9 days in France and Spain

Hello! I am planning a trip with my husband to Europe and wanted to reach out to you as I have never been. We will only have 11 days to travel so I am essentially not counting 2 days to accommodate our flights. This is what I was thinking. Paris and Barcelona are musts as well as beach town. I know I am packing in a lot. I would appreciate any input! Day 1: arrive in Paris Day 2: Explore Paris Day 3: Last day in Paris Day 4: Take train to Marseilles (or option B is to go to Nice) Day 5: Aix en Provence Day 6: Leave for Barcelona (if taking option B, fly out of Nice to Barcelona) Day 7: Explore Barcelona Day 8: Fly to San Sebastian Day 9: fly to Madrid
Day 10: Fly back to Chicago

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3511 posts

just remember that a 1 hour flight takes at least 4 hours, probably more. You have to allow sufficient time to get to the airport, then to check in and go through security, etc. If you are checking luggage, then you have longer for check in and also waiting for offloading at your destination. Then you still have to get into the city and then to your hotel. I wonder if you really will pack in a lot, or just spend a lot of time packing and unpacking, and seeing train stations and airport.

Posted by Kathryn
Tulsa, OK
241 posts

You will likely get a lot of opinions but I think you are trying to pack way too much into a short amount of time. Bear in mind that you actually lose most of a day when you change locations. I would go with Paris, Barcelona and a beach town (if you must). Trying to fit in Aix, San Sebastian and Madrid is going to mean more travel than actually seeing the places you are visiting. You could actually spend your time between just Barcelona and Paris - and still feel that you have barely scratched the surface. I go with the belief that I will return so spend enough time each place to really get a feel for it.
If you just stay in Paris and Barcelona, you could rent apartments and "live like a local" for a few days.

Posted by chi2.5
chicago
8 posts

thank you. I think we can definitely cut out aix en provence, then fly out of Marseille to Barcelona? I don't really have to spend a lot of time in Madrid, but if we are going to San Sebastian, I think we would have to fly out of Madrid to get back to Chicago. Has anyone been to Sitges, Spain? If it's worth seeing then I wouldn't mind cutting out San Sebastian and Madrid. Then we could fly out of Barcelona.

Posted by Dawn
Denver, CO
259 posts

If you think you'll be cutting out Aix en Provence, then I'd fly straight from Paris to Barcelona and skip Marseilles or Nice.

Posted by Marbleskies
USA
281 posts

Stiges is not a must see. Marseilles is a big city, but not much to offer for creating memories. I recommend: Paris, Nice, Barcelona, Madrid: skip Provence/Marseille Take ATV from Paris to Nice Fly Nice to Barcelona Take AVE from Barcelona to Madrid Resist Temptation to MAX # of places to see Increase opportunities to absorb! If it was me I would go: Paris 3 days Barcelona 3 days
Madrid 2 days Enjoy

Posted by Anita
Long Beach, California, USA
575 posts

Way too many travel days for your short itinerary...you're going to see nothing but airports and train stations - you are really only giving yourself 4 actual days in several of the cities you are visiting and all the rest are partial days which won't be nearly enough time to see anything or even eat lunch and dinner. Fly to Marseilles from Paris and whittle down your whole list to 3 or 4 places, at most, and spend time just in those. You'll have plenty to do and you won't be utterly exhausted by the end of your trip. If it were me, I would just stay in Barcelona this time and save San Sebastian and Madrid for another trip. Maybe give yourself an extra day in Provence/Marseilles (maybe stay in Aix rather than Marseilles?) and then three days in Barcelona? That way you will have a nice introduction to France (Paris, the Mediterranean, and Provence) and then experience the contrast of Catalan Spain? Here's how I might consider doing this trip... Day 1: Arrive in Paris Day 2: Explore Paris Day 3: Last day in Paris Day 4: Fly to Marseilles (or option B is to go to Nice) Day 5: Aix en Provence Day 6: Provence countryside Day 7: Fly to Barcelona - Explore Barcelona Day 8: Barcelona Day 9: Barcelona
Day 10: Fly back to Chicago Just a suggestion...have a great trip! :)

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
1414 posts

Not realistic. You have 9 days maximum - and you will probably still be half-zonked and disoriented your first day or two there (it's your first trip to Europe...it does take some time to adjust to the language/culture/geographic displacement - don't underestimate that). With the time you have, and your stated requirements of "Paris, Barcelona and a beach town" then that's about all you're going to have time for. Fly directly from Paris to Barcelona. You can call Barcelona your "beach town" (there's a beach, it's not half-bad by European beach standards - do not expect a beach like Hawaii or other iconic beach images, European beaches are not like that). Most of all, you need to do two things:
1. Fly open-jaws (into Paris, then home from Barcelona - do NOT backtrack to your arrival city). 2. Cut out all but Paris and Barcelona. You have a little over a week. That's not enough time to move around much. Plan your next trip to allow you a more reasonable time in Europe (my personal minimums: 3 weeks is good, 2 weeks there is an absolute minimum).

Posted by chi2.5
chicago
8 posts

Thanks everyone! We will have 3 full days in Paris. I will give myself a day to do the touristy things like museum, eiffel tower, etc and then want to spend the other 2 shopping and eating. I thought it would make sense to travel south to Marseille then fly out to Barcelona. We can cut out Marseille, but then I would really want to visit San Sebastian. I know it's a lot to pack in, but I am the type that likes to be on the go. I wish San Sebastian had an aiport that would fly directly back to Chicago, but we would have to make a stop in Madrid anyway.

Posted by Adam
Boston
2634 posts

A good rule of thumb I think is to fly to avoid a train trip of 6 or more hours. You might stretch that in different ways to take account of special deals. On that score, note these train times. Paris-Marseilles is 3 hours, Paris-Nice 5-1/2 to 6-1/2 hours. Marseilles-Barcelona 5-1/2 to 7-1/2 hours, Nice-Barcelona 8-1/2 if you catch the right train. I think you are getting some pushback from people here who feel Nice is too far and Marseilles and Aix are not worth the detour. That is up to you, but you might consider a stop in Avignon, Nimes, or even Arles instead of Marseilles. Lots of stuff to see and do and closer to Barcelona. Alternatively just fly to Barcelona from Paris. This would save you tons of time which you could spend in Paris or Spain.

Posted by H J
LaGrange, Ga, USA
923 posts

I agree with Adam's post having visited the various cites he mentions to see and the ones to forget. Do not spend all of your time in the airports!! Get out and see the countryside and meet the people!!!

Posted by chi2.5
chicago
8 posts

Ok so our revised trip will look like this: Day 1: arrive in Paris Day 2: Explore Paris Day 3: Last day in Paris Day 4: fly to Barcelona Day 5: explore Barcelona Day 6: explore Barcelona Day 7: Fly to San Sebastian Day 8: explore San Sebastian Day 9: fly to Madrid
Day 10: Fly back to Chicago We will have to go through Madrid to fly back to Chicago anyway, so I thought we would stop by.

Posted by Heather
Myrtle Beach, SC, USA
5 posts

If you do choose to go to Marseille and then to Barcelona, be aware there are no direct flights or consistent flights. We are going to Marseille and then Barcelona next week and I searched and searched for the best way to get from point A to point B. The only way we found was a train from Marseille to Perpignan on the French railway and then from Perpignan to Barcelona on the Renfe spanish railway. It is also going to take us a full day to get from A to B. Just something to consider.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

If you weren't influenced by Mr Steves, San Sebastian wouldn't even be on your list. It's been a resort for a couple of hundred years and has pretty good grub, but it's certainly not the best of the Basque provinces or even typical of them. The time could be spent much better in Madrid.

Posted by Sharon
Atlanta
2664 posts

Just a wild idea. Spend 3 nights in Paris - fly to Barcelona (2 nights) - train to San Sebastian (2 nights) - bus to Bordeaux (1 night) - home from Bordeaux.

Posted by chi2.5
chicago
8 posts

Sharon, thank you. I think we might skip Bordeaux this time around. Ed- I'll have to watch Rick Steves on San Sebastian now! It was actually recommended by our friends who got engaged over there. We loved good food and would like to fit in somewhere we can relax. As you can see, I have a tendency to pack my schedule, so some downtime would be good. It doesn't have to be San Sebastian, but any nice beachy place within our route from Paris, Barcelona, Madrid will work. =)

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

You can't argue with friends. I grew up down the road. Blue lips in mid-summer, the Bay of Biscay is about sixty degrees then. The Gulf of Mexico near-shore is about eighty right now. The Med is warmer. Cadaques is just up the coast from Barcelona and is small with a good beach. Roses is a bit better, closer, and has more food choices. The train from Barcelona to Madrid is faster than flying, and stops in Zaragoza which has some of the best grub in the world.

Posted by chi2.5
chicago
8 posts

Thanks Ed!! Would you recommend staying in Zaragoza for a night or just passing through?

Posted by chi2.5
chicago
8 posts

Ed- Also, would you not recommend Sitges for the beaches? It seems so close to Barcelona that it might be easier to go there. Thoughts?

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

Spend the night in Zaragoza, it's damn near world class and nobody ever mentions it. Stiges? Delicately put, I'm not a fan of mostly-guy beaches or stores that sell padded men's bathing suits. I really enjoy eyeballing the wimmins. Undelicately put, one of my friends is queer as hell, but we both enjoy tearing around the far beyonds of China together.

Posted by Sharon
Atlanta
2664 posts

I should have explained my suggestion to fly home from Bordeaux - not so much as a place to visit but a smaller airport to fly home from rather than going south to Madrid. San Sebastian is a great destination for beach and food but it's a crazy city to get in and out of and, there's not much there to see in my opinion. I haven't been to Zaragoza but it's on my list. Ed's suggestion sounds good. Anyway, just some thoughts and clarification - with 8 nights I'd keep it simple. Paris, Barcelona, and Zaragoza? Fly home from Barcelona.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

Blanes has a train station and a good beach. It's big enough to have a variety of places to eat, but it's only been a one-nighter. There's a bunch of places to eat, but otherwise memory fails.

Posted by chi2.5
chicago
8 posts

Ed- ha yes, we were told of the majority of male beaches. However, I heard it was very clean! =) Sharon- thx for the clarification! We will need to end up in Madrid at some point since I booked our flight back from there.