In the previous installment of our honeymoon travelogue, Cori and Ryan kiss in Kissing.
Well, this is the last post in our honeymoon travelogue. It’s been an incredible 26 days to share with you, and I’m excited to talk about the last few days of our trip! There will still be one more post next week talking specifically about our experience with the Volvo European Delivery program. I’ve also received some questions about how we afforded such an amazing trip, so I’m planning on writing a post about how we travel the way we do.
Back to Germany!
We had one lofty goal for our day — to drive our Volvo on the Nurburgring. Now, if you’re not a car person, this probably means nothing to you. However, if you have ever watched any sort of racing, or even an episode of Top Gear, you probably know what I’m talking about. Our honeymoon was originally going to be just in Norway, but then Ryan mentioned that the Nurburgring was a “mere” twelve hours from Norway, and that’s what got us thinking about a bigger trip.
The Nurburgring is a race track in Germany — nicknamed “The Green Hell,” it’s widely considered to be the most demanding and difficult purpose-built racing circuit in the world (thank you Wikipedia). 12.9 miles and 154 turns. And you can drive your own car on it.
Ryan’s a big fan of rally racing and cars in general, and I sure do like Top Gear, so there was no way we were not going to try to drive our car on one of the Touristenfahrten days. We even cut our time in Austria short so we could make it there on a tourist day.
We arrive in the town of Nurburg to find that our hotel room at the Hotel An Der Nordschleife overlooked the race track. SWEET.
We got there before check-in, but the owner let us check-in early, which we appreciated. The art in the simple but comfortable hotel made it clear where we were.
We grabbed some lunch and then walked across the street to watch the cars zoom by. It was apparently time for the Porsches — it was pretty much all we saw while we we watched.
The tourist track time didn’t start until 5:00pm, but we headed over to the starting line to see if was even possible for us to get tickets. Before leaving for the trip, Ryan had scanned forums, websites, and You Tube videos only to find videos of people crashing. Many warned readers about their accidents and the huge bills associated with track damage or lack of insurance coverage. We asked Volvo about any exceptions in their insurance policy for any “unrestricted one-way public toll roads,” which is basically what the Ring is. They did not.
We also read that they didn’t let cars with “white license plates with red numbers” (basically German overseas delivery cars) on the track. Our car was an overseas delivery car, but it was from Sweden, and had a red plate with white letters. One of the Nurburgring guys told us to give it a shot — if they didn’t let us go, it was just $30.
We bought our ticket and watched the process for a bit. Among the Porsches, BMWs, and speedy little Subarus, we saw cars full of families and suitcases, motorcycles with complete luggage on the sides, and more than one minivan. Oh yes. We could do this.
Finally, about 5:30, we decided to give it a shot. It looked like we might be stopped by one of the guys at the line, but we were waved through by a woman closer to us (whew!). We don’t have any photos, since taking photos on the ring is against the rules (too bad!) We did three laps total. Ryan drove and I held on tight. I had to sit out the third lap because I found myself getting a little carsick!
Here is how the drive went, from Ryan’s point of view:
Driving the Ring was an amazing experience. The track was filled with elevation changes, banked turns, dips and rolls, sharp turns, bridges that took us right next to our hotel, fancy cars, and straight stretches — way more than I could begin to memorize. I put my fears into a little box in the back of my brain and focused on becoming one with the car. I took it very easy at first, only passing the slowest cars and trying to get a feel for how our car balanced during turns and how the tires responded to the tough treatment. Sport mode and the paddle shifters in the car came in handy to use the engine to really monitor my speed and corner entry instead of overheating our brakes (as one Volvo owner said he had done). By the third lap I was able to start picking my lines around the track and use most of the road to try and smoothly transition between the corners. I was able to pass cars, but still had to be on the lookout for Porsches and BMWs (or other more expensive vehicles) that came flying on my tail. After three laps (nearly 40 miles of driving), I figured I had probably done enough. Sometimes knowing when to stop is more important than how fast you can go. With adrenaline pumping and a smile on my face I pulled off the track and waved goodbye to the line of drivers getting ready to go.
On one lap, we passed a BMW. He gave us a look that said, “Was that a Volvo?!”
I was fine sitting out that third lap — my poor stomach couldn’t handle all those turns at that speed! I was happy to stand at an overlook and wait for him to come around. It also meant that I could capture a photo of him actually on the track! Proof! After his lap, he joined me at the overlook, and we watched the rest of the cars go, until the ring closed for the day.
All in all, TOTALLY AWESOME. Highly recommended. A bucket list-type of day.
The next morning, before we headed to Luxembourg, we went to Burg Eltz, an actual medieval castle. Burg Eltz had been recommended to us by some friends who had also done Neuschwanstein (a fake medieval castle) — they had said it was a much less touristy, more authentic castle. It’s been in the same family for 33 generations!
We absolutely loved it — such a difference between Burg Eltz the odd Neverland of Neuschwanstein. To get there, we chose to walk several miles through the forest — such a beautiful way to spend the morning. The tour was longer and more in-depth, and it was in an incredible state of preservation. Many thanks to Brian and Kim for suggesting it!
After Burg Eltz, we drove to Luxembourg — one of the smallest countries in the world! We had no grand plans, so we parked and wandered around a bit, until stumbling into the tourist office. They gave us a walking map of Luxembourg, and we were off! We spent the rest of the afternoon doing a self-guided tour that took us past many of the most famous and beautiful sights in Luxembourg.
Luxembourg is a very interesting mix of new and old. Modern banking buildings built on top of ancient walls. It was incredibly green and we had a hard time comparing it to any other city we’d ever been in. Our walk was fascinating and we saw all sorts of interesting things.
The overlook from Franklin D Roosevelt Blvd (yeah, what?) was green and lush:
We saw the Grand Ducal Palace and some of the older parts of Luxembourg:
We saw these guys, whose trick was totally creepy:
It was cool to see the foundations of the old city as we walked around. Luxembourg was probably the least touristy city we visited and it was nice to wander around without feeling like part of a herd.
On the left of this photo, you can see the original casements called the Bock. The gardens below were amazing as well — you could tell people really love their outdoor space here.
Once we walked down into the valley (?) between all the walls, there was a peaceful green belt with jogging and bike paths. It was a gorgeous day and we probably could have spent hours wandering around down there. We saw a tiny church built into the side of the city walls. Christians used to meet here in secret when they were being persecuted:
We also walked under the Passerelle, a viaduct-turned-road. Photos do not do the height of this bridge justice — it was incredible to stand under it and see the brickwork so far up!
But our time in Luxembourg was short, and we headed to our final stop, Brussels. We thought we were at the Marriott (thanks Mom and Dad!) in downtown Brussels, and were totally overwhelmed by the number of people dining and carousing on the blocks surrounding the hotel (we are definitely outdoorsy people, not crowded city people!). After speaking with the front desk, we learned we were out at the Marriott by the airport. We ate dinner at a fancy little restaurant on a crowded tree-lined street before driving out to our hotel. It was quite a drive, but it put us close to the Volvo drop-off, as well as the airport. A much better location for us!
Oh, and it was next door to NATO.
The next day, we drove to Bruges. I was told by many friends (thanks to Colleen in particular!) that it was a must-see on our trip. Goodness, I loved that city. Everything about it. First of all, they make chocolate and waffles. And half the time they put chocolate ON the waffles. We ate SO MUCH goodness that day!
We took a boat tour of the canals, learning a lot about the history but mostly enjoying the warm day (I think it was the warmest day of our entire honeymoon). Also, chocolate and waffles.
Afterward, we wandered around the city without much thought, spending quite a bit of time walking past the Lake of Love and up on the moat around the city, to the windmills. Also, chocolate and waffles.
It was a hard choice, but out of all the places we visited on our honeymoon, I’d most like to live in Bruges, with Gothenburg Sweden a close second (we never saw Gothenburg in the winter, so there is that!).
The next morning, we dropped off our car at a Volvo dealership close to the hotel. We filed all of our overseas delivery paperwork and said goodbye to our car, knowing we wouldn’t see it until November (it was September 5!). If I calculate it correctly, we put about 2,500 miles on the car between Gothenburg and Brussels, with another 1,000 on the motorcycle in Norway. We drove ALL THE PLACES!
We had all sorts of plans to walk around Brussels that day, but once we got back to the hotel, we couldn’t work up the energy to leave. We’d been going for twenty-four days, town after town, sight after sight, tour after tour. Looking at the guide websites for Brussels, we just didn’t want to visit any more palaces, museums, or towers. So we stayed in the hotel. All day. We even ate there. We figured we could have one day of total relaxation in a month of go go go!
Our flight left the next morning at 5:00am, which meant that we had to be at the airport at why-even-go-to-sleep-o’clock. We had a long layover in Copenhagen, but got to sit in the Business Lounge (free food!) as another perk for the Volvo European Delivery. Our final flight took us back to San Francisco, where my parents drove us home to Sacramento.
When we’ve told people about our trip, they inevitably say, “man, that’s a trip of a lifetime!” And I respond, “I certainly hope not! I plan on traveling the world until the end of my days.” We’re actually hoping for a trip to Bhutan later this year! Hiking the Himalayas will be another adventure!
While our whole trip was off the charts, I highly recommend the Norway posts. But be warned — you’ll book tickets to go there without even realizing what you’re doing!
Thank you all for traveling along with us!