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Reality check: Montpellier, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Loire, Paris

Hi, there!

Alert: We are "wanderlust" travelers, so you're about to see a jam-packed itinerary.

My husband and I are driving through parts of France in October, after a few days in Barcelona. We have a full itinerary BUT this rhythm has worked for us in the past. I've been to Provence and Lyon, so here are the locations we're planning for this trip.

Your quick thoughts are appreciated as we leave in two weeks and need to book hotels... well, really weeks ago. :)

Day 1 (Thurs): Barcelona
Day 2 (Fri): Barcelona
Day 3 (Sat): Barcelona day /// evening train to Montpellier
Day 4 (Sun): Montpellier
Day 5 (Mon): Montpellier morning /// afternoon - pick up rental car - drive to Toulouse
Day 6 (Tues): Toulouse
Day 7 (Wed): Toulouse morning /// afternoon - car to Bordeaux
Day 8 (Thurs): Bordeaux
Day 9 (Fri): Bordeaux /// early car to Paris (return rental car)
Day 10 (Sat): Paris
Day 11 (Sun): Paris .... afternoon flight home

*NOTE: We get overwhelmed in Paris, so we're only allotting a couple of days there this time. We know we'll be back many times.

Thoughts and tips on these city selections? Great things to see?

Would you strike one of these from the list?

Any city you would replace with another on this general route?

Is it worth it to visit the Loire Valley this time around --- even just stopping for a day trip at a chateau on the way to Paris? If so, where might we cut back some time in another area of the trip to account for this?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

Posted by
2916 posts

I've been to all of these cities except Barcelona. My suggestion would be to eliminate Montpellier and either go straight to Toulouse or stop somewhere in between. Then you can use the extra time to see something between Toulouse and Bordeaux and/or Bordeaux and Paris. And yes, staying in the Loire Valley, somewhere between Tours and Orleans, would be worthwhile.

Posted by
8849 posts

You need to drop something. You are going to see a lot of autoroute and schlepping from hotel to hotel relative to the amount of time spent in each place.

Every city and area you've mentioned is quite distinctive, Toulouse being very southern, Bordeaux has Louis XIV architecture, Loire is countryside. You'll get a tiny taste of each and hopefully you'll come back for more.

The night train to Toulouse is 15 hours with three changes. The day train is 3 hours.

Posted by
3346 posts

Geographically speaking Montpellier is definitely the outlier but I think it is MUCH nicer than Toulouse and well worth spending time in.
Although your trip is a bit jam-packed, like you say, it's entirely doable if you don't mind the driving.
The drive from Montpellier is only a couple of hours long. I would suggest stopping off a few places on your way.
Pezenas...a beautiful "village circulade". The town gives artists discounts on shop space and the tiny, winding lanes are just what you want from a southern French village.
Just outside of town is Abbaye de Valmagne, a very unique, small winery with the wine casks stored in the old church.
Beziers - there is a beautiful cathedral high on a bluff overlooking the river and valley below. Amazing views if you climb the tower.
Narbonne - the catherdral there is also well worth stopping for. It was only partly finished and is quite unique in Europe. There are some nice places for lunch in the immediate area of the church as well.
The Loire Valley is definitely worth seeing but I just don't think you can fit it in with your current itinerary. Maybe save it for another trip? You're already packing in so much...

Posted by
2953 posts

Much as I'm enamored of the Loire Valley, I would say don't try to stop off on your way from Bordeaux. It's a long haul from Bordeaux to Paris.

To see even one chateau is about half a day, and I mean half a day on the grounds of said chateau, not counting the time getting off the Autoroute and navigating to the chateau and parking your car, and then retracing all that back to the Autoroute.

It would make sense to plan another trip another time to soak up the Loire ambience.

Posted by
2916 posts

Much as I'm enamored of the Loire Valley, I would say don't try to stop off on your way from Bordeaux. It's a long haul from Bordeaux to Paris.

Definitely true. That's why I suggested staying in the Loire. It makes a good halfway point. But if not planning to stay, it wouldn't make sense to stop.

Posted by
2 posts

Wow! What great responses. Thank you all for your replies. Lots to consider...

Anita, really loved your suggestions for the scenic route with quaint stops on the way to Toulouse. (Interestingly, some people have been recommending to drop Montpellier on this trip, but we've always heard great recommendations from French people, so I'm a bit torn.)

epltd and Robert, I hear your passion for the Loire Valley. Do you think it's worth it to skip Bordeaux and just drive from Toulouse through the Loire to Paris?

Bets, we definitely may cut something and are still debating which.... Thank you for your descriptions about what each city has to offer.

So, with that said...
Toulouse will likely stay on our list, since we have family there. Looks like either Montpellier or Bordeaux may get cut. OR we might keep these cities, not event think about the Loire and take trains all the way to save time... (but in the past we've found it stressful to be tied down to train departure times).

Still deliberating...
Thanks again for your thoughts!

Posted by
2916 posts

Do you think it's worth it to skip Bordeaux and just drive from Toulouse through the Loire to Paris?

That's not a bad idea, as long as you stay in the Loire Valley area. I've stayed in Bordeaux several times, and l like the city very much, but the reason I've stayed there so many times is because it's a good place to rent a car and also has very good train service to and from Paris. But I wouldn't consider it a must-see city. I've also stayed in Montpellier, and it's also worth a visit.