Based on the rather limited research I've done so far, I'm thinking of flying into Paris since I can get a non-stop flight from Newark NJ, and spending a few days there before taking a train to the tour's starting point of Bayonne. I also considered flying into Barcelona, but I think the travel on to Bayonne from there would be more difficult. I would love to get advice from anyone who has previously taken this tour (or anyone else that wants to throw in their 2 cents!).
If the decision is based heavily on train schedules, then trains from Paris (September example) take 5 hours with one connection, 5x/day. From Barcelona, trains through France take 9 hours with 2 connections, 3x/day. Prices are best if you lock in departures 3-4 months ahead, when tickets go on sale. You can also take a direct train from Barcelona to San Sebastian in 5.5 hours, but then need a couple of local connections to cross the border.
Looking Up Train Schedules and Routes Online gives you the DB train schedule link and tips for using it. Many Spanish schedules only published through early June at this time. EuskoTren provides the most connections to Hendaia/Hendaye on the French side of the border.
Either plan can work, as well as you can look for flights at www.skyscanner.com. Bottom line is to visit the city you most want to visit.
we flew into Paris. took tgv to bayonne. It's a great tour! Have fun!
( ps. could be rainy though, so be prepared)
Last year, I flew into Biarritz after spending a few days in Dublin. Easy bus ride to Bayonne train station.
I'm flying into Bayonne and out of Bilbao, but I'm going on my own and not an RS tour. I was able to get flights on Iberia (changing in Madrid), but that only leaves from JFK. And from Madrid to Bayonne there's only one flight a day on Iberia (at least on May 11, when I'm going; I wouldn't be surprised if there are more in summer).
Yes, the Basque country is not close to airports with nonstop flights to the US. If you don't want to change planes from Newark, Paris and Madrid are the closest options.
If you want to come in a few days early, you could take a separate flight from a variety of places to Bayonne (use "Biarritz" or "BIQ" when searching for this airport on air websites, as "Bayonne" wasn't always recognized). Here's the list of airlines and routes nonstop into Bayonne: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biarritz_Pays_Basque_Airport#Airlines_and_destinations
One of my favorite RS tours.
I flew into Paris. Spent an afternoon walking around Paris, had one of the best meals ever at a small place that made Italian food with a French flair, then after a good night's sleep flew to Bayonne the next day. It's a lovely little city. Air France has a lots of flights.
Thanks to everyone who responded! The plan to fly into Paris and then take the train to Bayonne seems to be a good option and most likely what I will end up doing; I'd rather take a 5-hr train ride and see some of the countryside than have to deal with another flight.
Hi Susan, I just got back from the Basque Country on Sunday and it was fantastic. We flew in to Paris from San Francisco which makes our flight longer than yours by about 5 hours and we went didn't stay in Paris. We also decided to take the train to Bayonne. Big mistake! We took a shuttle to the train station, Montparnasse, and it was really warm and we crawled along through heavy traffic. The train trip took five hours and we sat across a smallish table from two French businessmen. It was much more cramped than Amtrak seating and with not much space for luggage. The scenery was pretty, very green and very repetitive. The train tracks are often laid low, as if in a ditch, so you don't get a great view. By the time we got to Bayonne, we were exhausted. The businessmen told us this was an old, slow train and the new, fast train will be in place in July so things should improve then. If you are going after July, it might be worth it. We were very happy to fly back to Paris from Bilbao. And this was from my absolutely hates to fly, husband.
However you get to Bayonne, the tour is well worth whatever you had to go through. The food is fantastic and Francisco, our guide, was incredible. He claims he can't remember all of us but we will never forget him.. If he is your Gide, please say hi from Lesley and Glen from California, May 19, 2017 tour. And have a great trip!
Labryns, I'm so glad to hear that you enjoyed the tour! If you have any recommendations for anything we should do during our free time I'd love to hear it. We're still 3 months out but I've been doing tons of research to prepare myself. Sorry that your experience on the train was less than wonderful, that surely made for a very long travel day. I think if we weren't staying in Paris I would fly through to Biaritz, but once I factor in all the extra time on the ground involved in taking this short flight it still makes more sense to take the train. Hopefully we will be able to get on a newer train, and based on your report I will buy the upgraded tickets as well. Thanks so much!
The advice we got from RS travel forum was to fly into Paris when we took the Basque tour. To book our train travel leaving from train station at the airport. Not to leave the airport for another train station. It was so easy and convenient. Bayonne was not listed as a destination at our connection when we were closer to Bayonne. A nice French lady could tell we were confused. She told us to get on the train for Hendaye, which is south of Bayonne.
I was on Lesley's tour and concur that it was fantastic. I flew into Paris and home from London. I spent a couple of days in Paris before taking the train to Bayonne. I would not have wanted to take the train upon arrival. I took one of the direct trains and had a first class ticket. Even with a first class ticket, I found the train less comfortable than most, mainly because all the seats were in a table configuration which limits legroom unless you want to play footsie with the stranger sitting across from you. I flew from Bilbao to London after the tour. I was supposed to fly on BA but was there on the day of BA's system-wide IT meltdown so after my flight was canceled and spending 8 hours in the Bilbao airport, I bought a ticket on Vueling to Gatwick. I then spent a couple of days in London before my flight home.