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Need Advice from Veteran European Travellers

Need Advice from Veteran European Travellers

Apr 20th, 2004, 08:37 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Apr 2004
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Need Advice from Veteran European Travellers

I will be leaving for a three-week European trip with my 25 year old daughter on May 12. We will fly into London and take the Eurostar directly to Paris. The remainder of the trip will be by Eurail and will include (in addition to Paris): Amsterdam, Zurich, Venice, Florence, Rome, and finally London. Have spent a great deal of time in London, some in Paris, but the other cities will be new to us both. The Eurail passes are ordered and the hotels are booked ... now need some info/advice on more practical matters. Are ATM machines easy to find in train stations? We will be travelling light ... how about laundry? We will be staying in small hotels and not sure if washers etc. are readily available. Any advice regarding "getting around"? We are quite comfortable with "the tube" and "metro" and plan on a lot of walking, but realize that we may have to rely on public transport at some point along the way. We would like to stay in touch with Dad as we go ... some hotels list "internet" as an amenity but we are not lugging a laptop along with us. How about internet cafes? Any advice as to places to eat? We are not into haute cuisine and prefer simple and unpretentious surroundings ... and "native" food. Being from Chicago we have access to wonderful restaurants of all kinds and would prefer to eat Italian in Italy, Dutch in Amsterdam, etc. Any other things I may not have though of? Would appreciate any information you may have.
Thanks!
ejkonz is offline  
Apr 20th, 2004, 08:47 AM
  #2  
 
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Sounds like you have a great trip planned! I probably won't be able to answer all your questions, but I'll answer some. First of all, ATM's are extremely easy to find. We just got back from Austria, Italy and Germany and never once had a problem finding an ATM, especially in the train stations. Not sure about the laundry. As far as getting around, most cities have decent public transportation systems. When we were in Florence we walked everywhere. Most of the attractions in Florence are all fairly close to one another and easy to walk to. Rome has a decent underground system, although its not very extensive. However, there are lots of buses around both cities. There were free internet access on a public computer at one of my hotels; the others were older. As we were walking around, we saw quite a few internet cafes so that part shouldn't be a problem. As far as food is concerned, I don't have any real suggestions. We just looked around at menus until we found somewhere that looked interesting, and never had any problems!

Good luck!
Tracy
tcreath is offline  
Apr 20th, 2004, 08:52 AM
  #3  
 
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There will be ATMs in major train stations & airports. They may not always be working or easy to find. My rule-of-thumb is to never have less local currency on me that I would need to get to a place to get more. [such as to my hotel] Most of the countries you are visiting are on the Euro so that's not a biggie.

As for laundry. You have options: pay terrible hotel rates [although one-two stars aren't as likely to have that service] -- find a laundromat [not easy in some cities -- everyone has their own little appartment sized machine in Europe.] and spend a morning doing that [or if you can find a laundromat -- ask if they ahve a wash/dry/fold service] or wash things out in your sink and hang them out to dry. While I've had some interesting experiences in local laundromats, unless you are going for a longer period of time it's a waste of your time. I choose the "sink" method with one caveat. Be thoughtful of your hotel owner and chambermaid. While I may leave a lot of towels very damp, I seldom leave anything hanging during the day. May I also recommend the hair dryer as a great little helper when there is one stubborn damp spot left and you want to wear it NOW!

As for you other questions.
1. You are worrying too much.
2. Your guidebooks have this information [or the internet]or
4. It is easily available when you get there.
sfowler is offline  
Apr 20th, 2004, 08:58 AM
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I know there is at least one place in Rome that is an internet cafe and laundromat combination, near Termini station. If you're in that area at a point when you need to do laundry, you might look at that option and kill two birds with one stone. Not sure if these are prevalent elsewhere.
Vickitty is offline  
Apr 20th, 2004, 09:03 AM
  #5  
Singletail
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The only place you'll have to worry about currency will be upon arrival in Switzerland where you will be much better off using Swiss Francs than trying to use Euros..it can be done in a few places but I wouldn't hassle with that.
As others have said, ATMs are available in SOME rail stations, certainly in the larger ones. If, for some reason, you get somewhere and there isn't one or the one you find isn't working, banks in Europe have them just as they do here...so look for the nearest bank but use the MACHINE to change money in any event.

Laundry..be prepared to use the sink a lot I suppose unless you can find a laundromat..the hotels can tell you about those as do some guidebooks.

Amsterdam...if you are arriving at Centraal Station go out the front door and you'll find a VVV tourist office right there which can sell you tickets for the local metro and trams.
 
Apr 20th, 2004, 09:06 AM
  #6  
 
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Switzerland is not part of the EU so they use Swiss Francs which you get from ATMs
Rusalka is offline  
Apr 20th, 2004, 09:13 AM
  #7  
ira
 
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Hi ej,

In Florence there is a laundermat not far from the train station that does wash/dry/fold:

Lavarapido ad Acqua
Via della Scala 52/54R
open 0800 ? 2200.
ira is online now  
Apr 20th, 2004, 09:16 AM
  #8  
 
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You'll have a blast. My wife (from the Netherlands) and I take our three kids to either the Netherlands or France every 18 months. We normally rent a house for a month, move in and explore a 100km radius. I'm sending my 11-yr-old daughter to her aunt in the Netherlands for a month in June.

I have some bits of advice:

1) if you need a car in Paris (or in London for that matter), run to Easycar.com. Book early, follow their rules. several locations in Paris. Very inexpensive - "A-Class" Mercedes (like a miniature ML class) @ Monparnasse and other locations.

2) when in the Netherland, eat what the Dutch eat - Indonesian, pannekook (crepes) and herring (raw, w/onions). A'dam is alright - try to get to Alkmaar/Heiloo (1 hr from a'dam by train) and the beaches at Egmond and Bergen (by bus). Get out the the A'Dam CS asap.

3) three weeks SOUNDS like a long time - try not to do too much. Judging by the cities you've selected, travel will eat about a day/leg.

4) for clean, inexpensive, safe hotels in France and elsewhere, go to accor.com. We like the "Etap" franchise. Around 30E/night. A great one at Charles de Gaille. Otherwise, reference the "Go Europe" series of travel books.

5) we like to eat at Brassarie's. Reasonably priced and convenient.

6) buy and use an international phone card. consider - a cell phone, many can be found on the internet and will ship it to Chicago before you depart.

Good Luck
ragedrooster is offline  
Apr 20th, 2004, 09:23 AM
  #9  
 
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Regarding internet cafes, I've used EasyEverything whenever I can. They're cheap and convenient. I've used them in London, Brussels, Paris and Amsterdam (and also NYC). I'm sure that there'll be lots of other choices. As long as your e-mail is web-based, there shouldn't be any problems with net access. The only problems I had was to get used to European keyboards with a different positioning of the keys. With EasyEverything, it's not uncommon to pay 1 Euro for about half an hour (or even an hour -- usage depends on how busy they are at that time). But in any case internet cafes should be omnipresent in the large cities.

111op is offline  
Apr 20th, 2004, 09:25 AM
  #10  
 
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You really don't need to worry about any of the points you've mentioned. There are plenty of ATMs, Internet Cafes, fantasic restaurants, etc. Bring enough underwear so you'll not have to worry about that and then forget about laundry. Always give yourselves plenty of time to make trains, etc., and be flexible. Sometimes those schedules are way off. Watch out that you don't get dehydrated - carry a bottle of water with you. Remember that the people you'll encounter are more important than the places you'll go! Florence, Venice, and Rome are so wonderful. Drink lots of wine and eat lots of gelato. If you have any chance to travel a bit in Tuscany and Umbria regions - Lucca is so magical and Spoleto and Perugia are fantasic. I'd visit Lucca in a heartbeat before Siena or Pisa. Another place that is magical is the Cinque Terre. You can take the train from Florence. Venice has gotten awfully expensive but there are lovely restaurants and trattorias off the beaten paths. The best food I have ever eaten in Italy (and I used to live there) is at Zsa Zsa's in Florence.
I hope you'll have a wonderful, stress free visit!
summer1 is offline  
Apr 20th, 2004, 09:47 AM
  #11  
 
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Laundry in Rome -

In 1997 we did our laundry at the Launderette OndaBlu located on Via Principe Amedeo, in the neighborhood around the train station. Open 7 days a week, from 8:00-22:00. Peace.

Robyn
artstuff is offline  
Apr 20th, 2004, 10:09 AM
  #12  
 
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Hi
If having the hotel arrange for the laundry isn't in the budget (sometimes it seems not overly expensive, other times it's outrageous) then you might want to opt for the in-sink approach, at least for small items that dry relatively quickly.

Here are a couple of tips I've picked up over the years, probably right here.
Magellan's and other travel supply companies sell retractable clotheslines and also plastic clothespins with hooks at the top for hooking over shower heads or shower rods. Also, bring some children's latex balloons. The idea is, you blow up the balloon and insert it inside the garment to separate the wet front from the wet back--speeds the drying process.

You can purchase Woolite in little one-use packets, or other products in dr form, so that you don't have to worry about spillage or extra weight in your luggage.

In Venice there is a coin-operated laundry and dry cleaning establishment Lavanderia Gabriella, Calle Fiubera, San Marco 985 phone 041 522 1758. Washing machines available from 8am to 7pm daily, and dry cleaning services Mon-Sat 8am to 12:30 and 3-7. (check those hours) For more info on laundries and dry cleaners, go to timeout.com/venice

Rome is so large that you'd want to find a laundromat that is convenient to your hotel. If you will be planning to book any walking tours with Enjoy Rome, it happens that next door to that agency, I am told, is a laundromat and internet access place.

internet cafe search engine:
www.cybercaptive.com
elaine is offline  
Apr 26th, 2004, 08:17 PM
  #13  
 
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As to internet sites: we usually use a public library. Most are free; some charge a small fee, but it is considerably less than the cafes usually charge. The only drawback is that occasionally you have to make a reservation for a computer and then return later to use it.
flobullock is offline  
Apr 26th, 2004, 08:46 PM
  #14  
 
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I can only speak to Venice and Amsterdam from personal experience. I never looked for an ATM at a train station but they are readily available all over town. I saw many internet cafes in Amsterdam, cost was very reasonable. To find laundry options and appealing restaurants, I keep my eyes open wandering around during the day in the neighborhood near my hotel. In Amsterdam I had great Greek and Italian food (go figure!) though I know a 'rice table' is something worth seeking out.

Think European and air out your outer clothing each evening and wash them less than you would at home. Lightweight shirts and undies in the hotel sink using their shampoo, hang to dry.
suze is online now  
Apr 27th, 2004, 08:26 AM
  #15  
 
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ATMs are widely available in Europe, to the point that I am frustrated when at home, where there are not nearly so many. Only twice have we found one not working, and in each instance there was a working one within a few meters.

Laundry seemed to be a major problem. My observation is that few small hotels have laundry facilities, but some have an arrangement with an off-site laundry. We ended up buying clothes made with micro-fiber, which supposedly dries quickly, and using the sink or shower. Actually, this worked well in those countries where a washcloth is considered a personal item, and the hotels don't have them. Our ultimate solution has been to stay in apartments (we like to spend at least a week in any location) that have washer-dryers. We use the washer-dryer overnight or during the day while we are out, and carry less than half the clothes we used to.

On restaurants, I spend a lot of time with guidebooks, this site and Frommers, and these boards. Do searches for restaurant and town name, and you will find a wealth of information. I always have a list of recommended restuarants, and their map coordinates, before we arrive, but we often just peruse the menus posted in the windows when we see some place interesting.

We always walk or use public transportation or cabs, and places like Venice and Florence are best explored on foot.

My experience is that hotels that list internet as available often just have the port, and you are expected to have your own pc. Since I don't carry one, (although I am thinking that it would be a good way to carry all the information I put in my paper files), we just use internet cafes, and they seem to be everywhere.

Enjoy your trip.
clevelandbrown is offline  
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