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Barcelona to Paris

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My husband and I fly into Barcelona July 16 and out of Paris July 30 (these got booked 2 months ago with frequent flier miles while they were still available.) Now I'm getting around to figuring out itinerary.

To get an idea of what we like, our last Europe trip was 2 weeks in Italy: 4 nights with a base in Sorrento (Capri, Amalfi coast, Pompeii were our 3 days.) Then rented a car for 5 nights in Tuscany (2 in one place, 3 in another) from which we visited a variety of smaller towns and Sienna on day trips. Then drove to Rome,dropped the car at the airport and had 4 nights there. And we loved that trip. Yes, we could have stayed many places much longer and been very happy. But cities (architecture, history and great food), on both ends separated by a period of driving around outside major cities. Having some beach and some castles, medieval towns and ruins was a good mix.

So what to do in Paris in Barcelona is a whole separate question that I'll address later. For now I just want to know: if we have maybe 6 nights en route from Paris to Barcelona, what should we do?

I know better than to take a car across the border (priced it, and it is not happening.) So train to Perpignan? And then what? would love Coulliere, but went there with ex-boyfriend so can't do that. Is there another beach town like that somewhere in the area? And then if we headed up to Paris, what's the best route that would involve 2-3 stops? Old castles/chateaux, history are a preference.

Or should we drive from Barcelona, stay in Spain for those 6 nights, return car to Barcelona and then high-speed train to Paris.. Same preferences, so if we did that where would be good to go in July?

We accept it's going to be crowded everywhere. This is when we can go, so suggesting to visit at another time isn't helpful. And suggesting spending 8 nights in each city is an option we have seriously considered but rejected. We really liked the interlude between cities where we had a car and could explore, so we want to do that again.

Any and all input would be very much appreciated.

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