I’ve been several times in France, but since this specialty coffee road trip I would recommend everybody to go and speak your best French, sip some coffees and eat the perfect croissant.
Going on a road trip was pretty high on my 30 things before my 30’s. So when I still had to pick up some of my stuff in Barcelona and my bestie and me wanted a trip before I am heading to Asia, it was like a one plus one. The plan was to be on the road for eighteen days in France and Spain. In the end we spend ten days in France, but believe me when I say that we could extent this until ten weeks. We have seen beautiful cites, cute little streets, pretty landscapes and lot’s of lovely coffee places. Our route: Lille, Langres, Dijon, Marseille, Parc National des Calanques, Cassis, Aix-en-Provence, Montpellier, Barcelona, San Sebastian, Bordeaux and back home. In this blogpost I only write about France, because I wrote separate blogposts for Spain about Three Marks Coffee in Barcelona and a mini guide from San Sebastian. Any how I can cross off doing a road trip of my list and I am so happy I went with my bestie.
Lille, or Rijsel for Dutchies, was the first stop on the road trip. We left The Netherlands on Monday evening to arrive in Lille around 9 p.m. It’s only a two hour drive from where I live. We booked a room at Eklo Hotels, which is a little bit out of the centre but easy to reach. The reason we choose this hotel was because it looks pretty and comfortable and there is free parking in front of the hotel. Pretty important when traveling by car. It takes some time to walk, around 30 minutes, to the city centre but it’s a nice walk. The city of Lille is compact and easy to do by foot. I found several specialty coffee places like Tamper! Espresso Bar, Coffee Makers and Cafeine. We decided to take our first cup of coffee of the road trip at Cafeine. I have to say I always feel a bit overwhelmed and strange on my first day of holiday. And I think they felt that too in Lille. When we arrived at the café around 11 a.m. they were just about to open, while on Maps it says they open at 9. Unfortunately the barista knew only a few words of English, so it was hard to ask him questions. My camera didn’t want to open and my friend’s camera said it had an empty battery. Well prepared girls! After we ordered and I got my espresso there was an electricity cut in the café, so the friendly French barista couldn’t make my friends coffee. After all everything was fine, but it was a bit a rough first experience of our road trip. The place looks nice, the coffee was well made from OR Roastery in Brussels and the food was yummy. It wasn’t such a bad morning after all.
After brunch at Cafeine and some walking around in Lille it was time to hit the road again. We booked an Airbnb in Dijon. On the road we stopped at Langres. A beautiful old town with remnants of the city wall. Because the village lays up a hill you have a beautiful view over the valley. After some easy dinner we drove to Dijon. The Airbnb was a just a bit outside the city and it was really nice and clean. We had such a warm welcome of the host. After a good night of sleep we had coffee in the city at Morning Glory Café. A cute little café in the middle of the city. Bright and blue I would say. The atmosphere was really pleasant here and we could stay here all day if we had the time. Morning Glory is using coffee from Mokxa, a specialty coffee roaster from Lyon. I sipped a double espresso from Panana which was exciting, because I don’t think I ever had a coffee from Panama. It was as I expected chocolatey, but also fruity and quiet acidic. The barista who made our coffees was helpful and very kind. She gave the shop an even more pleasant atmosphere. Don’t forget to try some of the cakes, because the banana bread was to die for! After some walking and little shopping it was time to jump in the car and go to Marseille. Before arriving in the sunny city in the south we drove through infinite vineyards. We made a stop at Mercury and it was so pretty and magical.
Excited as I was to go to Marseille. To go to the sea. Even if we had pretty good weather the last couple of days in Marseille it would be even better. We stayed at an oké hotel, nothing special, outside the city centre. Like I said the most important thing for us is a parking lot and a good bed as well. After a pretty long drive with lot’s of rain and some horrible roadside restaurant food we jumped in bed straight away to wake up with good energy to explore. We decided to walk to the centre which was like 30 minutes. It was already pretty warm and it was the first time we didn’t freeze our tits of in the morning without a jacket. It was also the first time that we were staying two nights in one city, so we had time enough to explore and to enjoy the beautiful weather. First stop in Marseille was 7VB Café, Vie-Est-Belle, for our daily shot of caffeine. I think this was the most beautiful coffee shop in France for me. The combination of old and new furniture, the green and white bar, the menu on the wall, lot’s of plants and light. 7VB looks like a large living room and I could live here. At this café coffee from OR Coffee Roasters is used like at Caffeine in Lille. It was a nice espresso, nothing special, just good. 7VB is owned by two Americans who are living in France for a very long time is what the friendly Barista, also from the States, told me. After hanging at 7-VIE-EST-BELLE for a while it was time to walk around the harbor, catch some sun, do some shopping and walk through the creative neighborhood Le Cours Julien, which is full of little shops and street art. After strolling around the only thing left to do was to visit the basilica Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde. It reminded me a lot about the Sacra-Coeur in Paris and the Expiatori del Samrat Cor in Barcelona, just because they are all build on top of a hill and you have an amazing view over the city. It is totally worth the walk up hill.
For two days there was a strange sound coming from underneath the car so we decided to play better safe than sorry and called our car insurance in The Netherlands. By the way we took my dads van, a Renault Kangoo. The insurance company, ANWB, fixed us a garage so they would take a look at the van. We had to be there in the early afternoon so we decided to get a coffee first in the city. Then hit back to the hotel, pack our stuff, check-out and bring the car to the garage. For our first coffee of the day we went to Café x Café. A small, cute coffee shop with almost no space to sit, a one group La Marzocco and a really nice and passionated owner. Unfortunately for my friend at Café x Café there is only regular milk, so I sipped an espresso and we tried another place. The other place was totally not worth my money so I am not gonna mention it (don’t go to Bernie Coffee). The friendly owner of Café x Café gave me a list of specialty coffee shops in the city that are worth to visit: Deep, Loustic, Ginger Art & Coffee, La Fiancée & Coogee. While waiting for the car to be fixed we had coffee and lunch at Ginger. If I had one more day or in need of more caffeine I would have gone to DEEP. This coffee shop and torrefacteur looks super pretty! What I almost forgot to tell you is that I did some badass driving in Marseille. ANWB found us a garage in the middle of the city centre in Le Cours Julien. If you do know Marseille you also know that there are some pretty steep slopes. There was a traffic light on top of one slope and I felt pretty badass after nailing this one! Leaving the car at the garage we enjoyed coffee and lunch at Ginger Art & Coffee. By the way we thought Marseille was the most dirty city of our trip. It was also the only city that we didn’t feel comfortable to walk around in the night. That said it was time to drive to our sleeping place for the next two night, just outside Marseille so it would be easier to visit Cassis and Parc National des Calanques.
My friend Sylvie and I we love hiking. We did our first hike together on Mallorca and we did a day trip to Ronda during our vacation in Málaga. While planning this road trip we knew we had to do a hike and we found the perfect one in Marseille area. Between Marseille and the small fishers town Cassis you find Parc National des Calanques. There are different hikes that leads you to different calanques. We decided to park the car half way and walk to Calanque d’En Vau. It takes you around two hours if you start from the parking lot next to the road, or just one hour if you take the car into the park to another parking lot. I can recommend the last option. We didn’t do that and we regret this in the end, because you walk one hour on the road with the cars. Not so pretty. Luckily on the way back a friendly French men gave a us a ride back to our car. If we would have more days to spend I would definitely do another hike in this national park. After the hike we spend the evening in the romantic fishers town Cassis. I think this was the only place we visit on our trip that was full of tourists. But still pretty and worth the visit.
On this sunny Sunday morning it was time to leave Marseille and Cassis behind us and go to Montpellier. To have a nice road we decided to take a stop in Aix-en-Provence for a coffee and some lunch. Before leaving we made a stop at a bakery, because we were almost one week in France but we hadn’t had a croissant yet. I dropped Sylvie at the bakery to drive circles to pick her up. When she got back in the car she brought fresh baked still warm croissants. In the end I only had one croissant on the trip, but it was the best croissant ever! So Aix-en-Provence. On my coffee shop list for this road trip there was Mana Espresso on it. Mana de la Maison du Collectionneur is the place to be on Sundays. The perfect brunch place. When you walk in it feels like a espresso bar but when you walk to the sitting area it feels like a luxury lunchroom. We had excellent service, the food was tasty and great coffee. Mana Espresso is using specialty coffee from Round Hill Roastery. I really enjoyed sipping the coffee from this UK based coffee roaster. With a full belly and some small walk in Aix-en-Provence it was time to hit the road again on our way to Montpellier.
We arrived in Montpellier in the late afternoon. We booked a hotel in the centre including a parking lot that’s what we thought at least. Arriving at the hotel by car they told us there is a parking garage next to the train station. Parking garages are always expensive, so we decided to find an alternative. When visiting Montpellier by car the best option is to park at P+tram Circé parking just outside the city. It’s only 4,90 euro included a tram ticket for that day. Taking the tram is easy, because there is only one tram going to the city centre (this parking lot is the final destination of the tram so you can’t go the wrong direction). When we arrived in the centre we realized Montpellier is a pretty modern student city. A new train station, new trams and clean. We didn’t spend that much time in this French city, so there is not so much to tell. I do recommend eating pizza or pasta and have a glass of wine at Casa Di Giorgio. It was the first time on the road trip we enjoyed an excellent dinner. It was finger licking yummy! And the place looks gorgeous. For coffee and breakfast we went to Coldrip Food and Coffee, but I didn’t really enjoyed it. There wasn’t a pleasant atmosphere, the service was so-so and the food was overpriced for what you get. But the cup of batch brew was nice. Maybe we just got here at the wrong day? After a short visit in Montpellier we were excited to cross borders with Spain and visit my previous home town Barcelona. I was thrilled to see all my friends again, visit the new café Three Marks, sip coffee at Nømad Coffee and just wander around in the city I still love.
After spending four days in Spain, Barcelona and San Sebastian, it was time to go back to France and enjoy our last days of this road trip in Bordeaux. I had high expectations of Bordeaux because of my research about this city. I think Bordeaux looks lovely and I would definitely come back here for a city trip. We arrived quiet late so dinner near the hotel and some relaxing time in the hotel and early bed time was what we did. The next day and our only full day in Bordeaux we needed some good brunch. On my list I had Contrast, which is totally Instagram worthy. When we arrived we realized the place was closed due to renovations. Luckily I had a never ending list with places to visit, so Black List Café it was. A small but cosy coffee shop that reminded me of Paris. We enjoyed some tasty avocado toast with poached eggs and a cup of coffee. Black List is using coffee from the local roaster Oven Heaven. I think I sipped a Guatemalan coffee. Please don’t blame me after all those cups of double espressos I don’t exactly remember what I sipped and where.. But I do remember that it was really well made and exactly how I like my espresso. Fruity and acidic. I was a happy woman. A happy coffee addict. The barista was super friendly and helpful. Caffeinated and with happy bellies we walked to Place de la Bourse where water is covering the square. Unfortunately this was the moment the only migraine of the road trip kicked in. So after this I let Sylvie take the lead and I was following like a zombie till the moment my migraine faided and I felt like a human being again. We had empanadas for lunch at Clasico Argentino where I could speak my best Spanish and after this we collected enough energy and courage to climb La flèche de Bordeaux to have a good view over the city. The tower is not very interesting, but the view was great. For our last cup of coffee of the road trip (I won’t count the petrol station poison I drunk on the last day) we visit L’alchimiste. A pretty looking coffee shop in the centre. For me this place had the most pretty facade of all the place we have visit. Unfortunately the barista was on her own and it was too busy for her I guess. The espresso wasn’t so perfect and she couldn’t give the attention to every single customer. I can’t blame here, because I’ve been there. It’s hard. I bought a bag of coffee so I could try the coffee roasted by L’Alchimiste itself at home and a cute tote bag as a souvenir. After some napping and freshing up it was time for dinner and at midnight it would be Sylvie her birthday. Thai food as a pre birthday dinner at Sala Thai, it was really good. The next day we had to drive 9 hours back home, but it was worth it. What an amazing road trip it was!