Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   France and Spain with large family in July 2013 (

dmarquez Oct 27th, 2012 04:08 AM

France and Spain with large family in July 2013
I 'm planning a family holiday to France and Spain next summer. We have 8 kids from 22 to 2yrs, We want to spend a week in Paris, to visit Mont Saint Michele and Puy du Fou, I have not got further than that. With our size family we would like to rent a cottage or stay in a bed and breakfast for a week or so, and then move. We plan to say a month and go over to Spain for at least a week.

I am thinking it would be easiest to spend the first week in Paris, then rent 2 cars to move around, and to drive to Spain. I would love suggestions of places to stay/visit. We are thinking of staying in Northern Spain as it would be less driving. We have 3 young adult children, 4 boys between 15 and 6 and our little girl will be 3 next summer. We live in Barbados so we are not looking for a beach holiday. Castles, forest, mountains would all be exciting for the boys. I look forward to your suggestions!

grendel Oct 27th, 2012 09:08 AM

Le Perigord (Dordogne ) in France is great for family vacations! Our family of five went last July (kids 15, 13 and 11).
Prehistoric caves and other caves, medieval castles and villages (the real thing, not theme parks), great nature and great food, lots of traditional markets etc.

It is a 6 hour drive from Paris, and you can continue from there to Spain. We continued to San Sebastian in the basque country for example. This is another area I can recommend. There is the beach and the surfers (very international crowd) of course, but also the Pyrenees for hiking and delicious food.

Spain is less expensive than France in general.

Once you have more of an outline people will give you more specific tips I'm sure.

You will have a great trip!

StCirq Oct 27th, 2012 09:14 AM

If you rent a car in France and drop it off in Spain, you'll pay a HUGE extra fee for each car.
Agree that the Dordogne is an ideal destination for families. I wouldn't drive there from Paris or Normandy, though - take the train (there are discounts for groups and families) - and pick up a car once there. You could do a couple of weeks in the Périgord, then another one or two in Languedoc or the Midi-Pyrénées. Then drop off the cars and take the train to Spain.

Lexma90 Oct 27th, 2012 12:55 PM

I will third the previous suggestions for the Dordogne. And also the Languedoc; I haven't visited the Midi-Pyrenees, so can't comment on that.

You can drop your rental cars just east of the Spain-France border, then take the train into Spain, to Barcelona for example. We did the reverse trip several years ago, taking the train from Barcelona, and picking up the rental car in Perpignan, France for our time in the Languedoc and Dordogne.

ribeirasacra Oct 27th, 2012 11:36 PM

5 persons in two cars with luggage of a month; just ensure the cars are large ones. It will make for a more comfortable journey.
Adults under the age of 25 or with little driving experience will not be able to drive the hire cars.
Check to see if you need International Driving Permits for every driver.
B&Bs tend to be on the small size so with 10 in your party you may find you will fill them up. It would be best to plan and reserve all stays.

StCirq Oct 28th, 2012 08:33 AM

You don't need International Driving Permits for France or Spain, and adults under 25 can drive rental cars - it just costs extra.

Michael Oct 28th, 2012 08:40 AM

If going to the Puy du Fou which is in the Vendée, you might as well drive to the Dordogne, as the train connections are probably less than ideal for a large group.

dmarquez Oct 28th, 2012 11:48 AM

Thanks for all your suggestions! I read about the Puy du Fou on another forum and it was highly recommended. I don't like Disney world type of amusement parks, but this seems interesting. According to goggle it's 4hrs from Paris and 5 hrs from Sarlat, so we would spend a night in the area. Would it be worth going on a side trip for? Any recommendations for a self catering cottage in the Dordogne that would hold 8 to 10 people? Which medieval castles and villages would you recommend? Since we have a month, how much time would you suggest we split it between France and Spain? I don't want to be rushing from one place to another, I rather we can enjoy fewer of the sights than try and see everything.

Michael Oct 28th, 2012 12:43 PM,gite.html offers the possibility of searching for <i>gites de groupe>/i>

Michael Oct 28th, 2012 01:37 PM

The Hautes Pyrénées could be interesting (Col du Tourmalet, Gavarnie, the cable car/train ride at the Pic du Midi d'Ossau) and there is a medieval castle in Lourdes. Many hikes into the mountains are also available near Argelès-Gazost. However, connection to Spain from that area is not the best. One could stay in the French Basque country and visit the Spanish side of the border.

You might want to take a look at my trip report that starts in Bordeaux; click on my name to find it.

Lexma90 Oct 28th, 2012 04:34 PM

On the side trip to Puy du Fou, you have an entire month (I'm jealous), so you could make an overnight side trip - you could even decide that while you're there.

There are a bunch of great castles in the Dordogne, though, to spend your time on. Our then-10yo son really enjoyed them. We had him look at some websites before we left, which didn't help, as he liked all of them. Some in particular, though are Castelnaud, which also has a weaponry museum that includes full-scale models. Chateau de Milandes, the former home of American singer Josephine Baker, the chateau is nice enough, but the falconry show is pretty cool. All in French, but between my elementary French and the English-language handouts they gave us, we understood what was going on. Chateau de Commarque doesn't get as much press, but we LOVED it. It's pretty ruinous, and older, but we could climb around on the ruins. The pre-historic sites are also very interesting. Fond du Gaume is on my top-ten man-made sites in the world. La Roque Saint Christophe was appealing to the entire family.

In terms of villages in the Dordogne, there are many gorgeous places. We stayed with our son in Sarlat, so we could walk around in the evenings. On another trip, we stayed in Domme, which was slightly less convenient but also beautiful. Any village or gite in that area, I think, would be well-located for even a several-week stay.

I'm less familiar with Spain; on our Spain-France trip, we spent four nights in Barcelona (which everyone loved, including our son), one night in Figueres (son is a big fan of Dali, and we visited Dali's amazing museum there), then on to France. Barcelona was great, but big cities I think are a bit tougher with a large group, especially with your age range. The young adults of the group, however would be likely to enjoy the city.

Judith_Hunter Oct 28th, 2012 07:28 PM

I am getting trip envy!
We split our time with a week in Paris, then caught the train to Brive to pick up a car for a week in the Dordogne, staying about 15km from Sarlat (cottage only slept six though sorry). Loved the cave at Rouffignac, the castle at Beynac, and la Roque St Cristophe, as well as canoeing on both the Dordogne and Vezere Rivers.
Then we had three nights in the Languedoc staying midway between Carcassone and Narboone. Loved the Chateau de Queribus and other Cathar sites, and a boat trip on the Canal de Midi. We could have spent more time here for sure. Stayed at Domaine des Agnelles with has apartments and rooms that would accommodate your group and was very family friendly but not in a very exciting location, although very convenient and central.
Then a week near Avignon - loved the fortress and abbey at Villeneuve lez Avignon, the Pont de Gard and Rousillon and Gordes. (We stayed at Domaine de Rhodes on l'Ile de Barthelasse which was lovely and could accommodate your group, but I personally wouldn't stay so close to Avignon again as the traffic was stressful).
Then we ditched the car, hopped on the train to Barcelona and had a fantastic time - fun for all the family!

dmarquez Nov 10th, 2012 04:53 PM

Thanks for all you suggestions! I have done a lot of reading and have planed part of the trip, but I still have some questions.

We arrive in Parris and spend 6 days in the city. We are booked to leave Parris on a Thursday, and are heading to Puy Du Foy. We would like to go to the show there on the Friday night, We would also like to go the Charters. Is it realistic to stop off in Charters, and then head to Puy Du Fou on the Thursday? any suggestions where to stay in that area? it would have to be a B&B or hotel as it would be for 2 nights.

When we leave the puy Du Foy area on Saturday we will be heading to Sarlat, which is a 5 hr drive according to goggle. I would love suggestions of interesting places to stop to break up the drive. Stu thanks for your itinerary for the Dordogne, I haven't had time for the specifics as yet, but you have given me lote of ideas.

Michael I enjoyed your trip report, the Hautes Pyrénées do look interesting. I am looking at rentig the Maison Berchon which is in Nay. Does this seem like a good place to explore this area?
Some of the things we would like to so are:-
1. go up La Rhune and across to San Sebastion. I like the idea of doing it by train, would you say that would be better than driving?
2. visit Lourdes
3. sightsee in the Pyrenees
4. the Grottes de Betharram, how does this compare to the caves in the Dordogne?

Any other suggestions would be welcome. When we leave there we are still planning to drive to a place close to the Spanish boarder, and take the train across. Would Perpiguan be the best spot to do that? Again this would be a long drive fron Nay, any suggestions for stopping points?

We plan to spend a week in Barcelona. I am thinking we will rent an apartment and not rent cars. Any recommendation as to what area we should look for a place? We need a place that sleeps 8 or 10, including 5 children 15, 12, 9, 6 and 3 yrs. Any recommendations for day trips from Barcelona that would not require a car? I would like to go to the Shrine at Monserrat, don't have any others as yet. I have read some post and got some ideas for Barcelona. I am concentrating on the areas now, so I can book accommodation. Then I will deal with itineraries in each place.

The younger children would love to go to the zoo, any suggestions as to which would be the best in the regions we are going to? I see there is a Zoo d'Asson near Nay, and the bigger cities have zoos also.Thanks again. Your help has made planning this trip much easier, as I don't know a lot about the different parts of France.

StCirq Nov 10th, 2012 05:05 PM

Just wanted to address the Grottes de Betharram question: They are not chromatic prehistoric caves; they are like the Gouffre de Padirac, a big cave with stalactites and stalagmites, just geologically, not historically, interesting or anything like the prehistoric caves of the Dordogne. It's a tourist site, not one, like the ones in the Dordogne, frequented by paleontologists and historians. IMHO, just a very pale comparison. I can drive to Luray, VA, here from DC in an hour and see the same thing. No thrill at all.
Of course, kids might like it, but it doesn't hold a candle to the caves in the Dordogne.

Robert2533 Nov 10th, 2012 06:50 PM

Yes, StCirq, you do need the IDP in Spain, and recommended unless you speak the language.

Finding an apartment in Barcelona for such a large group will be difficult, but there are a few places in L'Eixample, but you'll need to book far in advance.

Michael Nov 10th, 2012 10:44 PM

La Rhune is a train that only goes to the top of the mountain, and has nothing to do with going to San Sebastian. For that you would take the commuter train from Hendaye.

frenchgirl Nov 11th, 2012 04:11 AM


the best zoo in France is probably Zoo de la Palmyre, near Royan. It's close to Puy du Fou (2.5 hours).

for the car, you can easily rent a Renault Traffic with autoescape, it's a big french car for 9 people

grendel Nov 11th, 2012 05:27 AM

When we were in Barcelona we went to Tossa de Mar one day, and it was highly appreciated by all the members of our family. We drove, but I know there is a train you can take. Tossa de Mar is approx one hour north of Barcelona.

We also went to Figueres and the Dali museum - Figueres is a bit further north, about two hours from Barcelona, but we thought it was worth it.

Both places are of course closer to the French border than to Barcelona, not sure about the best logistics if you are interested in visiting them.

Robert2533 Nov 11th, 2012 10:52 AM

The Renault Traffic (a people mover) sounds great, but what about all that luggage? Besides, having a limit of 250 km/day won't get you very far for a day's outing, let alone driving from Normandy to San Sebastian-Donostia and then on to Barcelona.

The family will need at least two vehicles to be practical, or go by public transportation. Private transfers for such a large group would be in excess of €800/day.

dmarquez Nov 13th, 2012 04:43 AM

Thanks again for your help! I wish I didn't have to work and could spend more time on this :)

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:40 AM.