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Feb 9, 2010 12:16 PM

Where to stop on my drive from Paris to The Basque Country?

I'm going to spend 4 nights in the Basque Country and 4 nights in Paris this June. After considering how to get from CDG airport to San Sebastian, it occured to us that it might be better to drive there and stop over somewhere one night along our way. Since this is a food trip, we'd love to pick our stops based upon the food. We're not into fancy cuisine - just something amazingly delicous, authentic and casual is what we're after. I would prefer not to drive too far from Paris the first day to our overnight destination. So that would mean the bulk of the driving in the second day. So maybe 2 or 3 hours from Paris, stay over night, and then drive the second day to San Sebastian with one or two stops for more good food. But I'm flexible and would love any suggestions!!

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Cognac would be a nice midway stop.
    We once stayed here
    very nice vineyard b&b that also serves good food, just outside Cognac.

    However, be prepared for 2 days of long drives Paris -> San Sé.
    As for a stop "2 or 3 hours from Paris", firstly I don't know Ile de France hotels at all; secondly be careful about driving when you are exhausted from a long flight and jetlagged. Maybe somewhere in or near Chartres? I'd drive no further on 1st day.

    1. It is a long way: on the way there we stopped near Bordeaux and on the way back near Perigueux.

      Google says it is an 8 or 9 hour drive, but that assumes you can get out of Paris easily and the Periphique is always tricky, it also assumes you are OK cruising at 80mph most of the time. Both days will be pretty long and tiring drives which will detract from your enjoyment of both Paris and SS.

      We lived in Paris, were used to driving in France and thought of the drive as so part of a two week vacation, but still found it tough. If you are in France for a short holiday I would avoid four days of motorway driving.

      Best to fly and hire a car. Either go from CDG to Bibao (1:35) or Orly to Biarritz (1:15). Bilbao is further away (56 miles) but has the Guggenheim and you pass Asador Etxebarri on the way to SS - the BBQ food shrine and place of pilgrimage. Biarritz is closer but you need to get to Orly (there is an Air France bus), the food and scenery in this part of south west France is good so nice to meander.

      1. How about Chenonceaux? Just over 2 hours from Paris, you can stay at La Roseraie, very charming and a bargain, with a very nice breakfast, and dine there (inexpensive and classic, nothing exciting but perfectly acceptable), or have a more exciting dinner (I think they still have a Michelin star) in casual but more upscale surroundings at Le Bon Laboureur which also has rooms but IMO why spend more for a fancier room. And if you have the time and haven't already been (or even if you have) you must see the chateau, one of the best of the Loire valley. I checked driving directions on Google and it looks like this would be 1/3 of the way to San Seb, so a leisurely trip from Paris the first day and a reasonable 5 hours the next. Enjoy your trip.

        2 Replies
        1. re: rrems

          On the second day, something in or near Bordeaux would be good for a lunch stop. After that it will be another 2 1/2 hours to SS. I haven't been to Bordeaux in many years so cannot recommend any specific places, but if you search this board you will probably get some ideas.

          1. re: rrems

            Bordeaux - La Cape, very nice. It's on the other side of the river in Cenon and thus safe and easier to park than "downtown."

        2. One of my favorite restaurants anywhere is Moulin de la Gorce, just south of Limoges. They also have rooms to stay overnight. Limoges is of course on the A20 which is more scenic than the A10.

          1. The drive sounds awful. (However, I thank fanofrance for the good address near Limoges.)
            Our MO is to take the TGV from Paris to a town as close to our final destination as possible, pick up a rental car (SNCF has special arrangements with AVIS to guarantee excellent rates and simple key transfer at the gare for Avis' off hours.) then drive to and around our destination. We have visited both French and Spanish Pay Basque this way, TGV from Paris to Bayonne or Biarritz.

            I second the suggestion of taking time to visit Etchebari at Axpe, east of Durango. Besides the excellent restaurant, Mendi Goikoa, a couple of hundred meters up the hill, offers superb lodging.