“If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb
Day 1: The day didn’t start out quite as planned.. rarely does in our case. The airline would not let Dima onto the airplane because they had already reached their limit of dogs. So Evan went on to Barcelona to collect the rental car (keyword is car, because we had originally ordered a van..) and I stayed behind with our fur-baby to catch the next flight; 4 hours later. By the time we finally found each other in Barcelona Airport, it was night time and we started our two hour drive to France. We pulled over and slept at a rest stop in Chateau de Salses, just north of the city of Perpignan and awkwardly set up our makeshift fort and air mattress in the back of the car.
Day 2: We woke up and discovered that we had parked next to a beautiful grassy field with an ancient fort overlooking the Mediterranean Sea on our left and a gorgeous view of the Pyrenees Mountain range on our right. We explored the fort and headed into Perpignan for the day. It was Evan’s first time in France, and I believe he was very impressed with the beautifully architected and well-manicured cities. Perpignan was full of canals and reminded me of a sunshiny-Amsterdam.
Around 2pm we started the drive to Andorra de Vall, it was an absolutely stunning drive through the Pyrenees. We drove past the cutest mountain towns hugged by steep ravines with a river running all along the windy road. As we got up into the snow-peaked mountains we drove right along the ski slopes and into pristine mountain lodge villages.
When we got to Andorra de Vall we were surprised about how big it was. The center of town looked like a small scaled Times Square. It must be the Main ski destination for the rich Europeans. We had to back track a little bit to get back to France; we were exhausted from lack of sleep the night before and we slept on the mountain side in the snow.
Day 3: Continued down the mountain and back into France, we then drove along the the entire southern border with a view of the Pyrenees on our left the entire time until we arrived in Biarritz. We were absolutely stunned by the gorgeous city on the sea. We went to the beach and watched a surf competition, then found a great parking spot on a hill over looking the ocean and the beach with Biarritz’s iconic castle/house. We had a wine and olive happy hour while blissfully watched the tide come in before heading into town for some drinks and tapas.
Day 4: I woke up and showered on the beach, it was very cold but very much needed. Evan and I then walked around town in the morning in search of coffee and groceries. It was fun trying to remember my French and even more fun watching Evan not have a clue what people were saying. Everyone was very friendly but everything was also a lot more expensive than we were used to in Spain. We then reluctantly left Biarritz and drove to Bilbao, which turned out to be not quite what we were expecting. The city was surrounded by gorgeous countryside but it was dirty and filled with ugly apartment buildings. We continued driving and made it to Llanes. We were instantly in love (perhaps even more so than with Biarritz). We found parking between beach access to the ocean, an old castle ruins, and just steps away from the quaint downtown. To put it in Evan’s words, “the town could not fit one more once of charm”. So far, I think it is my favorite city in the world. We walked around the board walk and watched as the fishing boats came in and delivered the days catch right to the restaurants. We went to a Sideria and had a bottle of Austrian sister for 2.5Euro, it was such a blissful evening. I really could see myself living in a sweet little city by the sea like that someday.
Day 5: We finally got a great nights sleep and woke up for one last peaceful stroll around Llanes and let Dima play at the beach. Then we drove a short 30 km to Ribadesella, a cute and quaint little surf town. It is bordered all around by the Picos de Europa. Next stop: Gijon -it started raining so we just drove through the town. It was a big city, right on the ocean. We then continued on to Oviedo, it’s known as the capital of Asturias. We only walked around for about 30 minutes because it started raining again. It’s more inland but it’s a gorgeous city with lots of cathedrals and green parks. When we return to Asturias we can fly right into Oviedo and spend some more time there.
We headed back to the coast and set up camp in the tiny, tiny town Cudillero. It is nestled right into a little mountain crevice by the sea with only one skinny road twisting its way through it.They had a few restaurants at the harbor and some shops selling Austurian sider and Austurian marmalade and honey. I bought a little sample of honey to bring home with us. We parked by the ocean, had a bottle of wine and slept there for the night.
Day 6: Evan showered under a little waterfall at the opening of a tunnel/water chute. We drove along the coast for a few miles and found a beautiful rocky cove. I found a beach shower there and had a freezing cold rinse. Then we sat along the boardwalk, Evan made coffee and rice/bean tortillas. And we discussed where to go from there.
We back tracked 30 mins to go to the mountain down of Somiedo It was a beautiful twisty road up following a river the whole way. We went on a short hike on the outskirts of the town. Evan would’ve liked to stay longer but I was pushing him to continue onwards so we could make it to Santiago de Compostella and hopefully still have time to make it to Portugal before heading back to Barcelona.
Day 7: Portugal is amazing! Def worth the drive. It was cold and rainy when we arrived in Braga, but the medieval architecture and beautiful walking streets made it a very worthwhile walk. After exploring the city for a little while we went back to the car, finished off a bottle of cider and left the baby in the car while Evan and I went off in search of dinner. I promised him anything he wanted for driving me there. We ended up at a very fancy restaurant (we felt a bit embarrassed to be in our hiking attire) we got wine, to large beers, and appetizer and two meals for the grand total of 25€. Portugal is so cheap! We woke up this morning and got coffees and pastries for 3€ and walked around town for a few hours.
Now on to Porto!
Porto was awesome. It’s a huge city on a hill overlooking a river. It’s known for its port wines. It has several grandiose monuments, cathedrals and museums all tied together by steep windy roads that go all the way down the hill. The city is packed with vibrantly colored houses all with red clay tiled roofs. There is a big steel bridge that you can cross, on the other side of the river is the city of …. The port wine cellars are located there so that the barrels can be loaded right onto boats destined for markets and open for tastings. After we finally found a place to park on the outskirts of town we walked through the city, down some beautiful narrow streets, we had a grilled octopus lunch while sitting at not-so-balanced table. We then walked around the river and crossed over for some port wine tastings. Dima had a great time, he loved octopus and he is thoroughly exhausted now and sleeping in the car.
Day 8: After leaving Porto we drove until we were just a few hours from Barcelona. In the morning we continued the drive and had a few hours to tour Barcelona (in the rain) before we had to return the car at the airport. We opted to sleep at the airport instead of spend more money to take public transport into town and have to return so early in the morning for our 7 am flight. Dima was a gem the whole time, I really am so proud of him and can’t think of a more perfect companion for Evan and I. Sleeping at the airport wasn’t so bad thanks to our air mattress. Now we are all safely back home in Palma with fresh memories from this trip and dreams to start another adventure soon!
Until next time!