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What can I reasonably do? Paris to Barcelona

I only have 11 nights, which now seems so short. We are flying into Paris and out of Barcelona. I want to rent a car after Paris and go to the Dordogne for canoeing, caves, and the medieval villages. I have thought about 4 nights in Paris, 4 nights for the driving part, and 3 nights in Barcelona. How much time do you think I need to allow for the Dordogne? Are there enough day trips to station there for 4 nights? Which town? I prefer a gite or b&b, unless you know of something quaint in town. Is there another stopover that would give us some other experience in another region....say, 2 nights in Dordogne and 2 nights somewhere else? Should I add or subtract from Paris/Barcelona? Also, where would be the best town to drop off the car and then take the train to Barcelona? Thank you so much. I have spent hours getting help by reading other's posts!

Posted by
6410 posts

Start by being honest with yourself. Never mind how many "nights" you have. How many full days do you have in Europe, not counting the day you arrive, and the day you depart? It doesn't matter what time your flights are, those days are not usable time, and they don't count.

Next, consider what kind of shape you are going to be in when you arrive. Have you flown to the other side of the world before? Are you young and in great physical condition? Can you get any sleep in an airline seat? For many of us, we are pretty much toast on the arrival day, and we are still not 100% ourselves on the next day after we arrive - due to jetlag, the impact of hopping 10 time zones, maybe being tired and beat-up before the trip even starts, and the stress and disorientation of plopping down in another country where the language is different and everything is just a little different. I always plan an easy itinerary for the day after arrival.

Remember, every time you change locations, you burn anywhere between half a day (if you don't go very far and you are experienced and very efficient) up to a full day. And it's gonna take you longer to do things that should be routine - because you will get lost and everything is (probably) in a language you don't speak every day. It's not hard, but as someone who just flew in from the USA, you are not going to be as efficient as you might expect.

All that said, everyone has their own styles and their own pace. For me, I think your trip is too short to do more than a couple locations. Your locations must include Paris and Barcelona because of your flights. So you will be changing locations at least once. For a trip of less than 10 days (maybe about 7 days once you come to terms with arrival and departure realities) is only long enough for two, MAYBE three places, but only if that third place is right on the way between place 1 and place 2, and you can do it as a brief "stopover".

You don't say if you have been to Paris or Barcelona (or Europe) before. That could make a difference.

IMHO, Paris then to Barcelona might be enough for such a short trip, without trying to squeeze in another stop. Plenty in both of those cities to keep most of us entertained.

Posted by
7175 posts

Perhaps 2 nights in Lyon and 2 nights in Avignon. I wouldn't hire a car as you don't have the luxury of time to enjoy country touring.

Posted by
3551 posts

I suggest u see paris and barcelona well. They are 2 blockbuster cities to see. U can fly from paris to barcelona ck for cheap intraeurope flights. If u must see another area consider a sight outside of paris ie Versailles, or bus tour to loire valley. I cannot see squeezing in dordogne. It is wonderful but a little diff to get to with slow windy roads that covers too much to see and do . Besides canoeing, visiting prehistoric caves, museum, a multitude of lovely villages and castles in area it is spread out needing more time and of course a car. Perhaps u could save it for another time and include provence and the french riveria. i have been to all these areas. I believe u need more time to enjoy the dordogne.

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks for your replies. I have been to Europe before. Three trips, most of the time in Italy, with a few days in the Swiss Alps, Budapest and Salzburg tagged onto Italy trips. I have never done more than 2 weeks at a time. I have never been to France and Barcelona. I enjoy having the variety of one or two "must see" cities and some time in the natural beauty of the country and the freedom to explore the smaller villages. I hate to give that up. I suppose that I should have just concentrated on France, but it's been 8 years since I last saw Europe and I got a little greedy! Hey...I was considering adding a stop in Italy, too...just to get my Italian fix!
It looks like the drive from Paris to Sarlat is about 5 hours. Is that right? I see the drive as part of the sightseeing, unlike a flight. I live in So California, and think nothing of driving 4-6 hours one way for a one to two night trip.
It sounds like I should ONLY add the Dordogne to this itinerary. Maybe add another day in Paris, or Barcelona?
Anyone have a suggestion for a train into Barcelona? Or should I fly?

Posted by
10 posts

I just saw the post by JS and Ben. I will consider all these suggestions to nix my Dordogne trip. But will also look into the flight/train Ben suggested. Is there nothing to see along the road from Paris to Sarlat?

Posted by
6179 posts

I can relate to your interest in driving this part of your trip. The French autoroutes are fast, generally uncrowded, and easy, though more expensive than we're used to. Via Michelin shows nearly 6 hours from Paris to Sarlat. Its route starts at the Hotel de Ville, which you won't be doing. Consider taking metro and shuttle to Orly and renting the car there, in the southern suburbs. Then the A10, A71, and A20 to Souillac and west to Sarlat and the Dordogne towns. This route will take you close to Orleans, Bourges, and Limoges, each a worthwhile stop if you had more time. The DB Bahn website shows 3-4 hours by TGV from Paris (Montparnasse) to Bordeaux, and Via Michelin shows 2 1/2 hours driving from Bordeaux to Sarlat, plus whatever time it takes to switch from train to car in Bordeaux. So from a time-lapse standpoint, they're pretty much the same. I didn't try to compare costs but of course you'll want to.

Given your timeframe, and much as I love the Dordogne, I'd suggest three nights there instead of four, giving you two full sightseeing days. Give the extra day to Paris or Barcelona (I'd think Paris, if you haven't been there before, but I haven't been to Barcelona). We stayed at Le Petit Versailles, a B&B in Beynac, a few kilometres west of Sarlat, and liked it very much. It's on a hillside overlooking the river and valley with several castles in view and the big Beynac castle just up the hill. Great breakfast, friendly thoughtful hosts. It's a short walk to "downtown" Beynac with a few nice restaurants, but if you're into serious dining you might be better off in Sarlat. Your two full days should give you time for one or two major caves, a couple of castles, and Sarlat itself, and maybe a boat ride if the weather's right. A more relaxed pace would be better, but the competition is two great cities.

Driving from Sarlat to Toulouse takes about 3 hours, and it's a 3-4 hour train ride from Toulouse to Barcelona. There may be faster ways to get there but I don't know them. So your travel day will be pretty much all travel. Have fun figuring all this out! ;-)

Posted by
16893 posts

Cave art in the Dordogne is really special and everything about that region will be different from your two big cities. I could always spend more time in Paris, but it's also relatively easy to return to, as a common hub for European arrivals and departures. Next trip, I hope you can stay at least a full two weeks ;-)

Dropping a car in Spain increases the rental price, which could be a reason to drop the car within France; get quotes for both options. However, the only direct train departure from Toulouse-Matabiau station (suggested above) to Barcelona is at 8:00 a.m.; later departures have a connection at Narbonne. If you drop the car closer to the border, at Narbonne or Perpignan, train tickets cost about €40 per person from Perpignan or €45-50 from Narbonne, with advance-purchase discounts not really a factor on this route.