Only four more days until I leave for my grand adventure. Destination Uzès France. Solo. Just as planned.
Destination Uzès France
This is my first time blogging about an adventure, so I’ll start by telling why it begins in Uzès, France; how I’m getting there; and how I arrived at the itinerary– sketchy as it is.
Why does it begin in Uzès, France?
I confess I’ve been to Uzes. I visited there during a “great adventure” in 2011. My leading 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. When I saw the Place aux Herbes and its fabulous fountain that day, I swore I would return to that spot.
Why did I make Uzes the centerpiece of my adventure in southern France? If it was not reason enough that the walled, historical city was beyond charming, there were other reasons. It’s somewhat out-of-the-way, so I figured large crowds of tourists wouldn’t gather there. It’s also very close to Arles, Avignon, Nimes and other places I wanted to see.
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 most of Western Europe. Our “bible” was “Europe on $5-a-Day.” Daresay, I knew there wasn’t a chance I’d survive on our 1966 budget, but I knew there were ways to keep costs down so that I could afford a fabulous trip abroad for less than I thought. I planned to spend six weeks living, exploring, and learning about the south of France and Barcelona on a $5000 budget (excluding airfare).
Six weeks? Choosing to make this a six-week trip was somewhat arbitrary. I wanted to stay as long as possible on my allotted budget, so I started checking the cost of lodging in Uzes. I turned to AIRBNB, the travel website recommended by friends and a site I had used on a trip to Frederick, Maryland. The room I booked at the B&B in Frederick was delightful. With a bit of searching around the website, I found the perfect location in Uzès at a reasonable price. The four-story apartment with one room on each floor was in 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 communicating directly with the apartment owner in Uzes (who lives in Copenhagen). He advised me to fly in and out of Barcelona to enjoy the train ride through the countryside to Uzes. He also recommended that I stay in Barcelona my first night after the transatlantic flight to fully enjoy the train ride the next day.
June 4 – Charleston, SC, to New York
June 5 – Arrive in 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.
I quickly realized Sete was a little jewel after reading a few travel reviews. I checked with AIRBNB and found 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 arranged a place for me in her friend’s home 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 time. Whoopee!
July 7 – “Sketchy”
“Sketchy” is good. Really. Everyone needs to schedule in time for a real adventure—a side trip—a chance to do something unique- an experience of a lifetime. I knew I had to allow a few days to wing it. I could always come up with a plan. For example, if nothing else, I could take off from Sete and head west toward the wine country of Languedoc. It would be fun to stay in a winemaker’s cottage. To stomp grapes… like Lucy Ricardo. Or, I could spend time wandering along the Costa Brava. Winging it could be the best part of the adventure!
July 11 – Barcelona
The lodging I found through AIRBNB in Barcelona was an apartment in El Born — a famous district in Barcelona filled with history, neat shops, tapas, bars, and restaurants. Most importantly, El Born is safe for solo travelers. Safe enough, that is. I knew I had to watch for pickpockets wherever I went in the city.
I visited Barcelona on my “Europe on $5 a Day” trip 1966. I remember a bullfight, some great paella, and a quick trip from Barcelona to Majorca. Honestly, I hadn’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 would have no problem meeting people who would give me lots of advice. Again, I’d be winging it. This unplanned adventure in Barcelona could be extraordinary.
July 15 – Charleston, SC
Home again! The end of another great adventure and the beginning of the subsequent unknown.