We just did this on a whim over the weekend. Nick is in Portugal with his good friend until May 3, and said he wanted to extend a week or so to tour the the Spanish and French Rivieras starting in Barcelona. Of course my wife was mortified that our little 24 year old snowflake - now mind you, Nick is a big muscular kid - is all alone in the dangers of the world. So perhaps a bit tipsy at dinner, she cornered me to go join him. With that kind of hall pass, and a shockingly open calendar that week, I booked it. So we are starting in Barcelona May 4 for 3 days, renting a car and then exploring. My flight back is from Nice on May 14. No specific agenda, but Nick does want to tour the entire Riviera to Monaco. I’ve been there before, so want to show him neat places like Nimes and Arles, Roman ruins, etc.
Would love some recommendations on:
a couple Michelin or comparable restaurants
must see museums (will hit Picasso in Cadaques)
a unique hotel (saw a lot of Relais v Chateaux properties)
some cool outdoor stuff to do, physical, like a bike tour
a couple wineries to hit
Nick is young but is a foodie and is a budding wine affocionada. But, he’s also a 24-year old dude, so I cannot overwhelm him just on cultural stuff.
Oh, any recommendations on rental car companies so I can go from Barcelona to Monaco? Would love to find a fun convertible.
barcelona…bestia was my best meal there last summer. not really spanish or catalan but a great night out and others have agreed. id also highly recommend bar seats at bar canete…its a must every time we’re in town. bar mut is another option (they also have a private jazz bar called mutis after dinner). my favorite hotel in barcelona is grand hotel central. you will not find a nicer place in the heart of the best part of town. bar brutal i found to be very enjoyable for drinks and a small bite.
ive stayed in begur 3x over the last decade and if it appeals to you, its about a 90 - 100 minute drive north and east of barcelona. stay at sa rascassa, a perfect seaside restaurant with 5 rooms in the back. if not, hostal sa tuna. just dont stay in begur town…stay by the beach. this is an ideal base if you want to stay 1-2 nights…
since you road bike, you can also consider staying in girona instead and get a ride in. rent a bike at eat sleep bike or service course but only rent a carbon bike. i made the mistake of renting a steel bike on a 8000+ feet day of climbing…no bueno.
you can conceivably stay in begur for 2-3 nights and drive into girona to bike for the day and have dinner there. i prefer staying by the beach than in girona though it is a 45 minute drive. you can also use begur as a base to visit cadaques. if you do it, have dinner at compartir…same owners as disfrutar in barcelona (ex el bulli chefs). make sure you drive to cap de creus…a bit of a rustic alternative to the seaside town).
i cant recommend much until you drive to provence. we love staying in st remy de provence but that may be too inland for your trip. if it isnt, stay at hotel de tourrel…its perfect. in arles, we liked lunch at le galoubet. if you stay in st remy, you must have dinner at l’oustalet in gigondas (outdoors at sunset) and you will want to rent a bike to ride up mont ventoux.
i love nice but never stay in nice. i highly recommend you stay in eze or a beach town like menton or st jean cap ferrat. eden plage at mala beach is a must if you are looking for a beach option. paloma beach is another option but more of a scene.
in nice proper, i highly recommend jan for dinner. its a 1 star by a south african chef and we just loved it.
Wow, really tremendous recommendations they are. I will check some of these places out, in particular those in Spain. A lot of the places to visit on your list for France are quite memorable to me, my wife and I crashed with my parents in St Remy de Provence when they rented a small villa there for about six weeks. We stayed with them for about 10 days, and used it as the base to explore the entire region. Chris and I were only 26 or 27 at the time, so not that much older than Nick, we had just gotten married, and had just taken a trip to Paris, Bordeaux and Loire Valley about six months earlier. At the time we could not afford to stay at the Château in Eze, but we actually did eat there two nights in a row. The second night was a layover, because our flight back got snowed in. It was a blizzard in New York, yet the weather on the Riviera was perfect. Hard to beat that, we got two extra days on the Riviera. Although by the end of that trip, I was dead broke.
Villa Ephrussi de Rothchild (they outbid the King of Belgium for this most amazing property). Make a reservation at the cafe (for the view, although the food is fine - I usually just have a cappucino, but need a reservation).
Villa Kyrylos - right near Villa Ephrussi
Drive the Grand Corniche in the mountains above Nice and make like James Bond (or better yet, take it slow)
Chevre d’Or in Eze for lunch (request a table with a view; luxe restaurant); Eze very cool town
Cafe de Turin for shellfish in Nice (casual restaurant)
Get some Socca at the market (chickpea flatbread)