Dispatches: Road trippin’ through southern Europe

Nazare Beach, Portugal. This beach is famous for attracting surfers who come for the biggest waves in the world.

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There are many ways to travel but what I like most is the freedom you have during a road trip. You can go wherever you want, stop wherever you want, stay as much as you want and plan your route accordingly. One of the top trips on my bucket list was a road trip to southern Europe; and last summer I had the opportunity to make it happen. From Lisbon to Florence, 25 days, four countries, 3.500 km, more than 4000 photos.

I flew from Washington DC to Lisbon, rented a car(s) and drove north along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean to Porto, then to north Spain (A Coruna, Bilbao), south France (Toulouse, Montpellier, Cannes, Nice) and finally to north Italy (Florence, Toscane).

Beautiful cities, interesting people, historic sites and breathtaking sceneries all the way on this amazing route. I enjoyed every moment of this trip and definitely suggest it if you have the opportunity and the time to do it.

Porto, Portugal. UNESCO has nmed the Old Town of Porto a World Cultural Heritage Site.


A couple of useful tips to lower the budget for such a trip, if you don’t mind being a little more adventures:

  • First, do not rent one car all the way. When I tried to do the reservation for the rental car, I figured out that (in my case) the price for the car was $550, BUT the fee for leaving the car in a different country was $1500! So, I rented a different car in every country, leaving it at the borders, crossing the borders on a bus or train and, then, renting a new car in the next country. This way my total cost for the rental cars was $720.
  • Second, be a traveller not a tourist. A nice way to come closer to this feeling is to rent a house through Airbnb, HomeAway, 9flats, etc. Even better, rent a room in a house. I rented rooms during the whole trip and it was the best experience I could ever have. It is not only the lower prices you can get (We – me and my wife – stayed in places for $15-20 per night) but most important the opportunity to stay with somebody who is actually from that city. They live there and can be a great source of information about the area. In my case, I didn’t have any bad experiences traveling this way, instead, in some places I met great people that put their personal touch on my trip and made it even better.
  • For the record, gas and tolls during this trip came out around to $500. A very important detail for my American friends is that the best prices were for the smallest car I could get with a manual transmission. Bigger cars with automatic transmission will be quite more expensive, but if you don’t know how to drive manual, it’s not a good idea to learn during a trip like this.

In my opinion, and in a very general conclusion, Portugal was the cheapest among these four countries; Spain had the best food in relation to the prices; France is a place that I would love to stay – had a great balance between order and freedom in daily life and Italy had the most beautiful cities and sceneries.

All images © 2016 Dimitris Manis. You can see more of his work on his website.

Dispatches is our occasional look outside of DC at the places local photographers have traveled. Have a set of photos you’d like to feature here? Contact us at editor@dcfocused.com.

Nice, France. A month after Dimitris visited this boardwalk, it was the site of terrible terrorist attack.
Portofino, Italy. A small fishing village in north Italy.
Cannes, France. The Harbor in Cannes is one of the most cosmopolitan places in Europe.
Placa do Comercio, Lisbon, Portugal. Some of the most famous explorers of the world started their trips from this place.
Florence, Italy. One of the most popular destinations in the world and there is a reason for this, the whole city is a museum.
A Coruna, Spain. Historic city in northwest Spain. As the story goes Julius Caesar visited once.

Dimitris is a reporter, photojournalist and video editor originally from Greece. He loves to travel, meet new people and explore new cultures. He came to the US six years ago with a one-year contract for a job and he never left. As he says, "This country is too big to leave it so soon".