2 Weeks in France and Spain with Teens

Jan 25th, 2017, 08:08 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2017
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2 Weeks in France and Spain with Teens

This will be our first family trip to Europe since the boys were babies (they are now ages 16, 14, and 11). We are an active family and prefer mountains and oceans to the big cities, but want to expose our kids to some of the wonderful cities in France and Spain. We are planning the first 2 weeks of June so not sure if it will be warm enough for beach (and not sure when schools let out in Europe so hoping to avoid the massive summer crowds).

Our trip is 2 weeks, and our tentative plan is:
- Fly into Paris - spend a 2-3 days (thinking stay in apt, bike tour and visit sights)
- Day trip to visit Normandy (do we need a car for this or do a tour?)
- Take train to Toulouse - pick up rental car here
- Drive into Mountains - spend a couple days in chalet with hiking (eg Sentein area?)
- Drive to Cascassonne area - spend night maybe in a castle here or in Perpignan
- Drop car in Perpignan and take a train to Barcelona (to avoid car fees crossing border)
- Pick up car in Barcelona - drive to Illes Medes - spend 2-3 days snorkeling/beach
- Drive to Parador on way to Madrid (which one? Cuenca? Siguenza?) - stay the night
- Drive to Madrid - spend 2-3 days (we had an exchange student last summer we will visit here)
- Fly home

Any and all advice welcome! Is this too much? Should we do more trains vs car rentals? We thought also about the south of Spain but don't think we can fit that much more in.

Thanks in advance!
cddauenhauer is offline  
Jan 25th, 2017, 08:11 PM
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That is an insane amount of moving around especially for five people. For two weeks choose two places, max three. And to get around check out the following cheapo airlines Vueling, easyjet, Ryan.
IMDonehere is offline  
Jan 25th, 2017, 10:06 PM
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I don't know about finding a chalet, but you could base yourself in Pau, or Lourdes, or towns south of Lourdes.

From Pau, you could visit the Pic du Midi d'Ossau.



From Lourdes, or Argelès-Gazost, or Luz Saint-Sauveur you could go to the col du Tourmalet and/or Gavarnie.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca...7623717915043/ and subsequent pictures.
Michael is offline  
Jan 26th, 2017, 07:40 AM
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It might be difficult for you to rent an apartment for only 2 to 3 days in Paris, when it's high season and owners/managers prefer to have someone renting for at least a week.
You might face the unpleasant fact of having your reservation cancelled at the last minute.

I'd look for an air-conditioned hotel, if you're only going to stay a couple of nights anywhere. It really isn't worth the trouble of trying to find out if an apartment is legal or not.

The water won't be warm enough to swim in until possibly mid-July, if you're thinking about Northern France.
fuzzbucket is offline  
Jan 26th, 2017, 08:27 AM
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A good and solid 16c at least in northern sea in mid June !
I would suggest to stay in france.
4-5 days in Paris then your itinirary with double days.
Paris Toulouse is long with a train but less hassle with luggage etc.
check a map - put the stops, distance, estimated time of travel and discuss it !
I would also let the kids propose one place.
WoinParis is offline  
Jan 26th, 2017, 09:26 AM
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Why drive from Toulouse to the Pyrenees, then backtrack to visit Carcassonne? Go to Carcassonne first, then to the Pyrenees. Check Ax-les Thermes, Font Romeu, Les Angles, for hiking on your way to Costa Brava.
Take a train from Perpignan to Girona, rent a car there and go the Iles Medes (actually to L'estartit).No need to go to Barcelona first and backtrack again.
June is fine for swimming in the Med.
Pvoyageuse is offline  
Jan 26th, 2017, 10:21 AM
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Having visited much of this area several years ago, I think Pvoyageuse's itinerary is a very good one.
historytraveler is offline  
Jan 26th, 2017, 11:52 AM
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- Day trip to visit Normandy (do we need a car for this or do a tour?)>

No - take a train to Bayeux then hook up with mini-bus tours to the main D-Day sites.

Or take the train to Caen and rent a car to do your own half-day tour.

For info on trains check www.voyages-sncf.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.budgeteuropetravel.com. www.seat61.com has great tips on booking your own train tickets which if done early enough can yield deep discounted fares.

Get an early start -Bayeux itself has two stellar sights- the cathedral and the really famous Queen Matildha's 1066 Norman Conquest of England Tapestry in a local museum.
PalenQ is offline  
Jan 27th, 2017, 01:22 AM
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We like to cram a lot into our vacations when we travel with our children too, but I think with all the moving around you are proposing, you could end up with some very cranky kids (or spouse). You also don't get to spend much time in any given place to get to know it.

Don't forget jet lag. I'd spend a couple days longer in Paris, especially given you want the day trip to Normandy (which will be a geat day). I can't comment on some of the specific places you list as I haven't been to many of them, but it does sound like you will be getting to some just to sleep and then quickly moving on. Skip some of the driving around in the middle (like to the beach), and at the end maybe take the train or fly directly to Madrid.
kwren is online now  
Jan 27th, 2017, 01:38 AM
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Very much beach weather in Barcelona in early June. Weather statistics says average highs in mid 80's and 9 hours sun/day. All kinds of people and all kinds of activities in the huge Barceloneta beach until sunset, and lots of local atmosphere tapas bars and restaurants in the Barceloneta area, just inland from the beach: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2...taurants-spain

Barcelona is kids heaven: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/spain/b...-articles/1436

100 reasons to visit Barcelona (and a great guide to the city): http://www.barcelonaturisme.com/wv3/en/
kimhe is offline  
Jan 27th, 2017, 04:48 AM
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I'm so glad i responded to this thread...I'm going to Barcelona in a week, have never been and just got the links above! Gracias! (Although I hear they speak Catalan not Spanish there.)

I suggested skipping the beach because someone said it was not beach weather. If it is and that's at the top of your list, then by all means go, but you (the OP) asked if you are doing too much and I think you are.

If I were doing this with my 3 boys (and I do have 3 boys), I think I personally would try to stay in the castle, but maybe for 2 nights so they'd have time to explore. But I've been to the beach many times and my boys would think it's cool to be in a real castle. (Word to the wise, be sure it's a real castle though. Some places which look nothing like a castle call themselves a castle, and my boys would not have liked those.) Just pick what's most important to you all as a family.

When I used to take my kids on vacation in Europe we would go to the library, get them some simple books and they would each get to pick one thing that I would try to fit in. Sometimes that meant I couldn't do all the things I wanted to, but we got to see some unusual things and it was really great. I gave them guidelines of where to choose from and when I was really lucky they would pick something I wanted to fit in anyway!
kwren is online now  
Jan 27th, 2017, 09:07 AM
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(Although I hear they speak Catalan not Spanish there.)>>

Some people think they do not know Spanish there and that isn't true, I never met anyone there who could only speak Catalan. As a tourist, the odds that someone will address and speak to you only in Catalan are about zero, I'd say. Some people don't even know Catalan, either, although I've heard they are pushign that more in the schools. In grocery stores, some things may be labelled only in Catalan, though, I remember I had an apt there on one vacation and thus was shopping in a small grocery and didn't quite understand the label which was only in Catalan, but I could easily converse with someone there in Spanish who translated it to Spanish.
Christina is online now  
Jan 27th, 2017, 11:02 AM
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Catalan and Spanish are not that far apart. Closer than Spanish-Portuguese or Spanish-Italian (at least Spanish limits the number of ways to say "the" to 4, not 7).

To the OP: your proposal is not within sensible parameters. Your kids might thrive on such an itinerary when they're in their 20s and hanging out with their peers on a Contiki tour and partying at night, but for now - no.

Pare it down. Pick 2-3 hubs, day trip from them.
BigRuss is offline  
Jan 27th, 2017, 11:13 AM
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Unless you have very strong feelings about visiting Normandy, I'd skip it. It just makes for too long of a day and is in the opposite direction of the rest of your itinerary.

Thankfully, BigRuss has offered an explanation of Catalan vs. Spanish.
historytraveler is offline  
Jan 27th, 2017, 11:21 AM
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Forget a day trip to Normandy. It's about a 16-hour ordeal and it doesn't fit in well at all with the rest of your itinerary.

Yes, Catalan is the primary language of Barcelona and thereabouts, but it's perfectly understandable if you speak Spanish (or really, any romance language), and everyone will speak Spanish, anyway.

Keep it simple or the kids will mutiny. Your original plan has you zig-zagging all over the place - never a good idea with teenagers in a car or on a train.
StCirq is online now  
Jan 27th, 2017, 11:48 AM
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I was assuming you were doing Normandy for the kids. Maybe they're studying it in school or someone has a real interest in it. If not, I agree with skipping it but if it's something of particular interest you could take a day trip out of Paris very easily. My father-in-law did that and really appreciated the day. It all depends on the reasons why you want to do that trip.
kwren is online now  
Jan 27th, 2017, 11:55 AM
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Catalan is easily understood if you speak Walloon.
One should therefore learn Walloon. But not any Walloon. The Walloon from Charleroi (the one from Liège is not pure and the one from Tournai is closer to Picard, which makes it unintelligible to anybody civilized).

Anyway it seems you - YOU - all scared the OP, who hasn't come back for the last 2,5 days after her first post.
WoinParis is offline  
Jan 27th, 2017, 12:10 PM
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About similarities in languages :

And on Wiki, a 'comparison'

Catalan Ella) tanca sempre la finestra abans de sopar.
Wallon : Ele sere todi li finiesse divant di soper.
Exactly the same ;-)

Bon, they still say that the Catalan is at mid way between French and Castillan. (Catalan belongs to Occitan Group, which is half way between Gallo-roman (inc French ... and Walloon) and the Ibero-Roman group.

Bref, I should speak Spanish much better than I do.
Dos Cervesas, por favor !
WoinParis is offline  
Jan 27th, 2017, 01:00 PM
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I would simplify the whole thing for the sake of your sanity. If your kids are anything like mine (14,12,6), they need their downtime. I would do…
4 nights in Paris - don't underestimate the jetlag. It can be nasty. You likely won't find an apartment (a reputable one) for less than a week.
3 nights south of France in the countryside. Hike, bike, kayak.
4 nights at the beach in Spain
3 nights in Madrid

You could simplify further by not doing the beach nights in Spain and renting a house with a pool (a must!) in the south of France for a full week. (or skip France and do that in Spain). We stayed close to Bonnieux in the Luberon for two weeks and we could have easily spent a month there.

You definitely will; have to adjust your expectations of how mich you can do in a day and keep everyone happy. We have finally got it down to this formula: one big sightseeing/active activity per day, the rest of the day pool/beach/relax. Lots of wine for the parents.
Francewithfive is offline  
Jan 27th, 2017, 01:53 PM
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Yes, Catalan and Occitan are similar. Our neighbors speak Occitan. I guess that's why Catalan seems familiar to me.
StCirq is online now  

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