A drive in Europe

Mar 9th, 2014, 01:48 PM
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A drive in Europe

Hello everyone,
My friend and I are taking a cruise that ends in Marseille, France. We would like to rent a car or possibly a small motorhome type vehicle, (we have kids), and see as much of Europe as we can before returning to the States. We have approximately 17 days, but are flexible on our departure date. Our final destination will be London England and we would like to visit Italy, Germany and France and anything else that we can get in. More specifically Venice, Italy, someplace worth visiting in Germany, Paris, France and then London, England. Our current tentative itinerary is as follows:
Drive along the coast from Marseille to Florence then to Venice.
From there head toward Germany then cut across to Paris then to London.

Does anyone have any suggestions on what would be a worthwhile route on this road trip? We are completely flexible and this trip is mostly to provide our children with the opportunity to have great childhood memories they will never forget.

Thank you in advance for any advice you can give!!
2ladies is offline  
Mar 9th, 2014, 02:06 PM
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You don't have time to drive that route in 17 days. Four cities in 17 days sounds great to me, and I'd connect the dots by train. I'd suggest Munich in Germany as a very interesting stop that isn't too far away from your other destinations. There is so much to see, especially in London and Paris, that you will find the days fly by.
artsnletters is offline  
Mar 9th, 2014, 02:17 PM
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Update....We were also thinking about possibly using the high speed trains to cover more ground and travel at night.
2ladies is offline  
Mar 9th, 2014, 02:23 PM
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You'll have to fly or take a day train between Marseille and Venice, but you can take night trains from Venice to Munich and from Munich to Paris. Paris to London is a 2.5 hour zip.

If you find you have seen enough of a given city and would like a change of scenery (doubtful), there are wonderful day-trips available from all these cities.
artsnletters is offline  
Mar 9th, 2014, 02:45 PM
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Hi 2L,

I assume that you have nonrefundable tickets to fly out of London, else it wouldn't be on your list.

You certainly don't want to drive to London, as you will pay a very large premium to drop off in another country.

>...this trip is mostly to provide our children with the opportunity to have great childhood memories they will never forget.

How old are the kids. Memories can be heavenly or hellish.

7 days in Paris and vicinity and 7 days in London and vicinity ought not be too boring.

There are direct trains from M to P both day and night.
See www.voyages-sncf.com

ira is offline  
Mar 9th, 2014, 02:59 PM
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I would fly from Marseilles to Florence. It's a tough train ride lasting 10 to 12 hours with a minimum of 3 changes. Florence to Venice is easy on the train. Same for wherever in Germany and then to Paris. From Paris to London definitely take the train. You can buy discounted tickets if you purchase in advance - 90 days for French trains.

Will your children really have great memories of being stuck in a car for hours? It's at least 7 hours from Marseilles to Florence and much more if you run into traffic. This does not account for stopping time for food and health breaks.

I think the worthwhile routes are not highways but scenic secondary roads but you don't have time for these roads. The route from Marseille to Florence is highways. From Venice to Germany depends on where in Germany you're going.

You can look at the routes on viamichelin.com

Train schedules are found at http://www.bahn.de/i/view/USA/en/index.shtml
adrienne is offline  
Mar 9th, 2014, 03:05 PM
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If you are on the road this much in a "motorhome" type of vehicle, would not the childhood memories be not much different from doing the same in the U.S.? If you drive a car that big, you will mostly stay on main roads and stay out of the medieval old city cores. So, it seems you will be skipping what makes this trip significantly different from U.S. trips.
greg is offline  
Mar 9th, 2014, 03:08 PM
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you only have 2.5 weeks -- and you want too see 'as much of 4+ countries' as you can. Just not at all realistic. And totally impossible by car/motorhome. (What do you expect to do w/ a LHD car when you get to the UK where the vehicles are RHD?) Certainly glad you are >>also thinking about possibly using the high speed trains to cover more ground and travel at night<<. But even by train your plan isn't very practical. There are no night trains between some of your destinations.

Assuming you actually want to see a few things in places like Paris, London and Venice you could get a teensy taste by flying to Venice, then flying to Paris, and finally taking the train to London . . . and maybe squeezing in one other place in Italy. But even that would be quite rushed.
janisj is online now  
Mar 9th, 2014, 04:19 PM
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Check out doing this one backwards by train:

Fast train from Marseille to Paris, overnight train to Venice, train to Florence, overnight train to Munich, fly to London.

Paris 4 nights
Venice 4 nights
Florence 2 nights
Munich 3 nights
London 4 nights
sandralist is offline  
Mar 9th, 2014, 05:23 PM
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First - car/motorhome doesn't make sense for two reasons - it would be close to impossible to get approval to take a rented one to the UK and they make no sense if you just want to see major cities. Driving trip is great to see the countryside and small towns - but you just don;t have the time to do that.

Second - you will really be pushed to see much of all of those places even by train or plane.

Third - there are not overnight trains between most places. If that's what you want you would have to research them carefully (check bahn.de for train schedules). Yes, you can get between almost any two places at night - but often there is no overnight train - but a series of two or 3 different trains and you might well have to stay mostly awake and haul your luggage off and on different trains in the middle of the night.

I think you need to get a good map, a couple of guidebooks and really do some work investigating train schedules.
nytraveler is offline  
Mar 9th, 2014, 09:15 PM
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Was going to suggest the same as sandralist about taking the train from Marseilles to Paris.

It does seem a shame to be in Provence though and not see anything there. Also, it is more likely you and/or the kids will get back to the major cities because you usually fly into/out of one every trip, but less likely to be going through Provence.

It also seems like a good bit of time and money spent going to Munich when you will be so close to Rome when you are in Florence.

Have your kids been to London?

How old are the kids?

When is the trip?

You want to see a lot, but you are going to see less by spending so much time moving around. With such an itinerary, you run the risk that everything will be a blur of train stations or highways to the kids.

Are you open to suggestions for other itineraries? Many fodorites can probably make suggestions that you may not have considered that would give your kids more experiences and less transport time.
Sassafrass is offline  
Mar 10th, 2014, 02:54 AM
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You could do it by car if you were to stick to France, and spend the time exploring that country. Drop the car before Paris, and get the train to London.
You could spend half the time aiming for Paris, by car, maybe with a side trip into Germany or Luxembourg, then split the remaining time between Paris and London.
hetismij2 is offline  
Mar 10th, 2014, 06:54 AM
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Overnight trains with kids? Not particularly cheap and very limited schedules. Everyone will be far less grouchy, particularly the "kids" (assuming you mean children) getting a decent night's sleep in a proper bed. And how can you see Europe chugging through the dark of night? Do less; enjoy more.
Southam is online now  
Mar 11th, 2014, 12:04 AM
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Thank you so much everyone for your responses. We are absolutely open to other itineraries and ideas/thoughts. Here is our situation. We are two families of 4, 2 moms with 3 kids each. The kids ages range from 9-16(9,10,11,12,14, & 16). So yes, I know we have our hands full!!!

We are both from the U.S. (duh) but my friend and her 3 have been living in England for the past 2 years and are now visiting the U.S. On a whim, we started looking into cruises and came across a screaming deal we could not pass us. (My kids and I have been dreaming of visiting them in England since they left). So my friend will be returning home, and now we will be the ones visiting.

We will be cruising from Miami, FL to Marseille, France. Our ports of call are Catalina Island, DR; Tortola, BVI; St. Johns, Antigua and Barbuda; Tenerife, Canary Islands; Cadiz, Spain; Malaga, Spain; and finally Marseille. This is a 17 night cruise.

The original plan was to just go straight to England, they live in Bath, but since we were going to be in Europe, we figured why not road trip it and make it that much more memorable. (Who knows if we would ever be able to come back again any time soon!)

The advice to do less and enjoy more seems more reasonable, maybe I kinda got carried away about trying to take in too much. The trip to Germany is not really all that necessary, like I said, we may have gotten a bit too ambitious. I suppose my screen name should have been 2crazyladies, huh?

We would like to see the Italian riviera and that is how we came up with the tentative itinerary. We were thinking a large mini-van type bus because of the amount of people and bags. My friend rents vehicles all the time and gets good discounts through Avis.

At this point, we are kinda "playing it by ear". We will probably stay in a chain hotel, as we also have points we can use.

Any and all advice is much appreciated. By the way, I forgot to mention, this is a last minute, let's just go type of thing and we will be arriving in Marseille in mid April.
2ladies is offline  
Mar 11th, 2014, 02:35 AM
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On cruises you have very short sight seeing times in each location. After the cruise, why not visit the Italian Riviera, then Paris for a few days, and spend the rest of the time visiting your friend in England and explore there. The Bath area is really lovely and you will have lots to do in those three locations and the land portion of the trip will be varied and not rushed.
adrienne is offline  
Mar 11th, 2014, 03:36 AM
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Since you will already be in Marseille I would spend some time in that region. At the very least spend a couple days in Aix and then in Nice and the hilltowns around it as you head to Italy. Preferably you'd have time to go up to Avignon/St Remy for a few days. Then drive to the Italian Riviera - I'd suggest staying in Rapallo or Camogli and doing day trips by train to the Cinque Terra. Then on your way back to Paris perhaps you could stop in Strasbourg for a few days. It's not Germany but it looks a lot like it and it's a great little city. Then with Paris and England that will more than fill up your time.
isabel is offline  
Mar 11th, 2014, 06:08 AM
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I wonder if the Italian Riviera would be any kind of a big wow after all those scenic ports of call in your cruise itinerary. And while I can see why you would light on the idea of renting a van or minibus for that sized group, the Italian Riviera is one of the worst terrains for driving with that kind of vehicle. That is especially true if you go to the scenic cliffs-overlooking-the-sea that are south of Genoa (I suggest elminating Camogli for sure -- there is no place to park a vehicle of that size in summertime). But just in general it is a very demanding drive through tunnels and around cities just so everybody can look at another series of ports and pretty sea views.

If by any chance the kids are clamoring for Italian food, also be advised that the food of the Italian Riviera does not include pizza or pasta with red sauces (with the exception of some red sauces made with fish).

I actually like the original plan -- not because I am in the cult of "slow travel" or think you can't handle the kids -- but I rather think that after all that sightseeing and ocean-going travel and entertainment, the kids (and you) might be rather charmed to hang loose in Bath and its environs. The kids will entertain each other in simpler ways and actually interact with some other kids from a different country, since everybody is speaking English. There is Harry Potter stuff all around if they'd be interested and other literary connections. I am thinking it might turn into something very memorable.

If you can't resist a fast train to Paris and a look around, that might be fun if the kids sound eager. But I sort of like the idea of less motion for a finale.
sandralist is offline  
Mar 11th, 2014, 07:47 AM
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Eight people (!) - there won't be a vehicle large enough (especially if any of you take typical 'cruise luggage'.

And the Riviera may not be all that once you see it. If it was me - I'd maybe explore for a couple of days around Marseilles, take the train to Paris for a few days . . . Then either take the train to London - OR - fly to Bristol and spend the rest of your time w/ touring around England.
janisj is online now  
Mar 11th, 2014, 10:32 AM
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Doesn't matter that your friend rents all the time and has contacts with Avis. janisj is right. There's no vehicle large enough for your group. The largest van seats 9, but even if each of you only has a small backpack it will be close to impossible to get the luggage in. And parking would be a nightmare, as would maneuvering in towns and cities and on any of the many narrow roads/lanes.

I love driving in Europe, but that coastal road around Genoa is one of the most hellish drives I've ever taken. Most of the Italian Riviera isn't all as glam as folks would like you to think, though there are some beautiful spots. But you already will have seen myriad lovely coast/beach/water scenery on the cruise. Will you really need more?

From Marseilles you have a few options for train rides to interesting places to explore, inland and along the coast. Public transportation isn't great there, but it does exist to, e.g., Arles and Aix.
StCirq is online now  
Mar 11th, 2014, 11:37 AM
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This is a totally different suggestion.

You may not realize that you are allowed to depart your cruise early. We have done this several times in order to be closer to a city we want to visit. Yes, you give up a night or two on the ship, but on a longish, cheap cruise, that is not much and saves the cost of getting to a destination. To do this, you just have to let the cruise company know ahead of time.

You did not have plans to see anything much in Provence and public transportation is a bit more difficult there, so with 17 nights on the ship, give up two of them (two weeks on the ship will probably be quite enough anyway and is still a bargain), and depart the ship in Malaga, giving you two extra days for your trip, so now at 19 days. Also, it seemed you would be able to add some extra days. If not, you would still have to cut something from this itinerary.

Day 1, arrive Malaga, fly to Barcelona
Days 2, 3 & 4, Barcelona
Day 5, fly to Venice
Days 6 & 7, Venice,
Day 8, train to Rome
Days 9, 10, 11 & 12, Rome (day trips possible to Florence or Orvieto, etc)
Day 13, fly to Paris
Days 14, 15 & 16, Paris (day trip to Versailles)
Day 17, train to London
Days 18, 19 & 20, London

Now, quite honestly, if it were me, arriving in Spain, which is lovely in April, I would give up Italy on this trip and visit Spain (Granada, Seville, Madrid, Toledo and Barcelona), then train or fly to Paris, then train to London. There is another reason that touring Spain would work better. You could actually do the entire trip by train (and local bus) and not have to worry about the extra cost (which can be quite high) of luggage on the European flights.

However, I am trying to give you some of what you wanted on your original itinerary. This is a fairly reasonable pace with five bases in three weeks, three short flights, the rest by train.
Sassafrass is offline  

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