First Trip to Europe - Please Advise

Jun 14th, 1998, 11:02 AM
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First Trip to Europe - Please Advise

Hello Experienced Travelers:

My husband and I are planning our first, 10-11 day trip to Europe. We've just decided to go and have several questions. We are planning to visit Paris; Nice and/or Provence; Switzerland; and Florence and Venice, Italy.

We do not speak French or Italian. We plan to learn a few important words/phases before we leave. Feeling a bit intimidated by the language barrier, we would like to arrange a few guided, english-speaking walking or biking tours in the various locations that we plan to visit -- particularly France and Italy. Do you have any suggestions?

We are considering a few Independent hotel package tours from Avanti Destinations. Has anyone ever traveled with Avanti? Are they reputable? Did you enjoy the tours?

What are your suggestions on visiting southern France. Should we stay in Nice and take a day trip to Provence? Or, should we stay in Provence? Can we travel to and from Provence and Nice via Bicycle?

What's the best way to travel from southern France to Switzerland? Also, we are not sure whether to stay in Geneva, Zurich, or Zermatt. Any suggestions?

What are your suggestions for travel from Switzerland to Italy?

Finally, do you have any suggestions on the most economical rail pass to purchase for our itinerary?

Your suggestions are most appreciated!
Jun 15th, 1998, 06:38 AM
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I've travelled throughout France, Switzerland, and Italy several times and do not speak those languages either. Do not worry. It is good to know "hello," "goodbye," "please," "thank you" and "do you speak English?" in a country's language...if you want to learn some other key phrases, all the better. But you'll do fine. I have found most people speak some English (especially in larger cities) and if you attempt the above phrases, they are usually helpful. And try to find small English/French, English/Italian, etc. dictionaries which you can fit in your purse because it may help you with certain things such as menus which aren't translated. It sounds as if you are taking the train...last summer during a two week trip we travelled from France to Switzerland and then to Italy and also took the train. We bought the Europass ahead of time from a travel agent here (when we priced it out, it came out better than buying each ticket separately in Europe). The Europass (from Euro Rail, which has many different types of passes) allowed for 5 total days of rail travel over 2 months time in about 5 countries (the above 3 included). I think there might also be a Europass for 10 days of travel. You say you have to choose betweeen Zurich, Geneva, or Zermatt? Well, my vote is for Zermatt. As many people on this board may have seen, I love Zermatt and can never say enough good things. I've also been to Geneva, which I enjoyed but it is very large and modern for the most part. I haven't been to Zurich. However, Zermatt is a great way to experience a small charming Alpine village...and I think that is the best way to experience Switzerland. We found the people there to be very friendly and helpful. The scenery is magnificent. A great informational site on Zermatt is at Also, if you'd like to see pictures of my 2nd trip there last summer, visit my travelogue at There are also photos of Venice and a description of our trip. In Zermatt I stay at the Hotel Alpenblick and enjoy is one of the closest hotels to the Matterhorn and our balcony had a perfect view of it. To get to Zermatt from France, take the train to Geneva, where you will probably have to change trains...then take the train to Brig, then get off there and change to the private train which goes up to Zermatt. Please email me if you have specific questions I may be able to answer.
Jun 15th, 1998, 10:12 AM
Posts: n/a
Tricia, In 10 days, and going by train, you can do
3 destinations--not 6. I would divide your trip
into 2 segments---either France or Italy---and the
Swiss thing fits with either. If you want real help
with a detailed itinerary contact me directly.
However, given 15 days this one may be feasible.
Jun 16th, 1998, 07:48 AM
Posts: n/a
Getting a Eurailpass in advance takes care of much worry and hassle and can be used in all three countries. In Switzerland, definitely go to the mountains, not the cities. Either Zermatt or above Interlaken. You can easily connect by train to Italy and the ride through the mountains is beautiful.

Before we went last year I got ahold of some conversational Italian tapes for a few weeks. The basic vocabulary made me much more confident and I found it easier to communicate in stores, restaurants, etc. So maybe one could learn some Italian and your companion some French?

The length of time vs. geographic distances seems a little unrealistic. We had just 8 days last year for the Swiss Alps and northern Italy and barely got around--could have used your length of time for just the two without France.

Sorry, we didn's use tours, just guidebooks.
Jun 16th, 1998, 09:34 AM
Posts: n/a
Since you have just decided to do this, maybe you
haven't looked at a map yet, but that's the first
thing you should do. You don't seem to be aware
of the distances between the places you're
interested in. For instance, you cannot visit
between Provence and Nice in day trips even by
train, let alone by bicycle. What most people might
consider the main Provence destinations (espec.
by train) would be Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, Nimes,
Arles, St-Remy, Arles---Marseille, the gateway to
these, is almost 3 hrs from Nice by train and about
150 miles. I agree with the advice to just pick one
country (maybe a few days in Switz with it), either
Italy or France. For example, you could spend a
few days in Paris, then a few days in Provence,
perhaps ending up in Nice & flying out of Nice
(which would prob. really go thru Paris). Even
Switz. would be about a full day's train trip from Nice,
but it might be a nice trip. Instead of Switz., you
could perhaps end up in a N. Italy city (I think they
are quicker by train from Nice than Switz), i.e.,
Milan or Florence.

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