Last month, we gave you an overview of sightseeing in Europe via Corvette or rental car. Traveling by Vette (our favorite, but the most expensive, approach) typically requires sending your pride and joy to the Continent, since rental Vettes are difficult to come by. Shipping by sea (vs. plane) is the least expensive method, but it requires time, patience, and, most important, a reliable shipper. We recommend buying shipping insurance to cover any damage that might occur during transit. Your Corvette must have a clear title with no lien, or you will need written permission from your loan company before transporting it to Europe.
You'll also need to obtain auto insurance during your trip. Some companies, such as USAA, offer European coverage if you insure with them. We suggest contacting your agent to see if such coverage is available. If not, blanket auto-insurance riders are available for one month and are usually priced at $800 to $1,000.
If the prospect of shipping your Corvette seems daunting (or simply too pricey), you can always rent a car from a large rental agency such as Hertz or Avis. These companies have offices throughout Europe, and you can even make your rental reservations ahead of time on the Internet. On the few occasions we've been forced to take this route, we've always chosen diesel-powered vehicles to minimize our fuel expenses and purchased supplementary insurance from the rental company to reduce our liability during the trip.
With a valid passport in hand, your next step is to decide where you want to go and for how long. What follows is an example of a recent seven-day European trip we took that included stops in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. As you'll see, we packed a lot into our short, but very enjoyable visit. Here's a day-by-day overview of our trip:
We arrived at Schiphol International Airport in Amsterdam and took the hotel shuttle bus to our hotel (Best Western Bastion Hotel Amsterdam Airport). After checking in, we picked up our pre-reserved rental car and drove into town. We toured the city by car using our GPS and visited both the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House. After a nice dinner in Amsterdam, we went back to our hotel to recover from our flight.
Seeing Corvettes on this trip was a must, so we drove 85 km (56 miles) north to Andre Boer's amazing Corvette Museum in Wezep (www.autobedrijfandreboer.nl). Boer has about 60 Corvettes on display, from '54 to C6 editions, and is a very friendly host who speaks excellent English. After our visit we drove 247 km (153 miles) to Hasselt, Belgium, where we spent the night at a hotel we found on the Internet. Hasselt is 20 km (12.5 miles) southwest of Circuit Zolder (www.circuit-zolder.be/en). The historic, 3.98-km (2.492-mile) Zolder circuit opened in 1963 and was home to the Belgium Grand Prix for many years. Next, we headed 97 km (61 miles) to Spa, in Belgium. Famous for its hot-spring baths, this city also boasts beautiful architecture and a casino. We reserved a hotel in advance for our planned two-night stay.
The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is located 10 km (6 miles) from the city of Spa and held its first race in 1922 (www.spa-francorchamps.be). Over the years, the circuit has grown smaller due to safety concerns, and today it measures 7.004 km (4.352 miles). It's one of the most challenging circuits in Europe due to its twisty turns and pronounced elevation changes. A Corvette C6.R won the 24 Hours of Spa in 2007 and 2009. After walking around the circuit, we headed to the Spa Racing Museum in Stavelot. The museum is located in an old abbey and is a worthwhile stop (www.abbayedestavelot.be/hp/pre_home.htm). It features an amazing collection of famous racing cars as well as two other non-racing exhibits. After a full day, we headed back to our hotel in Spa.
Our next adventure took us to the city of Bastogne, located 82 km (51 miles) from downtown Spa. Plan on spending the morning exploring this historic city. Bastogne, which was featured in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, was surrounded by the German army in the winter of 1944. When asked to surrender, U.S. General Anthony McAuliffe reportedly told the Germans, "Nuts!" and continued fighting. The city was nearly destroyed, but General George Patton broke through enemy lines and saved it. Bastogne has been completely rebuilt and has an impressive museum located right outside the city limits. Downtown is a great place to have lunch in one of the many sidewalk cafés.
After lunch we drove 134 km (84 miles) to the famous Nürburgring, in Germany. We stayed at the Agnesen-Hof Hotel (www.agnesen-hof.de) in nearby Barweiler/Nürburgring, located around 10 km (6 miles) from the track entrance. After checking in, we explored the area. The 'Ring is a short drive on B258, which leads to the circuit entrance. We passed the main entrance for the time being, continued on B258 a few kilometers to highway K20, and turned right into the Nürburgring Industrial park. This is where the auto manufacturers maintain garages for testing prototype production cars. It's always worth cruising around to see if anything interesting is parked outside.
Next, we stopped at the nearby gas station on B258, located between K20 and K93. Besides offering the chance for a fill-up, this station has a large selection of car models and T-shirts that might be of interest. This is where the manufacturers fill up their cars before performing track testing on the Nordschleife. After getting the lay of the land, we headed back to our hotel for a nice dinner and a good night's sleep.
Time to explore the legendary Nürburgring. The original track opened in 1927 and presently has two components: The 5.148-km (3.2-mile) F1 circuit, which opened in 1984, and the 20.81-km (12.93-mile) "Nord-schleife" (North Loop) course. Access to the F1 circuit is strictly limited, but the Nordschleife is open to the public at certain times during the week. Keep in mind, however, that rental-car insurance does not cover you if you use your vehicle to lap the 'Ring. If you want to experience the track at speed, we recommend using the BMW Ring Taxi (advanced reservations are required) or another "track taxi" rental agency. We used RSR Nürburg for a story we did, and found it to be very professional (www.rsrnurburg.com).
The entrance to the track is located outside the small town of Nürburg. Each lap costs 22 Euros, which you pay at the entrance. Mondays are scheduled for the manufacturers to test prototype vehicles. This is where photographers get many of those preproduction spy photos you see in various car magazines. Near the main grandstand is the new Ring Werk leisure park. Plan on spending approximately four hours here to experience all of the exhibits. Admission is €19.50 for adults and €11.00 for children. For more information go to www.nuerburgring.de/en/ringwerk.html. After a full day at the legendary Ring, we returned to the Agnesen-Hof for the night.
We left the hotel early and headed 278 km (174 miles) to the Belgian city of Antwerp. After an easy three-hour drive, we used our GPS to sightsee and find a nice restaurant for lunch. In the late afternoon, we drove 160 km (100 miles) to our hotel in Amsterdam. Speed limits are strictly enforced on this route, and traffic is heavy in the afternoon. Once we arrived, we returned our rental car, confirmed our flight, and packed for our flight home the next morning.
This is just a small sampling of the many things you can see and do in Europe, whether by Corvette or other means of transportation. Remember, don't be afraid to be adventurous. If you're armed with an international cell phone, a GPS device, and a little preparation, you, too, can enjoy the auto enthusiast's trip of a lifetime. Happy traveling.