In late September of 2019, we embarked on the trip of a lifetime. Over the span of four weeks, we would travel through three countries. The idea to take this trip was sparked by our good friend Pat. He has grandparents that live in Geneva, and he was set to visit them at the end of September. He brought forward the idea to Luke that we should all go, and meet up somewhere in France. We happily obliged.
This adventure begins in Paris, as most exemplary European adventures do for North Americans….
We lucked out with very inexpensive flights to Paris. For those who have not yet travelled across the pond but would like to, the least expensive places to fly into seem to consistently be London, Paris and Dublin. So after a relatively busy wedding season, we set off on our adventure.
Upon arrival, we happily stumbled to an area called Saint Ouen, a suburb of Paris. From our AirBnB, it would take 20 minutes by train to the centre of Paris… score! I say we stumbled because when we first arrived, trying to navigate the mostly French speaking airport was more difficult than we had imagined. We had binge watched a whole lot of Game of Thrones on the way over, getting minimal sleep on Westjet’s new beautiful Dreamliner plane. We would approach an airport worker, hopeful that our “Bonjour” would be so easily identifiable as English that they would respond to us with a familiar Hello. We struggled through our conversation with them, but finally caught a train to the Saint Ouen area, smiling from ear to ear as we listened in on French conversations in nearby seats and watched the graffiti quickly pass by us.
We spent a full day strolling the streets of Paris. And by “strolling”, I mean that we grabbed our cameras and walked a solid 15 km’s according to my health app on my iPhone. Overall, for us, the highlights of Paris include walking the quiet little alleyways full of wooden shutters painted brightly, sipping our very expensive espresso and watching the Parisians walk by, and enjoying the wines of France together. On our previous trips we had taken together, we realized that we really loved walking through new areas. This was our favourite way to enjoy a city. No need to partake in the expensive “tourist trap” destinations (okay… maybe we would enjoy a few), we would just walk, photograph, eat, drink, and smell our way through this trip!
Paris ⇢ Biarritz
Why Biarritz? Well, Biarritz is a small surfing town on the south west corner of France. No, this is not considered the “South of France”. I believe that that romanticized spot is mostly considered to be the south eastern part of the Country, filled with lavender fields and mountains and turquoise blue water. Our friend Pat is a surfer, and as I said before Biarritz is known for its surf culture and relatively good waves. Lucas and I would spend just shy of a week at an AirBnb in the neighbouring community of Anglet, in a tiny little apartment attached to a lovely couples garage. It was small, but absolutely perfect for us and our needs. They suggested we check out the nearby beaches (or Plage in French), located on the other side of a nearby Forest. This forest had beautiful walking paths and every time we walked it, we ran into the friendliest people we’d encounter in France.
Because we had more time here, we felt like we soon became part of the community. Throughout the week, we went to the same grocery store, took the same bus route, and had figured out the best routes to walk and bus routes to catch. Many bottles of wine were consumed.
Anglet ⇢ Bayonne
Our kind AirBnB hosts had suggested that we check out a neighbouring city of Bayonne. From what we had read online, Bayonne was home to many Basques people and businesses. You can click the link to find out more about it, but from our understanding, this is a group of French people that are hold strong traditional values and a very deep rooted culture and language. So, we caught the bus to Bayonne, and walked the streets there for the day. We were in absolute awe of all of the beautiful residences (even MORE brightly painted wooden shutters!), old churches, and cozy nook restaurants and shops. This place had a lot of history. It also seemed to have more of a rough edge around it. We stopped at a corner bar and had an afternoon “Super Bock” on the patio (this brand of beer is huge here, sort of the Coors or Bud of Europe) and did our usual people watching. We would walk some more, and eventually find ourselves in this REALLY cool bar, filled with just about every knick knack hanging on the walls. If you looked really closely, most items had a pretty solid amount of dust on them. This place had been here for a long time. We ordered two espressos and took it all in. BTW we did eat on this trip… most meals were cooked at home / we brought snacks along with us to save some money!
Biarritz ⇢ Lisbon
When our week in Anglet was over, we had another AirBnB rented in the central area of Biarritz. Our friend Pat met up with us in the late afternoon, and we all enjoyed bread with olive oil and balsamic (a new favourite snack!), and a few bottles of wine together while we caught up. We also brought along two of our favourite card games (Dutch Blitz and Monopoly), and played a few games of that. Following the card games, we went for a night swim at the nearby Plage. The water was cold, but it was so refreshing. We were in a cove where the wave break was very mellow, so you could lay in the water, facing up, staring at the stars. During our days, we would walk the streets of Biarritz, and during our nights, we would enjoy the lively nightlife of Biarritz. We went out on a Sunday night, and I could have sworn that EVERYONE in Biarritz was out. The bar areas were packed with people, and not just 20 somethings. Everyone was there. Seniors, Babies, and every age in between. Oh, and lots of dogs roaming around as well! People in most of Europe let their dogs roam around off leash at any time of day, in any setting. The dogs even know to walk on the sidewalk, to stay safe, too!
We would end our stay in Biarritz on Monday, October 7, 2019 (our second anniversary!). We had nothing planned past that point, and the consensus was that we would all be happiest renting a camper van and travelling down to Lisbon that way. Our friend Pat would get to surf, and we would get to photograph remote areas of Spain and Portugal. With the train tickets and AirBnB’s required, we figured it would be relatively the same cost, anyways. As we left our decision to last minute, it was very challenging to find a camper van company that was open on the weekends (Europe!) and also one that we could leave in Portugal. We found Campy Campers and they had the perfect van available for us! Thank god Pat knew how to drive manual (most vehicles in Europe are manual, not automatic) and also thank god Pat knew how to speak French. Thanks Pat!
We set off on our journey. We would have 8 nights to get to Lisbon, Portugal, and Campy Campers had given us a book called “The Stormrider Guide – Europe”, so we mostly based our driving route on where the best surf spots and free camping was.
Here was our route:
- Night 1 – Faro de Santa Catalina in Lekeitio, Spain
- Night 2 – Lugar Playa De Oyambre, Cantabria, Spain
- Night 3 – Praia Das Furnas, Spain
- Night 4 – Praia Da Costa Nova, Gafanha da Encarnação, Portugal
- Night 5 – Praia do Norte , Nazaré, Portugal
- Night 6 – Praia Lagtide, Ferrel, Portugal
- Night 7 – Praia da Adraga, Colares, Portugal
- Night 8 – Lisbon Airport (Yes, actually. The only place where we paid to camp hahaha)
We started every morning with coffee and an amazing view. We drove, we camped, we surfed, we swam, we walked, we cooked, we drank, we played many rounds of cards, we talked, we laughed (a lot), we made art. We had so much FUN! I could tell you all about our adventures, but it’s probably better if you just see for yourself:
When we woke up in Lisbon, we were sad that our bud Pat had left to fly home, but we were so excited to be staying in an actual apartment, with an actual bed and an actual bathroom. We handed over the keys to our camper van to our friend Jerome at Campy Campers, and set off on the next leg of our adventure. Our AirBnB came with our host picking us up from the airport, which worked out really great! The AirBnB was actually what I would consider a “a micro apartment”, but it had everything we needed. I won’t put the link here because I don’t reccomend staying there. It was a very great deal for the location, but there were things we didn’t like about it. No big deal, I just don’t reccomend it 🙂 We really did love the location, as we could walk to just about anywhere we wanted to go in Lisbon.
We didn’t really know what to expect from Lisbon, but what we found, we absolutely loved. It was full of art, beautiful buildings and a really amazing culture. We enjoyed art gallery’s, café’s, street art, street performances, castles, and a whole lot of Spanish tile buildings. We went to a Fado performance , which was INCREDIBLE. If you are ever in Portugal, please seek out a Fado performance. Pro tip: don’t eat or talk during the performance. This is not accepted 🙂 Don’t worry, you can still drink.
Our Travels In Review
By the end of our 3.5 week adventure, we had great sun tans, full bellies and full souls. We had so many new experiences, and made so many memories. I caught myself asking the question: Why do people travel? A whole lot. And the answer is, there is not just one answer. But in finishing this trip, we had so many new experiences that help us form a better understanding of this wide world that we live in. We also came home extremely grateful for this beautiful, vibrant, intensely diverse Country in which we live. And we did a whole lot of what life’s all about: “Makin’ memories.”
Have you been anywhere lately? Let us know in the comments below!