Having a car is overrated, or at least, that’s what we say through gritted teeth as we cling onto the sweaty bus pole every morning. It’s harder than ever to justify four wheels when it’s basically a choice between mobility or eating for the next decade. It’s just so darn expensive, and clearly the number of people choosing to learn how to drive are aware of that: according to the DVLA applications for provisional licenses have dropped by 100,000 since 2007.
The result of this could be many things: positive environmental impact, or a negative effect on local business. But actually, the real issue is probably more severe: just how are we going to experience the life altering road trips of yesteryear? Who will write the next generation of classic road-trip hits? Or write their way to become the next Jack Kerouac?
Even if you’re a non-driver, don’t write off that road trip experience just yet. Here’s how you can make some of Europe’s most earth shatteringly beautiful road-trips happen, without a car.
La Grande Corniche
This is the land of white yachts and deck shoes, les glaces and fresh peches blanches from Frejus, past Nice, Monaco, and towards the Italian border. It’s a place where helicopter parking is as ubiquitous as car parking, La Corniche is all blue skies, white houses, and red convertibles, immortalised in the words of F Scott Fitzgerald: 'a sea as green as green milk, blue as laundry water, wine dark.'
Except you’ll be doing it in a bus, or on the train. Not that that reduces any of the romance or intrigue of course. La Grande Corniche hums with the traffic of excited holiday makers, eager to point out the flecks of white sailing boats scattered on the horizon like a snow storm painted by Pisarro. Use the trip to sample the Cote d’Azur’s startlingly fresh produce: the tomatoes that taste like sunshine picked up from a farmer’s cart by the side of the road, the fleshy purple olives that just fall off their stones, and fruity, intense olive oils that trickle green over baguettes. At least in a train there’ll be less chance for you to plummet off the cliff a la Grace of Monaco, whose ill-fated road trip along the same stretch resulted in her mysterious death.
How: Ask for a Carte Isabelle railpass for 15 euros (12-25 year olds), which offers you unlimited travel for a day on any route along the Cote d’Azur at the local train station. It’s valid from Frejus all the way to the Italian border town of Ventimiglia, but for the La Corniche route, we’d recommend travelling from Marseille along to Monaco, hopping on and off for swims and peaches along the way.
The Great North Road
The Great North Road is almost the A1, but that doesn’t sound as enticing and shrouded in mystery. It marks the original trading route from London to Edinburgh. It’s alleged that notorious highwayman Dick Turpin rode his horse down from York to London to provide an alibi for his crimes, so dozens of ancient coaching inns line the road, making great jump off points for cream teas and as you get further north, parkin and Fat Rascals from Betty’s in York. Between Alnwick and Berwick upon Tweed suburbia is replaced by wild white sand beaches and gulls shitting on the car. It’s head-clearingly desolate, and the hum of the engine will lull you into a meditative state before you hit up Edinburgh’s superlative bars and restaurants.
How: Carpool this for free. Thousands of people drive the A1 or the Great North Road every day, and it’s one of the most popular routes of car share websites. Hop in and out to your heart’s content - just remember to book the next leg.
The Amalfi Coast
This is one road trip that’s better if you’re not behind the wheel. The winding roads that cling to the cliffs as they wend their way towards Positano from Sorrento are terrifyingly narrow, coupled with the southern Italian interpretation of safe driving, making taking the local bus or train a no-brainer on this route. The great news is that it’s possible to get your road-trip fix of the whole Amalfi coast by public transport. Starting in Naples, take the Circumvesuviana train down to Sorrento (stopping of at Pompeii and Vesuvius for hiking if you wish). From there, the road trip proper starts. A public bus goes the whole way to Salerno (the end of the Amalfi coast) - just pay the driver 10 euro, grab a seat on the right hand side, and watch one of the most famous vistas in Europe play out before you: pastel coloured houses tumbling down the steep hillsides and deep, clear coves included.
How: Read up on the trip here but buy your ticket on the bus from the driver. Buses are frequent; if you miss one there’s sure to be another along soon.
Trollstigen mountain path
Literally, 'the troll road', the Trollstigen is one of the most spectacular road trips in Europe. The only snag? It’s usually so iced over and snow-plagued that it’s only open at the end of May. Fly into Alesund (dirt cheap flights from London with Norwegian Air) and take the bus from Andalsnes along the Route 63 scenic road towards Valldal over the Trollstigen mountain pass. Give this one a miss if you get car sick - there are eleven hairpin bends and an incline of 10% in some parts. Highlights along the trip are the Stigfossen waterfall and view of the Trolltindene mountain ranges: it’s out the way but staggeringly beautiful. Plus, considering the prices of car hire and petrol in Norway, even the steep bus fare (£19 one way) is more than warranted for this trip.
How: Visit Norway has comprehensive information on how to take the bus along this route.
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.