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France: Montpellier, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Loire, Paris

France: Montpellier, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Loire, Paris

Old Sep 29th, 2016, 08:52 PM
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France: Montpellier, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Loire, Paris

Hi, there!
Alert: We are "wanderlust" travelers, so you're about to see a jam-packed itinerary.
My husband and I are driving through parts of France in October, after a few days in Barcelona. We have a full itinerary BUT this rhythm has worked for us in the past. I've been to Provence and Lyon, so here are the locations we're planning for this trip.
Your quick thoughts are appreciated as we leave in two weeks and need to book hotels... well, really weeks ago.
Day 1 (Thurs): Barcelona
Day 2 (Fri): Barcelona
Day 3 (Sat): Barcelona day /// evening train to Montpellier
Day 4 (Sun): Montpellier
Day 5 (Mon): Montpellier morning /// afternoon - pick up rental car - drive to Toulouse
Day 6 (Tues): Toulouse
Day 7 (Wed): Toulouse morning /// afternoon - car to Bordeaux
Day 8 (Thurs): Bordeaux
Day 9 (Fri): Bordeaux /// early car to Paris (return rental car)
Day 10 (Sat): Paris
Day 11 (Sun): Paris .... afternoon flight home

*NOTE: We get overwhelmed in Paris, so we're only allotting a couple of days there this time. We know we'll be back many times.
Thoughts and tips on these city selections? Great things to see?
Would you strike one of these from the list?
Any city you would replace with another on this general route?
Is it worth it to visit the Loire Valley this time around --- even just stopping for a day trip at a chateau on the way to Paris? If so, where might we cut back some time in another area of the trip to account for this?
Thanks in advance for your thoughts!
Comunicado is offline  
Old Sep 29th, 2016, 10:34 PM
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I don’t now what being a “wanderlust” traveler means to you – but I can say the this plan seems overly ambitious to me. To be honest, I think you are shortchanging even the highlights of some of the places you plan to visit. FWIW, I thought Barcelona worth 6 full days, not counting day trips. I thougth Toulouse worth at least 3 full days, not counting day trips. I haven’t been to any of the other destinations you mention except Paris, which (of course) could take whatever time you can give it.

Please consult a few good guide books, including the Michelin Green Guide (even if you aren’t driving).
kja is offline  
Old Sep 29th, 2016, 11:37 PM
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Why not.
Any reason to drive ?
You'll be tired, not even knowing where you come from, whilst there are a lot of fast trains that can do the job for you.
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Old Sep 29th, 2016, 11:42 PM
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The drive from Bordeaux to Paris on the autoroute, as with most super highways, is not particularly interesting. Purchase early train tickets to take the TGV and you will save time and money (one day less rental, no fuel costs, no tolls).

Why these cities? Why not Lyon and Dijon? Or straight up on A20 from Toulouse to the Loire valley unless you really want to drop it from your itinerary?
Michael is offline  
Old Sep 30th, 2016, 01:53 AM
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I don't know why anyone would choose to drive from Bordeaux to Paris, unless they had a week or so to indulge in all the wonderful places in between. It's a long, boring, expensive drive.

It's a very odd itinerary, IMO, especially if you don't have compelling reasons to visit these places. Why Montpellier - all the way from Barcelona? - unless you're combining it with a visit to other parts of the Med coast?

You are shortchanging every place on your list.
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Old Sep 30th, 2016, 02:51 AM
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I don´t quite understand the reference to wanderlust; making a mad dash on the autoroute from big city to big city on a relatively tight schedule is not really what many people would consider wandering.

Wandering would be 4 days in Barcelona, driving north and visiting Collioure, continuing to perhaps the north side of the Etang du Thau visiting Meze or Bouzigue, on the Uzès and the Pont du Gard, spending a total of 4 days in this region with exploration of Vaison la Romaine, Avignon, St Rémy, Gordes (many other nearby possibilities) and finally taking the TGV to Paris from either Aix-en-Provence or Avignon.

5 cities in less than 11 days is checklist tourism, not meandering.
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Old Sep 30th, 2016, 05:36 AM
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You tell us which forum gives the best answers ?
Both say you should cut some time.
You are indeed covering a lot of ground...

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Old Sep 30th, 2016, 05:58 AM
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Maybe I can help you with the Rick Steves reference. As much as I think Rick Steves does a great job with some things (like all of the nitty gritty details for timings and open hours and how to use public transportation), I think his books and his visiting guidelines are intended for people who intend to make a very quick hit and run stop of lots of different places. They want to very quickly see a place so they can say they have been there.

Other than the Loire area you have all rather large cities on your itinerary. The joy of having a car is being able to stop in the smaller towns and sites. If all you want to do is visit big cities, why don't you take the train between them all? Parking can be a huge hassle in large French cities.

In your shoes, I'd choose two large cities I really want to visit that are located within a reasonable driving distance of each other and that have interesting sites between them. This means you will be driving more slowly on back roads in order to see the interesting smaller places. Pickup a car in one and drop it in the other. Then use a train or plane to get to the other one or two large cities you want to visit.

By the way, Barcelona is one of those cities that engenders controversy on this forum. I'm in the it was okay but definitely not my favorite category.
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Old Sep 30th, 2016, 09:01 AM
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I don't think the itinerary is odd at all, all of these are places worth seeing.

I'm not sure about the above comment or what the implication is (about how some people don't like Barcelona). The OP is flying into Barcelona and is only there a few days. SO it's not like they are spending a week there. If the implication is that maybe you shouldn't even go there as some people don't like it, I disagree with that, as I think most people probably do like it, certainly for several days. I've been there twice about 4-5 days each time and would go back. There is a lot to do there.

I presume the reason one takes the train to Montpellier, then rents a car is because they want to see Montpellier itself (for which you don't need a car and is on the train line from Barcelona), but then wnat to do some rural sightseeing in the area around Toulouse or Bordeaux. Makes sense to me. If one didn't intend to do rural sightseeing, you wouldn't ever need the car at all, as there is a direct train line from Toulouse to Bordeaux that takes only 2 hrs. And then a direct train from Bordeaux to Paris.

The latter is the thing I'd change, just take the train to Paris, get rid of the car in Bordeaux.

If I were going to change the itinerary, I'd drop Montpellier entirely, just because the time is so limited, that's all. I think it would be more fulfilling to spend that time in Toulouse.
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Old Sep 30th, 2016, 10:17 AM
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Cut the psychology Christ.
Just focus on the question will you ?
WoinParis is offline  
Old Sep 30th, 2016, 07:19 PM
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Hi, forum friends!

I appreciate your replies and unique points of view.

A few answers...

kja: We would enjoy spending more time in all these places, but I'm itching to get back to France and sort of pulling my husband along for the ride. Admittedly the itinerary is ambitious, and we're thinking it through.

WoinParis: Good point about train vs. car in this case. Husband is a fan of driving, and we like the flexibility it gives us, so we'll continue to weigh the pros and cons.

Christina: Great advice.

All - here's why we've brainstormed this itinerary:

*Barcelona - Husband hasn't been there but I've spent weeks there and know he will love it. We're native Spanish speakers so he'll also feel a little more at home there than France (even though Catalan is main language).

*Toulouse - Have family there and the 'pink city' sounds beautiful.

*Montpellier - Two French teachers (from France) recommended it to me... plus my husband has heard good things his whole life about it.

*Bordeaux - Ditto - recommended by French, known for the wine, and appears on most if not all Top French Cities lists.

Despite all of the above, we're still open to eliminating Bordeaux or Montpellier. Also open to trains.

What do you think? Should we strike one of these and instead pursue the Loire?

Or do something entirely different??

We do enjoy the mix of big/midsize cities and smaller towns. Just having trouble deciding exactly which!

I know you've already shared a lot and don't expect you to rehash... We're still ruminating and consulting our sources.

Just wanted to thank each of you for your time.
Comunicado is offline  
Old Sep 30th, 2016, 07:33 PM
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StCirq: We actually didn't realize the ride was so long and boring from Bordeaux to Paris. We'll likely drop off car, then, in Bordeaux (if we go this route and if we don't want to stop in the Loire). We might skip Montpellier in the end. Decisions, decisions!

Michael: Good suggestions.

Sarastro: I've been to other main parts of the French Mediterranean coast, so (selfishly) wanted to see other areas this time. Aix might be my favorite, just to give you a flavor of my taste. Also, re: "wanderlust," I was referring to a strong impulse to travel, explore within the connotation of being on the move and seeing new things -- not necessarily leisurely 'meandering.' But I do hear your points. When I've traveled to France on my own, I've parked for a couple of weeks at a time to take courses - but my husband will be slightly antsier.

julies: Which two cities would you choose as your posts, and which path in between? We are committed to landing in Barcelona and leaving from Paris because the tickets are bought -- but still would be interesting to hear.

I welcome and appreciate everyone's recommendations. I always enjoy hearing different experiences.

We are interested in a mix of city and town types and some change of scenery. We don't like it toooo quiet and desolate though, as we tend to like to see lots of people and beautiful architecture. But small wine towns are great.

Merci beaucoup!
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Old Sep 30th, 2016, 08:22 PM
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All towns can be recommended by all kinds of people ;-)
I've been to France for decades now, I may have been to Montpellier but don't remember. What I'm saying is that you can't see it all...
Make choices in order to enjoy better the ones you see.
I would not stike Bordeaux, though, which is one of my favourite cities in France - so all a question of taste.
Enjoy planning and enjoy your trip.
WoinParis is offline  
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