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Belinda Nov 5th, 2001 04:39 PM

Itinerary for First Trip to Europe
 
Three friends and I are planning a trip to Europe for May 25, 2002 thru June 9, 2002. It's my first time (blush). We are all over 40 and mostly interested in boring stuff like art and history. Okay. Here's our current plan and I will appreciate any comments, suggestions, recommendations, criticisms, etc. <BR>Arrive London noon Sat <BR>Depart London noon Tues <BR>Travel to Paris via train <BR>Arrive Paris 4pm Tues <BR>Depart Paris Fri evening <BR>Overnight sleeper train to Florence <BR>Arrive Florence Sat morning <BR>Depart Florence Tues via early morning train to Rome <BR>Depart Rome either late Fri or early Sat <BR>Travel to London via train <BR>Depart London early Sun morning <BR>So basically it's 3 days in London, 3 days in Paris, 3 days in Florence and 4 days in Rome. What are your thoughts? Thanks.

Bob Brown Nov 5th, 2001 05:09 PM

I think you are underestimating the amount of time you need for both London and Paris. The last time (3rd visit) I was in London, I went like heck for 7 days and still had places on my list that I did not have time to visit. <BR>I know we left the hotel before 8 AM and rarely returned before 9 PM every day we were there. <BR>As for Paris, in the last 2 years I have spent 9 days there and still have places to go and see. (Years ago I was there for almost a week, but I still left out a lot.) <BR>I think the choice is between skimming and trying to see what there is to see in one place. Given that some contributors to this forum have been to Paris more than a dozen times and still go back should give you some indication of the fascination that Parid can have. I for one do not like to take a whiff of a place and then move on. <BR>But, it is your money. <BR>

Patrick Nov 5th, 2001 06:04 PM

A very popular thing at extremely fine and expensive restaurants these days is to do a tasting menu. You get samplings of maybe as many as 8 or 10 courses. It is a way to sample some really great dishes by a great chef. You won't fill up on any one dish, but you will leave with a wonderful experience and memories of some great food. Some people don't like that idea. They'd rather go to that place, sit down and have one big plate of one dish. It's totally up to you. Frankly I'd like the opportunity to sample several dishes rather than just one. Now if those many dishes were truly just a single bite and so small that you couldn't really get a chance to fully appreciate what they offer, then you have a problem. But if you get several bites of each dish, but not an overwhelming amount of each one -- so much that you can't even try another dish, then you've struck a nice balance, in my opinion. I don't think I need to carry this analogy any further. You get the point. If I can only go to one great restaurant this year, then I want to taste and enjoy several offerings, not just one.

steve Nov 5th, 2001 06:12 PM

Patrick, <BR>What the heck are you babbling about. How does your post relate to her itinerary? <BR> <BR>Let me read it for the 3rd time and see if it makes any more sense.... uh nope

Deb Nov 5th, 2001 06:13 PM

Belinda, Everyone has different preferences and yes, you will only hit the highlights with your schedule but that is not so bad. I tend to only spend a few days in each place but will go back to the places I loved a year or two later. I enjoy going again a second time (or third time) and that way for the places that weren't my favorite, I got to see them but then move on. <BR>I do agree that an extra day or two in Paris would be wonderful if you can get in an extra day of vacation. Have a wonderful time.

Patrick Nov 5th, 2001 06:15 PM

Just to put my above post in further perspective -- I do a lot of travel in Europe -- like Bob Brown apparently. I wouldn't go to Paris or to London for less than a week, although I've been to both seven or eight times now I guess. But we are talking about your very first visit to Europe for a total of only two weeks. And if I guess right, you fear this may not become an annual event. There's no way if I were in your shoes that I would be happy going to London for one week and Paris for one for my very first and possibly (horrors) only trip to Europe.

john Nov 5th, 2001 06:19 PM

Belinda, <BR>Go for it. We have done a couple of whirlwind trips of Europe a couple of times and absolutely had the best time and looking back would not have changed a thing. It is all in what you like to do. Some people would spend 2 weeks in Paris looking under every stone and happy they did it, but wish they had seen more cities. Then there are people like me and sounds like you, that can hit the major and some minor sites, have a great time and then move on to explore more. <BR> <BR>Your trip sounds awesome. If you change it now, you will regret it later when you get back. Also might want to get a rail pass and decide your travel days and locations when you get to Europe. We have done this and it was great when we ran across a town we wanted to spend an extra day in. Just have a room for the first and last night of the trip and wing the rest. <BR> <BR>Have fun......

Mel Nov 5th, 2001 06:22 PM

Belinda: I'm going to swim a bit against the stream and tell you that I think you have a wonderful itinerary for a first time visit. You're going to experience a few of the high points for several great cities and this will allow you to pick and choose those you want to visit again (all are wonderful and I'm betting you'll go back to each!). Also, you're going to experience train travel, different cultures, different languages, food,etc. and that's so exciting and broadening. Finally, with four friends, you're bound to have some differing likes and dislikes. Not staying put too long in any one place should keep you all excited and no one will be bored. <BR> <BR>Just go and have a great time!

Patrick Nov 5th, 2001 06:29 PM

Steve, sorry you read my post three times and it is still way over your head. I just got a little tired of this same thread always being answered the same way -- half the people say just go one or two places, and half the people say to be adventuresome and see a lot. Thought my dining analogy was a good and to the point change. Besides I'm trying to diet and food seems to be heavy on my mind. Belinda, please tell me you at least understood what I was driving at.

Suzanne Nov 5th, 2001 07:06 PM

Steve: I understood Patrick’s analogy perfectly. I am one of those “sampler plate people”. <BR> <BR>Belinda, I too am a European Travel “virgin” ( deep blush!) and want to see as much as possible. I think your itin. is definitely do-able, but whether you want to do it depends on your personality as a traveler. Ask yourself these questions <BR> <BR>1. Have you traveled alot? I travel domestically quite a bit for business as well as pleasure travel and I can get to know a city fairly quickly. For example, I went to Chicago for a conference and was able to see quite a bit of the city between meetings ( and the meetings usually lasted from 8-5). Yet I managed to attend a live taping of Oprah, got to see Second City and go to see a lot of the city. Did a see it all? Not by a long shot. Definitely want to go back. But I didn ‘t feel frustrated and got a feel for the city. <BR> <BR>2. When you have traveled, do you prefer to sit and relax in one location or do you like to see as much as you can? I belong to the second group. I have taken cruises so I am used to seeing a lot in a short period of time. Also if you have done an escorted tour and had a good time, your pace will be very good. I have never done an escorted tour because I prefer to go where I want to go when I want to go. But I have designed my own personal tour at a pace similar to a guided tour and had a very good time. <BR> <BR>My secret for seeing a lot in a short period of time is to make a very short list of what I want to see in a city. Too many people try to see everything in the quide book!!! For example, I plan to be in London for 2 days only. But I only want to see the Tower of London and Westminister Abbey. That's it!! I plan to use the rest of my time walking and soaking in the city. I meet a lot of great local people that way and really get into the atmosphere and get a feel of the city. I used this same strategy for Australia and had a very satistfying vacation. Plus, because I love to travel, what I didn't see the first time , I will see in the second visit. <BR> <BR>Many people see Europe by escorted tour or cruise and don’t have half the time you have. If these are the sites you want to see and you don’t see yourself cutting anything, go for it. If you prefer a vacation that is at a slower pace, then limit yourself to one or two cities. <BR>CAVEAT: THE MORE PEOPLE YOU TRAVEL WITH, THE SLOWER YOU WILL COVER GROUND! I can see a lot by traveling solo. When I have traveled with friends, the pace is much slower, so keep that in mind.

Paula Nov 5th, 2001 07:22 PM

Traveling from Rome to London by train is a very long trip. If you flew you could add an extra day to one of the cities.

Greg Nov 5th, 2001 07:31 PM

Belinda, <BR> <BR>I like your plan, but that's the way I travel. To each his own. You may want to consider going open jaw since you want to go from London to Rome. It would probably be cheaper fly fly back from rome or some other city on this side of the Channel. Check with your travel agent and you may be pleasantly surprised. <BR> <BR>Greg <BR>

grasshopper Nov 5th, 2001 07:39 PM

One thing to keep in mind, when you are travelling by train you are seeing the countryside so all is not a waste. You will view a lot of France and Italy that you would miss if you flew. Consider flying from Rome to London to save some time (although arguably not much when you consider time spent waiting in airports).

Belinda Nov 6th, 2001 02:29 AM

Wow! Thank you all so much for the responses. Maybe I should explain that this is sort of a "scouting trip." I wanted to see a little of everything on my first trip and then, God willing, when I return I'll focus on an area for a week or two. But who knows if I'll ever make it back. The best laid plans ... etc. <BR>I should also point out that I am a very bad flyer, hence the return train trip from Rome to London. My plan was a trip to Europe with as little time in airplanes as possible. Sorry I'm such a wimp. I convinced my friends they would enjoy the scenic trip back to London. <BR>I didn't see any criticism of the cities we chose, so that's good. <BR>What are some of the highlights you good folks would recommend. I have my ideas, but I want to hear your ideas. <BR>Thanks again for all your time.

Belinda Nov 6th, 2001 02:42 AM

Oh yeah. Patrick. I thought your analogy was quite clever. And quite appropriate really. Sort of eating from a buffet table vs from one large pot. Made me hungry though. Wonder if we have any Cap'n Crunch. Got a go...

elaine Nov 6th, 2001 04:42 AM

Belinda <BR>Would you consider going from London <BR>to Rome at the very beginning, and save your time in London until the end? That way during your trip you can make your way back toward London, the last travel bit being <BR>Paris-London. It may not make any difference in actual time spent in each place, but it saves your ending the trip <BR>with a long train trip. This way <BR>you get the long distance traveling over with at the beginning,when you're tired anyway, rather than the bittersweet end of your trip. Or perhaps see London first, and then head to Rome, and backtrack from there. <BR>I think your itinerary is a wonderful <BR>sampler of Europe, and as a fellow museum-nut I think you've chosen places full of treasures to see. <BR>I have files on the cities you will be visiting; if you'd like to see any of them, email me.

Trying Nov 6th, 2001 06:05 AM

My 2 cents. 1. Maybe this has been discussed, but try to make your return trip "open jaws" so you fly into London and home from Rome. 2. GET OUT OF THE CITIES. Your itinerary will be a fun whirlwind, but staying in the cities can be particularly exhausting. Try to fit in a night or two outside the cities.

wes fowler Nov 6th, 2001 06:15 AM

As an introduction to the varied delights of Europe I think your itinerary is fine. Elaine's idea of moving Rome to the beginning of your trip to avoid the lengthy train ride just prior to an equally lengthy flight home makes a great deal of sense. <BR> <BR>Just a thought or two. There's a strong temptation for first timers to Europe to spend every waking minute trying to cover every tourist attraction: the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Rodin Museum, Les Invalides, Samaritaine for examples in Paris with the result that the first timer never really experiences the city itself. Do leave time, significant time, to sit at a sidewalk cafe and absorb the aura of Paris, or Rome or Florence. For a true adventure and to get the sense of Paris for example, visit a bakery, a cheese shop and a butcher's and gather the makings of a picnic lunch, go to the Tuileries or Luxembourg Gardens and discover what makes Paris, Paris. You'll find the experience as rewarding as two hours in the Louvre or an hour's boat ride on the Seine if not more so.

Patrick Nov 6th, 2001 06:31 AM

Isn't it funny how differently we all think? I always am most exhausted when I arrive in Europe after the long flight. I'd hate to immediately get on a train and go all day to get to Rome from London. On the other hand at the end of two exhausting weeks, I wouldn't mind relaxing on that long train ride while I collected my notes and relaxed before that final flight home. Also, for a first trip to Europe, I think it makes a less jarring first blast to start the trip in London where at least you aren't also dealing with the language barrier, etc. Rome and the other cities will seem easier after a few days in London. <BR>On the other hand, if I were you, Belinda, I'd really bite the bullet and try for the open jaw flight as others suggest. Flying directly home from Rome, even if you have to go through London is a lot easier than taking the train all that way and still transfering to the London airport, then taking that long flight home.

Bob Brown Nov 6th, 2001 06:39 AM

If you stick with your sampler program, and I suspect that you have already wed yourself to that schedule and only asked for opinion on this forum for justification rather than purposes of revision, I do suggest that in Paris you avoid the Louvre. It is so vast and so complex that even a full day there is not sufficient. I feel that a half day several times is the way to see it, or follow the Rick Steves suggestion and see less than a dozen items and then get the heck out of there. (Of course Rick has always impressed me as the all time champion skimmer. Quick in, quick out, quick see, move on for more "quickies" [full ramifications, implications, and impact of the term duly noted and somewhat intended]) <BR>After about 4 to 5 hours of visiting the Louvre, I find that I start wandering about the corridors and galleries with a dazed, glassy eyed look, and I really don't know what I saw or where I am going. I just wander, getting more glassy eyed with each passing gallery. I have been to the Lourvre several times, and still need to go back in small increments of time, like 4 hours. <BR>In an earlier post, someone made the comment about traveling alone and being able to cover more ground. That is for sure with some exceptions. I normally avoid prolonged "canned" tours for that reason, although I every once in a while I will take a day tour when it provides transportation, convenience, and economy. I go places with my wife who is the A Number 1, all time champion traveler in that she gets on with it and walks faster than I do. She is also a first rate driver who usually does not blink at any situation. I navigate, and she drives. As a result we get there efficiently, much more so than if I was alone.


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