcoming year in Europe anyways.

We couldn’t wait any longer for some adventures, and as soon as HiuYing’s residency case was accepted we set off towards Spain. As the snow was falling heavily in my hometown in France, our objective was clear : Find some sunshine !

Our first road trip : Spain and Portugal 1
And yes, we found it!

I started to write a whole paragraph about the advantages and downsides of traveling with a car before realizing it was just too long to include it, so I’ll post it in another specific article coming soon. What I can mention here though is that we both really enjoyed the comfort that a car provided, without many drawbacks. How convenient it is to be able to travel with our son in a car seat, with the possibility to stop anytime we please, more space for our stuff and food pretty much whenever we want. After this article I also decided to write about the most essential apps for a road trip in Europe, feel free to check it if you also wanna travel around !

Finding a sleeping place? Always Couchsurfing first !

Except for the car, our way of traveling has not changed much. Similarly to our previous travel we used Couchsurfing as often as we could during the trip. We got the chance to stay with 12 different hosts around Portugal, Spain and France. From the couple from Spain & Cuba, to the multi-cultural family with multiple kids, or the French family traveling around Europe on a bus we always had a great time staying and interacting with our hosts. Whenever we could not find a host we always used booking.com to find an affordable hostel. Despite having traveled extensively in Europe, I had no clue how much a hostel could cost as I very rarely paid for accommodation before having my first kid. I was pleasantly surprised to notice that it wasn’t as expensive as I thought, as we managed to find a room in Portugal for 14,50€ or another in Granada for 16,77€. How great it is to travel in a country during the low season. Everything is cheaper, locals have more time to share, and touristic attractions are not overcrowded !

Our first road trip : Spain and Portugal 2
Darian playing at El Torcal de Antequera

As (former?) budget travelers we still slept in our car for two nights. The first time was the first night of the trip. It was cold and I swore that I wouldn’t do that again! But well a month later in Sevilla, we found ourselves in the middle of a long weekend in Spain. Every potential host were going out of town for short holidays, while accommodation started around 60 or 70€. It was a no-brainer for us to stay in the car, and due to the warmer temperatures and our previous experience, we all had a fine night.

Also worth noting is that we had our first pet-sitting experience in Malaga. We stayed for 6 nights in this city while keeping a dog and a cat while the owner went on vacation. We got this opportunity thanks to a former couchsurfing host of us, in Oslo, Norway, while we were just two at the time (well two and a half!). We contacted him to meet-up, which we did, and he offered to keep his friend’s apartment for the week, and of course we accepted!

We were also carrying a tent in the trunk that we didn’t use due to the lower temperatures at night, and also the fact that HiuYing prefers to sleep in the car than in the tent. I disagree with that choice but well, I’m not gonna leave her alone at night, right? I still managed to convince her to camp on a lovely beach in Portugal near Sagres, the Praia das Furnas, where we spent the night with a few travelers temporarily living there.

Our first road trip : Spain and Portugal 3
A wonderful spot.

So what did we visit ?

Throughout the trip we also paid to enter touristic attractions only twice. Our current policy is to pay only for unique attractions that we can’t find anywhere else. After visiting a respectable amount of cathedrals, ruins and other “typical” attractions we tend to be less amazed and interested by them. Therefore we visited first the Alhambra in Granada, and secondly the mesmerizing Mezquita-Catedral in Cordoba. No regrets.

Visiting the Alhambra in Granada
A beautiful picture of HiuYing with the Alhambra

Our objective was quickly achieved, as we found warmer temperatures in Valencia less than a week after our departure. After rushing as South as possible to start, we slowed down our pace to discover Valencia, Alicante and Andalusia. We also spent a memorable full week exploring the incredible Southern coast of Portugal, the Algarve region. After traveling around the world, I have to admit that I didn’t expect to see things that beautiful in Europe. The area between Albufeira and Sagres in South Portugal was just unbelievable and definitely some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen in my whole life.

Landscape in the Algarve
I had a hard time choosing a picture here!

No, traveling is not always perfect !

I am not gonna let you believe that everything was always perfect, so let’s talk about the misfortunes we had during this trip. Darian is growing fast, and sometimes his enthusiastic nature takes over. He first had a cut near his eyebrow while rushing up the stairs in a castle in Catalunya, and a few weeks later he had his first stitches ever, while falling down in a playground only minutes after our arrival in Cordoba. We rushed to the nearest hospital. It wasn’t too hard to communicate and Darian was quickly seen by a doctor. Thankfully just before the trip I requested an European Health Insurance Card, a free insurance card in EU. And this is how he got his first three stitches. I also got my first stitches in 2019, that was in Vietnam near the beginning of the year…

Our first road trip : Spain and Portugal 4
No hard feelings! Going back to the very same park the following day.

I also had a bump with my car in Portugal after a tiring day traveling around, but I was alone in the car driving at less than 5km/h so there was no harm other than material. It gave me a good reminder that driving a car requires more energy and concentration than taking a bus or walking.

That’s a pretty long article but well it had been a while! Hope you enjoyed reading it and having some of our news, feel free to comment with your thoughts and see you around,

Maxime.

Maxime

A young father following his dream of travelling the world, now joined by HiuYing, his wife, and Darian, their first son.

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