Hotel

Biarritz | France

CHARMING OCEAN-RESORT AND SURF HOT-SPOT

→ Whoever thinks Biarritz is a place for old ladies with little dogs is wrong…

…because this elegant seaside resort, that is located on the rough Atlantic Ocean, has been a hot-spot for surfing since the 60’s and offers great surfing conditions all year round. We quickly decide, this is the right place to be.

Having felt ill for a while, we check in at the hotel „La Regina“ to relax and recover for a few days. This beautiful and really impressive hotel in belle-époque style, that was built in 1907, takes you back in time and makes it seem that you are set at the beginning of the last century. The hotel is located a bit outside of the city center, elevated behind a stretch of cliffs and near the city’s lighthouse. Every day we enjoy the incredible view over the bay and watch the waves come in. This is the perfect spot to start the day, either for a walk to town or to the nearby beaches. In the early evenings, we enjoy some drinks at the impressive james-bond-like hotel bar and watch exciting European Cup football games.

Bar @ Sofitel MGallery Biarritz, FranceBar @ Sofitel MGallery Biarritz, France

A walk through Biarritz

We walk along the beach promenade toward the city center – the ocean and waves always in sight. We arrive at the city beach “Grande Plage” where the people of Biarritz and tourists sunbathe, beginners try their luck at the surf schools and locals show their skills in the roaring waves. We enjoy the relaxed atmosphere while catching some sun during a light ocean breeze. We walk through old town of Biarritz past impressive mansions from the turn of the 20th century in typical Basque style architecture with colorful shutters – painted in azure blue, green, dark red. Every now and then we see local surfers walk through the middle of the town dressed in wetsuits and their surfboard under their arms – a big advantage to have a city with a perfect surf beach right in front of your doorstep. Once a fishermen’s village, Biarritz became the summer residence of empress Eugénie in the year 1854 and has since flourished to be a cozy but energetic ocean-resort with its unique French flair.

Grand Plage Biarritz, France

Grande Plage Biarritz, France

It is really worth a visit to the local market hall “Les Halles” in the center of the city. Every morning until early afternoon, a number of stands sell typical French and regional Basque food specialties, but also regional ceramics and clothes can be found. Once done with shopping at the market, we sit at one of the many bars, brasseries and restaurants around the market hall to get a typical Basque lunch and local wine, while observing the scene.

We continue to walk along the beach promenade and pass the small fishermen’s harbor with small local seafood restaurants that serve fresh catches of the day and, of course, oysters from the region. We reach the “Rocher de la Vièrge”, a cliff in the middle of the ocean surrounded by water, and enjoy the stunning panoramic view of Biarritz and the French and nearby Spanish coast. We end our tour at the wind protected beach “Plage du Port View” – also know as “Arena” – and simply enjoy the wonderful view over the beach and ocean.

Our tips in Biarritz:

  • Oyster-Restaurant „La Cabane á Huitre“ – Best restaurant for fresh oysters
  • Café & Brasserie „La Coupole“ – Great fresh oysters, drinks and local meals in the middle of Biarritz
  • Healthy Snack Bar „Beach Garden“ – Near the city beach “Grande Plage”. Try the delicious Gazpacho!
  • Seafood Restaurant „Chez Albert“ – Great seafood in the old fishermen’s harbor of Biarritz
  • Beach Bar „Etxola Bibi“ – On top of an elevation by the beach „Cote des Basques“ with an amazing view over the coast
  • Ceviche Bar & Restaurant „Saline Ceviche Bar“ – Very delicious fresh Ceviche in many variations
  • Organic Supermarket “L’Eau Vive”
  • Surf Shop „Rip Curl Bidart“ – a surf shop that has everything you need and carries a nice selection of pro boards
  • A real insider tip is to watch the sunsets on the cliffs right behind the lighthouse at the north end of Biarritz. Although the path to get there is closed off, the locals just climb over the barriers and so do we…enjoying a “bottle” of local red wine with an incredible sunset in front of us
  • Find our favorite beaches at the bottom of the page…

After a short surf session at the Grande Page, we have a healthy snack at the nearby snack bar “Beach Garden”. They offer fresh salads, sandwiches, bagels and a very delicious Gazpacho. This place is a great alternative if you have missed lunch, as most places don’t really serve good food (apart from French fries) after 14:30 or before 19:00 in the evenings.

Arena Plage Biarritz, France

Arena Plage Biarritz, France

Back to good health and full of energy, we take our VW California to spend a few day on the 5-Star campsite “Le Pavillion Royal” between Biarritz and the town Bidart. We are lucky to get one of the best spots on the site with an amazing view over the coastal landscape and ocean. The campsite is very well maintained, clean and has direct access to a very long beach stretch that is also a top spot for surfing. We spend some days to discover the nearby surf beaches and visit the beautiful little town “Saint-Jean-de-Luz”, where we have some incredible typical Basque seafood food for dinner. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough time to visit the world heritage city San Sebastian in nearby Spain, as we need to move on and head north toward the city Nantes.

On our way north, we stop at the famous and the largest European sand dune “Dune du Pilat”, which measures 118 meters in height and is 2.7km long. We underestimate the hike up the dune, but get rewarded by the stunning panoramic view over the ocean and the bay of Arcachon.  We watch the sailboats cruising along the horizon and the many paragliders that pass through the air only meters away from us – the dunes offer perfect thermic conditions and people from all over Europe come to enjoy hang-time at this awesome place.

→ Check out our next stop:  Nantes | France

Porto & Douro Tal | Portugal

MYSTERIÖSE STADT MIT WELTOFFENEN BEWOHNERN

→ Unser nächster Stopp führt uns nach Porto! Wir haben großes Glück – das Wetter meint es gut mit uns und die Sonne lacht. Das ist in Porto leider nicht immer so. Oft versinkt diese alte Handelsstadt am Rio Douro im dichten Nebel und verleiht ihr einen ganz eigenen märchenhaft-mysteriösen Charme.

Wir checken ein im DesignPalacioFlats – ein erst kürzlich eröffnetes und ziemlich cooles Hotel mit gemütlichen Apartments in einem beeindruckendem Gebäude aus dem 13. Jahrhundert. Nach einer kurzen Verschnaufpause gehen wir unmittelbar auf Erkundungstour, schlendern durch die engen, gewundenen Gassen der Altstadt und bestaunen die dicht aneinander stehenden, uralten schiefen Häuser. Später am Abend treffen wir unsere Freunde Francisco und Nita zum Abendessen im Restaurant 5 Oceanos in der Hafengegend Matosinhos und genießen die wunderbare portugiesische Küche mit frischem Fisch und gutem Wein aus dem Douro Tal.

Auf Entdeckungstour durch Porto

Für den nächsten Tag steht Sightseeing auf dem Programm. Dank der großartigen Tipps unserer Freunde sind wir bestens gewappnet für Porto: wir besteigen den Kirchturm „Torre dos Clerigos“, von dem man eine fantastische Aussicht über ganz Porto hat, überqueren die von Gustav Eiffel entworfene Brücke „Ponte Luis I“, besichtigen die im 12. Jahrhundert erbaute Kathedrale „Sé do Porto“ und bestaunen die zauberhafte Buchhandlung „Livraria Lello & Irmao“, welche zu den schönsten Buchläden Europas und der Welt gehört. Einen kleinen Mittagsnack nehmen wir im „Mercearia Das Flores“, ein kleines portugiesisches Bistro mit leckeren lokalen Bio-Produkten. Für einen Nachmittagskaffee gehen wir in das sehr beeindruckende Kaffeehaus „Cafe Majestic“, welches bereits seit 1921 seine Gäste empfängt. Mit einer Führung und anschließender Portwein-Verköstigung gemeinsam mit unseren portugiesischen Freunden im Sandeman Weinkeller, lassen wir diesen ereignisreichen Tag voller neuer Eindrücke entspannt mit leckerem Portwein ausklingen.

Tag drei unseres Porto-Aufenthaltes lassen wir etwas relaxter angehen. Wir fahren zum örtlichen Stadtstrand und checken die Wellen. Leider nicht gut genug zum Surfen und so bleibt uns Zeit für einen ausgiebigen Strandspaziergang mit anschließendem Mittagessen im gemütlichen Beach Restaurant „Praia da Luz“. Wir genießen das leckere Essen und den unglaublich tollem Blick auf das Meer. Am Nachmittag wird’s wieder richtig spannend, denn ein weiteres EM-Fußballspiel steht an und wir fiebern mit beim letzten Gruppenspiel Portugal – Ungarn beim Public Viewing auf dem „Base Porto“ mitten in der Stadt. Nach einem nervenaufreibenden 3:3 Unentschieden feiern wir das Weiterkommen Portugals bei der Europameisterschaft 2016 und unseren letzten Abend mit unseren Freunden Francisco und Nita im hervorragenden Fischrestaurant „Ode Porto Winehouse“ in der Altstadt.

 São João Fest, Porto

Am nächsten Tag wappnet sich die Stadt bereits für São João, das alljährlich stattfindende Johannesfest von Porto. Wie auch in Lissabon werden an jeder Ecke kleine Stände aufgebaut, an denen Sardinen und Fleisch gegrillt und verkauft wird. In Porto ist es allerdings Tradition, Freunde und Nachbarn mit einer Lauchstange am Kopf zu berühren, was dem Anderem Glück bringen soll. Aus der Lauchstange wurde irgendwann ein Plastikhammer mit Hupe und aus der Tradition ein Riesenspaß. Wir machen natürlich mit und hämmern uns gegenseitig was das Zeug hält Glück zu. In weiser Voraussicht und in guter Erinnerung an unser vergangenes San Antonio-Fest in Lissabon (s. a. unsere Beitrag zu Lissabon) verlassen wir diese wunderbare Stadt Porto am frühen Nachmittag und brechen auf ins Douro-Tal, Richtung Pinhao.

Das Douro-Tal – Heimat des portugiesischen Portweins

Da die Fahrt erst ab Peso da Regua richtig schön wird, wurde uns empfohlen, auf der Autobahn A 4 Richtung Vila Real die Abfahrt Cavalho de Rei zu nehmen und dann weiter auf der Landstraße entlang des Rio Douro, Richtung Pinhao zu fahren. Der Blick lohnt alle mal: satt-grüne Weinberge, unzählige Weingüter und stattliche Quintas liegen entlang unseres Weges und jede weitere Kurve die wir nehmen, bietet einen neuen atemberaubenden Blick auf das Douro-Tal.

Leider ist das uns empfohlene Hotel „Quinta do Vallado“ bereits ausgebucht und wir entscheiden uns spontan bei der „Quinta do Pego“ nach einem freien Zimmer zu fragen. Wir haben tatsächlich Glück! Die Quinta liegt ruhig und malerisch hoch oben auf einem Weinberg, umringt von grünen Weinstöcken und bietet einen atemberaubenden Blick auf das Douro-Tal. Der Empfang mit hauseigenen Portwein ist äußerst herzlich und das Abendessen ziemlich lecker. Wir fühlen uns wie Zuhause und genießen zwei ruhige und beschauliche Tage in diesem kleinen Paradies, bevor wir weiter in Richtung Spanien aufbrechen.

→ CHECK OUT OUR NEXT STOP:  Biarritz | France

→ Check out our next stop: Biarritz

Andalusia | Spain

THE WILD SOUTH OF SPAIN

→ Off to Cabo de Gata! Our local friend Frank – a German Spain emigrant and who has a passion for paragliding – gives us the best tips for the south of Spain and we drive to Agua Amarga, a really small coastal village in the middle of a natural reserve. It is pre-season and the atmosphere is authentic and purely relaxing, as every traveler would wish for: the beautiful beaches are nearly empty, the locals very welcoming and lively. Guests eat on the verandas and terraces of the few restaurants in town, kids play football on the local marketplace and the youth of Aqua Amarga celebrates and dances to Flamenco on the streets in front of bars and pubs. And we?…are in the middle of it all, are amazed by the life that we see and enjoy the seemingly unreal moments. We spend a few days to relax and stay in a small apartment of the hotel “Real Villas Agua Amarga”. We enjoy the sun and the Spanish cuisine and take a number of excursions around the natural reserve of Cabo da Gata – among others, we visit the beaches “Cala los Muertos” and “Cala Enmedio” and we can only highly recommend to drive along the mountain and coastal roads to the the small fishermen’s’ villages “Las Negras” and “Isleta del Moro” in the south.

On our way to our next destination Marbella, we visit our friend Frank and his girlfriend Isabella in Alhaurin El Grande that lies in the mountains and backcountry of Malaga. But before we arrive, we have a tasty lunch – catch of the day, variations of seafood and tapas – in the beach restaurant “La Sardinia” in the beach town La Herradura. Following lunch, we head toward Alhaurin along pretty steep and curvy mountain roads. We pass the beautiful white mountain village Mijas with fantastic views over Malaga, the Mediterranean and Gibraltar in the far south. In the evening, we are welcomed by Frank and Isa in their Finca in the middle of nature on a hill and a great view over the valley just outside of Alhaurin. We have some tee and beer (Jan loves beer) until late into the night and speak about life in Spain, traveling and paragliding.

Ronda

Ronda

Marbella’s charming historic center

The next day we arrive in Marbella and despite the many large hotel complexes built around the city, the old-town is charming. The beach promenade between Puente Romano Beach Club and Marbella Beach Club is definitely worth a visit. We spend some wonderful days in a small AirBnB Apartment in the heart of the really beautiful Marbella old-town. From there we explore the neighborhood and the region such as “Ronda” and “Granada” to see the world famous Alhambra fortress that was built by the Moors.

A couple of nice places for food in Marbella:

  • Restaurant Casa Tua: a small cozy restaurant in the middle of Marbella’s old town with superb Italian cuisine
  • El Estrecho: great traditional tapas bar in the old-town of Marbella, hidden in a small alley, that serves simple traditional but delicious tapas and great local wine
  • Restaurant Paella’s y mas: typical authentic Andalusian kitchen including Paella, seafood and Spanish steaks
  • Rachel´s Organic Eco Love Food at Punta Romano Resort: cute Café that serves healthy food, smoothies and refreshments right at the hotel’s pool
  • Celicioso: comfortable Café and own gluten-free bakery and tasty snacks, salads, smoothies not far from the beach
  • Organic Market & Food: Restaurant & Café with healthy and delicious meals, snacks, smoothies and small items, fruits and vegetables in an integrated organic shop

We leave Marbella with destination Portugal and drive via the most southern point of Spain that lies only miles before Africa (Morocco). The beach “Playa de los Lances Tarifa” is famous for best Kitesurfing conditions – we see hundreds of kitesurfers and are amazed about the pure action in the heavy wind and wild waves. Before heading to Portugal, we spend a couple of days in Conil de la Frontera (Cadiz) and its famous surf beach “El Palmar”.

→ Check out our next stop: West Algarve

→ Check out our next stop: West Algarve

Barcelona | Spain

THE CITY THAT SIMPLY HAS EVERYTHING TO OFFER

→ Art, culture, history, design, architecture, restaurants, bars, clubs… Barcelona has something to offer for any type of visitor.

We arrive in the evening and stay at the boutique hotel “H10 Cubik” – a pretty new and very stylish hotel in central location. The roof terrace with a pool, is the perfect place to relax in quiet atmosphere, as opposed to the vibrant city right outside the hotel – the view over Barcelona is amazing.

The next morning, we walk through the old-town of our favorite district “El Born”. There are numerous boutiques, galleries, cafés, restaurants and bars in the very old and small alleys and streets – a perfect place for a shopping-spree. I meet Sonia, the owner of the small boutique “Conpasion” and I find out that she loves surfing as much as we do. The chemistry between us is perfect and we spend a lot of time speaking about the Spanish way of living, the background of the Catalan independency-move and, of course, surfing.

We meet our local friend David in the evening for a drink and dinner in the city district “Gracia”, which is a bit less touristy with many bars and restaurants – a perfect place to go out in the evening. After a few drinks at the cocktail bar “Dos Rombos”, we have dinner that the restaurant “Taverna El Glop”, where they serve great traditional Catalan cuisine – this is where the locals go.

Sightseeing is mandatory

The next day we do some classic sightseeing including the hotspots “Sagrada Famila” and “Parque Güell”. Unfortunately, groups of tourists and long lines are inevitable, but the stunning buildings and architecture by Gaudi compensate for the exhausting tourist-program. In the evening, we get some real authentic tapas in the tapas bar “El Xampanyet” in El Born. We end the day with a drink on the roof terrace of our hotel.

After some exciting and inspiring days in Barcelona, we need a souvenir as a memory of an amazing time in a great city. Before we continue our travels, we have another walk through El Born and find the small gallery “Generos de Punta”. The artist Gaston Liberto is originally from Argentina, but has been living and working in Barcelona for many years now. His illustrations are inspired by the people and life in Barcelona and we find the perfect souvenir.

→ Check out our next stop: Andalusia

→ Check out our next stop: Andalusia

Saint-Tropez | France

GLAMPING” – WE ARE PART OF A TREND

→ We arrive the region of Saint-Tropez in the South of France and stay on one of the nicest camping sites in Europe – “Camp du Domaine” right at the ocean in the small village Bormes-les-Mimosas – 5-star deluxe camping right at the ocean (“Glamping” = glamorous camping). Since it is low season, we are lucky to get a first-row spot right at the beach with a view over a scenic bay. Our first experience sleeping in our VW California in between many hardcore campers is nicer than expected and we even decide to extend our stay at this spotless and cozy campsite.

We take a few days to explore the region and because it is low season, we see everything from its true and authentic side without any mass-tourism – Saint-Tropez is just adorable at this time of year. We walk along the harbor, drink espresso in the traditional and prominent café “Senequier” and gaze at the people walking by and the super expensive Yachts that lie along the harbor. If you are lucky, you may see the famous French actress Brigitte Bardot. We then walk through the beautiful streets and old-town with numerous boutiques. You can find really nice bikinis, men’s swimming shorts and beach towels in my favorite shop “Kiwi”. We allow ourselves some calories and have a super delicious “Tarte Tropizienne” that we enjoy at twilight on a bench on the central marketplace, where old and young locals meet to play Boule.

Jet Set not required

Our next trip takes us to the small but picturesque villages Grimaud and Ramatuelle that lie on small hills surrounded by a scenic landscape just behind Saint-Tropez. The villages are just lovely and we spend hours walking through the small streets with cozy restaurants, cafés and art galleries. On the way back, we take a short stop at the famous Vineyard “Minuty” and buy a few bottles of Rosé for comfortable evenings that lie ahead.

One unforgettable experience is our coastal hike just outside Saint-Tropez from “Plage de L’Escalet” going south-west to “Plage de Gigaro”. The path takes us along the coast through a green and rocky landscape, past white dunes and sandy beaches in small bays – it is just spectacular. After a few hours hiking, we get a well-deserved dinner at “Couleurs Jardin”, a comfortable restaurant right on the beach with superb kitchen.

→ Check out our next stop: Barcelona

→ Check out our next stop: Barcelona

Uzès – Provence | France

VILLAGE OF THE HERBS

→ Next stop South of France! After driving several hours through Switzerland and France, we go to a place that we’ve been before – Uzès in middle of Provence. It is the city of herbs with fascinating charm and wonderful hospitality. The historic buildings and walls from past centuries, give the city a mystical feeling and we discover new things in the numerous winding streets and alleys. We stay the night at the relatively new and cozy Boutique „Hotel Entraigues”, within a nicely restructured historic building. The hotel restaurant specializes in local cuisine with regional organic products – too bad we missed eating there, unfortunately, it is closed on Wednesdays (other guests say it is “excellent”). We decide to have a snack at “Les Terriers“, a small typical French Bistro in the center of town right at Place aux Herbes (plaza of the herbs) – this place serves small plates and sells items by providers and farmers from the region. We save some space for dessert and go straight across the plaza to “La Fabrique Giverée – Artiste Glacier“. They produce their own ice cream with own creations and products from the region – you need to try their salted caramel flavor.

A small highlight is the small and nondescript restaurant “Piano, Piano” at the edge of the town center. The friendly owners and staff offer a changing daily menus and the food is just great – we love the main course fresh seared tuna with vegetables and potato puree.

The next days we stay at the really cozy hotel “La Buissonniere” on the picturesque countryside about 15 minutes outside of Uzès. The beautiful estate has a large garden with plants from the region like lavender and olive trees. The friendly German couple Natascha and Jörg and their super speedy turtle “Rakete” (Rocket) realized a small dream by taking over this place a few years ago. As a special event, they invite their friends and guests every year to participate at their annual olive harvest (by hand!), where each guests receives a bottle of freshly pressed olive oil. The evenings at La Buissionnaire are really romantic: We enjoy amazing dinners, personally cooked by Natascha, on the patio of the hotel surrounded antique buildings and with a view on the lovely garden. We will certainly come back.

→ Check out our next stop: Saint-Tropez

→ Check out our next stop: Saint-Tropez