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Dordogne - Basque Country - maybe La Rochelle - back to CDG

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Thanks in large part to the help received from St Cirq and some others a few weeks ago, our September vacation has come into focus. It looks like we will have 16 full days on the ground in France and Spain. We have not booked hotels yet, but wil be looking at that shortly.

I'm looking for any general recommendations of places to stay (see the next paragraph for a bit of what we are looking for), restaurants, and daily activities. We like leisurerly drives through beautiful countryside; visiting traditional towns and villages; the occasional museum; mixing with locals; good local food and wine, and then some more wine. We are busily combing through guide books and the internet to fill in the details, but would appreciate any help that that those more familiar with these areas can offer. Not looking to spend any time in Paris proper this trip. The general outline is:

- Leave on September 9 and fly into CDG and make our way to Sarlat, or somewhere close-by. We will probably take the train to Bordeaux, and either pick-up a car there, or in Perigeaux. We prefer staying in B&B's or small hotels in small towns to lodging in the country, primarliy because we dislike having to drive somewhere for dinner every night. We do like our wine with dinner, and would prefer to drink in comfort somewhere within walking distance of our rooms, rather than abstaining because of the drive back. We want to base in one spot here for about 7 nights.

- Drive to Northern Spain, and base somewhere a small town for about 4 days, where we'd be within easy reach of San Sebastian, La Rioja wine country, and maybe a drive into the Pyrenees. The area appears to be fairly compact, but I realize that short disatnces in this part of the world can sometimes take a long time to cover, so I'm hoping this is practical.

- Head back into France, and spend 4 more days/nights in an area roughly midway between Northern Spain and Paris - maybe someplace like Cognac or La Rochelle. This is the part that we're most sketchy on - we're not very familiar with this area, but it's France right - how bad can it be? We'll continue to research, maybe there's somewhere else on the route back to CDG (where we'll probably spend our last night before flying back) that makes sense - we're open to other suggestions.

Thanks for any help and recommendations you can offer.

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