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Barcelona to Paris Oct. 24 to Nov. 6

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Feb 29th, 2012, 02:46 PM
  #1
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Barcelona to Paris Oct. 24 to Nov. 6

I am trying to help some friends, a couple, plan a trip mostly in France for the dates shown. They will be coming off a cruise in Barcelona. Here is our (mostly their) first stab at an itinerary.

10/25 leave Barcelona train to Montpellier, looks like 4 1/2 hr train. stay for 2 nights
Leave 10/27 to Toulouse 2hr train. stay 2 nights rent car
Leave 10/29 drive to Sarlat 90 miles. stay 3 nights
Leave Sarlat 11/1 to Tours or nearby. Stay in Loire Valley from 11/1- 11/5 drop car
Train to Paris on 11/6 leave on the 13th. (apartment rental)

They prefer to use the trains, but I suggested a one-week car rental to see Dordogne and Loire Valley.

Questions:
1. Is it worth (I know, I know) going all the way to Montpellier from Barcelona or would Narbonne or Béziers do as well?

2. Would you suggest a one-night stay in Carcassonne on the way to Toulouse? I guess they would have to take a taxi from the train station to the Cité and back. If they did this they'd have to take a day away from Toulouse or Loire, I suppose. I wouldn't take it from Sarlat, I don't think.

3. Will major sites (caves, castles) in the Dordogne be open at this time of year?

4. Would you reapportion days differently? More in Dordogne, less in Loire?

5. If they do stay in the Loire Valley for several days, would you suggest two bases, perhaps one west of Tours (Saumur?), another east (Amboise)?

6. Any other suggestions for improvement? I haven't researched much as yet but thought I'd see what you think about this rough itinerary.

Thanks for any and all input.
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Feb 29th, 2012, 03:01 PM
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I wouldn't zoom all the way to Montpellier, much as I love it. I'd stop at Perpignan.

No, I wouldn't spend the night in Carcassonne.

2 nights in Toulouse is fine. Picking up car and driving to Sarlat is fine. Too few days in Sarlat; too many in the Loire, which I might even allot a mere two days to - they will have seen plenty of castles in the Périgord (though castles of a different ilk). Driving from Sarlat to the Loire will be a bit of a bore, but unless you totally revamp the trip it's probably necessary as I don't think there are direct train connections except from Bordeaux/Libourne (maybe Brive), and anyway they'd need to do another car rental once they got to the Loire and the cost might go up for two separate rentals.
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Feb 29th, 2012, 06:26 PM
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Thanks, StCirq.

I'll see what the train connections are like between Perpignan and Toulouse. I suspect that they might have to go via Narbonne.

I think you and I are thinking along the same lines. The only reason I mentioned a night in Carcassonne was that I put it in the category of "should be seen once" and it might be difficult to stop there traveling by train without spending a night. I'll see what my friends think about that.

I think like you that the Dordogne deserves more time than the Loire Valley.

Maybe I'll suggest a stop at Oradour-sur-Glane to break the "boring" trip from Sarlat to Loire. And perhaps some of the smaller roads from there. ViaMichelin indicates a scenic road from Lussac-les-Chateaux to Chatellerault. I do think they will need to keep the car for that segment.

Did you see my question #3? No problem with closures at the end of Oct? (I can check that out online, of course.)
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Mar 1st, 2012, 10:13 AM
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YOu do have to go through Narbonne to get to Carcassonne from Perpignan, that's just where the rail line is. You cannot get there from Perpignan, not only do you have to go through Narbonne, I think you have to change trains there. You can't get from Barcelona to anywhere without changing trains at least once, anyway (at least not Montpellier or Toulouse or Perpignan or Narbonne).

I'm not quite following the Carcassonne idea and how that fits into your original schedule, but you do not have to stay there for any reason. You can visit it from narbonne or Toulouse by train as a day trip, I did.
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Mar 1st, 2012, 11:08 AM
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Yes, all the major Dordogne sites will be open then.
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Mar 1st, 2012, 04:36 PM
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Thanks, Christina, and again, StCirq.

I just thought that going from Montpellier or Narbonne to Toulouse that they would be passing by Carcassonne and might like to see that.

I've now looked at the train schedules and will suggest that they spend a couple of nights in Perpignan, and the next two nights in Toulouse. They could stop in Carcassonne on the way from Perpignan to Toulouse if they like (and yes, there is a train change in Narbonne for most trains) or, as you suggest, Christina, go back there as a day trip from Toulouse. It's only about 45 minutes by train.

I have also subtracted a day from Loire and added it to Sarlat. And will suggest that, depending on their interests, they might even make it 5 in Sarlat and 3 in Loire.

Any other thoughts?
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Mar 1st, 2012, 05:36 PM
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5 in Sarlat and 3 in the Loire is excellent.

I'm not sure what you mean by "passing by Carcassonne and might like to see that." Do you mean get off a train and go up and visit? If so, that's not a bad idea. It's worthy of a few hours if the train schedules are convenient. But if you're thinking they'll see it from the train, I don't think so.

BTW, I probably made 40+ trips to France before I got to Carcassonne, so while I do think it is a worthy site to visit, it's not something I'd do tortuous train trips to get to see. They're going to see plenty of castles in the Dordogne (albeit not of the same magnitude).
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Mar 1st, 2012, 06:03 PM
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Maybe I'll suggest a stop at Oradour-sur-Glane to break the "boring" trip from Sarlat to Loire.

From there go to St. Savin, about 30 km. east of Poitiers

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/...57623276890499

and then Angles-sur-Anglin http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/...57623276890499
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Mar 1st, 2012, 07:40 PM
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Can I suggest you consider not going all the way to Montpellier in the first instance? Narbonne is a lovely town, with a beautiful cathedral & interesting history. Would you consider one night stay in Narbonne, picking up a hire car (both Europcar and Avis have a pickup point at the train station) and then drive to Toulouse, via Carcassonne for a lunch stop along the way. Ironically Carcassonne is one of the few sites which gives great vistas from the autoroute. You see it rising majestically in the distance as you come & go on the A61. The drive to Toulouse is very straightforward, so you could arrive there late afternoon. If you stay one night in Narbonne it gives you an extra night in the Loire too, so you can get to chateaux both east & west of Tours.
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Mar 1st, 2012, 08:21 PM
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I already suggested not going all the way to Montpellier, and I think the OP agreed. That's a good plan, rosemaryoz.
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Mar 1st, 2012, 09:53 PM
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Hi StCirq. Sorry for my ignorance: what is an OP??! I'm not very good with the forum lingo!
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Mar 1st, 2012, 09:55 PM
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Mar 1st, 2012, 09:55 PM
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OP = original post/original poster, in this case Betty1.
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Mar 2nd, 2012, 07:39 AM
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"OP" here! Yes, I did agree with StCirq that going all the way to Montpellier just to spend a couple of nights didn't make much sense. But I'm still not sure whether to recommend Perpignan or Narbonne for their first few nights in France. I've only passed through Perpignan many years ago and spent a day or so in Narbonne. Thoughts on that?

And I've pretty much given up the idea of a visit to Carcassonne on the way to Toulouse. Unless they left very early they wouldn't get to Carcassonne until about lunchtime and would have to leave mid-afternoon to get to Toulouse before dark. (I'm looking at train schedules for spring-summer and late October may be even less convenient.) Plus there would be the problem of what to do with their luggage. No consigne at Carc. train station.

So I think I'll recommend that they either skip Carcassonne or go back there from Toulouse. Or, if they'd be willing to pick up their car a day earlier in Narbonne, assuming they spend their first few nights there, they could stop in Carc. on the way to Toulouse. If it were me, I'd pick up the car as soon as I got to France and drive the rest of the way, but then I love to drive!

Loved your photos, Michael. I'll take a look at that route.

Thanks, everyone, for your input.
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Jul 23rd, 2012, 08:00 AM
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So it's about time to start buying train tickets for my friends.

Their first segment will be Barcelona to Narbonne on Oct. 25. I plan to buy those for them tomorrow evening after 6:00 pm. Since they will need to pick up their tickets in Barcelona, I plan to use the tgv-europe website. I am more accustomed to using the sncf website but if I put in Spain as the pick-up country there it switches to Spanish, a language I do not speak.

As far as I can tell the tgv-europe website seems very similar to sncf. Is there anything different about using that website or about picking up tickets in Spain rather than in France? We can't print these tickets because only the Figueras - Narbonne segment is a Prem's ticket on TGV.

I have advised my friends to authorize the online purchase with their credit card company before we do this.

Thanks for any advice.
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Jul 23rd, 2012, 11:23 AM
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If I were you, I'd buy the French PREM ticket separately and then you'll be able to print that. They are two separate tickets, anyway.

Good luck, I do not think they have an option to pick up in the station, but maybe you'll get one. There are some odd things on the SNCF website when buying certain tickets, and I think that route is one of them. Meaning even if you say you will pick up in Spain, you are not given an option to pick them up at the station. I think it's because it is foreign but I'm not sure (the ticket, TGV europe is a French website).

If you cannot do that, I'd buy the Spanish segment on renfe.com or get it in Spain at the station. I doubt if there are any discounts for advance purchase anyway, but might be wrong-- it's only a 23 euro ticket.
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Jul 23rd, 2012, 02:25 PM
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Thanks, Christina. I had considered buying these seperately but thought that if they had to pick up the first leg tickets in Barcelona, they might as well pick up both.

However, if you're correct about their not being able to choose a pick-up at the Barcelona train station, that changes things. I've been on the "Man in Seat 61" website and if I'm understanding correctly it looks like I can buy the Barcelona-Figueras tickets on renfe and print them and then do the same for Figueras-Narbonne on either tgv-europe or sncf and print those.

Anyone else have a comment about this?
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Jul 23rd, 2012, 02:45 PM
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I also meant to ask... Seat 61 says that renfe uses 'Verifed by Visa' and 'MasterCard Secure' schemes. Does that mean that they don't take Amex?
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Jul 23rd, 2012, 03:01 PM
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no, they take Amex.

Actually, I realized you don't know Spanish, and I think you need it on renfe so that doesn't get you anywhere. I don't think you can print those kind of short-distance small tickets.
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Jul 23rd, 2012, 03:32 PM
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I think I can use the renfe site since they do have a button to change it to English. With that and the Seat 61 instructions I might just manage it. And Seat 61 seems to indicate that you can print them. If it doesn't work, though, "the Man" says you can buy them with a small mark-up on www.petrabax.com/renfe.

If you're out there, Man in Seat 61, I'd love to hear from you on this.
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