Judy and Bill’s trip to Spain, France and Greece
We want to pass on our incredible good fortune by describing how it felt to us to be in three countries in Europe.
Today is our final day on our first Greek Island, Paros. It’s sparse, dry, the hills dotted with box-like traditional white structures, surrounded with green gardens. Bougainvillea, and the dry weather plants in bloom everywhere, the earlier blooming red poppies almost gone. Roses in bunches, filling the air with their scents without anyone asking.
At the beginning of this European odyssey in Barcelona, we rented a car without a hitch.
Our drive north along the coast (the Costa Brava) reminded us of many other coastlines; cliffs, rocks, deep blue water. The most thrilling were the discovery of small hidden coves.
The curvy road is a gorgeous drive which we’d do again in a second. Our two overnights, Begur and Cadaques were small towns, colors of ancient building ranging from soft orange to stone.
One was tucked against a hill, the other laid out along the waterfront, both were for walking the stone streets. Daughter Teresa has history in Begur, with even a street named for her grandfather.
As we drove, we viewed Roman ruins, a huge monastery carved into a high mountain, squeezed through ancient village streets, saw few cars and wide open countryside farms growing varieties of crops. One moment after passing the border of Spain into France (by the way, this was Catalonian country and they do NOT consider themselves from Spain), miles of vineyards lined the rolling hills.
In France, lunching, wine and dinners with their multi-cultured friends describes our delightful return visit with effervescent and gorgeous Pat and a favorite man of ours, Bob B in Uzes. Their Uzes, tucked into the most western part of Provence, has our favorite plaza in all Provence…we made it on time for the heavenly Saturday market under the plane trees.
Imagine a stone courtyard filled with colorful stalls filled with every conceivable fresh food and product from that area.
Bill, such a capable driver with his navigator beside him, drove to eastern Provence to meet with our dwindling but most loved South African family. Lunch of white asperge with two French sauces, put us square on for the time with the beloved Sue and Len, all of us together at daughter Kate and Lane’s (such a handsome, fun, capable, and clever couple) newly renovated hillside country home.
Their buildings lie comfortably on a slopping hillside, the view south toward Aix. This part of Provence is little traveled, and these small villages aren’t on some maps…Vaugines, their tiny hamlet, and Cucuron where mother and father Sue and Len have bought a place.
The latter village has everything, from scotch tape, to mechanics, all
built around a square where the movie “A Good Year” was filmed. With South African services and security in shambles, Sue and Len have left their home country behind to follow their only daughter and son-in-law to start what will be their new adventure. From Cucuron, one can drive to the Alps, to the sea at Nice, to Italy, or to the train to Marseille or Paris.
On we went to meet son Andrew in Carcassonne, the planner of the next part of our tour. Carcassonne, which is an ancient city in the south of France, is built around a massive and imposing fort. Our trip would never have happened if not for him; Andrew writing ages ago, encouraging, scouting and describing.
Our hotel, inside the citadel, was luxurious, the narrow streets now filled with enticing shops. In a “cookie heaven,” we filled a bag with cookies, from baskets each filled with a different type cookie, all the same price. This same practice has now been copied by many US markets. In France this first time view was most enchanting. The euro was still high to the dollar, but we avoided any worries, beforehand deciding to go the trip with positive experiences.
We wandered the next day to Girona, Spain, our following day an early flight to the Spanish island of Majorca! Towns explored, wonderful old hotels to hunker in,
cheese, wine and sausages on a deck overlooking the Med., and always the time for photo stops. So far over 500 for me…many more for Andrew. With him driving, Bill got a four day rest, and I directed from the back seat.
This island is one to study, one of mountains, flat lands, curving roads, many beautiful beaches, and villages filled with delicious shops, cafes and restaurants. And I haven’t even spoken of all the churches, monasteries, and abbeys.
Flying back to Girona, Spain, the town where the Tour de France riders stay and practice, was again our place for a night and we explored to make the best of it. Another old village with much history built on each side of a river, the houses alongside fill travel photo albums everywhere.
The next day a flight to Athens minus Andrew brought our first disappointment. Athens, for us, was a negative…worse than Los Angeles traffic, graffiti everywhere.
Our hotel and the museum saved the experience…the hotel roof restaurant viewed the Parthenon on one side and the Zeus ruins on the opposite side, the latter which our room viewed. The Archaeological Museum is fascinating, huge, with sculptures, artifacts, and jewelry which reminded me of daughter L Liz’s jewelry. I took tons of photos!!
On Paros island and experiencing the complete opposite, we soaked up the last day by the pool and lazed around. We had toured around the entire island with ease in a rental car, then returned to our favorite town Parikia for some more walking.
So moments of kindness from the Greeks, we were overwhelmed at times. They gave us “special” starters, desserts, Masticia or another after dinner drink plus so much hospitality along the way.
Tomorrow, with service we booked from the start in Athens, a driver will pick us up, deliver us to the ferry for Naxos, our next four day adventure…then Santorini for three nights, and the last, Mytilini for five nights. Ferry is the wrong term; ferry to me is a plain somewhat worn out boat with lots of people and cars jammed together, maybe getting seasick or windblown. The Greek ferries are HUGE, a cruise ship size with inside spaces for first class cabins and all, plush seats for the next class, and cafes, and restrooms equaling hotel quality. Ending with toilet talk seems appropriate, as we are still doing the everyday things, eating, sleeping and bathing, the difference being we’e doing them in colorful surroundings filled with voices of every language, unreadable signs and memories of moments to fill a book.
(A reminder – all travel made possible by Bill’s generosity and kindness.)