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Ahhhhhh, Europe

Hello fellow travelers,
My husband and I have enjoyed many wonderful trips to Europe where we have focused on splitting our two to three week holidays between the city and the countryside. In our previous trip to France we visited Paris, (what joy!), and then the beautiful villages in Provence. Next year we are considering either Lyons or Barcelona for our city leg and the Dordogne region for two weeks in the countryside. We would be most appreciative for advice on the choice of the city, (and how long a stay), and whether we should spend 2 weeks in one place, (seriously considering Sarlat), and take day trips, or split up the trip around this Southwest region. Thank you in advance for advice on what not to miss and best path to travel.
P.S. We plan to utilize Airbnb for vacation rentals as these have yielded the most memorable stays throughout our journeys. We also plan to rent a car.
Happy traveling!!!
Nancy

Posted by
16996 posts

Airbnb may be problematic in Barcelona. It's not as far along as Paris in enforcing limitations on short-term rentals, but it seems to be moving in that direction.

You could certainly keep yourself occupied in Barcelona for a week, and that's without side-trips. Nine days wasn't enough time for me, and I also spent several nights in Girona. Lyon is also great, but I don't think it needs quite as much time to keep you from feeling you've left key sights unvisited.

Posted by
4125 posts

My advice is to spend the bulk of the time taking day trips from Sarlat or other Dordogne base, but to allocate a few days to explore some of the hill towns and other sights to the south and into Languedoc--on your way, presumably, to catch the train from Perpignan to Barcelona.

You may also consider your arrival day or days. Toulouse is a charming city with an international airport that is a pleasant place to de-jetlag.

Posted by
181 posts

We've stayed in a gite twice near Cenac et St Julien which is just south of Sarlat. Will be going back again this September. We love the area, day trips, markets, canoeing down the Doedogne, balloon flights etc. To me the best location is the general area around Sarlat, Beynac and south to Cenac. We prefer to be in the country. If you prefer a small village Beynac or La Roque would be good choices.

Posted by
953 posts

I agree with hmcpeake, Sarlat can be quite trafficked, so while it is nice to have access to all the amenities there, you don't get the same beauty you experience in a quieter area. Cent et Saint Julien is fairy-tale beautiful. We stayed in Vezac...

Posted by
4259 posts

We spent five nights in Beynac while exploring the Dordogne, including a couple of forays into Sarlat. With two weeks I'd lean more toward Sarlat for a base because there's more to do there in the evenings. But, actually, with two weeks I'd split the time between the Dordogne and points further south, or maybe west toward Bordeaux. Depends on how busy you want to be each day with sightseeing.

If the timing works you might consider a gite for a week or two. I think they're based on calendar weeks, but you might find an alternative.

Posted by
8 posts

A big thank you to everyone that shared advice. Still torn between Lyons and Barcelona, so please, fellow travelers, pipe in on which city is not to be missed. I’m thinking a week in Sarlat and then maybe a week further south (on the way to Barcelona?)... I suppose we could even split the trip four ways with a brief stay in Lyons, a week in Sarlat, three days in a town in the Southern region and five days in Barcelona. Favorite French village for our stay down south? Again, many thanks for writing.
What a great way to share ideas. Rick Steves and his team are surely an inspiration!

Posted by
21 posts

We stayed in Sarlat last September and greatly enjoyed the outdoor market, which is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. We also canoed the Dordogne River and saw the quaint villages situated in the cliffs and rocks along it. There are 2 castles to enjoy along the paddle too.

Posted by
4125 posts

I think you will have a better trip if you do not try to hit both Lyon and Barceolona. Your intial thought, that you should choose, is the right thought.

The good news is that you really cannot go wrong. Lyon is a fabulous place. But is seems to me that if you are really split, that logistics should decide the issue. And Barcelona is just easier on that basis.

Also Lyon can fit into many other itineraries--the Alps, Burgundy and other parts of eastern France. Which makes it likely that you will be able to visit it another time.

But if you secretly prefer Lyon, then go for it! Just don't try to squeeze in Barcelona too.

My 2¢ anyway.

Posted by
8 posts

Again, I am listening to good advice here. Lyons or Barcelona...we’ll need to choose. It made sense, however, if we need to fly into Paris, to take the train to Lyons, spend a few days, rent a car, and head to Sarlat. Then, if we spend our second week in a village in the southern area of the Dordogne region, we could easily drive or take the train to Barcelona, and fly home.
Still hoping for a good choice for our extended stay south...on our way, perhaps, to Barcelona.
Thank you, one and all.
Nancy

Posted by
4125 posts

Well, I would avoid "having" to fly into Paris. Unless I misunderstand and you want to spend time there this trip.

Both Toulouse (which is very pleasant) and Bordeaux have international airports that are about 2 hours from the Dordogne by car.

I would do Dordogne region, so beautiful with so much to explore around. And then go for Barcelona also so much to see there and you can get your fix for city. If you go from the Dordogne area to Lyon is a good 6 hours drive and not as nice of a drive as going south west of France and entering the north east of Spain. Lyon its a big city and great food but I would take Barcelona over Lyon any time.

Posted by
3986 posts

Again, I am listening to good advice here. Lyons or Barcelona.

Forever the pedant....but there is no 's' in Lyon.

Posted by
309 posts

Well, I don't know if this is helpful or not, but I did not find Barcelona to be that great. We were there for two days, had an awful experience of being accosted in a metro station as we were boarding the metro (it wasn't as simple as Rick makes pickpocketing out to be, and it wasn't bad enough that we were physically harmed, but both my husband and I were definitely manhandled by a group of 4 or so guys, and at one point I was literally in a tug-of-war with one of them to keep my tote bag I had, while passengers just looked the other way). Yes, I know. I know this could have happened anywhere. But for us, it was Barcelona. Had it not happened, I still would not rank it up there as worth visiting over seeing Lyon.

Posted by
309 posts

By contrast, Sarlat is one of my favorite experiences. We stayed right inside the medieval center of the city in one of the places Rick's guidebook recommended. The morning market was a fond memory, and sitting outside at dinner time amidst the beauty of the town was special. The caves were a highlight; we rented canoes for the river, and the area is beautiful. Enjoy!

Posted by
3986 posts

Well, I don't know if this is helpful or not, but I did not find Barcelona to be that great.

I'm with you but not for the reasons you've described. I just didn't find Barcelona interesting. I have no real interest in Gaudi or Picasso, the architecture in the main isn't attractive, there's not much in the way of history, I can't fathom why a pedestrianised shopping area is such a big draw (possibly because there's not much else to see) and in comparison to other cities it just doesn't offer much.

I know many people who like it, some because of personal memories linked to it and others because they enjoy the Gaudi aspect and I'm sure there are some who feel like they're expected to like it as to admit otherwise would incite howls of derision.

I also feel the same about Paris but not to the same degree.

Posted by
309 posts

JC - you've aptly described why I still wouldn't rank it highly. It just didn't hold that much interest to me.

Posted by
8 posts

Thank you for your honest appraisals of Barcelona. My husband and I had trepidation about the choice of this city, and we have a sense of relief pulling it off the itinerary.
Now we’re focused on staying in France. One thought is to fly into Bordeaux, spend a week in Sarlat, travel south to spend a week in that region, and fly out of Toulouse. Only problem is neither one of those cities has been particularly well reviewed. Lyon gets much more praise. So still trying to figure out this trip.
Please keep those ideas, recommendations, pros and cons and favorite experiences coming. All your thought are invaluable!
Nancy

Posted by
660 posts

We are spending five weeks in France this fall and considered Barcelona for several of those days. Someday we will probably take a cruise and Barcelona is a major cruise ship stop. We decided that, while we can still drive and explore countryside and nature, we would save Barcelona for another time and focus on sights throughout France - those we have not seen.

Posted by
4125 posts

Oh HO! That's a switch.

Well, you won't be disappointed in Lyon. I agree, much more interesting than Toulouse. I just think Toulouse makes a pleasant gateway, if that works for you.

Do you still have 3 weeks? Because that is plenty of time to include Lyon. You could spend a day de-jetlagging in Toulouse, a week in the Dordogne, 4 or 5 days exploring the region to the south, then take a train to Lyon from Perpignan or similar.

Or, if you like road trips, the drive could be very interesting. You certainly have enough time to explore.

To get home, there is an airport in Lyon, but also several direct trains from Lyon to deGaulle, bypassing Paris. One will get you to the airport by 10 AM. Of course you wouldn't want to do that during a strike (although we did, and were fine).

You could also run that itinerary in reverse.

You could also run this itinerary

Posted by
2466 posts

You could drive or train to Lyon. See the sights - don't know how you will cope with air-conditioning and laundry, though.

Posted by
8889 posts

There are some places in France (less than in Germany or Italy) which have (or had) different names in English. Lyon(s) is one. As people travel more, these "exonyms" are falling out of use, and more people use the "real name".
Full list (from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_exonyms )

  • Alpes : Alps
  • Bretagne : Brittany
  • Bourgogne : Burgundy
  • Corse : Corsica, English uses local Corsican and Italian name
  • Côte d'Azur : The French Riviera
  • Crécy-en-Ponthieu : Cressy
  • Dunkerque : Dunkirk
  • Flandre : Flanders
  • Gascogne : Gascony
  • Golfe de Gascogne : Bay of Biscay
  • Lyon : Lyons
  • La Manche : The English Channel - Some British motorists are confused by this sign and miss the exit for the Channel Tunnel: http://c7.alamy.com/comp/B27D11/french-motorway-system-and-direction-signs-calais-france-europe-including-B27D11.jpg
  • Marseille : Marseilles
  • Normandie : Normandy
  • Ouessant : island of Ushant, also Ouessant
  • Picardie : Picardy
  • Pyrénées : Pyrenees
  • Reims : Rheims
  • Rhin : Rhine
  • Savoie : Savoy

So both "Lyon" and "Lyons" are correct, but Lyons is a bit old-fashioned!

Posted by
8 posts

Given a choice, which city, fellow travelers, would you choose for a three day visit...
Toulouse or Bordeaux?
Thank you!
Nancy

Posted by
1206 posts

I'd say only two nights in Barcelona--go to Sagrada Familia one day, and then again the next! Maybe a trip out to Montserrat--then get out of there.

OK, maybe the other Gaudi sites--but get . . .

Posted by
4125 posts

Based on experience in Toulouse, but only reputation for Bordeaux, I'd pick Toulouse. However:

--the choice might be different for someone who is really into wine

--neither is a patch on your other destinations, so don't impoverish the rest of your itinerary to see it.

Posted by
181 posts

When we were in Dordogne before we went to Bordeaux for a day trip. It wasn't somewhere we wanted to return. We will be back to Dordogne this September flying into Toulouse and out of Lyon. We picked those cities just for airline connections, never been to either of them.

You might go to www.joinusinfrance.com and go to episode 183 which is about Toulouse produced by two ladies living in Toulouse. They are pretty informative. There are a couple of other episodes featuring day trips from Toulouse, just search on Toulouse.

Episode 113 is about Top Attractions in Lyon. Lyon sounds like a interesting place to go.

Posted by
12117 posts

The French language has its names for places in Germany just as German has its names for places in France and Belgium.

For French names in Germany...Aix-la-Chapelle, Francfort, Mayence, Ratisbon; for German names in Belgium and France...Dünkirchen, Ypern, Straßburg, Lothringen, Elsaß, Diedenhofen. Lüttich, Brüsssel