Family's first trip to Europe

Old Sep 26th, 2008, 04:16 AM
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Family's first trip to Europe

Thanks in advance for any advice.

To be brief...taking my family to UK and Paris over Christmas holiday. My wife and I and two college-aged daughters.

Planning to fly into LHR (dpt USA 19 Dec arr 20 Dec) and spend 20-23 Dec in Britian (see sights, a couple of musicals, etc).

Rail to Paris to stay 23-27 Dec. One day will have to be EuroDisney (I have already surrendered on this topic) and certainly a day or two to see Paris. That leaves a day or two for excursions out of Paris.

Suggestions? Is it realistic to try a trip to Switzerland or Italy? Could we base out of Paris or would it be better to do an overnight?

Any suggestions for London and/or Paris and surrounding during the holidays would be helpful.

We were initially planning on a day in Ireland but the weather at this time of year worries me that it might be wasted.

Thanks again.
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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 04:23 AM
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Please let me add that my wife is a holiday nut and any recommendations of activities in Paris or surrounding on Christmas Eve or Day would be especially helpful.

Thanks again
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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 04:40 AM
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I would recommend spending the extra time in Paris. A day or two is really not enough to enjoy that city. I would certainly not attempt Switzerland or Italy. These are not realistic at all in the time you have

You could look at the threads for day trips from Paris in case you find you want to venture out of the city when you are there

Re activities in Paris for Christmas you might want to start a more specific thread with that question
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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 04:43 AM
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Are you returning home on the 27th? If so you will have plenty to see and do in Paris without travelling anywhere else, let alone to Switzerland or Italy - which are not day trip destinations from Paris btw.
You have very little time in London, given that the 20th will be a jetlag day and you will want to take it easy.
Unless you book the musicals you want before you go I doubt you will be able to get tickets on the night at that time of year.
Other can tell you what is open in Paris on Christmas day but you should be prepared for a quiet day that day.
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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 06:47 AM
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You're already sorely pressed for time in both cities, without contemplating a zoom to another country - that would be insanity.

I also can't imagine EuroDisney would be much fun at that time of year, but that's probably my personal bias (can't imagine it any time of year, especially with college-age kids).

Christmas Day will be extremely quiet, as that's a day the French stay at home to celebrate. Your wife will no doubt enjoy the shop windows in the major stores along the Boulevard Haussman on the days leading up to and after Christmas.

You really don't have a day or two for "excursions out of Paris" unless you are just using Paris as a vehicle for seeing other parts of France, which wouldn't be a prudent idea at this time of year unless you've already been to Paris a zillion times, and even then....There's a wealth of things to keep you busy right in Paris.

You can check on special holiday events in both London and Paris at www.whatsonwhen.com
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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 07:23 AM
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Agree completely that you won't have time for any other side trips. You might check for Christmas concerts at Notre Dame, St. Severin or any of the hundreds of churches around. Will you have an apt. or hotel? I would think that Christmas in a hotel would be pretty bleak. In an apartment you could at least prepare a special meal.

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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 07:43 AM
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Hi W,

This isn't a vacation, it is an expedition.

You have only 7 days. You want to visit 2 of the most important tourist cities in Europe - each worth a week or more.

You will lose almost one day just transferring between cities.

You want to go somewhere else?



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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 07:58 AM
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Thank you all for your experienced insight.

I will definitely rule out side excursions from Paris and concentrate on soaking up the city. I've been to Europe for business and enroute in military deployments so all I've ever done is move quickly from one thing to another. I need to take a slower approach -- thanks.

EuroDisney isn't my idea -- it's my wife's and daughters' . . . they have many fond memories of Disney (many vacations) and want to at least see it. It is their vacation as well so I'm glad to accomodate them. Not too happy to give more money to the mouse, but it's worth it for them. Me, I'd rather have a backpack and tent in the mountains.

I was thinking about reserving Christmas Day for Disney since much else will be shut down and they can enjoy the atmosphere in Disney.

I haven't decided on apartment or hotel. I'm know I'm at the "getting too late" stage but had to wait until my youngest daughter's college schedule was finalized.

As a side note, and thus my apprehension, I've had to stand firm on Europe as a vacation. My wife is a beach / resort bunny and has expressed concern about "tiny, dank, dingy hotels" and the like. I have no idea what TV shows she's been watching. I know there are many excellent hotels in London and Paris. I really think she'll enjoy herself, especially Paris, if she can just reframe her mindset. My daughters are excited, however.

Any suggestions on shopping in Paris? I read somewhere one of the larger stores has a fashion show weekly? That might interest them.

I'm really hoping to give them a good vacation that doesn't involve the beach or (too much of) the mouse. I know we'll be pressed to see all the sights, but if I can just get her over her Euro-phobia, then it will open up many more vacations in years to come.

Thank you all, again, for your time and suggestions.
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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 08:07 AM
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I have been to Disney Paris in April (Easter week)....pelted with rain and sleet. Believe me, it was not fun, and I would never consider it in December.
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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 08:07 AM
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There are so many fantastic places to shop in Paris. Le Printemps and Galleries Lafayette near Opera spring to mind. I'm sure others will make lots of suggestions!

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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 08:11 AM
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Gallerie Lafayette has a free fashion show which needs booking ahead of time via the store's website. It's less than a hour but I have been several times and enjoyed it. I believe these days it is on Friday afternoons. The fashion show may be free, but it is on the top floor and your wife and daughters may shop their way down to the lobby, so be prepared... After the show, take a few minutes to go to the roof (one escalator floor up); the view is fantastic.
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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 08:18 AM
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If they've been "many times" to Disney in the US, why would they want to take a day out of an already too-short first trip to Europe to repeat the experience?

Though using Christmas Day to do that isn't a bad idea, if the weather's decent, since nothing else will be going on.

Go online and reserve tickets for the fashion show at Galeries Lafayette. The Boulevard Haussman is lined with shops, but there is good shopping all over Paris, in the Latin Quarter, Montparnasse, Saint-Germain, the Marais...really, everywhere. The exchange rate isn't all that great, though it's better than it was a couple of months ago.
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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 08:23 AM
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Trust me when I say Euro-Disney was not my choice!

Why they would want to invest valuable time there is beyond me, but I've conceded that battle.

I will definitely check out the Gallarie and make reservations.

Thanks
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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 08:36 AM
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Book your eurostar tickets NOW IMO

you can save up to $100 on each passenger or so by booking the limited cheaper tickets as early as possible

You kids can get some especially cheap youth fares if they are under 26

Sources to investigate

www.eurostar.com - gives prices in Pounds and sends you the tickets i believe if you book online - so check out what is available NOW and also check RailEurope in U.S. for Eurostar fares as sometimes they can be cheaper than those in Pounds - www.raileurope.com - and for any RE product i always recommend calling www.budgeteuropetravel.com, a RE agent but you can talk to experts and have them do a manual search as RailEurope's site, Fodorites have complained and i have found does not always list the cheaper fares that indeed they can book. So i suggest having someone do a manual search (RE charges +10% to speak to anybody and then they often don't know much IME) and be as flexible as possible on your wished for time to leave and even day if possible - and as due to the recent Chunnel fire Eurostar service is still not back to maximum running and it may not be by Christmas so cheaper tickets may be less available. But don't just show up or you could pay $100 or so more IME.

In Paris do not miss the Holiday displays in the windows of the big departments stores like Galeries Lafayette or Printemps - fabulous popular with locals - they have fairy-tale events brought to life with moving figures, etc. - will be there well after Christmas i think
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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 09:54 AM
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We did EuroDisney in July with our 9 year old. Like you, DH and I weren't that hip on the idea, but we went as a special treat for our daughter. If you are used to DisneyWorld, your family might find EuroDisney a little tired. It is small, a bit dated, and we thought the food was horrible. Our 9 year old enjoyed it, but it doesn't have the same "magic" as DisneyWorld in my opinion.

If you must go, then my best advice for you is to get your round-trip RER train tickets in advance. (By the way, all the advertisements say it is 35 minutes from Paris, but it is more like 45 mins to an hour depending on where you catch the RER train.) The station at disney where you catch the RER back to Paris had no working self-serve ticket machines and one window open for the gigantic crowd that wanted tickets to return to Paris. We even left before the fireworks hoping to avoid a mad rush for the train and got caught up in quite a line of people - and almost missed the train! I'm not sure what the crowds will be like in December though - you might not have this problem.

If you really want an excursion outside of Paris, maybe you can talk your wife/daughters into going to Versaille instead of Disney . . .

Regarding musicals in London, we saw Sound of Music and Hairspray and loved them both. We did not buy our tickets much in advance (a day or two) and had no problem getting great seats. (One caveat - for Hairspray we were in the first row of the balcony. While these seats were great for viewing, there was very little leg room. The gentleman next to me was miserable).

Have a wonderful trip!
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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 10:03 AM
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You are spending veryminimal time in two of the most interesting nd exciting cities in the world. I would consider 6 nights in each to be right for a first visit. Obviously you have less - but plese don't waste time trying to see bits of anything else.

(And franky can imagine nothing more of a waste than EuroDisney - esp since we're not talking about little kids. My step daughters - 14 and 17 loved Paris - roamed around and did lots of teen shopping - but were also fascianted with museums and other sights - and practicing their French. They even went out one evening with some kids they had met. But Eurodisney - never!)
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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 10:40 AM
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wesnbrenda - I think Disney will be a good choice on Christmas day. There has been other threads on that point on the boards. We will also be in Paris during that time and depending on our mood and the weather may go to Disney on that day as well.

We are also traveling with our children (younger then yours) 18, 15, 11 and one friend 18.

We live in Southern California and enjoy Disneyland here and they are very excited to be able to go in France. They think it is cool.

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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 12:01 PM
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And since nearly nothing is open in Paris on Christmas Days except some churches and a few restaurants Disney Europe makes a good choice for that day it seems

And i think they may have a Christmas Parade?
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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 12:08 PM
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Palen - I believe they do from what I can gather from the website and a fordor was there on Christmas and enjoyed it.

We arrive in late on the 23 - will have to get to the store on the 24 in the am and would like to enjoy the christmas market in Paris on the 24 if possible - we may just want to wander about on the 25 and just "enjoy" being IN Paris but we shall see and have told the girls we are definately playing it by ear. I do not want to spend the money and the time to go out there and be freezing and miserable.
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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 12:09 PM
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adding more...I am so desperate to go to Bruges that if I was sure anything would be open there on Christmas as opposed to Paris I would make them all take the train there instead. No one in my family seems to want to go but me. Humph.
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