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bakeryday Jan 3rd, 2012 07:08 PM

Best way to get from San Sebastian to Aix?
My partner and I are on a trip around the world -- and are traveling with *five* large suitcases.

This summer we need to go from San Sebastian, Spain to Aix-en-Provence, France.

Can anyone recommend the most pleasant, low-stress way of getting from point A to point B?

Our preferred form of transit would be high-speed trains (ideally without having to transfer luggage). Driving is a possibility, but we couldn't take longer than a weekend to do it because my partner works while we travel.

I saw somewhere that there's a low-cost airline that flies from SS to Nice, but can't seem to re-find the info.

Any thoughts/suggestions much appreciated!

susanna Jan 3rd, 2012 07:26 PM

Would it be Veuling?

StCirq Jan 3rd, 2012 07:47 PM

Probably Veuling, yes. But if you have five large suitcases they may charge you an arm and a leg to get them there.

To travel by train you'd need to take a train from San Sebastian to the border, then transfer to a French train (the rail guages are different sizes, so there's no train that goes straight through). But dealing with *five* large suitcases on trains would be problematic, to say the least.

What is it that compels you to travel with *five* large suitcases, and is there a workaround?

By the way, if you pick up a rental car in Spain and drop it in France, you're looking at hundreds of dollars in extra fees.

bakeryday Jan 3rd, 2012 09:51 PM

@StCirq -- Our luggage system is very well-thought-out and efficient at doing what it needs to do. My partner and I are living and working out of these suitcases for two years continuously. If the topic of packing for such a trip interests you, I suggest you check out Audre & Dimitri's Web site about perpetual traveling:

But thank you, it's good to know about the car drop fees if we cross borders.

Cathinjoetown Jan 4th, 2012 03:57 AM

The drive from San Seb to Aix is roughly 7-8 hours, depending on stops, if you take the autoroute the entire way.

San Sebastian is close to the French border. It might be worth comparing costs of taking a taxi to St Jean de Luz or Biarritz to pick a rental car up in France vs picking one up in San Seb and paying the drop-off fees.

Lower stress would be a flight to Nice as your drive from there to Aix would be under two hours.

To these time estimates, you need to build in or anticipate time for summer traffic delays around Toulouse (not too bad on a weekend) and all along the coast.

StCirq Jan 4th, 2012 05:06 AM

Thanks for the link, bakeryday. That's really fascinating.

TDudette Jan 4th, 2012 05:36 AM

StCirq, in 2006, hub and I took train from Barcelona to Montpellier and didn't change trains at the French border. While we stopped for a while, we didn't leave the train, so I'm wondering if there are some dual-guage ones?

Anyone clarify?

StCirq Jan 4th, 2012 06:42 AM

TDudette, my info may be dated. I'm sure others can clarify.

Cathinjoetown Jan 4th, 2012 07:09 AM

I'm not sure whether the track gauge is still an issue but I know of no way to get from San Sebastian to Aix en Provence by train without at least two changes.

To get from San Seb to Biarritz, for example, requires a change (90 minutes to 2 hours journey)

From there, SNCF recommends TGV to Paris then change to TGV to Aix (10 hours).

Via Toulouse might work better, but won't eliminate changes.

There are train experts on Fodor's who may know a better way.

bakeryday Jan 4th, 2012 07:17 AM

I just looked on Eurorail and we could taxi the 22km to Hendaye (50 euros?) and catch the train from there to Aix in 10 hrs 8 mins with a stop in Bordeaux and one in Marseille, layovers of about 45 mins. Very reasonable price for the train (63 Euro coach, about 2x that for 1st). That sounds doable if not entirely fun.

The idea of picking up a rental car in Biarritz or Hendaye is a good one. I will investigate.

Thank you all.

StCirq Jan 4th, 2012 07:39 AM

bakeryday: Avoid using EuroRail (I think you mean Eurail). Go to instead for much lower prices. There are special fares, called PREMs, which, if you book them three months out or less, will likely cost far less than what Eurrail will quote you.

There are many threads here on Fodors explaining exactly how to book on the SNCF site if you are not able to read French.

bakeryday Jan 5th, 2012 12:59 AM

@ StCirq -- Thank you for this tip.

zeppole Jan 5th, 2012 02:24 AM

I could be wrong, but I think there are buses from Bilbao to the south of France (Marseilles or Nice). Spanish buses have deeply reclining seats, if that makes it sound any more palatable.

My personal preference would be to take the taxi into France and rent a car, stopping for at least one overnight enroute. Won't you want a car in Provence anyway?

bakeryday Jan 5th, 2012 07:09 AM

@ zeppole -- of course, now I'm wondering how we can make a stop in Lyon (perhaps en route from Aix to Paris). What does Patricia Wells think of Lyon?

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