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Trip Report Munich, Garmisch and Paris in 9 days - Mum & two teens - Trip report

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I wanted to take my 15 yr old son away on a trip during the school summer break and asked him where he wanted to go, as he is enjoying German language lessons at school he suggested Germany. I hadn't realised how big a country Germany is until I looked at a map and then realised I needed to focus in on somewhere. A friend recommended Bavaria which lent itself to then visiting Munich and helpful forum replies here meant we also spent some time in Garmisch which was easy to get to by train from Munich and gave us a different experience from the city. My 18 yr old daughter also decided she wanted to come along and as she was keen to visit Paris, I began researching and booking our trip to incorporate the three destinations. Travelling with two teenagers presented its own challenges and delights and altered my tick list of priorities when booking accommodation and making plans of things to do. The trip was brilliant, we all loved Germany - we are now home and I am working full time so I will add to my report with replies to tell you the sorts of things we enjoyed doing and pass on some practical tips which worked for us.

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    Day One: We flew into Munich airport, arriving at 10.30 am and took the S-bahn (S1 and S8 go into the city centre in around 45 mins) into the city - a partner day ticket for the three of us cost around 19 Euros and allowed us to travel the city transport all day. We stayed in a small, independent pension - Pension am Jakobsplatz - and were greeted by the owner's son who had our room ready and recommended a couple of restaurants for us to dine out later that evening. Our pension was very near Marianplatz making it easy to walk with our luggage from the S -Bahn stop. A heatwave had also arrived in Munich so we were grateful our room was ready and had a rest before venturing out to explore the city. As it was so hot we decided we would prefer to take the tram to the English Garden to see the surfers riding the artificial wave in the river. My 15yr old son loved this and we spent quite some time watching the surfers. It was nice and cool in the gardens and we walked along to the Chinese Tower and the beer garden and listened to the band for a while before catching the tram home. Our pension had free wi-fi which my son appreciated and also BBC Entertainment Channel which my daughter and I appreciated as it was nice to watch TV whilst relaxing in the evenings.

    Day Two: Breakfast was cereal, bread, fruit, cheese and ham and we met Christoph who is the owner of the pension. He was very helpful and as it was still so hot he told us how to get to the outdoor pool near the TierPark as I thought it would be nice just to spend the day chilling and keeping cool. The pool was called Maria Einsiedel and was only a short journey on the U3 from the city centre. We popped into a nearby food hall in the basement of the department store -Kaufhof - which had everything we needed by way of cold drinks and snacks. We took the U-bahn to the swimming pool, getting a group travel card for the three of us for the day for 10 euros. The ticket machines are available in english and my teenage children felt they were better at working out the machines than I was so I just let them get on with that. The day ticket needs to be stamped to validate it for travel. The pool was lovely and had the river running through the complex which you could also swim in. The cost was 3 euros 60 per person entrance to the complex. There was a cafe on site and we spent a lovely, cool afternoon relaxing. That evening we ate out in Pasta Basta which served very cheap italian food.

    Day three: My teenagers wanted to go shopping so we walking to the central shops. We used to have a shop C&A in the UK which closed down all the UK branches some years ago but still exists in the rest of Europe. My son got a great jacket from there which he was really pleased with and also some shoes which he had been looking for in England. My daughter liked Pimke and several of the boutique shops. We got lunch from Vinzenzmurr which serves excellent food before going back to our apartment to take a rest from the heat. Being so central it was nice to be able to pop in and out very easily. We then went to Viktualenmarket and also took a look around the Hofbrauhaus and had an ice-cream in the touristy area near the Hofbrauhaus. We then rested again (I don't cope well in 30 degrees) before walking down to the river to swim with the locals who were cooling down after work. The river was very clean but we wished we had surf shoes to walk on the stones.

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    Day Four: We took the train to Garmisch. The trains run every hour so there was plenty of choice. Teenagers do not appreciate early mornings so we checked out late morning and caught the 1230 train. Bayern tickets at 29 euros were the best value tickets for the three of us. Write your name on the ticket. We were also able to use our Bayern ticket the two stops on the S-Bahn to the main station - don't forget to stamp it to validate it. Travel time to Garmisch is 1.5 hours and we were staying in an apartment for three nights. Our Uber-efficient apartment agent met us at the apartment to give us the keys and share her views on how we were staying for too short a time in Garmisch and didn't we know that was very expensive and stressful - when I told her our plans to go up the Zugspitze and take a day trip to Neuschwanstein castle she told us it would take us all day to go up the Zugspitze (it was half a day) and travelling to see the castle wasn't really a good idea in a day - we took local buses and it was a lovely day out.

    That afternoon we visited the local tourist information centre who gave us the local bus times to visit the castle in a day and also a booklet about prices to take the train up the Zugspitze. One good thing about Germany was that my 18 year old counted as a child so for the three of us to go up the Zugspitze it was one adult and two children for 66 euros which made it very reasonable. My son and I also visited the supermarket to get supplies for our stay - luckily there was an Aldi in Garmisch so we could stock up on a few provisions for reasonable prices. There was no wi-fi in our apartment - our agent said it would be good for my 15yr old to be without the internet for three days and this was the one things I agreed with her about. The TV also had limited channels with only the CNN news in English.

    Our apartment was very comfortable, a little too regimented (cutlery lined up in very neat lines) for my taste but that was a minor detail.

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    Our apartment was very comfortable, a little too regimented (cutlery lined up in very neat lines) for my taste but that was a minor detail.

    the German's are very regimented! Where was your apartment? I love the Partenkirchen side of town better.

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    Day Five; The first cogwheel train to start the journey up the Zugspitze was at 0815. Under a bit of protest from the teens I made them get up early to get the early train as the weather report indicated that it may cloud over in the afternoon so i wanted to ensure we got up the mountain to clear skies. An over excited party of Italians just managed to catch the same train and entertained us with their singing on the journey. The train goes up to the Zugspitz glacier where you need to get off to change to a cable car. We spent some time on the glacier - there are free sledges where you can sledge but we planned to take the summer toboggan later that afternoon, plus my son insisted on wearing his new shoes (and jacket) up the mountain so didn't want to ruin his shoes! My son didn't have any sun glasses and these were very necessary up the mountain so I had to buy him some from the shop on the glacier.

    The german people love their dogs and we were surprised to see that they happily let them take their dogs up the mountain - this would never be allowed in the UK as we are so hung up on health and safety and rules for every single aspect of our lives. This little pug dog looked very pleased that he was up a mountain and was very well behaved, as in fact were all the dogs we saw in Germany. In Munich we saw many dogs in the city, not on leads, following/walking with their owners and being the model of well disciplined companions. The views from the glacier were amazing, there was a cafe there but we took lots of photos and then took the cable car up to the very top of the mountain. From there you could see the Eilbsee lake and many villages, jaw droppingly beautiful. My son needed refreshments so he got a roasted sausage in a roll which disappeared in double quick time and we then all got hot chocolate. These came in souvenir mugs which you had to pay extra for. We thought this meant you kept the mug but it turned out to be a deposit for being allowed to have the drink in the souvenir mug, when you returned the mug you got your deposit back. We spent some time at the top of the mountain just enjoying the sunshine, views, watching the birds, people watching etc before getting the cable car back down the other side of the mountain to the Elbsee and as luck we have it we timed it perfectly to catch the cogwheel train back to Garmisch. The cogwheel train only runs once per hour so we were lucky with our timings which wasn't planned. The Eilbsee lake looked lovely and appeared to have pedaloes you could rent out. If we went again that would be a nice thing to do as a trip from Garmisch.

    We went back to our appartment for a siesta and then ventured out again later in the afternoon to take the local bus to the Olympic Ski stadium on the edge of town which has a summer tobaggan run. When we took over the keys to our apartment we were all given a Visitor Pass to Garmisch-Partenkirchen which allowed us free travel on the local buses. It was interesting to see the ski jump close up. The summer tobaggan was 9 euros for 6 tokens. The toboggans required you to push levers to make it go faster or slower and my daughter and I didn't really understand on our first trip that we had to push the levers to go round the circuit so our first circuit was rather slow. My son was much amused as they put the speed on the photos screen and all our fellow toboganners turned round to look at my daughter and I to see who was going round at snails pace. The photos were only 2 euros each to buy. We were slightly better on our second circuit.

    We caught the bus back, the bus timetable seemed to be more of an indication than an accurate representation of actual times. Keep an eye on the times of the last local buses. We had a drink and snack in Star Backs in Partenkirchen which has a lovely owner who was very helpful and patient with us while we tried out our german language skills. They also have comfy sofas to relax on and great snacks and drinks.

    Our apartment was by the river in Partenkirchen and was only 5 minutes from the train station which worked out very well for us. It was nice to have space to relax in and just make ourself snacks whenever we felt like it rather than having to eat out in restaurants all the time.

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    Day Six:Today we took the local bus to visit the castle Neuschwanstein. As a concession to the teens we took the 0930 bus rather than the 0750 bus. The bus times were given to us by the Tourist Information Office. The 9606 bus went directly to the town at the base of the hill on which the castle stands and luckily the bus was air conditioned which was lovely. We got a Bayern ticket at 29 euros which was the cheapest ticket. We did look into taking a tour which would have been more expensive but I quite like taking local transport where possible. The bus journey is 2 hours and we went straight to the ticket centre on reaching the town. We had been told by the lady in the Tourist Information Office it would be difficult to get tickets and also our agent lady advised us (of course) that we wouldn't get tickets. However, the opposite proved to be true and we got tickets for 1420 hrs which gave us time to get a snack and catch the local bus up the hill. The queue to get tickets was every organised and we only queued for about 20 minutes. The cost to get tickets for the castle was 12 euros for me, the teens again were free. Local bus was about two euros each and well worth it in the heat.

    The local bus drops you at the top of the hill which is just right to walk over St Mary's Bridge to get the famous view of the castle. We took lots of photos with the castle as a backdrop. As we walked down the hill the the castle, we saw the view from the castle which of course is so spectacular, the blue lakes and fabulous scenery are breathtaking. The timed entry to the castle is by ticket in the turnstile when your number is shown on the display. The tour is quite short as lots of rooms were not finished but it was good to see inside and see the views out of the castle windows.

    After the tour we had a snack and drink in the cafe within the castle before walking down the hill to catch the bus home, picking up an ice cream on the way down.

    The bus back to Garmisch went at 1620 and unfortunately was not air conditioned this time. We also had to change buses to get back to Garmisch but the bus drivers are all very helpful. The information given to us by the Tourist Information office did not make it clear that we needed to catch a differently numbered bus and make the change so I was glad I had double checked everything with the timetables at the bus stop in the village before we went up to the castle. The last local bus was 1730.

    We had a quiet night in after our long day and made some preparation to leave the next day.

    Day Seven: We had to be out of our apartment by 1000 and the agent returned to pick up the keys. We were not quite ready and surprisingly she was quite relaxed on this and having got both sets of keys seemed happy to leave us to finish up and shut the door on leaving. This gave us a bit of leeway as we had our first rainfall today. If the weather had been nice we had planned to go to Partnacklam gorge and spend the day at the outdoor swimming pool. However, the rain did not show any sign of letting up so we went to Star Backs for a coffee and croissant and made a plan from there.

    We decided to travel back to Munich earlier and caught the 1230 train. As we were catching the 2240 night train to Paris that night we left out luggage in the left luggage lockers at Munich's Main station. The larger lockers are located at the back of the left luggage rooms. The cost was 5 euros for 24 hours. Our three wheeled cases fitted into one locker.

    Free of our luggage we caught the S Bahn back to Marienplatz and decided to check out the Glockenspiel cafe in the main square. It was very busy and rather noisy and squashed in so we decided to try another cafe I had read about. This was the cafe in the Hugendubel bookshop which suited our needs much better. This was also on the main square. The cafe had free wi-fi which pleased my son so eventually we left him there while my daughter and I went for another wander around the shops. When we returned we had another drink and snack and read our books. The cafe was open until 2000 hrs (this was a saturday evening) which was great so we stayed until closing.

    We then took a walk around the city around the theatre area which we hadn't been to before and then caught the S-Bahn back to the station for a snack before catching the over night train to Paris. Our sleeping cabin was very cosy. My son was worried about falling out of the top bed so my daughter said she would sleep there. However, on climbing up she felt a bit claustrophobic so I had to sleep on the top bunk. We used the washbasin in the compartment in turn and settled down for the night. There is a concierge who looks after you on the train and he had checked our tickets and told us he would wake us at 0730 and bring us our breakfast when we were ready.

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    Day Eight: Our concierge came and transformed our sleeping compartment into a seat and put up the fold down table for us to have our breakfast. We hadn't slept too badly but our train was an hour late and we had stopped for rather a long time during our journey when it became very hot and a strange noise appeared. This period disrupted our sleep but as the train began moving again, the noise stopped and the air conditioning kicked in and we were comfortable again.

    I had booked the overnight train with the sleeping compartment as an experience for my two teens - it certainly was that. Personally I am not sure I would do the overnight train again, I did read one comment on this forum from someone who suggested to take the faster train and spend the night in a hotel for the same journey - I must admit I would probably do this next time but it was a great experience for the children and if we had not stopped during the night it would have been a much pleasanter experience.

    We arrived at Gare d'est and left the station to walk to our hotel which was near Gard du Nord. We followed the signs to Gard du Nord and there is a set of steps as soon as you turn out of the station at which a group of people were gathered in order to try and carry our cases up the steps - unfortunately the way they go about this is quite intimidating. They also tried to get us to sign a 'charity form' which I would have nothing to do with. When you have just arrived in a city after a long train journey this is not really the welcome you would wish - especially after experiencing nothing at all like this in Germany. I had read that pickpockets are a major problem in Paris so we were prepared with our luggage and very organised so that we could all cope very well with our bags. We just kept walking and I dealt with this group of people as assertively as I could. They did try very assertively to carry our bags up the steps and you do need to have your wits about you in this situation.

    We managed to make our way to Gare du Nord which is very near and regathered ourselves to try and work out where our hotel was. We stayed at an Ibis Hotel which was only a few minutes walk away and once we had orientated ourselves was very easy to find. We were too early to access our room but the hotel offered a secure, locked room where we could leave our bags and issued us with a receipt for each piece of luggage. I was very pleased with the security around leaving our luggage. We then set off to work out the metro to make our way to the louvre which my son in particular wanted to visit for part of his art project at school. Again the ticket machines are in english and we managed to work out how to buy a carnet of tickets (set of ten tickets at a discount). The louvre was a short 6 stop journey on one train from our hotel. Again on leaving the metro we unfortunately encountered another group of people with the same charity forms we had experienced earlier.

    The louvre is just over the road from the metro and we joined the queue - with pickpocket notices everywhere. There are queue attendants but even so we had one couple who quietly pushed in where the queue markers began. There was then another couple with a wheeled case who pushed in brazenly under the queue tapes - they separated me from the two children in doing this and ran their case over my foot - fortunately I speak a ltitle french so was able to loudly ask them to pay attention and let me rejoin my two children. Even the couple who had queue jumped in a more subtle way were put out by the brazen queue jumpers and made a point of manoeuvering themselves in front of them - an ethical code of queue jumping obviously exists!

    Once inside the louvre we made out way to the ticket booth - I think it cost around 10 euros for me, my son was free - I had his passport with me which he needed to show to prove his age. My daughter was also free - I think because she had a UK passport and was 18-26. My son had to show his passport to gain entry to each of the exhibitions and this was rigourously checked at each exhibition. I followed the children and we went to the exhibitions my son wanted to visit to take photos for his art project - my daughter has studied photography so I very much followed them. When we had seen enough art as we could appreciate in one session we went to one of the cafe's to make a plan for the rest of the day. I had spotted the open top bus tours outside the louvre and suggested that as we had a limited time this would be the best way to see the city. It was an expensive way for the three of us to have our whirlwind tour - 29 euros each (this was a two day ticket but as we were only there for one day we were not going to get good value from this) however, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and be decisive. We stayed on the bus and took the full tour which took us around Notre Dam, along the Seine, down the Champs Elysee, around the Eiffel Tower and around many other lovely buildings. It was nice to have the commentary and we were able to sit on the top deck the whole time as the weather was in our favour. It was the perfect way to see Paris in a short space of time and feel we had well and truly got a flavour of the city.

    The full tour took a couple of hours and we then got off back at the louvre. My daughter's work colleague had recommended we visit Angelinas - we hadn't realised that this is a well known, famous, upmarket establishment to take hot chocolate and cake. There was a queue to get in when we found it so we looked at the menu and peered through the window and decided this was somewhere to go next time we make it to Paris. We ended up in StarBucks as my son needed the washroom and I thought the facilities would be of a good standard in a StarBucks.

    We took the metro back to our hotel and checked into our rooms for a rest before going out for dinner. My son had been a bit spooked by the groups of people at the train station and metro and the pickpocket signs outside (and inside) the louvre so he chose our restaurant for the evening which was to eat out at the Hard Rock Cafe. We were able to walk there from our hotel and we had a very nice meal with good service - we even got a free desert with a coupon from a book of coupons given to us on our bus tour. We walked back to our hotel and got a good nights sleep. The Ibis hotel had had an offer for a two room rate which was not much more than the rate for one room. I had prepaid for this offer earlier in the summer when I was organising the trip and we were very happy with the space and facilities we had. The offer was available when booking direct from the hotel chain website.

    Day Nine: Another thing which had drawn me to the Ibis hotel was the late check out time. We did not need to check out until 12 noon which meant the two teens could sleep in - which they certainly did. On checking out the chap at the desk told me I needed to pay the bill - I explained that I had pre-paid but he wasn't convinced so we had to wait for the manager to come along and check their system and point out to him that we had indeed pre-paid. We walked the short way to the Gare du Nord to catch our Eurostar train back to London. We had breakfast in one of the station cafes as we did not have enough time to visit one of the nearby cafes for a more leisurely breakfast. Checking in for the eurostar is so civilised and we had a comfortable journey back to St Pancras in London. My daughter and I would love to go back to Paris for a long weekend sometime - my son currently never wants to go there again.

    Notting Hill Carnival was in full swing in London so the london underground was very busy until we got past Notting Hill when we got a seat to our destination where my husband was waiting to pick us up in the car.

    Recommendations:

    Munich: http://pension-jakobsplatz.de/_eng/index.html
    Trains in Germany: http://www.bahn.com/i/view/index.shtml
    Paris Hotel: http://www.ibishotel.com/gb/home/index.shtml

    I hope the above trip report has been helpful to anyone else thinking of doing a similar trip with (or without) teenagers. Thank you to everyone on this forum who responded to my original posts when I was planning this trip, its so lovely to think that people you have never met who live on the other side of the world are willing to help and give advice.

    We had a fabulous time and I can really recommend this type of trip for older teenagers - it will be interesting to see what the children will choose next year if I offer them a similar trip or a week in the sun with a pool . . .

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    Thanks for filling us in on your trip. It sounded marvelous.

    Too bad that your son was a bit put off by the big city shinanigans of Paris. I felt that way about Rome when I was about his age. I know as a young female I was supposed to be flattered by all that Italian male charm coming my way, but it just totally turned me off to Italy for quite some time.

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    Interesting report. I think you were remarkably tolerant of your teen slugabed habits. I would have had a hard time refraining from prodding to get going! thanks for sharing.

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