Day 94-96: Seville
We last left off in our final day in Portugal as we crossed the border via bus to Spain. Our first stop was Seville, which was a last minute change of plans as I needed a few urgent legal documents notarized (tip: don’t ever sell a house while overseas!)
Most of our time in Seville was spent dealing with notary/embassy/shipping issues, unfortunately, but we did manage to break away for an afternoon to visit the iconic Plaza de España.
Late one night we found a free flamenco show that took place in a crowded, sweaty dining hall that only locals seemed to know about. Flamenco is hugely popular here, and the performance was captivating.
A few days walking through the streets of Seville was all it took to put it at the top of my list of places to live. Every building, cafe and storefront—at least in the city center—could be pulled from a design magazine. I’ll be taking a lot of home inspiration back to the states with me—watch out Florida!
Day 97-99: Ibiza
As soon as we’d gotten a taste of Spain, we were on a plane to Ibiza to meet up with an old friend for three nights on the infamous party island. I stayed mostly unplugged during this time, managing to take just one photo from our balcony. It was a wild and memorable weekend for sure. No further explanation needed 🙂
Day 100-104: Barcelona
Our Ibiza recovery began the moment we landed in Barcelona, but we weren’t about to let our low energy and lack of sleep hold us back from making the most of such a beautiful city.
Barcelona is huge and diverse, with a simple and expansive metro line to get around.
Our hostel was in the Gràcia district, but much of our time was spent walking south towards the beach.
The most memorable day there was spent renting bikes and pedaling our way through the Gothic Quarter and down the Barceloneta Beach boardwalk. Highly recommended!
We walked the streets looking for Gaudi architecture, scouted hotel rooftops for the best city views, hiked park trails, and rode a gondola over the harbor. And we ate tapas and drank sangria, all day every day, as you do in Spain.
Barcelona is one of those cities that people visit and end up never leaving. It’s extremely livable—rich history and culture, clean, safe, gorgeous weather, great shopping, amazing food, beautiful beaches, down to earth people, plenty to do and see, and easy to get around… it has it all. If I had to pick somewhere to live right now outside of the US–Barcelona would be it.
A few days to see it all wasn’t nearly enough (it never is) but we were so anxious to move on to the next leg of our journey—a road trip through the south of France!
Day 105: Perpignan
The original plan was to rent a car in Barcelona and work our way north, but that quickly changed after finding out it would cost an extra $800 to return the car in a different country. Instead we opted to take a $15 bus ride into the first city in France, and booked our tickets the night before we left.
Upon arrival at the Perpignan bus station, we lugged our bags around in search of a car rental company, which proved difficult with no signage and lack of wifi. When we finally found someone, they informed us that they had no cars available and to try our luck at the airport.
After hailing the first cab we could find (which all appeared to be Mercedes or Jaguar), we watched in shock as the meter rose a staggering €0.10 per second. By the time we’d reached the airport—a mere three miles away—it was up to €25… for a ride that would have been $8 in Barcelona and $3 in Colombia. We feared the stereotypes about the French hating Americans were true, as surely locals wouldn’t pay this exorbitant amount.
Once at the airport, our fears became a reality as every single car rental desk confirmed they were out of cars. Not a single car available to rent in the entire city.
Helpless and defeated, we were at least able to barely connect to a weak wifi signal long enough to book a cheap motel a few miles away and reserve a car to begin our road trip the following day. With taxis being our only transportation option in this isolated town, we flagged one down outside of the airport and watched him struggle to communicate with his GPS. He didn’t seem to understand the hotel name we’d given him (or make sense of any phone navigation) and began going the wrong direction, as the meter climbed just as fast as our first ride. I tried my best to jog my vocab memory from three years of high school French classes, but “bibliotheque” and “steak-frites” wasn’t going to fix this situation.
Another 10 minutes and €30 later, we settled into a deserted motel with a broken A/C and reminded ourselves that even on our worst day when everything goes wrong, we wouldn’t trade any of this for the world.
The streets were completely empty at 10pm, but we managed to grab a pizza and a bottle of wine from the last remaining open business.
That night in our room we opened the window overlooking the town, sat under the moonlight with our pizza and wine, and toasted to our first night in France. It may not have gone as planned, but the days that would follow would end up being perhaps the best of my life.
Day 106-107: Perpignan > Quillan > Limoux > Carcassonne
With the keys to our Citroën (lovingly named Cecile) in hand, we left Perpignan in the dust and headed west. Our final destination was the castle town of Carcassonne, just over an hour from us by freeway, but we opted instead to take the scenic route.
With no other car in sight for miles, my former days of racing cars took over as I shifted gears around the narrow windy roads. Renting a car suddenly became the single best decision we’d made on this trip.
The sunny countryside soon gave way to forested mountains shrouded in clouds as we climbed in altitude. With plenty of time until we had to be in Carcassonne, we meandered through the hills, taking any road that caught our eye. From dirt roads leading up to a castle, to squeezing through tiny medieval villages and inside tunnels carved into cliffs, there was a surprise at every turn.
We stopped briefly at a handful of spots along the way, and decided to grab a bite to eat in the town of Quillan.
From the main road it’s quite simple and unassuming, but then we walked closer to the river and realized what a gem we had stumbled upon. Perfectly aged stone and plaster buildings with pastel shutters lined narrow and deserted streets (we soon realized that almost every town on our journey is nearly empty, a bit strange).
Then we reached the river, and Quillan instantly became my favorite French town.
On the other side of the river lies the remains of a 13th century castle, which we climbed for incredible views overlooking the valley (just wait for the drone shots in our France video!)
After a successful video shoot and our bellies full with cheap baguette sandwiches, we were finally on our way to Carcassonne.
Carcassonne is a place we’d never heard of until a Google search just days before we’d arrived. It was an easy decision to lock down an AirBnb, as we’d be arriving on July 14th, Bastille Day, (the French independence day, much like our 4th of July in the states) and Carcassonne puts on the second biggest fireworks show in France, after Paris. July 14th also happens to be Lucas’ birthday, so were looking forward to celebrating with the entire country.
Our AirBnb was wonderful—right in the heart of town with a balcony view of the castle walls. The sweet husband and wife hosts owned a bakery just down the street, and gave us wine and a picnic dinner as a birthday gift.
The food in this region is delicious—easily the best we’ve had on this trip. The French take pride in their food and it shows in their creative ingredients and presentation.
It’s not exactly cheap though, with the average plate at around €20. Instead we’ve been snacking our way through France, filling up on croissants, crepes and €5 baguette sandwiches. And cheese and olives and gelato and of course, wine. I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself when we get to Italy—Lord help me.
We’ve been to many a castle in our day, but the one in Carcassonne? Undeniably the greatest. Technically a fortress, this 2,500 year old medieval citadel is enclosed by a 2 mile long wall with a village inside. Photos cannot do it justice (especially without a tripod at night) but this picturesque ancient town sits atop a hill overlooking Carcassonne and vineyards below.
During the two days we were there, my inner six year old emerged as I pranced along the castle streets, playing the soundtrack from Beauty and the Beast while wearing a flower crown. You 30-something ladies raised on Disney get it… childhood fantasy bucket list: Check. No shame here.
Fortunately, Lucas loves castles even more than I do, so he was in his own sort of heaven on his birthday.
Before dusk we grabbed baguette sandwiches, a bottle of wine and a blanket, and found the perfect picnic spot in a vineyard to await the Bastille Day fireworks celebration.
The evening hours flew by as we reflected on what we’d just experienced over the past 48 hours in France and the incredible moments that would soon follow. I realized that I’d never been so blissfully happy as I was here and now—in this small town we didn’t even know existed a few days ago. I’m still half expecting to wake up from this dream at any moment.
Road tripping is a completely different sort of traveling than hostel hopping city to city by plane, train and bus. After just two days in France I wished we could redo our entire trip this way—and we’ve already made plans to rent a car in Italy. There truly is no substitute for pure freedom and landing wherever the wind takes you.
So far on this trip I’ve claimed that every country has been better than the next, but nothing can ever replace France. Owning a chateau here is now a major life goal—the name has already been chosen and design decisions made. Until then, we just need to find a contractor who can build one for us in Florida 🙂
We’re just getting started in this country—our week long road trip continues in the next post! If you want to follow along with us as we go, I’ve been posting Instagram stories & Snapchats throughout the day as well. Shoot us a message and say hi!
The end of our trip around the south of France, next…