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Trip Report Stockholm Trip Report: More Amazing than I imagined!

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Went to meet my husband in Stockholm, at end of a 5 dy business trip for him so we decided to add a vacation onto the end visiting Stockholm, Copenhagen and Iceland...and I can’t wait to return to Stockholm/Sweden, don’t know what took us so long to get here -now one of my favorite cities in the world ...the people are incredibly friendly and helpful and the food was amazing and the views astonishing - so I am beginning at the beginning posting the Stockholm report first...

Arrived Stockholm via Iceland Air from Boston - considering I hate being in planes period, the flights were delightful - on the five hr leg from Boston to Iceland I had an aisle seat with an empty middle seat, since the flight began at 9:30pm, I enjoyed a great cobb salad in the airport, a glass of wine, buckled up, put on my sunglasses and slept for the entire flight, enjoyed stretching during the hour break in Iceland, which was perfectly followed by the 2.45 hr flight to Stockholm where I luckily enjoyed an upgrade, which I have no idea why, to business class and a lovely brunch.

STOCKHOLM AIRPORT/TRANSPORT
was a delight. Easy to retrieve luggage - I LOVE that they have the yellow line they have painted on the floor about 2’ out from around the baggage belt, which everyone so politely stands behind so no one is crowding the belt, you can see your luggage and step forward to grab it - how civil compared to the crush at Logan and other airports...I want to paint this line around every baggage belt in every airport in the world !

The terminal is so well marked, I easily found the way to the fast train direct to the city, a gentlemen helped me decipher the quick tik purchasing kiosk and waved to me to be sure I got on the right train - it was a quick 20 minute ride where I exited to find taxis waiting and met my husband at the Diplomat Hotel. How nice is it when your taxi pulls up to a hotel, and the doorman not only opens the taxi door but greets you with..”Welcome to Stockholm, and you must be Mrs. soandso, your husband has just checked in and said we were expecting you momentarily, so I’ll take you directly to your room.”

Oh - and I love that the taxis take credit cards, get the approval, and you get your receipt all in record time.

The DIPLOMAT:
We loved this hotel. Lobby attached to check-in with comfy chairs, flat screen tv, adjacent is their bar, the “T/Bar” with funky decor, a dining room, great outdoor cafe with tables and chairs on one side and wicker couches, chairs and tables on the other which is for only drinks.

Internet access easily available, a staff that bent over backwards to help you in any way and remembered where you’d eaten or what your plans were enough to always inquire how you enjoyed it when you returned- and were truthfully interested in the details so they would know whether to recommend again or not to the next visitor.

Room is immaculate, short hall with toilet, sink, mirror, shelf on one side and on the other another sink with counter, mirrors, tub/shower and heated towel racks, bathrobes, great comfortable bed, roomy closet, desk, flat screen, 2 sitting chairs, small table and balcony with great view - and a lovely platter of fruit & chocolates waiting for us.

ARRIVAL DAY:
We unpack and are enjoying lunch at the hotel sidewalk cafe by 3pm basking in glorious sunshine. (delicious soup, bread & cheeses) We cross the street to walk the waterfront, enjoying the view and boats.

DINNER:
Den Gyldene Freden in Gamla Stan/Old Town - a famous tavern opened since 1722 - and the inside both up and down were like a flashback in time - husbands last night with business associates, so we all ate together and I had extremely fresh carpaccio appetizer, followed by a fabulously delicious lamb with tiny cous cous with veggies and hazelnut foam, husband a delic smoked salmon, we all played pass the dessert and shared some mouth watering delights - I had rhubarb and strawberry on sweet cookies with cream - sorry I wasn’t more attentive about what others had this night, and I hated to have to share mine - but I did taste something fabulously chocolate and something fruit and gelato, all excellent, www.gyldenefreden.se..... then on to ...

The ICE BAR:
Took a brisk walk to work off the meal for about 15 minutes to the Ice Hotel -where we had 10pm reservations s(you can book ahead online, they take 30 people in 45 minute slots and if you are 10 minutes late you can lose your reservation) -it was great fun - they cover you with a silver metallic/mylar looking cape with huge black gloves attached by strings (reminiscent of the mitten attachments we had as kids). I had to be very careful trying to hold an ice glass with their huge gloves on my hands so We felt like we were extras in a Star Wars movie or Lost in Space, so we had lots of fun remembering lines from those movies....A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....Danger, Will Robinson......etc.

At first, you don’t even feel the cold, but standing around surrounded by ice - the walls, the bar, the sculpture, etc with the cold air coming thru the vents - all eventually seeps into your bones, even while downing vodka. The drink menu is great and I chose a Wolfs Paw - even the glasses are made of ice, and the story behind that also interesting.

I had regular shoes on, so even with the help of my second vodka, what got cold first was my feet- so we lasted the 45 minutes but by then were ready to head out. After, someone told me they also have booties to give you, but I didn’t see those.

You can check it out on http://tinyurl.com/rmorz
or nordicseahotel.com and click on food and drink for all the info about it and reservations, etc. If you google it, you can find great stories about the carved iced glasses, who invented them,where they come from, etc.

Sunlight and more sunlight.....this first night was the only time I had a momentary lapse about the light - I woke up at some point and saw the sunlight streaming thru the window and thought we had overslept and it must be noon but it was only 5 am....I assume every house has room darkening shades...and I close the drapes completely and go back to sleep after standing on our terrace and staring at the magnificent view for a few moments.

DAY ONE:
A gorgeous sunny day so we walk about 5 minutes to the Astoria Coffee Cup on Nybrogatan for the best fresh squeezed orange juice, fresh bagel with cream cheese and sliced tomatoes and coffee. Inside counter and a few seats outside on the street.

We are off to the Vasa Museum - from some previous posts and from “crefloors” in response to my request for suggestions, it was first on my itinerary - especially with husbands interest in boats - and we were not disappointed. We walked along the water, crossed the bridge and spent about 90 minutes in the museum, and then took a break and went back to the bridge area and enjoyed lunch at the little kiosk cafe on the corner
hot dogs and mashed potatoes with lettuce in a wrap - a combination that I would never have imagined - but with a little mustard and catsup was delic !

Washed it down with an ice cream dipped in chocolate and strolled (rolled) back to the Vasa for more. We found the history of the ship, the building, the sinking, the recovery, all very interesting and had a long chat with a gentlemen photographing some items for a new book focusing on the items they found during the salvaging of the ship - got quite a lot of extra historical background from him as well as some helpful restaurant/sight tips.

The Vasa sank almost as soon as they launched her and they found so much of her in tact when they raised her from the harbor in around 1955 because the baltic sea is not salty enough so the worms don’t survive here that eat wood and their baltic sea water is so clear compared to ours. 

Now not enough time for the Nordiska Museet, because we were so long in the Vasamuseet, so that goes on the list for later or next trip. Sometimes it just doesn’t all work out - we could have fit in both, but we were enjoying Vasa and didn’t want to cut it short, but I imagine you could fit a visit to both in at the same time.
 
We strolled down to the water, saw the Junibacken Pippi Longstocking children’s spot, statue of author Astrid Lindgren, (a perfect spot if you have little ones, but I had to do a walk by as a child Pippi fan) walked the docks looking at boats, began our walk back to our hotel, stopping along the way in a cafe for a drink break and people watching.

We decide to sit in outdoor cafe at our hotel, snag a spot on the comfy wicker couch, enjoy a drink and soaking up some sunshine before getting ready for dinner. This was our easy paced, relaxing day after husbands week of business and my traveling over.

Okay, I love love love the fact that all the outdoor cafes have a blanket on the back of each chair so if it gets cool you can throw it over your shoulders or on your lap or actually wrap yourself in a cocoon - very homey and comfy touch-

DINNER:
At Operakallaren. I loved this restaurant - for me it was what special evening dinners out should be like - with everyone dressed up a bit, men in ties or jacket and ties, (and even the waiters dressed in finest serving attire) gorgeous chandeliers, beautiful carved wood, great paintings and the windows looking across to the Palace, a multi-person wait staff that was attentive but not suffocating and where they anticipated whatever it was you wanted. I’ m sure some would consider it a bit stuffy compared to some of todays restaurants that are more contemporary and edgy and where anyone can wear anything, but I liked feeling like I was on a special date in a fancy dining room with all the frills with not a blue jean in sight, and I love my jeans. I was comfortable in black pants and a sweater set and shawl - basically the dressiest outfit I brought.

As far as the food and service, I thought it was perfect. We were not rushed at all as we enjoyed a martini and looked over the food and wine menus.

For any foodies:
I had a jelly and dried olive panna cotta stuffed vine tomato, terrine and bruschetta which I savored every bite. My husband had a special which I can remember nothing about b/c I totally ignored him as I was totally focused on my appetizer.

We both had the Roast Rib of Beef rubbed the old way with a potato souffle, garlic gravy, fried chantarelles and asparagus - rolled to our table hidden on the silver cart and carved to perfection and the dishes prepared and placed before us with a lovely Dom Xavier Vignon 2003 topped with a dessert of pear mousse and Valrhona cream with rosemary ice cream and a brandy for me and a strawberry souffle with white chocolate sorbet and wild strawberries on a straw for the husband.

Capped it all with a brandy at TBar at the Diplomat Hotel.

the english link for Operakalleren is
http://tinyurl.com/s3d2w

DAY TWO:
We breakfast at the hotel and take the one hour boat to Vaxholm (which leaves from dock right outside our hotel) on a glorious sunny day and enjoy tea and yet another pastry on the ride. Hey, I figure I’m walking all these calories off at some point and I can live with the sugar rush. The further you go out, the less inhabited the islands, and they go from lush with trees to more rocky and barren.

A gorgeous but windy day so the sailboats were out in full force, keeling over so they were almost sideways, with these 40’ hard bottom inflatables that were ninja like looking with their 4 yamaha 250 outboards blasting over 70 knots flying by on occasion - charter one of those if you are into speed.

We walk around the island for about an hour in and out of side streets and along the water - small coves with bobbing boats that remind me of the coast of Maine in New England - the Fortress is not open for a few more days, but we start talking to the gentlemen on the gas dock who had the most wonderful collection of antique boat engines and stern drives hanging from the beams - and of course that was all my boater husband needed so he took into another shed to show us more ....

so if you venture there and like old engines, when you get off the ferry stroll to the right and visit the gas dock/small general type store with drinks across from the fortress : he has old Penta engines from long before it was volvo/penta, some of the 1st yamaha’s,, old british seagull, mercurys, european engines and drives...very cool.

We lunch at Cafe Silltruten across from the ferry - charming place and I couldn’t resist the pancakes with berries and cream (amazing) and of course, a deathly chocolate tart. Keep the sugar and calories coming. Husband had tiny meatballs covered in pink that we learned was some type of beet/mayo combo which he loved and he devoured his cheesecake.

Must tour more of these islands, must do it later in spring or summer, so we know now we must return to Stockholm ! We want days just to do this.

On the way back it was a great ride as we went in between various small islands dropping of and picking up residents on the island docks - got chatting with the driver who explained how they flip a card on the end of the docks if they need a pick up or use a flashlight if it is dark out - he was a great help and when he learned we wanted to go to Millesgarden, he suggested we get off the ferry in two stops at Lindingo (and he graciously reimbursed us the difference since we’d paid for the full return) told us how to catch the train for just a few stops, which was next to the dock rather than returning to Stockholm and heading back out.

From the train stop it was about a 10 minute walk, uphill but a doable incline for all ages- Adored Millesgarden - home of artists Carl and Olga Mills, the architecture, sculpture, the indoor house, their art rooms with amazing collections (ancient art, greek/egyptian, it was overwhelming) his sculpting studio, fountains, gardens, even the stairways leading to different levels, all overlooking the water, it is all amazing and gorgeous and inside mosaic floors, tile floors, columns and their collection of not only his sculpture and her painting but their private collection of greek art, ancient art, egyptian art , tapestries and furniture.

You will see many practice/model sculptures and replicas of/for the larger finished products you will recognize from places all over the world and each one is clearly marked with a number that corresponds on the walking guide sheet with info. Delightful day !

The one thing that said it all for me for our visit there was the calligraphic poem in the house (don’t miss it, it is by the stairway) by Chinese Master Poet Kuo-Mo-Ju which he wrote in l962 after a visit, and I found myself sitting on the stairs copying it down so I have to share it, because it was everything I was feeling: it doesn’t have quite the same cadence set in paragraph form, but the feeling is there:

“For the third time I visit Millesgarden so filled with creative freshness and fantasy. Here rides a winged Pegasus through the air, three sea nymphs splash water over mossy stones..Myriads of colorful flowers gleam along the cliffs and terraces offer fine vistas from winding paths. Now all the visitors have one and the gates are closed. I alone remain with the sinking sun and my own shadow as company.”

The tiny url for the english web site on Millesgarden is
http://tinyurl.com/r849u

Then we walked about 5 minutes to the bus stop to the subway for a few stops to the Olsermalm area and walked for a bit, strolled through some furniture stores which was great fun, into churches, through parks, gorgeous tree lined streets that back up to our hotel - just enjoying the streets, park, window shopping, people watching as we go along - and a snack of mashed potatoes in a cardboard french fry like box w- some mustard and catsup and now walk down towards the water and back to our hotel.

DINNER:
Pontus in the Greenhouse:
I wish I could remember everything I had here, I was off my game this night just enjoying our view of the cobblestone streets from our window table, our wonderfully amusing waiter, some great wine which I can’t find the name of anywhere in my notes - the chef kept sending out wonderful small tasting plates of one delicious thing after another, but I know I mostly loved
Dates stuff with goat cheese, serrano ham, marinated artichokes - my husband some danish crab/tuna type specialty thing and I was in heaven with a Filet of Veal.

This was our most expensive meal, but the chef has won many awards and certainly puts his special touch to jazz up more traditional swedish meals and his presentation for everything is top shelf.

DAY THREE:
We walk up again to the Astoria Coffee Cup which is only a few streets away from our hotel for some more of the OJ and bagels.

We walk to Stadhussett (city hall) for a tour - great to see the Blue Hall where they have the Nobel Prize dinner (and the largest organ in northern Europe which has a 3 sec delay since it is played remotely, and the history of the design of the hall and it’s italian influence) - how the architect made it look like the entire building was built long before 1923 with his use of older bricks outside, the cool ceiling in the voting room that looks like the inside hull of a viking ship turned upside down and the great gold mosaic hall, gorgeous tapestries, all quite amazing.

We go up to the tower for great city views and fabulous photo ops-worth the climb, but there is also an elevator that cuts the stairs if you want.

We weave our way over to the Kungstradgarden (Kings garden) which was a park we enjoyed - a big soccer match going on with different playing areas set up, the big screen playing the tie off matches, lots of food, drink, crowds, so we stop and enjoy for a bit and have small sandwich lunch in the little kiosk of baguette, mozzarella, salad combo and a beer.

We continue on to the Hallwylska Museet (Hallwyl Museum)

I wouldn’t miss this one - it was one of my favorite things - a private, late 19th century home - one of the first in the city with electricity, elevator, kitchen dumb waiters, telephones

Wilhelmina von Hallwyl collected everything - I won’t bore you with her whole story so suffice it to say she was the wealthy only child of a family who thought spending all her money on entertaining, clothing or parties was frivolous and instead spent her time and money on collecting and having the foresight to catalog every item and know she was going to preserve her house for the city

She also had an interest in technology, which is why the house was way ahead of its time in some aspects, including her having one of the original heating/sun lamps in her private bath which had many of the amenities popular today - the marble, skylight, step down, enclosed bath, etc - and her own gym - unheard of then, with old wooden equipment and her ‘bowling’ skittles alley and just the fabulous wood work.

She had collections of over 50,000 documented items - there is something for everyone - the mosaic work, the wood work, the carvings, the little alcove she had built with a grate opening into the dining room where musicians could play and you wouldn’t see them but the music would filter into the dining room (where she did her ‘duty’ by having 2 or 3 dinners a year, all on the he same weekend to just get it over with!) mirrors from China when they built the railroad, armor, weapons, art work, tapestries, the plumbing!, the kitchen utensils, everything intact - the list would be endless, the items amazing and worth the tour.

The artwork displayed in the top floor is absolutely museum worthy as is most everything in her home. and don’t miss the lovely courtyard.
Here is a good link if you want to consider visiting check out the times for a tour in the language best for you.
http://tinyurl.com/rs2h4

Next, we head downtown to Kulturhuset (Culture House) Sergels Tor and the Hotorget, window shopping and popping into a few stores briefly.

We do a quick walk around Sergels Tor and thru Culture House - area of he city that almost all was rebuilt in the 60’s - lots of concrete and modern style glass, steel - glad I saw it, but I probably wouldn’t go back. Culture house was cool, and definitely a place my college age son would go if he was in town, floors of great things for him and for families - ground floor affordable funky cafe, great library with internet, areas with flat screens with various news programs, international newspapers in bins lining the walls, children's museum, area to buy tickets for performances, cafes -

We went to Cafe Panorama on the top floor in hopes of catching a quick lunch/snack, which according to Fodors book had a great view of Sergels Torg, in fact, we found the view half cut off at that height and the food looked marginal and nothing interested us, so we wandered down to the bar several floors down which had a much better view but didn’t want to drink, but eat so we walked through the Sergels Torg area for a bit, but the concrete and the stores underneath didn’t interest us to be ‘in the dark’ on a gorgeous day so we headed to the Hay Market and Kungshallen which had every food stall you could think of and choices for everyone at affordable prices.
Walked thru the market, the area stores on the pedestrian walks, watched some street performers, ate ice cream (more sugar) and back to Kungstradgarden to catch the end of the soccer matches, grabbed a place near the top of the temporary stands they’d set up, when a ball went flying out of the game right at him, and he was very pleased with himself when he nailed the catch and tossed it back into the court.

We amble back to the Diplomat and prepare for more eating.

DINNER: Fem Sma Hus ( Five Little Houses) in Gamla Stan.
Love being in this old section with the tiny streets, hills and turns and quaint houses.

Dinner was fabulous, another great night of dining. Far more traditional. web in english/tiny url is http://tinyurl.com/fenpy

For the foodies: Started with a Kir Royal, hubby with a martini.
Great breads. Husband had what he now thinks is the best salmon he’s had since he’s been in Goteburg and now Stockholm - I had Veal Anna Lindberg which was the best veal dish I’ve had in a long time and hubby had medallions with morel sauce, the flavors even in the broccoli and pea pods and the asparagus with herb hollandaise were fresh and amazing. Had a nice Zinfandel, something like Klein Z Cline and again I am thrilled to find rhubarb, one of my favorite things for dessert - a delicious pie with crunchy nut topping with fresh whipped cream and had honey ice cream, hubby had vanilla ice cream, meringue, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Loved the decor, our server, everything. Would eat here again in a heartbeat.

We walk/roll home and have to cap the day with a drink at the Diplomat outdoor cafe because it is cooling down and I want to wrap myself in one of those blankets and have a glass of wine. We realize we are in serious need of working off these calories, so we reserve the hotels complimentary bicycles for the next day.

DAY FOUR:
Up early, grab the bikes (and the hotel offered to pack us up a lunch if we wanted to picnic, but we pass) and head off to that little cafe in the Kings Garden for a breakfast and coffee in the park. Quiet and lovely.

Then we head off to Gamla Stan because we must visit this part of the city in the daylight instead of just for filling our stomachs in the evening. We take our time riding up and down different streets, and make our way to the Palace, check with a guard for the timing and place of the Changing of the Guards and head over to Riddarholmskyrkan (Riddarholm Church) which we loved, over to Stortorget and Storkyrkan and then on to the Palace for the Changing of the Guard which was fun. Less ‘stiff’ than the Buckingham Palace one (I love that the guards will chat with you) and the procession and music are wonderful.

We head out and get lots for a bit in the streets of Gamla Stan, sometimes having to walk our bikes as it is starting to get crowded now with pedestrians. We take a quick ride back towards the City Hall and are thinking of taking the ferry over to Drottningholms Slot, but when we look at schedule, it will only give us one hour out there so that’s on the list for the return visit.

Instead, we bike over and down to Strandvagen and before we go over the bridge over to Djurgarden & Skansen we eat at a little cafe Strandbryggan for a delightful luncheon salad where when the cool breeze picks up I can throw those little blankets on the back of my chair over my shoulders and feel right at home ! -

and then onto the island

- I wouldn’t miss this area - and it’s great to do on bikes, especially if you have your family with you, my kids would have loved this.

We started towards the left, through the path by the water, thru the park, gorgeous views, and on up to the Rosendals Tradgarden - great gardens just staring to bloom, magnificent place, I want this at home - just one after another of planted areas of everything you can imagine, benches, seats, a little cafe for snacks, greenhouses, a beautiful cafe on top of hill - and even little dog houses with rows of water bowls in case your doggie companion needs a break - we parked our bikes and enjoyed walking through here, having a break and a cold drink -

we continue biking down the road, to the marina on the other side (have to check out those boats and marinas) and make our way down the other side of the island passing some beautiful homes, some embassy homes and gardens and on to Skansen -

Skansen had some parts open, some not yet, and it looked delightful, but we put it on the list for next visit and bike through Grona Lund Tivoli , stop and walk around and have a cold drink and head back past the Nordiska Museet and bike down to the Junibacken/Vasamuseet area to just sit and enjoy the water view.

Bike back to our hotel, return the bikes, check in with the kids on the internet in lobby, and the mandatory drink in the outdoor cafe again!

Dinner: We walk back to Gamla Stan and window shop, winding in and out of all the streets, reading different menus and end up at Sally’s, which I think is an unusual name for an italian restaurant, but I am craving pasta. We get a lovely window seat overlooking the street and I didn’t take note tonight, but we had a great Chianti, salads and shared two pasta dishes and skipped dessert. Took our time walking back to our hotel through the Kings Garden area once again and headed to our room to pack up.

DAY FIVE:
Up early and walk to a little bakery/restaurant mentioned in Fodors book that had peaked my interest, and my longing for french pastry- Riddarbageriet on Riddarg 15, which is a short walk from our hotel.

Amazing, amazing. Tiny, but oh those pastries and breads. And oh did we taste. All toll, I think we had 4 pastries (some with ham and cheese in the middle, some with chocolate in the middle, others with jams) a muffin or two and some great tea blends -

we headed up to a book store the concierge recommended so we could grab some things for our kids as we’d done zero shopping -
found some great photos books, etc and wandered back through the streets to our hotel poking in and out of a few furniture and accessory stores, grabbed a cab and headed off to the airport for a 1pm flight to Denmark, and then on to Iceland. Will post those trip reports under those city names.

Wrap Up: Loved the hotel, would highly recommend.
Much more to see and can not wait to go back, I love this city of islands, how each one is unique, has it’s own special charming atmosphere and architecture, loved getting lost in the streets, a big thank you to those who responded to my planning post, if you read this you can see I took some of your recommendations and loved them all -

I loved every person I met - I loved that if we were stopped on a street corner and looking at our map a passerby stopped and asked if they could help us -

I love that you can walk and or bike anywhere and it is safe to do so, the walking and biking parts are so clearly marked and I wish we had biked more. Next time - and there will be a next time, we are hoping next spring, but a bit later in the spring so more will be in bloom. Also want to get out to Sigtuna and Drottingham Slot and so many other places and more, more, more of the archipelago region.

Also, I had never booked hotels this way before, but what I did this time was send an email to four hotels that were on my list, and not separately but all together, after checking out their rates online and by phone.
Told them it was my first visit to Stockholm, and while they had all been highly recommended by friends, I hoped one of them could accommodate us and I gave them my dates and what I wanted (room with a view, quiet, full bath, whatever) and waited....every one answered me via email return with exactly what I wanted (even though at two places what I wanted wasn’t available online) and at far better rates than I was quoted online or via phone. Perhaps the obvious price shopping made a difference I don’t know, but we got a great ‘super saver’ rate at the Diplomat and with a magnificent view and all that I wanted - or maybe we were just ahead of ‘in season’ not sure.

All I can say is Go to Stockholm !!!

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