Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

La Rochelle, France to Barcelona, Spain; need help!

La Rochelle, France to Barcelona, Spain; need help!

Feb 28th, 2009, 09:13 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 14,552
La Rochelle, France to Barcelona, Spain; need help!

I am out of my comfort zones here, and could really use help and suggestions. We are to leave the area of La Rochelle in the morning on Saturday, August 15. We have to be in Barcelona no later than before evening on August 20, but would probably prefer to be there the morning of the 19th or even the evening of the 18th.

The more I type, the more confused I get. The absolutely can't change parts of this are La Rochelle up to the 15th, and be in Barcelona on the 20th.

I don't know how to handle the in-between. There are no convenient or inexpensive flights to BCN from this part (SW) of France.

I want to see fairly tale castles and breathtaking valleys and pretty things in France. Since it looks like we will have to drive, can anyone please suggest stops for a day or two that would fit this itinerary and my dreams? I've heard about St Cirq Lapopie, and Carcassone, but that is it. Rocamadour?

What is possible, what isn't? I'm not really looking for a city experience before Barcelona, but some pretty valley or river town would be nice.

Also, can anyone make suggestions for the area around La Rochelle/Niort?

I've ordered library books, but they haven't come yet and I am anxious to start planning. Book suggestions would be appreciated, too.

Finally: driving in to Spain. I don't want to. I am intimidated by Spain, speak no Spanish, and wish I could get to place to drop off the car and take public transport into the city of Barcelona.

Any and all suggestions welcome and actively sought. How will I ever go from Merci to Gracias? I haven't been on a two country trip in forever. And different rail gauges between France and Spain complicate things. Please, help!
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
Feb 28th, 2009, 09:39 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 20,644
the ruins of fairy tale like castles (sitting on crags) can be seen and visited in Cathar territory. Mirepoix, in the same area, is a plus beau village. Above Prades there is a famous monastery (St. Michel de Cuxa) that is highly recommended. With four days, you should have the time to explore that part of the Languedoc, drop of the car in Perpignan and take the train to Barcelona.
Michael is online now  
Feb 28th, 2009, 09:47 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 14,552
So I should be looking at the Languedoc? This sounds good. Can you recommend an attractive village or small town with a couple of restaurants, for us to stay in?
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
Mar 1st, 2009, 07:02 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 3,873
A lot depends upon how far you're willing to drive in a day. It's actually only 817 km via autoroutes through Bordeaux and toulouse to BCN--about 500 miles. Doable in a day. But consider:
!6th Drive to Sarlat 500 km, approx 300 miles
17th stay in Sarlat or vicinity drive about the area possibly see Rocamandour or other sites you decide upon after reading some of the wonderful Dordogne trip reports here
18th Drive Sarlat to Carcassonne 272 km, see town and castle, eat cassoulet in Carcassone or enroute at Toulouse or Castelnaudary.
19th Drive Carcassonne to Girona 208 km, drop rental car and take train to BCN arriving sometime in the afternoon.

Anyway you slice it, it's a lot of driving, but doable and even allows some time for sightseeing. Enjoy
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Mar 1st, 2009, 09:08 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 20,644
Mirepoix is a possibility as is Prades. There are plenty of B&Bs in the area (http://www.gites-de-france.com/gites/uk/bed_breakfasts). To reduce the choices you will need to familiarize yourself with the Languedoc-Roussillon area and the 4 départements contained within. For things to see, you might want to pick up the Michelin Green Guide for the region. As for restaurants, try viaMichelin on line.

I believe that Girona is in Spain. Dropping the car off in Spain would add a considerable fee to your rental.
Michael is online now  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 12:12 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 14,552
Thank you. I wish the library had the Michelin Green Guides. I don't know why they don't. I guess I can just get it from interlibrary loan. Or maybe I'll cave and buy one. They are certainly handy.

here is the list of guides for France:
French Regions :
Alsace Lorraine Champagne
Auvergne, The Rhone Valley
Burgundy Jura
Chateaux of the Loire
Dordogne Berry Limousin
French Alps
French Riviera
Languedoc Roussillon Tarn Gorges
Northern France
Wine Regions of France

Should I get the guide for the Dordogne as well as for Languedoc Roussillon?

How about for the area around La Rochelle?
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 01:02 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 14,552
OK: I found a seller on half.com with both the Dordogne and Languedoc Michelin Green Guides so I bought them both.

Now back to the trip.

We will leave La Rochelle on the morning of the 15th of August, so the 15th is a part of the 800km travel days.

15 August: La Rochelle to ?
16 stay in ?
17 Move to ?2
18 stay in ?2
19... get to Barcelona by late afternoon/early evening. I suppose that we would hope to get to a train in France by noon or so...

I don't want to incur the cost of dropping off the car in another country, so may consider the option of training from Perpignan.

But aren't the French and Spanish rail systems non-intergrated? I have no idea of how to coordinate the rail systems. Would my reliable agents at BET be able to help with this?


How would you feel about two stops in the 4.5 or 5 days? I would be willing to travel at that rate, but probably not any faster.
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 01:17 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 20,644
La Rochelle to Sarlat will take about 4 hours if not taking the autoroute. I would decide on which region you want to see and base the travel on that. If it is the Langudoc-Roussillon area that is of interest, decide where you want to be based according to your research on what you want to see, and that would be the second night. For the first day of travel, the question is how long do you want to be on the road?

As for the trains, there are through trains whose carriage base is apparently adaptable (others might be more familiar with the system) but any scheduled itinerary (try http://www.voyages-sncf.com/billet-train) will include a transfer at the border if that is necessary.
Michael is online now  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 01:18 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 46,036
Definitely don't drop the car off in Spain if you pick it up in France - you're talking about a drop-off charge of about $500 or more.

First day, I'd drive from La Rochelle to Saintes, Cognac, Angoulème, Périgueux, Sarlat. Stay two nights.

Next day, leave early and stop in Rocamadour, continue to Cahors, end in Albi.

Next day, explore Albi, then on to Carcassonne - stop there for a couple of hours - end in Perpignan. Take the train to Barcelona from there.

If you can stretch this out a bit, there's lots more to see in each of the areas you're passing through.
StCirq is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 01:43 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 14,552
St Cirq, isn't this your "area"?

I don't think we can stretch it. All day on the 15th, 16, 17 and 18 is probably all we have. I wouldn't have to leave for Barcelona until the 19th.

Using your itinerary, does this make sense:

August 15: leave the La Rochelle area in the morning, drive to Sarlat via places you mentioned above.

(seems like a lot; should Sarlat be the base? How much to stop and see that first day?)

Spend the nights of August 15 and 16 in Sarlat.

August 17: leave Sarlat early, stop in Rocamadour, visit Cahors, spend night in Albi.

August 18: See Albi and (I'm stretching here) drive to Carcassone. Is it worth more time than a few hours? We could spend the night.

August 19: leave Carcassone early, drive to Perpignan; get train to Barcelona. Or should we spend the night in Perpignan? Do you like Perpignan, or is it basically a handy spot for a train to Barcelona?

Can we train from Carcassone to Perpignan?

This might seem like I'm all over the place. As I said in my OP, I am totally unfamiliar with this area. I really would like to take the time to see the most beautiful places.

We aren't really interested in any cities. They will be for another trip. I envision these 4 days as a romantic French road trip, with pretty sights and lovely picnics. Realistic? Remotely realistic?
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 02:06 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 46,036
Hi, tuscan. Yes, this is my stomping grounds.

The first day is a fair bit of driving - 187 miles (yes, miles, not km) - but we've done it a few times and it's not bad. You don't have to stop in any of those places (I was just listing them to show you the proposed milestones of the route), but each place has a few attractions, so you could, of course.

You don't need to stay IN Sarlat, but I'd stay close by. It's not a city, it's a pretty big town. There are plenty of close-by villages where you might be happier, though.

You don't need more than a few hours in Carcassonne - in fact, you won't want them. I wouldn't stay there, either. In August it will be packed. You might want to stay in Castelnaudary (though it would mean backtracking a bit the next day) or to the south in someplace like Limoux.

I don't know if there's a train to Perpignan from Carcassonne or not - I've always driven in the area. the SNCF website will know.

And I don't know Perpignan all that well. I just recommended it because it's a straight shot to Barcelona from there, and because it's on the water and is pretty.
StCirq is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 02:18 PM
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 793
You are going to need a car to do what you want to do.

Driving in France is really not intimidating if you get the detailed maps of where you are going to drive. Just drive slowly.

Now a word about directions in France: The American way of directions with compass directions (north, south, east, west at the exits) does not work. What does work is knowing the name of the next town on your itinerary. It helps to have a navigator with you, but I have driven all over the Continent without one. You could invest in a GPS with a European program if you think that will make the drive easier for you.
LaurenKahn1 is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 02:38 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,441
hi tuscan

generally, what stcirq said.

we by-passed carcassonne altogether, the traffic was horrendous and that was september. and I'd agree with her too about getting to Rocadamour early before all the trippers do.

I CAN help you with Perpignan - we liked it. we spent a day there [didn't stay though as we had to get to the airport to go home] and found it a lot of fun. it's very Catalan with streets names in both languages, and the centre is very stylish with street cafes and rills running through it. nice food too. and a cafe with the coolest basin in the toilets I've ever seen. [well these things stick in your mind - at least they do in mine!] and they may have been some old bits too but we were all "museumed out".

hope this helps,

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2009, 05:00 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 14,552
Oh, thanks everyone; it all helps.

Having feedback from all of you is helping me get an idea of what I'm doing.

I have found the town where we will be, before hitting the road. It is more like a dot than a town: Mauve sur le Mignon. Kind of close to Niort.

We will have had a car for a week by the time we leave there. We have done a lot of driving in Italy, but none in France, but I do get the idea. Maybe a GPS would help. I'm usually the navigator, and DH drives. But after a very scary and quite close encounter with the police in Basilicata last May, I'm not sure I trust him to drive in Europe. But I guess I'll have to, and let's hope he's learned his lesson; it certainly cost enough.

Anyway, back to the trip. I've got the Green Guides on the way, and today I picked up The Most Beautiful Villages in Dordogne at the library, as well as The Most Beautiful Villages in France. A couple of DVDs too.

I do think I will avoid cities and maybe Carcassone altogether. August is a sucky month to vacation anyway, but I think it will be super sucky in huge tourist places.

My hope is to see much smaller and more quiet places. We will get to Rocamadour, either early or late. We aren't really good at early.

I am sure I'll have many more questions, soon, especially about places to stay.

Anyone been to Narbonne? I'm wonder whether it will be easier to get the Talgo from Narbonne or Perpignan, to Barcelona. Also looking for a more quiet place, even though I know it is high season.
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
Jul 14th, 2010, 06:15 PM
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 1
Hello - came across your posting and couldn't believe that we are almost in the same situation! We are planning a trip to France/Spain this september and I'm entering PANIC mode trying to figure out the details! As of now we plan on taking a train from paris to la rochelle- thinking about staying a couple nights in Ile de Re - and then we wanted to take a road trip down towards perpignan area and take train from there to Barcelona.

So curious to hear what you ended up doing and if you have any suggestions for me. We are on the fence as to getting a car (we love road trips!) or just take trains making our way to Barcelona. hope to hear back from you soon and to hear how your trip was!

Jeighn is offline  
Jul 14th, 2010, 06:26 PM
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 32,129
Hi Tuscanlifeedit - we will be leaving Barcelona as you arrive. I will leave a tab open for you at our hotel.
colduphere is offline  
Jul 14th, 2010, 06:28 PM
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 32,129
Oh oops, you're home. Well it was a nice offer anyways.
colduphere is offline  
Jul 14th, 2010, 08:43 PM
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 2,505
You'll be travelling during the worst week of the whole summer (August 15) in term of traffic and you might have problem finding rooms for two nights. I would concentrate either on Dordogne or Languedoc Roussillon but not on both.

There are several trains a day from Carcassonne to Perpignan.
There are two direct trains a day from Perpignan to Barcelona, one at 8.56 am, one at 4.54 pm plus several "slow" ones which involve a wait at the border.
Pvoyageuse is offline  
Jul 16th, 2010, 01:27 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,319
Have you checked out the Ryanair Poitiers - Girona flights ?

The website is currently quoting around €60 one way :

Regular Fare
Depart: Poitiers 11:40
Arrive: Girona (Barcelona) 13:10
1 x Adult 25.99 EUR
Online Check-In: 5.00 EUR
Taxes / Fees: 30.18 EUR
Total Price: 61.17 EUR

There is a cheap bus Girona - Barcelona.

mpprh is offline  
Jul 16th, 2010, 01:29 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,319
Should have said - this is for August 15 2010

mpprh is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 12:15 AM.