Planning Grandes Vacances in France (and Spain!)

You’re probably like me in finding that the planning and anticipation is often just as exciting as the trip itself (and, I suppose, if the trip turns out to be a misadventure perhaps the planning is the more exciting part!). Thankfully misadventures are rare in life so I’m sure this adventure will prove to be an epic. So what am I planning then?

I’ve decided it’s time to go and see a bit of Continental Europe again, but flying there would just be too easy, wouldn’t it? Why make life easy for myself when I could interrail the trip? All joking aside, I’ve always loved the thought of interrailing across Europe and enjoying all that comes with such a trip, watching a country unfold before you from the comfort of your seat, the train doing all the hard work of the travel, no roads to worry about, just steadily-changing scenery as the hours tick by.

I’m turning 30 in September and I’m planning to celebrate it as I mean to go on in life, travelling, seeing other countries and taking in other cultures. So with this in mind, I’m plotting a mission from my West Wales HQ to foreign lands. The plan in outline is this: to leave early doors one September morning, get to Birmingham, take the first train I can down to London Euston, bimble over to St Pancras and get aboard the Eurostar. The Eurostar will take me as far as Paris Gare du Nord where I’ll need to get aboard the RER metro system to another Parisian terminus and start the next leg of my journey, from Paris to Perpingnan. Once there in the gateway to Languedoc-Roussillon I’ll pause for breath before taking a train towards Vernet-Les-Bains, a sleepy spa town nestling under the shadow of the mighty 9000 ft Pic du Canigou.

From there I’ll be eating cheese, drinking wine and bimbling through the Pyrenees-Orientalles, surrounded by mountains and blessed, hopefully, by good weather. I’m planning to hike the Pic du Canigou while I’m there, spend plenty of time in medieval Villefranche-du-Conflent, and take the scenic train jaune up to the Spanish border, which should give plenty of opportunity for fantastic photography.

Towards the tail end of my trip I’ll head along the recently opened high-speed international rail link from Perpingnan to Barcelona, a city I’ve always wanted to visit, and spend a few days enjoying Spain. Finally, I’ll reverse the rail marathon, heading back towards Paris and eventually home. I’ve not yet decided whether to do this by making a trip across the Spanish rail network and north of the country to cross into France via Irun or whether to just take the Barcelona-Perpingnan-Paris route, but I expect I’ll make a firm decision in the coming days. Either way it should be a brilliant trip with plenty to write about, so I’ll keep you posted as it develops.

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