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Critique a draft itinerary please!


Nov 18th, 2013, 06:36 AM
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Critique a draft itinerary please!

Thanks for providing such a wealth of information and a great forum for sharing your experience and knowledge. I’ve read through some posts and have found some great information.
My girlfriend and I plan to travel to Greece, Italy, France and Spain next May/June. We have a comfortable budget and around 4 weeks to cover our itinerary. We have put together a bit of a mind dump of an itinerary which I suspect has way too many destinations. Using the itinerary FAQ’s ‘divide by 3.5’ rule of thumb we should only be visiting around 8-9 places over the 30 odd days we have available.
The current draft itinerary has 25! Haha ☺
I have been to France, but when I was 10 so i don't remember a great deal.
My girlfriend has been to France, Italy and Spain, but on a quick two week Contiki tour.

I'm keen on visiting the Loire Valley and Meteora (please let me know if its worth it).

She is set on visiting Santorini.

To help with responses: the type of advice we'd cherish is advice on whether certain places are worth seeing based on certain attractions (e.g restaurant, landmark, view, festival, nightlife etc), your experiences there, how the place fits in with the others on the list (eg is it not worth seeing place x because place y has a better something anyway) or other consideration. We know we have way too many places and your insight will help with whittling the list down!

Not that keen on:
mosh pit type crowds
backpacking type travel
museum overload
overrated anti-climatic cliched experiences
touristy booze/drug culture areas/'attractions'
harassment by peddlers

Interested in:
anything to do with food or cooking
meeting people
village life
military history
oddball history
essential landmarks
amazing panoramas
One question is whether to fly to Athens and start from Greece, or fly into Lisbon and start from there or vice versa… or something completely different.
Any comments would be great, we'd love if you could share your experiences and help us hack down the number of places we have on the list!
Thanks in advance
Sorry for the long link, but here is our itinerary on Google Maps:
MattJade is offline  
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Nov 18th, 2013, 06:46 AM
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How about tiny URL?

adrienne is offline  
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Nov 18th, 2013, 07:08 AM
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Well I find the map pretty difficult to use when a list would actually help.

Still my advice would be to cut France, Monaco (who wants to go there?) and Greece and just keep Portugal/Spain and Italy. If I had to keep anything out of the dumped countries I might keep Paris. Can we have list now?
bilboburgler is offline  
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Nov 18th, 2013, 07:11 AM
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Just saw this "harassment by peddlers", peddlers... too funny
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Nov 18th, 2013, 07:12 AM
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Hi MJ,

Usually a picture is worth a thousand words, but when it comes to evaluating itineraries a list is better.

Day 1 - day 4 xyz, FR abc hotel
Day 5 - etc

ira is offline  
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Nov 18th, 2013, 08:05 AM
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Are you traveling by train, car or plane or a mix?
PalenQ is offline  
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Nov 18th, 2013, 08:17 AM
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I never understand what people expect to gain when they ask questions like, 'should we go to a or b, which is better?'

The only person that can decide which are better for you is YOU. Any guidebook can give you a list of all the places and what you will find of interest in each. Asking people in a forum which places they liked will only get you an abreviated version of what a guidebook can provide.

I say A is great and someone says B is great. That doesn't help you decide whether to visit A or B anymore than a guidebook would.

You already know you have far too many places on your list. Contrary to what many people might think, 4 weeks is not a long time. In terms of places of interest, Europe is a very densely packed area of the world. You could easily spend all 4 weeks in ONE of the countries and still only scratch the surface of what that country has to offer you as a visitor.

But people have this idea that they are going to visit 'Europe' and so must visit several countries within Europe whether that makes much sense or not. It doesn't make sense from a cost point of view, every time you move it costs money obviously. Nor does it make sense from a best use of time point of view. Every time you move you lose time that could have been spend IN a place seeing/doing things. In travel, less is ALWAYS more.

So I would suggest you not only cut down the number of stops but also cut down the number of countries. Best would be to confine your time to ONE country where 4 weeks would be enough time to get a real decent feel for that country.

If you spend 4 weeks in Greece or 4 weeks in France you will get a far different experience than spending one week in each country. Quantity vs. quality.

The idea of one week average per country to me is laughable. Like taking one sip of 4 different wines and then never getting to drink a glass of any of them.
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Nov 18th, 2013, 10:05 AM
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Do you primarily want to visit railway stations, trains, airports, planes, ferry harbours, ferries, taxis, metros, hotel lobbies (check in/check out)?

Count almost 1 day for travel between 2 places.

Some examples:

Athens - Santorini (11 hrs):
You will have to get up at 5am if you sleep at Athens or at 6am if you sleep at Piraeus in order to get the 7.25 ferry to Santorini. You will arrive there at the harbour at 3pm and in your hotel at 4pm. The day will be over more or less.

Mykonos - Delphi (24 hrs):
leave Mykonos town around 13.30 for the new port, board the ferry at 14.00, arrive at Piraeus at 20.00, at Athens at 21.00 and in your hotel at 21.30. Sleep there, have breakfast and leave your hotel around 9am, go to the Liosson bus terminal, board the 10.30 bus and arrive at Delphi at 13.30. Check in, have lunch and begin your visit after 15.00 (more than 24 hrs after you left Mykonos) and realize that the Delphi museum closes at 14.40 (last admission).

Meteora - Positano (30 1/2 hrs):
stop the Trikkala - Ioannina bus (around 3-4pm) and change at Ioannina to the 8pm bus to Igoumenitsa. Board there the Superfast ferry (leaving at midnight) and arrive at Bari at 8am, leave Bari by bus at 12.50, arrive at Naples at 16.30, change to the Circumvesuviana train dp 17.43, arrive at Sorrento at 18.33, go on by SITA bus at 19.00 and arrive at Positano bus stop at 19.50, in your hotel around 20.30, just in time for dinner.
The solution you planned via Brindisi - Taranto - Salerno is not possible, you would strand at Amalfi after the departure of the last Positano bound bus.

Note that most Santorini - Mykonos catamarans leave Santorini around 10am and arrive at Mykonos around 1pm. The main reason for the visit of Mykonos is the trip to Delos. Most excursion boats come back around 1pm.

That means: it would be a nonsense
to arrive at Santorini in late afternoon and to leave the following morning without having visited at least the most important places of the Island
to go to Mykonos without visiting Delos.

That brings you to the following plan:
Day 1-3: Athens
Day 4: Athens - Santorini
Day 5: at Santorini
Day 6: Santorini - Mykonos
Day 7: Delos trip
Day 8: Mykonos - Athens
Day 9: Athens - Delphi
Day 10: Delphi - Meteora (several bus changes)
Day 11: Meteora - Igoumenitsa
Day 12: Igoumenitsa - Positano
Day 13: enjoy Positano and the Amalfi Coast
Day 14: Sorrento and Capri
Day 15: Naples and Ercolano
Days 16-18: Rome
Days 19-20: Florence
Days 21-22: Venice
Day 23: travel to Milan, visit, then to Genoa
Day 24: Day trip to 5Terre
Day 25: Visit Genoa, then train Genoa dp 16.55 - Nice ar 20.05
Day 26: Nice and surroundings
Day 27: TGV to Paris, Nice hotel check out 8.45 - Paris hotel check in 16.00
Days 28-31: visit of Paris and Versailles

But note that this would be a extremely rushed travel. You would pass very close to real gems without visiting them, gems like:

Dafni, Korinthos, Argos, Nauplia, Mycenae, Epidauros, Ossios Loukas Monastery, Greek theatre of Dodoni, Lake and caves of Ioannina, Paxi Island, Castellana caves, Trulli of Alberobello, Matera, Baroque city of Lecce, Greek temples of Paestum, Pompei, the Etruscan places of Tarquinia and Chiusi, the medieval towns of Assisi and Perugia, the cathedral of Orvieto, the wineyards and small hill towns of Tuscany, Siena, Lucca, Ravenna, Lake Garda, Marseille, Arles, Nimes, Pont du Gard, Avignon, St. Rhemy, Orange, Aix-en-Provence, Vienne, Lyon, Burgundy (Dijon, Beaune, Vezelay, Cluny, Auxerre)........
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Nov 18th, 2013, 11:01 AM
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Looks like Greece is at the top of your wanna-sees, with both Santorini and Meteora. I would put it either at the end of your itinerary or at the beginning.

Some questions: where are you flying from? Do you plan to drive on this trip? I infer that you're planning on taking the boat from Brindisi to Greece or vice versa. Do you plan to buy a Eurail pass? I'd investigate cheap flights; look at www.whichbudget.com and/or www.skyscanner.com.

Unless you travel extremely quickly, you can't do all of this. Cities like Paris and Rome have a lot to see, more than 3 days worth. You have a lot of cities on your map, but your interests seem to lean to smaller places. Which in general are better seen by car.

You're going to have to make some tough decisions. We can't do that for you. Time to get some guidebooks and/or research your destinations online. I like the DK guidebooks and green Michelin guides for pre-trip research.
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Nov 18th, 2013, 12:14 PM
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Do you plan to drive on this trip? I infer that you're planning on taking the boat from Brindisi to Greece or vice versa. Do you plan to buy a Eurail pass?>

A Eurailpass valid in both Greece and Italy gives free deck passage on several routes between Patras/Corfu Greece and several Italian ports and if you go to only a fraction of all those places by train then investigate yes the Global Eurailpass - anyway for lots of help planning a European train trip I always spotlight these IMO superb sources:
www.seat61.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.budgeteuropetravel.com - download their free online European Planning & Rail Guide for lots of rail itineraries in each country. Trains are not much useful in Greece but in nearly all the other venues you are pondering, including places like the Loire Valley trains are very very useful.

Perhaps mix in a few overnight trains to cover long distances and yes some cheap flights - but consider taking the ferry from Greece to Italy - kind of like a cruise ship - I have taken them several times - plus save on the cost of a night in a hotel.

Consider breaking the boat journey in Corfu - a Valhalla for snorkeling and a young travelers meeting place - don'tr neglect Corfu - one reason for going by boat.
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Nov 18th, 2013, 12:31 PM
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You need to look at travel times. How much of your precious (and costly) time do you wish to spend sitting on a train or waiting at an airport? The first ride or two might be fun and interesting. After that, you are just wasting time and money.
Pick two countries, even three if they are logistically close for travel, and plan from there. Something will have to give for each of you.
You might each pick the one thing that is the most important to you, make that the focus, and plan from there. Have your girlfriend look at the Amalfi Coast. IMHO, it is at least as beautiful as the Greek Islands and has lots to do. If you must see Greece, then allow ten days and visit Greece.
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Nov 18th, 2013, 01:11 PM
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Yes, you could spend all 4 weeks in one country. Or you could divide your time between 3-4 countries. It depends on how you like to travel. For most people, it's a very rare occurrence to have 4 whole weeks to spend in Europe so I would try to make the most of it. Having said that, you do not want to spend the majority of your time on a train/plane/ferry getting to your next destination. You need to research how long it will take to get to the next place and adjust your plans accordingly. I like to travel at a faster pace so if I were planning this trip I would do three countries and try to mix big cities with country escapes. Personally, if you are going to go all the way to Greece, I think Santorini is a must-see. Yes, it can be touristy and expensive, but there is absolutely nothing like it. It is a beautiful and a great way to spend a few relaxing days. We flew into Athens and immediately got on a connecting flight to Santorini. It was about $100-$150 per ticket. The flight is about 30 minutes and worth the expense. I would not waste your precious time on a ferry (others may disagree). Traveling around the mainland of Greece to see Meteora could potentially take up a lot of your time. I would save that for another trip unless you are prepared to cut out other places.

As you have stated, it's really up to you to figure out what you will enjoy. However, I know it is at least interesting, if not helpful, to hear how other people would plan a similar trip. So....If it were me, I would do something like this....

Some mix of Florence, Tuscany, Cinque Terre and/or Venice depending on your interests
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Nov 18th, 2013, 02:12 PM
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MattJade - listen to what others have posted above, about the rush you're in for, the lack of actually seeing and tasting and meeting and enjoying the things you listed that you're keen on.

Instead of doing the things you say you wish to do, all you'll be able to do is keep an eye on your watch to make sure you don't miss the next taxi or bus or train or plane to keep up with your schedule.

Look at it this way - if your boss sent you on this trip for business, you'd want a month off after returning, and double pay, and an increase in your health insurance coverage. It's that crazy a schedule.

Now break this schedule up into about four segments, give each segment a trip over the next ten or twenty years, one at a time, and you'll be a happy camper, one with solid memories and a good understanding of the diversity that is Europe, with the five cultures and languages and ways of doing things that your schedule entails (and which are only five among many more...).
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Nov 18th, 2013, 04:52 PM
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Thanks for your responses and the much needed reality check, which is what we were after.
We’ve given up a few places, including Greece entirely and some out of the way places. The village life aspect and some of the other interests are going to have to wait for a future trip. We’ve done some hacking and have the following itinerary.
Location Days
Rome 3
Florence 2
Cinque Terre 2
Venice 2
Paris 5
Versailles 1
Chambord* 2
Barcelona 3
Toledo* 2
Andalusia* 3
Lisbon* 2
>Travel 5
>>Total 32

Here’s the google map version: http://tinyurl.com/m5newkg

The places with an asterix * are negotiable.

We have a few questions about it to help us make it more realistic and enjoyable.
1. Thoughts on swapping Spain for Switzerland and more time in Italy and France?
2. Which end to start from Lisbon (if Lisbon is even necessary) or Rome?
3. Any way to avoid having to travel to Lisbon to fly in or out, its currently only in there as a city to fly in or out of.
4. We’ve set aside 5 days purely as travel time, is this enough?
5. Any places that deserve more/less time in your opinion?

Thanks again for your insight, time and assistance, much appreciated.
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Nov 18th, 2013, 06:05 PM
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The Chambord castle is awesome, and you do it comfortably in a day while based in Paris. You take the 07:38 train from Paris-Austerlitz station to Blois (timetable may change somewhat by next year), goes all the way and takes 83 minutes. In Blois there is a bus that goes from the train station in a circle to Blois castle (in town), then to Chambord, then to Cheverny (a "castle" that's more like a mansion overstuffed with antiques), and back to the Blois station. You can be back in Paris for dinner!

About calculating travel time - it all depends. If you travel in the evening when you're spent anyway, just in time to arrive late for check-in and crashing, you can save a lot of daylight hours that are better spent on sightseeing. And on some routes you may want to save on a night in a hotel by taking a night train, they have several levels of comfort and privacy - see www.seat61.com for details.

Three days in Rome is too short, the day of arrival is not good (YOU're no good...) and the second day is not much better, you're still woozy. There's so much to see!

Florence-Venice-Cinque Terre is a stretch, look at the geography.

You'd be better off flying first into Venice, then going to Florence, then to the Cinque Terre, then taking one of the trains that go past Pisa down the coast to Rome (or take one of the trains that double back to Florence where you'd have to change trains), and fly out of Rome to Paris.

Why Lisbon? It's not easy to get to from Spain, oddly enough. Fly home from Granada or Sevilla or Málaga - via Madrid most likely.
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Nov 18th, 2013, 06:09 PM
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This is still a very rushed trip but better than the original. I would not swap Spain for Switzerland but as a wise person above said, we can't tell you where to go. Drop Lisbon. There is no reason to go to a place merely to fly in or out of it. I would fly into Rome and out of Paris, visiting Spain in the middle. Add the time you have planned for Lisbon to Andalucia - 3 Days is not nearly enough. Do Versailles as a day trip from Paris.
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Nov 18th, 2013, 06:49 PM
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Thanks again for the replies.
Updated ITN. Lisbon is out. Sticking to Spain.

Q1. Seems as though the genreal idea is to fly into Venice/Rome and out of Paris?
Q2. Are Andalusia and Toledo must sees in your opinion? (I acknowledge this is all subjective)
Q3. Is 5 days pure travel time enough?

Many thanks

Location Days

>Rome 3
>Florence 2
>Cinque Terre 2
>Venice 2

>Paris 6
>Versailles 1 (day trip)
>Chambord 1 (day trip)

>Barcelona 3
>Toledo* 2
>Andalusia* 4

-Plus Travel 5
-Total 31

Map: http://goo.gl/maps/nI9hq
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Nov 18th, 2013, 10:29 PM
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You're still wasting travel time by starting in Rome. Start in Venice where all you can do is walk, which is precisely what you need to get over the jet lag. Then the logical geographical route is Venice-Florence-Cinque Terre (which of the cinque=five?) then Rome. Stop for a few hours in Pisa, either on the way from Florence to La Spezia and the 5 Terre, or on the way from there to Rome.

Question: Do you know why you want to go to the Cinque Terre? It's five small towns, villages really, on a picturesque coast line, linked by a railway line and some walking trails. It's for people who want to take their time, relax, walk this way one day, take a boat that way the other day, do much of nothing the next day - not rush in and out. I'd say skip it, you'll go back when you're old...

But Rome needs more than 3 days or you'll be kicking yourselves.

An overnight in Toledo is plenty.

Book early for the Alhambra in Granada- you get assigned a morning or afternoon narrow time frame to enter the palace which is inside the grounds - other than that time frame you're at liberty to hang around the grounds for as long as you wish.

Make sure you go by Cordoba and see as a minimum the Mezquita - read upon it, there's nothing like it! Cordoba is easily reached as a stop on the way from Granada to Sevilla for example, the roads are good, even the secondary roads (rather than the tollways and expressways) - nicer, and in good shape.
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Nov 19th, 2013, 03:15 AM
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What about Venice - Florence - Rome - FERRY - Barcelona - MADRID (day trip to Toledo) - Granada - Sevilla (day trip to Cordoba) - low cost flight - Paris .....
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Nov 19th, 2013, 05:07 AM
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>Chambord 1 (day trip)>

take train from Paris Austerlitz to Blois and in season there are shuttle buses to Chambord - otherwise virtually impossible to reach by public transport - perhaps you will have a car?
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