Europe 2017 – Summary, Part Five

August 24 – November 15

Pont from the Lookout

Pont du Gard from the Lookout

The final country we’d spend time in is one we continue to find fascinating and wonder how we’ve let it slip past us during the course of our many visits to Europe.  This would be France.  Although we’d been to Paris many times when stopping in to see Francois and Heike, except for our one week stay in Cognac and the Dordogne in 2014, this country of such richness of food and culture had somehow escaped our attention.

Breakfast November 1

Breakfast with Francois

One luxury we experienced this time around was spending three five-day stints with Francois at his new digs in Montpellier.  This lively thriving college town on the Mediterranean coast gave us a comprehensive look at the life of a local there.  And what a life.  Francois has fully embraced retirement and spends his days teaching part time, coordinating activities for a couple of professional associations he belongs to and fills his nights with visits to his favorite haunts, all while playing drums in a rock and roll band.

The BeeHive

The BeeHive

Beyond exploring the narrow streets of downtown Montpellier, some day trips took us to sites rich in French culture (the Camargue) where we checked out wild horses and drank beer and Roman history (Nimes), where we augmented what we’d picked up while in Greece and also drank a beer or two.

View of the Bridge

View of the Rhone in Avignon

It was our time in Provence that sealed the deal though, reinforcing what we’d picked up while in Cognac and the Dordogne, which is that France is a country comprised of many regions, with their own distinctive culture, food, and wine.  Spending a month in other countries one can get tired of the repetitiveness of the cuisine but here the food is varied, reflecting the agricultural roots of the locale and it is all invariably good to eat.

Ochre Cliffs

Ochre Cliffs

Even with just a short visit there, only six nights, we’re convinced of one thing; we need to return and spend more time in this region and in France in general.  It might have been the immersion into this area’s considerable involvement with the Roman Empire, or its rugged beauty that often reminded us of California where we lived most of our lives, or the simply prepared but delicious food we ate.  Or maybe all of those things.

L'Alchimiste Menu

L’Alchimiste Menu

And so, our brief time in France, with the last three nights in Barcelona, closed out our three-month adventure.  It was difficult that last day in Montpellier saying goodbye to Francois as we’d gotten used to doing so with the knowledge we’d be returning soon.  That was not the case and as with all partings, they are a mixed bag, the excitement of moving on tempered by the regret of leaving.

The Boys Up Close

Of Different Mothers

As mentioned earlier we spent $14,700 for the three months, averaging out to $175 per day.  Due to the style of travel during each segment, average costs varied, with the time in France coming out the least expensive given that we stayed for free for many nights in Montpellier.  Spain cost the less when we were on the road, again because staying in Alburgue’s was less expensive.  Average costs per day for the two of us combined by country in Euros were:

Country Lodging Food Culture Misc. Trans Gas Euros US$
Greece 64 61 24 3 46 1 199 236
Spain 34 41 1 12 22 0 109 129
France 18 54 8 3 16 1 100 118
Total/Day 42 52 11 7 36 1 149 175

This overall cost is encouraging as this style of travel, one where we don’t use our car or camp much, if any, will be the template for a number of trips we contemplate taking in coming years, living out of a 26” rolling bag apiece, relying on public transportation to get us around and staying in hotels, motels and B&B’s.  Take away our free lodging in Montpellier and the many inexpensive nights on the Camino and the average per day would more closely resemble what we experienced in Greece, that is somewhere north of $200.  I’ll be curious in future years how close we come to this number.

The Arena at Nimes

The Arena at Nimes

With this post, we put Europe 2017 to bed, closing out another great trip, one where we experienced highs and lows, challenged ourselves physically, absorbed history and culture, witnessed incredible natural beauty and ate a ton of really good food.  I’ll finish up with an additional post, one some folks have, well clamored is probably a bit of an exaggeration, for but one that needs to see the light of day.  That is and will be, the Legend of Jenny Manetta.  Until then, Buen Camino!!

The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers

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