Catalunya, Languedoc, and Provence April - May 2016
04/07/2016 - 05/09/2016
Having proven in Panama that we could manage the three kids on an international trip without any other adult help, I was determined to get two of my dream European road trips accomplished this year. That meant starting in April in a more southerly location to avoid the risk of uncomfortably cold weather. The obvious choice was Provence, since it had the additional advantage of an extensive tourist infrastructure that would reduce the stress of traveling with all the kids.
When I first thought of going to Provence, I had planned to rent a villa for the entire trip. I figured we would base ourselves in one location, submerge ourselves in the local culture, and take a few two or three day trips to further cities. Then I realized we wouldn't be able to fly directly from Miami to anywhere in Provence, but we certainly could fly direct to Barcelona. That was no problem, since Barcelona is one of my favorite cities and Mei Ling had never been there. We'd rent a car in Barcelona and drive to Provence. But then how could I miss the opportunity to visit Andorra, adding another country to everyone's resume? And of course from Andorra, we could practically roll down the Pyrenees into Toulouse. Once I started researching Toulouse and Languedoc I found out about Albi, and Cordes sur Ciel, and the Pont du Gard. I quickly realized we wouldn't make it to my chosen Provencale pied-à-terre of Avignon for at least a week. That left the question of how to return. I had thought of flying back from Nice, or even Lyons, but it would mean a stopover and also left the problem of returning the rental car in a different country from where we had picked it up.
In the end, I devised an itinerary that would begin and end in Barcelona, without retracing any ground. The first leg would be inland from Barcelona to Toulouse to Avignon and ultimately Nice, and then returning to Barcelona along the coast through Marseille, Montpellier and Perpignan. The advantage of leaving the coastal leg to the end would be the additional warmth of May. Of course, all the time on the road would shrink our stay in Avignon from a month to a week. And that's how "Let's chill out for a month in a villa in Provence and go to farmers markets and cook for ourselves" became a 1000 mile road trip from Barcelona to Monaco and back, visiting more than fifty cities along the way.