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France-Switzerland itinerary - help please (and calling Stu Dudley!)

France-Switzerland itinerary - help please (and calling Stu Dudley!)

May 1st, 2010, 09:47 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 175
France-Switzerland itinerary - help please (and calling Stu Dudley!)

Good morning fellow travelers,

First off, I apologize for the length of this post...wanted to answer all ?s first so you know what we're considering...

We're a couple in our 50's/60's, active and energetic, planning a two week + trip in mid- to late- August, flying in and out of Geneva, and hoping to visit the following regions: Geneva, Berner Oberland, Annecy/Chamonix, Nice/Cote d'Azur, and Provence. We had begun to begin planning this trip a year ago (including Italy - ridiculous!) and received some wonderful responses that have helped us in our planning so far...we switched our 2009 trip to SanFrancisco/Carmel/Napa and Sonoma and couldn't have made that trip - or our previous trip to the Languedoc region - without Stu Dudley's invaluable information, not to mention all of the spot on advice we received from other Fodorites.

Questions:
1. We've constructed a few options for itineraries, mainly varying the order in which we see things to try to optimize our time and limit wasted travel. We were hoping you might give your advice on these.

2. Within each section (especially the Provence and Cote d'Azur portions), given the time we have what would you see and what would you skip?

3. I know we're squeezing in a lot...advice about where to linger longer, an entire area to cut out, or does this look doable? Thanks so much!

Also yes, we unfortunately have to fly in and out of Geneva, so open jaw is not an option for us...

Option 1: (Cote d'Azur/Provence/French Alps/Geneva/Swiss Alps)

Day 1: Arrive Geneva, fly Easy Jet to Nice, sleep in Nice
Day 2: Nice, sleep in Nice
Day 3: Nice/Monaco and Villefranche sur Mer by train, sleep in Nice
Day 4: Rent car, drive through Antibes, Cannes, to Provence (home base??), sleep in Provence
Day 5: Provence, sleep in Provence
Day 6: Provence, sleep in Provence
Day 7: Drive to Chamonix, sleep in Chamonix
Day 8: Aiguelles du Midi early in morning, drive to Anncy, sleep in Annecy
Day 9: Annecy, sleep in Annecy
Day 10: drive to Geneva, return car, sleep in Geneva
Day 11: Geneva/Lac Leman boat ride (Lausanne to Chillon, walk to Montreux), sleep in Geneva (is this doable or ridiculous?)
Day 12: train to Lauterbrunnen or Wengen, sleep in L/W
Day 13 : Berner Oberland, sleep in L/W
Day 14: Berner Oberland, sleep in L/W
Day 15: train back to Geneva, sleep in Geneva
Day 16: fly home

Option 2: (French Alps/Provence/Cote d'Azur/Geneva/Swiss Alps)
Day 1: Arrive Geneva, rent car, drive to Chamonix, sleep in Chamonix
Day 2: Aiguelles du Midi early in morning, sleep in Chamonix
Day 3: drive to Annecy, sleep in Annecy
Day 4: drive to Provence (home base?), sleep in Provence
Day 5: Provence, sleep in Provence
Day 6: Provence, sleep in Provence
Day 7: Drive to Cote d'Azur through Cannes, Antibes, return car (or keep till tomorrow), sleep in Nice
Day 8: Nice, sleep in Nice
Day 9: Nice (train to Villefranche-sur-Mer, Monaco) sleep in Nice
Day 10: fly to Geneva, sleep in Geneva
Day 11: Geneva/Lac Leman boat ride (Lausanne to Chillon, walk to Montreux), sleep in Geneva (is this doable or ridiculous?)
Day 12: train to Lauterbrunnen or Wengen, sleep in L/W
Day 13 : Berner Oberland, sleep in L/W
Day 14: Berner Oberland, sleep in L/W
Day 15: train back to Geneva, sleep in Geneva
Day 16: fly home

Option 3: (Geneva/Swiss Alps/French Alps/Provence/Cote d'Azur)
Day 1: Arrive Geneva, sleep in Geneva
Day 2: Geneva/Lac Leman (see above), sleep in Geneva
Day 3: train to Lauterbrunnen/Wengen, sleep in L/W
Day 4: Berner Oberland, sleep in L/W
Day 5: Berner Oberland, sleep in L/W
Day 6: train back to Geneva, rent car, drive to Chamonix, sleep in Chamonix
Day 7: Aiguelles du Midi, sleep in Chamonix
Day 8: drive to Annecy, sleep in Annecy
Day 9: drive to Provence (not sure of home base, suggestions?), sleep in Provence
Day 10: Provence, sleep in Provence
Day 11: Provence, sleep in Provence
Day 12: Drive to Nice through Cannes, Antibes, return car, sleep in Nice
Day 13: Nice (train to Villefranche sur Mer, Monaco), sleep in Nice
Day 14: Nice, sleep in Nice
Day 15: fly Nice to Geneva , sleep in Geneva
Day 16 fly home

Thank you sooooo much!
caseyhen is offline  
May 1st, 2010, 10:19 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 3,958
My only comment is the one day in Chamonix. If the one day you have to go up to the Aguille du Midi is raining or overcast - you've blown it. Maybe you don't need to go there at all. (Yes, even though it's wonderful on a clear day.) Spend an extra day in the Berner Oberland for mountain trips.
kenav is offline  
May 1st, 2010, 11:28 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 91
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Lyndell is offline  
May 1st, 2010, 04:55 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,664
Here are some general comments:
1. I agree with kenav about Chamonix. We happened to hit it on a very clear day when we visited (heatwave throughout Europe at the time). However, the last time we stayed near Wengen for 4 nights, it snowed (mid Sept) and was overcast the entire time. Washout. We were near Bern for 4 days (early July) in '08, and tried to take chairlifts to many of the peaks. About half the time the peaks were shrouded in clouds and we either never went up, or the views were only good for a very short period of time. The weather in the Alps can be tricky. I would stay in Annecy and extra day and pick the clearest day and do Mt Blanc as a day trip from Annecy (1 1/4 hr drive)

2. The same year we were near Bern, we started the vacation with 2 weeks on Lake Annecy, and 3 weeks in the Franche Comte just north of Lac Lamen. We did not like Geneva (compared to other cities in France & Bern in Switzerland) & really didn't think the stuff around the lake was as nice as other regions in France & Switzerland.

3.>>Day 4: Rent car, drive through Antibes, Cannes, to Provence<<
No reason to do this - it is not a scenic drive at all. Head to Provence on the freeway

4. I think there are some destinations on your itinerary that you are short changing - Provence especially. So I think you need to eliminate something to add in a day or two in Provence.

So - I like option 1 the most - except that the Cote d'Azur & Provence can be very hectic in August, so I would do a modified version of Option 3 instead

1. Land in Geneva and immediately take the train to the Berner Oberland. We've stayed in Lauterbrunen and also Murren - and preferred Murren. Wengen would be OK, but we would not stay in Grindelwald. Consider an overnight in Bern on the way to or from the this area - or if you can find a place to store your bags, just spend 3-4 hrs in Bern mid way on your train trip from Wengen back to Geneva. I would stay in the Berner Oberland for 4 nights (3 if it were not your first destination - jet lag).

2. Skip the Geneva/Lac Lamen stay, & fly directly to Nice from Geneva. Stay 4 nights, renting a car the second to the last day so you can explore the Nice Hinterland (see the itinerary I sent you).

3. Take the freeway (it is actually quite scenic near the St Tropez turn-off) to Provence. Stay in St Remy if you want to stay in a village, or in the Luberon if you want countryside. Stay in Provence for 4 nights.

4. Drive to Annecy (3 ½ hrs), and stay there for 3 nights. Visit Mt Blanc on the clearest day. You may choose to not even visit Mt Blanc if you had good weather in the Berner Oberland.

5. I don’t know when your flight leaves from Geneva. When we were there in ’08, we stayed in the very cute town of Yvoire on Lac Lamen (this was the one spot we liked) & drove to the Geneva airport from there to catch our flight. However, Annecy is less than 45 mins from Geneva.

Berner Oberland – 4 nights
Nice – 4 nights
Provence – 4 nights
Annecy – 3 nights.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
May 1st, 2010, 07:04 PM
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 175
Thanks for both of your replies. Stu, you've enabled us to totally rethink our trip (giving us permission to skip Geneva/Lac Leman, which I think we needed some guidance on). Here are our two possible itineraries now...the first based on Stu's recommendations, and the second with things switched around a bit so that we are in Provence and especially Nice later in our trip (hoping for thinning crowds). What do you think of this?

Option 1:
-Arrive in Geneva, train to Wengen (or Lauterbrunnen, still deciding...)
-Three nights there and one in Bern, or all 4 in Wengen
-Train to Geneva/fly to Nice
-4 nights in Nice
-Rent car, 4 nights in Provence
-3 nights in Annecy, with day trip to Chamonix as weather allows
-drive to Geneva from Annecy, drop rental car, early the final morning to fly home

This option allows us to skip Geneva altogether and optimize our nights elsewhere (I really enjoy less moving hotels)

OR

Option 2:

-Arrive in Geneva, train to Wengen (or Lauterbrunnen, still deciding...)
-Three nights there and one in Bern, or all 4 in Wengen
-Train to Geneva/rent car/drive to Annecy
-Three nights in Annecy, possible day trip to Chamonix
-Drive to Provence, four nights in St. Remy
-Drive to Nice, drop car, three nights in Nice
-Fly to Geneva, one night in Geneva
-Fly home

Question is - will it make all that much difference, crowd-wise, if we're in Nice from 8/29 till 9/1, instead of 8/22 to 8/26? We'd be in Provence during roughly the same time frame with both options. The option that puts us in Nice later also cuts a day from Nice, so we're wondering if that's not such a great trade-off.

We're also struggling with the Lauterbrunnen - Wengen debate. Had just about decided on Lauterbrunnen (Hotel Staubbach), then started considering the Baeren in Wengen. Thoughts? (not to stir up this hornet's nest again!).
caseyhen is offline  
May 2nd, 2010, 07:08 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,664
I've noticed that in other popular destinations in France (mainy the Dordogne), that the crowds seem to diminish noticeable starting the last Saturday in August - this year that will be Aug 28. I think this is when the French return from their summer vacations & school starts. However, I think the Cote d'Azur gets a much more international crowd - plus I've never visited the Cote during the last week in August. You have a short vacation - I would sure hate to loose a day anywhere. Nice is VERY enjoyable in the evenings.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  

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