16 days, 4 guys, 1 car and 6 countries

Jul 30th, 2010, 01:18 AM
Join Date: Jun 2008
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I get that you have no expectations and it's an exploration. But at the same tim,e you do state interests, and if what you're "interested in is to drive around the European country side, eat the local food, taste the local wine and talk to local people (German sausages, Italian pizza, French wine, hone my Spanish --" at some point you need to get off the industrial highway. You will not be driving through any revealing countryside using them to go from city to city. They are just traffic arteries.

Also, your present itinerary has you going to an area of Italy that is not home to pizza and to an area of Spain where people hate speaking Spanish. It's a bit like planning a route through Chicago because you can't wait to eat real barbecue, and onto Arizona because you'd like to experience the sociability of multicultural America.

Even if you want to go to Monaco, I recommend that you go back to Genova and take the overnight ferry to Barcelona (it's a car ferry if you are determined to take the car to Barcelona.) Either that or fly from Nice to Barcelona. Don't drive or take the train to Barcelona from Nice. It's just time consuming and boring, especially since you are well beyond the beach season along the French Riviera. You will only encounter retirees.

And consider Madrid instead of Barcelona if you fly that leg and want talking with locals in their own language as part of your trip. It's a great town for night life and tapas -- better than Barcelona I think.

You said you have no expectations, and I hope that includes no expectation of driving into a European city and finding a moderately priced hotel with parking. You will only find mid-priced hotels with parking at the suburban edges of the major cities -- which is not a very glamorous place for 4 almost 30 guys when it comes to enjoying the nightlife of the town.
zeppole is offline  
Jul 30th, 2010, 07:29 AM
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Just for fun I took the original itinerary and punched in the destinations using the Google Maps
directions function... including day trips to Monza and Maranello from Milan (they could use a Ferrari!) and keeping the car for Amsterdam it would amount to 4,888 km.

I love to drive and I especially love driving in Europe but that's a little much.
ParisAmsterdam is offline  
Jul 30th, 2010, 08:08 AM
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This might be a doable -- and even driving-fun -- 16 day itinerary.

Assuming you are locked into Paris-Paris as your flights:

Land in Paris -- take train to Munich -- enjoy Oktoberfest

Train to Milan, rent car, and then drive over the next 7 days to: Monza, Maranello, and them north n but in the direction of Torino (best Italian wine country), head over the beautiful mountain roads toward Lyon France (best French food and wine), cut south to Monaco for gambling and driving the famous corniche road, cut back into Italy to Genoa (2 hour drive) and end your one week car rental.

Fly to Madrid for nightlife (best and longest lasting in Europe and Spanish conversation), fly to Amsterdam, end up in Paris.

That gives you one week of beautiful fun driving, and leaves you with 9-11 days to see Munich, Madrid, Amsterdam and Paris (the last being the least interesting destination on your list for what you say you like to do, especially if you zip through the wine country near Lyon).

Of course you could swap out Barcelona for Madrid, but be mindful of the attitudes toward Spanish there, the fact you have already missed the best beach weather. Four nights in Madrid -- which would actually help hone your Spanish -- would allow you to get in the groove a real nightlife. (Amsterdam goes to sleep by 10, despite its red light district). I would just skip Paris -- and if you can change your flights to go into Munich and out of Amsterdam, all the better.
zeppole is offline  
Jul 30th, 2010, 08:22 AM
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I love this thread. Because it's actually reshaping the original (unreasonable) itinerary into a great trip. Still with plenty of driving and seeing the scenery time. But using trains & planes for the long haul distances. And cutting destinations to a more reasonable number of places.

Even keeping the driving to "6 hours", if that's every day, and with 4 guys in a small car as mentioned, is still too much to do for 3 weeks straight.
suze is online now  
Jul 30th, 2010, 08:51 AM
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Another issue - how big are the 4 guys - and you do realiz that cars in europe are much smaller than int he US. (In europe a civic is a full size family car.)

Make sure you have picked a car with room for all o fyou and your luggage - and that will have a little pick up when carrying 4 people plus stuff.
nytraveler is offline  
Jul 30th, 2010, 09:29 AM
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I'd second zeppole's idea on how to start your trip.

Driving from Paris to Munich is not much fun. In France, it's expensive (tolls), in Germany half of the route on A8 is an endless construction site. Don't even think you average more than 60-65mph on this leg (excluding traffic jams in construction zones).

Right now, most halfway affordable accomodation in Munich should be sold out. Try to check the region west of Munich or Augsburg.
Do not take the car to the Oktoberfest grounds. Parking is non-existing, and the cops do alcohol testing all over the greater Munich area at that time. And you cannot have one designated driver in that zoo.. you can only stand it when you are totally hammered..
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Jul 30th, 2010, 12:04 PM
Original Poster
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Hi Guys,

Thank you all for putting in the time to help us out.

The car we have picked is an intermediate class car from Avis which says its a Citroen C5 or similar. We have no idea what a Citroen C5 looks like or how big it is but we are hoping its at least as big as an American Corolla which should suit us just fine size wise.

We will be using all the comments posted here and try and work out a more "sane" version of this trip and post it back.

To answer a few questions:
1. We have booked hostels at Munich, Lucerne, Milan, Nice and Barcelona via hostelworld.com and statravel.com. These we should be able to cancel pretty easily if need be.
2. In a few of the posts people mentioned that driving through Italy might be good idea, but we also wanted to drive in Switzerland somewhere like a Berina Pass.
4almost30 is offline  
Jul 30th, 2010, 12:23 PM
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Everything you ever wanted to know about the C5, and a lot you didn't


Basically that size car will be fine for you.
hetismij is offline  
Jul 30th, 2010, 02:34 PM
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One more thought on driving through the mountains from Italy into France -- or anywhere:

Your start date is Sept 30, which means some mountain passes will already be starting to close.

You can cross the mountains south of Torino, but you still need to follow the weather and listen to local intelligence. In bad weather, you just dip down to the coast. You just have to be sensible. More southerly routes don't add time.

If you pick up your car in Paris, you can still return it in Nice and fly to Spain rather than take the long boring haul by car. (If you pick it up in Italy, best bet is to ditch it Genova if you really want to see Monaco or Nice. It's a short drive back to Genoa.)
zeppole is offline  
Jul 30th, 2010, 02:49 PM
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PS: Specifically regarding the Bernina Pass, here's from another travel website:

"Snow on the road over the pass can hit as early as October, but more likely to stay from the beginning of November. A sudden Alps storm could hit so after September its a good idea to have chains in case a sudden flurry turns the pass road to blinding white."

So you really have to be sensible. You should pick a route that isn't that high, and pick one that has an alternate route that will make it easy to drop down, move south and bypass snow without seriously adding miles and time.

And you really must check weather and be prepared to turn back. Realize that if you pick mountain passes, they have tunnels, and when you come out the other side of the mountain, the weather an be completely different.

And realize too that mountain roads have steep TOLLS. It can cost as much as 30e to take a car through a mountain pass.
zeppole is offline  
Jul 30th, 2010, 03:15 PM
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I have no clue about mountain pass roads in Italy, but in Austria and Switzerland the only toll road in the area where the guys will be driving I can think of is the Timmelsjoch pass connecting Austria and Italy.
Grossglockner would be too far east, and is really expensive.
Cannot think of one tolled mountain road in Switzerland, though.

Otherwise you may encounter toll mountain roads in Austria that are built for tourist or sightseeing purposes only, i.e. are not part of the national road network to get from A to B (except for Grossglockner and Krimml roads).

Major tunnels in Austria, the St. Bernhard tunnel in Switzerland, and certain motorway pass sections in Austria come with an extra toll. The mountain roads (the old arteries that got replaced by tunnels and motorways) are usually a (time-consuming) way to avoid tolls (at least in CH and AT).
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Jul 30th, 2010, 03:18 PM
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Those of you who are going to drive should get International Driving Permits ($15 at AAA offices). Bring that and your US license.

Also check into the rental car coverage offered by your credit cards -- ot at least the one used to rent the car. You may be able to save money and decline any insurance.

I assume you already have your plane tickets. If not, look into open jaws tickets, into one city, out of another. For example, into Amsterdam, out of Milan. No need then to go to Paris any more than once.
Mimar is offline  
Jul 30th, 2010, 03:26 PM
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On a practical note- do not leave any items in your car or trunk unattended.
Lynnaustin is offline  
Jul 30th, 2010, 10:24 PM
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Any thoughts about mountain roads in early October, weather-wise? That's my biggest concern for the travelers. Surprise snow. (I believe there are some tolls crossing from Italy to France west of Torino, but Michelin should be consulted).
zeppole is offline  
Jul 30th, 2010, 10:56 PM
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If you know this please ignore the following. If you know how to drive a shift, you will save a great deal of money. Automatics are quite expensive and drop offs in other coutnries are either very expensive or prohibited by some companies. Be sure to change your PINS to four digits
on anything that is plastic and call your credit card companies and inform them where you will be traveling.

That is a gross mischaracterization of the Catalans. I have never had anyone shown me disrespect becasue I spoke Castilian rather than Catalan. They are wise enough to leave innocents out of their historical/economic/linguistic disputes. And I have been traveling there for almost 40 years.

Barcelona and Madrid both have extraordianry night lives.
Aduchamp1 is offline  
Jul 30th, 2010, 11:40 PM
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The weather in the Alps.. well, on the highest roads you can get some snow almost any time of the year (slight exaggeration).

The regular closures for the highest pass roads start in mid-October.
If, for weather reasons, a mountain pass became impassable or driving required chains, both would be signposted already in the lower elevations, so you can take an alternative routing through a tunnel. Often you will find those closure signs far in advance of the actual pass road so you have enough time to find an alternative route.

As a rule of thumb, temperature falls by bit less than 1C for ever 100m you climb. So if you are driving from elevation 1500m with 15C outside on a mountain pass that climbs to 2500m you can expect an outside temp of 5C. So even if it started to snow up there, the snow would melt once it hit the ground.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Jul 31st, 2010, 08:02 AM
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I don't worry about most mountain passes until after mid-October. Even when there is a storm before then, it is a freak event and the pass reopens quickly after the melt off.
kerouac is online now  
Jul 31st, 2010, 08:57 AM
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Pack light. Four guys in that car will not leave a lot of room of luggage that does not fit in the trunk. I also like Zeppole's itinerary.
LindaL is offline  
Jul 31st, 2010, 02:07 PM
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I continue to recommend that if any or all of the 4 guys want to practice their Spanish in Spain, they go to an area of Spain where Spanish is the first language, where street signs are in Spanish, where Spanish is the language of love.

I've no idea during which 30 years Aduchamp visited Barcelona, but Colm Tóibín accurately wrote in *yesterday's* Guardian:

"[S]ince the death of Franco in 1975 a great deal has been gained and consolidated in Catalonia. The language, which Franco had banned the public use of, has now become, to a large extent, the normal first language. The street names in Barcelona, for example, are in Catalan only. There are radio and television stations in Catalan. Education is conducted through Catalan. The survival of the language has been helped by the fact that it is spoken by the middle classes in the towns and cities as a first language. Although Catalans are fiercely proud of their identity and their heritage, anyone who comes to live in Catalonia can more or less be included in the nation by learning the language. This has happened to the children of immigrants who came from Spain's poorer regions."

I think OBVIOUSLY if you want to hone your Spanish while traveling through Europe, you should go to a part of Europe where Spanish is the first language. Should Barcelona remain in your plans for other reasons, I recommend reading the rest of Tóibín's. article about why Catalans reject Spanish cultural traditions, such as bullfighting, and anything else you can get your hands on unless you don't mind be left out of things. Catalans may not show you with disrespect no matter how cluelessly you talk. But you would be less offensive if you not introduce yourselves to Catalans in Spanish as having come to Barcelona to practice a language fraught with so much pain and humiliation to them and their liberal culture.

cowboy, kerouac --

thanks for posting useful info for the travelers
zeppole is offline  
Jul 31st, 2010, 07:01 PM
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I have been in Barcelona as recently as 2008 and no one gave me a hard time about speaking Castilian. Even during our first visit 40 years ago when we were befriended by students, we understood the implications of speaking Catalan as Franco's thugs were omnipresent.

Even when visit Galicia where everyone speaks galego or visit the Baaque Country, we never have any trouble with Castilian.

And let's be practical. With just four days in Spain, how much can anyone really practice their Spanish.
Aduchamp1 is offline  

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