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5 weeks france and Spain with Family

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Sep 26th, 2013, 09:48 PM
  #1
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5 weeks france and Spain with Family

I would love your input with a 5 week trip to France and Spain. My family of 4 (2 girls-12 & 11 yr) and active in laws in their late 60's are planning a trip in September 2014. We are looking for a little bit of everything out of this trip; big city, small villages, castles, and scenery. I'm thinking an open jaw flight into Paris and out of Barcelona makes the most sense however I'm also considering a full circle round trip from either Paris or Barcelona. I'm planning on renting a car as transportation, mostly for the flexibility. My rough itinerary looks like this:
Paris-4 nights
Dijon - 2 nights
Lake Annecy - 5 nights (possible day trips to Mont Blanc, Chambery, Grenoble)
French Riviera-7 nights -possible home base in Arles or Hyeres (day trips from Nimes to Monaco. We're flexible, we may just want to relax. Possible day trip to Corsica)
Narbonne-3 nights (day trips to Montpellier & Perpignan)
Tarbes or Lourdes - 3 nights (Carcassonne on the way, day trips to Pic du Midi, Cirque de Gavarnie)
Basque coast - 7 nights possible home base in Deva or St. Jean de Luz (possible day trips to Bayonne, Biarritz, Bilbao, San Sebastian)
Drop rental car off in France, rent car in Spain
Barcelona - 3 nights

My second thought was to hit Paris(2), Lyon(7), Arles(7), Perignon(2), Barcelona(5), San Sebastian(5), Tours(3), Paris(2).

I would love some input, open jaw or roundtrip? Possible home bases? Is this even doable in 5 weeks? Are there any must see stops?
shannonG5915 is offline  
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Sep 26th, 2013, 09:54 PM
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Drop the idea of Corsica; a one way ferry ride takes 5+ hours.

Do an open jaw, returning from Bordeaux, saving the drive to Paris and saving the stiff drop-off cross-border fee if returning a French rental in Spain.

Your second thought is more realistic.
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Sep 27th, 2013, 05:32 AM
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Unless you want to stay in Lourdes for the religious aspect, the area in and around Bagnères-de-Bigorre is nicer, imo. I would do a search for chambres d'hôtes in the area. Avoid Tarbes, it is difficult to get in and out of and not of much interest. Some of the drives are spectacular around Bagnères and from there over to Lourdes on the D37 is gorgeous (you pick it up about 10km north of Bagnères).

Day trips along the Basque coast are relatively easy, good express buses on the Spanish side and French, driving distances are short but parking can be a problem, although not so much in September. I just spent two nights in Hondarribia, Hotel Obispo, but if staying a week my preference would be a flat in San Sebastiàn. Be sure to query your parking options, San Sebastiàn is compact, easy to walk to beaches if you are in the centre or on a good bus line. S.S.'s beaches are lovely, September could be all right but the Bay of Biscay is fickle.

Nîmes or Arles aren't best located for a day trip to Monaco, way too far. If you want to experience the Riviera a more logical base would be Nice (great transport hub), Antibes or Cannes. Monaco, apart from the corniche drive, leaves me cold. The children can't go into the casino, but it's dead anyway during the day. The gardens are pretty but beyond that.... The towns I've mentioned and the hill villages above Nice and Cannes are more fun.

You need a good medium-scale atlas, we use ign's Atlas Routier and Touristque, but any with a 1 cm to 2.5 km scale would be good. www.viamichelin.com is very good for route planning and I would recommend a tom-tom or Garmin. We've used both and prefer the tom-tom.
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Sep 27th, 2013, 05:42 AM
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Unless you have been before, you need to spend another day or two in Paris. I like your first plan better - no need to return all the way from Spain to Paris.
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Sep 27th, 2013, 07:39 AM
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I don't understand this part. Whether you base in Arles or Hyères, it's not realistic to do "day trips from Nîmes to Monaco." Arles and Hyères are far apart, as are Nîmes and Monaco.
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Sep 27th, 2013, 08:47 AM
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For the children: http://www.guedelon.fr/
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Sep 27th, 2013, 05:01 PM
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Love Guedelon. What a great learning opportunity for kids. Thanks so much for the info.
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Sep 27th, 2013, 09:17 PM
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Thanks so much for everyone's input. Michael, I thought that Corsica was too much, thanks for confirmation. Cath, your input on San Sebastian as a home base helps. Frank, good to hear that Hyeres is a good home base. What about Lake Annecy? Is that a good home base for the Alps? What about Pyrenees on the Spanish side? Is that a must see? Or can we see enough on the French side?
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Sep 27th, 2013, 11:07 PM
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What about Lake Annecy? Is that a good home base for the Alps? What about Pyrenees on the Spanish side? Is that a must see? Or can we see enough on the French side?

Both sides of the Pyrenees have worthwhile sights, but I think that you need to look at some guidebooks.
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Sep 28th, 2013, 06:33 AM
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Assuming your plan includes driving from Carcassonne west with stops at the Pic du Midi and Cirque de Gavarnie,, you will have beautiful views all the way to the Atlantic, weather permitting. At the Pic, etc, you are in the Pyrénées, the drives around there are beautiful--Col de Tourmalet should still be open. As you head south along the coast to Spain the foothills reach the sea, gorgeous.

I've not driven along the Spanish side.
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Sep 28th, 2013, 07:18 AM
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Second the idea of San Sebastián as home base. The culinary capital of Spain, beautiful landscapes, a local culture that people take great pride in and some of the finest city beaches on the continent. http://www.sansebastianturismo.com/en/
http://travel.nytimes.com/2011/08/07...anted=all&_r=0

According to the world's most famous chef the past decade, Ferran Adrià of El Bulli, San Sebastián is the best place to eat in the world "in terms of what you can get at any place you happen to walk into". http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandst...rink.shopping2

European capital of culture 2016: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2zTb7Eg9Lk

Apartments for rent:
http://www.booking.com/apartments/ci...astian.en.html
http://www.friendlyrentals.com/en/ap...modation-5.htm
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Sep 28th, 2013, 08:10 AM
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I echo the recommendation for San Sebastian as a base for a few days. We spent time last summer in both the French and Spanish Basque country and preferred San Sebastian (despite my general love for all things France). We were staying near St. Jean de Luz in France and found the traffic and parking to be not idyllic. We liked Biarritz much more that I expected (just there for a day). San Sebastian is wonderful - beautiful architecture, amazing food (of course!) and easy drive to Bilbao.

Don't shortchange your time around Barcelona which I believe is fun for all ages.

The Dordogne is a really wonderful alternative to Provence with good proximity to the coast.

If you are in Provence, Cassis is a nice day trip to the beach.
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Sep 29th, 2013, 09:56 PM
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Thanks so much for all your information. I'm now thinking of Paris to Alps (base in Lake Annecy) to Riviera (base in Hyeres) to Dordogne (base in Salat) then down to Basque coast (base in San Sebastian or Deva) then back across on the French side to Pyreneese (base in Bagnères-de-Bigorre) then to Perpignan and then take the train to Barcelona and then fly home. I'm planning about 5 days in each location. I'm still not sure about the train vs. rental car. There are 6 of us but it looks like we could take the train to most locations and then rent a car when we got there. Does that seem to be more logical and cost efficient or would it just be a lot easier and not that much more to rent the car the whole time?
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Sep 30th, 2013, 10:03 AM
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www.autoeurope.com has its lowest rates in February. Change the rental location later, and the rate is higher. Keep that in mind when making your various reservations.
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