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OVERWHELMED (planning a March 2020 itinerary for southern France)

OVERWHELMED (planning a March 2020 itinerary for southern France)

Old Aug 21st, 2019, 10:41 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Aug 2019
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OVERWHELMED (planning a March 2020 itinerary for southern France)

Greetings all! After consulting numerous travel guide books (seven are sitting on my bedside table as I write!), websites, travel forums, podcasts, etc., I am even more overwhelmed than before in planning a trip to southern France. Part of the issue, is the timing of our travel--the last 10 days of March 2020. I haven't been able to find too much information about this time of year, in relation to possible outdoor activities. I'll give you some basic information about our plans, and then if anyone could comment on favorite places or pleasant surprises that they have experienced in their travels in this region, I'd be very grateful! So here goes:

My husband and I are celebrating our 20th anniversary with this 10 day trip.
We always travel with our four kids but will be by ourselves this time!
Flying in and out of Barcelona (tickets already purchased)
We are in our mid 40s and active (would possibly be interested in skiing for a day, but this isn't a ski trip)
Our travel interests include everything but shopping, wining and dining (we like good food, but aren't going to make an out-of-the-way stop for a special restaurant)
We have been to Spain (and Barcelona) multiple times and are going again this summer with the whole family, and so we would rather explore southern France a bit for this quick trip
We are not particularly interested in the corte de azure, but have dear friends living in Nice and wouldn't mind dropping in to see them
What I have looked at so far: Lyon, Annecy, ski resorts in the alps, hill towns in Provence, all of Provence, Nice, shoot, maybe even a jaunt over to Turin? HELP

So, I know this is a big, open request, but given the above information, do any of you have a place in that area where you think, "Ah, that's a place where I would love to go back. What a gem!"? We are really open at this point.

Thank you so much in advance for any help or suggestions. I'm in a travel fog and I'd love to hear from some fellow travelers about this area.
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Old Aug 21st, 2019, 11:21 AM
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Ten days is very little time to spend in France - especially if you go in & out of Barcelona and you also want to visit Lyon, Annecy, and the Alps. Shoot (to steal your phrase) I don't think you can do half the stuff you want to do & not spent 60% of your daylight hours in the car or on a train/plane.

I would just stick with stuff close to Barcelona. The Perpignan area, Carcassonne, and the Dordogne with a possible trip through the Gorges du Tarn would be plentt to do in only 10 days.

Here are some itineraries of mine; I won't even bother to send my Annecy/Alps one.

Note the spelling of Cote d'Azur

Stu Dudley
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File Type: doc
Languedoc-revised.doc (260.0 KB, 32 views)
File Type: doc
Dordogne-revised.doc (171.5 KB, 23 views)
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Old Aug 21st, 2019, 12:29 PM
  #3  
 
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Are you willing to fly between places? Maybe I missed it in your post, but how are you planning to travel around? Are you trying to do this as a road trip in a rental car? Or by trains?

I ask because you only have 10 days and the places you mention are not near to each other or to Barcelona.
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Old Aug 21st, 2019, 01:13 PM
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I live in "southern France," in the Périgord. March is probably the ugliest month of the year. Nasty weather is quite common.

Why are you flying in and out of Barcelona? It's not particularly smart for a 10-day visit to the "south of France." Why not visit Spain?
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Old Aug 21st, 2019, 06:42 PM
  #5  
kja
 
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If I were you -- and I'm not -- I'd be looking at Toulouse, Albi, and surrounds or perhaps French Basque country (assuming you've already been to the Spanish Basque region).

"I haven't been able to find too much information about this time of year, in relation to possible outdoor activities." Not in any of your 7 guidebooks? That makes me think that I don't understand the kind(s) of outdoor activities that interest you.

Last edited by kja; Aug 21st, 2019 at 06:53 PM.
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Old Aug 21st, 2019, 07:18 PM
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Thank you all for your responses. I'll give you a little more information so you can have a clearer picture of our situation.

First, we are flying into Barcelona because we found $350 USD tickets on Lufthansa, and we really didn't care where we went to celebrate our anniversary, we just wanted to get away. We have been to Barcelona numerous times, and will be returning to Spain in a few months for about four weeks, so that's why we thought it would be fun to head towards France and explore a little around the southern part there. Also, we are from the western US, and so driving distances may seem a bit shorter to us, since things are more spread out here. For example, we don't mind driving three or four hours to a midpoint, spending the evening, morning and early afternoon there, and then go another three or four hours to our final destination. So Lyon, as an example, seems very doable for this trip (and Annecy is not too far from Lyon either!) Stu, you mentioned the Dordogne, which would be a similar distance, and therefore may work as well!

Second, we were not thinking about visiting ALL of the places mentioned above. Those are just some of the places that I have looked into. We are most interested in doing some sort of loop around one of those places that I mentioned. So, a loop up to Lyon and back, or a loop around Provence. We are really open to any of those areas because we have never explored this part of France. And we are planning on driving ourselves.

Third, regarding the time of year, I'm faculty at a college and my husband is a director of a secondary school and so we are not very flexible as to when we can make this trip. Yes, May would have been lovely but it's right in the middle of the semester and thus impossible for us to leave then. So we are in this weird Spring Break, late-March time. I haven't been able to find much information about what the skiing would be like (is the snow horrible by then?) or the hiking would be like (too muddy and snowy?), since it would be during the shoulder season for these activities. So, would our best bet be to just embrace the the cold weather and go to the mountains and ski? Or alternately we could go where it would be warmer. We have thought about Mallorca, but that is less exciting for me than some of the other places, for a variety of reasons. And we don't want this to be JUST a ski trip or JUST a beach trip. My husband is from Alaska and we live in Oregon now, so we have a high rain and snow threshold, but maybe some places are better than others, weather-wise, during this time of year. But who knows what to expect with the weather anymore...

As I mentioned, we are just hoping to narrow it down a little bit, taking into account our specific situation. I will definitely look into your suggestions, Kja, and thank you very much for your itineraries, Stu. Any other comments or advice will be greatly appreciated!

Schalke
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Old Aug 21st, 2019, 07:28 PM
  #7  
kja
 
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Originally Posted by Schalke View Post
we are from the western US... we are planning on driving ourselves.
OK, then, first and foremost you need to spend your first night or two in Barcelona or somewhere you can get to by public transportation. Although many people are not aware of it, there is mounting evidence that driving with jet lag is just as dangerous -- to yourself and others -- as driving drunk, and nothing you can do will prevent the microsleeps (which you might not even notice) that are the apparent culprit. Seriously -- NOT a good idea, no matter your other constraints and no matter your prior experience and no matter whether you sleep on your flights or not!

Originally Posted by Schalke View Post
would our best bet be to just embrace the the cold weather and go to the mountains and ski? Or alternately we could go where it would be warmer.
Sounds like you know the choice you need to make!

Originally Posted by Schalke View Post
we don't want this to be JUST a ski trip or JUST a beach trip.
There's no reason why your trip should be like that -- you have an incredible range of options for skiing in places that also offer a treasure trove of other opportunities; likewise for at least some beach options.
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Old Aug 21st, 2019, 09:16 PM
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Don't "loop" around anything. Go to 1-3 spots and stay in each for 3-4 days (gee - that eliminates the 3 spots). We have been traveling to France for 2 months every year since 1999. Before that, about 3 weeks every other year. We learned early that spending time on the road (especially in March) is a waste of time - unless you are traveling on a scenic road. But an itinerary that includes Lyon, Annecy, Alps, Provence - from Barcelona allows only travel on non-scenic Autoroutes with limited exits. So " we don't mind driving three or four hours to a midpoint, spending the evening, morning and early afternoon there, and then go another three or four hours to our final destination" is a waste of limited time. Don't make the mistake we made in 1978 and try to cover large distances. You will "whiz by" more A+ sites getting to the next site than you could imagine. You could easily spend all 10 days (is it really 10 days or only 8-9) in the Dordogne and get your fill of A sites.

Attached is my Lyon & Alps itinerary
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Lyon.doc (26.0 KB, 20 views)
File Type: doc
Alps.doc (68.5 KB, 22 views)
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Old Aug 22nd, 2019, 01:53 AM
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Since you are arriving and leaving from Barcelona, and want to ski why not visit the Pyrenees rather than the Alps?
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Old Aug 22nd, 2019, 03:23 AM
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From Barcelona you can easily enjoy both the Pyrenées for skiing and coastal Languedoc-Roussillon for beaches (though in March it won't be warm). One of our favorite trips was a week up in the Pyrenées in Amélie-les-Bains followed by a week in Collioure and Narbonne.
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Old Aug 22nd, 2019, 11:39 AM
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If your 10 days is total time away from home, you need to subtract your two travel days, so 8 days on the ground, and since you are going in and out of Barcelona need to allow a day on either end to be there for flight arrival/departure. So really your "10 days" is more like 6 days as far as choosing another place or two to go.
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Old Aug 22nd, 2019, 11:46 AM
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Thank you all so much for the great suggestions! We are looking a little more closely at the Languedoc-Roussillon region for the first part of our trip (after we get rested up, Kja. Very good advice! Yes, we'll be spending two nights and a full day in BCN before we venture out!). And skiing in the Pyrenees makes more sense, if we choose to take a day to ski. The snow quality is something that we'd have to look into as the time gets closer. Does anyone have any suggestions for a home base in the Languedoc-Roussillon region? Would Montepellier be a good place to stay for three days? Or do you have another city/town in which you would prefer to be based out of? And then are there any surrounding towns or areas that you loved or were pleasant surprises during any of your travels? Many of the guidebooks that I'm consulting skip over that coastal region all together as a must-see area, (which is just fine by me!), but I'd appreciate any first-hand experiences for those of you who are familiar with the area. Thanks again for your thoughtful replies!
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Old Aug 22nd, 2019, 12:00 PM
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Don't use Montpellier as a base. Traffic (even taxis) is not allowed in the center of town - so getting in & out by car is difficult. If you want to ski & be closer to Barcelona - consider Ceret. It is a smaller town with a few restaurants, and plenty to do in the area. Maybe stay there 2-3 nights. Then move on to the Gorges du Tarn. Perhaps stay in a castle. http://www.chateaudelacaze.com/ .
See my itinerary for stuff to do & see around Ceret and the Gorges du Tarn.

Stu Dudley
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Old Aug 22nd, 2019, 12:42 PM
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Ditto to Stu's recommendation of Ceret, just east of Amelie-les-Bains. We've also used it as a base to explore Roussillon and found it charming. It's about a 40-minute drive west of Collioure, if you want to reach a beach and artists' colony on the sea.

In Ceret we stayed at the family-run and really lovely le Mas Trilles. We stayed in the Grande Terrasse room. Boutique Hotel in Céret (south of France)
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Old Aug 23rd, 2019, 02:26 AM
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Just to completely throw you!

You could have a couple of nights in Barcelona, then get a cheap flight ( Easyjet) to Nice to see your friends.

To the north of Nice there are some small ski resorts: main ones - Isola 200-, Auron, Valberg/ Beuil, Limone (just over the border in Italy); smaller - Roubion, La Colmiane, Greoliere. The main ones can be accessed by a special bus from Nice ( around 10e return) or train ( Limone). By public transport they are around two and a half hours or so from Nice.

They are not huge resorts like the Northern alpine ones but benefit from having fewer people and are quite pleasant ( Isola is a bit ugly as a resort but the skiing is the most extensive in the area).

The snow should be reasonable early March but will, like most European ski resorts, get progressively softer the later you go.

It is not something that many tourists going to Nice know about but this might help solve some of your issues - Barca for a couple nights , Nice/ area/ ski/ for? , fly back to Barca.

Worth considering.

PS the hiking opportunies in the area are also good as March a good month there temperature wise.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2019, 02:35 AM
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Just noticed the dates of your trip: last 10 days in March - not the best time for skiing in Europe unless you go high. Of the resorts I mentioned in my previous post - Isola 2000, base at 1800m, is the highest in the area and has a very good snow holding record considering it is so far south ( you can see the mediterranean from the top of one of the runs!). It is the most popular resort for that reason. The resort buildings are ugly 70's concrete affairs; howevr, the skiiing is good and the backdrop of mountains attarctive. Certainly a good resort for a a day trip if not the most attractive resort to stay in, for that Valberg/Beuil and Limone are better.
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