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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
After 9 months of researching, planning, mapping, reserving, and modifying, we were finally ready to set out on a family adventure of a lifetime. Thanks to the Volvo Overseas Delivery Program and helpful tips from this Swedespeed forum our trip was a truly amazing experience.



Day 1

To be honest, it was a bit of a rough start, though. Our 8 year old threw up all over himself on our United Airlines connection to Chicago. We got him cleaned up and changed into an extra set of clothes but felt terrible for all the passengers unfortunate enough to be sitting near us.

Since we flew basic Economy on United we only got a small snack, so after our 4 hour flight to Chicago we were ready to check out the SAS Lounge at O’Hare. It was not very big but had a nice selection of salads, bread, cold cuts, and drinks for our lunch, courtesy of Volvo with our SAS Economy Plus boarding passes. Not to be outdone by his younger brother, our 11 year old spilled the remainder of his bowl of ramen on his lap in the lounge. He changed clothes and we headed to our gate, ready to put these incidents behind us. Traveling with kids is not for the faint of heart!





Fortunately, the flight to Stockholm was uneventful. We were comfortable in Economy Plus, had plenty to eat and drink, and were kept occupied by the seatback entertainment system. We had a long layover before our flight to Gothenburg so visited the SAS Lounge in Stockholm. It was larger than the one in Chicago but had similar light food options.



After a short flight to Gothenburg and breezing through immigrations and customs, we spotted our Volvo driver. He was friendly and quickly delivered us in style to the Clarion Hotel Post in a black XC90, of course. Despite arriving a bit early, we were able to check into our room and had a Welcome letter and gift from Volvo waiting for us.

I took the boys for a swim in the rooftop swimming pool. Afterwards we headed out into town. We just looked around the Nordstan shopping mall and then strolled to the Posedian fountain statue and walked back through the Trädgårdsföreningen park. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and the Swedes were out in force enjoying the nice weather.









We headed back to the hotel for our dinner reservation at Norda. We enjoyed our Volvo set menu dinner of cod and ordered from the kids menu for the boys. Travel weary but excited about the next day, we retired to our room for an early night.

 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Day 2

The breakfast selection at the Clarion was expansive with many uniquely Scandanavian choices. Once we’d had our fill, we brought our luggage downstairs to meet another Volvo driver, in another black XC90. After a short drive, we were dropped off at the Factory Delivery Center. We checked in at the reception desk and while the driver stored our luggage.




The Delivery Experience has been written about many times in this forum and ours did not disappoint. It was thrilling to see our new XC40 be driven out into the showroom. We were given an overview of its features. I paid for the first aid kit, safety vest and all-weather mats at the reception desk while our delivery specialist installed them.






Since we had some time before lunch, I also asked for tickets to the Volvo Museum, compliments of Volvo. We loaded our luggage and I took a “spin” around the test track before heading out on the road for the first time. The Sensus Navigation system didn’t recognize the road construction in the area and I took the “scenic” route. The Volvo Museum was quite interesting and I wish we’d had a little longer to visit. It even had a full-sized Lego XC90.

We arrived back at the FDC for our lunch, Swedish meatballs all around except for me because I wanted to try the salmon. We still had a little time before the Factory Tour so we bought some Volvo swag in the FDC. The tour was fascinating but no photos, of course. Our XC40 was not made in Gothenburg, but we got to see lots of XC60’s getting “married” and rolling off the line for their “birthday”.





Next we headed to IKEA because we still had time before catching our Stena ferry to Denmark. We found a handy collapsible carry-on bag to use for souvenirs and chocolates that we would collect along our journey.

I ended up not going the route I had intended to the ferry terminal, so we found ourselves stuck in some heavy traffic and construction in Gothenburg. We cut it very close and were one of the last cars to board the ferry. After that close call, I stopped using the Sensus Navigation and switched exclusively to Google Maps through Android Auto on Google Fi which worked seamlessly throughout Europe. I had reserved the dinner buffet onboard, and we got a table with a view right over the bow of the ship.





Once in Denmark it was still a couple hours drive from the Frederikshavn ferry terminal to our hotel in Fredericia. It gave me the opportunity to try out Pilot Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control. As Best Western Rewards members, we had decided to stay at BW hotels for the rest of our trip, particularly those with free breakfast and free parking. The first was the quaint, thatched roof inn, Kryb I Ly.

 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Day 3

We had a full day planned for Legoland in Billund, but they didn’t open until 10 AM and we still had dirty kids clothes to deal with. I Googled a laundromat in the nearby town of Kolding that opened at 7 AM, so while the family slept in, I drove into town. The laundromat owner came to my rescue as I was struggling to translate the Danish signage and told me that she could do the laundry for me. I thanked her profusely and told her I’d be back to pick up it up in the morning. I returned to the hotel, roused the family, got them fed, and we headed straight to Legoland.

We spotted our first European castle...wait, no...that was the Legoland Castle Hotel. After a full day of fun at the Legoland mothership, we had dinner near our hotel at a seafood restaurant called COZY which was overlooking boat docks in the Danish Straits. We returned to the same hotel for the night and slept well - after assembling their new Lego sets.


 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Day 4

We got an early start and headed into Kolding to pick up our freshly laundered and folded clothes then made a quick stop at the Gertz Danish Bakery to buy some breakfast to go. We stopped to eat our “Danishes” at a rest stop picnic table somewhere before crossing the border into Germany (3rd country). Our next stop was the Niederegger Fabrikverkauf (factory outlet) in Lübeck, Germany for marzipan (a must-stop for my wife).



Since it would be about noon as we passed through Hamburg, I had planned a lunch break. Hamburgers in Hamburg! We ate at Jim Block, a German burger joint and strolled around the Schloss Bergedorf, Hamburg’s only surviving castle.



We had one more stop planned for the day in Hamelin on the Märchenstraße (Fairy Tale Route) to visit the town of the Pied Piper. We had hoped to arrive in time to watch the mechanical figurine Glockenspiel display but traffic and construction on the A7 between Hamburg and Hannover was atrocious. There were literally miles and miles of trucks lined up in the right lane at a near standstill. Nevertheless, we still had a nice stroll through the historic old town and the kids enjoyed following the rat plaques embedded in the cobblestones and checking out the various ratcatcher statues. After dinner we hit the road again and stopped for the night at the BW Hotel am Vitalpark in Heilbad Heiligenstadt. It turned out to be one of our favorite hotels on the trip.



 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Day 5

We got up in the morning and headed straight to the swimming area which was almost like a waterpark with multiple pools (but with no slides). After frolicking in the water for a while, we went back upstairs and had a buffet breakfast. Then we walked through a cute little Märchenpark which was right outside the hotel depicting various scenes from the Grimm Brothers fairy tales.





After checking out, we got on the road again with our first stop just an hour away in Kassel. We drove to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe to see the Hercules monument. The cascading waterfall is only only run twice a week but even without the active water features the imposing monument and view was still quite impressive.




After getting some good stair climber exercise, we set out again toward our next stop and lunch break. First, we grabbed a few sandwiches and cold drinks at an Aldi, then we went to a castle ruin I had just stumbled across on Google Maps when I was planning our trip, Burgruine Wartenberg. We had the place to ourselves and after a picnic lunch the kids loved chasing each other on the old castle walls. Despite all the famous tourist sites we would visit on our trip, they will probably remember playing in that obscure castle ruins in the middle of nowhere-Germany the most.




We had one last stop for the day, the pearl of the Romantische Straße, Rothenburg ob der Tauber. I intentionally planned a late afternoon stop there to avoid the mass of tourists that flood the cobblestone streets of the medieval walled town. We parked just outside the wall and walked along the top about halfway around the town. Then we descended the wall and walked back through town, stopping for a moment to capture a photo of the iconic Plönlein square. I had chosen the restaurant Alter Keller because I wanted a grilled schweinerückensteak for dinner, but the grill was closed because of the heat. Oh, did I mention our trip was smack-dab in the middle of the European Heat Wave of June 2019? I decided on the jägerschnitzel instead which was tasty.






Obviously I’m not much of a photographer, but this last photo I captured as we were leaving Rothenburg toward our hotel for the night is special because of the feelings it evokes. As I came around the bend of an old German country lane with the sunset illuminating Rothenburg on the hill, it hit me...I was actually driving our own new Volvo across Europe. Our Overseas Dream trip had actually become a reality.

 

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Thank you so much for sharing your trip! It brings back such wonderful memories. Your kids will remember it for the rest of their lives too!!
 

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So great! Love the map at the beginning. What a fantastic itinerary.
We are leaving in less than one month for 8/26 delivery and traveling with our boys (age 9 and 5) as well who are beyond excited as are we. Thanks for sharing!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
So great! Love the map at the beginning. What a fantastic itinerary.
We are leaving in less than one month for 8/26 delivery and traveling with our boys (age 9 and 5) as well who are beyond excited as are we. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks. It was fun working on that map with the boys. Being part of the planning helped them enjoy the experience more. But I kept some surprises up my sleeve until we got there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Day 6

We set out the next morning from the BW Aalener Roemerhotel after breakfast for the long drive to the 4th country on our epic European road trip, Austria. I stopped for gas and a vignette toll sticker before crossing the border. We parked in the parking garage carved deep into the Mönchsberg mountain of Salzburg and walked into the old town through a long tunnel. We were all ready for lunch so we strolled along the fast-flowing Salzach River to the restaurant Bärenwirt for some authentic Austrian fare.





After lunch we crossed the river and visited the Mirabell Gardens, which was featured in scenes from the Sound of Music. Then we meandered toward the Fortress Hohensalzburg looming above Salzburg. The boys enjoyed the quick and steep ride up the funicular to the castle grounds. There were many interesting exhibits in the fortress and the view over the historical Baroque city with the Austrian Alps as the backdrop was spectacular.





Finally we descended back down into the old town so my wife could buy some more chocolates. We made a perfunctory photo stop at the birth house of Mozart which now overlooks a city square dominated by a busy Starbucks. Rather than stay the night in Salzburg which constantly bustled with tourists, I had reserved a hotel back across the border in Germany at the BW Bayerischer Hof Miesbach, conveniently located along the route we would take the following morning toward the fairytale castle of the mad King Ludwig.

 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Day 7

The drive the next morning took us on a meandering route through many small Bavarian towns, and it was a nice break from the busy autobahn. We arrived before our scheduled time to pick up our reserved tickets at the ticket office. We opted for the Neuschwanstein tour only, not the neighboring Hohenschwangau castle, because I had a fun surprise for the kids afterwards. It was a nice walk up the road leading to the castle. The tour itself was relatively brief but the real highlight was the view of the castle from the Marienbrücke bridge.




After we’d had our castle fix for the day, we escaped the throngs of tourists and headed over to the nearby Tegelberg Alpine Slide or Sommerrodelbahn. A conveyor system pulled our “toboggans” to the top and then released us for a thrilling ride down. The kids also enjoyed the free zip lines at the base (with a view of Neuschwanstein in the background). Finally we proceeded to our lodgings for the night, the BW Hotel Am Schlossberg.



 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Day 8

Our drive this day would take us through western Germany and finally into our 5th country, Luxembourg. We stopped midday in the spa town of Bad Münster am Stein-Ebernburg in the Salinental valley. It was the last blast of the European heat wave that day and our car temperature gauge registered 113° F after our lunch stop. Mom found a bench along the Nahe River path to wait in the shade while, undaunted, us boys took a hand-pulled ferry for €1 across the river to hike up a steep trail to Rheingrafenstein perched atop the rocky cliff. We had the castle ruins to explore all by ourselves (no one else was crazy enough to hike up there in that heat) and the view was amazing. The boys cooled off in the river after coming back down the trail. We arrived at our hotel just outside of Luxembourg City, the BW Euro Hotel, for a late dinner at the hotel restaurant.






 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Day 9

We set out for Luxembourg City first thing in the morning. It’s a fun city to just wander around. We explored the tunnels of the Bock Casemates, walked through the historic Grund district, passed under awe-inspiring high bridges and aqueducts, and had lunch at an outdoor cafe in the Place d'Armes. But the kids favorite place in Luxembourg was the extraordinary city park, Parc de Monterey, complete with a pirate ship and interactive water features.






In the early afternoon we headed south into France (country #6). I had another surprise planned. Although we had decided against spending a day of our “European” vacation at the “American” theme park Disneyland Paris, I conceded to reserve an evening at the Disney Village dinner theater show, the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show with Mickey and Friends. They had horse riding, cattle rustling, gun shooting and, of course, singing and dancing. We even got some souvenir cowboy hats to bring home with us. It was an entertaining evening for all and we had more than enough to eat. Our hotel, BW Hotel Grand Parc, was nearby and full of Disneyland visitors.




 

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Great trip! Thanks for sharing it!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Day 10

We devoted the entire next day for a day trip into Paris and got an early start. I had no desire to drive our new Volvo into the City of Lights, so we parked at the Park and Ride lot of a nearby RER train station. We transferred to a Metro then disembarked at the Trocadéro for the dramatic approach down to the Eiffel Tower. We had enough time to enjoy a light breakfast of chocolate eclairs under the wrought-iron giant before our prepaid reservation time.

When we checked in, we were disappointed to learn that the lift to the summit wasn’t in operation, but we could still ride to the “second floor” and wait to see if they got it running. We lingered for a while just enjoying the view and almost decided to move on with our day until we finally saw people lining up at the lift to the summit. And up we went! It was worth the wait and it was an absolutely gorgeous day. I pointed out a couple of the other sights that we would visit, including the Arc de Triomphe and the Sacré-Cœur on Montmartre in the distance. In fact, our next stop was Napoleon's Triumphal Arch.







After spirally our way up one side of the arch and back down the other, we next took the Metro to the Louvre Palace square with the iconic glass pyramid. The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays so I had planned to visit the Musée d'Orsay instead. Maybe next time Mona. After a quick lunch in the underground Carrousel du Louvre mall, it was a brief walk to the Orsay Museum across the Seine River. It’s not as overwhelmingly vast as the Louvre but has a substantial collection of paintings and sculptures inside an ornate 19th century former train station.







An original version of our itinerary had included a stop at the Notre Dame de Paris, but after the devastating fire in April, we decided to visit the Basilica of the Sacred Heart overlooking Paris on Montmartre instead. We rode another funicular to the top and had a nice visit at the church. Afterwards we found a French restaurant nearby and the waitress recommended I must try the duck before leaving Paris, and so I did. We returned to our same hotel near Disneyland for the night after taking the train back to the station where we left our Volvo.






 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Day 11

The next morning we set out for our 7th country, Belgium, where we had a midday stop planned. As I mentioned before, our XC40 was not actually made in Sweden but at the Volvo factory in Ghent. However, that wasn’t why we picked the city but rather because right in the middle of town was the only remaining medieval castle with a moat in Flanders. Before visiting the Castle of the Counts, we had a quintessential Belgian lunch of moules frites (mussels and fries) at the restaurant De Witte Leeuw alongside the Leie river quay. The Gravensteen castle was a memorable highlight of our trip and included a tongue-in-cheek self-guided audio tour. We couldn’t resist stopping at a Belgian waffle stand before hitting the road again.







We ran into some very heavy traffic leaving Belgium while trying to cross into the Netherlands. We were stuck for nearly two hours trying to get through Antwerp because it seemed every tunnel was impassable due to accidents. We finally arrived in the seaside town of Scheveningen outside of The Hague. We had a very late dinner with a longtime family friend at a restaurant along the promenade as the sun was setting over sandy shore of the North Sea. We didn’t arrive at the BW Amedia Amsterdam Airport Hotel until quite late. As we quickly settled in for the night I couldn’t help but feel a gnawing pang of finality because Amsterdam was the last destination on our whirlwind European road trip.


 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Day 12

We had one last fully-packed day planned before our return flight home the following day. The most important activity that day was dropping off our car at the United Stevedores Amsterdam shipping terminal, but we intended to have some fun too. Before departing the hotel for the day, I cleared all the remaining flotsam and jetsam that we had accumulated after travelling nearly two weeks in our new car. Our first stop was Zaanse Schans, a historic recreation site complete with all things Dutch - windmills, wooden shoes, and cheese. Sure, it was touristy in a Colonial Williamsburg sort of way but we all enjoyed it.






We made one last stop at a car wash before we bid adieu to our Volvo. The drop-off process was easy. In fact, there was one XC40 already parked there for shipping, then another family came to drop off their V90, and as we were leaving in our Uber I caught a glimpse of yet another red-plated Volvo headed toward the terminal. Our driver dropped us off right behind the Anne Frank House. We had a short wait before our pre-scheduled online ticket time. There was a poignant self-guided audio tour and a series of short video presentations through the exhibit rooms and the original Annex.






Next we strolled by picturesque canals and through the bustling Dam Square toward the Central Station, carefully skirting around the Red Light District to avoid awkward questions. We had decided to experience an Indonesian rice table for dinner at the Aneka Rasa restaurant before catching a train to the airport. Our hotel had a free airport shuttle which we would also use to return to the airport in the morning also. We finished the day by reorganizing and re-packing our luggage to prepare for our flight back home in the morning.


 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Day 13

Our last day in Europe. We flew from Amsterdam to Copenhagen where we had some time to wander the airport. There was not just one but two Lego Stores. We also hung out and snacked in the SAS Lounge (and fortunately didn’t make a mess this time). We even spied the CPH airport version of the Little Mermaid. What we failed to realize was that we had to pass through another security checkpoint to get to our gate, and an incredibly long line had suddenly formed and was hardly moving. We just barely made it to the gate for the last boarding call. Perhaps we were just a little reluctant to have to leave.





As it turned out, our plane was about an hour delayed leaving Copenhagen due to some issue with the cargo hold door. But that extra lost hour reduced our layover in Chicago and by the time we made it through the “tired and huddled masses” endlessly zigzagging through an even slower line for US immigration and customs, we had missed our connecting flight home. United rebooked our tickets for the morning and SAS provided hotel and meal vouchers for the night. Considering how we had not missed any major attractions or milestones on our 8 country 2400 mile European road trip, having to stay an extra night in a Chicago airport hotel was only a minor inconvenience.
 
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