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Late spring trip to Barcelona+Costa Brava & Basque region - feedback welcome!

Late spring trip to Barcelona+Costa Brava & Basque region - feedback welcome!

Old Aug 23rd, 2022, 11:17 AM
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Late spring trip to Barcelona+Costa Brava & Basque region - feedback welcome!

I'm beginning to think about the Big Spring trip this year and am leaning toward a return to Spain. I知 seriously thinking of a trip to Barcelona+Costa Brava and the Basque region. We've visited Barcelona before but I'm eager to return; the Costa Brava area sounds better and better the more I read about it; and we are both eager to go to the Basque region. We致e been to Andalucia/Toledo/Madrid and loved it.

Given the changeable weather in the Basque region, I知 considering going in the late spring probably leaving the US around the mid or end of May to mid-June for about 4 weeks.

Other considerations: we are now mid-70s and (very) late 60s, so I'm trying to find the balance of keeping the trip manageable that is, staying longer in fewer places, limited use of car, and not trying to see everything (something I struggle with!

We love a diverse experience scenic views, history, art and culture. Walking but not serious hiking. Walking along the Costa Brava camino sounds perfect!

We enjoy good meals but are not serious foodies, and are not big drinkers. I will have an occasional glass of wine, M might have an occasional beer, and I do love cider! But stopping in wineries are not our thing.

I知 looking at flight options and would ideally like to fly into BCN and out of Bilbao, although the flights leaving Bilbao depart around 7am, which is not a time we usually manage very well. We might end up flying R/T NY-BCN. But this is still early planning so I値l see what happens in a couple of months.

Current itinerary thoughts (very much a work in progress):

Barcelona 5
Cadaques -2 (pick up car when leaving Barcelona)
Costa Brava town -4/5 (Llafranc, Begur, or other in this stretch of the coast, preferably where we can easily leave for day trips)
Girona 2/3


Flight to San Sebastian/Donostia (or Bilbao)

San Sebastian 5? Day trips include Hondarribia ; St Jean de Luz and/or Bayonne
After San Sebastian, pick up car and drive either to
a) Laguardia (explore inland towns)
(OR)
b)Getaria 2/3 nights.
Bilbao 4 (Drop car)
Either fly back to BCN or fly home from Bilbao


The order of the first part of the trip depends upon what flights we get. If we have a nonstop flight, I壇 start in Girona and then end that portion of the trip in Barcelona. I知 also considering eliminating Girona as a stop but just visit as a day trip, though I think we壇 enjoy the city a lot.

Where I'm torn:
In the second part of the trip, I知 torn between traveling to Getaria or Laguardia. For the sake of keeping the trip manageable, I don稚 know if we could do both, and logistically it seems a bit difficult. One consideration: we will have had a lot of coastal time by the time we leave SS, so Laguardia may make more sense, but the area around Getaria and the walk from there to Zumaia sounds very nice. But I thought traveling inland would be a good contrast, and Laguardia sounds like a lovely place to stop.
Or, is there a way to make both work? I'm trying to avoid having a car in San Sebastian.

I've also eliminated staying in the French Basque region but I would like to do a day trip to one of the towns from SS. Would St Jean de Luz or Bayonne be better, if we were to visit only one?

Recommendations and suggestions most welcome!!




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Old Aug 23rd, 2022, 11:44 AM
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We spent several weeks in the Basque ( Pais Vasco) of Spain with two day trips into the French Pays Basque.
We stayed in Hondarribia most of the time for ease of having a car and the ability to combine the two Basque regions in Spain and France. Maribel has a home in the Spanish Basque region and she will be a huge help to you with your planning for this part of your tripWe used her Maribel痴 Guides throughout our trip in Spain. I also asked her questions from time to time.
We visited Bilbao, Getaria, San Sebasti疣. Day trips to French Basque region,we drove to included pretty seaside St-Jean de Luz, and the charming small Basque towns in the foothills of the Pyrenees Sar ( Basque linens), Ascain, Ainhoa, Espelette and more! We loved these towns and a return stay there for several nights is on future wish lists.
You値l see berets and espadrilles!
I highly recommend that you read the The Basque History of the World by Mark Kurlansky before your trip to give you an understanding of the culture and history of these ancient people. It痴
very readable.
Costa Brava- We stayed in Begur which was a central location for exploring. We began our six week road trip in Lisbon, and ended it in Barcelona.We loved the French Mediterranean town of Collioure a short distance north of Spanish/French border.

Last edited by HappyTrvlr; Aug 23rd, 2022 at 11:59 AM.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2022, 12:00 PM
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We love to base in Roses, so closer to Barcelona than Begur. It has really nice flat walking areas and is relatively easy with a car, although we mostly just chose a hotel or apartment with parking near the coast, park the car and walk everywhere. It has a good variety of restaurant choices as well.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2022, 12:19 PM
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Thanks, HappyTrvlr and pie! You guys are quick!

HappyTrvlr - believe me, I'm another big fan of Maribel's! She helped enormously on our recent trip to Portugal and I've used her guides for our earlier trip to Spain. I'm torn between the Hondarribia/San Sebastian decision. In my 2020 itinerary, I had planned to stay in Hondarribia, but the majority of folks both here on Fodor and on other travel boards say that for the first time, one should stay in SS. And it looks beautiful and a good place to be. Still, Hondarribia looks lovely, too. So I'm definitely more than a little confused about this decision. It's something I'll look at more carefully. Would you stay in Getaria over Laguardia?
Oh, and we will definitely get the book you suggest, though I'll wait until after our fall trip (Egypt and Jordan - don't want to get too confused culturally!).

jpie, I will definitely look more closely at Roses.

Thanks for the feedback! So helpful!
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Old Aug 24th, 2022, 07:46 AM
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In Roses we have stayed at a couple of places. One was the Hotel Marina, which is simple but nice. It has a parking garage which is why we chose it. It is on the quieter end of town near the Citadel, which tends to be the area we like the best. It is across from the beach and has some sea view rooms.

https://www.hotelmarina-roses.com/

I think the other property we stayed at was Hotel & Spa Terraza. It is on the other side of the Citadel Museum (whereas the Marina is between the Citadel and the little town center) in an area that is along a very nice beach boardwalk that goes towards the beach to the little city center area of Roses. The advantage of the neighborhood is that it is beachfront and sometimes less noisy than right in town. There are plenty of cafes ad restaurants within easy walking distance of both of these two properties and many more good choices of places to stay both for hotels and apartment type rentals.

https://www.hotelterraza.com/en

In any case we always love spending time in Roses!

Last edited by jpie; Aug 24th, 2022 at 07:49 AM.
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Old Aug 24th, 2022, 08:55 AM
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Girona is a great place for cycling and walking, there is a long Vias Verdes https://www.viasverdes.com/en/ going inland from Girona that is well marked and pleasant walking
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Old Aug 24th, 2022, 09:24 AM
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You can easily visit Getaria from San Sebastian - it might be a bit more interesting to stay somewhere completely different like Laguardia.
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Old Aug 24th, 2022, 09:43 AM
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Here's my 2018 trip report that includes time in Basque country. We had a car. We are in the same age category,

Trip Report: Spanish Basque Country, Asturias and Leon, Madrid==July 2018


On the French side I recommend the La Rhune cog railway. La Rhune straddles the border between France and Spain.

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Old Aug 24th, 2022, 02:38 PM
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jpie, thanks so much for those links! I’ll definitely keep them in mind when I’m starting to make reservations.

bilboburgler, thank you! That looks like a neat place in Girona and the site is wonderful, too. So many other good places to walk.

rialtogirl, Exactly! I think Laguardia might make for a good change of scenery (though I’m still taken by a stay in Getaria). Decisions, decisions…

Michael, I love your posts! I’ve been reading many of your reports and I love looking at your wonderful photos. So many fascinating and lovely places you’ve been and I only wish I could visit all of them! It’s going to take me a while to work out what we will be able to do. Fortunately, I have time, but I can’t. See how hard it will be to narrow it down.
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Old Aug 24th, 2022, 05:26 PM
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Hi Progol,
Of all the places you are planning on visiting, I have only been to Barcelona and Costa Brava. We spent 3 nights in CB and rented a car. It was very easy driving. We spent 1 night in Cadaques and 2 nights in Girona. We loved both places, very different from each other, and I would recommend staying 2 or 3 nights in Girona instead of visiting as a day trip. It's a lovely medieval walled city and a river runs through it. I love places with rivers, so much atmosphere. I remember visiting a wonderful outdoor market and fell in love with olives!!! Before Girona, I was never a fan of olives. I envy you that you have so much time on CB. Our visit was much too short.

I know you are a meticulous planner but thought I would mention a few things. Keep in mind the road to Cadaques is over mountains and is very twisty and narrow. Make sure you are driving that road during daylight hours. If you plan on visiting Dali's house in Port Lligat, you have to make reservations at least a day in advance. It's small but very quirky! We loved Cap de Creus, a natural park with a lighthouse and beautiful scenery.

And, if you have the time, I recommend visiting Besalu, and then drive over the Eastern Catalan Pyrenees to visit Ripoll, Rupit, and Vic. The mountain scenery is stunning!
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Old Aug 25th, 2022, 12:22 AM
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We were cycling when we toured from Girona to Toulouse, but we walked (pushed) our bikes over the French Spanish border, in doing so we found two sites of interest. An alter set up by Pompey (he who was counsul with Caeser) to celebrate recapturing Spain as the army left on what was then the main road. And a tiny fortress set up by the French to stop Spanish incursions along the same road (probably a suicide mission). The walking sans-bikes is pretty easy and the views are tremendous. The border is, of course, now meaningless. This funnel of people movement is historically very interesting as is the similar border on the Bay of Biscay. Think "Roland" and his horn.
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Old Aug 25th, 2022, 08:33 AM
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KarenWoo, thank you so much for your suggestions! I hope to be able to visit Besalu, and now I'm intrigued by the drive over the eastern Pyrenees. Where were you coming from and going to and how did you decide the route? I would love to do something like this, though I also want to be mindful of not driving too much in any given day. But I would love to get at least a taste of the Pyrenees on this trip if we could. Oh, and I so relate to the experience with real olives! My intro to tasting fresh olives was in a market somewhere in Provence in 1992, and I still remember how amazed we were! It was a revelation that olives could be so good!

bilboburgler, I love those wonderful discoveries. Once, many, many moons ago, I took a bike trip with someone (pre-hubby) through Brittany, and loving the small discoveries along the way. I'm afraid the cycling days are long gone, but we can still walk, and anywhere we can have great views while we walk is a big plus in my book!

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Old Aug 25th, 2022, 01:18 PM
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Progol, When we visited Besalu and the eastern Pyrenees, we were coming from Girona. Besalu is about an hour's drive from Girona. Then we continued on to Ripoll, our furthest destination, and from there we backtracked and visited Rupit and Vic. We then drove to Barcelona to stay overnight and flew home the next day. So we were able to accomplish all that in one day. I do remember leaving Girona early in the morning. In fact, we had breakfast in Besalu. I chose the route based on the guidebook(s) I used at the time. Can't find it right now. It's not in my bookcase. I may have donated it. This was in 2010. I typically use Lonely Planet, Fodors, Rick Steves, and Micheline Green Guide. I had a map of Spain, too.
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Old Aug 25th, 2022, 02:02 PM
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Hello Progol, my friend and I are also planning a trip to Barcelona and Costa Brava next spring. You may have seen a couple of my posts about our itinerary. While we are a little younger (40ish), our travel preferences are similar to yours. We are renting a car and will have one home base in l'Escala, because we have access to a flat there through a family connection. Therefore, each day will be long day trips. But for discounted accommodations, we're happy to make that compromise. We'll also be in Cadaques and the stretch of coast south of there down to Tossa de Mar and some of the inland stuff like Figueres, Baix Emporda loop, and Girona. There is of course never enough time, but we will be heading to Mallorca afterwards. I'm going into it knowing that I'll be back another time. I hope you have the best time!
KarenWoo, I read your trip report and it was delightful. Thank you!
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Old Aug 25th, 2022, 03:24 PM
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KarenWoo, thanks so much! The more I look at the towns in the eastern Pyrenees, the more charmed I am by them. Now I would like to include a day drive. The region just has so many interesting places, and I’m really going to find it hard to narrow the trip down! By the way, did you do a report for this trip? I didn’t see one (and I was eager to read all the wonderful details of the trip, as I know and like your travel style, too!).

magsrose, yes, I did see you were planning to go, too. It sounds like it’ll be a wonderful trip! I had initially thought of going to Mallorca, but the more I read about the Costa Brava, the more it made more sense to focus on it instead.
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Old Aug 25th, 2022, 04:31 PM
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Progol, when we visited Barcelona and Costa Brava in 2010, my screen name at the time was kwoo. So you'll have to search for it under that name. I think several years after that trip, I was changing my password for some reason, and I inadvertently changed my screen name and never bothered to change it back.
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Old Aug 25th, 2022, 04:43 PM
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Progol, I found my report but for some reason I am unable to copy and paste the link. You can click on 'Search' at the very top. Enter "Barcelona and Costa Brava Trip Report by kwoo".
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Old Aug 25th, 2022, 05:09 PM
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Karen, thank you! I had searched for a trip report from you but didn’t see any; early posts are sometimes hard to find. I’m glad I found it; I’ve gotten so much from reading your reports! I just started reading it - what an awful beginning to the trip in Barcelona! I’m glad you were able to have such a wonderful trip after your experience having your backpack taken at the hotel. I look forward to reading the rest - I know it will only get better.
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Old Aug 25th, 2022, 05:56 PM
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progal, of course we visited San Sebasti疣 too but thought it would be easier with the car to stay in Hondarribia. Although described as a fishing village, Hondarribia has a population of over 10,000. Lots of choices in dining and hotels. We were supposed to go to San Sebasti疣 a few years ago but our flights were canceled and we couldn稚 fit it in. We drove from Hondarribia to the French Mediterranean coast via the north side of the Pyrenees. Stopping overnight in several towns in the mountains was interesting. Then Collioure, France( loved it) to Costa Brava for a few days , then to Barcelona. Started in Lisbon, ended in Barcelona. Favorite parts were Portugal, Santiago de Compostela, Asturias,Cantabria, and Basque region,
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Old Aug 25th, 2022, 06:19 PM
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HappyTrvlr, it’s a bit of a tossup which to stay in so we’ll have a lot to think about when we fine tune the itinerary. As I mentioned, I had initially planned to stay in Hondarribia 2 1/2 years ago, though I’m still leaning toward SS for this trip. And of course it will all depend upon how the entire trip falls together. There are now so many options! And it all sounds wonderful. Narrowing it down will be tough.

We were in Collioure in 2004 - loved it, too! Those long driving trips, I think, are a thing of the past, though. We’re definitely not moving at the pace we used to! And I’m still trying to do and see a lot.
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