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Preliminary itinerary: Paris, southern France and Barcelona

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Preliminary itinerary: Paris, southern France and Barcelona

Old Jan 15th, 2008, 05:50 AM
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Preliminary itinerary: Paris, southern France and Barcelona

My husband and I are struggling with where to go in October (2 weeks)since there are too many choices; too many places that we haven't been.

Italy is usually our destination of choice but Paris is always calling. Here's the thought of the moment, please weigh in with suggestions.

* 1 week in Paris - renting an apt. This will be our 3rd visit.

* Rent a car and drive south to Aix or some other town (need recommendation).

* We would like to spend 3 days visiting small towns between Paris and the coast, any specific villages might make a good home base?

* Drop the car off in Aix or Marseille and fly or train to Barcelona for 4 days. Fly home from Barcelona.

* I know that some will say that might be doing too much but we've been trying to get to Spain for years (Italy keeps winning the destination argument) and this might give us a tiny taste of what we've been missing.

So - I don't necessarily need to talk budget right now, just general itinerary...what do you think?
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 06:25 AM
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If I were you I would stick with Spain. Paris is my all-time favorite European city and I lived in Italy for 3 year, so I'm a big fan of Italy as well, but my husband and I spent 10 days in Spain last summer and had one of our best vacations. It was absolutely amazing! The food, the people, the weather, the scenery- everything was great. It's hard to describe, but I feel like Spain had such a good vibe. I say if you haven't been you should try something new!

We flew into Barcelona, spent a few days there, took a cheap flight to Sevilla, few days there, rented a car and drove to Grananda, then from Granada drove to Madrid and we flew out of Madrid. The driving in Spain was really easy and the plane ticket within Spain was reasonable, so it was very easy to get around.

I thought our itinerary worked out really well. There were some other little towns in southern Spain I would have loved to have seen, but we ran out of time. If you do go to Spain make sure and go to Granada. La Alhambra is one of the most amazing places I've ever been.
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 06:37 AM
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Do you have a trip report you can share? What time of year did you go?
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 06:52 AM
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On your proposed itinerary, it would be better to take the TGV south to Aix or Avignon and then pick up a rental car. You can get cheap PREM tickets for the TGV if you buy early (and you can print them out at home).

You then can tour Provence for a few days, then maybe train from Marseilles to Barcelona.
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 06:57 AM
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Sandi,

I agree with those who have suggested you spend the entire trip in Spain. If you can rent an apartment in Barcelona, you will find that it is a wonderful city and, in October, is likely to have far better weather than Paris. According to an article in National Geographic Traveler, a good tour guide can be engaged at www.hithisisbarcelona.com.

When you are ready to leave Barcelona, there is good train service to Madrid or, my favorite, Valencia. If you are going to drive, you can pick up a car from any of the majors at the Sants train station and save the airport pickup fee. Getting out of town is not difficult, particularly in the morning when you are going against traffic.

If you are driving, it is not necessary to go far to have an interesting and relaxing trip. Girona is only a two hour drive and the Costa Brava and Navarra are filled with interesting and historic towns. We are particularly fond of the Paradors at Aigua Blava (on the coast) and Cardona.

If you choose to drive southwest, the Parador at Tortosa is built on the grounds of a roman fort of 200 BC, and last occupied by Catalans in the 15th century.

Incidentally, even though there are few bargains in Europe, thanks to the weak dollar, we found Spain still to be far less costly than France or Italy.
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 07:04 AM
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Interesting that there's no one weighing in for a France only option....
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 07:15 AM
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I'll throw in my two cents - my husband and I did a trip - Barcelona, Arles and Paris - we only had 10 days but it worked for us. If we had a bit longer we were going to add Collioure. We did the trip by train. I guress my comment would be that if this is your 3rd visit to Paris, you might want to shorten that part a bit. There is alot to do and see in Barcelona and I assume you are planning to split So. France and Barcelona into just a week. We enjoyed our time in Arles - it was a good base, not too small / not too big - I would think from there you could visit Avingnon, Nimes, maybe Carcassonne and the Carmouge. We love Italy too but our trips to Spain and France have been winners too - Northern Europe holds few charms for us. Have a wonderful trip!
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 07:31 AM
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So you plans look like this:

7 days in Paris
3 days driving to Aix (not that interesting of a drive, IMO)
0 days in Provence (Aix would not be my choice as a base)
1 lost day getting to Barcelona
4 days in Barcelona

That's 15 days - with 0 days in Provence.

Personally, I would do a Dordogne & Provence trip, or an all Spain one like others have suggested.

Stu Dudley
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 07:56 AM
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It takes 3 days to drive to Aix? I thought it was about a 7 hr drive.

I will discuss this tonight w/ my husband but we might be willing to give up a couple of days in Paris.

If we were to leave on Sat. October 4

arrive Paris Sunday Oct5
Oct 5-9 Paris (4 nights)
Oct 9-train to Aix (since the drive isn't that great)
Oct 9-12 in S.France (pick up car in Aix)4 nights
Oct 13 train to Barcelona
Oct 13-17 Barcelona (5 nights)
Leave on Oct 18

We still may be leaning towards getting a little taste of southern France since we've only been to Paris, before getting to Barcelona. Still some time to ponder....

Thanks everyone for your comments.



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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 08:24 AM
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Spain kinda makes me yawn. I know that's an unpopular view, but it is what it is.

I agree with Stu, though. Make it a Dordogne-Provence trip or an all-Spain trip.

Also agree take the TGV to Provence from Paris instead of driving. No, it's not a 3-day drive (!!!!), but it's a pretty boring 7-hour one, and you can be there in under 3 hours on the TGV.
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 08:24 AM
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My recommendation would be making Avignon as a base for Provence, not Aix.

1) The distance Paris-Avignon is shorter than Paris-Aix.
2) The distance Avignon-Barcelona is shorter than Aix-Barcelona.

In Avignon - which is a very attractive city - you are in the midst of things:

- Pont du Gard
- Arles
- Nimes
- Orange
- Vaison-la-Romaine
- Les Antiques
- Les Baux
- Aigues-Mortes
- Camargue
- Mont Ventoux

I strongly suggest to rent a car there.

You can reach BCN by car or by train.
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 08:35 AM
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>>* Rent a car and drive south to Aix or some other town (need recommendation).

* We would like to spend 3 days visiting small towns between Paris and the coast, any specific villages might make a good home base?

* Drop the car off in Aix or Marseille and fly or train to Barcelona for 4 days. Fly home from Barcelona.<<

I intrepreted this to mean you wanted to take three days getting from Paris to Aix, & visit small towns on the way.

We spend 2 months in variious areas of France each year.

Here is what I dould do:

4-5 nights in Paris

Take the 3 hr TGV to Avignon (not Aix)

5-6 nights in St Remy or Gordes. Visit mostly small villages, Roman ruins, & beautiful countryside. With Paris & Barcelona, you'll be spending lots of time in large cities - no need to spend any time in large cities in the south (except Montpellier to catch a train - see next)

1 afternoon & night in Montpellier (adjacent to Provence). I enjoy Montpellier as much as Aix or Avignon.

Take the 7:26am train from Montpellier to Barcelona that arrives at 11:46am (0 train changes).

3-4 nights in Barcelona. I would run out of things to do with 5 nights.

Stu Dudley
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 08:54 AM
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oh boy, oh boy....I'm all a tingle....
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 09:08 AM
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I agree with Stu on this one. We drove through Southern France then on to Barcelona along the coast and I wish we would have spent more time in Provence and less in Barcelona.

In my opinion, you could do Barcelona proper in three days.
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 09:33 AM
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I totally disagree with PP. Loved Barcelona ( stayed 8 days) and going back in the fall.
Small towns in Provence are not my cup of tea.
I would stay in Paris, fly to Nice from Orley , drive around the Cote ( Antibes, Eze,
Cannses etc) for a few days, and fly
Vueling from Nice to Barcelona.
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 02:20 PM
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topping for any add'l comments
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Old Jan 15th, 2008, 04:16 PM
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I like Stu's itinerary, with a palette-cleansing coutryside base between the large cities. TGV to Avignon, pick up a car - no question in my mind.

I also happen to love Barcelona and Montpelier.

Avignon is great for a day trip (Papal Palace, etc), though I did not particularly enjoy driving in and out of it.

If you are planning to come back, I would save Côte d’Azur and Eastern Provence for another time.

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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 05:07 AM
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enroute - what did you not like about driving in the area?
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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 06:51 AM
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Another vote for Stu's itinerary. I wouldn't think Avignon a good base for daytrips. Too hard to drive in and out and to park. Ditto Aix, though I like it better to visit. Of course, you can stay on the outskirts; but then you could be staying anywhere. Plus you expressed an interest in small towns.
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Old Jan 16th, 2008, 07:29 AM
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I've driven in & out of Avignon dozens of times & it's something that I don't enjoy. My main complaint is that you're passing urban sprawl, lots of low-cost housing, unsightful 5 story apt buildings, ugly commerce, etc - not the image of Provence that you want to experience. We had difficulty parking this past June. We usually park in the train station lot, but we missed the turn & headed down the wrong street.

Navigation isn't that difficult if you have a good map, but I have one & still got lost heading west towards Uzes from the TGV station. I also got lost once heading to St Remy from the (non TGV) train station.

Stu Dudley
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