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Two-for-one holidays: bucket list on a budget

We all want to squeeze the most out of our precious time off, and a two-country holiday can be twice as much fun! From two jewels of the Med linked by a Riviera road trip to a South American double act that takes you over the Andes, we’ve got five brilliant ideas for a 2-for-1 trip of a lifetime. 

1. Drive from Nice to Florence

Start your twin Euro adventure (or Med-ley, if you will) in the town that lives up to its name and then some. One stroll along Nice’s Promenade des Anglais and it’s easy to see why tourists have flocked here for centuries. The well-to-do of the 19th century would winter in this gem of the Cote D’Azur and holidaymakers are still seduced by its year-round sunshine and world-class art galleries – there’s an entire museum dedicated to French master Matisse. Oh, and the food isn’t bad, either. Head to the old town for cosy bistros in weathered baroque buildings and Cours Saleya market, famous for its flower stalls and toppling displays of colourful Provencal produce.

Next stop Italy. Leave after breakfast to make the most of the downright glorious four and a half-hour drive to Florence, which will leave enough time to check out the towns of Lucca, with its Romanesque churches, and Pisa to take that photo (you know you want to).

Arrive in the Tuscan capital in time to see the sunset shimmer down the Arno river, framed by the bridges of Florence. It’s enough to make even the hardest of hearts get down on one knee, but if someone needs a nudge, a browse of the jewellery shops along Ponte Vecchio should do the trick. Florence isn’t short on exquisite architecture, but believe the hype about the incredible Duomo cathedral, which is even more arresting by night. And book ahead to queue-jump at the world-famous Uffizi Gallery and explore its epic collection from the likes of Michelangelo, Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci. Pace yourself, though, or you might find yourself glazing over in front of a Renaissance masterpiece.

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2. Sail from Tarifa to Tangier

The ancient port city of Cadiz in Andalucia is a perfect kick-off point for a holiday that takes in not only two countries but two continents. Cadiz’s cobbled streets are steeped in history and there are more monuments than you can shake your maracas at. You can’t miss the impressive cathedral with its golden dome and 18th-century watchtower, Torre Tavira. It’s big on seafood too, with boisterous cafés in bustling plaza serving grilled catch of the day. For a more chilled vibe, head to one of the surrounding beaches, such as Playa de la Caleta and enjoy a sundowner at one of its charming chiringuitos (that’s bars to you and me).

Head south out of the city and the beaches become wilder and more unspoilt. Zahora, Zahara, Bolonia are all worth a stop-off to admire the views of Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar. Three hours on the road will take you to Tarifa, dubbed Spain’s windsurfing capital thanks to its wide-open, windswept sands. It’s also the lowest point in Europe and the gateway to Africa.

High-speed ferry services will whizz you to Morocco in just 35 minutes. Once a haven for artists, beatniks and spies, Tangier is now a city on the up. Recent efforts to turn it into a luxury tourist spot, including a swanky new marina and modern beachside cafés, have knocked some of the edges off its shabby charms, but the quirky cafés, hectic medina and hilltop Kasbah still offer plenty of old-school charm. And no one can argue with that enviable location. So head to a rooftop terrace at sunset and drink in those views over the harbour and the twinkling lights of Tarifa beyond.

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3. Drive from Boston to Toronto

This two city trip combines a major culture fix with knockout natural wonders. Kick things off in Boston, one of America’s most historic cities. Get a sense of its revolutionary past on the Freedom Trail, which traces 16 of the city’s historical sites, including Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Then prepare to be well and truly enriched by Boston’s thriving arts and music scene, or live like a local, and catch the Boston Red Sox in action at Fenway Park. And make sure you sample local lobster or creamy chowder in the Seaport district, with its lovely harbour views.

At 9.5hrs, the drive to your next stop, Toronto, is just about do-able in a day, but you’d be better off taking your time to admire the spectacular scenery en route. Just 90 minutes shy of your destination is the Niagara Peninsula, where you’ll discover wineries and, of course, the falls. Despite the inevitable packs of poncho-clad tourists, you can’t fail to be awe-struck by the scale and majesty of this natural wonder.

In Toronto itself, you’ll find Canada’s most cosmopolitan city and possibly the most multicultural spot on earth. This diversity makes it a darn exciting place to be, not to mention eat. With everything from Tibetan to Tapas on the menu and a generous portion of world-class restaurants, Toronto is a foodie’s dream. Once you’ve had your fill, brave the 342m ascent up the CN Tower for dizzying views of the city, snap the colourful awnings in sprawling Chinatown and get your hipster on in the Distillery Historic District with its refurbished brick warehouses that are now chic boutiques, restaurants and galleries.

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4. Take the train from Barcelona to Toulouse

Spain’s east coast gem is a real crowd-pleaser. An exuberant, party-loving city with beaches to boot, what’s not to love? Top of your to-see list should be Gaudi’s gothic La Sagrada Família, while Park Guell on Carmel Hill is like his version of Alice’s wonderland. Tourist spots ticked off, you can indulge in Barca’s simpler pleasures. Take a stroll down Las Ramblas, making a pit-stop at La Boqueria market for tapas, then on to the gothic quarter and the seaside neighbourhood of Barceloneta. Take an Aperol spritz to one of the petanque courts right on the sand and challenge the locals to a game as the sun sets. Bliss.

Toulouse is a mere three hours away on the high-speed service, but take the slow, scenic route with a change at Latour-de-Carol and you’ll chug through the snow-capped Pyrénées as you approach your final stop.

Once in Toulouse, you’ll soon see why France’s fourth largest city is nicknamed La Ville Rose (the pink city). Coral-coloured buildings make a stroll around the old town and along the tree-lined banks of the River Garonne a delight. If its culture you’re after, you’re in luck. Toulouse has more than 20 museums, with Renaissance Hotel d’Assezat and Toulouse’s answer to the Tate, Les Abbatoir, is a must-visit. But Toulousians know how to party, too, thanks to the 10,000-strong student population. Need respite? Grab a coffee in a side street off the grand Place Du Capitole and refuel at one of the tiny eateries on the first floor of the Victor Hugo market, where a hearty dish of local staple cassoulet is the only way to round off the day.

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5. Get the bus from Santiago to Mendoza

Start your South American adventure in Chile’s capital Santiago. This city is an industry powerhouse that’s home to the tallest building in the continent, the 64-storey Gran Torre, but you don’t have to be on business to enjoy it here. There are also top-class museums, amazing restaurants and hilltop urban parks to explore. Santiago is made up of several neighbourhoods (barrios), each with a distinct personality. Join in the café culture in hip Bellavista, window shop in upscale Providencia and Las Condes and hit the beer halls of Barrios Brasil and Lastarria. The city’s proximity to the mountains and Maipo wine valley means escaping the city for a day trip should be on the agenda, too.

The journey to your next stop, Mendoza, should be part of the adventure, so skip the speedy flight option and buckle up for the day-long bus journey. It really is an unforgettable experience as you scale Chile’s steep hillsides and snake your way through the Andes – just don’t forget the snacks!

Nestled in the foothills of the Andes and surrounded by rolling vineyards, Mendoza’s relaxed vibe is a foil to the buzzing energy of Santiago. Absorb the atmosphere in its café-lined plazas and wide avenues, stroll the pleasant streets between Plaza Independencia and Park San Martin and grab a bite at one of the eateries that spill on to the pavement along Av Aristides Villanueva. If you’re feeling active, adventures like horseback riding, trekking and rafting await. But really it’s all about the wine, so take a tour of one of the many high-altitude wineries, such as Bodegas Salentein and O Fournier Bodega to sample the area’s award-winning Malbec.

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