Hacia Francia: Reflections from Andrew part 1

Well the blog is finally back after a nice long hiatus for winter travel. One of the beauties of teaching, especially in government-run schools, is a long Christmas break, free of responsibilities. With this time off, Amanda and I took to the road to see new parts of Europe.

This time around, we had a couple of new travel partners. We were joined by my good friend and roadtrip expert, Mitchell, and one of our friends living in Spain, Lauren.

Our destination for this trip was Spain’s Costa Brava and the broad region of Southwest France. While Mitchell and I both thought that these regions would be a small area that could be covered in a week at a leisurely pace, we quickly realized that there was much more to do than we had time.

We began by car from Laredo across Spain’s rural northern lands of Navarra and Aragón, before finally reaching the eastern part of Cataluña. The very first day we were reminded of the fact that traveling across Europe in winter is a different experience than in summer. Mitchell and I had memories of a previous Spanish roadtrip, with 15 hour days of sunlight and not a cloud in sight. This one started out with wind, then rain, and then cold. But what one loses in weather in winter, one gains in off-season prices and an absence of other tourists.

Our first night was in the Girona province, where we stayed in the small town of Caldés de Malavella. Amanda had found a nice-looking hostal with a local feel and we were pleasantly surprised. We were greeted warmly, enjoyed a nice outdoor patio, and were fed a generous breakfast. We then headed up through two Catalan classics: Girona and Figueres. Girona, which I had visited once before, impressed me once again. Everyone we encountered was friendly and the town is well maintained. Figueras was also a real win in my opinion. Made famous as the hometown of the surrealist master Salvador Dalí, Figueres has a charming old town, Rambla and of course, Dalí museum. A guidebook review of Figueres downplayed the city as being run-down, but I personally found it to be a pleasant Catalan town.

We then ventured over to the coastal jewel of Cadaqués. Again, made famous by the work of Dalí, Cadaqués is a summer playground of Europe’s wealthy elite. That didn’t stop Amanda, Mitchell and myself from enjoying a couple of hours in this beautiful town, where we were blessed with sun and moderate temperatures.

After Cadaqués, we had planned to continue along the curvy coastal road that winds into France at Portbou stopping at each coastal village, but daylight was running out, so we headed back inland to make the journey into France faster. Crossing into France at La Jonquera, we then had to make it to our B&B outside of Perpignan, in a tiny town called Tautavel. After an hour or so of very dark roads in the French countryside, we finally made it to the B&B for our first night in France.

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