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Proposed Itinerary Barcelona to Paris

In July 2014, my husband and I are traveling with our daughter (12) and niece (13). Here is the itinerary we are thinking about. I would love to get some feedback about our allocation of days.
7/7 fly from Washington D.C. to Paris to Barcelona. Stay in Barcelona 3 nights, probably in an apartment but maybe in a hotel since we will have just arrived.
7/10 Pick up a car at the airport, drive to Tossa de Mar, about a 1 hour drive. Stay 3 nights. (we'd consider staying only 2). Snorkel, hang out at the beach, eat seafood.
7/13 Leisurely but long drive to Sarlat le Canada (about 5 hours straight through, but we'd leave in the morning and plan to make some little stops on the way). Stay in that town or one nearby. 3 nights. See cave paintings, the archeological museum in Les Eyzies de Tayac, possibly canoe down the Dordogne. Our girls really want to see the cave paintings, and it sounds like this area of France is very beautiful.
7/16 Drive to the Loire Valley (?) as a stop between the Dordogne and Paris. I think the girls will like to see a chateau, but I could imagine them being less interested in several of them. Possible stay in Chenonceux or Amboise. Overnight only. Given the short time, we are thinking of staying right in Chenonceaux, walk to the chateau to tour, then get on the road.
7/17 afternoon, drive to Paris. Drop off car at airport. 5 nights in Paris. Fly home the morning of 7/22.

We are wondering: 1) whether to cut our stay in Tossa de Mar down to 2 nights to get more time in France, or 2) cut the Paris stay by one day so that we have 2 nights in the Loire; 3) Would it be better to stay somewhere else between the Dordogne and Paris if we can only give the Loire one night? I looked at Orleans, but that seemed like a much bigger city.

Our priorities are: plenty of time to see museums and sights in Paris, some "down" time at the beach, cave paintings and a more rural experience in France. We will be looking for apartments and villas where we can.

Thanks for any help you can give.

Posted by
4684 posts

I'd suggest not driving from Sarlat to the Loire to only stay one night. Given the distances and possibility of driving delays, I'd either spend two days in the Loire or give up on the idea. You probably wouldn't have time to visit any chateau properly.

Posted by
4132 posts

Unless you can find a deal, you will face a hefty surcharge for dropping off in a different country than where you started. So I'd think about taking trains until you get to France. You can pick up a car in Perpignan right at the train station.

You may be surprised, but a little Chateaux can go a long way. Your itinerary allows you to visit two, three if you are fanatical and bag one the day you arrive.

If you discover that you just love Renaissance Chateaux you can visit several from Paris, including of course Versailles. But I suspect you will decide you have other things to do in Paris.

The Dordogne is wonderful. Given your priorities, resist any temptation to shave time there. If you get an early start from Barcelona I'd suggest stopping at the Grotte du Peche Merle on the way there, perhaps the best cave that is still open to the public. You'll need a reservation.

Posted by
10339 posts

Like Adam said, you will pay a large drop off fee to rent a car in Spain and return in France. It is an easy train trip to Perpignan. Pick up your car for France there. I rented from the "downtown" location to save a few euro over renting at the Perpignan train station. Don't do that. The "downtown" location ended up being closer to the airport and it cost us a 25€ cab ride.

Why are you flying from Washington, D.C. - Paris - Barcelona? Why not just fly open jaw (multi-city) to Barcelona and back from Paris?

I can recommend a nice 2 bedroom apartment in Barcelona that I rented for 3 nights. Let me know if you would like the information. In September 2011 I paid 90€ per night, so it is very economical.

I would not cut any time from Paris, but I have to say I love it there. Next year I will be going there for the 4th time, and my shortest visit has been 5 nights. I think there is plenty to do in Paris to keep you all occupied, and the kids would probably like it more than going to multiple chateaux. I recommend you stay in an apartment there. Hotel rooms are very small and with a kitchen you can save a little money on food. One criteria I have is I always get an apartment with a washer (and hopefully a dryer) so I don't have to spend sightseeing time doing laundry. I use and to find apartments. I'm researching for my upcoming trip and using airbnb to find places too.

Posted by
26 posts

We are thinking that we will cut Tossa de Mar to 2 nights and then spend an extra night in the Loire Valley. We are flying through Paris because that's where our frequent flyer miles would take us.

Posted by
32245 posts


A few thoughts on your proposed Itinerary.....

  • As the others have mentioned, renting a car in Spain and dropping it in France will likely come with a HUGE charge. It would be better to rent separately in each country.
  • If you're looking for beach time, you could enjoy the excellent beaches in Barcelona which would save a trip to Tossa de Mar. After your time in Barcelona, take the train to your first stop in France and rent a car there.
  • One hotel to consider in Sarlet-la-Caneda is La Couleuvrine. I was very pleased with my stay there.
  • Especially for your time in France, it would be a good idea to pack along the France 2014 Guidebook, as that has an enormous amount of information that will help your trip go smoothly.
  • Five nights in Paris is good, but plan your touring carefully as there's a LOT to see! Especially in July, you might consider Paris Museum Passes for everyone, as that will minimize your time waiting in queues. Are you planning to also visit Versailles?

Good luck with your planning and happy travels!

Posted by
271 posts

Susan - sounds like a great trip but you are covering a lot of territory. The auto routes in France are excellent and should make your plan do-able.
In '13 we spent several weeks in Catalan and the Dordogne and considered extending the route North to Paris but finally chose not to. Here are a few suggestions which you may find useful: Costa Brava and the small towns are wonderful - we stayed in Calella de Parafrugel and in a nearby town in France, Collioure. After a nap you'll be loving the warm waters and tapas BUT you'll have missed one of my favorite cities in the EU, Barcelona. The beaches in Barcelona (including Sitiges) lack the charm of Costa Brava. Try to find an extra two days for Barcelona.
In the Dordogne I'd try stayng in a small town or village vs. Sarlat (which is a very nice market city/town) - Dome or La Roque. We stayed at Hotel Perigod - a great hotel (pool, food, location, and wonderful owners). Follow Rick's advice - get on the River early to enjoy a most scenic journey.
Amboise is ideal for a short look at the Loire - a quaint, walkable market town with nearby Chateaus and the DaVinci collection which may interest your girls.
Drop off fees - I've seen wide variation for drop off fees - $200 to $1000; the former worked for a recent trip of mine but it took a bit of digging to uncover it. And, BCN is well represented by rental companies so hopefully you find competitive rates and fees.

Posted by
26 posts

Thanks everyone for your helpful advice.

I thought of the same problem about the rental car - when I was looking at this a few days ago, Hertz didn't seem to be charging a huge drop off fee. My husband read somewhere that the fee was less if we rented from airport to airport. However, I did not go all the way through with the reservation, so it's possible that the fee would be tacked on later in the process. Thanks for the advice about renting in France - I guess if we stayed in Collioure, that might be easier - we could take the train to Perpignan, rent a car there, then drive to Collioure and then take off for Dordogne from there.

We are having trouble finding an apartment in Tossa de Mar for 2 nights, so we may go to a hotel. In the Dordogne, we were looking at St. Cyprien instead of Sarlat - anyone have experience with that village? I've been looking at Trip Advisor, Air BnB and vrbo/home away but haven't found something that is available for our short term so far. I am looking at Domme and La Roque also. We'll be 2 nights in the Loire, splurging on Le Manoir Les Minimes. Then, in Paris, I noticed on other threads that the 4th, 5th and 6th arrondissements are best - I'm trying to get an apartment on the Ile Saint Louis, but not successful so far. Using vrbo and My Apartment in Paris and Trip Advisor to look - any other suggestions?

One other question - we are self connecting from Paris to Barcelona. We arrive at CDG at 5:45 am, and there is an Easy Jet flight to Barcelona at 7:40 am. I'm worried that it is too tight a connection if something goes wrong. There is a Vueling flight at 9:55. Although I would not want to sit in the airport for 4 hours, maybe that makes more sense?

Thanks again everyone. Your advice is especially helpful because I left all my guidebooks at my house and we are visiting family this week.


Posted by
10339 posts

"One other question - we are self connecting from Paris to Barcelona. We arrive at CDG at 5:45 am, and there is an Easy Jet flight to Barcelona at 7:40 am. I'm worried that it is too tight a connection if something goes wrong. There is a Vueling flight at 9:55. Although I would not want to sit in the airport for 4 hours, maybe that makes more sense?"

In my opinion that is way too tight a connection. What if your plane is late arriving? Long lines at Immigration? It's a huge airport, how far do you have to go to get to your next terminal or gate? You might end up bored, but definitely less stressed if you take the later flight.

In Paris I like the 4th, 5th & 6th arrondissements, the closer to the river the better it is for being central and walkable. There should be a wide variety to choose from, especially in the 5th.

If you choose to spend your beach time in Collioure it will make your car situation easier. You can take the train from Barcelona to Perpignan and Collioure is a short drive from there. It is a great little town, but the beach is rocky. Just north from there you will find some really nice sandy beaches where you can go for some relaxing beach time.

Posted by
504 posts

We did a very similar itinerary last July, Barcelona, Collioure, Dordogne, Loire and Paris. I would skip the one day in the Loire, as it just added to our driving time and felt rushed. I would add that night to an extra day in Barcelona which has a lot to see and do, or an extra day on the Mediterranean, as it is hot that time of year.