From Milan to London by car: three wonderful days crossing Europe

Versione in italiano

Traveling through Europe is wonderful. Whether you do it by train, by bike or by car, it is an incredible experience for people of all ages. Moreover, the absence of customs, of telephone roaming charges, and the monetary union make it easy and smooth. When we drove from Italy to London to bring our car to England, for example, we did not miss the opportunity to enjoy three wonderful days crossing Switzerland, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium.

italia inghilterra in macchina

DAY 1: SOUTH MILAN> COLMAR (459 Km)

There are several Alpine passes that connect Italy to Central Europe: some are fast and expensive, others are cheaper but slower. The older passes often grant breathtaking views, but sometimes might not be recommended to those who suffer from travel sickness.
Departing from the south of Lombardy, it was easy for us to reach Lugano through the Brogeda customs and from there to the San Gottardo tunnel to go further north.
Not part of the European Union, Switzerland still has its own customs, currency and telephone roaming. To drive in Switzerland it is required to have a "Vignette", a windshield sticker that entitles you to transit on all the Swiss roads and motorways for 14 months (from the first December of the previous year up to 31st January of the following year). The "Vignette" now costs 40 CHF and can be purchased directly at the border.
We drove straight to Colmar but, if you wish, there are several interesting places you can stop at along the way, such as the Lugano Lake or the beautiful city of Basel.
We arrived in Colmar just after lunch, and we immediately started exploring the narrow roads of this cozy town. Colmar looks like a marzipan village: its half-timbered architecture, the small canals, the warm colours of the decorations and the flowered windowsills make you fell in a fairytale. The Tanners District and that of the fishmongers, Little Venice and the Pfister House, the Merchants' street and the square where the antique market takes place are incredibly well-preserved jewels: something the Alsazians can be very proud of. This perfect beauty is hugely rewarded by tourists, who crowd the streets of Colmar throughout the year. If you do not like crowds, we advise you to visit it in low season.

Colmar Little Venice

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DAY 2: COLMAR - STRASBOURG - NAMUR (906 Km)

We woke up early to take a quick tour of Strasbourg before the mass of daily tourists crowds the city. We visited the stunning Notre Dame cathedral, where we discovered the incredible astronomical clock that dominates the right aisle. We took a walk through the streets of the city centre and through the covered bridges, enjoying the palaces and squares that today represent the heart of the European Union.

Strasbourg Notre Dame Cathedral

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We then headed north again, driving ideally along the Maginot Line, once afflicted by terrible conflicts and today placid border, entering Germany at Saarbrücken to avoid the expensive French motorways. We crossed Luxembourg and entered Belgium, stopping at Namur, the heart of the Wallonia region in evident rebirth.
In this leg of the Europe crossing, if you have time to lengthen the route, the possible options are principally two: the French route (through the wonderful regions of Champagne and Normandy) and the German route (through Freiburg, Triberg and the Black Forest). On the other hand, if you wish to explore Luxembourg, we recommend a tour of the Grand Duchy castles.

Our evening in Namur was enchanting, walking along the Meuse at sunset and exploring the citadel overlooking the city. A city in great transformation, where the many construction sites show a great urban and cultural ferment.

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DAY 3: NAMUR - DUNKIRK - CALAIS - DOVER - LONDON (484 Km)

Having already visited Brussels, Bruges and part of Flanders (a super romantic and unmissable region) we decided to keep on driving along troubled border lands, where many dramatic events of our history took place.
We stopped at Dunkirk, where there is the War Museum dedicated to the Second World War and the Operation Dynamo, the largest evacuation effort in military history. We saw people dancing tango on the beach from which the British troops were evacuated in June 1940, we saw the power of time, which tries to heal the wounds of the past.

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On the other side, the wounds of Calais are still too recent to be healed: getting to the port surrounded by barriers, fences and barbed wire to divide "those born in the right place" by the disgraced was emblematic, sad and painful.
We crossed the English Channel by ferry, that is cheaper but slower (about 1.30h) compared to the Eurotunnel train (about 30min). The advantage of the ferry, apart from the convenience, is that it allows you to enjoy the slow approach to the white cliffs of Dover by sea: an experience is worth doing, the best way to enter England and get in touch to its beauties.

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