Europe Road Trip (Page 6 of 6)


Toulouse Capitol Plaza

As the sun sinks low all 94,000 students attending the colleges making up the University of Toulouse seem to flock to the immense Capitol Plaza and the streets radiating out from it. The loud music from the evening concert, sundry street bands and countless bars turn the scene into one massive outdoor party after dark. Sit down to a late dinner at one of the tables lining the west side of the Plaza and soak in the whole unforgettabley throbbing scene.

Place Clémenceau is one of many picture-perfect streets in the storied French Atlantic resort of Biarritz. Its most distinguished and irresistible shop is the 130-year-old Patisserie Miremont, an elegant tea salon with cliamax view of the main beach that. Its pastries and confections are a notch above those found elsewhere.


Along with Cannes and Monaco, Biarritz is the ritziest seaside resort you can visit in Europe. The town’s hilly streets offer postcard views of a very blue Atlantic and the white sandy beach rarely seen on the Mediterranean. They are also lined with well-manicured cafés and patisseries that belong on movie sets. Lunch on tables perched atop a low rocky bluff overlooking a sandy cove, then dive into the bracing water. Biarritz is one of two places for which we wished we had allotted more than an afternoon.

This sandy cove is a few hundred yards east of the main beach of Biarritz, France. The stone steps lead up to a café perched on a rock cliff and down to a rock perch from which to dive into the sea.

This view shows Playa de Ondaretta on the west side of the main bay of San Sebastian, Spain’s main Basque Coast resort city. A ten-minute walk east along a lively promenade links it to Playa de La Concha (partly visible on the right) and the city center with its many pintxos (tapas) bars.

San Sebastian

San Sebastian is Spain’s Basque Coast counterpart to France’s Biarritz. The grand curving three-mile promenade along the gemlike bay is more than a memorable sight — it’s a solid workout! Its two white-sand beaches and many pintxos (tapas) bars just a stagger away make it an ideal margaritaville, albeit among some spectacular rock formations and atmospheric architecture.

One of the most distinctive features of San Sebastian is this broad promenade that links its western beach (Playa de Ondaretta) with Playa de La Concha and the lively city center.

Pamplona’s old Plaza Castillo is famous as the setting of much of Hemingway’s classic first novel The Sun Also Rises. Both the author and his characters enjoyed whiling away hot days under the white awning of Café Iruña (pictured), as well as Bar Txoko and Hotel La Perla (not visible).

Pamplona Around Plaza del Castillo

Fans of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises are dismayed to find that the sun-baked Plaza del Castillo is now one end of a gleaming pedestrian mall lined with good shopping, restaurants and offices. But, like Jake, you can still sit out in front of Café Iruña and “contemplate the grand Plaza”, if you don’t mind a bit of renovation in progress. As the regional capital of Navarre, the city is clean, well-groomed and not at all clogged with tourists except when they start running the bulls during the San Fermin Festival every July 7-14.

The magnificent Basilica de Pilar rises like a serene ghost in the evening view of revelers heading north along lively Calle de Alfonso I. The Pilar and the grand plaza adjoining it form the center of Zaragoza, Spain, a modern city that still bears the influence of 400 years of the Muslim domination that began in the 8th century.

Zaragoza Around Basilica de Pilar

As you walk north along bustling Calle Alfonso the central cupola of Basilica de Pilar comes into view and rises majestically until you are confronted by the imposing white face of Zaragoza’s most famous landmark. It marks the north end of the historic city and of today’s vibrant dining and shopping district. Just off Plaza Pilar is Las Palomas Buffet. You can satisfy your cravings for the entrees, tapas and desserts that you’ve seen in passing but never managed to get around to ordering at all those tourist cafes.

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