11 nights in Spain/France for honeymoon

Old Feb 21st, 2024, 05:18 AM
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11 nights in Spain/France for honeymoon

Hello all -

My fiancee and I are being married towards the end of June this year. We are currently planning an 11-night trip to Spain and France in and around the Pyrenees. I wanted to throw out some general ideas we have for the trip - I know timing is a bit tight but we are booking everything within the next few days.

My ideal plan is to fly into Barcelona on 7/3, stay a night or two, then rent a car to drive towards San Sebastian via the Pyrenees and make a few overnight stops at towns on the French side along the way. The first town we are interested in staying in is Saint-Gaudens, and the second is Olaron Ste-Marie. Both seem to have a good town center as well as easy access to hikes and walks in the foothills. We are very interested in scenic walks and hikes, so if anyone has suggestions nearby those two towns, we are open to ideas!

I have researched this route a bit, and some posters on here have covered it before, but not within the past few years - I thought to make another thread to see if anything has changed or if recommendations would be different in 2024.

We would then make our way to San Sebastian to stay for a few nights, return the car, and I am unsure what to do at this point. Is it worth heading to Bayonne before heading back towards Barcelona for our departure on 7/14? If anyone has an experiences with the NW region of Spain, I would appreciate any tips. I have spent time in Madrid, Sevilla, and Valencia, but have not had the chance to make it to San Sebastian or anywhere in that area.

Any tips are seriously welcomed - we are so excited for this trip, and it seems like whatever we do will be special, but I also want to make sure we are doing our due diligence and finding the best experiences! Thank you in advance
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Old Feb 21st, 2024, 08:35 AM
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Adding a few details I have been thinking about during the planning process.The initial drive would be from Barcelona to Saint Gaudens, which is a bit less than 5 hours. I am assuming we would make stops along the way, and the drive seems very scenic so I would not mind that initial timeframe.

We'd probably stay in Saint Gaudens for a night or two, then drive to Olaron Ste-Marie for a night or two, which is less than a 2 hour drive.

After that, we'd likely drive to San Sebastian (about 2 hours) to drop the car off, traveling a bit by train then returning to Barcelona by train for departure. I am thinking of visiting Hondarribia or Biarritz while staying in San Sebastian - they are both close by.

It does seem like a lot of driving, but having never been to the Pyrenees, it seems doable and worthwhile.
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Old Feb 21st, 2024, 09:11 AM
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July (based on your US date structure) is one busy month, I'd book these places soon.

You are going past some lovely places on the way to Saint-Gaudens.

Have fun
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Old Feb 21st, 2024, 10:27 AM
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From Donostia-San Sebastián to Hondarribia, a delightful, atmospheric town on the bay, there´s no need for a car. You can easily access Hondarribia via the Lurraldabus E21 that will take you to the center of the village, about a 30-minute ride. The bus will make an intermediate stop at the airport before continuing on to the village.

See the timetables here

Be prepared for sticker shock regarding lodging prices in Donostia-San Sebastián during the entire month of July, the high/high season, but especially during the Donosti Cup (July 1-7) and the Jazz Festival (July 23-28). If you need lodging recommendations, just ask, but please include a price range. The sooner you book, the better for the very busy month of July. Last July the city was bursting at the seams. Book ASAP!

Last edited by Maribel; Feb 21st, 2024 at 10:50 AM.
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Old Feb 21st, 2024, 12:40 PM
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We drove from Hondarribia to Barcelona on the French side of the Pyrenees as it appeared that we would be closer to the mountains as we drove. It was beautiful.
We stayed in two locations in the Pyrenees ( Olaron Ste Marie and Sauveterre des Comigues) followed by Collioure ( which we LOVED) and then stayed in the Costa Brava in Begur at the Parador. Finally arrived in Barcelona, dropped of the car and spent a week there in an apartment.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2024, 03:32 AM
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If you go to Hondarribia you will only be at 26-minute drive to Saint-Jean-de-Luz, on the France side. It is really nice too
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Old Feb 22nd, 2024, 02:04 PM
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We have not been to Saint Gaudens so I cannot help with that area. In 2016 we stayed in Luz St Sauveur, and while we are not hikers as such, we did do some walks. The scenery around here is spectacular especially over the Cols. This is my report on our stay. Scroll through to the Haute Pyrenees section. This followed a stay in the Basque region which you will pass through.

Country Roads in Autumn. Ten weeks in country France.

In 2023 we stayed in the Bearn region near Oloron Ste Marie and did drive down the valleys to the foothills. The view from Lescun is magnificent. This is my report on our stay. It was the second stop of our trip.

Country Roads Less Travelled

Bon voyage. We enjoyed both our stays.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2024, 05:16 PM
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I am not a great fan of Oloron, except it is a good base to explore both vallées of Aspe (with the beautiful cirque of Lescun) and Ossau (for Laruns, Aubisque...). There is also the Lindt chocolate factory where to buy chocolate at discounted price.
but it may lack the feel of holidays you will certainly want for this occasion.
If you drive few more miles, you could rather stay in St Jean Pied de Port which has more character. The scenery around is also great but they are not the same Pyrénées, not as high, no peaks with snow. It will also be very busy in July.
difficult choice...

NB: July + Pyrénées evoke Tour de France. I don't think it fits with honeymoon but check if the riders are around when you are. Because it is a mess with many roads closed, sometimes 1 day before in the cols.

Last edited by rouelan; Feb 22nd, 2024 at 05:23 PM.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2024, 06:35 PM
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If you opt for Oloron (I guess I would do, for the Pyrénées), some suggested easy hikes
Lescun: at the very bottom of the cirque, a path along the river will lead you to the foot of the peak of Ansabere. Also, plateau de Sanchese.
further down vallée d'Aspe, you will see "chemin de la mâture". Very impressive, it was built in the rock several centuries ago to bring tree trunks down to the valley, used to make masts (hence the name). Never walked it because I suffer from vertigo.
Even further down the valley, taking the old road to col de Somport, a hike leads to Ibon de Estanes, an artificial, I think, lake. Beautiful scenery.
Between Aspe and Ossau, via col de Marie blanque, a lovely place called plateau de Benou, ideal for picnic and leisurely walks.
In vallée d'Ossau, after Laruns towards col de Pourtalet (also very nice), a place called Artouste. Fun to take the gondola and then ride a touristic train to a lake. Booking essential.
Drive Laruns to Luz St Sauveur via cols d'Aubisque and Soulor. Impressive cirque du Litor between the cols.

I could go for ages... the area is so beautiful...
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Old Feb 22nd, 2024, 07:24 PM
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Bayonne: it seems that you would be there right at the time of the famous "fêtes". Some love them, others hate them. If you want to visit Bayonne during the fêtes you will have to pay an entrance fee (maybe not in the morning).
Suggestion for a visit of the Basque coast French side. Don't take your car! (traffic very heavy, hours to find a place to park). Take a bus from San Seb till St Jean de Luz (via motorway). Visit St Jean and then walk the coastal path till Guetary, a cute village. Take a bus or local train for Biarritz (both require to change for a local bus for Biarritz center). Then take the trambus for Bayonne. To go back to San Seb, direct bus or train to Hendaye and change there for the Topo (Euskotren).

Walking around San Seb Hondarribia: the coastal path is much better there than in France (not urbanized). For example, from the eastern beach in San Seb to Pasaia, back with topo/bus. Or from Hondarribia's lighthouse, either retrace your steps or take one of of the numerous pathes/ small roads that zigzag the mountain to Guadalupe and back to Hondarribia.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2024, 10:01 PM
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The Fêtes de Bayonne will be earlier this year, because of the Paris Olympics, from July 10-14.

I agree with roulan about not trying to drive to St-Jean-de-Luz as the roads will be absolutely packed and parking difficult, especially on Tuesday, Friday or Saturday, the outdoor market days in July.

The Flixbus and Blablabus buses run from San Sebastián's bus station to Saint-Jean-de-Luz.
Times here:
https://global.flixbus.com
https://www.blablacar.es/bus

Last edited by Maribel; Feb 22nd, 2024 at 10:05 PM.
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Old Feb 25th, 2024, 10:41 AM
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First of all, thank you so much to everyone who has responded so far. I'm having a much easier time clarifying our itinerary and deciding what is and is not worth spending time on. The transportation info and info regarding the surrounding area of San Sebastian is invaluable.

We booked accommodations in San Sebastian (thank you for offering your knowledge, Maribel!) and have tentatively decided to stay in Bagnères-de-Luchon for two nights after we arrive in Barcelona. We'll then head to either Oloron Ste Marie OR St Jean Pied de Port for a night before heading to San Sebastian.

I am also a very big cycling person, and we are toying with the idea of staying in Pau for the night of July 11th and catching the end of the Tour de France stage when it arrives on the 12th. Pau also seems beautiful, anyway.

Current tentative itinerary:
  • Arrive in Barcelona on July 3rd and stay one night
  • Pick up rental car and drive to Bagnères-de-Luchon for the nights of July 4th and 5th
  • Drive to Oloron Ste Marie OR St Jean Pied de Port for the night of July 6th
  • Drive to San Sebastian, return rental car, and stay from the 7th to the 11th (Hondarribia, Saint-Jean-de-Luz as ventures)
  • Potentially drive to Pau for the night of the 11th and catch the Tour on the 12th
  • Either stay in Pau for the night of the 12th, or drive back to Barcelona for the 12th and 13th before returning on the 14th

If we do not go to Pau, we would simply return to Barcelona for a few nights before departing.

Again, everyone's input and thoughts are so appreciated, and we are feeling much more comfortable than before with our choices and schedule!
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 03:16 AM
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Good idea to soak up the atmosphere of tour de france.
However attending the finish is a big thing. You would probably have to stand for hours to secure a place. And you would miss the other big thing: the "caravane". It is something to watch kids and adults turning kids to collect goodies, getting mad when the Cochonou car is coming, to beg for the most coveted item, the Cochonou hat!.
Instead, you could go somewhere between Agen and Pau, see the caravane, go for some lunch or picnic before watching for few seconds the peloton, and try to spot the yellow jersey.
The next stage will be more interesting with the mythical col du Tourmalet. But it needs serious planning to be on the slopes when the riders come.

Last edited by rouelan; Feb 26th, 2024 at 03:19 AM.
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 05:50 AM
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We stayed in Pau, actually in Jurançon, and preferred it to Oloron Sainte-Marie. I just wasn't very impressed the latter compared to the other places we've stayed in Béarn but it does make a good jumping off spot for trips that roulan mentions. From there we drove south for an hour to the very interesting Grottos de la Verna near Sainte-Engrâce for a guided tour.

I would recommend the place where we stayed with beautiful Pyrenees views, the Clos Mirabel near Pau, but it will most likely be fully booked by cyclists who take the whole house when the Tour goes through. We had to depart before it went through because of this.

If you were to stay in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port ( I agree with roulan that it has more character, at least for me) you´d be closer to San Sebastián and could even hike a bit of the first stage of the Chemin de St. Jacques, as far as Honto/Hunto (5.4 km) if you want a steep hike!. I've not done it!
Market day in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port is Sunday (July 7) and it´s a great market.
But as roulan says, the peaks aren't as high.
And as the major staging area for the Chemin de St Jacques/Camino de Santiago/Way to St. James pilgrimage, it's a very busy place in July, although atmospheric.

The drive down south into Les Aludes valley from there on the D58 is beautiful. We've gone down there to purchase jambon at the Ferme Pierre Oteiza, the breeding ground for the black Basque pig (Pie Noir du Pays Basque), and dine on Banka trout at the very Basque Auberge Hotel Erreguina, a cute place both to eat and to stay.
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