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3 nights in France - where?

Hello:

A friend and I are thinking of 10 night or so trip this summer - late July....

Currently, we are thinking of flying into Paris and spending 3 nights, then 3 nights somewhere else (reachable by train) in France, and then on to Barcelona for 4 nights. I have been to Paris and Barcelona (but less than 2 days each) - she has never been to Europe.

I was thinking we could break up the cities with 3 nights somewhere....? But I do not know much about France. I know Arles and Avignon are in Rick's "Best of" book, but I do not know anything really about these smaller towns in France. Avignon is having a theater festival ending on the days we would be there... not sure if that's good or bad....

I'm thinking some relaxing, wandering, she likes wine, we want to eat yummy things.. I would like to avoid renting a car and do everything via train. And somewhere that semi-decently connects Paris and Barcelona.

Ideas?? Help please! Inexpensive accommodations, restaurant recommendations, things to do appreciated too! :)

Thank you!!
Kim

Posted by
7124 posts

Easiest is to get a train directly to Nimes for your 3 nights. From here you have onward direct trains to Barcelona.

Day
01.02.03. Paris - 3 nights
04. TGV to Nimes - 3 nights
05. Day by train to Arles - 28 mins
06. Day by train to Avignon - 31 mins
07/am. Visit Pont du Gard
07/pm. Train to Barcelona - 4 nights
08.09.10. Barcelona

Examples of train timings ...
TGV 6207
Dep 09:25 PARIS GARE DE LYON (France)
Arr 12:15 NIMES (France)

RSC 9743
Dep 15:48 NIMES (France)
Arr 19:31 BARCELONA SANTS (Spain)

Posted by
373 posts

We've been interested in returning to Avignon for the festival, but without a car, I probably wouldn't choose Avignon for a 3 day visit.

We are heading to Sarlat in a few weeks. Where we will be seeing the famous caves, canoeing, going to the markets, and walking/eating in what looks to be a beautiful, historic city.

So, that might be a great stop on your way to Barcelona. Here's a link for more info.

Sarlat Tourism

Posted by
4125 posts

As much as I love the Southwest, I think Provence is your best bet given your time frame and car-free preference.

Nimes looks logistically the sweetest, but Arles is nearly as good, and it will ultimately depend on what you want to do and see. Nimes, Arles and Avignon are all close and connected by rail. Buses go to some sights, such as the Pont du Gard.

You are going in high season so you should reserve a room soon.

Posted by
19161 posts

Definitely check out the hotel situation before making decision. The theatre festival may complicate things.

Posted by
266 posts

Perhaps Bordeaux? We've been there 3 times since 2004 and the changes have been magnificent. Good food, good wine, easy to walk around and take in the history. Perhaps take a day trip to the cute village of St Emillion. Consider staying here - it just a bit out of the center, still walkable to take the tram, but in an area that will make you feel you are in a neighborhood. We stayed here and loved it! http://www.chez-dupont.com/en/

Take the train to Bordeaux - tram to the center along the waterfront. Then train to Barcelona.

Posted by
11266 posts

To me, Avignon was OK, Arles was really good, and Nimes was great. With three nights, you can see all of them from a base in just one.

Do check on accommodation availability as said above; the Festival is a Very Big Deal and rooms may be sold out or very expensive, in the whole region.

Posted by
7687 posts

Unless you are going to the festival, this is not the time to stay in Avignon. It's one of the biggest, oldest, and most well-known festivals in France. Not only are hotels, hostels, and even gymnasiums with cots full, but so are restaurants, streets, restrooms, etc. Harold says adjacent cities may be full too.

Another consideration between Provence and the Southwest, both of which have been suggested, is the train connection on to Barcelona. You have many fast and easy connections from Provence, but it's more difficult from the Southwest, three hours direct vs. six hours with connections. See rome2rio.com to check out connections.

Three nights gives you maximum just over 2 days in a place if you use the fastest trains, once you check out of your hotel, schlep to and from stations, check in. The Southwest takes even more train time, but lodging may be more difficult in Arles or Nimes. If neither works, remember that you can do five nights in both Paris and Barcelona. That gives you 4+ days in each place and you could take a day trip from each city.

Posted by
928 posts

Emphatically agree to avoid Avignon unless you're interested in attending events related to the festival. We arrived on opening day of the festival with our RS tour last summer, and it was a madhouse. Conveniently (not), we were getting into town just before the opening parade started. We got into the hotel and dropped our bags, and at the time we wanted to get out and explore the town, the streets and sidewalks were packed. Every vertical surface was covered with posters for shows, and every time we were outdoors, we had groups of theater performers coming by in full costume, loudly advertising their events, pushing postcard-sized advertisements at us. The place was a mess, trash discarded all over. It is probably awesome when that's not going on, but we were thankful to get on the train and go to Arles the following day, which was a really nice town that I would have loved more time to see.
As for a place that fits your "yummy things" request - I'd go to Lyon in a heartbeat. We didn't get nearly enough time there either. I don't know how difficult it would be to get from Lyon to Barcelona, though.

Posted by
926 posts

yes, thinking maybe Arles? I am a little scared off by the idea of such big crowds in Avignon... We have 10 nights (arrive paris early afternoon, depart Barcelona early afternoon...)

Not sure how to allocate... she hasn't been to Europe, I have been quite a few times, Paris only 1.5 days and loved it, Barcelona only one day pre-cruise and loved it (also loved my longer trip elsewhere in spain)....

not sure I want 5 nights in each, I feel like we should break it up in the middle... 4,2,4? But is 2 in Arles enough? Not sure that leaves any time for a little side trip to Pont du Gard.... 2 nights means we could get a little late afternoon, evening, full day and probably not much time on departure...

If we skipped the middle stop and did 5 nights in each Paris and Barcelona, then I can do some side trips from there... not sure what to do!!! I want to decide soon because I want to book accomodations... we got eiffel tower tickets shockingly easily.. they must have changed something since I did it a few years ago!

Posted by
4125 posts

What would you do with a second day in Provence? What would you give up if you lost a day in Paris or Barcelona?

If you are having trouble figuring out what to do, then spending time thinking about your priorities can clear things up.

PS WIth only 1 day, and if the Pont du Gard is a priority, that argues for Nimes over lovely Arles.

Posted by
4125 posts

What would you do with a second day in Provence? What would you give up if you lost a day in Paris or Barcelona?

If you are having trouble figuring out what to do, then spending time thinking about your priorities can clear things up.

PS WIth only 1 day, and if the Pont du Gard is a priority, that argues for Nimes over lovely Arles.

Posted by
926 posts

Yes, agreed, I think we need to sit down and map out the days a bit to see what we want in each place.... so many good things to do!

Posted by
7124 posts

That's why with limited time I suggested Nimes - no change of trains coming from Paris, or going to Barcelona.

Posted by
6353 posts

I tend to agree with David that Nimes would be a good base between Paris and Barcelona. Easy train connection for a day trip to Arles and also to Pont du Gard (if that's of interest). Not sure how you want to break up the nights between the 3 places because I've not been to Barcelona so don't know how much time it deserves. I spent a night in Avignon during the festival (booked the room months in advance) and I enjoyed all the hoopla, parades, etc and didn't find the crowds that big of a problem but they were definitely larger than some people can deal with.

Posted by
12400 posts

Alsace-Lorraine or Normandy (Rouen, St Malo)

Posted by
926 posts

Thanks for the responses! We have decided 4 nights Paris, 2 in Arles, 4 in Barcelona!

Kim