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Trip Report Successfully competed our Europe Trip 2013- PART ONE

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Firstly a BIG thank you to all who have given us their feedback here in Fodor'sTravel. It helped a lot in planning. Our first trip to Europe in 2013 was a huge success with very minor setbacks which can be ignored here. Below is what we did. Sorry for almost a year's delay in sharing but never the less I am sharing now.

Paris and Amsterdam
August 8
Arrive in Paris at CDG airport at 17:10. From CDG Terminal 1, take the CDGVAL shuttle train to Terminal 3/Roissypole. From here, walk towards several ticket windows behind an overhead sign for RER B “Paris par train / Paris by train”. These tickets are known as “Billets Ile-de-France“ and cost €8.40 one way. Travel time for Gare du Nord is roughly 25 minutes. Child fare for 4-12.

August 9
Buy a day unlimited pass for the metro for Zone 1-3: €8,45. Visit Eiffel Tower after breakfast (bus no 42 or metro). Walk to Arc de Triomphe, walk through Avenue des Champs-Élysées to Louvre (about 45 minutes). Or take the metro to the Notre-Dame de Paris. If time permits, visit Basilica of Sacre-Coeur in Montmartre (about 2km from Gare du Nord).

August 10
Board Thalys train to Amsterdam at 12:25 from Gare du Nord. Arrive in Amsterdam at 15:41. From Central Station tram 16, 24 or 25 will take you within 10 minutes to stop Wetering Circuit. Buy the one-hour (€2.60) disposable public transport smart card (OV-chipkaart) available from the conductor on buses and trams or at GVB ticket vending machines or GVB Tickets & Info locations. Child fare for 4-12.

August 11
Buy the GVB 24 hours ticket (€7.50) or 48 hours ((€12) that entitles you to unlimited travel through Amsterdam - day and night - by tram, bus and metro. Child fare for 4-12.

Visit the Anne Frank House and the Westerker. You should not miss the Anne Frank House (€9.50). It may be best to get in line to visit the house during the last hour as the queues tend to be shorter then. Do not miss going up in the Westerkerk bell tower (€6). If you are up for the climb, there are some GREAT views of the city from there.

Go for a Canal Boat Tour. There are several companies offering boat tours. It is a great way to get an overview of the city and it is a very different view of the city than walking around or on the trams. Some of the tours are hop-on hop-off (€20) like the Canal Bus (www.canal.nl) so you can use the tour to get around town.

The Van Gogh Museum is a great, modern exhibit hall with so much of the great man’s life on display.

Order a Koffie verkeerd is a coffee shop. Some of the trendy houses are great places to get an actual cup of great coffee and people watch.

The Dam Square (intersection of "Damrak" and "Damstrasse."), about 10 minutes walk from Centraal station, is such a hub for SO many visitors, 24 hours a day. Several times a year there are carnivals or festivals there in the square.

Go to the Red Light District (De Wallen on the map). Amsterdam actually has more than one RLD. The world famous one is a five-minute walk from Centraal Station. Given the substantial police presence it is a safe place to be night or day.


August 12
Albert Cuypstraat is a one km long market – See where the locals do some of their day-to-day shopping. Freshly-made stroopwafels are sold on the streets as a snack. Public transport is the best way to get to the Albert Cuyp street market. Coming from Amsterdam Central Station, take tram lines 4,16, 24 or 25 to get there.

Vondelpark Enjoy a picnic or just sit and watch the whole of Amsterdam go by. The park has plenty of free entertainment during the summer weekends.

Optional visit to the Floating Flower Market – So many beautiful flowers and plants available. There are other tourist shops there in the street too.

Board the CNL night train to Zurich from Centraal station at 19:40 hours.

(To be continued.....)

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    PART TWO--

    Switzerland
    August 13
    Arrive at 8:30 hours at Zurich HB rail station from Amsterdam. Validate Swiss Saver travel pass. Leave luggage at automatic lockers on the mezzanine beneath the main concourse. Change required. CHF9 for a big suitcase.
    The historic centre of Zürich is known as Altstadt, or "old town". It lies at the tip of the Lake and is split in two by the River Limmat. The right bank is referred to as Rathaus, after the City Hall building, while the left bank is Lindenhof .
    Walk a short part along famous Bahnhofstrasse, which starts just opposite of the train station. After a few blocks turn left diagonally into Rennweg, where old town begins. Then take a left at the very small alley called Fortunagasse. It leads you up to Lindenhof, a tranquil square where often people can be watched playing giant chess. From here you have a nice view across the river Limmat towards the part of old town called Niederdorf. It's also the oldest section of the whole town with houses dating back to 12th century. Descend southwards along Pfalzgasse and Schlüsselgasse. You will pass St Peter church, with the largest clock face of Europe. Further southwards you will reach Fraumünster church. Visit it from the inside - it's very famous for its modern windows created by artist Marc Chagall. After this continue south along the river, passing impressing houses from 19th century, until you will reach the lake. On your way back to the train station you have two options:
    A If you like (window)shopping, then take Bahnhofstrasse, which stretches all the way from the lake to the train station. It's the main shopping street with many expensive boutiques and jewellers, but there are also international fashion brands such as Mango or H&M.
    B cross the bridge and walk through old town (first part called Oberdorf, then Niederdorf) back towards the station. A visit of Grossmünster, the largest church of town, is recommendable. There is also a crypte and you could climb one of the two towers, from where there is a fantastic view. The alleys in that part are lined with small shops, restaurants and bars.
    Grab lunch at Bombay Karachi restaurant, a short walk away from Zurich HB stations and board train to Lucerne at 14:04, 14:09, 14:35 or 15:04 for a 45-minute ride.

    August 14
    Board the LSE-train to Engelberg for Mount Titlis (round trip 43CHF per adult with Swiss half fare card). There a small gondola takes you up to the Trübsee. You continue your trip by another gondola to Stand. Finally the revolving gondola takes you up to Mount Titlis. For a spectacular, close-up insight into a glacier, you visit the glacier cave and ride the Ice Flyer chairlift (12CHF per adult).
    In Engleberg, be sure to check out the extremely impressive interior of the Abbey church.
    Post-lunch, visit the Lion monument (try climbing up the City Wall) and the Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge).

    August 15
    After check-in at Interlaken, proceed to Trummelbach falls. Take train to Lauterbrunnen from Interlaken OST and then a Post bus (free with the Swiss Pass) to the Trümmelbach Falls bus stop. The Trümmelbach Glacier Waterfalls are open from 8:30am to 6:00pm in August. Entry if 11CHF per adult which includes an elevator ride that takes you halfway up. You then walk upstairs, that were cutout of the rock, to the top viewing platform. There are then a series of stopping and viewing points back down to ground level. Allow at least 1 hour for the visit. Bring a jacket or raincoat.
    In the evening, try Rösti, a traditional Swiss dish of fried grated potatoes at one of the cafes in Lauterbrunnen.

    August 16
    A round-trip to Jungfraujoch. From Interlaken OST, take the train at 8.05 or 8.35 to Jungfraujoch via Lauterbrunnen - Kleine Scheidegg for a 2.17 hour trip. Total fare for one adult return ticket on half-fare card is CHF98.90. Return via same route or Jungfraujoch - Grindelwald - Interlaken Ost. Grab lunch at Bollywood restaurant or Cafetaria. Return train at 1300 or 1400.

    August 17
    Onward to Zermatt at 1200 with two changes at Spiez and Visp. Arrive in Zermatt at 14:15. Check in at the hotel.

    August 18
    A half-day-trip on the Gornergrat rack railway which is the highest open-air railway in Europe. Round trip (one hour) with Swiss half fare card costs €82. Train leaves at 09:12 to reach at 09:45.

    August 19
    A half-day-trip to Klein Matterhorn (Matterhorn Glacier Paradise) which is Europe’s highest viewing platform - no cable car takes tourists to a higher vantage point. The view is breathtaking and you feel you are in a different, colder, but much clearer environment. Your journey up the 3883 metre-high Klein Matterhorn will take you on the highest aerial cableway in Europe. Once you reach the viewing platform up in this Matterhorn glacier paradise, you'll enjoy a 360º panorama over the Swiss, French and Italian Alps. The highest mountain station in the Alps is reached onboard the Matterhorn Express. This takes guests to the Furi station. From there, a large gondola takes you as far as the Trockenen Steg and the final stage of your journey is completed by aerial cableway to the Klein Matterhorn station, built into the mountainside. Ticket 49.50CHF with half-fare card.

    August 20
    Board train from Zermatt to Brig and Brig to Milan. Reach Milan at 17:10

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