Jan 11th, 2014, 04:04 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 7

My wife and I are planning a trip to Europe for our 25th anniversary. We're flying from Birmingham AL to London, taking the train from London to Paris, and then we might take the overnight train from Paris to Rome. We're going in May. I've traveled Europe a bit with work, but I'm not a seasoned traveler. We haven't learned the language, which I wish we had time to do. We'll have 4-6 days in each location.

I'd love any information on how to make this trip successful. I'd really be interested in hearing opinions on travelling via Thello. I married a terrific girl and would like to give her an experience of a lifetime, so any info would be appreciated. We haven't yet booked airfare.

We're pretty excited, so thanks in advance for any suggestions!

theshers is offline  
Jan 11th, 2014, 04:35 PM
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Um - there's not on language in europe But in those cities you should do fine with English - but do learn the appropriate polite phrases in both French and Italian. And do bring a menu reader (You want to avoid restaurants that have menus in 9 languages - the food is usually poor and prices high (except for a few very upscale places that will offer menus in English - with good food and very high prices).

Without knowing your interests it's difficult to provide info.

I suggest you start with a few quality guide books and start thinking about your must sees, learning the geography of the cities so you can pick hotel areas - and also develop a budget so people can make recos within your parameters (realize hotels are mostly older, with quite small rooms and prices much higher than you are used to for the same amenities/ quality.)
nytraveler is offline  
Jan 12th, 2014, 12:52 AM
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"We haven't learned the language,"

Which language would that be then?
Hooameye is offline  
Jan 12th, 2014, 12:56 AM
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This site gives great info on trains
jamikins is offline  
Jan 12th, 2014, 01:14 AM
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We rented an apartment in Rome and thought it was the most wonderful and romantic stay we had in the city. We could shop at the local markets together, cook our own romantic meals together (if we wanted... we ate out as well!) and just generally lived like locals.

I highly recommend it. We have rented apartments in other European cities as well with similar success, but not London or Paris. I would be more than happy to provide my insights in this regard if you are interested.

Don't worry about language(s). Learn Hello, Please, Thank-you, Good Bye and Do You Speak English in the local language. Use the pleasantries unfailingly, even if the rest of the conversation is conducted in English . Use google translate as required. But most people speak some English, particularly in the hospitality industries of these cities.
KMacK_ca is offline  
Jan 12th, 2014, 04:16 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 7
Really looking for feedback on Thello - whether it's worth it to take the train or plane Paris-> Rome, places to stay, or just things folks really enjoyed in these cities. Thoughts appreciated.
theshers is offline  
Jan 12th, 2014, 04:23 AM
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I would fly. I have taken an overnight train Paris to Venice and didn't really enjoy it. I didn't get a very good sleep.
jamikins is offline  
Jan 12th, 2014, 05:12 AM
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London, Paris and Rome are great destinations for first time travellers to Europe. After two dozen or more trips, they are still my favorite destinations. And 4-6 days will be a good amount of time in each city. With 6 days, you can take day trips into the countryside.

Get a good guidebook for each of the cities - we like the Michelin Green Guides but it helps to check out the different guides at the library before deciding which you prefer. The trip reports on this forum will give you lots of ideas as will the "Destinations" tab at the top of this page.

Consider whether you want to stay in hotels or apartments. I suggest hotels for a first stay in any city as you have the hotel staff to help with questions, directions, reservations, etc.

Have fun planning - you will have a great experience
mamcalice is offline  
Jan 17th, 2014, 10:47 AM
Original Poster
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Posts: 7
Thanks for the great replies, especially around language. We haven't learned French or Italian, and could understand how a local might feel if someone showed up without even trying (ie like here in the states). We have a short window and two languages, so I'm going to take KMacK_ca's advise on learning the basic pleasantries.

Any other comments on areas to stay, areas to avoid, things that you recommend visiting - please continue to share!
theshers is offline  
Jan 17th, 2014, 11:14 AM
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So you're just going to the 3 cities, right? Nothing of the countryside except what might be seen on a day trip?

Areas to stay: center of the city, not too close to a train station, is a good general rule. In Paris the 4th, 5th and 5th arrondissements are good. The 7th if you like it quieter. London is pretty spread out. No one area is convenient walking distance to all the main sights. Learn to use the tube and the bus. Ditto the metro and the buses in Paris, but tourist Paris is more compact. In Rome stay around the Piazza Navona, Campo dei Fiori, Spanish Steps. You can get around Rome's historic center pretty well on foot.

Be prepared to walk a lot. Bring comfortable supportive walking shoes.

Re: airfare. Fly open jaws into London, out of Rome. Or vice versa. This is called multi-city on airline websites and should cost about the same as round-trip. Plus you save the time and expense of backtracking to your arrival city.

Guidebooks and sites like Fodors' Destinations will tell you the most popular and important sights. For more personalized recommendations we need to know your interests. For hotels we need to know your budget. Also what time of year will you be traveling?
Mimar is offline  
Jan 17th, 2014, 11:15 AM
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Any other comments on areas to stay, areas to avoid, things that you recommend visiting - please continue to share!

General questions like this are best answered with your own research. This is primarily a DIY-first forum. Prep your trip, find stuff you like and then ask about those things that interested YOU to get feedback. There's no shortage of resources

You're going to big cities, you won't need to learn "the language," just the please, thanks, where's the toilet are necessary. Much to the Francophones' chagrin, English is the lingua franca in Europe.

That said, an English-American slang translator could help in London.

Finally, this will be the best two pieces of advice you can get for London:

(1) Go to and print out every voucher for every site that interests you. Bring extra passport-size photos for you and your wife with you to London. Purchase seven-day PAPER Travelcards (flimsy, plastic-coated, orange) at a national rail (Waterloo, Euston, Victoria, etc.) station. When you go to a site covered by the vouchers (the Tower, Hampton Court Palace, HMS Belfast, Churchill War Rooms, etc), present your travelcard and voucher and receive TWO admissions for the price of ONE. This saves about $33 (US) on admission to the Tower, $26 on admission to Hampton Court Palace, etc.

(2) Do NOT get a London Pass.
BigRuss is offline  
Jan 17th, 2014, 11:32 AM
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Before you proceed with Paris->Rome night train, make sure you want to do this by looking up the schedule. Consider pros and cons unless taking an overnight train is a life goal for both of you.

The easiest site to use is
Plug in Paris and Rome. The Thello appears on the schedule as EN221.

For example, the schedule for Jan 21 is
Paris Gare de Lyon 19:59 Milano Centrale 06:00
Milano Centrale 06:23 ES 9503 Roma Tiburtina or 07:25 ES 9609 to Roma Termini.

Do you really want to get up in time for getting off the train at 6:00am when you "would like to give her an experience of a lifetime?"

Lack of language beyond "good morning","good evening", "thank you", "please", "good bye" is not crippling. Lack of manner is. But the manner important to the local is not necessarily what you think. In France, if you enter a small store/restaurant, you must say "Bonjour", during the day time, even if there is no one in particular to address. Failure to greet when entering a small establishment is nearly a certain way to expect a cold reception afterwards. This is not necessary at anonymous mega stores like Galeries Lafayette. I often see Americans walking up to a counter and say something like "I want two bottles of water." This approach would likely to be met with so called "French rudeness." The locals don't do this and neither should you. A better approach is "Bonjour. English ok? I would like two bottles of water please." You really don't need to know many phrases.

In Italy, just repeat the process using a few Italian phrases.
greg is offline  
Jan 17th, 2014, 12:41 PM
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Posts: 680
If I were going in May, I might fly into Rome and work my way north to take advantage of the weather. Fly home from London. My other advice is to pack LIGHT. We went to France and Italy for a month with carry on luggage only because of advice I got on this site. It was so liberating. We brought mix and match and layers. We could either wash things out in the sink or, in our case, we did laundry once a week. I will never travel with a big suitcase again!!
jane1144 is offline  
Jan 17th, 2014, 01:14 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 2,160
If you are just doing cities you might also like the small Lonely Planet "Pocket" guidebooks. They are organized by neighborhood and include sights, restaurants, shopping, evenings out. LP used to be known for more "budget" or "backpacker" style travel but I have found these Pocket guides have fun, insightful ideas for anyone on any budget. And they are small and easy to carry in a pocket.
laurie_ann is offline  
Jan 17th, 2014, 01:22 PM
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Posts: 78,339
Really looking for feedback on Thello - whether it's worth it to take the train or plane Paris-> Rome, places to stay, or just things folks really enjoyed in these cities. Thoughts appreciated.>

Not an option as I believe that night train has been scrubbed last fall - the only option is to take the Paris to Venice overnight train and change at a place before Venice for trains to Rome.

Venice to me is the world's most unique and beautiful city and on a wedding anniversary, if you can escape the maddening cfrowds, easy to do, so so romantic.

For lots about Thello night trains and trains in general check out yes who has a report on his experience on Thello and updates and also and The Paris to Rome Thello was cancelled due to a lack of riders many attribute to poor service - the fate of the Paris to Venice night train remains dubious but at last note was still running.

For Eurostar tickets Paris to London it is imperative to book ASAP - limited numbers of deep discounted tickets are sold - just show up and pay literally $100 or so each more - but discounted tickets are non-changeable non-refundable so be sure of your dates. for info and easy booking and print your own ticket at home.

Inside Italy long-distance trains also have discounted and limited in number and locked in stone fares - though savings are not usually as significant as on the Eurostar trains.
PalenQ is offline  
Jan 17th, 2014, 02:26 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 78,339
Here is what Man in Seat 61 says on his web site about the Thello Paris to Rome/Florence train:

Paris-Florence-Rome Thello sleeper train withdrawn from December...2013
Thello have announced that with only 30% occupancy, they will withdraw their Paris-Florence-Rome sleeper from the December timetable change. I'm sure if they hadn't mis-managed it so badly, it wouldn't have got such bad reviews, and more people would have used it. They will instead offer integrated ticketing with high-speed daytime train connections to and from Milan - but do you really want to get up for a 05:38 arrival? The daytime Paris to Milan TGV trains get far better reviews (in fact, almost always very good ones!).
PalenQ is offline  
Jan 17th, 2014, 04:57 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 57,890
For places to stay you need to give us a specific nightly budget - in $ pounds or euros - and what you would expect for that. Hotel rooms in europe tend to be very small unless you are staying at truly upscale places with prices to match.
nytraveler is offline  
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