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Challenge Question

My wife and I have traveled extensively around western Europe. We now have 2 young kids and have parents who can handle babysitting them for a 7-day stretch once every few years. We (at the moment) are not interested in taking them with us to make the trip longer. Our favorite European places are those that offer bucolic charm, great food, authenticity, and fun outdoor activities like biking, canoeing, hiking, etc. So - the challenge is to propose 7-day trips that get us to regions that offer the amenities I've described above while minimizing travel logistics and wasted time. We are from Boston so we can get direct flights to Paris, Amsterdam, Milan, London, Dublin, Frankfort, Zurich and Madrid. Most other cities require a transfer, though this can be done in NYC to reduce wasted in-country time. We are open to train travel or car rental, whichever optimizes the itinerary best! Thanks!

Posted by
2876 posts

Since you've traveled extensively around western Europe, you've probably been to both places - but the Provence &/or the Dordogne regions of France would certainly meet your criteria.

Posted by
3696 posts

Since you have already traveled extensively in western Europe and can get away without the kids, how about spending a bit more time on the plane to go someplace different... Romania is beautiful and the Transylvania area would be wonderful for hiking, biking, etc. Great food, reasonable prices, friendly people. Another thought... I think I flew from Boston to Malaga, Spain... from there the south of Spain as well as a quick ferry ride (less than an hour) to Morocco. Exotic location that would be good without the kids. Also towns in Morocco, Assilah and Chefchouquen were wonderful.

Posted by
331 posts

I second the first suggestion. The Dordogne river is great for canoeing!

Posted by
605 posts

Very interesting. Our short list for the trip is: 1. The Dordogne (never been) 2. Burgundy (been twice) 3. Provence (been once) 4. Umbria (been once) 5. Istanbul (been once)
6. Normandy and Brittany (never been) Two unsolicited votes for Dordogne are useful - thanks. Also, thanks for the Romania suggestion too. I'll put it on my radar. -Matt

Posted by
55 posts

Add Slovenia and Croatia to your possible visit lists - areas there would also meet your travel criteria.

Posted by
515 posts

I would consider eastern europe, like Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia I hear is beautiful.

Posted by
245 posts

Hey fellow Somervillean - another plug for the Dordogne. It's got everything on your wish list, including the magical caves. You could fly in and out of Bordeaux, renting a car so you could really get local. Another option would be to fly into Toulouse, pick up the car there, spend the night at Carcassonne, take a couple days to swing through Albi and the Minervois on your way to the Dordogne, and return the car at the Bordeaux airport.

Posted by
27440 posts

Small place, lots of alumni, Somerville. A lifetime or two ago I lived in Porter Square. Somebody told me the other day that the Sears is gone?

Posted by
605 posts

Wow. Somerville representing. The Sears is so long gone I never even knew their was a Sears in that building. It is now the Porter Exchange Asian Foods Market/Lesley University. Ok, I'm going to put together a feasible Dordogne itinerary. I had thought that Lyon was my only airport option in the area but Bordeaux sounds better. Thanks for that. Here's the alternative itinerary: Fly into Paris and train directly to Colmar. 3 nights Colmar Rent car in Colmar Spend next 3 days/nights in and around Burgundy (Beaune has been our favorite place to visit in the past) Drive to Lyon, drop off car - 1 day/night in Lyon
Fly home

Posted by
1878 posts

Another vote here for Dordogne. I have been there as well as Burgundy, Provence. The former does not match Dordogne, the latter is about equally great. And Provence is really something, so that's a pretty high bar. If you have never been, you should really give it a try. (Spent less than two days there in 2003, and even after ten Europe trips we still talk about it).

Posted by
118 posts

I see that Normandy is on your list for places to visit-
Please go! I too have traveled around Western Europe, and dream about visiting Normandy again! You will be blown away by the D-Day beaches, the museums, the American Cemetery, the beautiful countryside and the charm and gratitude from the people. I specifically love Bayeux, and I loved Battle-bus guided American sites 2 day tour. I cannot say enough positive things about visiting Normandy, so please since you live a little closer to France than I do, put Normandy on your list!

Posted by
605 posts

This is all fantastic. Anyone care to propose a rough 7-day itinerary for either the Dordogne or Normandy/Brittany? Just based on what I've read, I would think that a Normandy/Brittany trip would involved something like 4 nights in Honfluor (spelling) and 2 nights in Dinnan, then final night in Paris. Their seems to be many options for the Dordogne. Some other posts on this board imply that Sarlat isn't the best place to stay in. Also, if I fly in/out of Bordeaux or Tolouse, then I'm going to have to spend 1 night in those towns, which doesn't excite me.

Posted by
245 posts

We did use Sarlat as a base and loved it - gorgeous town, terrific market day. Per RS' book, we stayed at Hotel Montaigne on the edge of the old center. Great deal, big rooms, parking in front, easy enough to get in & out of town. We also did have to drive to Bordeaux on our last afternoon in order to catch the morning flight. Frankly, I wish we had given a little more time to Bordeaux - it was pretty cool to wander around in.

Posted by
345 posts

We really liked Normandy and Brittany. Rick has some good information about Normandy but nothing about Brittany. All of the D-Day sites in Normandy are very interesting but sobering. Honfleur had a pretty harbor area. We also liked seeing the tapestry in Bayeaux. We really enjoyed Carnac, Quimper and Peros Guirec, all in Brittany. Carnac had very interesting historic megaliths. You can visit the factory where Quimper ware is made. PG was beautiful along the English Channel with big rose colored boulders and some hiking trails. The food in both areas was wonderful especially the seafood. All the areas were charming and authentic. In Brittany, the signs are in the Breton language (similar to Welsh) and French. Enjoy!

Posted by
800 posts

Matt - the great thing about the Dordogne is you don't really need an itinerary per se because you can see lots of things from one spot. We rented a 2 bedroom house (we had our kids with us) in the charming town of Belves for 7 days. From there we visited Sarlat, Beynac, Domme, Monpazier, Rocamandor, etc. We visited the caves, canoed down the Dordogne, went to the markets, ate incredible food. We honestly didn't have a set plan until we got there. We had a guidebook for the region and would decide the night before what we wanted to do the next day. Staying in one place does minimize your logistics - no packing & unpacking. And we feel like we saw a good bit of the area. You also mention the Alsace - We spent almost a week in Strasbourg (our daughter was studying there) and that was another great place to use as a base. Colmar and all the little towns on the Rue de Vin were great. We drove all around and really enjoyed ourselves. Finally - good for you for going by yourselves! We did 3 trips of 8-10 days when our kids were very young and my parents would come to stay with them. EVERYONE had a good time (though I was always happy to be back on day 10). We started bringing them to Europe with us when they were 9 & 11 and they were great travelers at that age and onward. Have a great time wherever you decide!

Posted by
284 posts

Basque region around Hendiya (sp?), Bayonne, Hondribba, San Sebastian and Bilbao meets all of what you are looking for. You can take a flight to the area from Madrid or Barcelona on a single ticket from Iberia (IIRC). You can even spend the entire time hiking / backpacking a section of the Cameo de Santiago trail if you want. Biking on the other hand may not be as practical in this region. But a number of cities have a beach area, etc. and you can travel via bus or if you want to splurge a taxi. Edwin

Posted by
515 posts

If you go to Normandy make sure to hit: Giverny Honfleur Cain
Mont St. Michel

Posted by
1943 posts

how about Ireland, fly into Dublin and home from Shannon or the other way around or London and home from Edinburgh. If Ireland rent a car, not public transportation. Ireland is doable in seven days.

Posted by
605 posts

Thanks for all the great tips. I do want to visit Northern Spain, but the logistics seems difficult due to the distance between the region and an international airport. I've spent over 7 weeks in Ireland (work) so I'm not planning any future trips there at the moment (though I do miss the place). I'm thinking that realistically, and based on my interests, it is going to come down to the Colmar/Burgundy/Lyon itinerary I noted, and the Dordogne (currently leaning towards the Dordogne based on the responses to these posts). Normandy, Provence, Northern Spain, Turkey, Slovenia, Croatia, and Umbria will probably wait for future trips. Ironically, I just found out that I'm going to Frankfurt next week for 1 week of work. It will be my first time in Germany since 1998. I love working (for short periods of time) in a foreign country as you really get to see how people live and interact with one another.

Posted by
8199 posts

FWIW, I like Normandy a thousand times more than the Dordogne =)

Posted by
82 posts

Here is another suggetion. How about a trip to Luzern and the Berner Oberland region of Switzerland? You can fly into Zurich, then take the train to Luzern. Stay there for a couple of days, then mosey down to Interlaken on your way to Murren for three or four days. You can do lots of biking, canoeing (on the lakes) and hiking (in the Berner Oberland region). Penn

Posted by
774 posts

Here's another vote for the Dordogne, which I would have made even if many others had not already suggested it. Why we like the Dordogne: fabulous food, beautiful scenery, great older castles (we prefer castles from the middle ages over more recent chateaux), incomparable prehistoric art. And fewer U.S. tourists. On one visit to the Dordogne, we stayed in Domme. Charming village, but not so many dining choices for us. One night we ate there, the other nights we drove to dinner, which is a disadvantage because the driver can't really drink wine at dinner. The other trip, in late May, before the beginning of the heavy tourist season, we stayed in Sarlat. We walked to dinner two nights, and drove to dinner the other two, which was better. We liked spending time in the evenings just hanging out at a cafe. But if you'll be there during the summer, getting in and out of Sarlat for daytime driving would be a huge pain. The Saturday (bigger) and Wednesday (smaller) markets in Sarlat are legendary - we've only been for the Wednesday market, and it was great. On our first trip, we flew into Bordeaux and spent one night in St. Emiliion (husband is a huge wine lover). Then one night in Brantome, 4 nights in Brantome, then took the train to Paris for two nights before we headed home. While the drive to and from Brantome was scenic, and Brantome itself is like a postcard, I don't know that was the best use of our time. But I think I preferred that to staying the whole time in Sarlat.

Posted by
5 posts

Have you considered flying into Lisbon Portugal and driving south to Salema, which is one of RS 'backdoors'? I can only comment on our experience in April 2007 - don't know what has changed. We stayed at A Mer (sp?) which had parking, great breakfasts, and constant view of the ocean. There were many beaches to explore, and other places to hike. Salema, at that time, was a working fishing village, so we watched the fishing boats come in each morning with their squid and octupus. We stayed 5 nights in the loft apartment, and regretted that we had to leave. Sheri

Posted by
8064 posts

Let me know if you want suggestions for your stay in Frankfurt.