We’ve completed our house sit in Morzine France and had an amazing time. We thought it would be a week of rest and relaxation, but it was far more than that. We had big plans of spending a week or two to make it back home to Almuñécar, with stops in Montpellier, Girona and more. But that isn’t how our the final week of our European road trip turned out.
This was the only part of our 8 week road trip, where we didn’t book accommodation in advance. We wanted to wait and see how we were feeling after the house sit. Perhaps we would want to just drive the 17+ hours home, or maybe we were still wanting to explore and make it a 9 week road trip. We took a family vote and there were mixed reactions and it was clear it was time to wind down.
It was time to say goodbye to France and make our way back to Spain. We will especially miss the amazing French bread and of course our beloved Boursin cheese, among other cheeses. It should go without saying that Alan will not be missing any cheese, but the bread yes!
How to end the European Road Trip, fast or slow?
While we didn’t want to just jet home as fast as we could, we didn’t want to take more than a week to return home. The big festival in Almuñécar is every August 15th, which happened to be in the middle of the week this year. This is the one week the town is so over crowded, so we wanted to be sure to miss that. Because the festival was in the middle of the week, the weekends on either side would be busy as well. So the target was to take about 9 days to get home. We planned to arrive on a Monday, so the crowds would be gone.
When looking for accommodation for those 9 days, just 3 days in advance, there were slim pickings for accommodation. On 3 rental sites from the Spain/France border all of the way down the coast to Valencia was booked. Really, when I looked at the map view, it was nothing but red dots (booked), for anything under 150 a night. I wasn’t willing to go higher this time.
You already have your keys!
So we decided to break up the trip with a few stops, which were still affordable. First stop was 2 nights in Grenoble France. The plan was to stay right in the city center and just pay to park the car. That way we can enjoy the city on foot and have a good experience.
We arrived on a Saturday night and found and the clerk said we had already checked in! Even though she and I just did our paperwork, when I asked for the key, she said we should have received it already. “WHAT?” I am so confused. After about 30 minutes of her running around, she came back and said that she had a key for us. I am not sure what happened, but we weren’t happy with the leftover room.
We finally arrived in our apartment and found it was not as advertised. The “large double” bed was a full size bed and the “sofa couch” was more like a trundle (which is great if there is room to open it). The photos showed a larger apartment than what we received. I guess you just get the leftovers when you arrive at night. After a bit of negotiation, we ended up getting a second room, as there was no way the 4 of us would all fit on a bed. She gave us a good discount, but it was still frustrating.
Sunday morning we were up and ready to go explore the city. We walked around a bit and no one else was around. After being out for over an hour, we gave up on finding anything exciting as nearly everything was closed. It was partially expected that there would be a few things closed on a Sunday, but we didn’t expect to be the only ones in town. It was just chalked it up to a perfect day to catch up on work and returned to the hotel. On the way back we did find one small convenience store open, so this was going to be our dinner for the night.
Monday morning, we were scheduled to check out, but we still wanted to see a bit of the city. Guess what it was a ghost town again! This time it was a Monday morning. We asked at the front desk and apparently it was a holiday. Had I realized that when searching for accommodation, I would have just stayed in the outskirts for a cheaper place. Oh well, lesson learned and it was on to another 2 night stop over.
Unlimited Chocolate and the other Montblanc
Next up was 2 nights just south of Montpellier in Marie Montblanc. Along the way we were going to be passing a chocolate factory in Valence France, so we decided to take the detour. We didn’t want to do a full factory tour, but we read that there was unlimited chocolate samples in their gift shop, so that is where we went. I think it is safe to say unlimited chocolate sounds better than the reality. While it was all extremely delicious, it was a bit rough on the bellies for the remaining 2 hour drive.
Once we arrived in Montblanc we knew we were in for a treat. The owner was very nice and so was the apartment. This was a small village slightly inland from the coast and it was actually wonderful. We found an Airbnb apartment, just above a winery, with amazing owners. Alan writes more about that experience coming up on the blog. Just to let you know, it involves more wine! This was just about an hour from the Spain border, so it was time to head back to our home country!
Blow by the Spanish Costa
We were going to blow by the entire east coast of Spain and make our way to the south and return to Lo Pagan. We really wanted to experience the mud baths in Mar Menor one more time and there seemed to be plenty of accommodation available in that area. This meant it was a 10 hour drive from our place in France, so we just did one quick stop over about an hour north of Valencia.
Are we on the moon?
We found an apartment with air conditioning, a pool and parking just a 20 minute drive from Lo Pagan. The price was reasonable, so this was going to be our final 4 days to just chill, swim and mud up! When we arrived at the apartment, it felt as if we drove for more than an hour in complete desert. I mean it was almost like petrified sand dunes and almost no vegetation. We had visited the area before, but along the coast. Wow what a difference it was to be just 15-20 minutes inland! It felt like someone plopped an urbanization in the middle of the moon.
Of course our apartment complex (urbanization) was nice and within the walls, it was green with fountains, golf courses and more. That said, you could tell it once had a much better buzz about it. Most of the shops and restaurants and the big hotel were closed down. There was still a little available, but not much. Oh well, we just wanted the pool and air conditioning, so we were good to go.
At this point in our journey, we knew were just a quick 4 hour drive home, but we were just killing time. We wanted to arrive after the holiday weekend, so we just relaxed and weren’t even to social with each other. It was time to chill and have movie time and things like that. We didn’t want to do much exploring, but the mud baths were a family favorite a few years ago, so that was one to do item.
Stinky, Hot and Irritable
We decided to go to the mud baths in the morning, before the extreme heat arrived (98’F+). We were all up and out of the house, but this time Anya wasn’t so thrilled to be going back. She remembered how stinky it was and didn’t even bother to put on her bathing suit. In fact she was being quite difficult this day, but we weren’t comfortable leaving her home alone, so we took her along and paid for it.
We did make it to the mud baths and have to say it was a much more pleasant experience when the kids were younger and excited to spread mud all over themselves. The extremely hot weather brought with it very warm water and unbearable stinky mud. It was also a better experience at the end of September when the weather was cooler. Honestly, there really wasn’t anything pleasant or memorable about this particular visit in August. All I can recommend is that if you do plan to visit the mud baths, Spring or Fall are probably better. Read more about our first experience at the Lo Pagan mud baths.
We were all in a bit of a mood for the remainder of the day and in hindsight, we probably pushed the boundaries a bit too much. We should have known better on days 55+ of a road trip not to “force” the kids to go out with us. The following day, Alan and I went to check out nearby Cartagena and left the kids home. This was a far more pleasant excursion day, but again it was a Sunday and most things were closed. It was left us with enough curiosity to want to return and explore more one day.
The final night of our European Road Trip
Tonight was a fun night of movies, popcorn, swimming and animal face masks! We had a bit of a spa night to say so long to an amazing road trip. Earlier in the year, Anya and Alan visited Madrid with Gma Linda. On that trip they pick up some cool Sephora animal face masks and we saved them for this day. I am not sure if we applied them properly, as we all look a bit sad. Alan was a panda, I was a monkey and I think Lars was the tiger. That said, it was loads of fun and we had beautiful soft skin for our return home. Sorry, didn’t get a pick of Anya, but she had just a basic white mask on.
Ending the European Road Trip – Going home day!
Finally Monday had arrived and were seemingly had no problems waking up early on this day. It was time to go home! Of course, it wasn’t without just one final stop. It was right on our way, less than 10 minutes off route, so we just had to make the visit. This stop was our grand finale!
Alan will share more on our time in Vera Spain at the artisan soap shop. Once we learned all about the soaps it was time to drive just 2 1/2 hours home.
There is no better feeling than arriving home and knowing you actually missed the place. Ah yes there is no place like home and Almuñécar is our home!
How do you feel when you arrive home from a long trip?