Northern Spain/Paris-trip in Dec

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Nov 5th, 2006, 10:56 PM
  #1
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Northern Spain/Paris-trip in Dec

I was going on a "Northern Spain Nov. Road Trip/Marques de Riscal" (my last post) but had a date change so the trip is changing. I could use some help with the itinerary again please.

My friend and I now arrive in Madrid on Dec 7th. We are going to stay in Salamanca for the 7th & 8th.

Is it worth a trip back to Avila, or should we just stop there on our way to Salamanca? (If we do that, what do we do about our luggage?) We are now hoping to just use the train and buses (we were originally going to rent a car) and avoid driving, especially since it sounds like (from other postings) the weather can be bad.

What train do we need to get to go to Salamanca (and/or Avila?)? Where do we have to catch it? How is it traveling by train with luggage? Safe? (We're traveling without our spouses).

After Salamanca we are heading to Pamplona. Can we get there in one day? What is the best way to get there? Is there a direct train? Or do we have to stop somewhere for the night? We plan to stay two nights in Pamplona. We're checking out some of the hotels previously given to us on another posting.

If we don't use up a whole day in travel getting to Pamplona, then we have two more days up near the coast, after Pamplona. We're thinking about staying in San Sebastian one night and maybe St. Jean de Luz one night. Or anywhere around there in order to take the train to Paris from Hendaye (more questions on that later). How far is it to the coast from Pamplona? Is there a train or bus to take to get to the coast from Pamplona?

We're just worried about the weather conditions in that whole area, especially being near the water. Is this our best choice? Or should we just head to Paris or a few hours farther north (towards Paris) and just wait for a better time to visit the coast (rather than winter)?? What would be interesting to see/where to stay if we didn't stay on the coast?

If we do stay around the coastal/Basque area, what are your favorite recommendations for towns, hotels, shopping and food? (We only have two nights) I have Maribel's guides which have lots of info but could use some specific recommendations. Plus, is there such a thing as hiring someone to just be a tour guide for a day to drive us around in the area? I understand there is some town near the coast where they have a "running of the cows" through the streets instead of bulls. Sounds funny.

I understood from Maribel's help last time that we should leave from Hendaye. We have to be in Paris by the 13th of Dec. Is there a direct train to Paris? Is it better to buy the tickets ahead of time (via the Internet while still in the States)? Or is it cheaper to buy at the station the day of travel? Do we want to go "2e classe" (Prem's 78Euros or Tarif Normal 154Euros - don't understand the difference for this??) or 1e classe (144Euros)? What do we do with all of our baggage on the train - can we keep it with us?

We want to do so many things in Paris, but of particular interest would be to see the "Fashion/Design" side of things - it's something we can do since the guys aren't along on this trip. Are either of the following worth seeing - "Fashion & Textile Museum" and the "Galeria Museum"? And where are the best areas to get a feel for fashion and design in Paris?

I saw some postings about 2nd hand shops. Are there also consignment shops like in the U.S.? (Much as we like to look at all the designs, we can't really afford anything!)

Sorry for all the questions, but I got so much help last time and things have to change enough with our plans that I'm hoping to get some additonal help with the new itinerary. Gracias y merci!
LoopyLove is offline  
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Nov 7th, 2006, 10:06 AM
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So many questions...Ill try to answer a few (from a local Basque)

- Salamanca and Pamplona are about 800 kms away, no way to get there in one day, except by car. As far as I know, no direct link by train.

- Weather: mild on the coast, cold inland. Possibility of snow, not much though. Rain is a strong possibility in the north.

- Id stay two nights in San Sebastian and maybe take a day trip to St Jean de Luz.

- Direct links from Pamplona to SS by bus, running every hour (about one and a half hour trip).

- Never heard of the running of the cows. In any case, the running of the bulls is done in several towns (not just Pamplona) in the northern area during the local festivals, but not in December (most in July-August)

- Yes, you can take the TGV (high speed train) to Paris direct from Hendaye, from www.tgv.com (cheaper in advance), it takes about 5 hours only. Standard trains link both cities too, with many stops, best option would be the overnight train to gain time.

In any case, hiring a car is a very good option, roads in Spain are excellent and youd avoid losses of time. Your itinerary may be a bit "hectic", as youre covering many miles in not much time...it may be a question of maybe seeing less but seeing better.

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Nov 8th, 2006, 09:24 AM
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Thank you Mike for your reply, you gave me some good information. Sorry my posting was so long. I'm new to all this. Should have done shorter more specific postings maybe.

I've convinced my friend to skip Salamanca and we will try this: Madrid to Segovia (via train?-we would prefer not to drive after flying all night) My friend really wanted to see Segovia, Avila and Salamanca so I have to fit one of them into the trip.

Leave the next day for Pamplona. Can we get to Pamplona via train or is it best to drive?

If we have to do a rental car, is renting from Segovia an option or best from Madrid at airport? Do we need to stop somewhere for a night or is the drive okay (not too mountaineous?) to Pamplona? If we have to stop, where would be the most interesting place to stay? Quickest, safest route if we have to drive? - Is N110/N122/A15 an okay drive or better to go through Burgos/Vitoria?

Is Roncesvalles a day trip from Pamplona and worth visiting?

We're now going to stay in San Sebastian and do day trips as you suggested. Seems much easier.

Thanks for the help.
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Nov 8th, 2006, 09:56 AM
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Salamanca is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, but it may be a bit too far (three hour drive by car, from Madrid.

Madrid to Segovia by train is a good option, if you dont want to drive. And of course you can rent a car in Segovia without any problem.

From Segovia to Pamplona...yes, it is an easy drive, through A1 highway to Burgos, then Vitoria-Gasteiz, then Pamplona-Iruña (im also showing their Basque names, so you dont get misled by the indications). 400kms, about 3 and a half hours, excellent roads.

Roncesvalles is in a very mountainous area, just in the border with France. Check before for snow.

Vitoria and its old town is a good place for a stop (the visit to the Old Cathedral is highly recommended, www.catedralvitoria.com, in a beautiful old town), and so is Burgos, with its cathedral, one of the finest examples of gothic art in Europe. Not to be missed.
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Nov 22nd, 2006, 07:44 AM
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St jean and SS are only 15 minutes apart, but different languages....perhaps stay where you are ,ost comfortable from a language perspective. I just stayed in la Marisa in St. jean, had a lovely room and they speak english....
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Nov 22nd, 2006, 01:43 PM
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I could swear that San Sebastian and St. Jean de Luz are more than 15 minutes apart. It certainly took a lot longer on the bus last month.
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Nov 22nd, 2006, 09:05 PM
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Most people in Saint Jean de Luz will speak Spanish, at least in shops and restaurants. Language should not be a problem. And if it is, I consider it part of the fun of the trip...

Eks, by car (highway) it takes about 20 minutes-the bus is another story (it stops in all towns in between)
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Nov 24th, 2006, 04:19 AM
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OK - I may have been driving a little too fast... let's say 20 minutes in between plus parking....
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Nov 24th, 2006, 04:23 AM
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Hi LL,

There are direct trains from Henadye to Paris Montparnasse.

See www.sncf.com for schedules and tickets.

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Nov 25th, 2006, 07:07 PM
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The "running of the cows (vacas)" takes place in the village of Laguardia (Rioja Alavesa) in early July during their fiesta.
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Nov 25th, 2006, 07:12 PM
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Get the PREM tickets from the States. I consider 2nd class to be sufficiently comfortable that I do not need to pay for first class accomodations.
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