Spring time road drive to Western Mediterranean or perhaps 'Madrid to Marseille -- the best of Spain and France

With temperatures on the rise and sun slowly returning to Europe it seems that more and more people are taking the opportunity to explore the continent and get a bit of sun on their faces. Although the winter has been a relatively mild one, that doesn’t mean that people are less willing to get out there and soak up the sunshine and enjoy being outside for the first time in months. With so many wonderful places to visit, the only issue that people are having is deciding where to go on their holiday.

For those of you who prefer to have a healthy mix of city and country — glory of nature and the impressive achievements of humankind — it can be something of a challenge to decide where to go, especially when you have time and money constraints. Along there are many ways to explore the world, we think the most rewarding is the classic road-trip.

And as far as where to do it—well, anywhere can be wonderful but our recommendation is most certainly the Mediterranean coast in Spain and France.

Spring time road drive to Western Mediterranean or perhaps Madrid to Marseille   the best of Spain and France

You will definitely want to do your research on where the best places to fly into are, but starting in Madrid, Spain’s vibrant, welcoming and dynamic capital always a good option. With numerous agencies there to welcome you, you can easily start your journey by hiring a car at Madrid Barajas Airport . And the Madrid itself has ample attractions to offer such as the world-famous Prada for art lovers, and the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu stadium, home to football’s Real Madrid. And for everyone, there’s tapas bars on nearly every street corner for some delicious Spanish food. You might want to consider getting a Madrid tourist card to save a bit of money on museum entrance fees, and also to get discounts at selected local restaurants and shops. Tourist cards also often offer confessions on tickets to the theatre, art exhibitions, sporting events, and come with free public transport tickets as well.

Spring time road drive to Western Mediterranean or perhaps Madrid to Marseille   the best of Spain and France

If you’re eager to get out and explore then consider taking the AP-2 (later the A-2) to Barcelona, the gem of Catalunya. At about six hours away, it’s an easy drive for one day, but we can definitely recommend stopping in the ancient and beautiful city of Zaragoza, one time capital of the kingdom of Aragon. Zaragoza itself is worth spending time in, if you’re in no hurry to get to Barcelona. With the Alfajarín Castle, for example, is more than 1000 years old, built at a time when most of Spain was under Muslim rule and looking at the castle one would expect to be somewhere in the Middle East and not Europe. Like so much in the region, the city’s history stretches back even further and there is also the possibility of visiting Roman ruins in Zaragoza as well as a few sites along the main roads. More or less directly between Madrid and Barcelona (about three hours either direction), Zaragoza is place to spend an afternoon, or even a day or two.

Before you take to the roads you will want to remember, that like most of Europe the speed limit is 130 km/h on the motorways and all over Europe there is little tolerance for driving under the influence. We whole-hearted suggest not having any alcohol until the end of your driving day, but if you’re going to indulge in an early drink then don’t get behind the wheel after having more than two drinks as the penalties in most European countries is extremely severe.

With so much to see if Barcelona you may want to consider just parking the car for your visit and exploring the city on foot and by public transport so you can fully take in this amazing city. If you fall in love with the place — as many do! — Barcelona is serviced by Barcelona El Prat Airport where you can easily drop-off your car and catch a flight home. If you’re travelling without a set plan though, remember to get the best airline tickets so you don’t incur high fees when changing flights.

Barcelona itself lies at the foothills of the Pyrenees. If you go north to France, only about two hours away by car, do be prepared to drive in through the mountains. If you enjoy the spending time in the mountains then take a couple of days to hike in the Parc Naturel Regional des Pyrénées Catalanes and explore the stunning traditional architecture of Catalunya in Garrotxa. While the AP-7 and A-9 are major roads, if you get off an take and side-roads you’ll be driving in typically mountainous terrain and you should be prepared that your travels may slow down a bit en route.

Gerona, Perpignan and Narbonne are all towns worth visiting, if you have the time, but the next major city with international infrastructure is Montpellier. This city of just over a quarter of a million people has been inhabited since ancient times and today offers everything from nature and sport (the Parc Naturel Regional de Camargue, in French, is just outside the city) to ancient history, culture, and during the summer months festivals and live music.

Spring time road drive to Western Mediterranean or perhaps Madrid to Marseille   the best of Spain and France

From Montpellier it’s only a quick drive east to the world-famous city of Marseille in southern France. This city on the usually warm and sunny French Rivera is hundreds of years older than Paris itself and over the time has developed its own unique culture well worth visiting.

Spring time road drive to Western Mediterranean or perhaps Madrid to Marseille   the best of Spain and France

And from Marseille it’s only a quick drive to Cannes, site of the annual film festival, and then Nice, a city that has been inhabited since Roman times, and then the ancient trading city of Genoa , etc, etc! The biggest challenge you’ll likely face when you’re on your trip is just deciding where to start and stop—and of course wishing you had more time! But the most important aspect is that you’re out and about enjoying the culture, people, and foods and getting a bit of that sometimes rare European sunshine on your face!

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