We are plainning to rent a car in Barcelona travel to Provence/The French Rivera, then up to Loire Valley and Normandy and return to Barcelona via Basque Country. We have been reviewing Rick's Spain, France and Provence/French Riviera travel books. If we plan to not lodge in larger metropolitan areas are we being unrealalistic to not have advanced lodgings? Is it possible to get off the beaten path and find places to stay in smal towns. We have been looking at B&Bs and farm accomodations near larger towns. The time frame is late May through mid June. We speak a little French and Spanish. Can we expect to have reasonable secure parking for the car? Are some areas better to have reservations then others? Please advise us about your thoughts.
We've traveled by car in France, Germany and Austria on two occations for 6+ weeks durning May and June. With few exceptions where we made reservations in advance, we never experenced difficulty locating a B&B in small towns. Most towns will have a tourist office and they can usually help you find vacancys. At the very least, they will give you a list of B&B's and you can call or stop by to see if there is a vacancy or in you like the accomadation. We did however make advance reservations in Provence at Le mas Du Kairos, a lovely B&B in the small hilltop village of Venasque. If it's in an area you plan to visit, I would highly reccomend a stay there. Here's a link: http://www.masdukairos.com/site%20gb/index.htm Here's a link to my blog and my post about our stay there. http://tinyurl.com/26flwou
It's been very easy to find hotels in smaller towns while driving through France. I look for hotels with Logis de France logo - it's an association of small, family run restaurants, usually with good restaurants. Very reasonably priced. I also have used tourist offices who generally can locate a room, especially if I'm arriving late in the afternoon. I've learned to try to stay at least three nights in each place and do day trips. It cuts down on the stress of finding a new place every night.
In that time frame, you can probably get by without reservations. But I have to ask why. It's pretty easy to plan an itinerary these days with all the info available. Maybe divide your trip into areas and have reservations some days and allow flexibility other days.
In France ALWAYS make for the local tourist office if you don't have a reservation - it will save you a LOT of effort and it would be VERY unusual if they could not find you something. Bon route! Roger
I agree with Tex. We have done it both ways in Europe. I find it easier to research before I go, mainly using Trip Advisor. When you have all of this done beforehand, you don't have to worry about finding a place, will get the price range you want, and won't waste valuable time looking. We have pulled in to a town and spent two hours trying to find something. We have our best luck when we have been somewhere before and already have ideas of places to stay. In any event, you will be fine any way you do it.
Thanks - Bill
Be aware of the following holidays, when tourist offices will likely be closed. Some small towns have festivals on the week-end of June 4, following Ascension Day. These may affect your ability to easily find a place: June 2
June 12 & 13
John, I'm not sure what you mean by 'secure parking'. If you are going 'off the beaten track' then you are unlikely to get a locked car park. You may well get off road parking however, but not sure if it's what you would call 'secure'. We have never had a problem leaving the car unattended in rural France, obviously we do not leave valuables in it overnight. The only time we had a problem was when we left the car in a well lit street in the centre of Avignon. The car was broken into for some loose change (amounting to less than 2 Euros) left in the central console. The side window had been broken with a brick. Make sure you leave NOTHING visible in the car, just as you would probably do at home.
We spent five weeks in France in April and May, 2010. We had reservations for our first night in Auxerre and the last five nights in Paris. The rest of the time, we used a variety of hotels. We used Mercure hotels part of the time. Mercures have good rates if you are over 55 years old. We also like the Logis chain of hotels. The hotels are run by local owners under the Logis brand. The prices were reasonable. Some of the hotels had restaurants and others just had breakfast available for a price. The hotels had parking areas. Since we were in somewhat rural areas, we felt fairly secure about leaving the car. Have fun!
We were in France several years ago on the coast on Pentecost weekend and couldnt find a room.We were told it was a 4 day weekend and many people traveled to the coast.
My limited experiences with winging it have led me to the have- your- reservations side on this issue. However, if you want to go without, the person who mentioned Pentecost weekend raises an important point. Find out as much as you can about national and local holidays and festivals occurring in your travel time. One that I know of is the Cannes Film Festival, which takes place in May.
Many trips to Europe and very rarely did I make any reservations. Some people love to plan every detail at home and some love to find their way as they go. I will usually make a reservation for the day before I fly home and sometimes for the day I arrive. Depends on where I fly into. I have a general idea of where I want to go and just let it happen. Yes, there have been some stressful moments, but very few...and I have also had stressful moments when I have paid for a reservation up front and can't find it, or it was not at all as pictured.
At some hotels I will ask for recommendations for the next town I am going to and have found great places. But, I do try to find out about the festivals as they can be an issue. Also, if you really want to stay on the Mediterranean, although I have found those at the last minute also. Different styles of travel for different folks..I love to follow my instincts and be spontaneous when my trip will allow it.