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Almost ready to book France/Switzerland-need help w Itinerary, SCNF

Almost ready to book France/Switzerland-need help w Itinerary, SCNF

Apr 23rd, 2013, 05:36 PM
  #1  
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Almost ready to book France/Switzerland-need help w Itinerary, SCNF

Hello,

I've been posting about a last minute trip to Europe this summer. We've tossed around various ideas, and with the help of other Fodorites we've narrowed down our itinerary to a couple of different choices.

DH and I will be traveling with our two teenage sons, 17 and 15. They are fairly experienced travelers after a month throughout Italy last summer. This year, we want to visit Paris (for the culture, food and experience), Switzerland (pristine beauty, culture, amazing views), and Provence (to soak up the warmth and ambience).

I've been doing extensive research on flights. Since we don't live near a hub, we always have at least one stop. I'd really like to avoid two stops but if it makes sense financially, we can do it that way.

Ideally, we wanted to fly into CDG and home from Nice. This would allow Paris to set a magical introduction to the trip, then we'd be amazed at the sights of Switzerland, and relax a bit in Provence before heading home.

It would look like this:
• Fly into CDG, stay in Paris 5 nts (or 4 if no Versaille)
• Train to Geneva or Zurich (if we go to Zurich, we could work our way back toward Geneva which geographically makes sense), stay in Switzerland 12 nts (Luzern, Logano, Montreux?), ending up in Geneva for train to Avignon
• Pick up car in Avignon, stay 4 nts St Remy
• Drive to St Paul de Vence or Nice, stay 2 nts
• Fly home from Nice

The reason for the jag over to Nice (besides returning to St Paul de Vence) is that the best one stop flight (Delta) leaves from Nice. Unfortunately, there is no one-stop flight for us from Marseille, which I think is the only other airport near Avignon that would possibly have non-stop flights to JFK, PHL or somewhere that connects for us.

So, in researching I came up with two other possible itineraries.
Second choice: Fly into Zurich/ home from Nice
• Fly into Zurich, stay in Switzerland 12 nts, ending in Geneva
• Train from Geneva to Paris stay 5 nts (4 if no Versaille)
• Train Paris to Avignon, pick up car stay 4 nts in St Remy
• Drive to St Paul de Vence, stay 2 nts
• Fly home from Nice
This is a bit less expensive, but not too sure if we will really want to head to a city like Paris after all the natural beauty and serenity of Switzerland.

Third choice: Fly into CDG/home from Zurich
• Fly into CDG, stay in Paris 5 nts (or 4 if no Versaille)
• Train to Avignon, pick up car, stay 5 nts in St Remy
• Train from Avignon to Geneva; (right now 4 tickets Avignon TGV 16h14/Geneve Cornavin 19h 16 for 140E TOTAL)
• Stay in Switzerland 12 nts, ending in Zurich
• Fly home from Zurich
This is the least expensive, and it might be the best alternative for another reason. First, we would only stay in St Remy while in Provence, thereby cutting down on check-ins, etc. The only downside is that we had hoped to finish in Provence, where we're comfortable with the Nice airport.

So can anyone help with these questions?
1. Which itinerary looks best/ could you suggest any tweaks to improve one over the other?
2. Is there another airport near Avignon that would fly direct to the northeast US?
3. Can anyone advise about the Zurich airport? I would expect that the Swiss have that pretty well organized, but just want to check if anyone knows.
4. SCNF website has tickets right now for a total of 140 euros from Avignon to Geneva. Are Avignon TGV/Geneve Cornavin the stations I'd want to use? Suggestions on arriving at 19h 16: would you pay more to arrive earlier?

We definitely want to be economical but we also want to enjoy the journey!

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer!
cybertraveler is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2013, 07:19 PM
  #2  
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ttt
cybertraveler is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2013, 07:43 PM
  #3  
 
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Do not have any experience with most of your questions, but we have flown into the Zurich airport numerous times over the last five years. We fly out of Nashville (which essentially has no non-stops to anywhere) so we take a late afternoon flight from Atlanta which arrives 7:45 to 7:55 a.m. The Zurich airport is small compared to Hartsfield; the tram between terminals at Hartfield warns you of sudden (very jerky) starts and stops while the one in Zurich starts and stops very smoothly! The terminal is laid out well for arriving passengers and the signs are easy to follow; it is not a ten-mile hike to immigration. Last trip, in November, there was no line at immigration and I think we were out in under fifteen minutes after landing; it usually takes longer than that, but I don't remember anything longer than thirty, maybe forty, minutes (including bathroom visits). There is a train station there; we have never taken the train from the airport, but have seen the signs, so I believe it is easy to get to as well.
Mrs. ImaginaryJazz
imaginaryjazz is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2013, 08:11 PM
  #4  
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Thanks so much for the information on Zurich airport. I feel more comfortable booking there now. From what I've read the entire Swiss transportation system functions very well.
cybertraveler is offline  
Apr 24th, 2013, 12:20 AM
  #5  
 
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"From what I've read the entire Swiss transportation system functions very well"
The official dates for last year have just been pubished:
2 per cent of all trains were more than 3 min late
7 per mille of all connections were missed and people had to wait up to 30 minutes, in some cases even up to 1 hr, for the next train


"Is there another airport near Avignon that would fly direct to the northeast US?"
Only Geneva:
New York JKH: daily, Swiss
New York Newark: daily, United
Washington: daily, United (code share with Swiss)
Montreal: daily, Air Canada
neckervd is offline  
Apr 24th, 2013, 12:24 AM
  #6  
 
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JFK, of course! surry for the missprint
neckervd is offline  
Apr 24th, 2013, 03:00 AM
  #7  
 
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Avignon to Nice is just under three hours by autoroute. Other than Marseille, there isn't another closer airport.

Seems like 1 and 3 suit you more than 2. Zurich airport is very good but if you want to end in Provence, stick with that, see St. Paul de Vence and base yourself west of the airport for one or two nights.

Just allow for heavy traffic around Nice and particularly on weekends in summer (everywhere).
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Apr 24th, 2013, 03:06 AM
  #8  
 
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About your sncf question, yes you want tgv and Cornavin, the main terminal, if you are staying over in Geneva. About paying more to get in earlier, I guess that depends on what you want to do that day.
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Apr 24th, 2013, 05:30 AM
  #9  
 
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Stay in Switzerland 12 nts, ending in Zurich.

If traveling at all much on trains check out the Swiss Pass, valid on not only on trains but lake boats, city trams and buses, postal buses and also gives free entry to 400+ Swiss museums - lake boats are a great trip on Lake Geneva for example - some great sources for info on Swiss trains - www.swisstravelsystem.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.
PalenQ is offline  
Apr 24th, 2013, 07:54 AM
  #10  
 
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I've flown in/out all three of those airports and they are all fine, I wouldn't change things based on airports anyway. In terms of which area first, I do like your number one plan best but I wouldn't spend hundreds more in order to do it in that order. I'd put the most consideration on how arduous the trip will be (how many connections, how long the layovers, etc.).

Your amount of time in each place looks good. Given that you want at least a little warmth I might suggest taking a couple of nights off of Switzerland and adding them to the south of France. Ten nights in Switzerland is still plenty and the extra few days in warm sunny south of France might be welcome (especially if you get unlucky with weather in Switz and Paris, if it turns out to be beautiful weather, then lucky you).

Whether to stay in Nice or a hilltown depends on what you want most to see. And if you plan to keep the car. If you'll have a car I'd vote for a hilltown, if you want to ditch it by then I'd vote for Nice. But consider Vence instead of St-Paul-de-Vence. Vence is larger but still a cute hilltown, but less 'touristy' than St Paul. St Paul is gorgeous but I prefer to stay in Vence. I did that on my first trip to the area, and I am doing it again in July.

In fact your trip sounds pretty similar to mine: Paris 4 days (but it's my 7th or 8th trip there), Sarlat 4 days, St Remy 5 days, Aix 2, Vence 3, Italian Riviera 5, Lausanne 6, Strasbourg 2.

Re trains. When are you going? I got really cheap train tickets (e.g. Avignon Paris for 25 euro) but you need to get them 90 days ahead. If you click on my name there are two different threads about trains - one about in France and one in Switzerland - and I got lots of helpful advice on those threads. Especially in Switzerland trying to figure out which pass is most economical is very confusing. In addition to the thread I started there are about ten other Swiss Train thread circulating - it will give you a headache.

Sounds like a great trip - maybe we'll pass each other.
isabel is offline  
Apr 24th, 2013, 11:16 AM
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But consider Vence instead of St-Paul-de-Vence. Vence is larger but still a cute hilltown, but less 'touristy' than St Paul. St Paul is gorgeous but I prefer to stay in Vence. I did that on my first trip to the area, and I am doing it again in July.>

Good toip - I enjoyed less tourist mobbed Vence more than St-Paul-de-Vence too. And if going to Vence and if ambulatory take the few mile easy downhill walk thru pastoral settings to St-Paul-de-Vence - the trail comes right out at the popular Maeght Foundation art museum on the edge of Saint Paul-de-Vence.
PalenQ is offline  
Apr 24th, 2013, 11:40 AM
  #12  
 
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>>>Ideally, we wanted to fly into CDG and home from Nice. This would allow Paris to set a magical introduction to the trip, then we'd be amazed at the sights of Switzerland, and relax a bit in Provence before heading home. <<<

>>>It would look like this:
• Fly into CDG, stay in Paris 5 nts (or 4 if no Versaille)
• Train to Geneva or Zurich (if we go to Zurich, we could work our way back toward Geneva which geographically makes sense), stay in Switzerland 12 nts (Luzern, Logano, Montreux?), ending up in Geneva for train to Avignon
• Pick up car in Avignon, stay 4 nts St Remy
• Drive to St Paul de Vence or Nice, stay 2 nts
• Fly home from Nice<<<

The only major problem I see with your itinerary is that there is not enough time in the "classical" Provence-your stay in St Remy.
So I would "tweek" it like this:

• Fly into CDG, stay in Paris 5 nts (or 4 if no Versailles)
• Train to Geneva or Zurich (if we go to Zurich, we could work our way back toward Geneva which geographically makes sense), stay in Switzerland 12 nts (Luzern, Lugano, Montreux?), ending up in Geneva for train to Avignon
• Pick up car in Avignon, stay 5-6 nts St Remy
• Drive to Lyon, day of flight or night before(150 miles, 3 hours-same distance as Nice)
• Fly home, late morning or early afternoon, from Lyon ( I know it is an additional plane change-Paris, Amsterdam, London, or?)

A more radical change. Most travelers, including me, would rather start their European vacation at their furthest location first. In addition ending in Paris-the most beautiful city in the world. All your flights could be none stop from the USA.

Then:
• Fly into Nice. Drive to St Remy for 6 nights. Perhaps stay some of those nights in or near a Luberon hill town.
• Train to Geneva or Zurich (if we go to Zurich, we could work our way back toward Geneva which geographically makes sense), stay in Switzerland 12 nts (Luzern, Lugano, Montreux?), ending up in Geneva for train to Paris.
• Stay in Paris 5 nts (or 4 if no Versailles).
• Fly home from Paris.

One more thought on your 12 nights in Switzerland. Spend 3 to 4 of them in the Bernese Oberland in Grindelwald or Wengen.
dugi_otok is online now  
Apr 24th, 2013, 05:29 PM
  #13  
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Hello everyone and thanks for your thoughtful replies. I've taken a day off planning today to deal with some urgent issues on our kitchen remodeling project, but I think they're all taken care of now, so back to planning!

neckervd and cath, thanks for the information on airports and train stations.

PalenQ and isabel, thanks for the suggestions on Vence and Nice as alternatives to St Paul de Vence. Do you have any recommendations for hotels in either of them? I'll definitely look into those towns.

PalenQ, I had done some initial research on the Swiss Pass website earlier, but found it overwhelming. I'm sure I'll be back with some specific questions once I get to that step of the planning. Thanks for the links.

isabel, it does look like we're having similar itineraries. Thanks for the suggestion on more time in Provence. Where will you stay in St Remy? If you haven't been before, I'd recommend visiting Les Baux and Rousillon. I know I have to get on those train tickets soon. We're going in mid July.

dugi, it's always so good to look at things from a different perspective! I appreciate the time you took to help me tweak the itinerary, and will look into that more closely.

This is such a great resource! I truly appreciate any and all suggestions!
cybertraveler is offline  
Apr 26th, 2013, 04:24 AM
  #14  
 
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ttt
PalenQ is offline  
Apr 26th, 2013, 07:19 AM
  #15  
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PalenQ, I forgot to mention--thanks for the tip about the path to the museum in St Paul de Vence. We missed that on our first trip there, and definitely would like to visit this time.

I had minor eye surgery yesterday, so had to be off the computer all day. Now I'm cleared for screen time, so hope to make decisions today.

Thanks again!
cybertraveler is offline  
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