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Help me think through a side trip from Switzerland to Spain...

Less than ten days until we head to Switzerland and our side trip to Spain is still more or less up in the air. We tend to travel without cementing plans in stone, but I do want to firm up some ideas. In Switzerland, we stay in my husband's home village just outside Luzern, but will likely begin our side trip (driving) from Lausanne after visiting other family. Our destination in Spain is a vacation home on the Costa Brava, between Barcelona & Girona, owned by our aunt & uncle. Truth be told, I'm not terribly interested in the Costa Brava region and would rather focus on sites in southern France. We committed to spending at least a few days at the house in Spain, though, so I feel obligated in that regard. I don't feel we can do Barcelona justice given our time frame, so if we go into the city it will be just a day trip ~ and primarily because my five boys, ages 7-17, want to see the football stadium. (All good things in life revolve around soccer, after all!) My list of possibilitiles to & from Spain includes a stop in Nimes, the Pont du Gard, and Roman theatres/ruins in Orange & Arles, swing through both Sete & Perpignon, and an overnight at the hostel in Carcassone. While we're outdoor-oriented and enjoy wildlife, I don't know that the Camargue is worth a visit given our time constraints, but I'm open to suggestions on that score. The max for this excursion is a week. Yes, it's short, but that's the time frame & we're okay with that. So the sites we see and places we stay are what are up for discussion, not the total length of time. Share your thoughts! : )

Posted by
9107 posts

I think Arles is a good base for that part of Provence. It is easy to do daytrips from there and easy to drive in and out of. I did just that last September. I would definitely choose Carcassone over Perpignan. I stayed in a timeshare a few miles from Perpignan last October and the best part of that segment of the trip was doing daytrips elsewhere. Well, the beach was nice, but not worth going to the area for. I didn't go to Sete. Carcassone was very cool and I'm sure the kids would love it. If you get the chance you could take a 2 hour boat trip on the Canal du Midi. You go through some locks which is fun.

Posted by
9110 posts

Your driving time is off. Actual road time is a bit under eight hours, how you handle the stops is up to you. Keep the Camarque is the back of you head. It's a good drive-through with a couple of hour (including lunch) in Aigues-Mortes. Most of the towns in the region are unstereotypically French to the point that some people might not enjoy the overnight. Sete is worth maybe a day (beaches?) and an overnight and is pretty nifty. Perpignan is worth an afternoon and an overnight just for the Basque grub. Carcassonne isn't that far out of the way, but you can see everything within the walls a couple of times in two hours. If you have to pull that off real late in the day, that would be the only reason to make it an overnight. My empasis would be on the Nimes/Orange area for which two full days might get most of it. I think it's easily workable no matter how you mix it.

Posted by
9110 posts

I have no idea where Je and google maps are getting their scoop. It's all freeway with an eighty per limit and most folks going a bit faster. None of those roads are that heavily traveled. Google maps shows six hundred miles to Girona. Six hundred over eighty is seven and a half hours. Pretty close to my wild-ass guess of under eight. Maybe not that much of guess - - I've only driven the Swiss segment a couple of times, but the rest of it I could do in my sleep. Je, feel free to share your experience if it's that much different - - and not just something hypothetical pulled off the internet. EDIT: There is one spot for a potential, slight, slow-down. There used to be a border control point at the France-Spain line. Every once in a while it pops back into use for some reason (agricultural, basque banditos, who knows) but it's never more than a half-mile line with a wave-though).

Posted by
97 posts

Anyone want to share your thoughts on my list of possibilities above? : )

Posted by
9107 posts

You have one week to sightsee on the way? What is the travel time from origin to final destination? I am not going to do the math for you, but you need to know the travel time so you will know how much time you have on the road. You have a pretty big wish list. I would narrow it down by prioritizing stops. Traveling with kids slows things down a bit.

Posted by
97 posts

No, Je, it's not unrealisitic in the least. We're experienced travelers, and a 10 hour drive each way is do-able for us, especially if we break it up with an overnight going and coming. Andrea, we'll spend a week total ~ 6 nights, 7 days ~ on this side trip. As I mentioned in response to Je, the drive each way is roughly 10 hours. We'll stay 3-4 nights at the house in Spain. My thought is to overnight in the Nimes/Arles region going one way ~ or both, perhaps. I also thought an overnight at the hostel in Caracasonne would be fun. Of course, it's not far from the place in Spain, but it seems too good to bypass entirely, and I'd rather not hit it midday. On the other hand, I wonder if people who have been recommend stopping by Sete &/or Perpignon in lieu of Carcassone?

Posted by
97 posts

Andrea and Ed, thanks for your input. Yes, the drive should be manageable in 8 hours; I'm rounding up to 10 to be on the safe side. I will leave Je to cover the ground himself and let us know his reality. ;-D Re Carcassone, I think it'd be a great addition for my guys, but I hear what Ed is saying in that it won't necessarily require a huge chunk of time. My only real reason for spending the night would be to avoid the crowds during the day (a la Rick's advice). I suppose we could always stop there in the late afternoon/early evening, and then just finish up the drive to the house in Spain. I like Ed's idea of focusing on the Nimes/Orange region for a couple of days. Originally I thought we'd stay there one night on the drive over and one night on the drive back. On second thought, it seems more reasonable to stay there two nights in a row and just do the drive, in one direction, straight through (more or less). Thanks for thinking this through with me. : )

Posted by
9107 posts

If you can find the time in either direction maybe you can fit in the Camargue. The kids would probably enjoy Aigues-Mortes. You can do it in an hour or so. As you drive through the Camargue you can have the kids try to spot the white horses, bulls and flamingos.

Posted by
97 posts

Thanks for the comments on the Camargue, Andrea. I'm thinking of it as a "definite maybe" ~ not as high a priority as Roman ruins in Orange, Nimes, etc but certainly worth a few hours. Je, I'm particularly interested in the theatre in Orange, so I'm glad to have your input on that...Although your comments would be much more appreciated and palatable ~ if less amusing ~ if you'd check your hostility at the door.

Posted by
97 posts

Not at all, Je. The comments here have helped me narrow my focus. My sense, reading your replies here & on other threads, is that you primarily want to scoff at other people's ideas and suggestions. If that floats your boat, so be it. You may want to have an extra glass of wine or two, though, to loosen up and take the edge off. Happy travels to you.

Posted by
7986 posts

Hi Colleen -- I can also recommend Orange; if you get a chance, find an old book by Ina Caro, "the Road to the Past" to make the Roman arch and theater come alive. And you should absolutely, absolutely visit the Pont du Gard, it's magnificent. And then since you're going to be there, I would highly recommend a day or two (especially on market day) in Uzes, nearby. A charming small city with a beautiful central area. I love it down there! Have fun!

Posted by
97 posts

Thank you, Kim! What do you think of using Nimes as a base for a couple of days? I thought I'd decided on Arles, but find myself leaning toward Nimes now.

Posted by
7986 posts

Nimes vs. Arles as a stopping point . . . Hmmm. I don't really feel well versed enough to give an opinion! I've done a day visit to Arles, which does have such an allure with the van gogh connection and the bullring . . . But Nimes is supposed to be really cool, too . . . . I'm really sorry not to be able to offer better guidance!

Posted by
97 posts

Thanks for replying again, Kim. Yes, each place does offer advantages and to that end, we could do one night in each town. I wouldn't mind just staying in one spot for the two nights, though. We shall see! : )