First of all, congratulations on your first year of marriage! It feels like you guys got married last week. I remember your honeymoon in Curacao was a surprise destination courtesy of the groom. Were you both heavily involved in planning this trip or did Edjah take the lead again?
EDJAH: It was kind of a call and response thing. I did most of the planning with directed feedback from Kelley. We wanted to do something different from our honeymoon, but neither of us really likes the cold, so we still needed a fairly warm area. I had never really been to Europe before, so when Kelley seemed open to the idea, I got excited and started throwing ideas out there. Somewhere along the line, the trip started to take shape.
KELLEY: He’s being modest. He did nearly ALL of the planning because I was swamped at work (and I’m a professional procrastinator). Edjah knows I’m fairly picky when it comes to hotels, so I had a lot more input when it came to picking those.
Outside of Jayonce, do you know of other couples who have vacationed in the South of France? Were their stories/photos motivation for you to go there or was it already on your travel list?
EDJAH: Speaking for myself, I can say there is a not-so-subtle influence when you’re continuously being told that certain experiences are the best most exclusive things in the world. I can say with all honesty that the first bottle of Belvedere I bought had nothing to do with the smoothness of the Vodka and everything to do with Jay-Z lyrics. So when the stars aligned showing that a trip to the “South of France” was a possibility, it did hold a certain allure.
KELLEY: Yeah, we can’t quite do it big like Bey and J yet…YET. 🙂 But we knew we wanted to go to St. Tropez and Monaco. I’ll admit it was part of the rap song effect. One of the things that was interesting to me though was that while the places are beautiful, some of them aren’t all that different from other places we’ve been…it’s just that someone mentioned it in a song, so now it has this air of mystery.
As newlyweds with wedding bills and new expenses of cohabitation, how did you budget to afford this trip? Or did you throw it all on the credit card like I do and worry about it later?
EDJAH: A little from column A, a little from column B. It was expensive, but we picked what we thought was a reasonable number, and more or less, we stuck to it (which is pretty rare for us). We watched flights for weeks until they seemed reasonable, and made a few cost-saving moves. For example, we rented a cheap compact car to drive up and down the coast (though that ended up more expensive than we expected due to tolls that would make the NJ turnpike blush). We also stayed in a bed and breakfast for two nights and although we visited Monte Carlo, we stayed in a small hotel in neighboring Nice.
KELLEY: Um, I thought we just put it all on the credit card? Honestly though, I’m not usually the rational one when it comes to making “cost saving” decisions. I was a bit concerned the “cheaper rental car company” wouldn’t really exist. I’d never heard of it so I had no idea if we’d arrive in some country where we don’t speak the language and the car would have no doors. BUT I trusted my husband, and it all worked out just fine. 🙂 We also decided to go more budget with our hotel in Nice, and it turned out to be my favorite hotel of the trip – a really cute, very French boutique hotel. So, it pays to be adventurous!
Describe your itinerary. What cities did you visit and how long did you spend in each location?
EDJAH: This is going to sound both crazier and less crazy than it was: We flew into Barcelona, Saturday morning, then grabbed our rental car and headed East with no GPS – just a few good old-fashioned maps. About seven hours later we arrived in Nice, around 7 that evening. We stayed in Nice (including an evening trip to Hotel Paris in Monte Carlo) until Tuesday morning. We then drove along the coast for a really quick photo-op at the pier in St Tropez before driving to Marseille. There, we hopped a short domestic flight to Bordeaux (which was surprisingly cheap). We visited vineyards in St. Emillion the next day, went to dinner and left Bordeaux in the morning, flying back to Marseille on Thursday. We then finished retracing our route back to Barcelona, along the coast (really a beautiful drive), dropped off our rental car at the airport and spent the next three nights in Barcelona, leaving Europe Sunday morning.
KELLEY: It was a bit crazy. First of all, we had one road map I picked up at Barnes and Noble before we left thinking “this might come in handy” and the little map they give you at the rental car place that tells you how to get out of the city. Second, we set out on the road with no Euros. We tried to find an ATM before leaving the city (and witnessed a man get flipped off his scooter in a bad car accident in the process!), but the ATM didn’t take American debit cards. Then we ran into tolls that didn’t take American credit cards, so we ended up trying to pay in American dollars all while cars backed up behind us and started honking so loud that the attendant had to come over to our booth and try to get us stupid Americans to understand what she was saying. Yeah, we were those people.
I know for a fact Kelley is a hotel snob (as am I, it runs in the family.) How did you select your accommodations? Did they meet your expectations based on online reviews?
EDJAH: Tripadvisor, Tripadvisor, Tripadvisor. Not sure if they’re paying you, but even if they’re not, we owe them [Editor’s Note: They aren’t. But if they’d like to, please holla at a starving artist. Thanks.]. They haven’t led us astray yet. In fact, I felt a little lost going by verbal recommendations when we were out on foot, because I couldn’t quickly check Tripadvisor on my phone for ratings. We essentially decided our budget for each leg of the trip and picked the highest ranked hotel that fit our budget.
KELLEY: Yeah, I mentioned this a bit before, but Tripadvisor was key in our selections. I compared all of the pictures, and everywhere we stayed was awesome. In Bordeaux, we stayed at the #1 ranked bed and breakfast. The couple that runs it is sooo nice, and Edjah chatted with them a bit in French. I just smiled and nodded when it seemed appropriate. The wife, Danielle, even tried to help us look up Edjah’s relatives to see if they’re still in the Bordeaux area! And her breakfasts were amazing…the best croissants we had the whole trip.
When you think of anniversary trips you often think of Caribbean islands that cater heavily to couples. How is the romance factor in Spain and France?
EDJAH: The romance is definitely there, but you have to work a little. We had to look for reviews and hit the spots that had the romance instead of having the romance handed to us on a platter, if that makes sense. The views along the coast were amazing, strolling along the Promenade Anglais, along the beach, was relaxing, the drives back and forth along the coast were truly majestic, and there were countless cozy hotels and cafes to enjoy. And the widespread availability of wine (at lunch, at dinner, at cafes, in your room with potato chips) didn’t hurt.
KELLEY: Yeah, I agree. Although, I’ll say there’s just something about being in France that’s romantic itself. We had a lot of nice romantic walks and shared many, many, many bottles of wine.
Keyword = wine
Hablan Espanol? Parlez vous Francais? Do you understand the words coming out of my mouth? If not, how did you manage?
EDJAH: I took French in high school and one quarter in college, and we used to take trips into Cote D’Ivoire when I was younger, so I had a little bit of rusty French that got better as the trip went on. That said, it was sometimes hard to practice, as the helpful and mostly friendly locals would often just start replying in English after I had thoroughly butchered their native tongue. My proudest moment was getting us gas at a closed gas station, that only took (non-American) credit cards, in middle-of-nowhere France, by offering Euros to a motorist who only spoke French.
KELLEY: Edjah’s French is awesome! Again, he’s being modest. Refer to my statement above about me smiling and nodding. The situation (and that’s really what it was…a situation) at the gas station was ridiculous. We were on our way back to Barcelona, literally in danger of running out of gas, and the one gas station open does not take American credit cards. By this time, we had Euros, but the cash pay attendant station just so happened to be closed for the next 3 hours. Edjah managed to convince the nice gentleman that we weren’t trying to rob him, just wanted him to pump us some gas and we’d give him the cash. Now, I was supposed to be responsible for the Spanish once we got to Barcelona. FAIL. I took one quarter of Spanish in college. I know how to ask for the bathroom, the check, and how much it costs. Aside from that, it’s not really Spanish they’re speaking in Barcelona – I think it’s a mixture of Spanish and Catalan. Bottom line is, I didn’t understand the words coming out of their mouths. Most places spoke English, but a few interactions involved charades.
I’ve heard the food in France is bland *tear* Please tell me this isn’t the case. Tell me you dined on melt-in-your-mouth crepes and the best french fries ever in life. Or something else that’s actually French.
EDJAH: I don’t know where you heard this, but I might know where it came from. We had the worst meal of our trip on our first night, and I’m actually a little ashamed of it. We left our hotel, with no Tripadvisor and even left our Lonely Planet guide in the room, just heading in the direction of food. We quickly came across many restaurants with identical brightly advertised “authentic” French dishes, including steak and fries and mussels and fries (seriously). The deals looked great, and they were busy, so we figured – why not? We should have just kept on walking. Those tourist trap restaurants were the blandest food we had the whole trip. The steak hadn’t seen a grain of salt or a flake of pepper, and the mussels were underwhelming at best. Now, when we went to the restaurants the locals went to… Crepes and Ice Cream, steak covered in gorgonzola sauce, savory roasted root vegetables, croque monsieurs, rich cheeses and wine, roasted lamb for lunch, foie gras, etc. And when you add our anniversary night dinner at the Grill Room at Hotel de Paris… the first Michelin starred restaurant I’d ever been to… mushroom risotto, lamb chops, chocolate souffle, cheesy polenta…
KELLEY: Yeah, they got us on the first night. After that, we stuck to tripadvisor and went off the beaten path. Lots of cheeses, gorgonzola gnocci, breads, just everything to make you fat and happy.
What was your “I Love My Life” moment on your trip? What did you experience that would make you recommend this destination to another couple?
EDJAH: For me, it was probably the first night when we drove into Nice and we were there – the beach, the restaurants, the wine, Monte Carlo only 20 minutes away. It seemed like anything was possible, and so much of the world was right at our fingertips.
KELLEY: Wow, I don’t know that I can just pick one. We had so many moments like that. As I said, I LOVED our first hotel, so opening the doors and stepping out onto the little Juliette balcony was pretty amazing. Our anniversary dinner was pretty spectacular as well. We definitely splurged, but it was fun to people watch and wonder what the other people do for a living that they just happened to be there on a random night.
Would you recommend this trip for another couple’s honeymoon or anniversary? If so, any advice for planning? Anything you would have done differently?
EDJAH: After saying all this, my advice for the overadventurous husband is to listen to what your wife isn’t saying. There was a point in the middle of the trip that I was almost manic with all of the opportunities around us, and I wanted to make sure we checked all the boxes, tasted all the wine, saw all the restaurants, and I got so caught up that I was in danger of missing the time with my wife. Luckily, our last three days in Barcelona gave us another opportunity to sit down, relax, take a spa/sauna day at our hotel and just be together in a great city, rather than letting the city dictate our vacation. If I was doing it over again, I would have put more downtime into the beginning of the trip as well, maybe left Bordeaux for another trip.
KELLEY: Yeah, I got a bit overwhelmed in the middle of the trip. Edjah had put so much work into the planning, and we were seeing amazing places, but we were definitely running ourselves ragged at one point. He was awesome though and made sure that I knew we didn’t have to do every single thing Barcelona had to offer. We still saw some of the great sights – the Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia church, and of course some amazing restaurants – but we spent an entire day just relaxing at the spa, and it was wonderful to reconnect and reflect on the year. I’d definitely recommend it – just limit yourself to one or two cities. It’s hard when there’s so much so close, but you have to draw the line somewhere.
Thanks so much guys! Hopefully your experience has helped another young couple add the South of France to their bucket list. Best wishes to both of you wherever life takes you next! Happy Anniversary!