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2 week driving trip with children

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2 week driving trip with children

I am planning a 2 week driving trip through Northern Spain and Southern France in August. My plan is to fly in and out of Barcelona. I have a tenative itinerary, but fear it may involve too much driving both because we are unfamiliar with Spanish roads and because we will have 2 children (ages 11 and 14). We have taken similar road trips in Ireland, France and Portugal and find that driving can be quite pleasant if the roads are ok and stops are frequent. Our tenatative plans are to stay in Barcelona for a few days, then head across Spain to spend a few days in the San Sebastian area, drive up into France and then back toward Barcelona by way of the French Pyrenees (but not through the mountains!) and then down into the Costa Brava. We want to end the trip with a relaxing few days at a resort on the Costa Brava before leaving from Barcelona.

Is this drive an impossible task? Anys suggestions for must-see sights alomng the way? Is it a problem to take a rental car across the boarder?

*I may also post this inquiry in a few other forums.

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1. Re: 2 week driving trip with children

Susan:

Read the Driving Guide for Foreigners. Yes, it will cost much more if you bring the rental car out of Spain. Hotels charge 11 euros a night for parking. There is no free parking in cities aor towns.

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2. Re: 2 week driving trip with children

Roads in Spain for longer distances are generally of good quality and they aren't usually busy which makes driving a lot more pleasant. The Spanish side of the border seems big and empty and at times it can seem like driving through semi-desert or the badlands of America in some places (eg the Bardenas Reales area - which might be worth a diversion).

What to see will depend on your route and interests. The main route is usually via Leida, Zaragoza (a big historic city) then Pamplona. Pamplona/Rioja area is starting to get green rolling countryside all the way to San Sebastian. San Sebastian has a beautiful bay and centre, but I believe it can get busy. Coast to coast can be done in about six-seven hours in a single trip with no problem. The French side is also relatively easy driving.

Probably the biggest driving challenge will be Barcelona itself. While getting out of the airport and onto the Lleida road won't be a problem, the Rondes - ring road (Ronda Litoral and Ronda de Dalt) can be confusing and busy and aren't always that clearly signposted. Other drivers though tend not to be pushy like you might have in Italy or London, though watch out for two-wheelers.

We've never had to pay more to take a rental car out of Spain (it's usually included - though check for a mileage surcharge) and while popular towns charge for parking during the summer (eg Sant Sebastian), for places off the standard tourist track it's usually free.

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3. Re: 2 week driving trip with children

I don't think it will necesarily cost you any more if you drive into France providing you return the car in Spain. Hotels that charge for parking (almost all do) will charge more than 11€ normally these days, we've just paid 19€ in Seville and that's more average I'm afraid (marriott in Barcelona charges 46€ apparently!).

In the summer in San Sebastian we were able to park on the street and metres were off overnight so not too expensive and in Pamplona no charge on the street, but both hotels were out of the centre.

We went to the Basque Country last summer, staying in Pamplona, Bilbao , San Sebastian and then in Huesca on the way back. There are 2 routes to Pamplona from Barcelona, either motorway via Zaragoza or by autovia and ordinary roads along the foothills of the Pyrenees (the route via Huesca). The latter takes about the same time as it is quite a bit shorter (and very little traffic incidentally!) but is a lot cheaper as there are no tolls.

However Zaragoza is a very interesting town, it was the capital of a taifa in Al Andalus so has impressive examples of the Moorish heritage which you won't see anything in the Basque Country or Barcelona area.

On the French side you could maybe consider including Carcassonne which is very spectacular. We also like the towns on the French coast in Catalunya Nord near the border: Collioure, Banyuls, Port Vendres. It is possible to drive on into Spain from there but it is a very bendy road. However it does get you to Port de la Selva and Cadaques by an alternative route but for the central Costa Brava, begur/llafranc area you are better getting the motorway across the border

Edited: 8:27 am, January 28, 2013
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4. Re: 2 week driving trip with children

The drive' s not an impossible task in 2 weeks. We wouldn't want to be driving on and on over 2 weeks but you obviously will have a couple of places where you "stay put" for a few nights.

viamichelin.com will give you alternative routes and the timings and costings. Often the difference in time between 2 routes is a matter of minutes but as I mentioned cost can be very different. You can also choose "scenic route".

Bear in mind that August in San Sebastian is high season and hotels are very expensive. The hotel we stayed in was the Sercotel Codina which is not right in the centre but near a beach and a bus-ride or stroll by la Concha beach to the main centre. I had searched for a triple but there we had 2 rooms for just under 200€ the night, whereas other hotels would have charged more than that for a double with an extra bed added (50€ + to add a rollaway bed!). The hotel was great for what we wanted (only 3-star so not many facilities). In Pamplona we had stayed at the Blanca de Navarra which is also a 3-star but seemed more like a 4-star

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5. Re: 2 week driving trip with children

Thank you for such a thorough reply.

I know August is high season so that hotels will be more expensive and towns more crowded, but it is the only time we have to go so we will try to make the best of it.

Carcassone looks fantastically interesting, and we will be sure to include it.

Let me ask, would you recommend starting the trip in Madrid and ending in Barcelona rather than doing the circuit back to Barcelona?

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6. Re: 2 week driving trip with children

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