Jul 24, 2011

Day 16: Lyon, and then time to go home!

We couldn't believe it was the last day of the trip! Before heading back to Frankfurt, we took a few minutes to research things to do in Lyon so that we could spend the early part of the morning touring around. It was a gorgeous Sunday morning in France!

We quickly decided that we love Lyon. Much like Paris, it has a French feel with the beautiful architecture and charming cafes, but it's clean and doesn't feel as touristy.

We made our way through downtown Lyon, looking for a fun place to eat breakfast and for interesting sights. We definitely found both.

The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere

Cool old BMW

We love traveling with a motorcycle because when you see a place where you want to stop, you just pull up on the curb and park!

We had a delicious breakfast of almond cream croissant goodness and coffee at a little pattisserie. I was really surprised by how heavy these pastries were. They were so dense and moist and dreamy. And the coffee complimented them perfectly! A great last breakfast in France.


Then we drove up to see the Roman ruins, where we took a really nice walk around this spectacular amphitheater. We were impressed by how well it had been maintained!

Then we continued on toward the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere, where you can get a great view of Lyon.

Because it was Sunday, there was a church service going on inside. I wish we could have stayed, but we really needed to get on the road soon. The interior of the church was very ornate and beautiful.

Time to drive home! We had great weather all day. The French countryside was gorgeous, and we listened to some French radio to enhance the driving experience. French music is actually some of the best music we've heard outside of the US. There were tons of flowers in bloom, and we even got to see some cool canyons, which were an added bonus.

When we were pretty close to home, we saw traffic ahead! We hadn't hit traffic the ENTIRE trip, and there it was on our last 20 minute stretch. Brian exited to avoid it, and we ended up taking a nice detour through the city, which actually was a fun conclusion to our epic drive. It's always hard to come home after a great vacation, so the little tour through Frankfurt reminded us that we were glad to be home.

Jul 23, 2011

Days 14 & 15: Tarragona and Lyon

Another day of great weather! We made some last minute changes in our route so that we could drive along the coast, and that turned out to be an interesting choice :) At first it was beautiful. We found another very rich part of Spain - yachts, expensive cars, and beautiful houses built into the hills with great views of the water. That area was a lot of fun to see!

Tempting to just stay here

The roads we saw had some really cool construction!

We were totally lovin' the drive, and then things started to get a little weird. We were driving through orange fields, which we were used to, but we started to see VERY scantily dressed women. Oh yes, there were prostitutes ALL along this really long stretch of road through nothing but orange tree fields! Odd.

We made it to Valencia around lunch time, so Bri found a cool restaurant on the water where he humored me with one last paella. It was so nice to sit out in the sun!

The rest of the afternoon, the views weren't the best, but we made great time and had no trouble finding our hotel in Tarragona. It was a nice hotel, and we were really excited about the "free mini bar", which turned out to only be a water and a soda. Haha! We ventured out and found the harbor that had a bunch of restaurants where Brian indulged in a very manly drink :)

I liked the paper strawberry on the straw

He cracks me up! For dinner we had a shrimp and avocado salad with some calamari, which was all tasty. We had found a yummy looking gelato shop before dinner, but it was closed by the time we were done with dinner! Boo. I don't handle the unfulfilled anticipation of ice cream products well, but I somehow managed to get by :)

*Personal note: the government furlough was huge on TV at this point in our trip. We had no idea what would happen or what we were supposed to do if the furlough happened, but we briefly contemplated going back to a couple of the places we had visited!

The next morning, we had breakfast at a small cafe a couple of doors down from the hotel. Fresh squeezed OJ and pastries always hit the spot. We made another route change today. In light of the previous day's lack of impressive views on the coastal road, we decided to head to the mountains today. EXCELLENT choice. We saw gorgeous canyons and rock formations!

Around noon, we stopped at what appeared to be a regular ol' gas station to fill up. When I went inside to explore, I found a cool restaurant out back with a great view! So we decided to take a break and eat a potato sandwich with grilled veggies. I was so surprised by how good it was! I was expecting gas station food :)

Gas station lunch view
Mmm - potato sandwich

After lunch, the views continued with all kinds of cool architecture and impressive mountains.

Our next stop was at a little cafe that overlooked a valley and cute little town. While I was in the cafe, this little girl with huge blue eyes and blonde curls came up to me and started speaking French. Cutest thing I've ever seen in my life. I wanted to take her home with me. At that point I decided I want my kids to learn French :)

Man, that was a beautiful day. We saw so many cool forts and castles. You know you're on a good road when you see tons of antique cars and luxury cars cruisin' around. They were everywhere!

With two hours left in our drive, we stopped at another gas station that had an impressive view of this fort built into the rock of this hill (it's on the right side of the picture).

We arrived in Lyon around 8 and went to dinner at a brasserie that was across the street from our hotel. It was a really beautiful restaurant with great food. We both had a braided roast that was served in a delicious morel mushroom marinade. The waiter recommended a local specialty for dessert, which was a tart with cream. We loved it! As we were finishing our wine, we noticed the couple next to us ordered 3 desserts, and they devoured the creme brulee. So we decided to try that as well, and we were quite impressed! It was the lightest creme brulee we had ever had. After such a huge dinner, we took a walk around the city, and then we slept really well that night!

Jul 18, 2011

Day 13: Beaches and Mountains

For breakfast, we enjoyed the largest buffet breakfast we had ever seen! Seriously, there were 5 different stations, each about the size of a decent sized breakfast on its own. Anyway, once we sat down, we couldn't stop laughing and making jokes because we were literally the only 2 people in this huge cafeteria that didn't have white hair! I wish I had taken a picture, because I know you don't believe me. I don't know how this hotel had established such an age-specific clientele, but they had done a great job at it.

As usual, after breakfast, we headed up and moved on out! We started on the highway, which was pretty but quite busy. So we broke away from that to ride on the coastal road. We had great weather, and the water sure was beautiful!

Then we turned inland toward the mountains. The terrain became more like a desert as we drove toward the Sierra Nevada. The mountain roads kept us very entertained with their gorge-ous views and winding roads.

Glad we weren't here when this landslide happened!
There were lots of sections of the road that looked like this.

For lunch we stopped at a small mountain restaurant that smelled like corndogs, which made me crave corndogs, but of course they didn't have corndogs in the Spanish mountain boonies. Bri had a specialty of the area - a sausage breakfast lunch - and I had a salad and a ham and noodle soup.

Later in the day, we came across a TON of bees! They were everywhere, and we were both stung by stingers that had gotten stuck in our riding gear. Yow!

We enjoyed more amazing coastal roads - the best we had seen by far. It was so remote and the water was sooo blue, and there were lots of pretty white developments.

Cool bridge hidden in the cliff by the water

It took us forever to find our hotel that night. We were staying at a newer hotel, which was nice, but the signage wasn't quite established. So we drove around for about 20 minutes (which after a full day of driving, 20 minutes is a long time!) and then tried to call the hotel to figure out where it is. The front desk lady was so funny - she couldn't convey where they were located and then got frustrated and hung up on us! When we finally found the hotel, we enjoyed drinks and dinner at the hotel and relaxed the rest of the evening!