France and Barcelona

Jan 15th, 2012, 03:08 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 52
France and Barcelona

We are an active retired Australian couple plannig a trip to France, including Barcelona, in late April for 4 weeks, arriving and departing by air in Paris. As we had a trip to France some years ago and spent quite sometime in Paris, this time we want to focus on regional France. On that previous trip we also visited the Cote d' Azur and don't feel the need to return there.

Our interest is in natural beauty, old villages, chateaus, local foods and wines. We like to base ourselves and take day trips on local transport to regional areas of interest.

Our current thinking is that we might try to travel down the western side of France taking in places of interest, then visiting Barcelona for 3-4 days, returning to Paris by the eastern side of the country.

We plan to travel by train on a rail pass and prefer to stay at least 2-3 nights in each location staying in hotels/B&B's or apartments for a possible longer stay.

Could anyone please give comments to assist us with more detailed planning?
novir is offline  
Jan 15th, 2012, 04:19 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
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Hi there fellow Aussie.

Last year, oh no wait the year before now ;-) Dh & I spent 4 months 'driving' around Europe. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in France. Especially the Loire valley region, the villages and chateaus for us were spectacular. One village that holds very fond memories for us is Azay Le Rideau, sigh, it was wonderful. If you have time my trip report has more detail.
• Head to the Jan 1, 11 at 11:36am section to read about that particular portion of our trip.
aussiedreamer is offline  
Jan 15th, 2012, 05:25 PM
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In terms of an itinerary, 4 weeks in France will be lovely. As you'll be getting off a rather long flight, I'd suggest still having a few days at the start of your trip in Paris, plus there's always something to see/do/eat in Paris that you haven't done before, or revisit old haunts.

After that, setting an itinerary of places to visit will allow you to then look at accommodation, etc. A rail pass will be an excellent way to make the most of your train travel. There may be some places better explored by car/bus, so don't discount hiring a car in, say, Bordeaux or even Provence for a few days to explore villages.

Perhaps pick bases along the way from which you can visit surrounding villages/areas. For example, leaving Paris, you could visit Rouen for a few hours (leave luggage at the station) on your way to stay in Caen for a few days. From Caen you can visit Mont Saint-Michele, Bayeux, the D-Day Beaches, even Jersey (check ferry schedule from Granville). Then as you move south, you can base yourselves in/near the Loire Valley for a week (or more) and go nuts visiting chateaux, vineyards, parks, etc. If you can stay in Amboise or Blois then do so - however you may need to either hire a car or take bike and bus tours to get to some of the chateaux, but that's easy enough to organise. Don't discount visits to larger cities like Nantes, Tours and Orleans either. Of course Congnac should feature in there somewhere, just because. And as you make your way south, I'd spend some time in Limoges at some point (either stay or day trip from Bordeaux if you decide to stay there), the Dordogne is littered with beauty (Sarlat, Bergerac, others will add more suggestions...), Cahors I found very interesting and quite striking, as well as being great if you like robust reds.

You could also consider a little time in Andorra on your way to Barcelona if you're interested. Otherwise also consider a visit to Figueres on your way back to France, even stay overnight or visit from Perpignan, as the Dali Museum (Theatre Museum Dali)is worth a stop alone. Then look at Perpignan (good for a visit to Carcassone as well as an interesting town), anywhere in Provence (April sees the area awake from Winter, just lovely, and there are quite a few Provence experts on the board who will hopefully offer more suggestions for the region), Avignon is good for a day or overnight, the scenery around Montelimar is striking, Lyon deserves a few days just for the food alone, Saint Etienne and Vienne good for day trips (from Lyon if you want), villages north of Lyon (in the Beaujolais region and a little further north) such as any in the hills west and southwest from Villefranche-sur-Soane (Le Bois t'Oignt, stay at Chateau Bagnols) or larger towns like Macon (fantastic white wines - hello Pouilly-Fuissé!), Beaune, etc are also visit-worthy. Look at Bescancon and surrounds for something a little different, Strasbourg of course, Metz is striking, and of course the Champagne region (take your pick where to stay).

I'm not suggesting it will be possible to do all of the above, and with the other suggestions that will be made you'll have plenty of places to consider. But hopefully this gives you some places to research and see if they fit your interests.
madamtrashheap is offline  
Jan 15th, 2012, 05:53 PM
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Consider Avignon for overnight, and also Nimes, with a local bus to the Pont-du-Gard. Awesome.
travlsolo2 is offline  
Jan 16th, 2012, 05:19 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74,147
Hi N,

>travel down the western side of France taking in places of interest, then visiting Barcelona for 3-4 days,

From whence will you start?

How much time for your places of interest? Will they include Biarritz, the Basque Coast, San Sebastian, Bilbao, St Jean Pied de Port?

Will you be visiting Provence?

ira is offline  
Jan 16th, 2012, 05:21 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74,147

>We plan to travel by train on a rail pass...<

You might find point-to-point tickets somewhat cheaper.

Also, rail transit in France Profond and Spain can be limited to cities.
ira is offline  
Jan 16th, 2012, 08:48 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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Travel by train will have you miss some major areas that are not conveniently accessible except by car. I am thinking of the Dordogne in particular, which should be visited for its castles and prehistoric caves.

Similarly, La Rochelle is a nice town to visit, but you probably would want a car to visit the Île de Ré and some of the wonderful Romanesque churches in the Charente.

You might want to see if as Australians Kemwel/Autoeurope offers the basic rate on their rentals which allows you to have the CDW covered by your credit card.
Michael is online now  
Jan 17th, 2012, 01:57 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 52
Many thanks for the responses thus far!
Early days but we think after 2-3 days in Paris to get over jetlag, we would head off to the regions. Apart from another 2-3 days in Barcelona we have no strong views. As previously noted, we have been to the Mediterranean Coast and also Avignon but may want to see Aix? We have enjoyed the Swiss and Italian sides of the Alps and hope to see some of the French Alps. We would plan to stay anywhere from 2 -7 days in one place checking out the regions around it.
Any further comments would be welcomed.
novir is offline  
Jan 17th, 2012, 07:22 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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>hope to see some of the French Alps.<

I think that Barcelona is down by the Pyrenees.

ira is offline  
Jan 17th, 2012, 07:54 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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The Pyrenees are in places as dramatic as the French Alps. If you really want to see new territory without making a big detour, I would stick to an area west of the Rhone. If mountains are what you seek, I would take the train from Paris to Biarritz and then weave a path on both side of the Pyrenees, perhaps doing the Spanish side while going to Barcelona and the French side when returning to Paris.
Michael is online now  

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