Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

3 weeks SW France with San Sebastian in October - Itinerary help, please

3 weeks SW France with San Sebastian in October - Itinerary help, please

May 27th, 2019, 01:22 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,716
3 weeks SW France with San Sebastian in October - Itinerary help, please

Greetings, all -

My husband and I are in the early stages of planning a 3 week trip to France for October. We'll be visiting a friend in Paris for a couple of days on arrival/departure. But have about 17 days in the middle to play with. The general plan is to take the train to Brive-la-Gaillarde and pick up a car in order to do a southern loop between there and Bordeaux, exploring beautiful villages and booking reservations at a few wineries before dropping the car off and spending a couple of nights in Bordeaux itself. (Or the reverse, if that makes more sense.) We are enthusiastic food travelers, so are considering a trip across the border for a couple of days in San Sebastian.

Although we've been to France several times before, this area is new for us and we're trying to figure out specifics of where to stay/eat along the way. Am thinking of basing in/near Sarlat-la-Caneda in order to see Rocamadour, Montignac and surrounds. From there we're considering heading south to Carcassonne. Stay in/near there, or Toulouse? Then San Sebastian and Bordeaux area. Recommendations for a good base in this area are welcome.

We prefer to stay at least 2-3 nights in each place, and in general like to base in places where we can walk to local restaurants for dinner. Many thanks in advance!
Lesli is offline  
May 27th, 2019, 03:19 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 47,695
Why would you take the train to Brive instead of Bordeaux, which is cheaper and faster, and then you can take the TER to Périgueux or Sarlat. Brive's OK, but you have a whole lot more choices if you head for Bordeaux.

Wineries probably aren't what you imagine them to be around here. In the Bordeaux area they are fussy old ch teaux that need reservations; in the Bergerac/Pecharmant area they're pretty laid back but in October will be dead and uninhabited - the wine's gone by then, no matter where you go.

Basing in Sarlat is wonderful for visiting the Périgord, which has a thousand more interesting attractions than distant Rocamadour, of minimal interest IMO unless you have a thing for black virgins. I would never head to Sarlat to visit Rocamadour. Montignac? For Lascaux II or IV, of course, plus it's just a really nice town with a fun Friday market.

Toulouse is a fabulous city, worth 3-4 days, and Castelnaudary and Albi and many more small towns in the area.

Carcassonne, apart from the Cité, which grates on the nerves pretty fast, is actually a lively, comfortable town with some good restaurants and a pretty fetching scene at the Place Carnot.

There isn't any such thing as "San Sebastián and Bordeaux area." They are hundreds of miles apart and in two different countries. Both are absolutely wonderful and have fabulous food.
StCirq is offline  
May 27th, 2019, 04:24 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,716
Thanks very much for your reply. Apparently my writing is poor, because at least some my intentions have been misunderstood.

Paris to Bordeaux via TGV - Yes; this is the plan, or Bordeaux to Paris at the end of the trip. But we thought to/from Brive for the other direction; so thank you for the tip about the TER to Sarlat. That means we can purchase round-trip train tickets for Bordeaux, which might even allow us to pick up/drop off the car in the same location, both of which should save us a few bucks.

San Sebastian is, according to viamichelin, about a 2.5 hour drive from Bordeaux. So what I was trying to convey above is that we would head across the border to San Sebastian (stop) for 2-3 nights. And from there head back to France and north to the Bordeaux area, which is obviously a completely separate location/country. As I did say above, we planned to make appointments for winery visits, which friends did last year. But I don't recall the time of year they were visiting; I shall have to ask about that.

I will do some more research about the Perigord region, but welcome specific suggestions re what to see and do there. Again, I appreciate your feedback.
Lesli is offline  
May 27th, 2019, 04:36 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 78,322
Book Paris-Bordeaux TGVs ASAP for discounted fares - book at www.oui.sncf. www.seat61.com has great advice on doing that - general train info www.ricksteves.com and www.budgeteuropetracel.com.
PalenQ is offline  
May 27th, 2019, 04:54 PM
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 1,226
In May 2015, we spent 6 nights in the Dordogne: 2 nights in Brantome and 4 nights in Sarlat. While in Sarlat, we stayed at Villa Des Consuls, located in the medieval quarter. These are apartments. Very lovely, and excellent location.

For sightseeing near Sarlat, we visited the following caves: Grotte de Rouffignac, Grotte du Grand Roc, La Rogue-St. Christophe, Lascaux II, Gouffre de Padirac, and Peche Merle. Our favorites are Peche Merle and Gouffre de Padirac. Also visited Marqueyssac Gardens and Beynac Castle, and Dordogne River Cruise on a river barge with Gabarres Norbert.

You can click on my name to read my trip report.
Hope this helps.
KarenWoo is online now  
May 28th, 2019, 03:05 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 47,695
I rarely take Viamichelin driving times at face value; adding 20% usually ends up being more on the mark. We've driven from our home in the Périgord to San Sebastián and I don't think we've ever made it in less than about 4 hours (and that's on mega-highways most of the way going at a good clip). There can be alarming backups at the toll stations, which seem to crop up often as you get to the Spanish border.

It's quite a nice train ride from either Bordeaux or the Agen-Sarlat line to San Sebastián too, and it means you don't have to be concerned with parking in SS, which is problematic and expensive. You do have to change trains at Hendaye because the French and Spanish tracks are different widths, but the trains are usually timed so as to make the connection pretty seemless. From San Sebastián there's a pretty good network of buses and trains to other places of interest, like Bilbao, and St-Jean-de-Luz, but if you really want to explore, especially inland, a car is probably best.

The best place to begin research on the Périgord is http://www.sarlat-tourisme.com/en/we...tourist-office
StCirq is offline  
Jun 7th, 2019, 07:29 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,029
I'm chiming in a bit late, but am not sure I understand your current plan or goals. If you are still seeking input, perhaps you could clarify?
kja is offline  
Jul 4th, 2019, 01:01 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,716
Itinerary set - Questions to refine it

Hi, all -

As often happens in our trip planning, we've decided to narrow our focus and spend more time in fewer places. Here's our basic outline:
  • Arrive Pais, visit with friend in Paris for 3 nights
  • TGV Paris-Toulouse, 4 nights in Toulouse
  • Pick up car, drive to Sarlat, 4 nights in Sarlat
  • Drive to St Emilion, 4 nights just outside St Emilion
  • Drive to Bordeaux, 4 nights in Bordeaux
  • TGV bordeaux-Paris, visit with friend inParis for 2 nights before flying home.
Questions, especially from those who may have done this before: Pick up/drop off car at train stations or other locations in Toulouse & Bordeaux?

We've bought the "Most Beautiful Villages in France" and hope to visit a number of them during the driving part of our trip. Specific suggestions are welcome, especially for those that may be en route from one location to another.

We travel to eat as much as to sightsee, so suggestions for especially good restaurants where 2 can dine for about 120E or less before wine would also be great. I've looked at some other threads and have La Ferme du Brusquand in Marquay and Miles in Bordeaux as definites so far.

Many thanks in advance for sharing your expertise!

Lesli is offline  
Jul 4th, 2019, 01:25 PM
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 1,425
Where are you looking near Saint Emilion?
BritishCaicos is offline  
Jul 4th, 2019, 01:35 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,029
If you decide to dine in Albi during your time in Toulouse, you might consider Le Clos Sainte Cecile.
BTW, I think your plan is MUCH improved.
kja is offline  
Jul 4th, 2019, 04:19 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 20,947
These albums might give you some ideas:
Most photos are geo-tagged to facilitate a logical itinerary.
Michael is online now  
Jul 5th, 2019, 06:26 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 47,695
St-Emilion is only a half-hour from Bordeaux. I don't understand what you would do there for 4 nights that you couldn't do from Bordeaux. What are you going to do "near St-Emilon" for 4 nights that you couldn't do otherwise? There isn't much "near St-Emilion" that's a real draw.

Interesting restaurants "near" Sarlat (at least pretty much as "near" as La Ferme Brusquand:

La Savie, Meyrals
L'Auberge de Layotte, Tursac
Chez Julien, Paunat
L'Espérance, Le Buisson
La Grignotičre, Les Eyzies
Laborderie, Tamničs
Garden Party, Limeuil
Lo Gorissado, St-André-d'Allas
Le Petit Léon, St-Léon-sur-Vézčre
La Belle Etoile, La Roque-Gageac
Bistrot de la Place, Trémolat
Auberge de la Truffe, Sorges
La Treille, Vitrac
StCirq is offline  
Jul 5th, 2019, 07:47 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,716
kja - Thank you for the positive feedback, and the Albi restaurant recommendation. Looks like a lovely place.

Michael - Wonderful photos; thanks for sharing!

St-Cirq - Many thanks for all of the restaurant suggestions. I will look at the map and pin the most likely possibilities.

You are of course correct that St-Emilion is only a half hour from Bordeaux. But we like to build in some "down" time during our trips. (Our last trip to Italy included 4 days in Florence, but also 3 in Lucca, less than an hour away.)

I used to work in the restaurant industry and live in Northern California, so have a significant interest in food and wine. I've reached out to friends who have contacts, as well as our B&B owner, to arrange visits to some smaller 3rd and 4th growth wineries. We'll also book a tour and tasting at one of the impressive chateaus. And we'll have long leisurely lunches and dinners and enjoy the beautiful drives through the vines. Then we'll drop off the car and spend 4 days in the actual city of Bordeaux. This might not make sense to you, but it strikes the right balance for us and we're really looking forward to it.
Lesli is offline  
Jul 6th, 2019, 04:10 AM
Join Date: Jun 2019
Posts: 13
I just want to warn about Paris, I have read a lot of stories about scams, pickpockets and violent vendors in Paris, I am mostly saying this with regard to your two teenage daughters. So whatever you decide just be careful and alert.
Have fun
Jessbrown is offline  
Jul 6th, 2019, 06:23 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 47,695
Jess, calm down and stop reading "stories." Your warnings are off-base and useless.

Lesli, I hope you'll be impressed by the vineyards around St-Emilion. I never have been, and I've been around these parts since 1993. If I had time to spare in the Bordeaux region I'd spend it in the Bassin d'Arcachon, not in the deadly dull vineyards. I don't think of any of the countryside around Bordeaux as beautiful; it's monumentally boring, no matter how many impressive wine friends you have. "beautiful drives through the vines?" I think you are dreaming.
StCirq is offline  
Jul 6th, 2019, 09:21 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,716
Jess - Your reply must be intended for someone else. I have no daughters, teenaged or otherwise. (And would be unlikely to bring them on this trip if I did.)

StCirq - Perhaps I am dreaming; we shall see. I thought the area around Beaune was gorgeous when I visited there in the fall - the vines were turning autumn colors and it was just so peaceful. Regardless, I have happily spent an entire week doing little more than wine tasting and eating good to great meals, with the occasional walk thrown in to burn off the calories. To each his/her own. I'll make note of the Bassin d'Arcachon area; thank you for mentioning it.

I'm still seeking advice re best places at which to pick up and drop off our rental car.

Last edited by Lesli; Jul 6th, 2019 at 09:25 AM.
Lesli is offline  
Jul 6th, 2019, 11:00 AM
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,986
< < I'm still seeking advice re best places at which to pick up and drop off our rental car. >>

Well, since you are taking the train into Toulouse and from Bordeaux, it would make sense to pick up and drop off the car in those places. The car rental agencies are at the train station in Toulouse. Pick up the car when you are leaving Toulouse.

Try Autoeurope.com and Kemwel.com for best prices.
joannyc is online now  
Jul 6th, 2019, 11:23 AM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 22,029
I agree with joannyc that options at the train stations are worth considering. If I'm not picking up / dropping off when I need to be at a train station, I use google maps to find locations that might suit my needs better based on where I will be (generally my hotel) and the direction I'll be heading (so I avoid as much of the city traffic as possible). I book with gemut.com, which works with autoeurope.
kja is offline  
Jul 6th, 2019, 02:44 PM
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 1,425
Here’s my view on Saint Emilion.

It’s just like cars, I’ve been called everything under the sun for the amount of money I’ve spent on cars over the years. It’s what I like, I work hard.

Same with wine.

You can find a perfectly drinkable bottle for e10. You can find a perfect bottle for 20 times that but is the bottle of Premier Grand Cru Classe worth it ? What’s worth ? Is a Mulberry hand bag worth it!

I’m currently sat just north of Saint Emilion on my fifth trip Bordeaux and SW France in two years drinking a bottle of 2010 Beau Sejour Becot. The area is a wonderful reposte to rancid Brexit ridden Britain.

Saint Emilion, as a town, is a dire hangout of mainly the world’s nouveau riche talking an awful lot of crap about wine. Go into any wine shop in the centre and you’ll struggle not to vomit when you here the sycophantic twaddle being spouted by “Miles” from Ohio who just sold his dotcom business, throw in the cruise parties and it’s a truely horrible place.

Then there’s the vineyards, hundreds of mainly small family businesses which average just over 5 hectares in size. Yes, some are owned by the Paris fashion houses as extensions of their brand. Most are dedicated to battling the elements of climate change and a very variable micro climate to produce the best they can. It’s a magical place, I cycled 20 miles at 6am a couple of months ago, the sun was coming up, workers getting out and about amongst the vines.

This isn’t Rioja where one estate extends for millions of hectares and the soil varies little. In some cases 200 meters separates wine that sells for e2000 a bottle and that which sells for e30.

The soil, blending and timing of harvest result in wines which are barely identifiable as the same appellation from year to year.

Put simply, it’s a wonderful area to hang out for 4 days if you love wine.

4 days in the city then makes much sense with a side trip out to Arcachon bay with its incredible seafood.

By the way, traffic in the Gironde is getting worse during the week it absolutely isn’t 30 minutes from Saint Emilion to Bordeaux. On bad days it can be 90 minutes.

If you like reds which a high alcohol and mineral content, redcurrents and and silky liquorice flavour then 2010 Larcisse Ducasse is my current absolute favourite.

For restaurants, the restaurant of La Dominique (Grand Cru Classe) offers very full bodied reds, pretty good food, stunning architecture and a beautiful view of two of the world’s best vineyards.

In town, Hostellerie de Plaisance has 2 Michelin stars and the evening meal menu has prices in line with what you would expect. I’ve only ever had their set lunch tasting menu which is the best food I’ve ever had and is pretty good value,

Also in town is Les Délices du Roy which owned by a financial masochist who owned a vineyard, wine shop and the restaurant. He operates all three personally and is a great host. Their duck burger is incredible, topped with Fois Gras.

which B & B have you booked ?
BritishCaicos is offline  
Jul 6th, 2019, 03:34 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,716
BritishCaicos - Thanks very much for the encouraging and helpful reply! You obviously have much greater expertise and experience with Bordeaux than I - re both the place and the wines. So your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

I already had La Terasse Rouge/La Dominique pinned on my map as a potential stop around lunchtime, but will now make a point of getting there. Have added Les Delices Du Roy in town at your suggestion because great hosts, I find, are often what makes the trip. We are celebrating an anniversary during this trip and often do lunch at starred restaurants in order to take advantage of the comparatively lower cost, so perhaps Hostellerie de Plaisance will make it onto our list as well.

The wines you mention sound delicious, but would be special occasion ones on our budget. If you have any specific suggestions for places to visit and taste where bottles would be in the 30E and under range, we'd be able to purchase a bottle or two to thank the winemakers for their time. I am far from fluent, but do speak some French.

We are booked to stay at Clos 1906, which looks lovely and will allow us to walk into town and home to bed after more wine with dinner. https://clos1906.com/
Lesli is offline  
Related Topics
Original Poster
Last Post
Sep 23rd, 2018 01:26 PM
May 13th, 2016 09:45 PM
May 17th, 2009 07:31 AM
Dec 19th, 2007 03:42 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 10:05 PM.