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2 Week Euro Solo Trip - UK, Paris, Brussels

2 Week Euro Solo Trip - UK, Paris, Brussels

Old Feb 10th, 2016, 05:51 PM
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2 Week Euro Solo Trip - UK, Paris, Brussels

I'm planning my first ever trip to Europe in June-July. I've done my best to do my own research but it is definitely an overwhelming process, so I could use some help in getting me on the right track.

I've already booked my flight in and out of Heathrow from 24 June to 8 July, so I'm working on filling in my itinerary for everything in between.

TRIP GOALS/PRIORITIES
---------------------------
Experience London - Not just sightseeing but would like to be fully immersed in the culture/lifestyle
Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff (hours: 10am-5pm) - I'm a huge Doctor Who fan
Paris (2-3 days)
Wimbledon (Runs from 27 June - 10 July) - Would like to experience at least one day there
Brussels - For the beer and waffles

OVERALL ITINERARY (Rough Draft)
---------------------------
F 24 June - Land at Heathrow at 9:10pm, planning on staying at a hotel near the airport
Sa 25 June - London - Reserve a public storage locker to store my suitcase for 2 weeks and rely on my backpack; explore London
S 26 June - London/Paris (Transit from London to Paris via Eurostar)
M 27 June - Paris - Walking tour of Paris sites near Ile de la Cite
T 28 June - Paris - Musee d'Orsay & other sites
W 29 June - Paris/Brussels (Transit from Paris to Brussels via Thalys)
Th 30 June - Brussels
F 1 July - Brussels/London (Transit from Brussels to London via Eurostar)
Sa 2 July - London
S 3 July - London
M 4 July - London/Bath
T 5 July - Bath/Cardiff
W 6 July - Cardiff - Doctor Who Experience, transit back to London via train
Th 7 July - London
F 8 July - Depart Heathrow 12:20pm

PARIS ITINERARY (Rough Draft)
---------------------------
Day 1 (night only)
Arrive around 5pm
<Open to suggestions on what to do on a Sunday night>

Day 2 (full day)
Walking tour based on suggestions from other threads
Start at Hotel de Ville Metro Stop
Place des Vosges
Ile Saint-Louis
Ile de la Cite (Sainte Chapelle, Notre Dame de Paris, Place Dauphine)
Latin Quarters
Luxembourgh Gardens

Day 3 (full day)
Musee d'Orsey at opening
<This is where I need help filling in>

Day 4 (morning)
<Open to suggestions for anything I may have missed>
Depart Paris to Brussels around noon

Places I need help filling in my Paris itinerary:
Eiffel Tower
Tuileries Garden
Louvre (I'm willing to leave out going inside, but would like to see it from the outside)
Champs Elysses
Arc de Triomphe
Seine River cruise
Any other suggestions?

CONCLUSION
--------------
Here is what I need help with:
I need help planning what order to visit the sites in Paris so that I'm not tracking back and forth or putting too much on one day's agenda. I like a nice, loose schedule to fully experience Paris without feeling rushed.

Should I add another Paris day?

Should I leave Brussels out?

How many days in Bath?

Should I take a trip from Bath to visit Stonehenge?

Anything more to do in Cardiff?

Thanks for reading it this far! I appreciate any suggestions in advance.
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Old Feb 10th, 2016, 06:54 PM
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I'll elaborate more on my trip goals and what type of feedback I'm looking for.

My main goal is to experience Europe. I'm most looking forward to sitting a corner cafe and people watching, picnicking near the Eiffel Tower, having a pint at a London pub, etc. So it's not as important for me to see every single site like a checklist, so there might be a few sites I listed that might be able to cross off.

I've concentrated most of my researching up to this point on Paris. I've added Brussels to my itinerary because it seems easy to catch a train from Paris to Brussels, spend a day to see what Brussels has to offer, and then taking the Eurostar back to London. I haven't gotten around to researching Brussels just yet, but I do love Belgian beer. I'd like to know if others suggest fitting in Brussels or foregoing it based on my overall itinerary.

I guess the biggest thing I need feedback on in my itinerary is how many days to stay at each place so that I can start booking my accommodations. I'm leaning towards spending the whole day in Bath and then traveling to Cardiff in the morning for the Doctor Who Experience by opening time and then leaving back to London by night if there's not much more to explore in Cardiff.
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 07:37 AM
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It's a pity you already booked your flights, as you could have flown to London and returned from Paris, or similar, to avoid spending time backtracking, but if that is what you have to work with, so be it.

I will leave others to advise you on Wimbledon.

If you only want to see the Doctor Who Experience then I suppose there is no need for more time in Cardiff, but you could consider Cardiff Castle and perhaps the National Museum of Cardiff.

You don't seem to have a lot of time in London (four days, plus bits and pieces?) and there is a lot to see and do there.

I'm not sure why you are storing a suitcase, but know there are left luggage facilities at most (all?) of the mainline rail stations. Perhaps your hotel would keep a bag, but you should ask. Or perhaps you can pack less and just take it all with you. I think it may be expensive to do this, so if budget is a concern, you might want to do some research to see what this will cost you.

You do know to book your Eurostar tickets as early as possible to get the best prices?

I would nail down your transport and accommodations, before I would worry about the hourly details of your itinerary, but I realise you want a rough idea of how much time to spend in each location.

I would probably cut at least one destination from your list. Every time you change locations, you have to spend time and money to do so. How much time do you want to spend on trains and how much time in your destinations? You can do as you like, it's your trip, but it's worth considering.

So I might do Cardiff and/or Bath as day trips from London, or skip Brussels, or some combination, to avoid some of the train trips. (But then I would have flown into London, and home from Paris, or just spent the entire time in London. However, it's not my trip.)

As far as how much time in Bath: what do you want to see there?
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 08:04 AM
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This is what I would do to cut down on your broken up stays in London:

F 24 June - Land at Heathrow at 9:10pm, take the tube into London and stay near St Pancras
Sa 25 June - London – Paris via Eurostar very early morning
S 26 June - Paris - Walking tour of Paris sites near Ile de la Cite
M 27 June - Paris - Musee d'Orsay & other sites
T 28 June - Paris/Brussels (Transit from Paris to Brussels via Thalys)
W 29 June - Brussels
Th 30 June - Brussels/London (Transit from Brussels to London via Eurostar)
F 1 July - London
Sa 2 July - London
S 3 July - London
M 4 July - London
T 5 July – London to Bath
W 6 July – Bath to Cardiff
Th 7 July - Cardiff - Doctor Who Experience, transit back to London Heathrow via National Express
F 8 July - Depart Heathrow 12:20pm

I didn't really like Brussels, so I would eliminate it (you can buy Belgian beer in London and Paris) to spend more time in London and Paris and do this:

F 24 June - Land at Heathrow at 9:10pm, take the tube into London and stay near St Pancras
Sa 25 June - London – Paris via Eurostar very early morning
S 26 June - Paris - Walking tour of Paris sites near Ile de la Cite
M 27 June - Paris - Musee d'Orsay & other sites
T 28 June - Paris
W 29 June - Paris to London via Eurostar
Th 30 June – London
F 1 July - London
Sa 2 July - London
S 3 July - London
M 4 July - London
T 5 July – London to Bath
W 6 July – Bath to Cardiff
Th 7 July - Cardiff - Doctor Who Experience, transit back to London Heathrow via National Express
F 8 July - Depart Heathrow 12:20pm

I dont understand why you need to store your luggage - just pack light enough so that you can change locations easily with luggage.

No idea how you get tickets to Wimbledon but I believe you have to enter a draw months in advance...or spend a tonne of time standing in line to hopefully get tickets on the day. You may want to look this up...
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 08:23 AM
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Information on Wimbledon tickets: http://www.wimbledon.com/en_GB/tickets/
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 08:57 AM
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I agree w/ both of jamikins' suggested itineraries. Me personally - I'd just do London, Paris and Cardiff and ditch Brussels. But f you really want to include Brussels, then jamikins plan works.

One alternative - instead of staying one night in London before taking the Eurostar (and I have done that exact thing - but I had a specific reason for doing so) . . . You could book a flight about 4 hours after you land at LHR (either to Brussels or Paris), visit those two cities (or only Paris) and take the Eurostar back to London.

I have no idea what the luggage storage bit is about?

>>Sa 25 June - London - Reserve a public storage locker to store my suitcase for 2 weeks and rely on my backpack; explore London
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 09:00 AM
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great advice from jamikins and I would follow it like a shot

but, this is your first time in Europe and you may feel that you want to ease-in to the continent slowly, in which case staying an extra night or 2 in London on your first arrival makes sense, it really depends on how brave you feel. While France is more different than you will find London, it is not very different and most of the people you rub up against in Paris will either speak a smattering of English or speak it better than you do

I'd pack light, if it helps, just take less and come with layers. The whole sorting out a large bag is a pain. (I am often mocked on this site for suggesting bring old clothes and throw them away, once used, to get space in your bag for memories).

Jet Lag.....

I think you have a great plan from Jamikins but in answer to your other questions. Bath will consume 4 to 8 hours, the roman baths need about 1 to 2 hours, the crescent is a walk up the hill and the shops, buildings, river etc fill up the rest so either an overnighter or a short day. Stonehenge is fascinating but it is not that overwhelming (they had no back-hoes then) but it is interesting, you might also like Salisbury with an amazing Cathedral.

The train is your friend here read up seat61.com to understand the train system. There are tour buses from the Salisbury station to Stonehenge. I think even the local buses go there. check on rome2rio to get a flavour but the real UK tool for all public transport is http://www.traveline.info/ while inside London it is https://tfl.gov.uk/plan-a-journey/ there are loads of apps for london transport and they all use the central data to get you about.
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 09:07 AM
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just saw janisj notes (typing at the same time) and I have to agree with her.

You could fly straight onto Paris but it might be a bit late

London storage lockers... you do realise the UK has been fighting terrorism since the 1960s and so in central London lockers are hard to find. I'll let you google.

Cardiff and Brussels for me are bit meh but hey, your trip. I understand your point about Belgian beer and while you can find it in say London you will not find loads of variants as you will in the country.
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 09:09 AM
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While I enjoyed Brussels, we had a week to wander there. With just a few days, you won't have that time, so you'll be relegated to the (not so) big sites. I would highly recommend that you save Brussels for your next trip.

Just London and Paris would be plenty for this trip and would give you the time to experience a bit of these two marvelous cities. I'd cut out things like Bath, as there is such much to see and do IN London. I'd also move one London day to Paris.

You won't fit everything in on your first visit. I spent 10 days in Paris and didn't get to (or even expect to get to) all the places I wanted to see. Note that some of your places on the list can take no time at all - the Champs Elysses is just a street with the Arc at one end, the "best" of the Eiffel Tower is just seeing it from various vantage points, IMO. If you can opt not to go up the tower or atop the Arc, you will save yourself time for other things.

On the day you go to the D'Orsay, I'd recommend that after your time there, you walk across the bridge and visit L'Orangerie. You will be close to the Louvre and the Tuileries and can walk there as well. I'm not a fan of the "cruises" with the commentary, but being on the river is pleasant. We took the batobus, which doubled as (slow) transport all the way to Le Jardin des Plantes.

Have a wonderful trip!
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 09:14 AM
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I agree about flying right to Paris, but they land after 21:00 and I am not sure there would be flights to Paris that late from Heathrow? That would be ideal if possible...
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 09:26 AM
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oops -- I didn't even notice the arrival time. Sorry. So now its back to jamikins' (who DID notice the times ) suggestion
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 10:16 AM
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Eiffel Tower
Tuileries Garden
Louvre exterior
Champs Elysses
Arc de Triomphe

That can all easily be done with a 1/2 day walking (using metro) to get around. Just look at a Paris map and mark out a big circle. With a full day you could add Notre Dame and Luxembourg Gardens and some sitting in a sidewalk café time.
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 01:36 PM
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I like Jamikins' second itinerary -- without Brussels -- best, but would do an extra day in Paris and one fewer in London...not because I don't like London -- you could easily spend weeks there and not get bored...but because there is so much to see in Paris, too. Just my personal feeling. You'll have a better idea of what to do after researching all the places you want to see in each city.

There are many inexpensive and moderately-priced hotels within a few minutes' walk of St Pancras, and lots of things a short bus or tube ride away to see in the afternoon of your arrival (though you will be jet-lagged, so you want to take it easy.) The British Library (an amazing place) is in the block adjacent to the station.

ssander
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 01:52 PM
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Eurostar and Thalys tickets must be booked ASAP to get the limited in number discounted ducats - never just show up or pay hundreds of bucks more and maybe not even get on a train that day.

www.eurostar.com and www.thalys.com are the official sites - discounted tickets non-changeable non-refundable so be very sure of your dates and with Eurostar you are required to go thru the check-in at least 35 minutes (could be more or less) before your train to be guaranteed entry.

In the UK www.nationalrail.co.uk is a booking site easy to use and again can get deep discounts on Cardiff tickets - earlier you book the better.

For lots on trains in general (1st vs 2nd cl, etc) check www.ricksteves.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.seat61.com latter one great tips on discounted tickets.
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 01:59 PM
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Thanks all! These are all wonderful suggestions and extremely helpful.

I will indeed drop Brussels in favor of another day in Paris. jamikins' second itinerary is what I'll be working off of now; thank you for making this for me.

I'm also willing to drop Bath in favor of a daytrip to Cardiff and concentrating on just London and Paris this trip. That would put me at 7 full days in London, I believe.

So I guess my main question now is should I spend 7 full days in London? I was thinking people might suggest I go out of London for a day to see something different, which is where I tried to fit Bath in, but if everyone suggests just staying in London for most of the trip, I'd be fine with that. Like I said, my main goal is soak in London since I've been fascinated with England since I was young.

bilboburgler - you get mocked for that? I've done that before as well! I, for one, think it's brilliant and plan on doing just that for this 2 week trip.

My thoughts with storing my suitcase is so that I don't have to bring it with me as I hotel hop but I'll need it to bring things home, which includes liquids (beer). If I can store my suitcase, I won't need to worry about checking in my hotel as I arrive at each place since I can start sightseeing around immediately with just a light backpack with a few days of clothes (disposable!). Safestore quotes a 10 sq ft locker at £10.88/wk (~$15 USD, I believe?) which I was considering. Since I'm now cutting out Brussels, and possibly Bath, I'd just have to bring my suitcase to Paris and back, which I can deal with.

kyraS, my original plan was indeed to spend the entire trip in the UK, but Paris was too tempting to ignore, so I figure a daytrip out to Paris, and that became 2 days, and now 3 full days there. I felt pressure to lock down my flight plans since my options were limited as I'm using my miles for this trip, and my departure and return dates are firm based on what I could get off from work.

I'll also throw this out in that I plan on doing another 2-week trip in 2017 (I still have miles left for another round trip), which I plan to do Italy, Germany, Amsterdam, and possibly Paris again. I'll be sure to plan out my trip before booking my flights for that one since that one will probably be more adventurous.

Thank you all again for your wonderful suggestions. I will take all of your suggestions into account and, at least start finalizing my plans so I can purchase my rail tickets and accommodations.
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 02:10 PM
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Glad to help!

Check out www.walks.com for excellent tours in London.

As for luggage...the extra time you will need to store your luggage will be a hindrance imagine. I would just pack lightly then store your luggage at each hotel in your room. I can't imagine anything else making sense!
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 02:11 PM
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Thanks for the links, PalenQ. I hope to book my train reservations in the next day or two once I hammer down my general itinerary.

Jet lag is definitely going to rough. I'm coming from Hawaii and my flights to LHR are 9 hr and 7 hr with a 1.5 hr layover in between. I'm leaning towards taking 2 full days in London to recover so that I'm fully adjusted by the time I experience Paris. That moves my Paris dates to M-F, which definitely has a lot cheaper train fares.
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 02:14 PM
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You can easily spend 7 full days in London and not run out of things to do. But whether to do it depends on your interests.

And you are already thinking about a trip for next year - good for you! But your next year's itinerary is too crowded, with two whole countries and two additional cities. After this trip, evaluate what you liked/didn't like about this trip, as that will help you plan for next year.
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 02:19 PM
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How does this sound, jamikins?

(Th 23 June Depart Hawaii, 19 hours travel time)
F 24 June - Land at Heathrow at 9:10pm, take the tube into London and stay near St Pancras
Sa 25 June - London (recovery day 1)
S 26 June - London (recovery day 2)
M 27 June - London to Paris via Eurostar
T 28 June - Paris
W 29 June - Paris
Th 30 June – Paris
F 1 July - Paris to London via Eurostar
Sa 2 July - London
S 3 July - London
M 4 July - London
T 5 July – London
W 6 July – London
Th 7 July - London to Cardiff, Doctor Who Experience, transit back to London Heathrow via National Express
F 8 July - Depart Heathrow 12:20pm

My main concern with my first night is the time it takes to clear customs, learning to take the tube and finding my hotel late at night.
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 02:58 PM
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How about putting angst to rest and stay in a Heathrow hotel the first night - especially since your plane could be late. Sleep in and leisurely go into London when rested the next day. Lots of hotels around the airport periphery with shuttle buses and some right in the airport itself.
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