Hi, My husband and son (25) and I are plotting out a potential 5-day road trip from Paris to Spain--probably the Basque region, but open to other suggestions--and back. Could be by train or car or a mix. More interested in seeing great places and focusing on history/culture than in food-related travel, but seeing some an interesting wine operation or two would be great . Also would like to hit a couple of destinations that would have a bit of nightlife for my son--nothing outrageous, just something that would allow him the chance to meet young people his age, and perhaps hear some interesting local music. We'll be traveling the last week of February, so weather is a concern too. Any good suggestions?
The easiest trip to Spain would be on one of the fast trains to Barcelona--since you're going in February. It's a 6.5 hour trip--and about 650 miles down there. Both France and Spain are larger countries than most travelers realize.
I say Barcelona because it's a great city for young people, and the weather's much more favorable than in the Basque region that early in the year. It's easy to get to also.
Thanks. So you would go directly to Barcelona, versus making stops along the way?
Probably because you said you have five days to get there and come back.
The difficulty here is the limited time you have available and the need (I assume) to return to Paris for your next flight. ViaMichelin.com estimates the pure driving time (absolutely no stops, no traffic tie-ups, no getting lost, no looking for parking, etc.) as 7 hr. 45 min. to San Sebastian and 9 hr. 54 min. to Barcelona. But the weather odds greatly favor Barcelona (check Wikipedia entries for the two cities to see monthly averages) in the sense that San Sebastian gets four times as much rain in February, and it affects an average of 12 days out of the month vs. 5 days of rain in Barcelona. Temperatures are somewhat warmer in Barcelona (especially the low temps), but the major difference is the rain.
Whichever you choose, understand that you will be converting a 5-day break into a 3-day break if you drive. Taking a train to Barcelona would probably be the fastest option of all (trains from Paris to San Sebastian are potentially awkward): 6 hr. 39 min. on weekday mornings. That's still an awful lot of your 5 days being spent on travel, but at least you can take food with you and eat on the train, so that will be one thing already accomplished by the time you reach your destination.
Flying would also be possible, of course.
Are you sure you want to travel so far for just five (really three) days?
Barcelona checks the boxes for history/culture, nightlife, and music. Also better weather. As far a meeting young people his age, does he speak French or Spanish? Having five days/four nights I'd fly or train (the TGV gives you a chance to see the countryside out the window, read, eat, stretch your legs but if you don't have much luggage to wrangle flying would save you probably an hour by the time you get out to the airport, clear security, fly, and travel into the next city).
I suspect the wine operations are pretty quiet in February but I might be wrong.
Have you considered a closer city like Amsterdam or London? Or if you want to drive around the countryside maybe the Loire region? My preference in February is for museum-filled cities.
February in the Basque country will be very much the off season. I visited in the second half of May, and it was still not "the season," which starts in June. I had great weather most of the time, but it was made very clear to me that this is not usually the case. In February, I'd expect many things to be closed or on short hours, and the weather to be rainy, cloudy, dreary, and did I mention rainy? There's a reason it's so green in that region. If you do go to the Basque region, Bilbao, as the largest city with more indoor attractions, is the place to focus on. It also has a large and very interesting Old Town section (larger, more interesting, and less touristy than the one in San Sebastian).
In addition to the weather, there's the problem mentioned above - Paris to the Basque country and back, by car, takes hours, so you will use a lot of your time just getting there and back. In February, I'm afraid it's a lot of travel for not much return, unless there's something very specific drawing you there. Otherwise, I agree with seeing places closer to Paris. Lyon, for instance, is only 2 hours by TGV train from Paris, and has many things to see and do for visitors of various interests and ages (and all kinds of weather).
Lyon is very different from Paris, but if you want a city that's really different, look into Marseille (only 3 hours from Paris by TGV). Near Marseille are lots of places like Arles, Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, and my favorite of Nimes.
Note that TGV prices start to go way up closer to travel, so if you do want to go to Lyon and/or Marseille, you'll want to book the tickets as soon as you're sure of your plans.