OK, I am planning perhaps June 2015 travel to Portugal and Spain with possible to South of France. Interests are going to Fatima, Lourdes, art and history museums. How doable is traversing by bus and or train within these areas? Have done Italy with no problem so it sounds like trains are not as liquid as in Italy but them what do I know! My time is not limited, money of course is but I would like to have a decent view of these countries. Any and all suggestions would be welcomed and appreciated.
Edited: A mix of bus and train travel within each country will take you to most places. However, between the countries, there are very few connections to choose from. From Spain to Portugal, the main options are bus from Sevilla to the Algarve or Lisbon, overnight train from Lisbon to Madrid or San Sebastian, or flying. From Lisbon to the north of Spain, toward Santiago de Copostela, trains are infrequent and often require connections. You could probably fly cheaply between Lisbon and Lourdes; see www.skyscanner.com.
If you start planning your trip using Rick's guidebooks for those countries, transportation issues will be addressed in every chapter. That should be enough info for you to know whether or not you can travel within a day or a half day to the next destination you're considering.
Rick does not cover Lourdes in his books. Most people only need one day each for Fatima and Lourdes. The faith that you bring to those sites will have a big effect on how you experience them. Otherwise, they're "just churches."
Dear Sherry. We are planning much the same trip. Lisbon, Sintra, Fatima, then are walking part of the Camino Portugese. From there to San Sebastian, then Lourdes. Know that the 13th of the month in Fatima is especially crowded. I think Lourdes is busy all the time.The Portugese bus site is www.rodotejo.pt and the train site is www.cp.pt Sometimes it seems traveling by bus may be preferable than train. As far as the experience in Lourdes, there were thousands of responses to the experience on Trip Advisor and after reading many, it became apparent that it was a moving experience for most, even non-religious. Get past all the souvenir stands and the faith and compassion of the people there will amaze us.
Hank, thanks so much for the info regarding Lourdes. I am excited and hope to meet some locals along the way as always...I can never get anyone to travel with me so it is alone or stay home. Not an option to stay home so, I will work out the logistics and sure to enjoy my travels. Have you been to Pampalona?
Dear Sherry, we have not been to Pamplona but have read all the Hemingway books. It's part of The Camino Frances but we walked only the last 70 miles from Sarria in Galicia. Our trip this time is very ambitious and hope we can see all the planned sites. Your trip will be great. Sometime consider walking part of the Camino, it's an experience that is so enriching on many planes. Happy travels, Hank
Hank, thanks so much. I appreciate your words of experience and am in the process of making my plans...again, thanks.
Great that you have the travel bug and I like traveling solo sometimes and am going on another adventure possibly to Lisbon. I really like to home base in an area and then take trains and buses. I have been to Lourdes and yes get past the touristy shops and go for the evening procession and you must get dipped! It is magical!
I am starting with the Rick Steves book as was suggested and I want to find a great little B&B where I can easily walk to everything. That is where I am going to start so I will add what I find. The best western in Lourdes was very nice, hard to find but nice.
Kathy, thanks so much ... how far is the best western from the grotto? so, you got around on trains and bus with no problem? Where did you fly in and out of?
Sherry, I'd like to provide a different perspective on the earlier comment of the day is enough in Lourdes, Particularly since you say that time is not a huge issue. I've been twice, and had 3.5 days on my second trip; that worked well. The domain is huge, beautiful, and absolutely noncommercial. It is remarkable to spend time in a place where – the last will be first – really is lived.
The first mass of the morning in the grotto is remarkably quiet and prayerful, and the international mass in the afternoon is powerful, as is the evening procession. I found the baths a surprisingly moving experience – and you really need almost a half day to do that, given the waiting time. If you are physically up to it, there is a beautiful stations of the cross that takes you up a mountain that overlooks the domain. I would suggest you look at their website, which will give you an idea of the size, layout, and daily activities.
Hotels in Lourdes are relatively inexpensive. I would suggest staying very near the entrance to the domain. That makes it easier to be there early in the morning or late in the evening. Evenings can be noisy after the procession ends, so requesting a quiet room in the back of the hotel is a good idea.
When I was last there, RyanAir provided cheap and relatively easy transportation. With an interest in art and history, you may want to fly from Lourdes to Paris. Paris also has remarkable shrines. Send me a PM if you want more information.
I could not agree more with the remarkable post about the last will be the first. How very lovely and that is what I find, stay in one location and immerse yourself as the locals do. The best western we stayed at was an easy walk to the grotto and I believe they all give good senior rates. I like to email hotels directly as Rick Steves advises as they are a part of my travels and sometimes good friendships actually.
We did have a car as my brother in law drove us but I don't do that when I am by myself.
Regardless of what you pick, you will have an amazing time researching and then living your travel dream. It's not so much about the quantity of places but whatever you do, be mindful, rested and eat like a local because you are.
Send me a Private Message if you want more specifics.