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First Time Europe Trip Planning - Need Sage Advice

First Time Europe Trip Planning - Need Sage Advice

Old Jul 18th, 2009, 10:34 AM
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First Time Europe Trip Planning - Need Sage Advice

My wife and I are planning a trip to Europe in 2010 for 30th anniversary. I have been reading this site for many months and it has been helpful in simplifying our plan: 1) less is more: we will not do a "tour" of Europe. Instead we will pick a few cities to use as a base and work the "wheel & spokes" method of seeing what we can in the area. 2) The main countries that we would like to see are France, Italy and Germany (possible side trips to Austira and Switzerland). The trip will last between 2 to 3 weeks.

Our questions:
1) We have two windows in the calendar for the trip May/June or late October/November. Taking into account weather, crowds, etc. do you have any recommendation on which is better?
2) Is 3 countries too many for 3 weeks?
3) I think we will keep to northern Italy, but Florence or Venice?
4) Paris or Provence/Riviera?
5) Rent a car or travel by rail?
6) Any other suggstions or advice?

Any help would be much appreciated.
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Old Jul 18th, 2009, 11:12 AM
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1) Oct/Nov is better with regard to crowds (many public holidays in May/June with more local weekend tourists), May/June *probably* weatherwise for the locations north of the Alps. But it's not a deal-maker or -breaker either way IMO.

2) Yes. It is not too much for 3 regions, though.

3) With regard to your planned hub&spoke system, Florence. One spoke could be Venice, though. Or should be.

4) There is no nicer or better. Those are two (three) very different destinations. I think you know if you are city or country people.

5) Depends on your finalized itinerary. But no rental car for the whole trip. It will cost a lot extra to drop it off in another country. Compare costs for train with airfare, e.g. at whichbudget.com

6) Get an open-jaw flight. In Paris, out Italy.
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Old Jul 18th, 2009, 11:13 AM
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May/June is the best--longer days and flowers.

Yes, 3 countires is far too much. Do not even think of countries--think regions. Bavaria, Salzkammergut, and the Dolomites are 3 countries but all within 4 hours driving time.

Venice !

Depends--probably car--but return it in same country.

Start with the basics:
WHEN?
HOW LONG?
HOW MUCH$

Those will determine the rest.

Plan 3 trips in advance since you will return.
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Old Jul 18th, 2009, 11:19 AM
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1.Somehow I find Europe more "alive" in spring than fall.
2. I don't think so
3. Depends on your interests.
4. Ditto
5. Ditto
Personally, I found it interesting over several trips to appreciate the difference between northern (modern) and southern (classic) France and Germany. Both nice, but in different ways. Unknown where you're from, or your interests/disinterests, so can't make any equivalencies to help you judge.
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Old Jul 18th, 2009, 11:29 AM
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We were once in Paris for a week in early December (admittedly a bit later than your Fall months)but by then Paris was dark by late afternoon and very drab/gray even when the weather was relatively nice. Ever since, we have gone there in the April/May months and felt much more energetic about spending time walking late into the evening.
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Old Jul 18th, 2009, 11:32 AM
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1) We have two windows in the calendar for the trip May/June or late October/November. Taking into account weather, crowds, etc. do you have any recommendation on which is better?
May/June, for weather, flowers, etc. October would probably be OK but I wouldn't personally pick November.
2) Is 3 countries too many for 3 weeks?
It would be for me.
3) I think we will keep to northern Italy, but Florence or Venice?
I like Venice more, but this is a question where it depends on the individual. But as it's an anniversary - Venice for romantic ambience.
4) Paris or Provence/Riviera?
Again it depends what you like. And I haven't been to Provence so can't fairly say.)
5) Rent a car or travel by rail?
If you're just visiting cities, I'd take the train. Countryside, the car. Depends on the specific itinerary.
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Old Jul 18th, 2009, 11:38 AM
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1. May/June without a question
2. No, I don't think 3 countries are too much since it would be a "taster" trip, you can always come back.
3 and 4: Paris and Venice
Since this will be a romantic occassion maybe the orient express would be a good option. (http://www.traindeluxe.com has a special now).
5. mostly rail
6. Fly into Paris - stay the majority of your time here, train to Venice.

While in Paris, you could take a quick train to Germany for a weekend or rent a car and explore the Loire valley or head off to Brussels.
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Old Jul 18th, 2009, 11:42 AM
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How much sense makes Venice as a "base" for exploring that part of Italy?
On the other hand, how much sense makes Florence? Go out and in each day by car to explore the countryside?
If OP was simpy choosing between Florence or Venice, I'd probably also say Venice. But for his planned style of travelling and sightseeing neither location is perfect.

I know that analogies usually fail, but would you stay in Manhattan if you wanted to explore the "area" on several day trips? Or would you stay in the "area", i.e. outside of NYC, and make Manhattan one of your day trips?

I think I'd rather rent a villa in a romantic setting somewhere near/ South of Florence/ in Tuscany if I wanted to make several day trips in that part of Italy.
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Old Jul 18th, 2009, 12:35 PM
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I would start in Paris, a remarkable place, then go onto to southern France. If you rent a car, tour Provence, if not take train to Nice. Nice to Cinque Terre for a few days of small villages/hiking/beautiful scenery and then onto Venice to spend time in another one of the world's most spectacular cities. You could also stop off in Florence on the way to Venice and again Rent a car for the Tuscany part of the trip. I wouldn't spread myself too thin. Remember you can go back.

We spent almost 3 weeks this May in Salzburg, Milan, Lake Como, Manarola in Cinque Terre, Venice and then Barcelona. Next year we will be going to Rome, amalfi coast, Florence/tuscany and Paris. Also, celebrating our 30th wedding anniversay and an empty nest!
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Old Jul 18th, 2009, 12:45 PM
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Europeans use sage on pork, veal and in teas. It's great if you have a sore throat too.

It's a late night.
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Old Jul 18th, 2009, 12:46 PM
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hi, jmm,

first of all, timing. May-june is preferable because you get longer days than you will in Oct-nov, and the weather is not predictable at either time.

secondly, where to go. remember, that every time you move, you lose at least half a day, but if you have 3 weeks, you can afford to have some longer and some shorter stays, and train travel, in particular, can be a proper part of the trip.

here's an idea for an itinerary, taknin in Italy and France:

Fly into venice, stay 3 nights. Train to Rome.

stay in rome 5 nights, train to cinque terre.

stay ct 4 nights, train to Nice.

stay Nice 4 nights, train to Avignon.

Stay Avignon 2 nights, train to Paris.

Stay Paris 3 nights. fly home.

in fact, this doesn't give you long enought in Paris, so you might want to cut out avignon, but you get the idea.

have a great trip,

regards, ann
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Old Jul 18th, 2009, 01:00 PM
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I would do May & June Athough i have been in early Oct it was nice nice days & cool nights .I was in Paris in Nov also pretty cool and windy althought i was there in June once and it was sweather weather during the day .Dependes on how cold natured you are. Weather was great for doing alot outside as long as your not from Flordia ,if so you might be cool in Oct.at night
Three countrys are douable if you just want to do the highlights of each.I would personally just do Paris and Venice and do some day trips.Don't forget to count travel time in. You can always go back jsut don't try to cram in to much.
Doing SW France and Paris in Sept myself.
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Old Jul 18th, 2009, 01:28 PM
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Hi jmm,

>....Need Sage Advice <

I am known as the "Sage of Georgia". My advice is as follows:

1) I suggest May/June. Oct/Nov might be too cold and rainy

2) Depends on your itinerary. You could do 3 weeks in one city.

3) If you plan a week in Italy, you can do both F and V

4) Paris, Paris, Paris

5) Depends on your itinerary

6) I would do the following:
Fly into Paris for 1 week; fly www.myair.com from Paris ORY to Venice VCE; Take the 21:53 train to Munich. (If you'd rather fly, see www.whichbudget.com); during your week in Munich, you can visit Salzburg, Fuessen, etc; Fly home from Munich.

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Old Jul 18th, 2009, 01:49 PM
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Thanks for all the great tips and ideas! (Though I am perplexed by the sage and veal comment).

Perhaps Tuscany or somewhere outside Venice as a base makes more sense w/ a trip to Venice. May/June seems to be the consensus.

Any recommendations for a German base of operations? Maybe Munich area?
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Old Jul 18th, 2009, 01:53 PM
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Re-read the "sage, pork, veal and tea" comment. I get it now. LOL
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Old Jul 18th, 2009, 01:55 PM
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DH and I spent a week in Italy in 2005. We rented a car for the 3 days we spent in Tuscany. He said the happiest day of the trip for him was the day we returned the car with no scratches on it. Italian drivers are CRAZY and do not like tourists who are going more slowly then they like on curvy country roads at dusk.
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Old Jul 18th, 2009, 02:17 PM
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Come on.. don't scare first timers with "I barely survived driving in Italy" stories.. that is blown waaaay out of proportion. Get a rental car without deductible - no worries about scratches then.
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Old Jul 18th, 2009, 07:55 PM
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With 3 weeks, I would mix cities and countryside and skip Germany. How about:

Venice- 4 nights
Florence- 3 nights
Provence- 7 nights (Lourmarin is a great base- rent a car)
Paris- 7 nights

Train between destinations.

For Provence- Pick up car in Aix en Provence. Return car and take train to Paris.

Or:

Venice- 4 nights
Florence- 2 nights
Southern Tuscany- 7 nights (stay at an agriturismo)
Fly from Florence/Rome/Pisa- Paris- 8 nights

For car rental-

autoeurope.com
kemwel.com
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Old Jul 19th, 2009, 05:11 AM
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I've been to Germany in June several times and it has always been sweater and long pants weather. However at that time of year it is light until 10pm and the sun starts peaking up again at 4am. Nice long days!
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Old Jul 19th, 2009, 06:31 AM
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1. Definitely May/June

I think I would modify your wheel-and-spoke (henceforth to be known as WaS), depending on your form of transportation. If you're using public transportation, the you can do WaS from a city. But, with a car, it's awkward and time-consuming to get in and out of the city, and you have to pay to park the car. So a small town is better for daytripping from with a car.

In your areas of interest, Provence and Tuscany are best seen with a car, otherwise you can use trains, buses and boats. And maybe budget airlines between hubs.

Stay at least 2 nights inside Venice. You lose a lot of the experience just making a day trip in. Early mornings and evenings are delightfully quiet and peaceful.

Plus I'm another of those Venice fanatics. Love, love, love that place. And it's so romantic. Somebody on another thread said Venice is Disneyesque. Only to the ignorant. Venice is real, steeped in history and incredibly beautiful. It can be very crowded but you're going off-season.

Whereas Florence is pretty, but noisy, and most of its sights are about Renaissance art and architecture.

And, if you've been reading this forum, you know to get an open-jaws flight, into one city (Venice?), out of another. Also, for better weather, consider starting in the south and working your way north. (Vice versa for a trip in the fall.)
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