Spain and South of France

Feb 25th, 2017, 08:57 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2017
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Spain and South of France


My husband and I are planning to visit Madrid, Barcelona, and then South of France for the very first time. We will be departing Los Angeles, CA on Saturday May 20 returning Sunday June 4th for a total of about 15 days. We plan on staying 4 nights each in Madrid and Barcelona with the remaining time in the South of France.

We are a couple in our mid to late 30s and love to explore cities for their food (markets, cafe, restaurants), culture, architect, landscape, and history. We particularly like to take our time strolling quaint towns and immersing ourselves with the locals. I would appreciate suggestions on a South of France itinerary as well as the best airport to fly into from Spain.

snowy718 is offline  
Feb 25th, 2017, 09:47 PM
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Fly into the south of France from Spain? And just where in the south of France are you planning on visiting? In you will be in Barcelona, you simply take the train a couple of hours north.

Also, where are you planning on flying into and out of?
Robert2016 is offline  
Feb 25th, 2017, 11:47 PM
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Hello Robert 2016,

Thank you for your response.

I am opened to flying into either Madrid or Barcelona. From what you are stating, I should fly into Madrid first, then visit Barcelona, and from there take a train into the South of France. We would fly out of the South of France back to Los Angeles, CA.

As far as where we plan on visiting while in the South of France, we would like to visit the Provence Area: Aix en Provence, Montpellier, Nimes. To be honest, we are open to suggestions... we do not have our heart set on any one place.

Thank you for your time.
snowy718 is offline  
Feb 26th, 2017, 12:23 AM
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Since you're open to suggestions, here are a few options (among many others):

The "South of France" is such a huge area with such incredible diversity, you'll need to watch some videos and read some guidebooks to get a handle on it for such a short trip.

By train, from Barcelona you can be in Montpellier in three hours.

In Montpellier you can get a car and drive to - for example since we just did this - to the medieval walled-in city of Aigues-Mortes, and drive down to Le Grau-dy-Roi for a memorable seaside seafood dinner with harbour views, and make day trips into the wildlife paradise of the Camargue (wild white horses, flamingoes, etc.).

Then you can drive up to oodles of worthwhile targets in the Arles/Nîmes/Avignon/St.Rémy-de-Provence (Gauguin) quadrangle that could keep you busy for months!

Or: Vueling flies nonstop from BCN to Marseille for budget fares. There you have a choice of going north and west to the Provence, or east towards the "Riviera", Côte d'Azur and all that.

Much closer to Barcelona is Toulouse, and the hilltop walled-in city of Carcassonne (read up on its grisly history, catholic fanatics akin to today's ISIS...), so getting off the train and renting a car as soon as practical within France might be an option.
michelhuebeli is offline  
Feb 26th, 2017, 07:09 AM
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The greatest and most cutting edge flamenco dancer on the planet Rocío Molina dances in Barcelona on May 20 and 21. A few tickets left both nights. "Caída del Cielo" has been a sensation since it opened eight nights in Paris in November, and last week-end she brought the Teatro Español in Madrid to the verge of an extatic breakdown. Here a review in English from a night in Amsterdam last month, "Collective orgasm in Amsterdam with Rocío Molina's flamenco":


"one of the finest soloists in the world today"
New York Times

"Molina has genius: irresistible, all-consuming, all-powerful"
Financial Times

"as if she were sharing the stage with the ghosts of all the dancers whose art she has absorbed – and reinvented", The Telegraph

Info and tickets:
kimhe is offline  
Feb 26th, 2017, 10:40 PM
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For a 7 day trip in the South of France, would it be too ambitious to visit Aix En Provence, Marseille, Montpellier, and Nimes... and possibly add in Sete when visiting Montpellier?

I also welcome suggestions for places to eat in Madrid and Barcelona that are true local food; not touristy.

Thank you all for your suggestions! =)
snowy718 is offline  
Feb 26th, 2017, 11:40 PM
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Yes, that plan for southern France would most decidedly be too ambitious. At least IMO.

With 15 days and your stated interests and preferences, you could easily find yourselves pressed for time for just Madrid and Barcelona (with a few day trips).

Have you determined whether you can actually see and do what you want with your time? I recommend that you get some good guidebooks (or spend some time with a few in your local library), identify the things you most want to see in each location, check their opening/closing times on the internet, and mark them on a calendar. Pencil in your transportation, add some time on either side (for getting to/from your lodging, checking in/out, packing/unpacking, getting oriented, etc.). Then see how things fit together. BTW, note that many things in Spain are closed on Monday, and often for all or part of Sundays too; and many things in Spain will also be closed daily for a very long mid-day break.

There are LOTS of threads on this board about food in both Madrid and Barcelona -- use the search feature and read a few. I think you will learn a LOT.

And do, please, get yourselves a good guidebook or two. The cost will be nugatory in comparison to the cost of your trip, and you will learn things that you don't even know you need to ask.

Good luck!
kja is offline  
Feb 26th, 2017, 11:47 PM
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If you start in Montpellier and finish in Marseille, then yes you could include Nimes and Aix En Provence, spending a night or two in each, but with only 7 days, it would be pushing it to add another stop.
Robert2016 is offline  
Feb 27th, 2017, 01:45 AM
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- Ca l'Estevet is one of those small, timeless local food places:
- 7 Portes from 1836 is an institution in town, full of Barcelona history in the walls, excellent traditional food and the best atmosphere. Recommend to go here for Sunday lunch or a relatively late dinner (after 9:30):
- Can Culleretes is the oldest in town (1786 and the second oldest in Spain), no fuss food and service, I must always have a meal here when in Barcelona. Last time, in November, we had a hearty escudella soup and wild boar lunch:

- Casa Alberto from 1827 is a must, traditional with a modern touch, one "sol" in the Guía Repsol, the Spanish equivalent to the Michelin guide. Expect some 35€ pr person. Today's three course menu (Menu del día) is 17€ (lunch only). Also a great tapas bar in front of the restaurant:
- Taberna de Antonio Sánchez, old days, fine stews/cocidos and very affordable and full-bodied house wines:
- And tiny Casa Revuelta is as Madrid as it gets, the bacalao tapa here is the best in town, and several other great tapas as well:
kimhe is offline  
Feb 27th, 2017, 04:25 AM
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Yes, that is too ambitious, especially as you have stated you want to "stroll quaint towns" and "immerse yourself with the locals." None of those places is quaint, and the locals are busy living their lives, not necessarily interested in entertaining tourists.

I think you need to study a map so that you have an idea of the breadth of territory you seem to want to cover.
StCirq is online now  
Feb 27th, 2017, 05:54 AM
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You actually have 14 days on the ground, one of which will be your arrival, jet lagged Day, after a long haul flight, so basically 13 usable days.

You would use about 1/2 day getting from Madrid to Barcelona and another getting from Barcelona to someplace in France, so now down to 11 whole days and 2 half days. You do not have time for Madrid, Barcelona and Provence.


1. See Provence.
There is so much to see, you will wish for more time.
Save Barcelona and Madrid for another trip.

2. See Barcelona and a bit of Provence.
Save Madrid for when you are going to other parts of Spain, like Seville, Córdoba, etc.

3. See Madrid and Andalusia.
Save Barcelona and Provence for other trips.

4. See Barcelona, Madrid and a bit of Andalusia.
Save Provence for another trip.
Sassafrass is offline  
Mar 1st, 2017, 05:53 AM
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I agree with Sassafrass's suggestions. To give you an example, we are spending 2 weeks in September visiting Madrid, Toledo, and Andalusia.
KarenWoo is offline  
Mar 5th, 2017, 11:30 PM
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Where do you think would be a good hub, basecamp for a first timer in the South of France.

By the way, a big THANK YOU to everyone who has responded so far. It has been eye opening and extremely helpful.
snowy718 is offline  
Mar 6th, 2017, 12:47 AM
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South of France as pointed out, is too vast to give previse answers.
Basically you have 500 kms+ roughly on the seaside.
Southwest is around Montpelier.
From there Beziers, les culs nus ducap d'Agde, La Camargue for a natural park, Nimes and Arles for roman ruins.
Southeast could be centered around Nice or Cannes, with daytrips to all small villages around.
And dividing the two southern areas, highway A6 going north from Aix with Orange and Avignon as old cities.

You can go in south of France all your life and still miss must sees.

As said, buy yourself a guide, I always recommend Green Michelin guide.
WoinParis is offline  
Mar 6th, 2017, 03:00 AM
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Are you still going anywhere else?
How much time will you have in France?
I forget. Will you rent a car? That opens up more possibilities.
We didn't, limited ourselves to trains, and based in Arles for 5 nights, Aix for 4 nights and Aigues Mortes for 3 nights. We enjoyed it a lot, but, of course, saw only a small area.
Sassafrass is offline  
Mar 6th, 2017, 03:14 AM
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Aigues Mortes where Louis le bon died before boarding the ships en route to Jerusalem. To slaughter, looting andrape and other nice things soldiers did.

Beautiful city nevertheless.
WoinParis is offline  
Mar 6th, 2017, 01:53 PM
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I love Aigues-Mortes (not in high-season, though). To me it has the prettiest square in all of southern France, or at least that part of southern France. The rice fields are interesting (and the rice is delicious), the sand wine is fascinating, the cowboys are very cool, the birdlife is amazing, and La Telline is my favorite "restaurant" (it's a private home) in all of France.
StCirq is online now  
Mar 9th, 2017, 01:32 PM
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Last July, we did Provence-South of France and Barcelona and it was a wonderful trip. But FYI, we naively thought we could easily take a train from Nice to Barcelona...but turns out it is a very long trip (like 10 hrs) that would eat up a day/night. We found a flight from Nice to Barcelona that took an hour and was roughly $80 US per ticket.

Some people say you are being too ambitious with your itinerary, but if you plan it well, you can see a lot of sights in a few days in each place...and if you miss something, it's a good excuse to go back!

After leaving Provence, we used Nice as our home base and we were able to take day trips by train. We happened to leave Nice the day of that terrorist attack and I don't know what the vibe is like now, but we enjoyed our time there. Beautiful scenery, good food, easy to get around. We rented an apartment right on the Promenade des Anglais and we would swim in the sea in the morning...and sight see all afternoon.

I've posted a link on other forum posts, but I have a travel blog which will give you an idea of where we went...what we were able to see in an average day and it may inspire you to visit somewhere you hadn't planned to go.

Good Luck!
evarcht is offline  
Feb 14th, 2018, 03:58 PM
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Spain and South of France

Hello - my husband and I are planning a very similar trip this summer! I love that you’ve started this thread -thanks so much -I’m going to “piggyback” onto you and get some advice too!! The replys you’ve already gotten have been helpful. What Was your itinerary based on info you’d received? No matter what, it will be a blast. Amy

Last edited by schubie2; Feb 14th, 2018 at 04:01 PM.
schubie2 is offline  
Feb 14th, 2018, 04:57 PM
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@ schubie2: I would recommend that you begin your own thread. This thread is old, and might not get the attention that a new one would garner.
kja is offline  

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