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From Milan, Geneva, to Paris with seniors

From Milan, Geneva, to Paris with seniors

Jan 29th, 2009, 07:57 AM
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From Milan, Geneva, to Paris with seniors

In mid-April of this year, I will be traveling in Europe with my parents (both in their mid-70's, in very good health), who would mainly like to see Paris (perhaps 4 nights and 5 days?), Geneva (2 nights and 3 days?), and Milan (3 nights and 4 days?). My parents are passionate about history, the arts, religion, philosophy, and architecture. We plan to fly to Milan (or Paris) from NY, take train to Geneva, then train to Paris (or Milan), then fly back to NY. I myself have flown to Germany and Italy in the past but have never done a Paris-Geneva-Milan route using the trains. Any advice or suggestions you can give me would be greatly appreciated. Here are some questions: 1. Would reserving a first class ticket for the train be worth it? 2. We would like, if possible, to find hotels in all three cities that cost between around $150.00 and $200.00, hotels that would be comfortable for seniors in their mid-70's. 3. Would hotels in these cities ever allow 3 adults (my parents and me) to stay in one double-room or would we have to get two separate rooms? 4. How many days in advance must we reserve the train tickets? Can we take care of it all when we get to the cities? 5. Is mid-April a good time of the year to be traveling to these cities? How cold does it get during this time in these cities? I am concerned about what my parents should wear. Apologies for the long message. Many thanks!
gheelee is offline  
Jan 29th, 2009, 08:35 AM
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Hi gheelee--welcome to Fodor's.

I saw that you posted this topic in another forum I think by accident; I have moved it to the Europe forum.
Katie_H is offline  
Jan 29th, 2009, 08:47 AM
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The train ride takes about 4.5 hours between Milan and Geneva. I do not think that first class tickets are worth it.
Michael is offline  
Jan 29th, 2009, 10:14 AM
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Thank you, Katie, for doing that. That is helpful, Michael, thank you.
gheelee is offline  
Jan 29th, 2009, 10:15 AM
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Hi gheelee,

You can get great discounts for the TGV (the fast train that links Paris & Geneva) if you reserve 90 days ahead of time. For instance, one year I got the trip for 20E!

The hard part will be getting it done. The best way, since you're leaving from Paris, would be to buy them from the French system, the SNCF. However, their site is really hard to navigate unless you speak some French -- every time you select "English," it'll throw you to Raileurope. There are some ways you can work around it, though, so you might want to do a search to get specific instructions to using SNCF in French.

You may be able to buy the tickets from the Swiss rail site, www.rail.ch. But ONLY do this if they have the option to mail the tickets to you or to print out by PDF. I've heard of someone having to travel to Geneva to pick up the ticket . . . DUH! Anyway, the Swiss rail site is dead-easy and in English, so you may want to try it first to see if it'll let you print out.

Sorry, I've never stayed in Geneva itself; I like Montreux at the other end of the lake. Hope you find a great place!

swandav2000 is online now  
Jan 29th, 2009, 10:59 AM
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Dear Swandav,

Thank you. Very helpful. None of us speaks French, but I'll check the sites. I will look into Mont. also.

gheelee is offline  
Jan 29th, 2009, 03:00 PM
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Geneva is just a bland administration city with lots of international institutions and businesses and what have you. Nice around the lakefront for a stroll, and a bit of an old town center, but not worth your while for more than half a day.

However, the Swiss Riviera, further down along the same lake, the towns of Vevey - Territet - Clarens - Montreux, and the elevated little towns of Glion and Caux above Montreux, they are nicely situated and provide great views of the lake and the French and Swiss alps (Mont Blanc!), with walks along the lakefront, boat rides (public boats, comfortable, with snacks and drinks available, schedules at http://www.cgn.ch/en/home) etc.

Take your folks on the fantastic little train ride up to the Rochers de Naye from Montreux, it is the alpine flower paradise up there - www.montreux.ch/naye.

Go see the historic Chillon castle near Montreux - www.chillon.ch/en/index.html.

Go see the Olympic Museum in Lausanne - www.olympic.org/uk/passion/museum/home_uk.asp

To get to the Swiss Riviera, about every two hours (7:25, 8:25, 11.20, 12:25, 14:25, 16:25 etc) there is a fast train (Cisalpino) from Milan that stops in Montreux. They only take a bit over 3 hours.

Second class is plenty swank. For the Italian portion (and hence for the entire trip even though it is not required in Switzerland) your seats will be numbered, the mandatory reservation comes with each ticket.

If you stay somewhere near Montreux, not in Montreux itself, you'll simply switch to a local train or bus.

From Montreux to Paris it will take a bit less than five hours, you will make a switch to catch the superfast TGV train, in either Lausanne (20 minutes from Montreux) or in Geneva (1:08 hr from Montreux).

Schedules at www.rail.ch

You can book locally, best a couple of days ahead - you won't get the discounts that are sometimes available on the Italian website www.ferroviedellostato.it (but rarely for those international trains) or on the French website www.voyages-sncf.fr if you book well in advance.

See if these people can help you:

April is the proverbial 3-seasons-in-one-morning month - it could snow and rain, it could be like early summer, and anything in between. So have raincoats, jumpers for chilly days, good footwear so nobody gets wet feet and turns an ankle, and be ready for anything. With a bit of luck you won't need it, but...

Convince your folks to travel very light, no more than a carry-on-legal rollaway and a little daypack per person - you have to handle your own bags all the way, porters are a thing of the past. It is easy if you travel light, but some people need convincing - you know who you are...

You will not need to show your passports when traveling from Italy into Switzerland and into France.
DalaiLlama is offline  
Jan 29th, 2009, 04:25 PM
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Dear DalaiLlama,

Thank you for such a helpful, detailed information. Montreux sounds like a better place to stay than Geneva, then. Great that there is a train that goes directly from Milan to Montreux.

One question: When we leave from Montreux to Paris, if we decide to stop by in Geneva (my parents may want to) just for (say) half a day, should we buy the train ticket for Paris in Montreux, then make the connection to Paris train (in Geneva) with the same ticket, or should we buy train tickets to Geneva in Montreux, spend half a day in Geneva, then get separate tickets in Geneva for the Paris train? Does this make sense? Sorry if it doesn't. Thanks again.
gheelee is offline  
Jan 29th, 2009, 09:35 PM
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Hi again,

Sorry I mis-read your message and got your route the wrong way around (been doing that a lot lately!). So since you're leaving from Geneva to Paris, it will be very, very easy to get your tickets from the SBB, the Swiss train folks. I've bought online & printed out my tickets on a number of occasions, and it is really easy. I think it would be worth it to save say 100 chf per person to buy the tickets in advance.

The trip between Montreux and Geneva is pretty cheap, no need to bundle it with your trip to Paris. You can easily buy those as separate tickets (it may be hard to force a stopover in Geneva of several hours if you're doing it online).

Anyway, since you may be spending time in Montreux, here are some links to my "reviews" (w/photos) of things there:

Montreux old town


Promenade Fleuri





Thought the vineyards of the Lavaux will not be very pretty in April --

Well, have fun!

swandav2000 is online now  
Jan 30th, 2009, 08:37 AM
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Dear swandav,

Many thanks for your helpful advice! With your and others' recommendation, I am now 90% certain we will stay in Montreux instead of in Geneva. Thank you for your advice about the train tickets.

May I ask you another question?

I noticed that almost everything (hotel rate, plane tickets, etc.) is going to be significantly cheaper if we visited Milan-Montreux-Paris in March than in April. As a result, we are now considering traveling between March 21st and April 1st. Will it be much colder during the latter days of March than, say, the first two weeks of April? Are there disadvantages to traveling in March instead of in April?

Thank you for the gorgeous photos!
gheelee is offline  
Jan 30th, 2009, 09:09 AM
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No - 3 people cannot say in a double room - since a double room usually has one double bed.

You can however stay in a triple room. Just make sure they know it's for 3 adults - and realize that you may get 3 single size beds.

That budget for a triple room will get you quite a modest hotel - so be preapared in advance on what you may be willing to forego - central location, hotel services, private bath?
nytraveler is offline  
Jan 30th, 2009, 09:14 AM
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Question: "When we leave from Montreux to Paris, if we decide to stop by in Geneva (my parents may want to) just for (say) half a day, should we buy the train ticket for Paris in Montreux, then make the connection to Paris train (in Geneva) with the same ticket, or should we buy train tickets to Geneva in Montreux, spend half a day in Geneva, then get separate tickets in Geneva for the Paris train? Does this make sense? Sorry if it doesn't. Thanks again."

Answer: Tell the agent in Montreux what it is you want to do, and s/he will issue the tickets accordingly.

Question: "Will it be much colder during the latter days of March than, say, the first two weeks of April? "

Answer: Not a predictable difference. Luck could have it that the late March days turn out milder than early April - no way of telling. April is the proverbial 3-seasons-in-one-morning month, so all bets are off anyway. Either way, be ready to rug up if needed, and take off layers as needed.

Note that Easter is on the weekend of April 10-13 and the Easter Monday is a public holiday. Many people get or take Friday off, so heavy traffic starts by midweek. If you go in March you'll avoid all that.
DalaiLlama is offline  
Jan 30th, 2009, 09:17 AM
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Hi again,

My apologies again for being so dense with your post, and thanks to DalaiLlama for good attention to detail!

Anyway, so, no, I don't think there will be a *great* difference between March and April in Montreux. Of course, no one can predict the weather -- but I've been to Montreux in March a few times and enjoyed it. Few tourists, some flowers even at the lakeside, and the sculptures that the gardeners create are wonderful! You may just be dressing a little more for winter than for spring.

A note about the three-in-a-room thing -- hotels generally charge per person, so you cannot hide your third person in a double room. But do tell them that you want a third bed, and you should be fine.

swandav2000 is online now  
Jan 30th, 2009, 10:28 AM
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To nytraveler, Dalai, swandav,

Much obliged! Really helpful advice about hotel, weather, and train travel.

I have a question about hotels around Montreux. I found two highly recommended hotels (mostly from Trip Adviser): "Hotel Restaurant Les Negociants" (in Vevey) and "Grand Hôtel Suisse et Majestic" (in Montreux). Grand Hotel Suisse costs about 60CHF more than Negociants (for double with three persons). Hotel Suisse offers rooms with gorgeous view of the lake and mountain, is directly across from the train station, and overall in a nice area. Hotel Negociants is cheaper, a 5 minute walk from the train station, and purportedly not as good location-wise in comparison to the location of Hotel Suisse.

Do you have any advice about which hotel to stay at? We plan to arrive by train from Milan, stay in either of the two hotels for 3 nights/4 days (during which time we would also like to take short trips to Geneva and Lausanne), then take the train to Paris.

Thank you!
gheelee is offline  
Jan 30th, 2009, 10:51 AM
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If i were traveling with my 70s parents i would be all means pay more to go in first class - lot more roomy seats and probably empty seats - more for luggage, etc.

And i do disagree that there is very little difference between first and second class. There always is and IMO for older folks it is always worth it - especially on a 4-5 hour train trip.
PalenQ is offline  
Jan 30th, 2009, 02:53 PM
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Dear PalenQ,

Thank you for that advice. There seems to be differences in opinion about the merits of first class tickets.

Besides having more comfortable seats (which, I agree, IS significant for longer trips), is there more privacy for first class travelers (for trains from Milan to Geneva or Montreux, and trains from Geneva or Montreux to Paris)? Or will we most likely be sharing the cabin with others?

Thank you.
gheelee is offline  
Jan 30th, 2009, 03:29 PM
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Hi G,

I agree with your parents that they should visit Paris. Everyone should.

What is it that draws them to Geneva and Milan?

If I were going to Switzerland, my first thought would be Interlaken and the Bernese Oberland.

For Italy, I would choose Venice, Florence, Rome and Naples (in that order) over Milan.

1. Not for train rides under 4 hr.
2&3. In Paris, we always stay at the Hotel Bonaparte, 61 Rue Bonaparte in the 6th. A triple is 170E w/bkfst, It is just around the corner from Place St. Sulpice, near 3 metro stops and 4 bus routes. Has AC and an elevator.

The staff speaks English well, and is very helpful.

Tel 33 1 43 26 97 37
FAX 33 1 46 33 57 67
[email protected]

For more info, enter "Hotel Bonaparte" in the "search this forum" box.

4. For trains to/within/from France see www.voyages-sncf.com
PREMS fare are available 60 days (sometimes 90 days) out.

For CH see http://www.sbb.ch/en/index.htm

For Italy see www.trenitalia.com/en/index.html
You want Amica fares.

The earlier you buy, the better.

5. "April is the cruelest month".
It can be anywhere from a little hot to cold, windy and rainy.

Dress in layers and bring a brolly,

Enjoy your visit.

Who is your parent's age (almost).
ira is offline  
Jan 30th, 2009, 04:48 PM
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Dear Ira,

Thank you very much for your tips and advice. I especially appreciate your recommendation of the Hotel in Paris. I was overwhelmed when I began to look into the hotels in Paris. The prices for rooms at Bonaparte are just what we were looking for. The reviews (I like to check Trip Adviser) are mostly positive, too. I never would have come upon Bonaparte on my own. Many thanks! I will email the hotel.

My parents are interested in Geneva for (among other things) its religious history (Calvin and the Reformation), and in Milan for places like St. Ambrose's church and La Scala and the museums. My mother has been to Venice, which she loved. They did mention Rome as a possible destination. There are just so many places and so little time!

Interlaken is mentioned often. How can we get there by train from Milan? Is it easy to take train from Interlaken to Paris (our final destination)?

May I ask you a question about train tickets? I am nervous about making train reservations from the US (then bringing the print outs with us to Europe). Is this what one would have to do if one wanted to reserve tickets in US? We were planning instead to make the reservations on the first day that we arrived in each of the cities, so that the tickets would be purchased at least two or three days in advance. Do you think this is a good idea? If we did this, would we be saving much money or not at all?

One more question: My parents want to visit Nice and Montmartre during our stay in Paris. How easy would it be for us (with two seniors) to do this? Should we take the train, taxi, or bus?

Thank you!

gheelee is offline  
Jan 30th, 2009, 05:49 PM
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Hi ghelee,

There is usually a significant savings in purchasing rail tickets in advance--do some comparison shopping on line, but please note Rail Europe tends to mark up their prices compared to buying directly from the national railways.

However, if you traveling around mid-March you are already inside a 60-day window so am not sure you will still get online savings, but do take the time to check.

My biggest concern for your parents is getting luggage on and off the trains--hope you are traveling light or perhaps look for a porter although they are scarce. With luck, you will find some nice guy (or gal) to help--my DH is good about that.

TGVs in my experience, have few, if any, compartments and in any case, they would not be private for only 3 people as most train compartments seat 6 or 8. I've not been on the trains coming up from Italy into Switzerland so they may have compartments. I guess I shouldn't generalize but on recent trips I've seen only open seating in both first and second class.

You've mentioned adding more cities--I wouldn't unless you are going to add more days.

If your budget allows, stay at the hotel in Montreux with the views and just across the street from the station.

Cathinjoetown is offline  
Jan 31st, 2009, 05:58 AM
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Dear Cathinjoetown,

Thank you for the info. about train travel, tickets and choosing hotels. I will advise my parents to travel light, indeed. It should not be too difficult for them.

How expensive are food, drinks, snacks, etc. on the train?
gheelee is offline  

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