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3 month stay in Europe, ending in France

Hi as part of my 3rd mid life crisis, we've decided to move to our small condo in phoenix, put everything else in storage and travel for a year with our kids, and that includes 3 months in France and Spain. We have been dozens of times, but haven't spent a lot of time in southwest France and Northern Spain..... I personally have been there years ago, but not in the last 15 years.

We will probably be there from April to end of June.....I will be working remotely, while the kids use online schooling curriculum based in AZ. Our kids are 10 and 7...

Our plan is to fly into Lisbon, meet some friends and spend a week in Portugal, then get to Basque country, spend a month there, then spend the final 7 weeks in southwestern France....

I'd love to have some recommendations on towns and cities that you loved visiting.... Thank you!

Posted by
1412 posts

I would suggest the Dordogne Valley and Provence region. Very interesting area, educational and picturesque cities and villages. Do some internet research on both areas. You will find it is great for your whole family. You should be able to split your time in both areas and find a house or apartment. You will need a rental car in the Dordogne.

Posted by
24089 posts

First off, without going to the trouble of obtaining a long-stay visa, US citizens cannot spend more than 90 days in the Schengen countries, which include Spain and France. Both your arrival day and your departure day count. Be very careful about your dates. Those who overstay the 90-day limit can be fined and barred from the Schengen Zone for a considerable period.

I am not sure about the legality of the working-remotely idea.

The Basque Country is typically coolish and dampish even in mid-summer, so you should not expect the usual beach experience there.

I assume you plan to have a car. I'd check into leasing, though I don't know whether you can pick up and drop off in different countries; that usually incurs a very large surcharge on rentals.

I liked Bilbao a lot better than San Sebastian, but you may want to pick a more central location.

Posted by
22613 posts

Personally I would not plan on a full 90 days just in case something causes a delay. I would plan 85 days with 5 day pad in the event of some delay. Also you day of arrive and departure counts to the total. I assume that your travels do not include any of the other Schengen zone countries.

Posted by
6542 posts

We didn’t have a long stay, but visited between Madrid and Barcelona/Girona for a few days. We had a night and day in Bilbao (wild Guggenheim art museum building and complex, thriving newer town and wonderful old town) and 3 days in San Sebastián ( fabulous food and pinxos scene, public dancing in the square, expensive and a bit inconvenient parking, though). Great restaurants (Martin Beresategui 3-star Michelin for lunch was maybe our best meal of all time) and fabulous hilly driving south of San Sebastián (Donostia in basque). We didn’t make it into Andorra or Basque France that trip — still on the bucket list.

Posted by
366 posts

Our family really enjoyed staying in Saint-Jean-de-Luz in French Basque country last summer. It had a family feel, and it was not crowded and touristy. We especially enjoyed the market and walking around and seeing the sunset at the beach. The water was warm in June. We could have daytripped to Bayonne or Biarritz, but we were very content to just stay there.

After that, we stayed in San Sebastian in an apartment for five days. We stayed in the neighborhood near the Zurriola beach, which was less crowded than the LaConcha area and the old town...but easy to walk around to those areas. We enjoyed watching the surfers and saw beautiful sunsets there. Our (young adult) kids really enjoyed the pinxtos experience-we all did!

We did a cider house and cheese farm tour that was memorable and really delicious. The short bus ride took us right up into the mountains and we felt that we were in Switzerland! On another day we took the funicular up to Monte Igueldo for spectacular views. We also spent a few euro and took a wooden boat ride on the Rio Misterioso up there as part of it. That was fun!

We had a little more than a week in the French Basque and Spanish Basque regions and would’ve happily stayed longer and explored more. We took a train to Barcelona and flew home from there. Barcelona would be a great city to explore with your family as well!

Before we got to the Basque country, we visited friends in the Dordogne and Lot regions of France. That was a beautiful part of the country, and I would recommend visiting Cahors, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, La Roche Gagnac, and Domme. There is so much to see there!

I’d love to return to that northern Spain region again and explore the area between San Sebastián and Bilbao, and take some day trips out of Barcelona. Never enough time!

Good luck with your planning!

Posted by
1150 posts

Hi from Wisconsin,
South central France: the Lott and Cele river valleys. Where they join is Caberets and its cave with world famous paintings. So much more intimate than the Dordogne. The Dordogne has the tour busses. Few on the Lott and None can by the curves of the Cele.

Basque region of France: Salie-de-Bearn is a nice town. It must have spruced up ten years ago or more to try to get on the cutest villages of France list, failed and now is a more real place with a couple really nice affordable restaurants. La Belle Auberge is not far away and had an excellent !!! lunch. Best to have reservations has the work crews fill this great restaurants at lunch.

Northern Spain: El Pindal cave. Delightful location, and real cave paintings, not the replicas of more famous places. One of two places in Spain to have a woolly mammoth cave painting.
Doneztebe. There are three villages with a walking path connecting all three. None of these three is a high tourist place. But you can spot Basques in pegged clogs and berets.
Gijon is better than Oviedo in our opinion. Make sure to get a bottle of still cider in a bar where they pour it for you.

Enjoy you lucky family, I loved both these regions.
wayne iNIW