First European Vacation!

Old Nov 9th, 2021, 07:09 PM
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First European Vacation!

Well, I'm a little embarrassed to say that I have begun my 6th decade and have never, ever been to Europe! Shameful, I know. But that's about to end next summer. We have a wedding to attend in Ireland, so we are planning to make the most of it. Naturally, I look to the Forums for help.

The current plan is as follows:
- Days 1-4 London
- Days 5-9 Ireland (the wedding is in Ballycotton on day 7)
- Days 10-13 Paris
- Day 14 Head home

Looking for ideas in all places. What area is your favorite in London? Paris? What should we see, what should we avoid?

In Ireland, we'd love to do some sightseeing on the non-wedding days. Any suggestions on interesting areas within a short drive from Ballycotton? We plan on renting a car there, so we will be able to travel a bit. Flying into Cork, not Dublin. A 4-hour drive on the opposite side of the road was not too appealing. Not averse to staying the first night (or last 1 or 2) in a different location.

And just for argument's sake, given your druthers, would you go to Paris or Amsterdam? Friends we are doing some travelling with have chosen Amsterdam while we feel like Paris would be the better option. Curious what others think & why.

Really, most of this trip is wide-open, so all opinions are welcome. Thanks in advance for all your help.
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Old Nov 9th, 2021, 08:43 PM
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Have you booked your flights already (though in the current 'covid days' changes are allowed w/o extra fees so even if you are booked you can probably change them without penalty)?

The reason I ask is the way you laid it out you are really cutting short your free time in London and Paris . Day 1 in London is really a non-day - between jet lag, immigration formalities, transit to central London and likely not getting in to your hotel until mid/late afternoon -- day 1 is pretty much a wash out. That leaves you three days for the largest city in Western Europe with most sites/sights than almost anywhere. 3 Days will let you visit at most 5 or 6 of the scores of major sites. And you will also only have 3-ish days for Paris.

If you were to rearrange things a bit and book Ireland at the front end, you'd gain almost two full days. Fly transatlantic into DUB, get over the jet lag in the slower paced Ireland. Do the wedding an a couple days of sightseeing, Fly to London (no jet lag nor long immigration queues so 4 days there will actually net 4 days). Then take the Eurostar to Paris just over 2 hours city centre to city centre which is MUCH faster than schlepping out to the airport and then schlepping in from CDG. So your 4 days there will also nest you nearly 4 full days. Still awfully rushed but a lot better. One extra day in both London and Paris may not seem like a lot but it is better than 3 days for sure.

So that's what I'd recommend IF you have the flexibility to move the trip forward 4 days and do Ireland first . . .
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Old Nov 9th, 2021, 10:49 PM
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You'll love Europe, I've no doubt. I think your plan sounds busy but fine, except that I wouldn't want to be jumping on a plane quite so often so I also think taking the Eurostar from London to Paris would be better.

It's hard to say whether Paris or Amsterdam is better as they are very different and both lovely (and have a completely different vibe). If in doubt do some reading and just go with your gut. Chances are you'll be back and can visit the other next time!
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Old Nov 9th, 2021, 11:11 PM
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Have a Great Time

What a great trip to look forward to. I agree that the first day in London is probably wasted on formalities but if you are not exhausted? Ask your accommodation to recommend a good nearby pub and have a simple dinner there and a beer and just go for a walk. The second day (depending on the jetlag) you still might have to take it slow. They are touristy and a bit clichť and not cheap but if you are feeling tired you might consider booking a ticket for a hop-on-hop off bus. See London from the roof of a bus while you recover and make a few stops. Otherwise check out Covent Garden. There is always a lot to see there. My only other advice is not to cram too much in your plans. Take your time to simply wander around, smell the roses, sit down for a beer or a cup of tea. My favourite places in London are the British Museum, Covent Garden and the London Eye and I love leaving the hustle and bustle of London behind and visit Cambridge or Windsor Castle for (half) the day. You might consider that if things in summer in London is too busy for you.

Ireland is one of my favourite countries in Europe and the best is definitely the west coast. Do hire a car and just follow the coast. Don't skip places like Cobh, Skibbereen, Clonakilty, the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle peninsula and do visit Galway if you can. It is a better and more beautiful city than Dublin. Just enjoy the scenery, the small towns and do go to the pub in Ireland.

Paris, just as London, will be crazy busy in summer. If you can book a hotel in the Quartier Latin. Great place to wander around and close to lots of highlights of the city. Do use the metro and if you want to leave the city? Chartres is a great option. Probably even better than Versailles because it there will not be a million tourists fighting for a place to stand or walk. It is easy to travel to Chartres by train. Very quick and this medieval town offers one of the best Cathedrals in Europe.

Enjoy!


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Old Nov 10th, 2021, 12:17 AM
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Guidebooks that specialize in large cities are probably a good place to start planning your stay in London and Paris.
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Old Nov 10th, 2021, 09:40 AM
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I prefer Paris to Amsterdam, but you have to really decide what speaks to you the most, from reading/seeing them in films, TV etc. And what you want to do. It's larger, for one thing, so more to see/do. I speak French and so part of this is personal, and I have spent a lot of time there so know neighborhoods well. SOme things Amsterdam is known for leave me cold (like the Red LIght district, have no interest in viewing prostitutes at work and don't really want to hang around tourists who do), and there are too many druggie tourists there, also. I like French art and classical music better, also, in fact, I can't think of any wellknown Dutch classical composer. Most people don't care about those things at all, though, which is why this is really personal, I like visiting composer sites and hearing their music in their home country in concerts.

I don't think this is necessarily too little time, you chose the days so I'm sure you know how long you'll have in a place and that's what you've decided. Some people don't have unlimited vacation time, either, of course. But some people juust find huge cities overwhelming and don't want to spend days on end going to yet another museum or old church. I was just talking to a friend of mine who had just put her foot down on a vacation with a friend and said I will not go into yet another old church in Europe, you go in and I'll wait for you.

I would not leave the city by train to go anywhere else in just a couple days, though (and FYI, the metro doesn't go outside Paris, the RER suburban rail does).
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Old Nov 10th, 2021, 10:58 AM
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Itís just strikes me that you really donít have enough time to see Ireland, London and Paris weíll with your itinerary. Do you actually have four full days in London? I would consider spending more time touring Ireland since you have to go there than spend more time in London with some day trips to places like Stonehenge, Stratford, Bath etc.
As To Amsterdam or Paris, Iíve been to Amsterdam 5 times and I have no idea how many times Iíve been to Paris. I have an interest in food which probably explains part of it. Great beer in Amsterdam though. I once asked our concierge in Amsterdam to recommend a restaurant that served typical Dutch food. Why would you want to do that was his reply.¬
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Old Nov 10th, 2021, 02:12 PM
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Sorry but IMO / IME a H-o-H-o bus in London is a huge waste of time/money. Traffic in London is really slow and you spend much of your time just sitting in bus lanes. People say you can 'jump off at any site you want to visit and then hop on a later bus'. But IRL the buses don't come in regular sequences . Since they get stuck in traffic, 2 or 3 can come through one right after another, and then its 30 minutes before you see the next one. Just go places and see things - don't rely on H-o-H-o's. Plus if it rains you'd want to move inside downstairs - you really can't see much inside.

"I don't think this is necessarily too little time, you chose the days so I'm sure you know how long you'll have in a place and that's what you've decided. Some people don't have unlimited vacation time, either, of course. But some people just find huge cities overwhelming and don't want to spend days on end . . ."

I mentioned how to increase the time in each city without extending the length of the trip in total. Many (especially first timers) don't realize how hectic/tiring one's arrival day can be. On such a short trip it is often a good idea to arrange things the most 'time effective'.
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Old Nov 10th, 2021, 03:18 PM
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First timers think going from one city to another is conceptually instantaneous. It isn't. It takes a minimum of half a day to check out, arrive at mode of transportation with enough time not to miss the train/plane/bus, then arrive at next place, get to hotel, check in, and get your bearings. Oh, you may also want to eat. Travel days are not touring days, especially if each change requires going through security and immigration lines.

That said, the suggestion to fly into Ireland, adjust, party, tour and then head to London is an excellent suggestion. You won't be exhausted on arrival to London, so that means you can take advantage of the magnificent theater scene that night and each subsequent night. There is everything from Broadway shows (some before they go to Broadway), Shakespeare, comedy clubs, miusic contempory and classical, and more My own recommendation would be to do just Ireland and London. With a surfeit of museums in London, a royal castle (and the Queen's exhibit), and plenty of great daytrip possibilities, save the further travel and plan a trip to Paris and Amsterdam or Rome for the next time.

Being the kid in the candy store trying to taste everything in a few days will give you a tummy ache, touristically speaking.
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Old Nov 10th, 2021, 03:27 PM
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I would try to have the wedding day not be bang in the middle of your days in Ireland. It doesn't give you much flexibility for sightseeing beyond the immediate area.
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Old Nov 10th, 2021, 07:31 PM
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I am Dutch and for a first time visitor to Europe Paris is much better (and bigger) than Amsterdam. Yes, tourists who come to Amsterdam to get high or to go to the red light distric are very annoying but Paris has for example a huge problem with homelessness and beggars. There is no such thing as a perfect place. But if you enjoy classical music Amsterdam would actually be a great choice because it has one of the best orchestras in the world in the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
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Old Nov 10th, 2021, 07:34 PM
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I hope you did find your way to an Indonesian restauran while in Amsterdamt? A rice table in an Indonesian restaurant in the Netherlands is one of the best things to experience in the city. Delicious!
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Old Nov 11th, 2021, 07:17 AM
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Originally Posted by mjs View Post
Itís just strikes me that you really donít have enough time to see Ireland, London and Paris weíll with your itinerary. Do you actually have four full days in London? I would consider spending more time touring Ireland since you have to go there than spend more time in London with some day trips to places like Stonehenge, Stratford, Bath etc.
As To Amsterdam or Paris, Iíve been to Amsterdam 5 times and I have no idea how many times Iíve been to Paris. I have an interest in food which probably explains part of it. Great beer in Amsterdam though. I once asked our concierge in Amsterdam to recommend a restaurant that served typical Dutch food. Why would you want to do that was his reply.¬
There are several Dutch communities here in the US, in Michigan, Iowa, Washington.....
None of them have a gourmet Dutch restaurant.
Think about that.

Hut sput, for example, is often mentioned as a favorite dish from the old country.
Mashed potatoes and boiled (to death) cabbage
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
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Old Nov 11th, 2021, 04:37 PM
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See, this is why I LOVE the Forums! Thanks for all of your input. Because of all of you, we have decided to totally revamp our trip. The new "Current Itinerary" is:

- Fly from NYC to Shannon Airport
- Head to Cork via the Ring of Kerry (days 1 -4 - where should we overnight? what should we see?)
- Head over to Ballycotton for the wedding & wedding-related activities (days 5-8 - staying the extra night because our travelling partners are the parents of the groom!)
- Off to Paris! (days 9-13 - pushing Paris into Sept)
- So sad, back to NYC (day 14)

Does that sound better? We'll save London for our next trip. Or maybe Italy...

So now I'm looking for opinions on good areas to stay, great restaurants to eat in, your favorite things to do - for both Ireland & Paris.
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Old Nov 11th, 2021, 04:59 PM
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Originally Posted by HawaiiVirgin View Post
. . . Does that sound better?
Just quick -- yes - LOT'S
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Old Nov 12th, 2021, 08:26 AM
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You have to give us an idea of any dietry limits.

You'll find Paris is still affected by labour laws which means that many of the better restaurants operate very specific and limited hours. That does not mean that you can't eat all day long, but for more flexible hours you'll find a more limited range of places to eat. I only mention this because some US travellers like to eat at 5:30 and there will be limits.

My favorite place (which I havn't been to for 3 years so goodness knows if it has survived) is the Zyriab on top of the Institu du Monde Arabe. If it is sitll there, the views along the Seine are worth the trip and the food is good too.
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Old Nov 12th, 2021, 09:56 AM
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Bilboburgler, happy to say no dietary limits here, tho I'm personally no fan of offal (I feel there's a reason why it sounds so much like "awful.") Other than that, no gluten issues, no allergies. Big fans of seafood.

As far as areas to stay, we are 2 couples, ages ranging 62-66 by the time we're there. Everyone is in pretty good health. Hoping to stay in areas where dinner and/or cocktails are walking distance from our rooms. Not looking for nightlife.
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Old Nov 13th, 2021, 01:37 AM
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The areas that make most sense in Paris are the arrondissement 4,5 or 6 they are full of little hotels, the odd museum and little places to eat. If you prefer the larger international hotels then 8 is probably better.
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Old Nov 13th, 2021, 07:59 AM
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HawaiiVirgin RE: Paris Hotels
I'm no expert on Paris, but my mother and I are booked at the Malte Astotel which is #1 on another travel forum. I'm looking forward to it. The Louvre is my mom's #1 destination, and it's 5 minutes away, and also it appears to be in a sort of "Japantown" area, and we are Japanese-Americans, so we may have a meal/snack in the area. Have fun planning!
https://en.astotel.com/hotel/malte-opera-en/overview
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Old Nov 13th, 2021, 09:05 AM
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Going to Paris for a faux-Japanese experience seems a contradiction to this francophile.

Would you seek authentic French restaurants on a trip to Tokyo?

When in Sofia, eat Bulgarian!
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