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Toulouse-Barcelona

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sydney
posts: 4
Toulouse-Barcelona

Hi folks, we are spending 6 weeks in Toulouse in June, July & are hoping to get down to Barcelona for a few days if possible. We will have a car, but was hoping to get a train down there as it would be a bit more enjoyable as I wouldn't have to concentrate on keeping my eyes on the road. Do any members have any idea re what trains, connections, how booked out trains would be from Toulouse. Any help would be appreciated

Ohio, USA
posts: 19,030
reviews: 4
1. Re: Toulouse-Barcelona

Hi homebrewer -

Normally I would probably agree with you that the train is a better way to get from point A to point B efficiently and quickly. This case is different, however. Getting from Toulouse to Barcelona by train is a slow proposition at best, and the likelihood is that there will not be good train connections. At a minimum I would expect that you would have to change trains twice, one most likely in Narbonne, and again at the Spanish border because the French and Spanish rail systems operate on different gauges. I haven't checked your paticular route but I'd be surprised if you could do it in less than six hours. You can search possible timetables at

www.voyages-sncf.com

There is another reason for making the trip by car. If you took the quickest route, and certainly the shortest route, it would probably take you about four hours to make the trip. The direct route would take you over the Pyrenees and through Andorra. Andorra is worth exploring - and besides how many of your fellow Aussies have ever been there? Much of this route through Foix and Ax-les-Thermes takes you through spectaculat scenery and the descent on the Spanish side is also splendid.

If you return from Barcelona along the coastal route to Perpignan and Narbonne, there are many places worth visiting. There are a couple of sites close to Barcelona that you would have difficulty getting to without a car. You could use the Spanish and French super-highway syatem to take you all the way back to Toulouse, but by getting off these concrete ribbons, you will find many places of great interest and/or beauty.

The coast road from Figueres will take you along the Cote Vermeil (Vermillion Coast) through Cadaques and Banyuls to the lovely seaside village of Collioure. Perpignan is worth visiting, and another detour, this time away from the coast and back into the foothills of the Pyrenees will let you visit the fascinating ancient Cathar strongholds of Peyrepertuse.

Having recovered from the slight feeling of vertigo induced by these sites, you can then descend to Carcassonne. Besides the town itself there are the wine-producing areas of Corbieres and the Minervois close by. From here it is a short distance back to Toulouse.

All the places I have mentioned should be in any guide book of the region - along with several others I have omitted. It would be a pity to spend so much time in the area and not see them. Some of them of course can be seen on day trips from Toulouse. Carcassonne is only about an hour from Toulouse, Perpignan little more than two by the Autoroute. Albi with its fascinating cathedral and Toulouse-Lautrec museum is less than an hour away. (I know that's a bit irrelevant to the current topic, but I thought I'd throw it in as it just occurred to me.)

Barcelona itself of course is a great place to visit.

Take the car, take your time, and have a great trip!

That's my 0.02€ at any rate.

www.viamichelin.com will help with routes, driving times and distances.

PS: How's the beer?

Milwaukee
posts: 86
reviews: 18
2. Re: Toulouse-Barcelona

Toulouse-Barcelona isn't hard, you connect in Narbonne and then either in Cerbere or (across the Spanish border) Port Bou. My advice is to stop in Cerbere and stay the night there (read my review of the Hotel La Vigie in Cerbere). Leave your luggage and all your valuables in France -- Barcelona is crawling with thieves and the police don't give a damn about your security. (When our bag was stolen in the Barcelona train station, the police were all sitting in a back room playing cards and smoking cigarettes.)

You can research the trains at www.raileurope.com. A sample itinerary has you leaving at 6:58 am from Toulouse Matabiau, arriving Narbonne at 8:11 am (a 1hr 15 min journey) then leave Narbonne at 8:22 am and arrive Barcelona Sants at 11:46 am (3hr 24 min journey) with no further connections.

I would strongly suggest the stopover in Cerbere however, it's a quiet place with great food, and *safe*.

BTW you'll love Toulouse, an absolute delight. Make sure you take the river cruise (La Dorade) on the Canal du Midi. For my wife and me, Barcelona was a complete waste of time, people were unfriendly and there was nothing to see.

Ohio, USA
posts: 19,030
reviews: 4
3. Re: Toulouse-Barcelona

>>> Barcelona is crawling with thieves <<<

NONSENSE!!!

TA won't let me use the word I'd like to use. Barcelona is no more "crawling with thieves" than any other big city anywhere on the planet - and less than some.

I'm sorry you had your bag stolen, but to make the leap you do from that incident to your statement is absurd.

As is generally the case, in Boston or New York or Barcelona or anywhere else, ordinary common sense and "situational awareness" will avoid the vast majority of these unfortunate occurrences. This is particularkly true in places like train stations where many of these "crimes of opportunity" occur.

sydney
posts: 4
4. Re: Toulouse-Barcelona

Many thanks Irishrovr & Benman for your responses. We went to Barcelona 4 years ago for a few days & drove through Foix,Ax & Puymorens & came back thrugh Cote Vermeille & Collioure. All the scenery was spectacular.It probably wouldnt bother me to drive again. My 2 sisters & the husbands are coming to Toulouse for 10 days & they wanted to go to Barcelona for a few days. If we were to drive we would have to rent another car to do it. I'll have to work it out with them. Decisions Many thanks. Homebrewer

The homebrew is great.

Milwaukee
posts: 86
reviews: 18
5. Re: Toulouse-Barcelona

>I'm sorry you had your bag stolen, but to make the leap you do from that incident to your statement is absurd.

It was not the stealing that soured me on Barcelona, it was the attitude of the police in the station. As I said, they have a large and (I assume) well-trained police force there. And there were a dozen of them sitting in a back room **playing cards and smoking cigarettes!** Is it any wonder the thieves can roam the station with impunity? They know the rules better than the tourists do. It is that attitude that annoyed me -- too busy lazing around to do their jobs.

Aside from the one girl at the hotel reservation desk who made calls for us and tried to be helpful in every way, everyone at the station seemed to regard getting robbed as part of the cost of being a tourist in Barcelona.

I should mention that last year my wife and I gave Barcelona another chance (we left all our valuables back in France) and were underwhelmed by the city. Nobody seemed to know where anything was, there were signs pointing to the Rambla but we walked for two hours (following the signs) and never saw anything but narrow residential streets, and the people were remarkably unfriendly. There are a few things to see but they are very far apart, the food we tried was OK but nothing spectacular... Barcelona was unsafe the first time we went and boring the second time. So, we'll never go back.

I still want to experience the Catalan culture, however, so we may include Girona in a future itinerary. But never Barcelona.

>As is generally the case, in Boston or New York or Barcelona or anywhere else, ordinary common sense and "situational awareness" will avoid the vast majority of these unfortunate occurrences. This is particularkly true in places like train stations where many of these "crimes of opportunity" occur.

I've never had a problem in Boston or New York, and in both of those places (as well as London, Paris, Rome, etc.) you see a heavy police presence as a deterrent. Every travel book I've ever read warns about the outrageous crime rate in Barcelona and rightfully so. Almost makes one pine for the days of Franco.

Ben

Ohio, USA
posts: 19,030
reviews: 4
6. Re: Toulouse-Barcelona

I feel so sorry for the poor folk of Barcelona having to live in such a crime-ridden city. Perhaps they should move to somewhere nice and safe like New York.

I find a street map handy for finding my way round a strange city.

Milwaukee
posts: 86
reviews: 18
7. Re: Toulouse-Barcelona

Sarcasm and personal attacks don't exactly sell me on a destination either.

Reminds me of Barcelona.

Sydney, Australia
posts: 12
reviews: 12
8. Re: Toulouse-Barcelona

I lived in BCN for over a year. You just have to not leave your valuables REMOTELY unattended. That means keep your bag locked and under your arm and no cell phones or wallets on the cafe tables. common sense with a general air of warriness and you will be fine.

Other than the small annoyance of having to keep your stuff close Barcelona is, as anyone who's spent time there knows, amazing. The arts,architecture, and food are some of the most astonding/wonderful in the Med. or (for me personally) all of Europe.

I'm going back this winter and taking a sleeper train from Toulouse down to Barcelona. I've heard that its quite easy (though I would like to mention that from my experience the spanish railways are far from reliable). It's not the mode of travel for someone with a short amount of time

Margate, United...
posts: 17
reviews: 9
9. Re: Toulouse-Barcelona

Whoops - I know this is too late for you, homebrewer but there might be others!

I would go from Toulouse to Tour de Carol by French train and change there to the Spanish train which takes you to Barcelona. This gives you a good tour through the Pyranees and then, magically, becomes part of the Barcelona metro system. Yes, it does take lnger than the Narbonne route but not that much!

Orpington
posts: 5
reviews: 7
10. Re: Toulouse-Barcelona

Sorry Chasselas, they have cancelled the cross Pyrenees rote for some reason. Probably because it was too attractive and cheap! Now the journey has to be by Nrbonne etc.....takes forever and involves lots of changes. All very good for increasing traffic on already busy roads.