On returning to life in France after a long visit in the States, I’m melancholy thinking of how my life has evolved. Hopefully you’ll enjoy looking back with me
Only four more days until I leave for my great adventure to Uzes in the south of France. Solo. Just as planned.
This is my first time blogging an adventure, so I’ll start by telling why I’m heading to Uzes, France; how I’m getting there; also, I’ll describe how I arrived at the itinerary– sketchy as it is.
I confess, I’ve been to Uzes. I visited there during a “great adventure” in 2011. My main destination was London to see Prince William kiss his bride on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. However, quite “out of the blue”, I had the opportunity to take off for France and to spend a Saturday market day in Uzes. Right then, that day, I swore to myself I would return to that exact spot.
Why did I choose Uzes as the centerpiece of my adventure through the south of France? It’s simple. Uzes is somewhat out of the way, so large crowds of tourists won’t gather there; it’s close to Airles, Avignon, Nimes and other places I want to see; and, if that’s not reason enough, the walled, historic city is beyond charming.
The master plan
I started with a budget. My first trip to Europe was in 1966. I traveled with two friends from UNC-Chapel Hill and we spent two-and-a-half months in England and around most of western Europe. Our “bible” was the book titled, “Europe on $5-a-Day.”
Dare say, there’s not a chance I’d survive on our 1966 budget, but there are ways to keep costs down so that you can afford a fabulous trip abroad for less than you think. My goal is to spend six weeks living, exploring and learning about the south of France and Barcelona on a $5000 budget (excluding airfare).
Choosing to make this a six-week trip was somewhat arbitrary. I wanted to stay as long a possible on my allotted budget, so I started checking on the cost of lodging in Uzes. I turned to AIRBNB, the travel website recommended to me by friends and that I had used recently on a trip to Fredrik, Maryland. The room I booked at a B&B through AIRBNB was delightful.
With a little searching around on the website, I found the perfect location in Uzes, at a reasonable price. The four-story apartment with one room on each floor is located within
the walled city. I could have the whole place to myself from June 6-29.
Once I had some dates to work with, the itinerary for the trip began to take shape. I started to communicate directly with the apartment owner in Uzes (who lives in Copenhagen). He advised me to fly in and out of Barcelona so that I could enjoy the train ride through the countryside to Uzes. He also recommended that I stay in Barcelona my first night after the transatlantic flight so that I could fully enjoy the train ride the next day.
June 4 – Charleston, SC to New York
June 5 – Arrive Barcelona, Spain
June 6 – Train to Uzes, France
June 29 – Leave Uzes for Sete, France
Sete. Here’s where the plan got creative. I wanted to visit a town on the Mediterranean after leaving Uzes that would take me south towards Barcelona and my flight home. Plotting a course on Google Earth, I stumbled upon Sete, France.
Reading a few travel reviews, I quickly realized Sete is a little jewel. Checking with AIRBNB, I found there was an apartment “to die for” waiting for me. I connected with the hostess and, as luck would have it, I learned about the worldwide music festival in town during that time. That was good news and bad news. It meant I could only have the dream room for 2 nights, but it also led me to a bit of luck. My hostess managed to arrange a place for me in the home of her friend for the rest of my stay. A guest house directly on the ocean — all for me, and right on budget! More good news is that my hostess runs a wine tour. So I booked the stay and a tour. Whoopee!
July 7 – “Sketchy”
“Sketchy” is good. Really. I mean, everyone needs to schedule in time for a real adventure. A side trip. A chance to do something amazing — an experience of a lifetime, You have to allow a few days to wing it. That might sound a bit too crazy for some of you but just try it. You can always come up with a plan. For example, if nothing else comes along, I can take off from Sete and head west toward the wine country of Languedoc. Wouldn’t it be fun to stay in a winemaker’s cottage? To stomp grapes… like Lucy Ricardo? Or, to spend time wandering along the Costa Brava? This part of the adventure may be the best of all!
July 11 – Barcelona
My lodging through AIRBNB is an apartment in El Born, a popular district in Barcelona that’s filled with history, neat shops, tapas bars and restaurants. Most important for a solo woman, the area is safe– although I understand you have to watch for pickpockets wherever you go in the city.
I visited Barcelona, on my “Europe on $5 a Day” trip in 1966. I remember a bullfight, some great paella, and a quick trip from Barcelona to Majorca. Honestly, I haven’t thought much about Barcelona since then. But when I saw I had an opportunity to revisit the city, I knew I wanted to spend more than an overnight. I have 3 guide books and a picture book about Gaudi to study before I get there. Plus, I have no problem meeting people along the way who, I’m sure, will give me lots of advice. Again, I’m winging it. This unplanned adventure in Barcelona could be very special.
July 15 – Charleston, SC
Home again! The end of another great adventure and the beginning of the next unknown.