We are planning a trip to Paris in April of 2014. Once we leave Paris we would like to take a train into Provence/Avignon. We would like to stop in Annecy for a day or two before getting to Provence. We would rent a car while in Provence to explore at our leisure. Our plan is get back on the train and head to Barcelona. I would appreciate any advice on this itinerary, best train routes or how to change this to keep it simple....if that's possible.
I think you've got it. No further complications needed. And a very pleasant trip it sounds like, too. Best train route? Let SNCF and RENFE worry about that. Just buy the ticket with the best price and schedule for your needs and leave the driving to them. Tickets go on sale 90 days in advance. Buy from the national rail companies. If you buy 90 days out there are some great deals but they sell out fast. (So: Early 2014.) To buy online, tell SNCF that you live anywhere but North America and will pick up in France. Then you can get your tickets in Paris at the train station or at any SNCF boutique. You must must must bring the credit card you reserved with to claim your ticket.
Wow! I can now see runs on the French http://en.voyages-sncf.com/ website from France to Barcelona. For a long time, this has not appeared on the French train website even though the runs exist. You would have to go to the French train station to buy the tickets. Here's a link to a picture of what I see. http://en.voyages-sncf.com/en/train-ticket/result?hid=AH1 My wife and I have done this in reverse. The Avignon TGV train station is not in the center of the city. You take a bus from the train station to the Avignon Centre train station. Since you seem to be open to a rental car, I suggest that you take the high-speed TGV from Paris to Dijon and rent a car right in the train station. There are 3 rental car counters in the train station. From there, you can visit a bit of Burgundy and drive to Annecy. From Annecy, you can drop down to Lyon and drive to Provence. To really see Provence, you will need a rental car. When you are done with the car, turn it in at the Avignon TGV train station which has a large rental car area.
Thank's Adam & Larry for the feedback. It is definitely helping us with the planning of this trip.
I suggest you keep the car, drive to Perpignan and drop it there (to avoid a large drop fee in Spain). Take the train to Barcelona from Perpignan. On the way drive through the Camargue and visit Aigues-Mortes. The driving would be 4ish hours or so. Use viamichelin.com for drive times and costs including tolls. You might stay a night in Collioure, a picturesque port about half an hour south of Perpignan, then catch a morning train out of Perpignan.