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Change of Itinerary? to Refocus on Basque country (Spain&France)

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Original plan was to go up to the Dordogne for a week then swing down and see the Pays Basque with a very quick day trip to Bilbao as my only venture into Spain. (am indebted to stcirc, stududley, and kja for their help with that itinerary which is completely worked out in detail)

What happened? The recent gas crisis in France inspired me to come up with a Plan B (with the assumption that this would all blow over, but better safe than sorry...)

However, the more I looked, the more Plan B started sounding better to me than my Plan A. And now I am in the process of a potential total rework of my itinerary. Yes, I may be crazy (or just addicted to the planning stage), but either way, let's work with that for now.

Assuming my decision is to forego the Dordogne completely on this trip (and saving it for another day), that opens up from late Wednesday September 21 until October 2 when I need to be back in Toulouse: in other words, nights 6-16 of my trip.

To recap: the parameters that I am working within for this trip:
• I land in Toulouse on Friday Sept 16 and spend Friday and Saturday nights there. On Sunday afternoon I pick up my rental car and drive to a Gascon cooking course in Gramont, France where I will spend Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights.
• Because of a special deal they are offering me, I need to leave after the day's activities on Wednesday which will mean departing sometime between 6 and 8pm depending on whether I stay to eat the meal we cooked that afternoon (Wed evening is Trout with Three Sauces. I can't imagine not wanting to stay and have that with the group). This constrains how far away my Wednesday hotel can be. Also, if I am arriving late (10ish) I want to make sure it's a facility that can easily accommodate a late arrival, especially if it's a single night stop (never advisable, sometimes unavoidable).

My main travel interests are photography, art, food, day hikes, and cultural experiences. Big fan of all things coastal, including rivers and lakes. I'm not much for nightlife when I travel, am early 50s, going solo with a car. I have a little French but no Spanish, though I'll do some studying of Spanish between now and when I leave assuming this is where I end up going.

At the moment this new itinerary is looking like this: https://goo.gl/0dsrJG

WED 21: I get as far as Mont-de-Marsan which will be about 2 hours of fairly uncomplicated driving from say 8-10pm.
o I've explored heading down through Pau instead, or toward the border cross at Portalet but I can't make anything else "sing" as an itinerary. I do hate 'burning' a night (to mix my metaphors completely) without anything I want to see there but so far I haven't come up with a better option. One thing I am trying to avoid for this night is anything too far off the main road (fumbling around in the dark to find a one-night hotel is anxiety-inducing for me). And also to eliminate double-tracking if at all possible.

THURS 22 - SUN 25: [Transit: three hour drive along the coast] I have a reservation at a nice small hotel up on a hill between Bilbao and San Sebastian for four nights. From here I want to see the Guggenheim and some combination of other Bilbao/Basque museums, definitely the Basque Coast Geopark (flysch formations) and all along the coast at different times of day, San Sebastian/Donostia, and possibly up into Picos though likely not any farther west than that on this trip.

MON 26-TUE 27: [Transit: Hour and a half] Staying in Logroño on hotel points (because free is a very good price. Could extend to WED 28 if recommended). Would like suggestions for interesting stops for this short stay here in late September. I've been combing kja's posts and have a few things saved (high on this list are monasteries and wineries, but still choosing which ones). Also deep into Maribel's Guide to La Rioja.
o If you've been to La Rioja, what was your favorite experience? I want to balance winery visits with other things.

WED 28-FRI 30: [Transit: Two and a half hours] -- I have a hotel reservation for three nights in Cambo des Bains from my original plan that I can use to explore Bayonne, Biarritz, St Jean du Luz.
o If these dates change I will likely need a new reservation as I think this place books up well in advance and I got the last room for those dates at the time. It's still cancelable, but I think it's a decent spot for that portion and a good price so I've been trying to leave it if I can make it work.

SAT OCT 1-MON 3 From there it's all about getting back to Toulouse. At the moment I have a stopover reservation up in the Pyrenees for Oct 1st [Transit: two hours to hotel then two hours to Toulouse]. I could also skip this night and go directly to Toulouse to allow an extra day there sans auto.

Advice? Questions? Observations? Concerns? All very much appreciated!

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