Help with SW France Itinerary

Jan 16th, 2008, 02:25 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 91
Help with SW France Itinerary

Hi everyone,

I would greatly appreciate any comments on the following itinerary for a one month trip to SW France beginning mid-April. We are in our mid/late 50's and have spent alot of time travelling in France, but never in the Pyrenees or Basque regions. We would like to rely primarily on public transportation.

Arrive Paris (3 nights)

Train to Toulouse (3 nights) - Airbus factory tour

Train to Luchon (3 nights) - walking, scenery, stay Hotel des Alouette? day trip to Pic du Midi or Bagniere de Bigorre?

Train to Lourdes (2 nights) - day trip to Cirque de Gavarnie

Train to St. Jean de Pied de Port (3 nights) - walking, vineyards, stay Maison Donamaria?

Train to St. Jean de Luz (3 nights) -day trips to Le Rhune and Bayonne

Train to St. Sebastian (3 nights) - day trip to Bilbao and Guggenhiem

Train to Bordeaux (2 nights)

Rent a car for Bordeaux region (3 nights) - visit wineries in the Medoc and around (already visited St. Emilion), any suggestions for B&Bs or specific vineyard visits?

Train to Paris (3 nights)

Thanks for your help! Note: Thanks to input from this forum, I was able to convince my husband to drop Andorra from this trip! gt;
Reen is offline  
Jan 16th, 2008, 02:49 PM
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That's a beautiful area to see by car. Why wouldn't you do that??? I would go stir-crazy in Louchon or St Jean Pied de Port if I didn't have a car so I would head into the beautiful Pyrenees and go & stop where I wanted to.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is online now  
Jan 16th, 2008, 02:53 PM
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I agree with Stu regarding the car for inland Pays Basque. The countryside there is so beautiful, it would be a shame to miss wonderful driving excursions there-to the Irouleguy vineyards, down to the Valley of Les Aldudes, over to lovely St. Etienne de Baigorry, up to the center of Bidarray for splendid views, etc.

For lodging there, I love the charming, family run Hotel Arce in St. Etienne de Baigorry, right at the river-so tranquil, so picturesque (much nicer than similar priced lodging in St. Jean Pied de Port), and fabulous food, but a car would be necessary.

Just a thought...
Maribel is online now  
Jan 16th, 2008, 03:03 PM
Original Poster
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Thank you both -- maybe we should rethink our plans and rent a car for a week to really enjoy the area.
Reen is offline  
Jan 16th, 2008, 03:07 PM
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We had a great meal at the Hotel Arce also.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is online now  
Jan 23rd, 2008, 03:44 AM
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I certainly agree that you need a car to see this region. I would also question some of your choices.

Toulouse is a wonderful, beautiful city. why does the Airbus factory interest you? consider just walking around the city, see some of the cathedrals, museums, place du Capitole, etc.

Lourdes - this is one of my least favourite places in the world. I found it incredibly touristic, mercenary, not the least bit sacred. I know others disagree, but I would never go back, and if you do really want to go, spend as little time there as possible. Any Romanesque church in the southwest feels more sacred to me than the huge ugly basilica at Lourdes.
Carlux is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2008, 04:29 AM
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I agree with the comments about rail -v- car.

I have various friends who've done the Airbus tour and it's meant to be great. They only do a few tours a week in English so make sure you book on one if you need that.

You're a long way from the Pic du Midi and Bagneres de Bigorre from Luchon. One thing I would definitely do, were I you, is check you can use the spa there. The spa in Bagneres de Bigorre is fabby

and a great thing to do after a walk in the hills. Some of them (and I don't know about Luchon) are only available for people being treated. You could stay in Bagneres de Bigorre and do the day trip in reverse- and you are a LOT closer to the Pic du Midi

Personally, I'd be struggling to stay in Lourdes as well, although if it's the focal point of your trip, it will obviously be necessary. There are lots of lovelier places round about.

sheila is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2008, 05:56 AM
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I would agree with what most others have said. I would take the TGV from Paris to Toulouse, pick up your car there, then do a loop thru Pau, Lourdes, Gavarnie, St Jean Pied de Port, then finally Biarritz/Bayonne. From there, it is only 20 mins to San Sebastian. After your time in Spain, you can drive to Bordeaux and the St. Emilion/Medoc wine region. As to avoid a road trip back to Paris. I would drop off the car in Bordeaux and take the TGV. I have used Europe By Car and they allow you to pick up a car in one French city and drop it off at another without any fees. I have used them several times and have no complaints at all. You need to pre-pay for the vehicle in the US and all you are charged is a 9 Euro road fee and some other miscellaneous taxes:

They are located in NYC, where I live, Their office are located at 62 William Street.

Good luck and enjoy...
Langcraft is offline  
Feb 21st, 2008, 10:47 AM
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St Jean de Luz is a great little town.

Have a dinner at Portua on rue Republique.
RonZ is offline  
Feb 21st, 2008, 11:25 AM
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Hi R,

We very much enjoyed staying at outside Bordeaux.
ira is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2008, 02:51 PM
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I'd suggest you shave off a day in Toulouse and add a day in Bordeaux.

My second piece of advise is to listen very carefully to what Maribel tells you. Her word is gold around here!

Finally, enjoy St. Sebastian -- one of our very favorite places on earth.
ruechapon is offline  
Feb 24th, 2008, 10:47 AM
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Re: Lourdes. We, too, have travelled France extensively and overnighted in Lourdes this past September only because my sis and BIL were adamant about going there. From what others have said here on Fodor's in the past, I went expecting to loathe the experience. I was pleasantly surprised.

If you have experienced MSM by staying on the Mont--I think you can identify with Lourdes. Yes, certain aspects of it are very touristy but once you enter the Sanctuary Grounds that all stops (except the sale of candles, but no one is "peddling" them) and I found it very spiritual.

We attended the candlelight vigil at night; it was very moving to be part of this bigger "whole". We accidentally ended up in the procession--it was neat to be with groups of pilgrims come from all over the world with their banners stating where they were from all of us singing together (the words are on the candleholders). We had intended on being on the upper level of the church for the view of the procession; I'm sure it would have been very impressive to see it that way with the thousands of lights down below and the singing, as well. I don't even think you would have to be a particularly religious person to appreciate so many human beings getting together for a common cause...I remember thinking "This must be kind of what the peace marches of the 60's felt like".

I certainly wouldn't give Lourdes a "Worth the Trip" disignation, but if I was anywhere near the area I would overnight there for the experience. We just ignored all the trinkety souvenir shops on the main street before the sanctuary.

We stayed at the 2** Hotel de Nevers (a Logis de France) and it was fine, though their cuisine didn't live up to their hype. Good location for us as it was easy in/out of town being near the main road and had locked parking. 15 min walk to Sanctuary.

klondike is offline  
Feb 29th, 2008, 10:42 PM
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