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Help planning San Sebastian/Donostia to somewhere around Nice late Sept?

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Last year I had a great four-week solo trip starting with a week in Venice, then flying to Barcelona and three weeks training around Spain. Naturally, I fell in love with Spain (had three great AirBnB apartments and a decent hotel in Sevilla). I did not go to San Sebastian or Bilbao on that last trip. And with all the raves I have read about that wonderful city (esp. the food of course), I thought I would combine a week in San Sebastian with my second trip to the south of France (last time was 2006 for 2 weeks). Am in my 60s and while in pretty good shape, I was exhausted when I got home last year. I would still like to go for four weeks, but just plan it so I have the last two weeks in one place where I can do day trips and in general do less packing and unpacking and adhering to train schedules, etc.

So my thought is that I would fly (from LAX) to Madrid, maybe stay overnight and see my friend in "my" little cafe down by the Reina Sofia and then take the train to San Sebastian. Is 5 days in San Sebatian and a day trip in Bilbao for the museum enough--is a week better?

Then my thought is to take the train up to France (Hendaye?) and rent a car for about a week (or maybe the rest of the trip?) I did drive (with a friend) for two weeks in Provence in '06 (going west not east like this time) and found the roads very good and quite enjoyed the driving there. Though this time I will be solo. My thinking is that I will actually be less tired driving leisurely east than taking trains around Spain as I did last fall. (I'm a Californian and quite used to driving.) Don't have to pack and unpack all the time, which tends to do me in, even though I packed light last trip.

So which places should I visit in a week or so across France? Have not been anywhere west of Carcassonne. Have not seen Toulouse--worth it? I did not like Montpellier all that much. Places I saw which I loved in 2006 and would revisit--San Remy de Provence (where we based ourselves for 4 or 5 days) and Arles (where we only went for an afternoon) but we LOVED. Don't need to repeat Roussillion or Gordes. Had a few days in Aix but it was mid-March and cold and the trees were all cropped down. Where else?

Last trip at the end we stayed up the hill from Nice on the way to Vence and St. Paul. Have not been east of Nice. Would like to base myself in an apartment somewhere like Antibes, Villefranche (too expensive?) or Menton (too expensive?), or where else? Where I could train or bus over into Italy and see a few choice Italian towns, go into Nice for the market, go up to Grasse, etc. ?????

I think if I base myself someplace for two weeks or so, I will not get over-tired and still be able to be gone for four weeks. I am retired and am trying to make up for not having the money or time to travel when I was younger.

Any and all suggestions and advice welcome. I've been dragging my feet a bit in planning because I just couldn't figure out where I wanted to go, but a desire to use my beloved French again in daily conversation (and my less good Spanish and Italian) have led me back to France (and San Sebastian--though I don't speak Basque LOL).

Thanks in advance Fodorites!

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