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Northern Spain - Southern France 10 days Santander, Bilbao, San Sebastian, Biarritz

Northern Spain - Southern France 10 days Santander, Bilbao, San Sebastian, Biarritz

Old Nov 26th, 2023, 12:33 PM
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Northern Spain - Southern France 10 days Santander, Bilbao, San Sebastian, Biarritz

My wife and I are doing a 4-week trip next May/June to Spain with about 18 nights of the trip in Madrid, Barcelona and a beach house (with other family) near Begur. Between Madrid and Barcelona we will rent a car and head to northern Spain, then Southern France before Begur then Barcelona. We will have 10 nights to spend in towns such as Santander, Bilbao, San Sebastian, Biarritz and Toulouse. I'm looking for any suggestions regarding how to split up our 10 nights, what towns to stay in for X nights, towns other than I listed, and things to do in those towns, etc. Right now just by default I'm thinking of 2 nights in each of those 5 towns, we don't mind moving around like that. But maybe it makes more sense to stay overnight in just 3 or 4 of those towns and then make day trips to other places. For instance, it's only a 45-minute drive between San Sebastian and Biarritz so maybe we only stay in one of those and do a day trip to the other, or on our way from Bilbao to Biarritz we stop in San Sebastian for the day. We are relatively open for those 10 days.

We previously did a trip to Madrid, Cordoba, Granada, Ronda, & Seville, so other than seeing Madrid again we don't need to see any of those towns on this trip.

Last edited by travelrex; Nov 26th, 2023 at 12:48 PM.
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Old Nov 26th, 2023, 02:09 PM
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I would drop Santander and stay in nearby Comillas instead.
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Old Nov 26th, 2023, 02:10 PM
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Attached is info about the Pays Basque region (Biarritz).

Stu Dudley
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Pays Basque.doc (58.5 KB, 65 views)
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Old Nov 26th, 2023, 02:15 PM
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In your itinerary I am missing what interests you, unless it is that you like big cities exclusively. In between there is a lot to see, of which are some photographic samples :









Limiting yourself to Spain might be a good alternative, allowing you to visit those cities and do some meandering in the countryside.

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Old Nov 26th, 2023, 02:35 PM
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In the Pays Basque, make sure to drive up into the charming Basque villages such as Saré, Ascain, Ainhoa, Espellette each with its own pelota court.
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Old Nov 26th, 2023, 03:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Michael
In your itinerary I am missing what interests you, unless it is that you like big cities exclusively. In between there is a lot to see, of which are some photographic samples :



Limiting yourself to Spain might be a good alternative, allowing you to visit those cities and do some meandering in the countryside.

Thank you for thoughts. We like countryside also. We live in Los Angeles so each of the towns I mentioned other than Toulouse seem small to us. We will look into the “in between” areas also. We enjoy museums, castles, historical sites, hiking, good food, old buildings, water views, interesting and quaint streets with shops and cafes. A variety appeals to us.

We need to travel from northwest Spain to northeast Spain (San Sebastian to Begur) and the route through Toulouse seemed the fastest, plus spending a few days in France appeals to me rather than just being entirely in Spain.
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Old Nov 26th, 2023, 04:32 PM
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We need to travel from northwest Spain to northeast Spain (San Sebastian to Begur) and the route through Toulouse seemed the fastest, plus spending a few days in France appeals to me rather than just being entirely in Spain.

My point is that "the fastest" contradicts seeing the in-between. But if you are looking for the fastest, it is through Spain:

https://www.viamichelin.com/web/Rout...elConsumption=
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Old Nov 26th, 2023, 05:26 PM
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We really enjoyed the town of Albi (about an hour away from Toulouse) but it is out of your way from the other places you have mentioned.
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Old Nov 26th, 2023, 08:55 PM
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Originally Posted by KTtravel
We really enjoyed the town of Albi (about an hour away from Toulouse) but it is out of your way from the other places you have mentioned.

Yes that is heading north from Toulouse and we will want to head south, but thanks for the tip. We’ll keep it in mind if we have more time in Southern France on a future trip.
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Old Nov 26th, 2023, 09:45 PM
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Originally Posted by StuDudley
Attached is info about the Pays Basque region (Biarritz).

Stu Dudley
hi Stu, these are great recommendations.
Just two remarks.
They cover much more than the Basque country as you also cover parts of Bearn and Bigorre.
Some high altitude cols may be closed at the time of OP's visit. Aubisque usually closed until early June, Tourmalet maybe even later.
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Old Nov 26th, 2023, 09:45 PM
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Originally Posted by travelrex
Yes that is heading north from Toulouse and we will want to head south, but thanks for the tip. We’ll keep it in mind if we have more time in Southern France on a future trip.
If you are going to spend more time in southern France, attached are 3 of my itineraries.

Stu Dudley


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Old Nov 26th, 2023, 10:16 PM
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As already suggested, I would also drop Santander. If you visit San Sebastian, you could limit Bilbao to Guggenheim.
I would also chose one base in Basque country. Biarritz is quite "central" being close to the motorway. Stu gave a lot of hints. I could add Hossegor / Capbreton and, on the way to St Jean Pied de Port, Bidarray, Pas de Roland and Mt Artzamendi. Check dates for local markets (St Jean de Luz Friday, Bayonne Saturday, Quintaou/Anglet Sunday...). If you are lucky, there may a local fête in the area with music, Basque dances.
San Sebastian is nice both during the day (shopping and strolling along the Concha) and later for the pintxos in the old part.
in Bearn, I share with Stu the same appreciation for Pau... And yes, the mountains are spectacular. Gavarnie is one of the highlights in the area but expect big crowds. In the area, Luz St Sauveur could be a convenient base between Tourmalet and Soulor/Aubisque, and close to Gavarnie and Pont d'Espagne.
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Old Nov 26th, 2023, 11:00 PM
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Few hiking suggestions in or close to the Basque country.
beach walk:
from Tarnos (just north of Biarritz), you can walk for miles on the desert beach and go back via the pine forest.
From Biarritz to Bidart, only at low tide, take a bus to go back.
from Bidart to St Jean de Luz, coastal path with markers.
Do not walk the stretch of coastal path between St Jean (to be more precise, Socoa) and Hendaye. It is now closed due to erosion. A new path is now in place but of limited interest.
Spanish coast:
From beautiful Hondarribia, drive up to Jaizkibel and park before the summit. There are paths leading to the coast and a coastal path with terrific scenery.
Drive and park in Herrera. Walk to the harbor and take the launch to cross the harbor to visit old Pasaia (path till the "mouth"). If not too tired, cross again the harbor and it is possible to walk till San Sebastian and take the local train (topo) to go back to the car.
mountains:
Instead of riding the train, walk to the summit La Rhune!
alternatively, easier walks that lead to "ventas" where you can enjoy a very simple lunch.
from the shopping area of Ibardin, several easy walks with views of the ocean (like the view of St Jean posted by Michael).

Last edited by rouelan; Nov 26th, 2023 at 11:02 PM. Reason: Add name
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Old Nov 27th, 2023, 03:04 AM
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On the Spanish side: do not limit Bilbao to just a day trip, it has a beautiful old quarter (much less touristy than Donostia-San Sebastian) and it´s much more than just the Guggenheim. Nearby, you cannot miss Plentzia, Bermeo, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Mundaka, historical Gernika (aka Guernica)...and if you have the time and the means, Ea, Elantxobe and Lekeition. Excellent roads, but very winding. Closer to Donostia-San Sebastian, Getaria, the flysch at Zumaia and as mentioned above, Hondarribia is a not-miss.

On the French side: for some reason, the name of Biarritz brings kind of glamour to US visitors, but it may be kind of disappointing. A nice beach (but beach weather in the Basque Country is not always an option, it´s quite rainy), a casino, some expensive shops, and the walk to the Virgin, basically. A nice market building, too. I like St Jean de Luz-Donibane Lohizune, Bidart, Gethary-Getaria, Sare, Espelette (touristy), Ainhoa...and of course, Bayonne-Baiona, can´t miss this one.
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Old Nov 28th, 2023, 10:39 PM
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Hi Mikel, if I may, I find your comment on Biarritz a bit harsh.
True that it is not the Basque architecture found in other places you mention. It was developed in the end of 19th century, with a collection of villas, mansions and grand hotels, many of them still in place, converted into appartements and well worth a look for architecture fans.
Also true that there are some expensive shops, mainly targeting residents of hotel du Palais and luxurious villas.
But, for the rest, it is as Basque as other neighbor cities (fans of Bayonne rugby club would disagree, they once stoled the letter Y in the name of local club displayed at the stadium, that is BO Pays Basque..).
So, as in any city in the area, there is a wide array of bars, restaurants, shops for all tastes and budgets.
thanks to the surf and local life, most of them operate nearly year round, making Biarritz a lively place.

Last edited by rouelan; Nov 28th, 2023 at 10:47 PM.
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Old Nov 29th, 2023, 12:42 AM
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Yes, but many overseas visitors expect some kind of wow town given the "name" that it has due to being the residence of nobility for their summer vacations, obviously following the construction of Hotel du Palais for empress Eugenia de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III. Architecture is nice but not relevant, beach is really good for surfing, views are nice if you walk to the Virgin, the old fishing port is now full of touristy restaurants and old fishermen´s houses are Airbnbs. Right outside town, the Musée du Chocolat and the views of the beach from the cliffs may be worthwhile the visit, as well as the market and bars around it.
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Old Nov 29th, 2023, 01:47 AM
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my 5pence
Toulouse, over rated and so many more interesting small places nearby, heavily car dependant and just a sprawl, not a people city at all
Bibao, the Guggenheim is about the fourth or fifth reason one might visit this city, so don't limit it to that, the Fine Art Museum is wonderful, the old town, the river frontage, the transporter bridge.
No interest in visiting Rioja?
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Old Nov 29th, 2023, 03:44 AM
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(As a side note to bilboburgler post) Bilbao Fine Arts Museum is currently undergoing a major re-shaping, British arquitect Norman Foster (he designed our great subway system) has been commissioned to add another floor to the Museum, so we will have a very interesting mix of a 19th century building with a 21st century add-on on top of it, with a large canopy extending over the square in front of the main entrance. Most of the exhibits are not currently on show, but still a very interesting visit...and free!
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Old Nov 29th, 2023, 06:08 AM
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Old Jan 31st, 2024, 05:52 PM
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Originally Posted by StuDudley
Attached is info about the Pays Basque region (Biarritz).

Stu Dudley
Stududley thanks for the link to your recommendations! We have just booked a cycling trip in Basque Country and will be either riding through or staying in some of the towns you mentioned. What was your favorite restaurant in St Jean Pied de Port? We are there for one evening.
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