Off topic: Planning impromptu road trip through France (/Spain) - any tips welcome please!
Thread poster: Nesrin

Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:28
English to Arabic
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Aug 4, 2010

Having had our Egyptian holiday plans trashed, we've now decided to go on an impromptu road trip from the UK through France starting next week.
Our preliminary idea is that in the period of max 2 weeks we'd drive from Calais (arriving by ferry) down to Paris, Toulouse, possibly cross the border to Barcelona, up to Bordeaux and all the way up again.

We've never done this before and are therefore not sure about:
1) towns worth stopping at, roads worth travelling through
2) money-saving tips,
3) whether it's a good idea to book all hotels in advance or - as we'd prefer it - stop when and where we feel like it and try to find a place to spend the night there,
4) anything else to look out for.

Mille mercis!


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Terry Richards
France
Local time: 06:28
French to English
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Check out our site Aug 4, 2010

My wife & I travel this way all the time. You can read about some of our exploits on our web site: http://terryr999.pagesperso-orange.fr/. See the "Travels" section on the top right.

Specific answers to your questions:

1) Nearly all of them.
2) Go for farmhouse B&Bs rather than fancy hotels.
3) We very rarely book in advance and haven't had to sleep in the car yet.
4) It's always the things you didn't plan that turn out to be the most fun.

Personally, I would either spend the whole two weeks in Paris or skip it completely. Your car will be an unnecessary and expensive nuisance in Paris.

T.


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Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 06:28
Member (2007)
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Petrol Aug 4, 2010

Fill your tank at the hypermarket (eg Carrefour) garages. MUCH cheaper!

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xxxjacana54  Identity Verified
Uruguay
English to Spanish
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4) Aug 4, 2010

If you're going to cross the border twice, you might consider the pass of Roncesvalles for one of the crossings (look out for the monastery, but you can't miss it).

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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:28
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TOPIC STARTER
Thanks, so far! Aug 4, 2010

Thanks Terry, for the useful tips and website! There's a lot to take in there, but I'll give it a good read. It's a relief to hear that we don't need to make advance bookings. A friend of ours also suggested Etap, which I found mentioned on your site (and I take the "devoid of character and charm" point, but it's good to save some money! )
Thanks also Noni for the petrol tip, I'm sure it'll prove useful!

PS I think you're right about Paris too, Terry. Plus we've visited it a couple of times before so it's best skipped this time.

[Edited at 2010-08-04 12:38 GMT]


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
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Thanks Lucia! Aug 4, 2010

Lucia Colombino wrote:

If you're going to cross the border twice, you might consider the pass of Roncesvalles for one of the crossings (look out for the monastery, but you can't miss it).


We're now considering dropping Spain altogether due to time constraints though . I've long dreamt of visiting Barcelona but a day or two will certainly not do it justice...


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Terry Richards
France
Local time: 06:28
French to English
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August! Aug 4, 2010

I just noticed that you are going next week. As it's August, I would avoid the Mediteranean coast like the plague and would think twice about the Dordogne and the Southwest. Or, if possible, put it off until September which is my favourite month for travelling in France. If you have to come in August, the Loire, anywhere in the central area and Brittany are all good choices. If you make it to central Brittany, we'll buy you a drink E-mail me for contact details.

Etaps, Formule 1 and suchlike are fine for a one-night stay when you just can't drive any further. If you are going to be staying more than one night, something nicer can often be found at a similar price.

Just about all supermarkets sell petrol and are considerably cheaper than petrol stations. Try and get petrol during the day (when there is a cashier present) as the pumps can be tricky about accepting non-French cards.

T.


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Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 06:28
Member (2007)
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Petrol in France, petrol in Spain Aug 4, 2010

Sorry, I didn't make it clear I was talking about petrol in France. In Spain the Carrefour filling stations are rather thin on the ground - I've only seen one on the outskirts of Madrid. Not in an exactly picturesque spot either! Here I normally use either Eroski or Simply because they're always a cent or so cheaper than the local opposition, and if you spend 30€ at a Simply you get a further 10% discount - given that our car can take 70 litres, then you're talking about a further 7€ - you might think about doing your wine stocking there to run up the 30 euros!! Not the most inspiring of supemarkets, although the wine range has improved recently.

Anyway, you have more exciting things to think about than supermarkets. Tapas! Free with your drink in our part of the world (got to do my bit for tourism in Castilla and León!), and you even get to choose your tapa in the bars in Avila. They aren't served in "pubs" (the late night bars) btw, so don't get disappointed on that one. Menú del día, Monday to Friday, from about 8€ upwards, always a good bet (if you don't have dietary restrictions) for lunch - head off the motorway for them though. It means you don't have to pay extra for bread/water/pud etc (I HATE having to pay for bread I probably haven't eaten), although they don't normally include coffee.

Got to get organized so that we can set off in the other direction shortly! I need to be slightly more booked in advance because we travel with two smallish boys.

Have fun!

PS It is cheaper to book your ferry in advance. A bit, anyway.


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France road trip Sep 24, 2010

Nesrin,

I recently took a 2000 mile road trip going from Dunkerque down the east side - to just southeast of Carcassonne - then across to the west coast and back up north. I visited many of the usual places but also some that aren't especially popular tourist destinations. I have posted an account of the trip with details of the various stop-offs here.

Although I camped most of the way there and back, you can see which of the towns and cities I felt were most worth a visit (Beaune, Lyon, Thueyts, Villerouge-Termenes and Mailee to name but a few).

Faraz


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:28
Member (2006)
French to English
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The Millau viaduct Sep 24, 2010

See the staggeringly elegent Millau viaduct - a marvel of modern engineering spanning the Tarn gorge and bypassing the (quaint and interesting) town of Millau - I think it's part of the A75 autoroute. Definitely "vaut le voyage" for me.
You could then proceed south-west to Roncesvalles or any of the other glorious passes through the Pyrenees. Fascinating how different the French and Spanish sides of that magnificent range are from one another. The Cirque de Gavarnie is also "vaut le voyage".
Have a great trip.
Jenny


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:28
English to Arabic
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TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! Sep 24, 2010

Thanks Faraz and Jenny! Actually my initial posting was made in August, and the road trip is now behind us! But since you suggested places that we have not been to, and since we intend to repeat the experience, I'll revisit this thread before our next one!
We did enjoy our trip immensely, even though we went against Terry's advice, and (mainly because of the kids) decided to drive down to the Mediterranean. Yes, it was pretty crowded, but we rented a place 30 minutes from the sea in a small village called Pouzolles, so were able to enjoy the quiet country life as well as the crazy beaches. We drove down through the middle, stopped in Orleans and visited the Loire chateaux region, then down through Bourges and Clermont Ferrand to the Med (where we stopped for 4 days), Montepellier, Pezenas, Toulouse (stopping at Carcassone, which in the pictures looked magnificent but we found pretty spoiled with touristy shops - very Disneyland like), and then up again. We even managed an afternoon in Paris!
Thanks all for all your advice. Terry especially, even though we didn't do much of what you advised!


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