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EU trip (Spain + France + ?)

EU trip (Spain + France + ?)

Old Oct 13, 19, 1:50 am
  #1  
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EU trip (Spain + France + ?)

Hi guys,

I'm planning (sort of) an EU trip, starting in about a week, that should last about 3 weeks (I'm a bit flexible with the end date, but only to some degree).
I'm starting the trip in Spain based on an event in Madrid and will stay in Madrid for 12 nights.

Because I'll start my trip in Madrid and probably spend majority of the time in the event / city, I was thinking to rent a car afterwards and drive to France, and possibly even Italy but I'm not sure if it's realistic in the time frame. It's important for me to note that this trip isn't about seeing as many places as possible, it's more about "stopping to smell the roses" sort of thing. I don't want to be in a rush to get anywhere, and if I find a nice place and feel like just staying there and chilling for 2-3 days then that's what I'm going to do.

I wanted to visit the south of France for a while (been to Paris only), I really enjoy some of those small towns and the idea of traveling between some of these for a week or two seems fun (I hope it turns out to be the case ).

So now that I've given a bit of context..I guess this is what it comes down to -

1. Spain - Outside the event, I have about 7 days and I need to figure out what to do.
I was thinking to spend about half in the city and the rest taking day trips outside of Madrid. I've already been to Barcelona so I don't see a need to visit it again, and have been recommended places like Málaga or even going to Lisbon but I wonder if it's worth the hassle for a day trip or turning it into a 2 day trip. I already have an apartment for my entire Madrid stay, so I'm not super happy about paying accommodation twice, but if you guys think there is a place worth doing it - please feel free to suggest.

2. Spain - France - Like I mentioned, I really want to visit the south of France and the question is how do I get there and for how long. I like the idea of renting a car, and it seems like driving through the border is quite expensive (drop off fee) so looks like the solution is dropping off at Girona, taking a train to Perpignan and then continue in another car from there.
How long should I take for the Madrid - Girona trip? It's about 6 hours drive, I can do it in a day but I'm not sure if I want to. Should I stretch it over another day and visit some places on the way?
Once in Girona, any reason to stay there / in the area? Or should I just take the train and continue to France?

3. France - Once I arrive in*Perpignan, this is where I feel like I'm the most clueless. Should I stay in the area? Should I just rent a car and start driving? Should I create a list of a few places I want to visit and just drive through them as figure it out as I go? I do want to have some flexibility in the timing, so if I really enjoy some specific town, I can just stay there a bit longer. I also don't plan to book accommodation in advance for this part of the trip. Does it make sense? I figured I shouldn't have an issue with places being fully booked or anything like that in this time of the year but I'd appreciate some input on that as well.

Last thing I'd like to add - I'm REALLY open minded to suggestions, so if you have ideas outside of what I mentioned but can fit given the time frame / geography etc - please feel free to let me know, (almost) nothing is set in stone

Thanks!
Moshe L is offline  
Old Oct 13, 19, 9:29 am
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You put in great context as to your thoughts about the trip, but zip as to just who you are? At a minimum, age and sex would be helpful. Adding area where you live, and some favorite things to do would be good. Traveling alone or with somebody? Budget, or preferred style of traveling? Do you speak (or even have a smattering of) any languages? Family immigrated from one of the countries?

There are many reasons why the above detail lets people help you better. A few examples..... Driving in Europe is very different than driving in the US. If you are young and have a lot of nerve and really prefer driving, I won't bother to tell you all about how fine European trains are (I'm a grandmother and don't particularly like driving anyway). If you are male, I won't bother to tell you of the really fine street market in Madrid that has really unique and fun women's clothes. Lavish budget and like things "normal", I won't suggest AirBNB.

One thing I can do right now is a tiny bit about Perpignan. Many of the Impressionist painters lived and worked in the general area. When they were young and poor, they sometimes swapped a piece of their work for accommodations. There is a bar/hotel absolutely lined solid with early work of the future masters. There are guided walks where there are examples of paintings, sited so one can see the exact view the painter had as he/she worked on the particular piece. If you are into art at all, the place is astounding. Gives me goosebumps just remembering. The city has an excellent tourist bureau to help you get details.

Last edited by Romelle; Oct 13, 19 at 9:53 am
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Old Oct 13, 19, 11:10 am
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Sure, happy to provide more details that can help

I'm 29, male and from Israel. I'm traveling by myself and don't speak Spanish / French. (I was hoping English would be enough, am I wrong to assume that?)
As for budget - I guess it depends on what. I don't see a reason to spend a lot of hotels, but I'm not sure I'd go to a hostel if I can find a decent hotel / Airbnb (I typically prefer Airbnb over hotels). Transpiration wise if I can spend a bit more for a more comfortable / faster road - I'd probably go for it, if it makes sense.

I've come to realize that traveling by trains in France is fairly convenient and I may not need to rent a car after all. While I do enjoy the idea of a "road trip", when giving this more thought I realize that I probably wouldn't want to drive 3-4 hours every day for the sake of driving. It might be nice once or twice if the road also "worth it", but I honestly prefer to spend more time exploring some of those lovely towns as opposed to spend the time on the roads.

I'll also add that I'm less interested in "beach cities/towns", I'm living next to a beautiful beach so I'm good. I'm also less interested in wine tasting etc..so I'm ignoring Bordeaux / Aquitaine / Dordogne for now.
I do enjoy historical towns and the cultural & atmosphere of those places, I'm not necessarily only looking for that but it's definitely something I'd like to experience in this trip.

This led me to focus on 2 areas - one is Arles, Avignon, Aix etc, and the other is Narbonne, Carcassonne. If you think I should focus somewhere else, please feel free to suggest.
If those two areas make sense for about 1.5 weeks, then the question is where do I "base" myself and whether I go by car or train.

Thanks!
Moshe L is offline  
Old Oct 13, 19, 7:34 pm
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My experience in your planned countries, traveling on my own, is that English is fine. Polite, with a smile and good manners English. I had been worried about English in France, since at the time I was there the US and France politicians were in the midst of one of their periodic rather nasty spats. But found I was always very kindly and helpfully treated. Far beyond mere politeness and correctness.

Usually, for trips like you are contemplating, I start with some good guide books and my computer and make a list of all the things I really want to do. When short on time as you are, I resort to "top attractions in x-city" and see what I simply can't resist. Then plot the activities on a map. The bases tend to suggest themselves. Although it has been many years ago, I once found Avignon a great base for my choices. Sometimes right in a city is plenty to fill several days.

My usual start on hotels is www.booking.com and I'm careful with the reviews. I do like the AirBNBs as to me they add another level of authenticity to the trip. But I read ALL the reviews. For hostels, I stick with Hostelling International. I'm sure there are good local ones, but I don't have the resources for checking them out. Hostels are also my last choice at my age, only when hotels are really expensive and AirBNBs scarce. An advantage of the hostels is meeting other travelers with similar interests.

Also like to shop in local markets and cook a bit. Different ingredients and flavors. AirBNBs make this possible.

For train travel, there is wonderful information in www.seat61.com. And it has links to further information on the country specific trains. For short hops, it is usually easy to just go to the train station and buy your ticket via either a machine that almost always has English, or a window where the person usually has English. I find the machines easier as I can move a little slower and check things carefully.

Buses are trickier to research, but there seems to be a fine network of them. The one hard lesson I learned about buses in Italy is that there can be either very few or none on Sundays and some holidays.

My starting point for foreign travel transportation is usually www.rome2rio.com. If you aren't familiar with it, all you need to do is put in an origin and a destination and it gives you information on all the reasonable modes of transportation. For very short trips it includes walking and biking. For longer trips it includes air. It doesn't always have the absolute best possibilities, but always presents one with good possibilities for general planning.

I see Madrid to Perpigan is about a 4 1/2 train ride right in the middle of the day, and you get to enjoy the scenery.

I like your idea of picking a "base" and then exploring out from that in all directions. Walk, rent a bike, bus. Using rome2rio, I can see it is only a 20" train ride from Arles to Avignon. An easy day trip. On the other hand, Avignon to Aix shows as 2'35". But the train goes through Lyon right about in the middle of the run. Almost suggests Lyon as the base, and then day trips in both directions?

I haven't spent time in the Bordeaux area, although it is on my long list of possibilities. Hopefully somebody else on this site will chime in and offer some thoughts.

Your trip is sort of suggesting Madrid-Perpignan-those A cities-Bordeaux-Perpignan-Madrid. Unless you can head home from Lyon or Bordeaux? Or maybe only keep two of the three optional destinations (Perpignan, Lyon, Bordeaux)and do those more intensely?

I do try to always spend at least 3 nights per location. The travel from point to point takes up quite a bit of that day. So for a 3 night stay one only has two full true days at a location. Also, when I arrive, I at least try to buy my departure train ticket right away. That way, if I run into some issue I have time to resolve it. Strikes, track outages, holidays, ??

In my prior post I forgot to mention Perpignan's Palace of the Kings of Majorca. I found it impressive and interesting.

I wandered a bit here, but I was enjoying just thinking about your trip. When I'm not traveling, my next favorite thing is thinking about traveling.
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Old Nov 18, 19, 4:02 am
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I would definitely recommend the Balearic Islands, they're perfect for a relaxing holiday and they have a lot of history especially in some parts of Menorca. They have some beautiful architecture.
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Old Mar 17, 20, 10:25 am
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Spain is in chaos right now so forget if you think of travelling now
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Old Mar 25, 20, 2:35 am
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Andorra!
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Old Mar 29, 20, 5:28 am
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Originally Posted by RustyC View Post
Andorra!
Sure, if you’re medically qualified, why not?
Cuba has sent a mercy mission of 39 doctors and nurses to assist with Andorran ICU cases.
https://www.diariandorra.ad/noticies...9132_1125.html

There are currently 308 confirmed cases in Andorra and there have been 4 deaths
Population of Andorra is (usually) just under 80,000 people.
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Old Mar 29, 20, 5:36 am
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Originally Posted by gabi10 View Post
Spain is in chaos right now so forget if you think of travelling now
OP travelled in October 2019.
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