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planning a trip for my parents - barcelona, provence, and paris - HELP!

planning a trip for my parents - barcelona, provence, and paris - HELP!

Old Oct 18th, 2008, 03:48 PM
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planning a trip for my parents - barcelona, provence, and paris - HELP!

hi fodorites,

i've only been home for a week and now i'm planning a trip for my parents!

my brother and i are in the VERY early planning stages (and we're also trying to do this as a gift so they may just balk at the idea and change things entirely)...

we're thinking about the following itinerary:

barcelona - 4 nights
provence - 4 nights
paris - 5 nights

we'd like to get an open-jaw flight ... from toronto to barcelona and from CDG to toronto ...

background: my parents are 65 and 63 years old, respectively. they are fairly active (i.e. walking around town all day would be fine by them). they DO NOT have adventurous palates (they would die if they knew how much 'street food' i ate at all the markets on my recent trip!). as a family, we used to travel each year ... my parents haven't traveled for a while now but they're not total newbies.

some logistical questions (we've never been to spain but as a family we went to france when we were kids and i just returned from two weeks in paris/provence with DH)...

1. is a rental car required in barcelona? (i'm guesing the answer is NO but just want to be sure).

2. what is the pickpocket/petty crime scene like in barcelona? i'm concerned b/c my parents are asian and my dad LOVES to wander around with his honking camera hanging from his neck ... which screams "i'm a tourist"!!!

3. how can we get my parents from barcelona to provence (i'm thinking avignon) efficiently? i've read through a couple of threads and the train option doesn't seem that smooth. while they're still active in their retirement, i don't want my parents having to schlepp their bags from train to train if it can be helped.

thanks fodorites!!!

lilaki
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Old Oct 18th, 2008, 07:13 PM
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I haven't been there, but from what I've read on here, Barcelona is somewhat above average in expected pickpocketing, etc., which I believe, so I think they are going to have to be careful there.

As for traveling from Barcelona to Provence, I don't think there is any way that is not going to require some kind of transfer (whether air or train), so they are going to have to move their bags. The train will just take longer. You will not find a nonstop flight from Barcelona to Avignon.

They could fly nonstop from Barcelona to Nice, but no where else in Provence that I know of. So maybe they could fly into Lyon, but they would still have to then take a train to Avignon or wherever (as well as transferring from the airport to the train station), so I think the train would probably be the option requiring the least dealing with luggage, unless they are happy just going to Nice.

You can get a train with only one transfer, probably Montpellier.
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Old Oct 19th, 2008, 06:45 AM
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My husband and I are the same age as your parents and recently returned from a 2 week trip that included Barcelona. Wish my kids had been so kind as to want to surprise us with this experience! We stayed in an apartent in Barcelona (Habitat Apartments) in the Eixample district and walked the 15 minutes to city center regularly or took the subway. It was easy, well lit, and never had or saw any reason to be concerned for our safety. To be safe we always use money belts but I carry a day pack with camera and food and maps and never felt someone was eyeing my stuff. But areas like the Las Ramblas scream pickpockets so you just have to use good judgment when in those situations. I must say I was a little worried after reading all the concerns about pickpockets in larger cities but we found BCN, Seville and Granada to be safe even if we were walking late a night. I think your parents will love this!
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Old Oct 19th, 2008, 07:52 AM
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Lilaki -

Getting from Barcelona to Provence isn't the easiest. One day when the TGV is finally extended all the way into Spain it will be a relative breeze. In the meantime, the easiest way (timewise) to do it (and probably the cheapest) is actually to fly from Barcelona to Lyon and then take the TGV to Avignon (or drive if they would be renting a car anyway).

I am pretty sure that Easyjet does the Barcelona/Lyon route. And the TGV station is right in the airport in Lyon so a very easy transfer as these things go...

-Kevin
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Old Oct 19th, 2008, 07:58 AM
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Hi lovely of you to do this! I can address a couple of your issues.

Hub and I (early 60s and I was having breathing issues) went from Barcelona to Montpellier to Nice by train. Each city was a base for other train or van tour travel.

In Barcelona, we stayed further afield but travelled easily by metro to city center. Other Fodorites can help with closer-in hotels. We travelled in March. Never had any issues with theft or people who looked "iffy" but we don't flaunt and are careful.

The train we took was at a separte station so make certain your folks ask for the correct station if they take the train. Barcelona to Montpellier train was a straight shot. The change to Nice wasn't a factor for us. I will tell you that the Montpellier train station was perfect for my breathing issues-escalators everywhere-so changing to Nice probably wouldn't be a hassle.

We went by train to Avignon and Arles when we were in Montpellier.
I'll have to check the name of our hotel but it was sooooo convenient to the big plaza.

Our hotel in Nice (again, I'll have to send info separately) was a little too far from beach but a reasonable walk to train station. They had many van tours available that picked up at the hotel. My breathing made these vital as van went right to the entrances of most sites-some of which were quite hilly. We enjoyed tour with Monaco (casino and changing of the guard); St. Paul de Vence; Eze; a perfume factory; old Nice; and Cannes-way more than we could have managed on our own.
More to come.
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Old Oct 19th, 2008, 08:16 AM
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Train station in Barcelona was
Estacioz de Francia-it wasn't the main station;
New Hotel Du Midi was hotel in Montpellier. Also there is a great tram system in Montpellier;
and
Gounod Hotel in Nice and it was about equidistance (10-15 min.) to beach and gare. I wished we were closer to old Nice-it was very charming area. Believe there is a tram in Nice now.

My advice is to check the areas and see what you think your parents would like the most. For me, I'd take one night from Barcelona and add it to Provence.
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Old Oct 19th, 2008, 08:23 AM
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Hi lilaki

1) No rental car is needed in Barcelona. If they stay near center of town, they can walk to most places easily, but obviously will also need to take the metro a couple of times.

2) Barcelona IS known for pickpokets. I've read numerous reports here on Fodors over the years. When I was there in Feb, the hotel I stayed at even gave me a "safety check-list" when I arrived, listing all the scams and "suspicious" activities I need to be aware of. Having said that, the best option would be have your parents each have a money belt worn underneath their clothes. What I did was have just enough cash I'd need for the day handy in my daybag, and everything else goes into the money belt. So even if my "day money" got stolen, I'd still have my ATM card and the rest of cash with me.
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Old Oct 19th, 2008, 08:28 AM
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we visited Barcelona twice and felt absolutely safe . It is a wonderful city, easy to walk around, with excellent public transit. Don't even think about renting a car~!
Vueling has flights from Barcelona to Nice (and Paris).
Provence is a big place so it might be an idea to stay on the cost ( rent a car in Nice?) .
Depending on your parents' interest, ability to find their way in big cities , tolerance for jet -lag etc, your plan may be a bit too ambitious.
I would stick to Paris and Barcelona
with some side trips.
(rents apts. in both cities - much more comfortable than tiny hotel rooms.
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Old Oct 19th, 2008, 10:05 AM
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Your trip report on Provence did not include the Cote d'Azur, so I assume that you are planning a visit for your parents to the same area in Provence that you visited. Therefore, flying to Nice or Lyon would also include either a taxi to the Lyon Part Dieu train station & a train trip to Avignon, or a 2 1/2 hr trip by car from Nice.
I did not check current train schedules, but there was a once-a-day no-train-change train from Barcelona to Montpellier. TDudette gave you some info on this. Check for details on this site
http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en

The Montpellier station is a breeze, and I would pick up a car there & drive to your destination in Provence. From past posts, someone mentioned that this direct train from Barcelona to Montpellier really has a train change because of different train track configurations in Spain vs France - perhaps TDudette can comment on that.

Stu Dudley
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Old Oct 19th, 2008, 11:58 AM
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hi fodorites,

wow - thanks so much for all of the info!!

there's lots to think about so i'll review this with my brother and then figure something out.

i'll let you all know how it goes!

thanks again!

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Old Oct 19th, 2008, 12:03 PM
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Stu -

The TGV station is right in the airport in Lyon, so no taxi would be required. I only realized this recently when I went to pick my folks up (returning from Venice) and realized I could easily have got them on a train down to Avignon.

Turned out OK as I went up early and made a great day of it in Lyon.

-Kevin

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Old Oct 19th, 2008, 01:37 PM
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The train we took was fairly early in the day (8 or 8:30?).
The only thing that changed was the language of the announcements-Spanish, Catalan and French to Spanish and French to French!

It has been 2 years and things do change but I've never heard of the guages being different between Spain and France.
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Old Oct 19th, 2008, 06:22 PM
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Thanks, kevin - I didn't know that.

TDudette. I've never taken that train, but others have said there is a needed train change because of some physical condition - I just assumed it was because of the track. Just to confirm, did you personally take the train and you did not have to get out just across the French border & switch trains??

Stu Dudley
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Old Oct 19th, 2008, 08:30 PM
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"Train station in Barcelona was
Estacioz de Francia-it wasn't the main station"

My husband and I personally took the train I described. We did not change trains between Barcelona and Montpellier.

We travelled to Nice a few days later.
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Old Oct 19th, 2008, 10:04 PM
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Thanks, TDudette

Stu Dudley (hey - our names are pretty close)
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Old Oct 19th, 2008, 10:08 PM
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We took the same train, called the Talgo, from Barcelona to Perpignan, France in 2007. You do NOT change trains at the border. The train is specially-made so that the wheels can be moved from the Spanish gauge width to the French gauge. The train stopped for a few minutes at or near the border, then moved on; we assumed they were making the change then.

The Talgo is a semi-high-speed train, which does leave from the "other" station (or did in 2007) Franca, near the ocean. As I recall, it only runs a few times at day.
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Old Oct 20th, 2008, 11:12 AM
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How cool to learn about the rails, Lexma90! Thanks alot. That is one area where one would think industry standard!

Yes, Stu-never realized it until the names appeared near each other!
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Old Oct 20th, 2008, 12:28 PM
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hi fodorites,

sigh ... well, my parents didn't totally balk at the idea of the trip we had planned ... but they didn't exactly go for it either!

they liked the idea of an open jaw ticket ... but it sounds like they're more interested in rome and want to skip france entirely.

they're going to think about it over the next few weeks and then let my brother and i know what they decide ...

thanks to all for the information! i'm tempted to make this original trip my next vacation!
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Old Oct 20th, 2008, 12:29 PM
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If you want to start a thread about places to go in Roma, betcha get lots more advice!

Have your parents visited there before?
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Old Oct 20th, 2008, 12:44 PM
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hi tdudette,

yep, my parents have been to rome before. they took us to europe for a summer when we were kids. oddly, all of our luggage was stolen out of our car in rome and my parents want to go back. clearly, the experience has left me more scarred because i'm very reluctant to go back to rome!!!

i'll wait till my parents figure out where they want to go and for how long ... and i'll post back with another thread. everyone is so helpful here!!
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