So what popped up on my memories today? Our family trip to Spain and France last summer. It was pretty unplanned, a little chaotic and kind of cool. We did book airfare to Barcelona, hotels in Barcelona and France and a rental car. From there, we just let the days lead us to the next step.
After a few days in Barcelona, we drove into southern France on the Mediterranean. French people vacation on the Mediterranean, right? Let's see what that is all about. So we rented a Volvo in Spain. All of the manuals, etc., were in Spanish. That really isn't an issue unless a light goes on when you are in rural France where they may not exactly be fluent in Spanish and they certainly do not speak English. Everything worked out. We just used Google translate. But I will say I do regret ignoring the "repair shop" lesson in high school French.
One of the fun things about traveling is seeing how different people live. So apparently in Spain, they have worries about children being ejected from car seats by airbags (see the visor warning label). As well, people add "blue" to the gas tanks. I'm not sure what "blue" is, but it was a little tricky to find at the roadside gas stops.
With the little adventures, it was fun to just see what was there. On the road, we stopped off at a little town on the border called Narbonne. It was a beautiful town. First things first, we stopped for lunch at an outdoor cafe on the river. I of course had a glass of the table wine. I love California wines, but really, nothing beats the cheap French table wines. We explored an Abby from the 13th century and wandered the aisles of the local Monoprix. There, we picked up the cheap cheese. Some camembert, some goat cheese and some bread, voila, afternoon snack!
After our drive (about 3-4 hours, including lunch and the stop at the service station), we found our hotel. We stayed at this really fun family hotel, Cap Pirate. This was such a great hotel. First, our room had a little backyard area with a grill and hot tub. And the cocktails were so innovative. One changed color, another was smoked. And these weren't just gimmicks. In one, lemon juice was used to change the color of the cocktail and it was a part of the flavor. The cheap cheese plate had cheeses that are gourmet stateside. And at the dinner buffet, they were throwing around lobster and oysters like it was no big deal. For the breakfast buffet, there was a squeezer so my kids made freshly squeezed orange juice and grapefruit juice every morning. And finally, there was a water park. After a few days of city traveling, all kids want a water park. My husband was intimidated because English wasn't common, however, most people were so friendly and really helpful. And I speak French, they weren't being mean.
Cap Pirate is on Cap d'Agde on the Mediterranean. We spent some time on the sea and in the nearby villages. We did have to walk around 20-30 minutes from the hotel to the beach. It was an interesting walk. I grew up in Massachusetts and we vacationed on Cape Cod most summers. Cap d'Agde was sort of like that. There were lots of campsites and small cabins where people seemed to be camped out for a while. People biked to the beach and to town and grilled most nights.
The nearby towns are quintessential France. We visited Saint-Thibery Everything closed at 1. We got into a bakery as they were locking up. They unlocked the doors and let us get some pastries.
We explored the town. Along with a cathedral, there was this old Roman bridge. We saw the town from the old railroad tracks where we took a Pedalorail. This is basically sort of a bike type of thing on the railway tracks. It was hot and humid. My family didn't love this excursion. But I did!
We loved exploring this small corner of France. We had no plans. We had no expectations of what to find. We didn't have a list of this site or that cathedral. We just sort of hung out, played on the beach, saw some really old churches and ate some yummy pastries. I do like the ease of a planned vacation. But sometimes, it is just nice to let go and absorb.