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Belgium, France and Spain

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Jul 12th, 2013, 09:16 PM
  #1
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Belgium, France and Spain

My wife and i are planning a 3 week trip . High level plan at this stage is to fly into Brussels, hire a car and drive through Belgium. Into paris and then through France, down to Spain and fly out of Barcelona.

We want to see Bruges, Brussels, Paris and Barcelona. We want to meander through each of these countries and hopefully do bed and breakfast or owners direct style accommodation.

Is driving the best option or are we better off taking the train ? Any suggestions or thoughts on train or drive as well as any suggestions for what and where to see. I'd love to see the Normany area. We are both food and wine afficianados without being gourmets.

Love to hear your thoughts.

Cheers

Bryce
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Jul 12th, 2013, 09:24 PM
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It will probably cost you a small fortune to pick up the car in Belgium and drop it off in Barcelona. It usually costs a lot of money to pick up the car in one country and drop it off in another. Europe does not have the car society that exists in US. The train systems is modern and efficient.

A car is an expensive and useless burden in Paris and Barcelona.

There really isn't a B & B tradition in Spain although it is growing. They do have pensiones but they clearly do not have the romance of B & B's.

Bruges is 45 minute train ride from Brussels.
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Jul 12th, 2013, 09:54 PM
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I agree: don't try hiring a car in one country and dropping it in another.

You might take the trains in Belgium (highly recommend at least a day trip to Ghent en route to/from Brussels and Bruges - the train will go through anyway). Train to Paris, spend your time there, then hire a car and drive to Normandy and down to somewhere in Southern France, drop the car, and continue by train to Spain. Normandy is beautiful and it's easy to drive there.
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Jul 13th, 2013, 03:22 AM
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I was in Brussels four days ago and a car is an expensive and useless burden there as well.

I would stay in the cities for a couple of days, then rent a car at each location for the countryside meanders for another couple of days.

Mark
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Jul 13th, 2013, 05:53 AM
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I agree with what others have said re: car rental for this itinerary. It is incredibly easy to take a train between towns in Belgium.
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Jul 13th, 2013, 06:22 AM
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http://www.chambres-hotes.fr/

Chambres d'Hotes are all over France - especially in the countryside - here is one site listing many - these are bed and breakfast place though breakfast is not always included.
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Jul 13th, 2013, 06:39 AM
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Base yourself in Brussels, Bruges or Ghent (we stayed in a B&B in Ghent which was very nice and centrally located) and visit the other cities by train. Train to Paris and visit the city. Rent a car to travel through France ( I use Gites de France to find B&bs). Return the car in Perpignan and train to Barcelona.
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Jul 13th, 2013, 09:05 AM
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Antwerp to me is a unique one of a kind city - port - really neat Art Nouveau architecture and world-class museums of flemish Masters, etc. Easy day trip from any base Michael mentions.
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Jul 13th, 2013, 09:30 AM
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Thank you all very much for your assistance. train it is! Great starting point for us. Will let you all know what we put together.
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Jul 13th, 2013, 09:34 AM
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How long do you have for this trip?
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Jul 13th, 2013, 11:13 AM
  #11
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Hi Cathy, we have 3 weeks.
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Jul 13th, 2013, 11:17 AM
  #12
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Palenq, thank you for the link.
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Jul 13th, 2013, 11:32 AM
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Sorry to disagree - but we have done - and enjoyed - numerous road trips in europe. Granted there is a drop off charge - but generally it is very small compared to the entire cost of a 3 week trip.

Cars make no sense if you are just going to see 2 or 3 major cities -but the type of trip you want - wandering through countryside and smaller towns is just made for a road trip.

Get a good set of maps so it's easy to explore - and enjoy your road trip.

I strongl encourage to go ahead with y
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Jul 13th, 2013, 11:42 AM
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sorry - editorial glitch above.

As for those who say you don't need a car in cities - true - but you will drop it as soon as you hit Barcelona - so the only city with the car is Paris - and you just put it in a garage for a few nights.

And you have the car for the serendipity in exploring belgium and France - where the car will be much more convenient than trying to take trains to and fro across the countryside.
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Jul 13th, 2013, 11:43 AM
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NY Traveler

In our experience the cost for dropping off a car is hundreds of dollars if not more.
________
Bruceyinoz

Also please note that if you do not know how to drive a shif, an automatic trans will also cost many extra hundreds of dollars. And the price of gas is usually about double of that in the US. Of course that varies, but that is good estimate.

Here is a comparative chart of gas price and the price is per liter and there are approx 3.7 liters to a gallon.

http://en.rian.ru/infographics/20130418/180709388.html
____

Don't get me wrong we rent cars often but only within a country and it is an excellent way to see things your way and at your pace but we drive a shift. These are just caveats of which you may not be aware. And some of the funniest things that have happened to us while travelling have happened due to a car.
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Jul 13th, 2013, 06:53 PM
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Well we have dropped off cars numerous times and the prices have typically been $200 to $300 or so - minimal in the total cost of a 3 week vacation. And yes, automatics cost extra. And yes gas is more expensive than in the US.

Hotels in europe and restaurants also cost more than in the US - if you avoid doing anything that costs more you will end up sitting on a park bench drinking water.

Some things cost more but are worth it because of the opportunities they provide. Exploring the countryside - especially normandy - is easy by car but a major PIA by train. Never mind the rest of the trip and the serendipity that lets you explore towns or castles or abbeys or adorable towns with little local museums that never make the guide books - that you find along the way and can't resist.

IMHO there is always room for a road trip as long as you aren't sticking just to 3 major cities in 10 days - it's by far the best way to explore the countryside.
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Jul 13th, 2013, 07:22 PM
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For me, one of the pleasures of traveling to Europe is using the excellent public transportation system - especially trains - that exists in many areas.

But you're right - exploring the countryside in Normandy would be a pain by trains and buses, and Normandy isn't one of the areas that's convenient to explore by public transit. There are numerous little stops that having a car makes practical. But several of us suggested simply renting the car in France which would avoid the drop charge issue. That way, the extra costs of having a car are minimized, and the OP can have a car part of the time and use (probably) trains the rest of the time. I haven't been to Spain, but trains between Paris, Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, etc. are extremely easy and convenient.

And I'm sorry that you find it so offensive, nytraveler, that some of us would be worried about extra costs, but not all of us have an unlimited budget. I'm already factoring in the extra cost of lodging, food, etc. when I plan a trip to Europe. Just because I'm already spending a lot, doesn't mean I should spend an unlimited amount.
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Jul 13th, 2013, 08:14 PM
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Hotels in europe and restaurants also cost more than in the US - if you avoid doing anything that costs more you will end up sitting on a park bench drinking water.
_________
Pure nonsense. There are safe and clean hotels at reasonable prices and a world of reasonably priced resaturants. We have been traveling independently to Europe for over 40 years and could not do so, if we did not find reasonable rates.
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Jul 14th, 2013, 08:11 AM
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In France at least restaurants are cheaper than in the States for an equivalent value. In France the listed price is the final price whereas in the States one needs to add 25 percent for taxes and tips to any listed price--that's the thumbnail rule in SF, some say 30 percent.
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Jul 14th, 2013, 08:17 AM
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We have spent considerable time in Spain and you can eat well for a cheap price, especially tapas. And for example, A modern, covenient, clean hotel in Santiago de Compostela that we like is $72 a night.
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