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25 Day itinerary - Spain and French med coastline

25 Day itinerary - Spain and French med coastline

Jul 20th, 2019, 12:54 PM
  #1  
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25 Day itinerary - Spain and French med coastline

My sister and are are planning a trip for next July/August. We are flying into Madrid and probably departing from Nice as we want to spend some time in Santorini before retiring to NZ. We are both in our 50s. Have travelled a lot but missed this part of the world in our younger travelling days. We are not huge church and museum visitors. We like the beach and are real foodies, we enjoy spending our days in smaller quaint seaside villages, exploring markets, walking, enjoying local culture and restaurants, vineyards etc. we’d prefer to break our time up into a lesser number of places but maybe stay 3-5 nights in each. Will haven’t been to Madrid so will want to start there. We want to do all the tourist spots but would probably refer to stay outside of the big cities, ideally near the water. Was thinking about using the train but looks like a car may be more practical. Thoughts so far include Granada, Valencia, Majorca, Barcelona, Montpellier, Marseille and Nice. As I said we’d prefer to stay outside of main cities so maybe we’d choose smaller villages to base ourselves and do our day tripping from there. Would love thoughts and advice from locals or those who have been there. Thanks.
kiwit is offline  
Jul 20th, 2019, 02:11 PM
  #2  
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To add to the above. We prefer white sandy beaches - serviced or unserviced. We’re quite spoilt coming from New Zealand.
kiwit is offline  
Jul 20th, 2019, 07:11 PM
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Are you looking for stops in addition to the above? I see seven stops plus Madrid. In 25 days you're already looking at a race. Basically all of them are well connected by transit.

July will be busy. It will be hot. Even the remote wild unserviced beaches will have crowds at midday.
Traveler_Nick is offline  
Jul 21st, 2019, 03:28 AM
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There really aren't any "quaint seaside villages" left on the Med. In France, the only "real" fishing "village" left on the Med is Sète, and it's hardly quaint, though it's fascinating. In July and August every strip of sand along the Med will be occupied. White sandy beaches are not the norm, especially the "white" part.

A car, while it might seem more practical, will cost you a king's ransom if you pick it up in Spain and drop it off in France.

The train along the Med from Port Bou (or even farther south into Spain if you like) to Montpellier and beyond is one of the prettiest rides in France, hugging the shoreline and offering lovely views of marshes and inlets and sea birds and stopping at some rather out-of-the-way places in Languedoc-Roussillon. If you're looking for charm, you could make a stop in Collioure. Narbonne is another fascinating and underappreciated shoreline town.

You've got too many stops for 25 days, though, so something has to go.
StCirq is online now  
Jul 21st, 2019, 06:12 AM
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Collioure is charming but discovered, still worth a visit though.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Jul 21st, 2019, 07:05 AM
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<<Collioure is charming but discovered, still worth a visit though.>>

Absolutely true. That's why we go in February/March. It can be very enjoyable even when it's busy, though...such a pretty setting.
StCirq is online now  
Jul 21st, 2019, 10:13 AM
  #7  
 
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Driving would probably be more efficient than taking public transportatio. As mentioned by StCirq, cross-border drop-off charges are quite stiff. Rent two cars, one for Spain to be dropped off in Barcelona and one in France to be picked up in Perpignan or Narbonne. I use Autoeurope.com or Kemwel.com as brokers for the rentals. There is no penalty for cancelling a rental up to 72 hours before the rental date and the contract is quite clear, giving you the option to compare with other rental agencies.

Arles is a nice town, which can be used as a gateway to the Camargue.

Michael is online now  
Jul 21st, 2019, 10:25 AM
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There are plenty of white sand beaches from Coulloire to Antibes, some small, some very long (fewer towards the western Cote d'Azur, more in the Languedoc). Some of the towns along the best beaches, unfortunately, have no charm (large ugly concrete apartment blocks and strips of tacky holiday season-only restaurants and shops). Note Narbonne is inland; there is the associated Narbonne-Plage with an expansive white sand beach but it is not charming like the inland town. The city-affiliated beaches and those with good access tend to get very packed (like the beaches 30 mins by bus from Montpellier).

All the most charming towns do get packed, unfortunately, in July. Ramatuelle is really nice, but the traffic in this St. Tropez area is terrible and the fantastic beach gets stuffed (and everything is pricey). Cassis, Sanary-sur-Mer, and closer to Nice, Antibes. You choices do narrow on the Cote d'Azur as the pebbles are more common.
gooster is offline  
Jul 21st, 2019, 10:54 AM
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Sète has, I believe, one of the longest sandy beaches along the Med, but it could hardly be called a charming town. It has its merits, and there is loads of good seafood to be eaten, but as one of, if not the only, true "fishing villages" left on that stretch of the Med, it's got a gritty feel to it.
StCirq is online now  
Jul 21st, 2019, 12:54 PM
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I'm confused. You list 7 places, 8 if you count Madrid - all large cities but say you want to stay in small villages. Do you mean you want to find a small village that you can stay in and then day trip into those cities? Cause I don't really think that will work very well.

First off, as I'm sure you know, Madrid and Granada are no where near the sea.
Valencia and Barcelona are both on the coast and both fantastic places I highly recommend you see. But the beach in both of them is a bit out of the center. I suppose you could find a hotel near the beach and take the metros into the centers (where the sites are). That would work but then it doesn't fit your description of quaint sea side village.

Between Valencia and Barcelona is Tarragona, smaller than the other cities with a beach right in the center, but it's still not a quaint village.

North of Barcelona Cadeques more closely fits that description but I don't think it would make a good base to see Barcelona, you'd spend all your time commuting.

Mallorca is an island. Palma is the main city and on the water but the 'beach' is not in the city center. The island has numerous 'resort' villages with beaches (not quaint) and a couple quaint villages (but not on the water).

Already mentioned Collouire in France is pretty quaint and on the water (but I have only been there in March, probably not so quaint in July).

Marseille (where I happen to be right this minute) is a fabulous city that I can't believe I waited this long to see. But quaint it's not. Cassis is the 'quaint' beach town nearby (went there today, but it's 40 minutes by not that frequent bus so doesn't make a good 'base' to see Marseille) and it does have beaches (several small ones, more pebbly than sandy) and they were jammed. Boat rides to the calanques (from either Marseille or Cassis) are a highlight.

Nice has a beach but it's pebbles not sand and in July it's jammed.

I think you need to decide between visiting the major cities you listed or visiting smaller beach towns. Or maybe some of each, but in only 25 days you won't get to the places you list plus any other villages.
isabel is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2019, 12:24 AM
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FYI, you can "lease" a car from Peugot or Renault (minimum 17 days). Fees include insurance. In 2018, cost me $200 to pick-up in France and drop-off in Spain. I assume it would be the same in the reverse order. That extra expense was worth it for me. Just spent 2 weeks in Marseille. Certainly worth a visit but too large to serve as a base, in my opinion. Cassis would be better. It is very picturesque, and, if you have a car, it's fairly easy to drive into Marseille or visit Aix. (Les Goudes, a village on Marseille's eastern edge, is quite "quaint" but isolated; parking there is a real issue as well.) Rather than Nice, consider the much smaller city to the east, Villefranche-sur-Mer. From there, it's easy to go to Nice, Antibes, Cap Ferrat, etc., by bus (or train), leaving your car parked. It has a nice (smallish) beach as well.
billandcindy is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2019, 07:42 AM
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The breakeven point in leasing compared to a "basic" rental was 54 days. The ratio may have changed since then, but leasing is undoubtedly more expensive than renting even without the pickup charges in a foreign country. If cost is an issue, leasing is not the way to go.
Michael is online now  
Jul 22nd, 2019, 09:24 AM
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For sand beaches on the Côte d'Azur, check out Cannes and Antibes; also St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. Good luck.
Underhill is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2019, 11:28 PM
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"The breakeven point in leasing compared to a "basic" rental was 54 days. "

Don't know where Michael gets his data from, but I would suggest anyone interested do the math himself or herself. As I said in our post above, the leasing option includes insurance. What insurance costs does Michael include? Also, we always rent a car with automatic transmission and GPS, which would reduce even Michael's breakeven point significantly. And, the cars are always brand new. But there is a drawback you have to drive around in a car with a red license plate, identifying you as a foreigner.
billandcindy is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2019, 08:23 AM
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Originally Posted by billandcindy View Post
"The breakeven point in leasing compared to a "basic" rental was 54 days. "

Don't know where Michael gets his data from, but I would suggest anyone interested do the math himself or herself. As I said in our post above, the leasing option includes insurance. What insurance costs does Michael include? Also, we always rent a car with automatic transmission and GPS, which would reduce even Michael's breakeven point significantly. And, the cars are always brand new. But there is a drawback you have to drive around in a car with a red license plate, identifying you as a foreigner.
One year I compared the potential cost of a rental with the actual cost of my lease. But a quick check on line gives the following result:

A Clio diesel manual leased for 21 days (9/10 to 9/30) would cost $1392, while a Clio basic rental from Hertz using Autoeurope as a broker would cost $372, and that was not the cheapest rental. Local fees on the rental might add about $100. The recent Clio models should have enough luggage space:


I specified originally that I was using a basic rental, meaning that my credit card carried the CDW. If cost is not an issue, then go with no deductible on the rental and the cost between a lease and a rental might even out. If the rental is in Germany or Denmark, a GPS might come with the car as standard equipment; which is what happened to us 2 years ago.

Last edited by Michael; Jul 23rd, 2019 at 08:30 AM.
Michael is online now  
Jul 23rd, 2019, 01:12 PM
  #16  
 
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FYI, parking in Villefranche-sur-Mer in prime time can be difficult. We've never managed it in several tries.
Underhill is offline  
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