As a special holiday for my 60th birthday, my wife Rita and I agreed to embark on another European road trip after we thoroughly enjoyed our previous one in 2018 that took in eight countries and 3000 perfect miles.
We also promised ourselves that we would stay in Switzerland rather than just drive through it like we did in 2018, when we were on our way from the Cote D'Azur to Alsace via Italy and Switzerland.
A plan was hatched and, after two cancelled attempts in 2020 and 2021, we finally sailed from North Shields (Newcastle) to Umuiden (Amsterdam). All of our accommodation was booked in advance, so the itinerary included Obernai in Alsace, crossing the border to Andermatt in Switzerland to drive some of the mountain passes, then back into France for Annecy in Auvergne-Rh6ne-Alpes and then up to Epernay in the northern Grand Est region.
Our route from Umuiden took us through the Netherlands on 100kmh-restricted motorways before entering Germany on the exceptionally busy A61 autobahn before re-entering France just north of Strasbourg and then arriving at our first stop in Obernai - our base for five nights. The accommodation was ideally located in the centre of town and had its own garage beneath - perfect!
We stayed near Obernai in 2018, so we knew what to expect. It's a beautiful region full of stunning towns and villages scattered along the 170km Route des Vins d'Alsace. Recommended places to visit include Riquewihr, Ribeauville and Colmar among many others.
As well as trips to Baden-Baden in Germany and Strasbourg, we also incorporated a visit to Natzweiler-Struthof, the only concentration camp in France; a very sobering experience.
Then it was time to head to our next stop at Andermatt, and we enjoyed a stunning drive in perfect weather through Germany and into Switzerland past Zugersee and Vierwaldstattersee.
The accommodation was just on the edge of Andermatt and had one of the most confusing underground car parks we've ever come across, to the point where we actually got lost. As it was a weekend, there were also lots of German-registered 911s who were clearly on a tour (complete with door stickers) staying in our hotel.
Our first full day was dedicated to driving the Furka Pass (complete with James Bond Strasse nameplate and motion sensor-activated Goldfinger theme tune!), Grimsel Pass and Susten Pass as one loop. Despite a cloudy start, the temperature increased from 13°C to 29°C once we started descending the Grimsel Pass and it turned into a glorious day. The weather can change very quickly in the Alps.
Sunday was probably not the best day to pick because the Furka Pass was rather busy, with lots of Swiss-registered bikers out for the day. The Grimsel Pass and Susten Pass were much quieter, however, with the latter being our favourite.
The next day was planned to be a trip via Oberalp Pass to Livigno in the Italian Alps, which enjoys duty-free status, to fill up with cheap fuel and perfume. That plan soon evaporated when, as we were driving out of the underground car park, the TPMS identified that the rear offside tyre pressure had dropped by 0.4 bar - not a good sign.
Luckily, the car park had an airline so the pressure was reinflated to see if it would hold and we gingerly drove to the nearest tyre repair shop. The tyre fitter was brilliant, being extremely considerate with the car and identifying the culprit quickly.
It was repairable, negating the need for a new tyre, which may have been problematic because we were due in Annecy the following day.
A cloudy, damp morning greeted us as we left Andermatt for Annecy via a traffic-free Furka Pass, following the Rhone and passing hillsides full of vines (I didn't realise the Swiss were wine producers) on the way to Martigny before reaching the Col de la Forclaz and then heading into Chamonix. Unfortunately, an uncooperative Mont Blanc refused to show its true splendour.
The weather gradually improved and, by the time of our arrival in Annecy, the sun was most definitely shining. Our accommodation was a short walk to the Old Town and it came with its own garage parking - always a bonus.
The location on the shores of Lac d' Annecy is fantastic. One of the most crystal- clear lakes you will find anywhere, it's worth taking a boat trip to appreciate its true beauty and that of the villages on its shores.
We also visited Yvoire on the shores of Lake Geneva/Lac Leman (depending which side of the lake you are standing). Officially classed as 'the most beautiful village in France', it's easy to see why.
We remembered driving past Lac de Bourget back in 2018, so we paid this area a proper visit. Fantastic tapas in a restaurant near the lake was followed with a drive around it, which also included the very Monte Carlo Rally- like Col du Chat that offers stunning views of Lac du Bourget - France's largest and deepest freshwater lake.
After six nights in Annecy, it was time for our last stop in Epernay for three nights in the capital of Champagne. Rather than sticking to the very efficient autoroutes, we turned off onto the D971 between Dijon and Troyes and were rewarded with fields and fields of stunning sunflowers.
Once again, our accommodation was centrally located. This time, we were directly overlooking Moet & Chandon's champagne house and Le Ballon. Our host recommended nearby Hautvillers, so our first full day was spent wandering around the beautiful village followed by a drive along part of the Route Touristique du Champagne in rolling countryside past the many champagne houses. The gendarmerie were out in force here, probably checking for drivers who had indulged, but our lips were dry. On the second day, we walked the full length of L'Avenue de Champagne. We did try to tailgate some staff into the jardins and orangery belonging to Moet & Chandon, but we were quickly shown the door because it was obviously a private function. We eventually stopped for a champagne tasting at Collard- Picard and very nice it was too.
All too soon, it was time for a blast back up to the ferry via Belgium (where the roads are pretty ropey) and we were all set for sailing back home.
This was a fantastic road trip that I would thoroughly recommend. The Boxster is supremely practical, economical (with a 40mpg average being easily achievable on the autoroutes in the 718) and has enough luggage space for three weeks’ travel as long as your accommodation has a washing machine - oh, and space for wine too! All four of our Boxsters have spent time on the continent since 2005, predominantly in France and, in particular, the Dordogne.
Beautiful top- down motoring with glorious weather and stunning scenery? It's what these cars were made for. If you haven't tried it, I suggest that you do.