Cultural Experience | France

48 Hours in the South of France

How to Squeeze Four Cities into Just Two Days

When people think of France, they often think of Paris; but there is much more to the country than just one city and an Eiffel tower. Don’t get me wrong, Paris is a must see. However, there’s definitely something to be said for the smaller cities being the most amazing. On my weekend trip to the south of France, I was able to visit Narbonne, Toulouse, Carcassonne, and Collioure. It was a crazy weekend, but definitely worth all the travelling to see different parts of France. Here’s how I was able to fit four cities into 48 hours.

french capitol Toulhouse France

Toulouse, France

First stop: Narbonne.

I left Barcelona with my study abroad program and we made our way to Narbonne, France, about a 2.5 hour drive by bus. When we arrived in Narbonne, it was obvious we weren’t in Spain anymore. The streets were quiet throughout the small city, oh, and everything was in French. I know absolutely no French, so this was a challenge! Our group received a walking tour of the city, seeing important sites such as the Cathedral. While the temperature was reasonable, the wind in Narbonne was extreme. When we asked our tour guide if so much wind was normal, she laughed and informed us that there was wind in Narbonne almost every day. Okay then. After the tour, my friends and I had lunch at a café before heading back to the bus to continue our trip.

Next stop: Toulouse.

It took us less than two hours to drive from Narbonne to Toulouse. Toulouse has a lot to offer, so I was happy we spent the most time there. The first night we were there, my friends and I decided to live like the French and eat wine, bread, and cheese for dinner. We strolled through the city and went to a local bar. It was packed and drinks were overpriced, but we still had a good time. One thing I hadn’t known before going to France, was that Toulouse is actually the fourth largest city in the country and filled with college students. The atmosphere was different from the other cities we visited because of this, and a little wilder!

bridge toulouse france

Toulouse, France

The next day was eventful. We started the morning with another walking tour, this time of the capitol building, another cathedral, and a French market. It was all interesting, but I think the French market was a crowd favorite since we got to sample wine and different types of cheese! After the tour ended my friends and I returned to the city square. Because it was a Saturday morning, tents were set up and bags, jewelry, scarves, etc. were being sold. Just down the street, a flea market circled around the cathedral we had toured. We stopped by that as well and immersed ourselves in the French lifestyle. We all made small purchases without spending hardly any money.

That afternoon we continued exploring Toulouse. We visited the park, which lined the river and stopped in some French cafés. Some of my friends are very into art, so they spent a couple hours walking through the art district and looking at galleries. Art isn’t really my thing, and a friend and I decided to do some vintage shopping. There were several vintage shops with everything imaginable: clothing, shoes, records and more.

By the end of the day we were exhausted. We wanted an inexpensive dinner, so we went to a kebab shop. Kebabs in Europe are different than they are in the US: more like a burrito and not on a stick. But they’re everywhere in Toulouse and delicious! That night my friends and I went to a club. It was two levels and more packed with people than any club I’ve ever been to. By the time we made it back to the hotel it was almost 4 am, leaving us about four hours to sleep before we had to get on the bus once again and head to our next destination.

Carcassonne, France

Carcassonne, France

Next up: Carcassonne.

Toulouse to Carcassonne is a short drive, only about an hour. Our bus dropped us off in the city center, which is a city enclosed by a castle. It felt like we were in a fairytale—we might as well have been, since the castle we were at had inspired the ones in Robin Hood and Sleeping Beauty! The city itself was very small and touristy. It was still amazing though to walk around the castle walls and have an amazing view of France.

Last stop: Collioure.

This was another quick trip, an hour and a half more or less. We spent the least amount of time in Collioure but it was the most beautiful. When we got off the bus we saw a canal lined with quaint cafés, leading to the beach. The beach itself was made up of rocks, and there was a mountain to one side, a lighthouse to the other. It was a breathtaking, peaceful place, but unfortunately we only had time to take some photos and grab some lunch.

Collioure, France

Collioure, France

I really enjoyed my weekend in southern France. Although France and Spain are located near to one another, the cultures are still very different. The language barrier made me less comfortable than I am here in Barcelona, but I guess that’s what travel is all about: leaving your comfort zone. My favorite part about seeing these cities, or really any city I visit, is blending in with the culture in that city—or at least trying to! My other favorite part, is that every time I leave Barcelona, it feels more like home coming back.

Morgan Juraco

Iowa State University | 5 stories

I am a junior studying Journalism, Business, and Spanish at Iowa State University. This semester I am studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain, where I live with a host family and have plans to travel throughout Europe. After graduation I want to work in Public Relations in New York City. Follow my journey on Twitter: @mejuraco and Instagram: morganjuraco

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