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France and Northern Spain Itinterary - Please advise :)

France and Northern Spain Itinterary - Please advise :)

Old Jun 16th, 2008, 01:43 PM
  #1  
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France and Northern Spain Itinterary - Please advise :)

Hi everyone, I will be taking the CA bar at the end of July, and my husband and I are planning my 4 week 'obligatory post-bar trip' for mid-Sept to mid-Oct. I think we are very close to an itinerary and wanted to see what you all thought. We haven't narrowed our plans down to exact locations in certain areas, but the idea was to be travel-heavy on weeks 1 and 3 to see many areas, then to relax and stay put more on weeks 2 and 4. Here goes:

San Sebastian, Spain - 2 nights
Rioja Region (unsure of city) - 2 nights
Barcelona - 3 nights
Provence (unsure of base city - thinking of staying in a gite outside of Aix) = 6 nights
Lyon - may insert an overnight here on the way to Burgundy?
Burgundy (probably Beaune) - 3 nights
Loire Valley (unsure of city) - 2 nights
Bayeaux (to see D-day Beaches and MSM) - 3 nights
Paris - 6 nights

We will probably be driving between San Sebastian and Barcelona, and again from Provence to Paris. It seems like having a car for those 2 big chunks would be the best - obviously we'd get rid of the car in Paris. Pretty sure we'll train it from Barcelona to Provence (unless anyone thinks that the drive would be better?)

Thoughts? Anywhere I should give up a night or 2 from Provence or Paris (we've been to Paris before but thought a longer stay would allow for more day trips to Chartres and/or Reims)

Thanks a million!
europeorbust is offline  
Old Jun 16th, 2008, 02:07 PM
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Managing the car will be the trick to avoid drop charges. I would start in Barcelona and end in Paris. The sequence between will call for good planning.
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Old Jun 16th, 2008, 03:34 PM
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so, bob, am I to understand that you would drive the entire trip outside of the last week in Paris? or just drop it for Barcelona and Paris? I'm having issues as to what method of travel would be most efficient for our purposes. We have always used the train in Europe in the past, and thought that we'd like to spend more time exploring off of the main train routes this time. Thank you.
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Old Jun 16th, 2008, 07:09 PM
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I would drop off the car in Barcleona, or at the border, and pick up a new rental once you reach France. This would save you about $400 in drop-off fees. You can contact Auto Europe (in Maine) to make the arrangements. They are a broker and do a pretty good job, at least as far as I'm concerned.

http://www.autoeurope.com/index.cfm?
1-888-223-5555 toll-free

You might also be interested in downloading Maribel's Guide to the País Vasco, the Rioja and Barcelona to help you plan this little adventure, at least on the Spanish side.

Good luck!
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Old Jun 16th, 2008, 10:42 PM
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Thank you Robert!

That was my original thought as to why we would train it from Barcelona to Provence - I figured it would make renting and border-crossing easier.

And I have seen Maribel's guides and definitely plan on using them - they look great!

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Old Jun 17th, 2008, 08:24 AM
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I wish I could be more definitive but I would need to play with the itinerary. You want to pick up and drop in the same country. I think I would drop the Normandy part and train to Avignon from Barcelona to get the car and keep it for all of the rest ending in Lyon to drop the car and then to Paris. You have to play with the routing.
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Old Jun 17th, 2008, 08:43 AM
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I think europeorbust might consider the lease-buyback programs from Peugeot and Renault. For a minimum of 17 days, you get a new car and they buy it back at the end of your trip. The rates are good and you avoid the VAT (upwards of 20%). However, there are limited pick-up locations in Spain, and there is an extra fee for picking up or dropping a car outside France. What city are you flying into?

Anyway here's a link: http://europeforvisitors.com/europe/...ar_leasing.htm
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Old Jun 17th, 2008, 03:04 PM
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Mimar - that lease buyback program looks pretty great - but I don't think it will work - as our car portion for France is less than 14 days, and if I include spain the drop off fees don't make it worth it We are planning on flying into Bilbao then heading to Barcelona by car (so we'll just have a car for the portion of the trip we are in Rioja - not sure yet as to the transportation between san sebastian and barcelona...) After that we train to Provence and pick up a car there - we'll only ahve it for 2 weeks.

Anyhoo. Thanks anyway It looks like our car in france will be around $600-700 booking through autoeurope so that's doable.
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Old Jun 17th, 2008, 03:19 PM
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hi, e'bust,

great idea - i think I got a fortnight after my Bar exams, but it was about 30 years ago!

however, with the benefit of that VAST experience, IMO you are spreading yourselves a bit thin and I would weed it out a bit, or at least change the emphasis.

given the effort that you will have put into the exams, and then the air-trip, why not spend longer in SS for staters - its a beautiful resort, with lovely beaches, and fantastic food - I'd give it 4 nights minimum. then 2 nights in the rioja, and another 4 in BCN.

then train to Provence - and i like the idea of the gite - 6 days would be good.

that's 14 days - it's half over.

many posters here rave about Dijon[and one fodorite has a vey nice flat to rent - look up cocoindijon -she won't tell you about it herself] which would give you your base in Burgundy - say 3 nights.

then the rest of the trip as you describe - through the loire [I'd give that 3 nights as there's loads to see] onto bayeaux [2 nights are probably enough] and finally Paris -no time is ever enough but 6 nights will have to do.

you could lose a few places - eg Bayeaux, & Rioja, but so long as you intersperse the hectic bits with longer periods, i think that's unnecessary. and the distances you are thinking about are not too great, so shouldn't be too tiring. dropping the first car in BCN then picking another up in Provence will save you loads.

good luck with the exams

regards, ann
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Old Jun 18th, 2008, 04:23 AM
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europeorbust,
The way you plan your trip it looks very much to me that you will end up with more than one bottle of wine.
So that means carrying it all around.
Contacting a carrying service of your bottles from Barcelona-home and/or Paris-home. Might be something to consider.
Just a thought.
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Old Jun 18th, 2008, 08:14 AM
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One more vote for a bit more time in SS. One possible way to cut a bit off car rental: Catch the shuttle from Bilbao airport to downtown bus station. 3$. Then bus to SS. You won't need a car in SS. Pick up car in SS if driving to BCN. Cuts maybe 2-3 days off rental. Alternative: 2 years ago I flew Bilbao-BCN for $35 on Spanair. Prices vary widely by day of week and hour of day. Check options. Drop car on arrival in BCN. I did your same trip without a car but I did miss the villages and views you would get driving SS to BCN.

For some easy and interesting background on the Basque country, get a little book "The Basque History of the World". It will make you visit more meaningful.

For my impressions of SS, go to Marshlands.blogstream.com. I think it a magic place!
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Old Jun 18th, 2008, 09:37 AM
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I think that you have planned very well and will have a wonderful trip.

Re: auto leasing; you are right. We have checked it many times and have never been able to make it work. For sure, it won't work with a pick up in Spain and you don't want a car in Paris.

We liked Burgundy very much and note that you've included it. I'm thinking that it will be especially nice in the fall.

If you haven't been there and are not likely to return soon try to keep in the visits to Bayeaux, DDB, and MSM. They don't require a lot of time but are very memorable.
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Old Jun 18th, 2008, 09:51 AM
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We just did a similar trip without the gites. I recommend two different car rentals, one for Spain and one for France. You can fly BCN to Lyons on EasyJet for 21 Euros and drive 2.5 hours to St. Remy (a much more user-friendly town than Aix, easier to drive into and out of, and much closer to the "usual" tourist stops in Provence). The train/driving from BCN to Southern France will take you a LONG time. As for SS, we didn't love it as we thought we would. 5 days in BCN for a first visit is perfect and a 5-7 days in Paris is a great way to end. Other thoughts: 3 days is Burgundy is a lot, unless you are really into wine. Unless you REALLY like old, bare chateaux, skip the Loire Valley (I know others will disagree). Best of luck!
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Old Jun 18th, 2008, 02:43 PM
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Thanks everyone for your replies

I overlooked easyjet's flight to Lyon - that would work great - I would much rather fly than train if possible.

Funny you mentioned getting rid of Loire - neither one of us are dying to go. In fact, we really would rather spend a couple nights in the Dordogne or St. Emilion/Bordeaux ares, but it looks like it would be more difficult to do. One option I was thinking is to head to the Dordogne for a couple nights after Provence, then dropping the car, train back to Paris (TGV to CDG) then pick up another car there and going to Normandy. Wasn't sure if that would doable?

We are now thinking that in Provence, we'll spend 3 of the nights nearer Aix (to be closer to Marseille and the beach) then 3 nights up near St Remy or the Luberon (there's a gorgeous B&B/gite near Uzes that is calling my name...)

Indeed we are huge oenophiles so this trip is all about the wine and food, and plan on shipping wine back to the states.

Anyway - thank you all. Since I will start work at a large firm in October, this trip will likely be the last trip to Europe for a long time. I know we are hitting up a lot, but we have traveled to Europe together multiple times (Italy, Czech Republic, Germany, Paris...) and know what we are getting into (except for the car - we've never traveled by car in Europe).

Can't WAIT for the fall!
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Old Jun 18th, 2008, 02:50 PM
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whoops - scratch that dordogne possibility - evertime I try to fit in dordogne, I forget about Burgundy. And we decided on Burgundy over Bordeaux. We love both, but think we'll save Bordeaux/Dordogne for the future, when we can come back and do a week's wine tour
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Old Jun 18th, 2008, 03:21 PM
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Post Overload!

OK, so after thinking a bit more about this itinerary, I'm leaning toward ditching the 2 nights in the Loire Valley for an extra night in San Sebastian area, and an overnight in Lyon on the way to Burgundy.

So - how does this sound?

3 nights SS
Pick up car
2 nights Rioja
Drop car in Barcelona
3 nights Barcelona
Fly Barcelona to Lyon -
Pick up car - drive to Provence
6 nights Provence
1 night Lyon
3 nights Burgundy
Drop Car - Dijon
TGV to Paris CDG
Pick up car
3 nights Bayeaux
Drop Car - CDG
6 nights Paris
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Old Jun 19th, 2008, 02:57 PM
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well, europerorbust, IMO it'll be quite difficult to improve upon.

have a great trip,

regards, ann
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Old Jun 20th, 2008, 09:38 AM
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I'm wondering why the one night in Lyon? Provence to Burgundy is a longish but not impossible drive and Lyon didn't do much for me if I'm honest.

It seems like not best use of time to take the train to Paris, pick up a car, drive to Normandy and then drive all the way back again. Are you sure you really want to go there when you could spend more time in the Basque area - French and Spanish? Just a thought.
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