France & Northern Spain in 6 weeks

With a fully loaded caravan and 2 small kids, we headed south in search of sun. Our first stop was Château Chenonceau in the Loire Valley. Having arrived on the hottest day of the year, the kids crying and the castle jammed packed with tourists, we couldn’t wait to get out of there. It was then that we realized unless the activities were kid friendly, we could never enjoy the outing. Thus we headed west to the French Atlantic coast. The flat French Island of Ile de Ré was a perfect family friendly destination with numerous beaches, traditional white-washed houses with green shutters and 17th century citadels. Following the coast heading south, we visited Dune de Pyla, Sanguinet Lake, passed through Bordeaux and entered French Basque country. Located at the foothills of the Pyrenees, the region is profoundly different than the rest of France. St-Jean de Luz was a beautiful Basque beach resort with whitewashed houses, timber framed and shuttered in oxblood red.

Continuing to follow the Atlantic coast, we entered northern Spain at San Sebastian. The Basque city has one of the best city beaches in Europe (Playa de la Concha) and a wonderful old town full of Basque tapas bars. Further west we visited Santillana del Mar, a medieval jewel of a town perfectly preserved with its bright cobblestone streets, tanned stone buildings and ancient churches. Comillas further west was another tiny fishing port with a broad golden beach. The nearby Altamira Caves were interesting containing prehistoric three dimensional rock paintings of animals. At Llanes, we visited our dear friends whom we met while traveling in Africa. We were treated to delicious homemade Spanish meals and drank lots of Asturian Cider which made speaking Spanish much easier.

Continuing west along the lush and green Spanish northern Atlantic coast, the town of Oviedo had a rich conglomeration of pre-Romanesque buildings and a famous cathedral built in the 13th century. Cudillero was the most picturesque fishing village along the whole coast. The pastel painted houses cascaded down the mountainside to the tiny port on a narrow inlet. Most of the narrow steep streets were accessible by stairs only and completely stroller unfriendly, but the view from the lookouts high above the village were magnificent. Nearby Playa de Silencio backed by a rock amphitheater was beautiful yet inaccessible for strollers. Pushing further west into Galicia province, the coastline became much wilder and strung with high windswept sea cliffs. The most spectacular beach was Praia As Catedrais where gothic looking rock arches and hidden sea caves appear along the beach only at low tide. At Garita de Herbeira lookout we had a majestic view of the sea from southern Europe’s highest sea cliffs.  Finally we reached the most western beaches of Spain at Carnota, a 7km long sweeping sandy beach facing the open Atlantic.

Leaving the Spanish coast, we headed a little inland to Santiago de Compostela, the third holiest city in Catholicism after the Vatican and Jerusalem. The heart of the city is the Cathedra built between 1075 & 1211 with a mixture of Romanesque, baroque and Gothic architecture and the main destinations for pilgrims walking the Santiago de Compostela trail from Northern France. Having reached our final destination, we headed back east along the coast, getting in a few more beach days  before entering southern France through the Pyrenees.

The walled Pyrenean French town of St-Jean Pied de Port was a gem with its white washed houses, cobblestoned paths, flower filled balconies and Roman Bridge. Fortunately having arrived in the Pyrenees on a rare clear period, we got to explore two valleys that cut through the western part of the mountain chain, Vallée d’Aspe & Vallée d’Ossau. Heading further north in France, we spent almost a week in Dordogne, a region rich in prehistoric cave paintings, hilltop chateaux’s and fortified villages. We explored the cliff top fortified village of St-Cirq Lapopie, the walled village of Monpazier, the trapezoid shaped walled village of Domme, the medieval & Renaissance town of Sarlat-la-Canéda, the cliff top castles of Castelnaud & Beynac, the medieval village of Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, and finally the village of Collonges-la-Rouge built entirely of bright red sandstone.

It was a fabulous trip with the kids enjoying warm summer weather.  You will find a selection of photos here. And you can watch some videos of the trip:

Kyle’s first beach, France, Ile de Ré

Dimi & Kids at Ile de Ré Beach, France

“I hate seaweed mom”, Ile de Ré, France

Kids in the car seat at Llanes Campsite, Spain

Viewpoint over Cudillero, Spain

In the car at Praia Davadero, Spain

Sea Cliffs and caves of Praia os Catedrais, Spain

Carnota Beach, Spain

Kyra the Sand Mummy, Spain

Driving through a village in the French Pyrenées

Monpazier in Dordogne – France


2 Responses to “France & Northern Spain in 6 weeks”

  1. 1 laurent
    October 11, 2013 at 23:36

    Good on you Dimitri. I came across your blog after talking to Laurent w. You’re doing well, happy to see that you’re still full of creativity. Cheers. Laurent T.

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