Europe Road Trip (Page 3 of 6)



This delightful little town got its start before the Christian era as one of the first Roman settlements outside Italy. Today it’s the ideal afternoon break on the expressway between Barcelona and Montpelier, offering a waterside idyll along Canal de la Robine, a visit to a dungeon and a museum, and a few picture-perfect moments with pastries and coffee on the charming little square in front of the Archbishop’s Palace.

Canal de la Robine runs through the quiet Languedoc town of Narbonne like an old summer melody. About two hundred yards from this scene is a medieval complex containing Cathedrale St.-Just and the Archbishop’s Palace built in the 13th century but never completed.


Having planned Montpelier mainly as a convenient place to spend the night, we were blown away by Place de la Comedie, the town’s big thriving town square and the splendid Champ de Mars garden park. Young people from all over France and Spain converge here on summer evenings after days spent exploring the local beaches and countrysides.

The Gaumont is an old theater that has been converted into a multiplex showing mostly Hollywood movies on the south side of Place de la Comedie, Montpellier’s outsize town square. Comedie, as the square is commonly known, is lined with hundreds of tables where diners can watch passersby or catch a nearby street performance.

Aix-en-Provence Along Cours Mirabeau

This gracious tree-lined triplet boulevard is the center of Aix street life. Its south side features handsome boutiques and a perpetual sidewalk art fair and the north side is lined with expensive apartments and impressively appointed cafés, including the famous old Les Deux Garçons which was a favorite with Hemingway and Cézanne. The Cours bisects this tastefully understated center of Provençal culture and sophistication into the old (north) and new halves.

The south side of broad, tree-lined Cours Mirabeau features a sidewalk arts and crafts fair. The north side features a number of famous cafés and restaurants. The six-block-long boulevard is the center of street life in sophisticated and affluent Aix-en-Provence.


The postcard hotels and cafes along Promenade de la Croisette and the beach lined with yellow and white chaises fully live up to their billing. What is a delightful surprise is cobbled Rue d’Antibes, the charming main street a couple blocks up from the beach where you can buy dental floss, clothes and a replacement for that camera charger you left at home — all at resident prices, then duck into a neighborhood boulangerie for a €6 panini and a limonade to wait out a summer squall.

Rue d’Antibes is the main shopping street of Cannes, the French Riviera’s postcard-perfect beach resort. We were pleasantly surprised by the reasonable prices that prevail in its many boutiques, boulageries and other shops.

Promenade de l’Amiral de Grasse runs along the main beach of the well-manicured resort town of Antibes. Antibes is smaller, less glitzy and more local than nearby Cannes, but offers more sandy beaches and a charming, laid-back feel.


The fact that this small lovely peninsula is the setting for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night provides the curiosity quotient. What makes it worth a half-day digression from the expressway between Cannes and Nice is the understated charm of an authentic French resort town that attracts affluent natives as well as foreign bookworms.

The streets of Antibes are lined with tasteful, upscale cafes and shops. The town has the charm of a laid-back yet sophisticated seaside village with easy access to white-sand beaches.


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