Best of Southern France and Spain

Apr 24th, 2015, 03:54 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 2
Best of Southern France and Spain

Hi there,
We (myself, hubby and 3 boys) are heading over to France next July. We will have 23 days all up. We are flying into Paris and will head straight to the Loire Valley to stay with friends between Angers and Saumur. We've visited this area many times before and will stay for approx 7 days. We've never taken the kids further south so would like to drive down to see some of the lovely, pretty villages in southern France before we head on down to Spain. Not really sure where as yet, so I'm looking for recommendations.
We'd then like to end the holiday with 5 or 6 nights on a Greek Island, so we'll probably have 7 or 8 nights for the drive down through France and Spain.
Any must sees or advice about where we should stay would be gratefully received. We don't have the budget for fancy hotels so tips about gites would be great.
AlixHelps is offline  
Apr 24th, 2015, 04:00 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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I would head straight down the the Pays Basque and Béarn. There are a number of one, two and three flower villages in the area. The Pays Basque is particularly pastoral with a lot for the children to see and do. Reservations need to be made as quickly as possible. The area is very popular with the French and a few Brits.
Robert2533 is offline  
Apr 25th, 2015, 01:49 AM
Join Date: Feb 2009
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The Spanish Basque Country/Euskadi:

Great landscapes, rugged coast with excellent beaches, charming small towns and villages both along the coast and inland, and cities such as San Sebastian, Bilbao and Vitoria. This is the culinary heartland of Spain.
San Sebastian:
kimhe is offline  
Apr 25th, 2015, 04:05 AM
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I would drive straight to Provence and visit Les-Baux, Saint-Rémy, L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Cavaillon, Lourmarin, Moustiers-Sainte Marie, Eze, ... Then on to Girona and Barcelona and fly to one of the Greek islands from BCN.
MyriamC is offline  
Apr 25th, 2015, 05:50 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Another idea -- we took our two children (then 7 and 9) to the Dordogne - stayed at a gite near Sarlat. Not sure if your boys are interested in medieval history but our girls loved the various castles, museum of medieval warfare, etc. We loved our gite here:

We also spent a day visting Lascaux II and another day at a neat troglodyte site (La Roque de St Christophe) as well as the Gouffre de Padirac. Seems like it would fit in on your way to Spain.
jacolis is offline  
Apr 25th, 2015, 06:29 AM
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Picking up a rental car in France and dropping it in Spain usually incurs a big surcharge. Is that your plan? You could drop the car at the Spanish border and train into Spain. Where in Spain do you want to visit?
Mimar is offline  
Apr 25th, 2015, 06:53 AM
Join Date: Apr 2013
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Last time I do this in reverse direction, stay at Barcelona for few days, take the train to get to France and pick up the car. The cross country surcharge is ridiculus. Then drive to Avignon and Sault. V scenic drive!
loklok is offline  
Apr 25th, 2015, 07:56 AM
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I agree with jacolis - the Dordogne. We've spent over 3 years total vacationing in France & visiting various areas (including 4 weeks in the Pays Basque). The Dordogne & Provence are our two favorite regions. The Dordogne is especially interesting for kids with all the castles (different type than in the Loire), caves, cute villages, staged medieval jousts, birds of prey shows, and canoe/barge trips on the Dordogne river. It's not to far from the Loire - we've driven Dordogne/Loire twice - and we don't like long drives at all. From there you are about equal distance from the San Sebastian area and Barcelona/Costa Brava.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Apr 25th, 2015, 08:06 AM
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The Dordogne is starting to sound a bit like Disney World.
Robert2533 is offline  
Apr 25th, 2015, 08:32 AM
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Have you spent much time in the Dordogne Robert????

There are more medieval villages, pre-historic caves with drawings plus stalactites & mites, "real" castles to explore on your own, rivers, gardens - in the Dordogne, than at Disney World. The OP had 3 "boys" also - but didn't specify their ages.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Apr 25th, 2015, 04:09 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2015
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Wow! Thanks so much guys. I'll take all this feedback on board, we are having a trip planning brainstorm over lunch today. What a great forum this is. Great tips about the car hire too, I hadn't thought about surcharges for returning in another country. How does cost of train travel stack up vs. car hire, last trip we looked at training it from France to Italy and nearly fell over at the cost. I'll check it out again. Ages of the boys will be 15, 13 and 10. They are good travellers and enjoy the foodie / mooching side of things as much as the Disney type attractions.
I'm following all your links and researching now....
AlixHelps is offline  
Apr 27th, 2015, 01:57 AM
Join Date: Oct 2014
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There are cheap train tickets from Catalonia to Valencia and Valencia is a region that really worthwhiles. The city is pretty good but the sorrounding area is just wonderful! You'll find little villages, castles, wonderful beaches and great landscapes. If you decide to visit Valencia and you like wines then Terres dels Alforins is a must. It's a tiny wine area inland Valencia known as the Valencian Tuscany. It's not very touristy so you'll find Fincas run as small hotels for a very cheap price. Google Valencian Tuscany and let me know...
simon_travellerUK is offline  
Apr 27th, 2015, 04:31 PM
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In both France and Spain if you commit to a schedule and buy your train tickets early, like 90 days ahead of time, you can save a lot. Compare those prices (using 90 days from today) to the cost of a car rental including the drop-off surcharge.

Also you need an International Driver's Permit to drive in Spain. That's a translation of your license; bring both your license and the IDP. An IDP is easily and inexpensively available in North America at AAA/CAA offices. They'll even take your photo.
Mimar is offline  
Apr 28th, 2015, 06:40 AM
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Agree with simon_travellerUK re Valencia. Very pretty, and not (yet) too touristy. If you like the architecture of Santiago Calatrava, this is the place to go! I'm sure your kids would love it, too.

Another nice area in France to be with kids this age is the Eastern Pyrenées and the area of the Cathar Castles (Peyrepertuse, Quéribus, Puilaurens, Carcassonne (very touristy), ...).

Also worth seeing are the natural wonders such as 'Gorges de Galamus' in Caudiès-de-Fenouillèdes, 'Les Orgues' in Ille-sur-Têt, or 'Cirque de Navacelles'.

A very picturesque village in this area is Saint-Guilhem le Désert, belongs to 'les plus beaux villages de France'. And further down south, almost on the French/Spanish border at the coast, is Collioure. Lovely!
MyriamC is offline  
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