Spain & France Trip Itinerary

Old Feb 11th, 2021, 04:52 PM
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Spain & France Trip Itinerary

Planning a trip to Spain and France in May/June 2022. My wife and I are 60ish and both very active. I have been to Spain before (20 years ago) and my wife has not. Neither of us has been to France. We are foodies, wife is a chef, and wine lovers. Much of the trip will be centered around this, but we love history, architecture, wandering aimlessly and people watching. We will probably fly out of either Atlanta, which is the closest major airport to us, or maybe NY, depending on what type of deal we can get on business or 1st class tickets. Here is my initial itinerary thoughts. Would love any and all comments. Is very hard to get hotel rates right now due to covid, so please make recommendations. Not into 5 star hotels, and prefer to stay in old city centers
Day 1- Fly to Barcelona
Days 2,3,4,&5- Barcelona (possible cooking class, lots of tapas and wine, major sites)
Day 6- Train to San Sebastian
Days 7,8,& 9- San Sebastian (another cooking class, lots of pinxtos and wine)
Day 10- Rent car, drive to Laguardia
Days 11,12,13 & 14- Laguardia- as a base for winery tours
Day 15- Back to San Sebastian and train to Bordeaux France
Days 16, 17,18,19- Bordeaux- as a base for wine tours and because I have fallen in love with Bordeaux from what I have seen and read on the internet)
Day 20- Train to Paris
Days 21,22,23,24- Paris
Day 25- Fly home

Thanks in advance for your responses
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Old Feb 11th, 2021, 05:39 PM
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Nice plan, especially the 2022 date. You have successfully avoided short stays and an expensive cross-border car rental. My only mild criticism comes from my experience also as a wine aficionado and foodie, with similar itineraries albeit in other wine regions. You seem to be expecting to do many winery tours. After the third tour consisting of a look at the vines, seeing vats and barrels in buildings and cellars, followed by a taste or two, you have seen everything everywhere. Yes, a champagne winery or a port distillery will be different, but that's it. Now, should a winery have a tour of a nice chateau, that would be a different matter.

So, as you plan consider what else you will have to do in wine country besides wine. Perhaps some flexibility will serve you well. And any days shortened in the middle of your trip could be added to Paris.
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Old Feb 11th, 2021, 05:54 PM
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Originally Posted by AJPeabody View Post
Nice plan, especially the 2022 date. You have successfully avoided short stays and an expensive cross-border car rental. My only mild criticism comes from my experience also as a wine aficionado and foodie, with similar itineraries albeit in other wine regions. You seem to be expecting to do many winery tours. After the third tour consisting of a look at the vines, seeing vats and barrels in buildings and cellars, followed by a taste or two, you have seen everything everywhere. Yes, a champagne winery or a port distillery will be different, but that's it. Now, should a winery have a tour of a nice chateau, that would be a different matter.

So, as you plan consider what else you will have to do in wine country besides wine. Perhaps some flexibility will serve you well. And any days shortened in the middle of your trip could be added to Paris.
Thanks for your input
Only planning 2 days at wineries while in Roja and 2 days at wineries while in Bordeaux. Rest of time will be for sightseeing, wandering, relaxing.
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Old Feb 11th, 2021, 07:36 PM
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Tapas aren't native to Barcelona. Just like the Flamenco you'll find isn't really local. Tapas are more a Seville thing.

Right now not much point even thinking about hotels. Who know which will manage to survive.
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Old Feb 12th, 2021, 12:13 AM
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In Bordeaux you might be interested in this shop for cognac: COGNAC ONLY - BOUTIQUE

Near the Opéra there are several tasting rooms that will offer Bordeaux wines from a wide variety of vintners.

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Old Feb 12th, 2021, 04:43 AM
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I have a diploma in wnie appreciation and spend a fair few holidays in both the areas you mention. In Barcelona the likes of Torres and Freixenet (lots of Cava production in their town) are walk ups and are easy to access by train (Torres needs a short walk or taxi).

Rioja the visits nearly always need a booking (they will have English tours), while walk-ups are tricky to find you can but a bit of a waste of holiday time. I like Haro as a centre but your suggestion is fine. You will need a car to access most. You will also find that Spanish bars often sell Grand Reservas at dirt cheap prices so don't ignore the seediest bar, it often has treasure inside.

Bordeaux area is a fair bit more complicated. Yes there are tourist tastings around the place but if you want the real deal then you need a serious booking especially if you want to visit any of the 5th growths, serious booking at the best needs a recommendation from your wine wholesaler If you do a tour you will be dragged around the usual tourist sites with long stays in the chateau shop.

Food; you will not go hungry.
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Old Feb 12th, 2021, 09:23 PM
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I would rent the car in Barcelona and drive to the Rioja. I am guessing you mean Logrońo? After leaving Barcelona, you could taste wine near Lleida at Castell de Remei.. They have a finca you may be able to stay in.

https://www.castelldelremei.com/en/

I think 2 or 3 nights are plenty in the Rioja. We stayed in Abalos at Hotel Villa de Abalos. It is a very small town, but we could walk to several small wineries for tasting. My husband is a wine grape grower, and the next morning he went with the hotel owner to look at vineyards.

https://hotelvilladeabalos.com/en/

From there, I would head to San Sebastián and drop your car.

You can check my trip report from 2006. It is old but may be helpful.

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Old Feb 15th, 2021, 05:23 PM
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I went to Spain a few years ago and had a wonderful time! Barcelona was especially fun. The historic Gothic Quarter would check off a lot of your boxes. Then of course there's the Sagrada Familia. A walk down Las Ramblas is full of endless nooks and crannies to discover with many cafes for people watching. There are some seranno ham tasting experiences that you may be interested in. I hope you enjoy your trip!
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Old Feb 16th, 2021, 08:05 PM
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Originally Posted by amybeers7778 View Post
I went to Spain a few years ago and had a wonderful time! Barcelona was especially fun. The historic Gothic Quarter would check off a lot of your boxes. Then of course there's the Sagrada Familia. A walk down Las Ramblas is full of endless nooks and crannies to discover with many cafes for people watching. There are some seranno ham tasting experiences that you may be interested in. I hope you enjoy your trip!
Originally Posted by bilboburgler View Post
I have a diploma in wnie appreciation and spend a fair few holidays in both the areas you mention. In Barcelona the likes of Torres and Freixenet (lots of Cava production in their town) are walk ups and are easy to access by train (Torres needs a short walk or taxi).

Rioja the visits nearly always need a booking (they will have English tours), while walk-ups are tricky to find you can but a bit of a waste of holiday time. I like Haro as a centre but your suggestion is fine. You will need a car to access most. You will also find that Spanish bars often sell Grand Reservas at dirt cheap prices so don't ignore the seediest bar, it often has treasure inside.

Bordeaux area is a fair bit more complicated. Yes there are tourist tastings around the place but if you want the real deal then you need a serious booking especially if you want to visit any of the 5th growths, serious booking at the best needs a recommendation from your wine wholesaler If you do a tour you will be dragged around the usual tourist sites with long stays in the chateau shop.

Food; you will not go hungry.
Thanks Biloxi
In Barcelona, will probably remain in the city for our stay there. Will need to get over the jet lag, etc.
Can you recommend any good wine bars, been a long time since I was there.
In Rioja, I will have a car. I have looked at Haro, but not sure where I want to base myself yet.
In Bordeaux I know I will need reservations for the wineries. What do you mean by 5th growth. Is that an old growth vine? What are your favorite wineries here and also in Rioja?
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Old Feb 17th, 2021, 03:55 AM
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5th Growth

The core of the best wines in Bordeaux fall into lots of catagories. The most expensive of which are the "Growth" system. This dates back to 187? and while it is possible to change levels (1 to 5) it is very rare. These wines are generally the best that Bordeaux has to offer and the whole practise of selling them is a bit arcane. The actual businesses are very very impressive. I'd have a bit of a read around (wiki will do). Getting into first Growths is just about impossible and tourism can be very constrained all the way down to level 5. In my last visit I stayed in a 5th Growth (now sold to the Chinese) and they rang a friend who rang a friend to get me into some great vinyards.

My favorite Medoc (this a physical region within Bordeaux) has Margaux and Pauillac (mini regions) and within them you will find a fair few Growths. Covid may have knocked tourism back but I'd start by looking at the Pauillac tourism website https://www.france-voyage.com/cities...illac-7547.htm you can email them and ask for what tours they are doing. There is normally someone on duty who speaks good English and their guide leaflets are very good. My favorite???? sorry you have to find your own way as my wallet does not have a favorite. Other visits can be to other subregions of which St Emillion is set up to scalp the tourist best. The incredibly steep walk up from the rail station is lined with luxury. Probably worth the walk for the view, the church and any photo shots from the west wide at the top looking back at the town.

My other interest in this area are sweet white wines. Two sub regions come to mind, 1) the line of such wines as Cadillac, Barsac etc and you can taste pretty well in each town's "Maison du vin", 2) the astounding Monbazillac which is just south of Bergerac (just outside Bordeaux region). The town of Monbazillac is tiny (maybe 100 houses) and the coop owns the Chateau. You have to pay for a tasting (not often the case in France) but worth it to see what they do. There is a Michelin one star in town but cross the road and walk a few paces back into town and there is a real gem "La Maison Vari" of a local lunchtime place offering family cooked food.

Rioja; in the UK Rioja is very cheap and far better value that Bordeaux. Many of the Rioja wine makers are descendants of Bordeaux French who came here after phylloxera hit. Haro does not have any of the spectacular architect design wineries in town (they are more to the east). What it does have is a collection of wineries down by the railhead (literally "down" as the town is up a steep hill above the railway). The best is probably Muga but Lopez de Heredia and Rioja Alta are pretty good too. Haro main square sits on the main street and anywhere on these two areas you can find bars or more tourist focused places. Bars in Haro are more for working men so a bit more toothpicks on the floor and cold chips but the snacks will be clean.

Barcelona Wine Bars. I'd buy the latest Rough Guide, the details on bars are always good.
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Old Feb 17th, 2021, 05:13 AM
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Fifth Growth refers to the 1855 Classification, which is a traditional rating of Bordeaux vineyards. See:
https://www.winespectator.com/articl...ification-3491
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Old Feb 17th, 2021, 09:20 AM
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My long description seems ot have gone into Fodors Purgatory.

Bordeaux makes dry reds and sweet whites (mainly) the best Reds come from Margaux and Pauillac. Easy access from the Pauillac from the Tourist Info office (ggogle it). The better catagories see Peabody link are hard to get into unless you know someone who knows someone. I used to stay in a wine Chateau and get mine host to book me into the better ones.

Sweet wines mainly come from Cadillac or Loupiac along the river where the damp mornings bring out the noble rot. Tastings in the Maisons du vins

Montbazillac south of Bergerac is another type of sweety and you get 3 glasses for about 12 Euro at the Chateau. Lunch is fantastic at La Maison Vare' not Bordeaux but worth a little exploration.

Haro, the area around the railway head houses all the Bodegas. Muga is the obvious star but you might also like Rioja Alta or the Lopez de Heredia'.
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Old Feb 17th, 2021, 10:02 AM
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We did a trip in summer 2016 from NYC to Paris/Bordeaux/Barcelona/Madrid. About 3 or 4 days in each city. Lots to do and see with easy plane and train connections. No driving required. Bordeaux is a particularly easy place to visit with high speed train access to Paris and inexpensive short flights to Barcelona (and probably other places). Likewise, train service between Madrid and Barcelona is a breeze. I know you are interested in the San Sebastian area of France but if you want to consider part of his itinerary, feel free to check out my travel blog post at https://travelfam.wordpress.com/cate...ce-spain-2016/
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Old Feb 18th, 2021, 04:43 AM
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While in San Sebastian, don't forget to visit Bilbao for a day. We loved the vibrancy of the city even more than the beauty of San Sebastian.
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Old Feb 19th, 2021, 02:01 AM
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Many thanks for the detailed info about the Bordeaux and Rioja regions bilbo. High up on my wishlist for late spring 2022, bookmarked! 👍
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Old Feb 19th, 2021, 03:30 PM
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My husband and I had a somewhat similar, although reversed, itinerary in late September/early October of 2017. Our focus was wine, food and photography. We flew to Bordeaux (short layover in Paris) and stayed a week in an apartment there. The Cité du Vin was well worth our time and something any wine lover would enjoy. We used the tram system in Bordeaux various times and found it efficient. We did a day trip by train to Saint-Émilion including a ride on their little tourist train that stops at a couple of wineries. The town and tour of the monolithic church was enjoyable even though crowded. I could have done without the day we did a Garonne river cruise but part of that was due to the poor weather we had that limited my photography. The highlight was a private wine tour through Bordeaux with Elodie. We did three winery visits including Château Pontet-Canet and had lunch in Saint-Julien. The whole day was tailored to our wine and photography interests. We had a car in Bordeaux, but I wouldn’t rent one if we were to return. The only time I appreciated it was when we did a day trip to the Beynac/Dordogne area, had a beautiful boat ride, lunch by the river and toured the Museum of Medieval Warfare at Chateau de Castelnaud. (Definitely need to spend a week in that area!)

We took the train to the France Spain border and rented a car at the San Sebastian airport. We drove to Haro for 4 nights at the Los Agustinos hotel. We loved the hotel, its food and its service. The earlier part of our days were for winery visits, LaGuardia, Vivanco wine museum, etc. and then we’d walk down to a tasting room near the rail station. On those warm beautiful fall weekend evenings, it seemed the entire town was out in the main square, often with what seemed to be 4 generations of families. The locals were very welcoming. We really loved Haro and plan to return for a longer visit.

I disagree with the poster who said that winery tours all begin to look alike. I’ll never forget the bio-dynamic practices at Pontet-Canet, the amazing castle at La tour de Carnet, the cooperage at Muga, the wine “cemetery” tunnels at Cune or the completely vertical, gravity-based system at Baigorri. (Their wine-paired lunch was also wonderful.) Since harvest was in full swing during many of our tours, that added a whole new element I hadn’t experienced like that before.

The rental car was dropped off in San Sebastian, where we stayed 4 nights at Hotel Niza. After thoroughly enjoying the city, pintxos and wine there, we flew out of Bilbao. We stayed one night near the airport before our flight so did have an afternoon in that lovely city and visited the Guggenheim.

You’ll have a great trip! If you haven’t discovered them yet, be sure to look up Maribel’s guides of the area.
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Old Feb 21st, 2021, 12:08 PM
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<<Bordeaux area is a fair bit more complicated. Yes there are tourist tastings around the place but if you want the real deal then you need a serious booking especially if you want to visit any of the 5th growths, serious booking at the best needs a recommendation from your wine wholesaler If you do a tour you will be dragged around the usual tourist sites with long stays in the chateau shop.>>

Bilbo, more years ago than I care to
remember, DH and I drove down through Bordeaux and somehow found ourselves with doing a tour [in french] of Chateau Lynch-Bages conducted by a girl who by the end of the tour I was convinced was english, which turned out to be correct. The irony of her conducting a tour in french for two english people was lost on none of us. There were however two others on the tour who were french so her language skills were not altogether wasted. Some years later we had the chance to buy some Bordeaux "en primeur" and of course we bought a case of Lynches-Bages, which is what I've been working my way through during various lockdowns. It has certainly aged well - better than me I suspect.

More recently we spent some days in Bordeaux and stayed at Cadillac where we found a room in a lovely hotel just outside the town through the tourist board, which seems to spend a lot of time handing out stamps to "pilgrims" en route to Santiago de Compostella in NW Spain as well as finding accommodation for tourists. They also gave us a map of the area which took us to the extremely new "Maison du Vin" which enabled us to taste loads of different wins of the area, including the sweet Cadillac which I confess I haven't opened yet - it's a lot to have to drink by oneself.

​​​​​​​Which is my way of saying that there is a lot of fun to be had fossicking about in and around Bordeaux, not necessarily in the most famous areas.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2021, 03:30 AM
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Fossicking is the best way

Actually I find the best way to holiday is to cycle. You move only slightly faster than the locals and you can talk to them. One year we cycled through Bordeaux and I had to attend a day's crisis meeting in the UK, so I took a taxi to and from the airport (45 minutes each way really improved my French). Mrs Bilbo on the day without me, found a nice little restaurant. Cycled to it, a storm came upon the town and they stuck her bike in a van and drove her home. One of the better days as it turned out. You never get fun like that if you hire a car.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2021, 07:21 AM
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<<Mrs Bilbo on the day without me, found a nice little restaurant. Cycled to it, a storm came upon the town and they stuck her bike in a van and drove her home. One of the better days as it turned out. You never get fun like that if you hire a car.>>

I agree. I might also add that you rarely get fun like that unless you travel solo.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2021, 08:28 AM
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The funiest evening was at what passes for in France a "spud you like". But being France the potatoe was the size of a man's head. Imagine our surprise when 4 ladies who lunch came and sat next to Mrs B and me wolfing down the carbs. The ladies looked at the menu, both sides, twice and tried to order something that wasn't going straight to the hips. Finally they ordered the child's burger menu each with one bag of chips/fries to share.

Gamely they worked their way through a half burger each before hiding the un-eaten half under a lettuce, while leaving some of the chips.
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