European town for October vacation
August 10, 2022 7:47 PM   Subscribe

My partner and I want to spend a few weeks in October relaxing in one or more small towns or villages in Europe, with a few special requirements.

  • One of us will be coming from Dublin, one from Canada, so not too far from Paris, Barcelona or other major cities would be best. Pleasant weather and sunlight would be nice, so not too far north. Spain or France are advantageous for language reasons, but that's not a big deal.
  • Good food would be a plus, but we're probably not going to be eating out because of Covid, so that means local products we can use for a picnic, bakeries, outdoor markets and take out, rather than restaurants.
  • Pleasant, relaxing and a little romantic would be great; full of tourists less so. More interested in poking around than seeing specific sights. The goal isn't to travel, but to relax somewhere nice.
  • I'll be using an electric wheelchair for anything longer than a very short walk, so medieval towns with lots of cobblestones or stairs are out, as are very steep streets.
  • Train accessible would be great, but we would rent a car if needed.
posted by ssg to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I was in Alsace recently and visited many charming villages along the wine route. Stairs weren't an issue but there were lots of cobblestones. I wish I could remember which towns had smoother sidewalks and paths to name specifics. I found this website that has a few suggestions for wheelchair accessible destinations in Europe and beyond.
posted by smorgasbord at 9:15 PM on August 10, 2022

I would recommend Sitges, just outside of Barcelona.
posted by alchemist at 9:57 PM on August 10, 2022

I am just in the process of planning a (return) trip to Santander: the city is on the coast with some great beaches, some wonderful food (either from markets or eaten outside). Fewer tourists especially in October: climate is wetter than the rest of Spain - but there is still a good chance of sun. Likewise for Bilbao and San Sebastian or through to Biarritz in France. All connected by public transport so no need for a car. Wheelchair accessibility.
posted by rongorongo at 4:23 AM on August 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

I lived for a few months in Oliva, Spain, which is south of Valencia. It fits most of your requirements except for train access. There is a larger, more popular town about a 20 minute walk away called Gandia that has train access.

My photos (a mix of Oliva, Playa Oliva, Oliva Nova, Forna, Gandia, and surrounding areas) are here (city / beach) and here (orange groves).

The weather there in October is fantastic.
posted by dobbs at 5:33 AM on August 11, 2022

The accessibility issue excludes a lot of smaller towns and villages in both Spain and France. I'm thinking Tarragona and Bordeaux might be good, though I haven't been to Bordeaux yet (I very much want to go). Both are relatively flat coastal towns with a friendly atmosphere and lots of good food, lovely streets and parks and squares. In October, tourists shouldn't be a problem. Good public transportation and relatively big airports.
posted by mumimor at 6:06 AM on August 11, 2022

so not too far from Paris, Barcelona or other major cities would be best.

Dublin is a bigger flight hub than you might expect and Ryanair specialise in going to the middle of nowhere, so you might have a lot of flex on that side.

I was thinking of Bavaria, which fits your criteria on multiple counts, lots of nice towns which are good for pottering, pretty flat except along the most southerly border (relief map). Cobbles maybe an issue in too many places though. Towns on northern half of the Romantic road are kinda romantic though. If I was travelling in October I might be tempted to go further South.
posted by biffa at 3:52 PM on August 11, 2022

The answer is always Nimes. The parks alone are sensational. The terrain is level. The Nimes Centre train station is just SE of the old city; the vista standing in the entrance looking up to the Esplanade Charles de Gaulle has to be the prettiest introduction to any city. Try the brandade.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:38 PM on August 11, 2022

Lucerne, Switzerland, is beautiful though touristy. (It'll be off season, so maybe not so full of tourists?). The country tends to be super accessible, maybe the best in Europe. You can easily take amazing boat and train rides. There's a great farmer's market and amazing bakeries. Also in Switzerland, you might enjoy Bern, which has cobbles but they are flat.

Also, Ghent, in Belgium. It's beautiful without being full of narrow cobbled streets. Be sure to see it lit at night.

I hurt my leg in Spain and found it to be very, very not accessible for the most part.
posted by quiet wanderer at 12:06 PM on August 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

Bourdeaux would be great. It's a former industrial city that they have done lots of work turn into a green modern city. This means that they have a modern, accessible tram system that brings you *everywhere*, wide sidewalks in most places, good pavements (Sett paving rather than cobbles), a focus on reductions in the use of private automobiles for elective purposes (ie for people who don't require them for accessibility purposes) and so walking/rolling in the street is common and much of the old town is pedestrianized/no cars. I don't think there is a hill in the city to speak of - it's flat flat flat.

As for things to do, there's not a lot of "attractions" and it's more just a good place to exist. The area around the old town and the waterfront is a world heritage site and beautiful. There's a weekly antique/flea market on Sundays in the square around one of the churches that brings no end of entertainment to poke through and find treasures and a fresh food market on Saturdays in the same square, which is in the middle of a bunch of North African tea house patios and other restaurant patios. It's a wonderful place.

The people are extremely nice and there is almost no snobbery about French accents as you find in lots of other areas of France (Nice was horrible for this). There's also good, diverse takeout. We were there for all of April and there were practically no other tourists there. It's a 2-hour TGV from Paris (I don't think you can fly there from Paris anymore, due to French restrictions) and there are regular regional trains that can take you to the beaches in the beautiful nearby town of Arcachon, about an hour away.

I loved it so much and I really want to live there! I've been to a bunch of other places in France - Strasbourg and Colmar in Alsace, Nice twice, Paris a bunch of times, Marseille, Tours, Nantes - which is also fantastic and bears consideration and a handful of others - and Bordeaux is my favourite, by far. So good.
posted by urbanlenny at 3:44 PM on August 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

« Older Have R Will Travel   |   Historical Heists: True Crime, minus the Truly... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.