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Anniversary trip in Europe, September 2014

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I am planning a special trip next year (September), for our 25th wedding anniversary. I am researching like crazy but starting to narrow in on a European trip (we live in Seattle). I want it to be something very memorable and, for as long as I can hold out, I want it to be a complete surprise to my wife. She thinks we are going to Las Vegas for a couple of days! :)

Browsing these forums, I know it's pretty difficult to describe one's preferences. One mans "luxury" is another mans "average" and vice versa, But I will have a go at describing some of the characteristic I have in mind and see where the thread leads.

I have a rough budget of around $10,000, all in (including flights). I'm thinking flights (we are fine with economy) will be around $3,000 for two of us, return. So, let's say around $7,000 for the rest.

Here's what I want:

. Around 14 days or so.

. Stunning and memorable venues/locations, visually (example: Lake Como is somewhere my wife has always wanted to visit).

. Romantic locations. It's our 25th and we want to have a really memorable trip.

. Preferably good weather. Not completely essential (hey, we live in Seattle and I'm English!) but would prefer locations that have a good chance of sunshine and warm evenings in September.

. A little variety. We are not "sit on a beach for two weeks" people. That would bore the whatsit out of us. I don't mind being at a seaside resort - at least for some of the trip - but also like to have things to do and see nearby.

. A few places. I don't want to spend the whole trip in one location and, if it's through beautiful regions, have no problem integrating a driving day (a beautiful train trip is also fine). Given our timeframe (two weeks), I'm thinking maybe 3-4 days in one place, a day to relocate, 5-6 on another place, assuming there are day trips nearby. That would leave time for the flights.

. "Very good" hotels - places that leave us feeling very well treated and are well maintained, great service, etc. As a general rule, I'd say 4 star and above. But I want at least some of the trip to be really, really special in terms of the hotel. Price wise (no, I haven't done the math yet!), I'm thinking the majority of our trip might be in places that cost maybe $250-$300 per night, but could justify, say, $800 or so for a few nights if the experience we absolutely amazing.

. Awesome food. We are not "foodies" per se. I can't stand that term - seems pretty pretentious to me ("hey, I have a higher bar for good food than others 'cause I'm special :)). But we both enjoy really good cuisine. To be a bit more tangible, I'd happily pay $100 most nights for a meal for the both of us most nights (we don't drink much, by the way, so wine, etc wouldn't be too much of a factor) and would pay up to, say, $300 for a really memorable meal.

. Not too formal. I was actually looking at one of the Cunard cruises but the regular formal nights are a bit of a turn off. I don't MIND that per se, but it's not really us. I don't mind a reasonable dress code at a special hotel but not to the tie and jacket level.

Some places that seem very attractive include:

. Lake Como (see above)
, Italy
. Paris
. Venice

Anyway, that's the first thoughts I have. Would appreciate some initial thoughts. I am pretty sure I will need to clarify a few things :)


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