Northern Spain and South of France – Nice, Monaco and More!
In the last post I said that Barcelona was my favorite place we visited, so the South of France has to be my second favorite. We decided to rent a car and drive thru the South of France. But before we got to France, we drove thru Northern Spain. The day we left Barcelona was a little overcast and as the day went on it began to rain. As we were speeding along the highway, (which tip no. 1: have lots of change in Euros, lots of Toll Roads) I spied an old fortress sitting on top of a hill, so we made our first detour, and went exploring. I didn’t get the name of the village we drove thru to get to it! Another interesting little fact was all over Spain, France and England we saw beautiful yellow fields of flowers, they were fields of Rapeseed, which is used to make Canola oil. You can see them in the background of the picture above.
They actually had a restaurant and banquet area inside the Fortress. But we decided to drive on and did not eat there.
We did decide to stop in Girona, Spain and had lunch in the Plaza. Hannah had to actually use her spanish here! Girona is a beautiful little city/village. It has so much diversity, there was a modern part, then you walked in to the older part where we had lunch.
Once we had lunch, we walked into the even older part and wondered around for a bit. There is an old cathedral and the streets get narrow and we would have loved to been able to spend more time there.
In a lot of ways I thought it reminded me of pictures of Venice I have seen. Loved all the different colors of the buildings.
We finally made it to our Bed and Breakfast outside of Montpellier, France. We found it online, on a European Bed and Breakfast site. It was the Domaine de saint clément. Our hostess was Calista Bernabe, she is an american who married a Frenchman and they were a lovely couple, who were so helpful in helping us find where to eat, she even made reservations for us, and suggested what sites to see in the area.
I highly recommend bed and breakfasts over hotels in Europe, you generally get more room, the food was great, and the host are usually very helpful. You also get to experience the culture and people a little more.
The breakfast every morning was fresh, warm croissants with homemade jams, coffee, orange juice and other breads and fruits.
We arrived on a sunday evening and in that area, there wasn’t much open for dinner, but she called around and found us a place to eat. We were a little out of our element there but it was an experience!
The Cygory was the restaurant and the decor was on the elegant side. The service and food was okay, but I wouldn’t really recommend it. And yes those are snails on the plate and I was brave enough to try one. Not so great!
Calista advised us to go tour a little village tucked up in the hills called Saint-Guihem-le-Desert. Beautiful little village that you walk thru. It has an old monastery and lots of little shops to visit. Another tip is to find the Tourist information place, because they generally speak some english and they will have some information in english. She also said that during the summer this could be a very busy place, but because it was still early in the season and it was a little rainy we almost had the place to ourselves.
In the courtyard of the Monastery.
Hannah got hungry, so she bought a petite Quiche to snack on.
After spending the morning in the hills, we headed for the coast. We first drove to Cathédrale de Maguelone. It was a very old cathedral, that sits on a peninsula. I have to say the people were not real friendly and we didn’t spend a lot of time there. We did see the flamingos driving there and back. Next stop was Aigues -Mortes, the Saint Louis of the Mediterranean. It is a port city surrounded by walls, and was founded in 1240.
We walked around the entire city on the ramparts. It also had great shopping and places to eat. It is still a functioning city.
The next day we packed up and headed to Nice to our next bed and breakfast. But on our way we stopped in Nimes to see the sights.
Arènes: The Ancient Roman Amphitheater – which Hannah said was 1/4 of the size of the Colosseum in Rome. But they are still holding events in this one.
I just had to include this picture, it is a street we are driving on in Nimes, not much room!
Fountain on the beautiful Esplanade de Charles de Gaulle in the city centre.
Maison Carrée -a classical Roman temple built between 20 and 12 B.C.
After leaving Nimes we traveled to another well know site.
Pont Du Gard – a Roman aqueduct bridge on the Gardon River built around 19 B.C.
We finally made it to Nice!
In Nice we stayed in another Bed and Breakfast, this one is called Serenita Di Giacometti. Our host was Bernard, who was a great host. We were only the second Americans to have stayed there. Even though Bernard did not speak very much english and our french is horrible, we were still able to communicate. He also made dinner reservations for us and then had us follow him to the restaurant so we could find it! He also suggested places to see.
Our view from where we ate breakfast.
On the drive to Monaco, looking back over Nice! Beautiful!
We drove to Monaco and spent most of the day there. They were actually setting up for the big race while we were there, which was kind of cool to see.
There was so many beautiful flowers and gardens in the Mediterranean.
The Palace, and yes we toured it, saw where Princess Grace lived and saw the changing of the Guard!
The Monte Carlo Casino. Me and Hannah got to go in, we just walked in looked around and came back out, but Mark couldn’t go in because he had shorts on! Most of the people were taking pictures of all the luxury cars parked out front.
Driving to Monaco we took the coastal road, but on the advice of Bernard we took what he called the Middle road, and stopped at the village of Eze. So this is what Trip Advisor says about Eze, and I couldn’t have said it better so I copied it! “Your jaw will drop at the gorgeous view of the Mediterranean from Eze, a charming hilltop town on the Cote d’Azur. Its beautiful cobblestone streets and hot-pink Bougainvillea are a far cry from the glamour of Cannes or St-Tropez—and for travelers who could care less about celebrities and megayachts, that’s quite appealing. Shoppers will delight in the many local perfumeries and art galleries.” It was a very charming village with so many little shops you could spend all day there just exploring them! Loved all the art galleries, and the garden was beautiful. You do have to pay to get into it, but it is worth it just for the views!
The next day we left the coast behind and headed inland to see the Grand Canyon of France. The countryside was beautiful!
The Canyon is not as spectacular as our Grand Canyon, but it is worth the visit, and halfway through is a lovely little restaurant, where the view and setting is great, you are actually eating on the rim. And the staff was very friendly, which in France is not always the case!
This was a village that we drove by as we were leaving the Canyon.
And as we were driving to Marseille to turn in our car and take the train to Paris, we had to stop and take a picture of the vineyards and the poppies!
Sorry this post was so long and so long in coming! I promise the others will be shorter! Thanks for stopping by and hoped you enjoyed seeing some of our trip.