We left sunny Barcelona early Friday , crossing the border into France with the Pyrenees in the distance. Overland via bus to Girona and then onto Perpignan , the bus trip was a nice way to travel ,although there is also an option to travel by train .Our journey took 4 hours including a lunch stopover in the old town of Girona , which is worth a day trip .
Nadia who we befriended on the trip , spent a week end there recently and recommends it , Nadia is traveling by working in Hotels for free accommodation and meals , she was off to Montpellier for 2 months staying at a chalet hotel with plans to do the trans Siberian express train later this year , both of us were envious of her travels .
We arrived in Perpignan with temperature levels having reduced dramatically to 10 degrees Celsius,- the Pyrenees casting a shadow over this Picturesque city .
It is true the French signage of streets is “ahem ” difficult to figure out , after a cold brisk one and half hour walk we ended up at our hotel , which we realized only should have taken half hour, a compass for the next stage possibly a good investment.
Perpignan is a beautifull small city , famous as the home area of Salvador Dali and of course Rugby. The side streets of the old town is a collection of postcard pictures . The first evening we found a fantastic Bistrot . The service and food was exactly what I imagined to expect from France , brilliant ! Of course apart from the prices which was a wake up call we had read reviews on blogs that France would be pricy .
The town is around 100k population , however , there is an eerie feeling on the streets , not much happening after 8 pm and not much open.
The city is beautiful , alleys , shops , archways , churches etc well worth seeing ,such as the Cathedral of St Jean .The architecture and history of this city is well maintained . Do visit the galleries , the downtown quarters, and the Salvador Dali museum at his home town 30 km outside Perpignan , unfortunately the latter we missed .
Monday we took the TGV to Libourne enjoying some beautiful scenery views of the countryside and vineyards ,just outside Bordeaux and the heart of what most wine lovers consider one of the best regions in world for Wine . This town is really a treasure with its location on the bank of the river , next to Pomerol.
Libourne is a small town , maybe 20 to 30 k population . English won’t get you far, we found out this very early , a little spoken french goes a long way even if it is “cafe au lait “or “merci !” We found that once we made an effort to speak French , we were really made at ease and welcome ,people are very friendly during our stay in France.From here one can go on to visit more spectacular towns such as , St Emillion (UNESCO ) only 20 minutes away .
Unless you are renting a car to travel the wine region , it is very difficult to get around on public transport .We had an appointment at 10 am at Chateaux Hosanna ,and spent a half hour trying to get a taxi ! This after explaining our destination , which they did not know . We ended up walking back into town and getting a cab (arriving one hour late) , as it was a hotel I would have expected better service (this was one of the first times we have not stayed in a hostel during our trip )
Chateau Hosanna ….JP Moeuix
Thanks again to our hostess Nathalie , who had waited for our arrival ,Merci Nathalie !
We received a full tour at Hosanna and an introduction to the JP Moeuix stable of wines in the neighborhood of Pomerol .
Chateaux Hosanna is part of the Moeuix Empire , and the winery is adjacent to Petrus , La Fleur , Trotanoy etc . It is a family run business and quality and passion goes into their wines .This was a special and rare honour to be able to tour these estates , which we won’t forget . Just to be able to see the vines , how they harvest , how the business is run and of course the delight of tasting the wine before we left .
We would have loved to have continued on into burgundy however this would blow our already extended funds. Maybe another time , Lotto win ?
Later that evening , we returned to our hotel , and noticed again several gendarmes cars in our hotel car park ! During dinner at the next door restaurant around a dozen Gendarmes were also dining in uniform , curiously , we started to ask questions to our waitress. , it turns out the town of Libourne has a higher crime rate than major French cities , therefore on an ongoing basis they need to staff up police numbers .They stay in a local hotel and dine in local restaurants . Well , that was told to us by Lia our waitress , who moved to Libourne 7 years ago with her family from Paris .
The following day , we set off via train to Biarritz , the Basque region .
This was the first day I wore a T shirt on this trip since Thailand in January , the weather was blazing hot , by the sea , 26 degrees . Finally a city where the weather is welcoming !
This certainly is a rich and affluent town , however it’s not evident to the naked eye . The welcome is very friendly , once you settle in an area for a few days visit local restaurants etc , you can appreciate the warm hospitality of the French people , especially once they know your Irish with common themes Rugby and surfing came up in conversations .
Casinos dominate the waterfront ,still, the beach is the major attraction especially with the surfing fraternity . Not much choices in the way of hostels , as long as we kept away from city center we could dine in some great local restaurants , they have the best produce available being a port as well as being located in the Basque region . Kind of a mix of French and Spanish dishes easily available.
Biarritz is a must visit , Summer time ..it must be beautiful ! You will receive a warm welcome in this city , bring your wallet though .
Check out Red Bar for live Rugby as we did go to for the Amlin and Heinekin cup games . Any side street away from center ville you will find many small Bistros offering local and traditional food .
We are now leaving France and taking a direct train through Spain with final destination Lisbon , Portugal . 10 to 14 hours .
France is great county , hope I can visit again .
Allez Les Bleu…..