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Help!! - First trip to Europe!!!

Old Oct 25th, 2003, 11:20 PM
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rv
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Help!! - First trip to Europe!!!

Hi,
My husband and I will be in Eindhoven mid Nov to mid Dec on work We are thrilled about visiting Europe ... its our first time... and we would like to do a couple of weekend trips
(3 days each)while still working if feasible - possibly one trip to Switzerland ... and another to see the Christmas markets, Alpine scenery.. Austria/Germany...?

We plan to also vacation from mid Dec to Jan 3 and since we have never been to Europe have been spending many hours reading guide books and discussion boards.... !! We still have a LOT of questions as you can see below so would really appreciate your input.......!!!

Time : 2 weekends of 3 days each+ long trip of Dec 11-Jan 3 (24 days)
We are interested in visiting France, Italy also Holland, Belgium. Considering Switzerland, Austria, Budapest in Hungary, maybe part of Germany.
Maybe Barcelona too.... I know it will be rather a whirlwind trip but hopefully not too much.....

Questions - Switzerland
---------------------------------------
#1 From Holland, is a 3 day, 2 night trip to Switzerland feasible? Not interested in skiing too much but in the Alpine scenery...
#2 Any recommendations on places to visit for best alpine views- Zurich? Geneva? Lucerne?
#3Anyone been on ST. MORITZ - TIRANO train ride?
#4 Any suggestions on transport, where to stay....?
#5 Should we go from Amsterdam to Switzerland... or should be go after visiting France, Italy?

Questions - Austria, Budapest... small part of Germany
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Considering Vienna, Innsbruck, Salzburg.. Budapest... Germany - Rhine Cruise ..Christmas Markets?

#6 Is 4 days sufficient... can all these places be covered in one trip? .
#7 Any thoughts on these places, location of Christmas markets,
#8 Best way to get there from Holland?
#9 Germany versus Austria any suggestions

France
--------------
#10 1 week -- Paris 4 days... is 3 days in Southern France sufficient?
#11 Suggestions on getting from paris to S. France ...take train from Paris to Nice? Overnight train?
#12 How about if we decide to visit Barcelona before Nice?
#13 Do we need a rental car after getting to Nice?
#14 Any suggestions for hotels.... hostels with private room.... any such thing?

Italy
-------
#15 We are planning to fly from US to Amsterdam, not sure where to fly back from.... considering our plans above... can you please suggest... Fly back from Rome? Or Switzerland? Or Germany? Or back to Amsterdam?
Thinking of getting Europass Drive...

16) Any suggestions on the best place to be for New Years eve, Christmas and for our anniversay which also falls in December.
rv is offline  
Old Oct 26th, 2003, 02:30 AM
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I think that you are trying to do far too much. Europe and its attractions need to be a-b-s-o-r-b-e-d osmotically rather than ticked off like items on a shopping list. It is worth remembering that every bit of Europe is a microcosm of the whole. Everything you do and see, wherever you are, will in some way represent the rest.

A three-day trip in the weeks before Xmas to see the Xmas market in Nuremberg would make a very nice break from work. But to attempt to see Alpine scenery as well is quite counter-productive. It won't go away, you know, and there WILL be a 'next time'.

On another three-day trip you might go down to Bruges in Belgium - it can't be more than an hour away by train from Eindhoven. You would find plenty to do to fill in your time there, even in winter. If you can't, then you must learn how to. Take time to try the beer (they have some 60 local brews); walk through the town until you find a secret 'favourite spot' for just the two of you to enjoy again and again: it may be a church, or a little pub, or a cafe or restaurant off the beaten track; explore the canals on foot or by 'vedette', etc

See your host country - your colleagues at work are better than any guide book when it comes to local knowledge. Holland must have some rewards for the traveller.

On your long trip by all means go further afield. But parcel up your time more liberally. Three weeks' travelling should encompass four focal destinations, from which you explore the surrounding region in some detail. I suggest (1) the region around Interlaken in Switzerland (2) Paris and surrounds (3) around Annecy - Chambery
(4) the Moselle valley. All of these are readily accessible by train, and a look at a map will allow you to quickly devise a simple itinerary that brings you full circle back to Eindhoven.

You will see that I have left out Italy, Spain, Austria and Hungary as being impractical, given your time restraints.

I hope this helps you

Harzer

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Old Oct 26th, 2003, 02:52 AM
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#1: feasible yes, enjoyable no. As far as I know, there are no direct flights from Eindhoven to Switzerland, so you will need to drive (approximately 7 hours to Central Switzerland), take the train, or go to Schiphol Amsterdam to fly from there. Check www.easyjet.com for cheap flights to Geneva.

#2: I love St. Moritz and the area around it, but this is hardly possible in 3 days.

#6: technically you can, but you would be ill advised to do so.

#10: you can easily spend a month in France.

For the weekends I would stay in the Netherlands (Amsterdam, Haarlem, The Hague, Delft, Rotterdam, Den Bosch ('s-Hertogenbosch) and Maastricht are all within 1 1/2 hours train ride from Eindhoven), Belgium (Antwerpen, Brussels, Gent, Brugge) and Germany (Aachen, Dusseldorf, Cologne)
Then you could fly easyjet or www.basiqair.com to Barcelona, spend some time in Spain, fly Easyjet to Geneva, visit Switzerland, train up to Paris and fly out from Paris or Amsterdam.
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Old Oct 26th, 2003, 09:42 AM
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For your question about weekend trips, I don't know how close you will be to an airport? If nearby, sure you could fly down to Geneva and spend 3 days right along the lake there (Lausanne, Vevey, Montreux for example).

Personally I hate to rush around and would lean toward the suggestion already made of keeping your weekend trips something do-able by train within a couple hours from where you are staying.

Just as an example, I did a three week trip which was split between the Geneva area, then Venice, and Paris, traveling in between by overnight trains. That was lovely and not rushed feeling at all.

I would definitely consider trying to get your flight home from your furthest point south, whether Geneva, Rome, whatever to avoid backtracking to Amsterdam. Often "open jaws" fares (into one place out of another) are not too much more expensive, if at all.

One last piece of unasked for advice, as you get further in your planning, when you post I'd suggest breaking your questions down into smaller pieces, maybe specific to each country, to get more people to read and answer (no biggie just experience learned from posting travel BB's for years now).

Happy travels
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Old Oct 26th, 2003, 09:50 AM
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Hi RV, I have made several business trips to Eindhoven. First tip, a great Italian restaurant, I'm sorry I have forgotten the name... maybe Trattoria? It's on the corner of the block that the Mandarin Hotel is on (opposite corner, same side of the street). The owner is a delightful guy from Sicily and will play the guitar and sing if asked.

Next thing, spend lots of time in Amsterdam. It's a great city and there's so much to see. It's only about an hour and a half/two hours by train.

Consider flying on some of your long weekends. EasyJet does LOTS of trips out of Amsterdam and the flights will save you time. Check their website for possible destinations. Tickets can be incredibly cheap.

Have a GREAT month!
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Old Oct 26th, 2003, 10:02 AM
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I can speak for Switzerland.
You will not see high Alps well from any of the Swiss cities you name. The best views of the peaks higher than 13,000 feet are in the area south of Interlaken (Gridelwald, Mürren, Wengen, and Lauterbrunnen), the Zermatt area, and Saas Fee. Near Saas Fee the Dom towers 10,000 feet above the valley floor. It is so high above you that it is hard to comprehend.

St. Moritz is pretty, but hard to get to because of its location.
It is more easily reached from Italy than from Germany.

Yes you can go to those places in a day or two, but you will not see much.
If you travel by train, Switzerland is not a short trip away. For example, Eindhoven to Grindelwald is a 9 and a half hour trip with 7 changes according to the schedule. Zermatt is even farther.

I can understand your urge to see a lot, but if you visit briefly and don't see much of anything, what have you gained?

You are talking about spending a day or two where many people spend a week or more. Paris in particular is quite a place for those who love it.

Overnight trains make sense if time is limited, but some people have trouble sleeping on those things. I prefer daylight travel so I can see the landscape, although I will admit that if you are riding a TGV rushing along at 300 kph, the trees look a little blurred.
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Old Oct 26th, 2003, 10:19 AM
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I'm not sure I understand some of what you want to do regarding France and have no experience with Germany, so just have a couple thoughts on two of these ideas, for what they're worth:

<<Considering Vienna, Innsbruck, Salzburg.. Budapest... Germany - Rhine Cruise ..Christmas Markets?

#6 Is 4 days sufficient... can all these places be covered in one trip?>>

I've been to all but Germany. Perhaps I am misunderstanding this question, but it sounds like you want to visit Austria, Hungary and Germany, with many cities and a cruise all in four days? I would say that's impossible. Four days in Austria alone would be pushing it as it would only give you a day or two in each city. Maybe you could do 2-3 days in Vienna and 1-2 in Salzburg.

<<France
#10 1 week -- Paris 4 days... is 3 days in Southern France sufficient?
#11 Suggestions on getting from paris to S. France ...take train from Paris to Nice? Overnight train?
#12 How about if we decide to visit Barcelona before Nice?
#13 Do we need a rental car after getting to Nice?>>

I wouldn't concentrate on trying to do the Provence trip in Nov/Dec. I just don't think that would be the best use of your time as so much about that area is related to warmer weather and I wouldn't think you'd have a memorable trip. IN winter, I think cities make more sense for travel itineraries. If you do want to go there, taking the train will take up most of one day, I think flying would be preferable depending on your time. There are cheaper flights now for that route. I don't think they have very many overnight trains any more on that route but think flying would be better and perhaps even cheaper. The train trip takes about 6-7 hrs which takes up a lot of a day but is kind of short for a good overnight train trip.

YOu wouldn't have to have a car in Nice, it depends what you want to do there. Nice is well-connected by train to a few surrounding coastal cities and Nice itself can take up several days.

I would eliminate the idea of a four day trip to Provence during Nov/Dec on this schedule. I think it would make more sense to add those days to just Paris. Barcelona and Nice are in opposite directions, of course, and I don't see how that would work except in the context of the several week time frame.
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Old Oct 26th, 2003, 11:12 AM
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Traveled to most of these countries. Consider Vienna and Salzburg, then Paris and Copenhagen (which is magical this time of year although cold). Rest depends upon the great advice given above. Good luck!
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Old Oct 26th, 2003, 12:14 PM
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THANKS A LOT FOR THE RESPONSES!!!!, they are unbelievably helpful!! I am new to posting...so this is really encouraging.
I'm going to post my follow up questions now.... looking forward to your responses!

ALSO I am doing some thinking on the overly ambitious itinerary as per advise from these boards!!! My husband and I are trying to learn how to relax on vacation and not feel the urge to see and do too much!!! We are in our late 20s, and although most of the world relaxes on vacation we are overly energetic!! Trying to get cured of this !!!!!!
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Old Oct 26th, 2003, 12:18 PM
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Thanks a lot Harzer for your responses!!! I like your analogy to the shopping list!!

What are your thoughts on places close to Holland/Belgium border - Aachen, Cologne, Monschau.
We will have a rental car. Which Christmas markets would you recommend here?
Do you suggest Marksburg castle? And/or Neuschwanstein Castle, this is further correct..?

Can you tell me what you recommend at Annecy - Chambery and the Moselle valley?

Thanks for your help!
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Old Oct 26th, 2003, 12:31 PM
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Thanks Sjoerd and suze for your responses!! Based on all the inputs, a weekend trip is now not making too much sense, I think Switzerland will have to be another trip.

Thanks for the tip on posting to these boards!! Should I be posting my follow up questions here or in seperate threads?

Any advise on Christmas festivities (thinking of being in Rome .. maybe Vatican)? New Years .... ? Any special events in December?
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Old Oct 26th, 2003, 12:40 PM
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Grasshopper and others,

Thanks!! The dilemma is my husband's office will be in Eindhoven and mine will be in Amsterdam but my
work can be done from my laptop frm anywhere just need high speed internet access. Husband needs to be physically in the office.

We called some hotels including 4* in Eindhoven, none of them have high speed internet access! Dial up seems slow and expensive...

Either I need to find a hotel with high speed access and stay in Eindhoven, work from hotel or we stay half way between Eindhoven and Amsterdam and commute or stay one week Amsterdam and one week in Eindhoven....

Please help if some one knows hotel with high speed access or has suggestions....on where to stay in general?
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Old Oct 26th, 2003, 01:06 PM
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Thanks Bob ... Christina... very Helpful!! Switzerland will have to be another trip, I am sure we will be back!

When you say 2-3 days in Vienna can we do a day trip to Budapest? My father had spent quite some time in Hungary when he was my age, sentiment is pretty much the reason for me wanting to cross the border!

1-2 days in Salzburg
What do you recommend between Salzburg and Innsbruck? How close is Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany?

Yes, we are planning to eliminate Barcelona... I agree.. But hesitant to eliminate South of France..... When you say to eliminate Provence are you talking about Aix en Provence?

Would Nice still be a good choice in December... with visits to Cannes, Marseilles, Cannes, Monaco by car or train... day trips (4 days in all)?

Thanks so much!!
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Old Oct 26th, 2003, 03:01 PM
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For a stay that long, rent an apartment. We had several employees take long term rentals (1 or 2 months). I'll ask tomorrow for some contact info.
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Old Oct 26th, 2003, 06:21 PM
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As for the Vienna/Budapest thing. I thought 2-3 days would be the minimum to see what you might want just in Vienna. If not, yes, you could do a daytrip to Budapest from Vienna. I've done it and enjoyed it very much. You could do this on your own, there is a train, but I would recommend a day trip bus tour as that will make it very easy for you (you won't have to figure out schedules, get train tickets, figure out how to get around in Budapest, do research on things to see and timing, etc) and conserve your time which is limited. In one day you can see the highlights of Budapest, and you'll see the countryside going to/from, which was enjoyable.

I did a day trip with a company I recommend very highly -- Vienna Sightseeing Tours.
http://www.viennasightseeingtours.com/

YOu can see from their schedule that day trip is only 99 euro and that includes transportation, expert guides (one general guide who handles the tour from Vienna and was knowledgeable about the country on the way, and a local Budapest native who specialized in the things within the city and was a historian or art history person or something), and the entrance fees to a few of the places. This was a very full day, but convenient as you don't have to do anything, and it allowed several hours on your own to do a little shopping in the main pedestrian market area, etc. They also pick you up at your hotel. If that is out of your budget, you can do it on your own, as I said.

I haven't been to Innsbruck, only Salzburg, so can't say about things in-between the two.
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Old Oct 26th, 2003, 10:06 PM
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I was in Aachen for the first time recently and was not terribly impressed with this town. I don't know Monschau.

Cologne is really a must, because of the cathedral and the German-Roman museum. It has four separate Xmas markets, starting on 24th November and ending on 23rd December. One of these is right by the cathedral: another is a Middle Ages market, which sounds interesting - it is held right in front of the chocolate museum, and is illuminated by torches after dark. The whole thing tries to reproduce a market as would have been found in the Middle Ages; another one is held in front of the old City Hall; and the fourth is the oldest one in Cologne, and found in front of the Neumarkt (New Market).

Other German towns in the region having Xmas markets are: Trier, Koblenz and Bonn.

Marksburg Castle is a little bit out of the way, but lies in a very picturesque corner between the Lahn and Rhine rivers. Somewhat closer to you is Burg Eltz on the Mosel near the little toen of Moselkern. It is three castles in one, and has been continuously inhabited for some 800 years. Why? You will be told that on the guided tour here, which is one of the best I have enjoyed. Neuschwanstein is a long way from Eindhoven, like a six-hour drive, and is after all not in the same league as Eltz, despite its popularity with tourists.

I think that the little principality of Luxembourg is well worth a visit, if you have been persuaded to stay in the general area of Eindhoven.

Near Chambery there is some splendid high mountain country. The abbey founded by the Carthusian monks can be seen (but not visited) near St Pierre de Chartreuse and you can sample the various liqueurs associated with this name at the factory in the town of Voiron, and visit their cellars. But - it could be tough going in this region in a severe winter

Harzer.
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