Tips for Pyrenees and Southern France?
May 20, 2012 3:12 PM   Subscribe

Tips for Pyrenees and Southern France?

We are looking to do 12 days in the area in early July. We want to be able to do some outdoor stuff: walking, cycling, maybe swimming. Find some good local places to eat. Stay in a couple of nice places, at leat one an apartment rather than a hotel, doesn't have to be luxurious, but clean and comfortable and near stuff to do. Your recommendations would be appreciated.
posted by biffa to Travel & Transportation around Braggs, France (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I recommend planning to take a day trip across the mountains into Northern Spain. You can make a quick day trip out of Pamplona, and although you may not see any running bulls, you will see some beautiful architecture and some really interesting points of interest. We stopped for coffee and a snack in Cafe Iruña, where Hemingway spent some time. Now, I hate Hemingway's literature, so while it wasn't nearly as much fun as say, visiting Macondry Lane in San Francisco and having a Tales of the City moment, it was still sort of a nice little nerdy pilgrimage of sorts.

If you enjoy hiking, you might even plan to build in a day of walking part of the Way of St. James (Camino de Santiago), which is a historical pilgrimage route through Northern Spain. A friend of mine has hiked the route about 10 times and his photos are pretty enticing. It is on my bucket list.
posted by jph at 3:29 PM on May 20, 2012

There's a great article in the Times today on Gers, home of foie gras and armagnac (cognac's older brother). I had a 2 week stage (internship) in Montaut, and it's lovely.
posted by leotrotsky at 4:48 PM on May 20, 2012

You'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to food and scenery.

For accommodation, have you looked into staying in a Gite? There are a few sites doing short holiday home rentals.
posted by ZipRibbons at 12:40 AM on May 21, 2012

Oh, there's plenty to do in this area. We're going for 2 weeks at the end of July and had to scale our trip back!

First of all, there's the Dordogne which is popular with canoers. It also goes by some amazing, gorgeous little towns such as Beynac.

We're actually going there to see prehistoric cave paintings. Lascaux is closed to visitors. But you can see Font-de-Gaume and other amazing caves in that area. All reservations for Font-de-Gaume are taken until the end of August. But you can line up in the morning to try and get a ticket for that day. Right now they are only allowing 100 people a day into the cave (used to be 200) and so rumours are that, like Lascaux, they are about to shut it down.

If you do make it eastward to the Languedoc or the coast there are a lot of amazing lakes in that region.

For places to eat good, inexpensive local food the word you want is Ferme-Auberge. These are family-run farms which serve the stuff they produce for people who want to stop and have lunch/dinner there. Some of them also have campsites and basic lodging. You can get a farm-fresh 3-course lunch for maybe 14-20 euros.

Finally, we are spending one of our 2 weeks in one place in Gers, as leotrotsky mentioned above. We're there to see the area and are also attending a couple jazz festivals (including seeing Wynton Marsalis at Marciac). This region is rich with music festivals.

Its getting tough to find places to stay now so I'd book as soon as you can. This region of France is known as the place where French people go to take their vacation.
posted by vacapinta at 8:13 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

A bit more info:

-On the Caves:
Font-de-Gaume is fully booked through August but you can wait in the morning as I stated above.
Peche Merle is still taking reservations and in fact we booked ahead for it. It is supposed to be the most beautiful cave of them all. And it is in a beautiful area near towns such as St Cirq La Popie.

-On eating and picnic supplies:
Get a book called Guide du Routard: Nos meilleurs produits du terroir en France. It is only in French but not hard to understand anyways. It is a list of shops all over France serving great, local, meats, cheeses, breads, wines etc. And it also has lists of small farms (ferme-auberge I mentioned above) where you can drive in and get a cheap, delicious, meal. It covers all of France so its useful for future trips too.
posted by vacapinta at 1:16 AM on June 15, 2012

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