Help with Spain & France Itinerary

Jul 25th, 2005, 12:29 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2003
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Help with Spain & France Itinerary

Hi there,

Im wondering if you all can help me with an itinerary I am trying to come up with for Spain and France. I believe we will have a total of 3 weeks for the trip. I think we will be going in either May or September 2006. Weve never been to Spain or to Provence before. We have been to Paris. We dont like to rush through vacations.

What do you think of this?:

Madrid 5 days
Toledo 2 days
Seville 3 days
Provence 7 days (Id like to stay in two locations in Provence, one further South and one up North from which to explore the area)
Paris 3 days

Obviously, there are a lot of other places in Spain Id like to go, most notably Granada, Barcelona, Bilbao, San Sebastian, but we only have so much time.

I'm hoping we can fly into Seville so we don't have to back track, but don't know how possible that is.

Regarding Provence, the places Ive read about that Id like to visit are: Arles, Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, Brignoles, Cassis, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Gordes, Les Baux-de-Provence, Roussillon, St-Remy-de-Provence and Vaison-la-Romaine. But, Ive only just started researching. I am thinking that maybe we could stay in Arles and one other town that is perhaps smaller and more quiet.

Your thoughts and comments are much appreciated.

daria is offline  
Jul 25th, 2005, 12:44 PM
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..too much Madrid..I would cut Toledo to 1 I would stay at a hotel in Madrid for 4 days but go to Toledo for a daytrip through an agency and add Granada or cordoba..If you had a car, you might consider cutting out Seville and instead use the 7 days starting in Madrid to visit Toledo,Segovia, Castille ect. re Provence..I would stay in the luberon for 4 days and go into Avignon..Arles is a big city as is Nimes. I am not as familiar with small towns in that area but others on the board are.
travelbunny is offline  
Jul 25th, 2005, 12:51 PM
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Your trip sounds amazing and having been to both Spain and Provence, France over the past two years, respectively I know you'll have fun.

I actually like your itinerary a lot and wouldn't tweak it too much. I would only add that if you want to do Granada and other points of interest down there, that you make Toledo a day trip from Madrid, which would give you some extra days for other towns in Spain. Regarding Provence, I absolutely loved Arles, but for many of the sites you listed which are located further north in the Luberon, I think Avignon may make for a better "home base". I personally also loved Aix-en-Provence, but it is a bit removed from the others on your list and apparently not as much of a fan favorite on this board as compared to some of the other towns (but one of mine to be sure!). Cassis is a picturesqe (sp.) port town for strolling, but not necessarily worth a whole day. If you end up in Aix for a night or so, I recommend Cassis for an evening (Boulliabaise and a stroll). Have a great time!
tskobo is offline  
Jul 25th, 2005, 12:53 PM
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Travelbunny is right: do a day trip from Madrid to Toledo and do not spend any night there.
From Madrid visit also Vale de Los Caidos (where is Franco's mausoleum) and Summer Palace.

Also, I'll add Cordoba or Granada (only for Alhambra).

How you plan to arrive in France? By car or by plan? Carcassone is a lovely small town, the unique town in Europe, with all walls around the city very well preserved.

You must visit St. Paul de Vence in Provence - a small village, with a lot of art galleries, narrow streets. Beautiful.
valtor is offline  
Jul 25th, 2005, 01:01 PM
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I agree it's too much Madrid, but I'd add Segovia as either a day trip or overnight, and yes, you can also go to Toledo as a day trip, though I enjoyed staying overnight at the Hostal Cardenal--wonderfully magic place (and inexpensive). Segovia is also worth an overnight, but at least a daytrip--it's really special.
artlover is offline  
Jul 25th, 2005, 02:47 PM
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Do you really like Valle de los Caidos ? I just hate it...looks like "the cake" in Piazza Vittorio Emmanuele in Rome..I suppose I don't like the "I am the boss and I'm going to do the biggest building" thing
kenderina is offline  
Jul 25th, 2005, 02:54 PM
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Visiting St-Paul-de-Vence would take daria very far over to eastern Provence, whereas the other places mentioned are in the west. So I'd stay with the original itinerary.

For time in northern Provence, you could stay in the area around Vaison-la-Romaine and visit the olive town of Nyons, the wineries south of Vaison, and the Roman city or Orange. Two days in that region would be fine and allow you a taste of villages and vineyards.

The ramaining 5 days could be spent in the area around St-Rémy: Arles, Les Baux, the Pont du Gard, Avignon, and the Lubéron. A day trip down to Marseille and Cassis would be fine For me, Aix would be optional; never did like that city as much as others in Provence, and the parking is horrible.
Underhill is offline  
Jul 26th, 2005, 08:16 AM
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Thank you all very much for your comments!! They are so helpful.

Those of you who suggested less time in Madrid, can you explain why? Are there any cities you would stay in for 5 days? If so, why is Madrid different? Would you, for example, stay in Rome for 5 days (I am asking because on my first trip to Rome I stayed for 7 days and found that to be a good length).

Also, why would you suggest less time in Toledo? It sounds so beautiful and I want enough time to go to the museum and the cathedral.

At this point, my husband has indicated that he'd like to go to places we haven't been before, so I think we may cut Paris and add those days elsewhere. We will probably add 1 day to Provence and 2 days for Granada.

I was hoping we could fly into Seville, take the train throughout Spain and then take the train from Spain to one of the larger cities in Provence where we could rent a car. Now that we are thinking of cutting out Paris, I am guessing we might fly out of Nice. Your thoughts on this would be appreciated.

Where is Carcassone?

Thanks again.

daria is offline  
Jul 26th, 2005, 08:33 AM
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Personally, I would spend one or two nights in Madrid, but that's just me. While I appreciated the Prado and other sites, that city just didn't grab me one bit. I wish I'd spent more time in Seville and Granada, both of which I loved.
As for Toledo, it's a pretty small, compact place. I see no reason to spend more than a night there, or do it as a daytrip from Madrid. There's just not that much to it, though what's there is compelling enough to include it.
If you're doing this whole trip by train, I'd suggest you include Barcelona and then train from there to Provence or some spot along the Mediterranean on the way to Provence.
Carcassonne, which is not, btw "a lovely small town" but rather the largest fortified medieval village in France with a sizable new town as well, would not easily be included on a train vacation. I'd take the train from Barceleona to Montpellier and begin your Provence travels by car there. Drive along the Mediterranean, stop at Aigues-Mortes, end up in Arles, stay in St-Rémy for a few days, then spend a few days in the Lubéron, then fly home out of Nice.
StCirq is online now  
Jul 26th, 2005, 08:42 AM
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Posts: 1,755 comments re Madrid echo St. Cirq"s. Much of the city was bombed during the Spanish Civil war and I don't find too much charm. The Prado is a full day with a picnic lunch outside. Toledo is magnificant and not to be missed. It is awkward to get to by public transport. I would book a 1 day bus tour. It will give you another "half day" as by travelling to Toledo (or any city) I find the process of checking in- out getting oriented is a half day off travels.
travelbunny is offline  
Jul 26th, 2005, 09:42 AM
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Well here's my two into Madrid. Do day trips from Madrid to Toledo and Cordoba. I agree with others that say that there is not as much to see and do in Madrid as many of the other major European cities (ie: Paris and Rome). You can do a day trip to Cordoba by the AVE train and see the Mezquita and Alcazar - this will give you a glimpse of Moorish Spain without having to go to Seville or Granada. (I don't like to change hotels too often on my trips, I prefer to settle in and do day trips). So after a stay in Madrid you can take a high speed train to Barcelona for a several nite stay. Barcelona has much more to see and do than Madrid IMO. Then head on to France, either directly to Arles or stay a few nites along the coast. You could finish up and fly out of Paris or Nice. Three weeks is a good amount of time, you should be able to stay at least four nites at each of the places. Have fun planning your trip - my husband and I did a twelve day trip to Barcelona, Arles then up to Paris, we loved it. I wish we could have added a stop along the coast, maybe Coullieres with a visit to Carcassonne but next time. We liked Arles - wonderful Roman ruins.
suec1 is offline  
Jul 26th, 2005, 10:52 AM
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From Barcelona you can go directly in train to Montpellier. Montpellier is the biggest station in that zone, you can connect almost everywhere in France from there.

By the way, there are no "high speed train" between Madrid and Barcelona. But you can fly at cheap rates. The normal train tooks about 6 hours, I think.
kenderina is offline  
Jul 26th, 2005, 12:02 PM
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I thought I read somewhere that the high speed train line between Madird and Barcelona was now completed - maybe they still working on it? Sorry for the mis-information.
suec1 is offline  
Jul 26th, 2005, 01:05 PM
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The high speed train between Madrid and BCN isn't still finished (only beteen Madrid and Lleida). I think it's better to fly. It's quite cheap if you fly on weekend (when there are no people flying for business).
I think that 3-4 days for Madrid it's OK (apart from Prado you should visit Thyssen museum too, it's very interesting). However, you can stay more days in Madrid as a base to visit other cities like Toledo, Segovia and Avila in one day.
From BCN to Provence is only 5 hours driving (we do it every year) and I think that it's better than the train. But I don't know if it's possible to rent a car in a country and give it back in another.
Carcassonne it's nice but very touristy.
Finally, in Provence I would stay all days in the Luberon (Gordes, Menerbes, Bonnieux,...). For me, it's the nicest place and, from there, you could visit all the areas mentioned (except Nice and Saint Paul de Vece).
alex2 is offline  
Jul 26th, 2005, 01:37 PM
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Renting a car in Spain and dropping it off in France will cost you several hundred dollars extra. I'd take the train into France, since you were planning a train trip to begin with.
StCirq is online now  
Jul 28th, 2005, 07:33 AM
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I personally find Madrid to be one of my favorite cities in Europe. I spent 5 days there (with two day trips to toledo and Segovia), which left me with three days to see the sites within Madrid (museums, palace and just hanging out and exploring the neighborhoods...perfect). At night, I found the City comes alive with all its tapas bars, restaurants and even nightlife where I went to a Karaoke bar, a flamenco dance hall (not a show, just people who know their stuff!) and even a night club. Then again, I've always been a city dweller and live in NYC, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

I also spent two full days in Granada, which allowed for plenty of sightseeing (cathedral and Alhambra) and wandering time. I believe I was in Seville for 4 days...I like the city very much, but I kept thinking it was one day too many.

p.s. In lieu of driving/train, check to see if there are any cheap airfares. I flew from Barcelona to Madrid and from Madrid to Granada for $28 each trip on Iberia...saved me both time and money!
tskobo is offline  
Jul 28th, 2005, 07:03 PM
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Depending on what your interests are, there is plenty to do in Madrid. I personally like the atmosphere and found the plazas much more enjoyable and authentic than Rome's piazzas. It really comes down to your interests and tastes.

I agree with artlover's comment about spending one night in Toledo; it's a different atmosphere and very beautiful at night. We were unable to get a room at the Cardenal but ate dinner outside there, and it was terrific.
jd_dallas is offline  
Jul 28th, 2005, 08:34 PM
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Another vote for Madrid. I loved this city (more than Paris). 5 years wouldn't be enough for me let alone 5 days. There is so much to see and do. I think you could do Toledo easily in one full day covering all the sites you mentioned (I did it on a half day tour but this was a little whirlwind). Overnight would be nice but if you're pressed for time... Seville shouldn't be missed but I think 2 days would suffice. I was there for 2 days in late May recently - 43C both days. I hope you like the heat! Granada was gorgeous and Cordoba was worthwhile too. I went to Barcelona and everyone raves about it in preference to Madrid. It just did nothing for me (admittedly I was ill there so maybe this affected my memories of it). OK they've got Gaudi but I'm not into modern art so I was looking for something else - it never hit the spot.

All in all Spain is awesome - you're gonna love it.

worldinabag is offline  

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