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Need Advice on France, Germany & Switzerland Itinerary

Need Advice on France, Germany & Switzerland Itinerary

Old Jul 12th, 2018, 01:30 PM
  #1  
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Need Advice on France, Germany & Switzerland Itinerary

We just returned from a wonderful 45 days in Croatia and Italy using great advice from Fodorites. I am once again seeking your opinion on next year's European trip. We have just booked tickets (using miles) to Paris CDG and returning from Zurich. We will have the month of June to travel. We have been to most areas in France except Burgundy and Alsace so wanted to include those areas on our next trip. We loved Provence (the Luberon towns) and the Dordogne area of France.

We are a 65+ couple that is very active and enjoy a mix of large and mid size cities as well as mid size and small towns. We like short hikes, local sights, scenic vistas, castles, palaces and local markets/shopping. We also enjoy visiting worthwhile museums. We are not big wine drinkers but do enjoy a glass of wine with our dinners, so we are not interested in a lot of wine tastings while in Burgundy or Alsace region. However, we do like driving thru wine countries and stopping at small villages.

We've been to Paris on all of our France trips so planned to skip it next time. I've started an itinerary but would appreciate your thoughts. We are not fans of one nighters and avoid them unless the stop truly only warrants one night.

The big question I have, - is the Alsace region and Black Forest area of Germany too similar? Looking at my first cut itinerary, are we overdosing on quaintness?

Days 1 & 2 Arrive CDG late afternoon and pick up car - drive to Fontainebleau, overnight here 2 nights. See the palace and Barbizon museum on day 2
Days 3-5 Beaune (stop at Abbey of Fontenay on drive to Beaune); use the other days to visit towns/villages in area.
Days 6-7 Dijon (drive north from Beaune alone the Route des Grands Crus on way to Dijon)
Days 8-14 Spend the week in Colmar and do day trips to the towns in the Alsace region
Days 15-19 Drive to Gengenbach in the Black Forest and spend 5 days day tripping to the towns in this area
Days 20-22 Drop car at train station in Strasbourg and spend the next 3 days here
Days 23-25 Take train from Strasbourg to Lucerne; spend 3 days here including a day trip to Bern. Does Bern warrant several days?
Days 26--28 Take trains from Lucerne to Wengen and spend 3 days here with day trips to the area
Days 29-30 Zurich
Day 31 Fly home

What are your thoughts on this itinerary? What would you change? Are we overdosing on quaintness?
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Old Jul 12th, 2018, 01:46 PM
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Quaint overdoze

Hello! After I read your itinerary, I realize that we like the same. Quaint villages, beautiful landscapes, cafes, real european feeling.
We are landing in Paris on September 20 and flying out Barcelona, October 1.
Would you help picking the areas that will have a great doze of quantness and French feeling?
we are ok to take trains and rent a car.
Thank you
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Old Jul 12th, 2018, 02:27 PM
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Bern is a nice day trip from Lucerne - especially in poor weather but be sure to take lake boats around Lake Lucerne - and take the Golden Pass scenic train route Lucerne to Interlaken-Ost (regular trains of course run that route too) - check out Berner Oberland Pass covering many things in both Lucerne and Wengen/Interlaken areas. For lots on Swis transports check www.sbb.ch; www.swisstravelsystem.com; BETS-European Rail Experts and www.ricksteves.com. Strasbourg to Lucerne check www.bahn.de/em - German Railways site where you can easily book your own discounted train ticket from Strasbourg (or German station across Rhine) to Lucerne. www.seat61.com has loads on doing that.
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Old Jul 12th, 2018, 03:22 PM
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PalenQ: Thanks for your info on the railways. I haven't quite gotten that far yet so this information will be a big help.

Have you been to Alsace and Black Forest? Are they too similar or different enough for spending our days split between the 2 areas?
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Old Jul 12th, 2018, 03:27 PM
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PalenQ: Thanks for your info on the railways. I haven't quite gotten that far yet so this information will be a big help.

Have you been to Alsace and Black Forest? Are they too similar or different enough for spending our days split between the 2 areas?

Elenewton: After Paris, I would take the train to Nice and spend time in Provence (the Luberon Mountains) before heading to Barcelona. You will need a car to really get around that area. Absolutely loved Provence and there are a lot of beautiful towns/villages to explore. We were there for a week staying in Roussillion. We could have stayed longer.
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Old Jul 12th, 2018, 03:41 PM
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Alsace and Black Forest are very different - at least parts tourists likely go to - Alsace is wine country and Black Forest well forests. 7 days seems like a lot in Alsace but if into wine and wineries could be good. You itinerary is very leisurely - I might suggest adding few days to Switzerland.
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Old Jul 12th, 2018, 04:59 PM
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PalenQ: Where else would you go in Switzerland given that we will leave from Zurich?
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Old Jul 12th, 2018, 05:24 PM
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kja
 
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Should be nice! Just a few comments, as I haven’t been to many of the places you hope to visit:

First, be prepared: I’m about to step on a soapbox: If there is any chance that you will have jet lag, I would strongly encourage you to take public transportation for your first night or two. Although many people are not aware of it, there is mounting evidence that driving with jet lag is just as dangerous -- to yourself and others -- as driving drunk, and nothing you can do will prevent the microsleeps (which you might not even notice) that are the apparent culprit. Seriously -- NOT a good idea, no matter your prior experience! Unfortunately, I know too many people who have died or been seriously injured in accidents to which jet lag was a contributing factor, and I know too many people who will spend the rest of their lives dealing with the knowledge that they were responsible for accidents that resulted in multiple deaths, including those of children, all because they chose to drive with jet lag. The issue has become a bit of cause célèbre for me….

I’m glad I spent more than 2 days in Bern, and would have liked more; YMMV. You can find the report on my month in Switzerland by clicking on my name.
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Old Jul 13th, 2018, 03:40 AM
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A week in Colmar would be 6 days too many for me. Strasbourg has a lot more to offer, and some of the wine towns make a nice counterpoint to it.

I am fond of both Alsace and the Black Forest, and yes, they are different - different landscape, different language, different food, different customs - but not dramatically so. I think Freiburg is one of Europe's major overlooked gems.
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Old Jul 13th, 2018, 04:55 AM
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2 weeks for the area between Strasbourg/Gengenbach and Colmar/Freiburg seems a lot indeed.
I think you will have to plan in detail what exactly you want to see in this area and how much time that will take.
I would drop off the car at Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg airport, French side.

On the way from Wengen to Zurich, you will pass through Berne anyway. Berne (and Basel) is more interesting than Zurich, IMO.
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Old Jul 13th, 2018, 07:47 AM
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Yes to me way too many days in Alsace and Black Forest - and I'd add days to Switzerland and take the Golden Pass scenic train from Interlaken to Montreux and spend few days on Lake Geneva - so much to easily see and do there. And only few hours by train back to Zurich.
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Old Jul 13th, 2018, 08:00 AM
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kja: Thanks for your warning about jet lag. We will be flying business class and always sleep on the way over so we rarely have jet lag when we arrive in our European destination. I don't want a long drive on our day of arrival so that is why I picked Fontainebleau, plus it's not as expensive as Paris
I just read your Switzerland trip report - wow you sure moved around a lot! We will certainly use some of your suggestions. I read your Croatia trip report from 2009 and am sure I must have taken some of your suggestions on that area when we planned our recent trip as we visited most of the places you did. We also spend 30 days there and just loved it.
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Old Jul 13th, 2018, 08:07 AM
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StCirq, neckervd, PalenQ: Thank you for your comments. Sounds like we do have too many days planned in Alsace. I thought maybe it was like Provence where we could spend a week exploring the small towns but will re-look at our time there and add more in Switzerland even though it is very expensive there! I will re-work our itinerary and post a revised one for your additional comments. I always appreciate your advice as it's been very valuable in my past trip planning.

StCirq: How easy it is to make day trips in and out of Strasbourg if we stayed there? Also, would you do Beaune and Dijon from Paris or head to Reims and maybe stop in Nancy before reaching Alsace region?
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Old Jul 13th, 2018, 08:21 AM
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I've based in Strasbourg and did day trips to Baden-Baden, Germany just across the Rhine but not that many great day trips easily done except to Colmar area where you will stay. I'd consider taking train Strasbourg/Colmar to Basel and maybe using a Swiss Travel Pass to go to Lake Geneva, Interlaken, Lucerne to Zurich.
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Old Jul 13th, 2018, 06:01 PM
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kja
 
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It’s nice to know that you found some of my suggestions about Croatia useful, and I hope you find my report on Switzerland helpful, too. BTW, I’m unusual in that I actually far prefer changing hotels to backtracking to a base. One could easily have visited all the places I saw in Switzerland with just 4 or 5 bases.

I’m glad you appreciated my warning about jet lag. Unfortunately, although I'm glad that you can sleep on flights, I must persist: The microsleeps that are the main cause of accidents when driving after shifting time zones (or work shifts) aren’t dependent on getting sleep or not, they result from shifting your waking / sleep cycle away from the one to which you are accustomed. Driving two hours without giving your biological clocks time to adjust is as dangerous as driving drunk, and I don’t know anyone who says its OK to drive drunk as long as its only two hours.
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Old Jul 13th, 2018, 11:15 PM
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My tweaks

Days 1 -2 Arrive CDG late afternoon and pick up car - drive to Fontainebleau for (2 nights)
Days 3-4 Dijon (stop at Abbey of Fontenay and VEZELAY on drive to Dijon) (2 nights)
Days 5-7 Beaune (3nights)
Days 8-13 Riquewihir (6 nights)
Days 14-16 Freiburg (3nights)
Days 17-18 Gengenbach (2 nights)
Days 19-21 Strasbourg. Turn in car (3 nights)
Days 22-23 Bern (train) (2 nights)
Days 24-25 Lucerne (train) (2 nights)
Days 26-29 Wengen (train) or Grindelwald (better for taking day trips) (4 nights)
Day 30 Zurich (1 night)
Day 31 Fly home

https://goo.gl/maps/CHX8DzCF4GG2
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Old Jul 13th, 2018, 11:21 PM
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kja
 
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Originally Posted by dugi_otok View Post
Wengen (train) or Grindelwald (better for taking day trips) (4 nights)
I think you'll find that Fodorites have a range of opinions on this one! I'd go for Wengen rather Grindelwald in a heart beat, and if ease of day trips is an issue, I'd go for Lauterbrunnen rather than Grindelwald. But as I said, lots of different opinions about where best to base for the Bernese Oberland!
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Old Jul 14th, 2018, 01:59 AM
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Be aware that Gengenbach is only 20 miles southeast of Strasbourg.
The possible day trips from both places are more or less the same.
I would consider the Upper Rhine Valley between Baden-Baden and Basel as a whole entity, without distinguishing between France and Germany.

Most popular places in the greater area:
Nancy, Speyer, Heidelberg, Bretten, Baden-Baden, Strasbourg, Gengenbach, Hochkoenigsburg, Riquewihr, Ribeauville, Colmar, Freiburg, Titisee, Ecomusee d'Alsace, Route des Cretes, Gd Ballon d'Alsace, Mulhouse, Basel

Last edited by neckervd; Jul 14th, 2018 at 02:09 AM.
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Old Jul 14th, 2018, 03:41 AM
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To answer your question, I have found that traffic can be a pain getting in and out of Strasbourg, BUT I have almost always been in Strasbourg in the fall, when heavy fog in the mornings and evenings can be an issue, so I can't really speak to what you would encounter in June.

I would probably opt for Beaune and Dijon over Reims, but I have zero interest in champagne, so that colors my preferences. Nancy is a lovely place.
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Old Jul 14th, 2018, 08:22 AM
  #20  
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Fellow Fodorites:
Thanks all for your suggestions. Lots of variations and certainly a lot to think about. I need to do some more reading about each area and will tweak my itinerary for further critique. Thank you again!
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