On a budget? Are you tempted by Europe, but afraid of what it will cost? Here’s an idea you may not have considered before. We think there are two types of travelers. One books luxury rooms in the nicest hotels and enjoys relaxing and spending time there. The second just wants a safe place to leave their stuff while they enjoy the sights, go hiking, and then comes back to crash at night. If you are in group #2, we have a plan for you. Stay in a hostel! Retire in the south of France, just for the winter!
Hostels are no longer just for young people, hippies, and vagabonds. They have one, two, three and four person rooms with locks on the doors, very nice beds, private bathrooms, and a communal eating situation – or not. You can bring your own bag of groceries, make your dinner and sit down with others who are also doing their own cooking and share what you’ve seen and done that day. You not only save (a lot!) on the price of a room, you are doing your own cooking with fresh produce from the local market. They have the pots and pans, dishes, etc., all you need is the food. There are also Elderhostel establishments for we (ahem!) more mature adults. The price of a two person room is roughly half of what you would expect to pay in a hotel.
So, lets look at the south of France for a month long stay. We like the town of Beziers, about half way between the border with Spain and Marseille, and inland a bit from the Mediterranean. This town of 75,000 is right in the heart of the Languedoc winemaking country. The town sits on a bluff above the River Orb and this is like being in a medieval history book. In fact, one of the most popular events is the Caritats Medieval Festival (mid-May) with good wine, amazing food and cheeses, complete with troubadours and knights in shining armor.
One of the most famous attractions is the Canal du Midi, a 150 mile long waterway built in the 17th century. When joined with the Canal de Garronne to the west, it is possible to ride a boat through France from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, through the town of Toulouse. This is a great way to explore this region – off the beaten tourist areas.
Beziers is a railroad town (built to get the grapes to markets all over France) that easily connects to Toulouse, Montpellier, Bordeaux, Marseille and Paris. With planned upgrades to the track, a high speed train will also connect to Barcelona. Take a day trip along the coast to visit the little villages and fabulous resort areas of the Mediterranean.
Another attraction is the stunning St. Nazaire Cathedral on the highest point of town. It’s 14th century gothic architecture is visible for miles. The interior reaches 105 feet and features the famous ‘rose window’ in stained glass. There are parks, museums, and even a bullfight arena that is worth a visit just for the artwork.
So check out the hostels in Beziers. We found Le Saint Andre Hostel and you can stay here in the off season for $492 per week in a private room with a private bath. You can find much cheaper hostels with shared baths or in a dorm room with other people. (Dorm rooms are generally all male or all female and for the backpacking crowd.)
A month for two in this type of accommodation will cost you $2,000, plus food (which you’d buy at home) and sightseeing, and its looking better and better. If you save your credit card air miles, the flight could be discounted or free!
Picture yourself sitting in a sidewalk café in the south of France when its snowing at home! Enjoy a nice glass of wine with fresh bread and local cheese. This would be a trip worth saving for! Photo By sabin paul croce via StockPholio.com
Zoom in and out on the map below to see roads and attractions!