Bird’s eye: St-Remy-de-Provence as seen from the rooftops.I’m heading to Europe for the first time in July for my 40th birthday. We fly in and out of London, with four weeks in between. I’m finding it difficult to decide which countries and regions to visit – so much to see! We love food, wine, the sea and natural beauty. Any suggestions greatly appreciated.
C. MURPHY, MELBOURNE
There are so many appealing possibilities here, but here’s a sketch of what I’d do, From London’s St Pancras International Station board the Eurostar for the two-and-a-bit hour ride to Paris, where you’ll be spending four nights. From there you’ll take another train to Barcelona. There are several daily services aboard the TGV Duplex trains, and I’d take the one departing at 2.07pm. This gives you half a day in Paris and allows you to take in most of the delectable scenery along the way in daylight. The train arrives in Barcelona at 8.40pm, and like all the following stops, you’re here for three nights.
From Barcelona, hire a car and drive along the coast of Spain and into France where your next halt is St-Remy-de-Provence. Total drive time is just over four hours but stop somewhere on the Costa Brava and at Montpellier. St-Remy is a classic Provencale town with all the right ingredients, and easy access to Avignon, the Rhone Valley winegrowing district, the Camargue and the lovely villages of the Luberon.
Next base is Cassis, just east of Marseilles for a taste of life on the French Riviera, and make sure you take a boat trip to admire the Calanques, the fiord-like indentations to the west. Continue along the coast but this time you’re staying slightly inland at Mougins, a pretty mediaeval village close to the coastal honeypots of Cannes, Juan-les-Pins and Antibes and also St Paul-de-Vence, home to a small but wondrous gallery, Fondation Maeght.
Next, you’re heading for Lake Como just north of Milan to stay somewhere on the western side of the lake, possibly at Mezzegra, not too far from George and Amal Alamuddin Clooney. From Lake Como, drive west to stay at Verona, the city of the fictional Romeo and Juliet, and one of the most likeable cities of northern Italy.
After Verona it’s just a short drive north to Bolzano, where you’ll be admiring the wonders of the Dolomite region, and possibly doing an alpine walk, before driving through the mountains to Cortina d’Ampezzo and south to Venice, for your last few days on a final romantic whirl before catching a plane to London.
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