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Starting to plan a trip to Spain (passing through France)

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1. Posted by laurim (Respected Member 260 posts) 6y

laurim has indicated that this thread is about Spain

Hi-

Hoping to take a trip late May/early June next year. Was thinking about this itinerary of new places, concentrating on Spain but picking up a little Amsterdam and France on the way:

Day 1: Fly from Minneapolis to Amsterdam
Day 2: Amsterdam day
Day 3: Morning train to Brussels (~2hrs), walk around a little, late afternoon train to Paris (2.5 hrs)
Day 4: Paris full day/night
Day 5: Train to Bordeaux (3hrs) Drink wine!
Day 6: Train to San Sebastian (~5hrs guess)
Day 7: Day at beach in San Sebastian
Day 8: Train to Madrid (~5hrs guess)
Day 9: Madrid full day/night
Day 10: Train to Valencia (3.5 hrs)
Day 11: Train to Barcelona (3 hrs)
Day 12: Barcelona full day/night
Day 13: Barcelona full day/night
Day 14: Fly home

I would have liked to visit Seville instead of Valencia but there's no easy way to get there without flying or bus. Tempted to go to Ibiza or Mallorca but the ferries eat time.

My business is usually dead in May and June so the two week limit is more for hotel/train costs rather than a set vacation allotment. I know this is a bit of a whirlwind but if there is some place I just love, I can always go back.

The questions for you:

1) Planning on staying in private rooms in low-cost hostels or guesthouses. Any suggestions of places you have personally stayed?
2) Anyone familiar with San Sebastian? Is it expensive like a riviera or just a beach town?
3) Are there wineries in Bordeaux that are easily accessible without a car? Recommended winery tour maybe?
4) Are there cheap flights to Ibiza or Mallorca and is it worth an overnight?

Thanks for any suggestions!

2. Posted by LittleHote (Inactive 78 posts) 6y

That is a crazy schedule. You won't see anything, except the inside of lots of trains. Do you like trains?

I would suggest you pick two localities and visit each of them for a week. Hire a car so that you can get around a bit. Don't stay in a city because you'll have to do a reverse commute every day to get out. Better to stay in a small town or village and then travel in to the city for the bit of time that you want to spend there, and travel around seeing the countryside, coast, beaches, mountains, lakes and forests. Holidays are about more than just ticking a few boxes.

For what it's worth, my answers to your questions:
1. Sorry no experience of hostels. That sounds a bit grim and there are many attractive guest houses and hotels from about € 60 per night.
2. San Sebastian is a tad more expensive than the rest of the north coast of Spain, but definitely not expensive in absolute terms.
3. Sorry, I don't know Bordeaux.
4. It's definitely not worth going to Ibiza or Mallorca for an overnight stay. You will just end up spending even more of your holiday in taxis, aeroplanes and airports.

Every time I come on this forum, I find myself on a crusade to encourage people to slow down and visit a destination properly. All I can say is, don't stay in one place for less than a week. When you see a hill, walk up it. When you see a bar, sit in it (and have a drink or three). When you see a beach, lie on it. When you get back home, don't boast about all the famous places you briefly flashed past. Tell people about the unheard of places that you took time to explore properly.

3. Posted by laurim (Respected Member 260 posts) 6y

Thanks for the well-meaning advice but that's not my travel style. I understand where you are coming from and that slow schedule works great for many people but after about 9 trips to Europe, I know it doesn't work for me. I get bored really quickly and like to stay on the move. I bet you are the kind of person who loves to spend hours in a store just looking at stuff, am I right? Me? I need a shirt..I go buy a shirt. I think people who like your kind of trip tend to live very hectic lives. I work out of my house, sitting on my couch, so when I vacation I want to go, go, GO!

Not interested in spending hours in a museum or staring blankly ahead in a restaurant. I'd rather eat at an interesting street vendor and keep going. A couple years ago, I spent 3 weeks in Italy and a week in Greece. I allotted 4 days in Rome and would have been quite satisfied with 3 (helps that I had been there before). I'm a pretty seasoned traveler so I know what I like and I do a lot of research beforehand so I don't miss anything I shouldn't miss. I definitely don't want to deal with the stress of driving in a strange country and all that's involved in securing a car so that's out, too. I prefer to stay in the thick of things where all the main sights and nightlife are, especially since my knees can't take long walks and I want to be able to go back to my hotel for a rest when I want to. Looking at scenery is what I do when I'm on the train speeding to my next adventure to meet new people and see new things!

See? People travel differently and it's all good!

P.S. Don't be too harsh on hostels. They are great places to meet people, especially when you are traveling alone. The only thing I don't like about them is the shared bathroom because of other people's messes and you have to keep packing and unpacking your toiletries.

P.P.S. Another thing you should consider on your crusade, especially when you are talking to Americans. We don't get nearly the amount of vacation time as many Europeans. We are lucky to get two weeks and it is highly discouraged to take it all at once. It's also much more expensive for us to travel to Europe, both in flight cost and exchange rate. Trips like this are a luxury for us and we need to see as much as possible when we get them. Depending on where you are in the UK, you could visit my destinations on any weekend whim. I'm lucky because I'm a freelancer and have more free time than the average American but it's still something I have to save up for and pinch every penny and volunteer to get bumped on business trips to get flight vouchers. So, I need to make it count.

[ Edit: Edited on 19-Aug-2010, at 15:43 by laurim ]

4. Posted by LittleHote (Inactive 78 posts) 6y

Well the last thing I want to do is pick an argument: each to their own.
Spend hours in a store just looking at stuff? Lifes too short! I'm with you: need a shirt; buy a shirt.
The stress of driving in a strange country? They even drive on the wrong side, just like you do.
All that's involved in securing a car? Close the door. Press the button. QED.

Just out of interest, as an American, have you been to the Grand Canyon? How long did it take you to "do" it?

I do sincerely wish you a very enjoyable holiday, but obviously I can't help you at all. We have such different ideas of what makes a good holiday.

5. Posted by laurim (Respected Member 260 posts) 6y

Yes, I did the Grand Canyon last month while I was in Vegas. Took a 9 hr bus trip that also stopped at the Hoover Dam for pictures. Went to the South Rim and stopped at two lookouts for an hour each. Pretty much looked the same from both lookouts, lol. Big hole in the ground with different colored layers of rock. Yeah, I get the whole 'wonder of nature' thing but it isn't a mind blower for me. Know what I'd rather do? Drive along Route 66 and stop at the kitschy places along the way and spend the night in the desert to see a billion more stars than I can see where I live.

Not trying argue, just helping you understand. Maybe driving a car in a foreign country is no big deal to you but it is to me and not something I care to fuss with on vacation. Maybe if I had someone to look at the map for me it would be different but driving alone trying to figure everything out would not be a good time. Do the cars commonly have automatic transmissions? Can I rent one at the Amsterdam airport and leave it in the Barcelona airport? Might I have to drive through winding mountain roads in the rain or at night? I've driven in Los Angeles and going through the mountains freaks me out a little because where I live is basically flat and I have a fear of heights. I don't know why driving for hours under stress and trying to figure out parking in a city is better than taking a train and being able to relax and look at the scenery go by. No thanks! I like the train. It's a novelty for me and something I only do in Europe.

Thanks for the input, really. Enjoy your style :)

6. Posted by eroltoksoy (Full Member 173 posts) 6y

Quoting LittleHote

That is a crazy schedule. You won't see anything, except the inside of lots of trains. Do you like trains?

I would suggest you pick two localities and visit each of them for a week. Hire a car so that you can get around a bit. Don't stay in a city because you'll have to do a reverse commute every day to get out. Better to stay in a small town or village and then travel in to the city for the bit of time that you want to spend there, and travel around seeing the countryside, coast, beaches, mountains, lakes and forests. Holidays are about more than just ticking a few boxes.

For what it's worth, my answers to your questions:
1. Sorry no experience of hostels. That sounds a bit grim and there are many attractive guest houses and hotels from about € 60 per night.
2. San Sebastian is a tad more expensive than the rest of the north coast of Spain, but definitely not expensive in absolute terms.
3. Sorry, I don't know Bordeaux.
4. It's definitely not worth going to Ibiza or Mallorca for an overnight stay. You will just end up spending even more of your holiday in taxis, aeroplanes and airports.

Every time I come on this forum, I find myself on a crusade to encourage people to slow down and visit a destination properly. All I can say is, don't stay in one place for less than a week. When you see a hill, walk up it. When you see a bar, sit in it (and have a drink or three). When you see a beach, lie on it. When you get back home, don't boast about all the famous places you briefly flashed past. Tell people about the unheard of places that you took time to explore properly.

when you are in barcelona you may drive or take a train to Sitges for swimming. The sea is far more cleaner than barcelona.

[ Edit: Edited on 20-Aug-2010, at 00:05 by eroltoksoy ]

7. Posted by LittleHote (Inactive 78 posts) 6y

Laurim, I think we have an agreement here. I'm not going to clutter up the places you want to go to, and you're not going to clutter up the places I want to go to.:)

Vive la diference!

8. Posted by Alan1950 (Budding Member 10 posts) 6y

Brilliant plan
You are doing what you want to do

I have travelled from Leicester to Amsterdam by train and return.
In 2002 so that was before High Speed Link was not open all way from London to Folkestone.
Also there was no High Speed Link from Bruxelles to Amsterdam.
I stayed in Crowne Plaza Amsterdam
Comfortable and on Tram Route to Rail Station
On their website it shows as extensively refurbished
Best way to get around is to buy rover ticket on water bus
Bordeaux just passed through on way to Biarittz but there are probably wine merchants near station who will advise you
San Sebastion was ok in 1982
Nice beach
I have only driven through Barcelona
Majorca has flights from Barcelona
Majorca well worth a visit for train enthusiasts
Antique train through mountains and change to tram at other end
Also has rail link to leather town in middle of island
Palma Majorca is mini version of Barcelona
Majorca is what you make of it
sun sea and sangria
or
delightful in May & June for non beach lovers
enjoy

9. Posted by laurim (Respected Member 260 posts) 6y

Thanks for the info, Alan!

Mallorca and Ibiza sound like good places to party but might have to wait for another trip that's not trying to do so much. Wish they weren't islands but I guess that's part of their charm. :)

10. Posted by laurim (Respected Member 260 posts) 6y

hmmm- flights to those islands are super cheap on ryanair, even after all the fees... might have to adjust the schedule...