Travel Diary: South of France and Northern Spain

Contrary to previous years, this year at the end of June we opted for an all-European itinerary for our holidays: we traveled from the French Riviera to the French Atlantic coast, and from there to Spain until the most extreme point, Finisterre. After, we followed an inland route through the Pyrenees to return to Provence and also visited Andorra along the way.

This was our complete itinerary:  viaggio

During the trip, our loyal companion has always been Booking.com, the hotel reservation site (if you are not registered yet and wish to do so, using this Booking link you will be credited 15 euros the first time you make a reservation).

Booking offers many advantages:

  • a wide range of different facilities (not only hotels, but also apartments, B&Bs, villas, hostels, etc.)
  • Almost always the best prices for a given facility
  • an excellent rating service, which makes it easy to understand the strengths and weaknesses of every hotel
  • the possibility, in many cases, to cancel the reservation until the last moment without any cost
  • frequent offers and promotions

For decades, we have been using Booking almost exclusively for our reservations all over the world, especially for itinerant trips.

 

DAY 1: SWITZERLAND – SAINT-TROPEZ

We leave Switzerland with bad weather, but when we finally arrive at our destination in Saint-Tropez the sky is blue and the sun shines. For tonight we have chosen to stay at a funny Polynesian style bungalow resort, the Kon-Tiki, located on a beautiful beach which also offers many other services. It’s an ideal place also for longer stays and for families with children.

The Kon-Tiki beach

Saint-Tropez port

We stroll along the narrow streets of the old town of Saint-Tropez, admiring the beautiful shops, now closed. The prevailing style, both in the boutiques and on the streets, is definitely the boho-chic!!

For dinner, we opt for a very nice sushi restaurant, the Kyoto, as we all love it in the family and it will be one of the very few times during this holiday where we have the opportunity to eat Japanese.

DAY 2: SAINT-TROPEZ – AIX-EN-PROVENCE – CARCASSONNE

Today we have quite a long way to go: departing from Saint-Tropez, we make our way to the beautiful town of Aix-en-Provence, where we arrive for lunchtime. We visit the center with its beautiful streets, the many churches and the squares and the markets, fully enjoying the beautiful Provencal atmosphere and the relaxed but busy lifestyle of this touristic, but ultimately quiet town.

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In this square full of young people, there are several nice restaurants and eventually we choose one that offers eccellent hamburgers!

The many are one of the highlights of every holiday in the South of France!

Among delicacies and lavender …

In the late afternoon we finally arrive at our destination for the night, Carcassonne.

In the late afternoon we visit the most touristy area of Carcassonne, the area within the castle walls with its small streets, immediately after a violent storm. The area is picturesque but not particularly fascinating; in fact, it reminds us of many other similar places already visited in France, like Mont-Saint-Michel and Saint Malo, which are of course beautiful for the location and the historic buildings, but also have a very touristy side.

Also, quite soon in the evening everything closes and the area is literally depopulated; the very few restaurants still open are expensive and definitely touristy and quite disappointing.

For this reason, we decide to dine on the market square downtown, where you will find several definitely more genuine restaurants.

We decide to stay at the comfortable and modern Hotel Ibis, located at a couple of kilometers from the old town and from which you can also walk to the castle, which is very convenient given the high number of tourists.

 

A view of the fortification of Carcassonne from downtown: a real spectacle in the soft sunset light, also thanks to the installation created by the Swiss artist Felice Varini.

The castle of Carcassonne exerts all its charm in the light of a beautiful sunset….

DAY 3: CARCASSONNE – BAYONNE (FRENCH-SPANISH BORDER)

The morning of our third day we have breakfast in downtown Carcassonne and we have the opportunity to visit the local food market, full of people buying everything from baguettes to apricots and straw bags.

We leave Carcassonne for another long car trip: today our final destination is Bayonne, a city close to the Spanish border, where the street signs are already written in two languages (French and Basque) and you can feel the cool ocean breeze.

Bayonne is a beautiful French town with a lovely riverfront with many restaurants and cafés, where we also decide to dine. The beautiful cathedral is also worth a visit.

For our overnight stay we opt for the delicious Hotel La Villa, a real villa in the green which has been transformed into a small charming hotel, with spacious and well furnished rooms and a beautiful garden where the next morning we will be served a delicious breakfast with local produce and fresh home-made cakes.

Bayonne riverside, the place-to-be for a great dinner…

And for greedy people, the city is full of “chocolateries”!

But before we go to our hotel, we extend our journey a little until we reach Biarritz, which we visit in the late afternoon. It’s a typical seaside town, full of people watching football (France is playing at that moment) in one of the many street cafés. We choose to walk along the promenade and the shopping mile. We close our visit with a good aperitif.

Biarritz seaside…

The long golden beach of Biarritz from above

Ocean view

After our walk in Biarritz, which that afternoon is under the fever of the World Cup that afternoon , we finally return to Bayonne, where we dine in a nice tapas restaurant a(you can already feel the proximity to Spain) close to the river. The atmosphere reminds us a bit of the Navigli in Milan, the clubs and restaurans are full of young people and people who enjoy themselves (also because it’s Friday night). It’s really very nice and we feel immediately part of it!

To be continued…

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