December in Europe

Oct 19th, 2006, 03:16 PM
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December in Europe

Hi Fodor Folks -

I've used your very good advice before and so I'm turning to you once again. We'll be traveling to Europe in December the 15th - 28th.

While I know that it is October and we'll be leaving in a couple of months, we are still wondering where to go! We will be flying in and out of Paris, but do not want to spend our time there because we were there last summer. So, we'll need to go somewhere we can easily get to from Paris... either train or a cheap flight.

We've been thinking of Italy, Denmark or Spain....

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts....

travel_fun is offline  
Oct 19th, 2006, 03:23 PM
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Give us something (ANYTHING) to work w/ here. What sorts of things do you want to see/do.

Also - Christmas weekend has its own set of issues. Do you want to be in a city, out in the country, driving, public transport - what?
janisj is offline  
Oct 19th, 2006, 04:25 PM
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And how about the weather? Do you want someplace with full winter - like Scandinavia? Or somewhere still relatively warm where you might do golf, etc - like Southern Spain.

Are there places you have already been that you loved? Or hated?
nytraveler is offline  
Oct 19th, 2006, 04:35 PM
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Very good point -

We're looking to explore a new area of Europe (we've only been to Paris and London - and loved both)... We want to consider the winter weather and the transportation from Paris to this destination.

We enjoy museums, cafes, walks, exploring architecture, classical music, turning down a new street, learning about a different culture - everything about travel!

Here's the long list of what we've been thinking:

Italy... Florence, Tuscany and Rome...
France - Strasbourg and the area

You can see why we're confused... we're too open to everything...

Since we will be there during Christmas, we need to consider that as well... We are not Christian but enjoy the holiday season.

Hope this helps direct my question a bit better.
travel_fun is offline  
Oct 20th, 2006, 07:22 AM
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OK - so, I've listed most of Europe on our list... Very daunting and probably impossible for you to reply to...

I'm trying to read about people's trips at this time of year and what they experienced. One question I have - Is there someplace that is particulary nice to be during Christmas?

We aren't looking for a warm beach vacation, but we don't want to be in very cold, rainy weather. Mild with snow is OK...

Hopefully this help guide you in helping us...
travel_fun is offline  
Oct 20th, 2006, 07:38 AM
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We went to the Alsace region last December and it was fantastic... there are Christmas markets in almost all of the adorable little towns along the Route de Vin. We stayed in Colmar, which is larger than the smaller towns but loved Riquewihr and Kayserburg just as much, if not more. It began snowing one afternoon while we were at the Christmas Market in Riquewihr - here we were, in this magical fairy-tale town with big, soft snowflakes falling around us while we nibbled on hot roasted chestnuts, walked amongst the vendors selling delicious foods and pretty Christmas ornaments & tiny Christmas trees, gingerbread and wines... a step back in time. We sipped the Alsatian equivalent of fine champagne, enjoying the warmth & friendliness of the people, speaking in French/German dialects around us... a perfect moment frozen in our memories forever.

I'd recommend a car & a GPS to navigate the medieval streets of Colmar; you can take a train from Paris to Strasbourg and rent a car and head South along the Route de Vin. Wine Spectator just did a feature on the wines of Alsace and on that region and you can go onto the Alsace Tourism websites for more information.

Keep in mind, that on Christmas Day everything will be shut down. You should book a restaurant and hotel now. Have a great time, no matter where you go!
scubapuppies is offline  
Oct 20th, 2006, 07:42 AM
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Well I'm a huge lover of Switzerland, and it is an easy train ride Paris to Geneva (or Lausanne), about 5 hours I think. I spend it in the towns along Lac Leman... Geneva, Lausanne, Vevey, Montreux, etc. with day trips to places like Gruyeres.

I know that *is* pretty darn specific, but so far from your posts you could go almost anywhere in Europe from what you describe. Somebody's got to narrow it down
suze is offline  
Oct 20th, 2006, 07:44 AM
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Oh dear missed the weather statement, it could very well be cool and rainy at lake-level in Switzerland.

I'm not sure where you are going to find mild with snow!
suze is offline  
Oct 20th, 2006, 08:13 AM
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Vienna and Salzburg should both be magical places at Christmas.

And Strasbourg, which you mention, is a well-known Christmas destination, because of its market.
Cimbrone is offline  
Oct 20th, 2006, 08:29 AM
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Go to Rome/Italy - we were there in mid January last year and it was fantastic. The weather was relatively mild, and there is so much to do. We travel off season a lot and sometimes find things shut down in smaller towns. Rome/Florence will not be like this and since you liked London and Paris. . . you will probably love Rome. Plus you can fly in and train to Florence or somewhere else if you don't want to be driving around.
where2 is offline  
Oct 20th, 2006, 08:55 AM
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Thank you so much for your replies. You all have such great ideas and recommendations... how will we ever decide? We are lucky to have such a problem!

More questions... if you don'd mind...

Scubapuppies - you recommend booking a hotel and restaurant now... What do you recommend from your trip?

Suze - your thoughts about the weather may take Switzerland out o the running.

Cimbrone - Do you think we could do Vienna and Salzburg and Strasbourg? I have to look at distances and transportation between them.

Where2 - Do you have any specific recommendations from your trip to Italy? Places to stay, eat, etc... Do you think Rome around Christmas time will be too crazy with tourists?

I'm pretty torn.. I love the idea of Strasbourg and the Christmas village atmosphere, but also the idea of being in a larger city - Florence and Rome with more to do... I think if it were just my husband and myself I'd go for Alsace, but my 21 year old may want more action! Although she does love quaint villages.
travel_fun is offline  
Oct 20th, 2006, 09:03 AM
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Strasbourg could be an idea.... except it will be cold (generally around minus 5) and rainy when the temperature goes up.
norween is offline  
Oct 20th, 2006, 09:07 AM
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Strasbourg is in eastern France (Alsace area), so it's pretty far from Salzburg and Vienna. Of course the weather could be terrible in any of these places. Or else a winter wonderland. It's taking a chance. But if you are ready for it, no problem. Duck into coffee houses and book a hotel with a fire place. It could be very cozy.
Cimbrone is offline  
Oct 20th, 2006, 09:17 AM
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Rome is great at Christmas. If you're lucky, you might even get good weather. I ate lunch outdoors in my shirtsleeves one day during Christmas week.

The only rough spot is Christmas Eve dinner. Most restaurants are closed. We wandered until we found one, but if you plan ahead you can probably find one open or reserve at a hotel.

Or you might get lucky like us and spend dinner listening to drunken Germans singing *Silent Night.* ;^)

The best thing about Christmas Eve in Rome is the pagan ceremony at Santa Maria d"Aracoeli at midnight mass. They bring an olive wood carving of the infant Jesus down the aisle as hordes of the faithful try and touch it under the spotlights and grinding cameras of the TV stations. It's like being in the religious riot scene in La Dolce Vita.

Christmas Day the city is open. We went to the Vatican to hear the Pope's address to the world, then walked to Trastevere for a Christmas lunch. The Piazza Navonna has a Christmas fair, but it's less than it used to be -- lots of cheap toys. They still have the huge creche, though. And porchetta sandwiches.

I see you've got a good amount of time -- maybe a train to southern France for a few days, then over to Italy . . . could be a nice trip.
Oct 20th, 2006, 09:33 AM
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Italy sounds like a reasonable idea. I just think you have too many impossible or contradictory things you want or don't wnt. Like you are going to Europe at the end of December but want mild weather and then mention a lot of cold, mountainous places as possible destinations. It's winter, it's not going to be mild in most places.

So, while I liked Strasbourg okay, I sure wouldn't want to spend two weeks there or in that area. I would be bored that long in that place (and am not excited by cute little villages for days on end myself, I want more to do). I took the train from Salzburg to Strasbourg once and that isn't that long and could be a somewhat scenic trip -- I think it's about 6 hrs.

So, you could move on during that time frame, from Strasbourg down to Salzburg (can go through Munich, also). Salzburg is a nice city to visit, but you wouldn't want to spend tons of time there, either, probably, so that could work, and Munich could be fun on the way.
Christina is offline  
Oct 20th, 2006, 09:34 AM
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If you're looking for someplace a bit warmer, I am partial to Nice and Antibes. The Chapel of Garoupe on the Cap d'Antibes is supposed to have a wonderful Christmas eve service. People attend from all over.

The south of France is not the quintessential Christmas destination, but I'm sure it will be festive nonetheless, and the weather a safer bet. One of my favorite places. You can't go wrong.
Cimbrone is offline  
Oct 20th, 2006, 09:35 AM
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By the way, I see you're not Christian. Neither am I. But that doesn't stop me from going to church on Christmas eve!
Cimbrone is offline  
Oct 20th, 2006, 09:42 AM
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Hasn't stopped me either from going to a midnight mass... beautiful service.

So many more good suggestions... I guess I should qualify that I do understand the problem of traveling in December and not wanting cold, rainy weather. We had no choice of dates, and we're more flexible with the weather than I sounded in my email. If I knew ahead of time that a particlar location had cold and rain for days on end, I'd prefer not to go. We can really only know the trends, the weather is after all out of our control!

travel_fun is offline  
Oct 20th, 2006, 11:00 AM
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Fly Paris to Rome (5 nights)
Train to Florence (3 nights)
Train to Venice (4 nights, Christmas)
Fly Venice to Paris (2 nights)

Or you could reverse the order and be in Rome for Christmas. I only stuck the 2 last nights in Paris to make the end of the trip less hectic. It could be one night if you prefer.

Venice to Paris flights on
Paris - Rome flights can be difficult or expensive. If you prefer you could train down to Nice, spend a few nights there. Then fly to Rome.

JeanneB is offline  
Oct 20th, 2006, 01:13 PM
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We stayed at Hotel St. Martin in Colmar; beautiful & old (an inn since 1361). Request a room overlooking the quiet courtyard in the back and skip the overpriced continental breakfast (there's a great coffee shop 1/2 block to your right when you leave the front of the hotel with a better warm menu selection that locals seem to prefer too) - the coffee with a generous fluff of Chantilly cream was our indulgence each morning! We paid approx. 120 EUROS for a charming room on the 3rd floor, had to walk through the courtyard to get to it & didn't mind the flights of stairs (elevator only in front section of hotel). The staff speaks English, has Internet access and a beautiful reception area. The Christmas markets start right across the street, an added bonus... buy an inexpensive original watercolor by local artists - even a bad artist is inspired here to create works of art! Regarding restaurants, the hotel recommended a great one that had the best sauteed foie gras - can't remember the name of it but they'll tell you and we also liked Au Fer Rouge. Wish we hadn't spent the $$$ at Maison des Tetes but the atmosphere was pretty. We walked everywhere in Colmar; you'll need a car for the Wine Route but just park it in Colmar, not worth the crazy headache driving through roads that end for no reason! Ah, the lovely confusion of those medieval towns... still, as I mentioned before, we just loved the other little towns. I'm a big Rick Steves fan (although many people on this forum are not); but we have found his hotel recommendations to be top-notch. If he loves an area, like he does with Alsace, his suggestions are excellent. Browse his France book, you'll find other helpful advice there.

December is cold and obviously there are warmer destinations for you to choose but what makes this area so appealing is the holiday season. It's only once a year and Christmas is so different in Europe than it is here - less commercialized, prettier, just less is more. I was with some friends and we all enjoyed the Christmas markets so much, even my friends who lived in Germany for a few years said that's the one thing they will miss the most. Alsace is just over the border from Germany so it has a lot of German traditions but with its own individual French flair. Any other time of the winter, I'd recommend somewhere warmer but this time of year, go enjoy Christmas there. It will be unforgettable!
scubapuppies is offline  

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