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Southern France itinerary suggestions


Apr 22nd, 2016, 02:08 PM
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Southern France itinerary suggestions

We have itinerary questions for an upcoming trip to Spain and France. We begin the trip with a 14-day organized bike ride of the Camino de Santiago ending in Santiago de Compostela. We plan to spend two more weeks in France after this ride. We will be flying home from Toulouse.
Here is our itinerary so far:
June 17 – 30: Cycling tour of the Camino de Santiago.
July 1: Rent a car and drive from Santiago de Compostela to San Sebastian
July 1 – 3: Three nights in San Sebastian
July 4: Scenic drive to Basque villages. End the day in Argeles-Gazost
July 4 – 7: Four nights in Argeles – Gazost, as base for seeing the Pyrenees National Park and Gavernie
July 8 -15: ???
July 15: Toulouse
July 16: Fly home from Toulouse
We have not settled on what to do from July 8 – 15.
Here are three options we are considering.
1. Continue east to Foix, Ceret, Collioure up to Carcassonne and Albi, then on to Toulouse
2. Go northwest to Arcachon, over to Bordeaux, down the Lot River and on to Toulouse. (We were in the Dordogne Sarlat area two years ago so we don’t want to go there this time.)
3. Drive east to Montpellier, Gorge du Tarn, Lot River, Albi, then to Toulouse.

Any opinions and suggestions are welcome.
Thank you.
shellbell1 is offline  
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Apr 22nd, 2016, 02:14 PM
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Well how much does it cost to pick up a car in Spain and return it in France (Spanish law dictates I believe if you need glasses on your license to drive that you have a spare pair of spectacles with you - there are roadside checks for titles, etc and they could ask that.

If a steep drop-off fee rent two cars - one in Spain and the other in Hendaye, a short train ride from Donostia (San Sebastian) as local Basques prefer it to be called.

Whatever you do keep the Cirque de Gavernie in - can take pony rides around the natural amphitheatre I believe unless changed since I went there- we hiked around.
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Apr 22nd, 2016, 02:20 PM
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If you have access to a toll free number for Autoeurope, they can answer all of your questions.
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Apr 22nd, 2016, 03:10 PM
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Regarding your three options, it is really a hard choice. And I am afraid, we cannot really help you, because it is a matter of YOUR personal preferences.

Option 1 is focused on picturesque historic towns and castles. It includes some of the best ones.

Option 2 is recommendable if you are interested in gorgeous beaches, dunes and maybe some swimming. And a special wine experience. The Côte d'Argent is breathtakingly beautiful if you love silvery sand, surf and if it appeals to to climb one of Europe's tallest dunes. Also, you have the chance to see some of the world's most famous wineries.

Option 3 is maybe the least appealing choice. Gorge du Tarn IS dramatic, but you will have seen a lot of of scenery if you arrive there. I consider Montpellier not as a number one city, although I have been there half a dozen times. But you may visit Nîmes, which has the best Roman archeology in France, if not the world (probably the best-conserved amphitheatre at all and one of the best-conserved Roman temples at all).
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Apr 22nd, 2016, 03:18 PM
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All of those three options are fantastic. We've spent a considerable amount of time in all of the areas you are considering.

I might "map out" a combination of #1 & #3. It seems that you have 7 night to work with.

- Drive to Foix and spend 2 nights in that area. Take the Route Verte to Foix and see some of the caves, and wonderful museums around Foix.

Most of the places below are described on this web site

Visit the Parc de la Prehistoric ** Open 10-8. When you get to the ticket booth, reserve the Grotte de Niaux for some later day or time. Reserve an English tour. There is a discount for both the Parc Prehistoric and the Grotte. The Parc Prehistoric, especially the museum, is fantastic - we spent several hours visiting this new complex. don't miss.

Grotte de Niaux** 1 tour per day in English.

Underground river of Labouiche* 9:30-4:30 1 ¼ hr boat tour. This was a lot more interesting than I thought it would be.

Les Forges de Pyrene* 10-7 This has medieval tools - quite interesting.

Grotte de Mas d’Azil ** open 10-6 45 min guided tour.

- Drive to the Ceret/Collioure area and spend 2 nights there. From Foix, take the D117 to Quillan, past Axat and then the very scenic section to the St Paul de Fenouillet. Then swing north to the Cathars castles of Peyrepertuse & Queribus, then on to Ceret or Colloiure. Visit Villafranche de Conflent while in this region.

- Head north on the Autoroute & drive 1 1/2 hrs to Carcassonne & visit for 3 hrs. Then backtrack on the Autoroute 1 1/4 hrs to Pezenas for a visit. Then 1 1/2 hrs into the Gorges du Tarn for 3 nights. Stay near/in Le Rozier.

Visit more caves - the ones in this area have stalactites & mites - unlike the pre-historic paintings at Grotte de Niaux & Azil. If you "saw your fill" of caves in the Dordogne - then only see a few near Foix & in the Tarn gorges. The ones in the Tarn have better stalactites & mites than any in the Dordogne, IMO. Obviously, take many drives through the gorges.

- Drive 2 1/4 hrs to Albi for a 4-6 hr visit. Then 1 hr to Toulouse.

Stu Dudley
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Apr 22nd, 2016, 03:26 PM
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I agree with traveller1959 about skipping Montpellier on this trip - especially if you are going to spend your last day in Toulouse - which is our second favorite city in France. That's why I excluded it.

Stu Dudley
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Apr 22nd, 2016, 05:15 PM
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Thank you for the great responses.
PalenQ, good point about renting a car in Spain and returning in France. We checked and found it is much more economical to return the Spain car and rent another in France. We will definitely keep Cirque de Gavernie.
RonZ we will check out AutoEurope.

Traveler1959, your synopsis of the three options is very good.
StuDudley, thank you for the suggestions for combining options #1 and #3. It is really helpful because I wanted do both but couldn't figure out how to make it work. Thank you also for emailing me both your Languedoc and Dordogne itineraries, which are both awesome.

I think we will eliminate Montpellier and option #2 for this trip.
Thank you.
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