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Our 'trip of a lifetime'in Europe - trip report

Our 'trip of a lifetime'in Europe - trip report

Old Dec 12th, 2013, 08:52 PM
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Our 'trip of a lifetime'in Europe - trip report

We've been home for a while now but I thought I would post a belated trip report, partly to thank all those people whose advice I took, either directly or by reading their trip reports.
We are in our seventies, love travel but aware that time is running out so decided this would be the last big overseas trip. We both had places we wanted to visit, either for the first time or because we just loved them. One of the latter is the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland. There were so many places we wanted to visit in a relatively short time (six weeks) so we knew that we would have to limit the number of nights in each place and tried to set a minimum of two nights at each town. We also decided on a combination of cruising and independent travel, and chose May/June as the best time to travel for us.
We flew from Australia to Singapore and overnighted there to help overcome the long flight. Next stop was Zurich. We arrived about 7 am, had coffee, used the ATM, validated our Eurail passes and caught the train to Konstanz on the border of Switzerland and Germany. We wanted to visit Meersburg and Konstanz seemed a good base for a two night stay. We found our hotel, the Augustiner Tor, which was only minutes away from the railway station. Our room was on the top floor, comfortable, very clean and with a good bathroom. We had lunch and a wander around the town, and fell into bed very early.
I should say at this point that I booked all our hotels using www.booking.com and had absolutely no problems. The criteria was easy walking from the railway station, light bright room (hate dark rooms) and breakfast included to give us an early start each morning. I spend hours on the computer comparing rooms to try and get the best room at the best value. We paid from 62 euros to 230 euros per night depending on the location and in some cases, we paid more to have a room with a view or a balcony.
Next day was wet and cold but we were on the early ferry across the lake to Meersburg. Such a pretty town, as so many towns are in Europe. We walked and walked, had coffee, had lunch and eventually took the ferry back to Konstanz in time for dinner and a good night's sleep.
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Old Dec 13th, 2013, 03:56 AM
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Interesting start... I'll be along for the ride! ;^)
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Old Dec 13th, 2013, 06:16 AM
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Old Dec 13th, 2013, 10:04 AM
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Old Dec 13th, 2013, 10:26 AM
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Marg:
I'm with you if I can find some time to do so. Then again, you have such a negative attitude.."time is running out"...sheeesh! Who says this is your last trip? Unless it's your doctor (I hope not)..a positive attitude toward what life has in store for you is most vital at any age. I'm two months away from 85...all I can say to you, in the immortal words of The Grateful Dead, "keep on truckin'!"...and Travel til you unravel! Now let's read the rest of your report...but no more nonsense. That's my sermon for today.
Stu
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Old Dec 13th, 2013, 12:01 PM
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Hi Stu,
You are right and I'm pleased that you are still travelling at 84 and 10 months!

Part 2 - On the train again, this time to Como via Zurich. We left in the rain and arrived in brilliant sunshine, found our hotel (Hotel Borgovico) which was not at all what we expected but delightful. My husband swears that it had the best hotel bathroom we have ever had. We spent the afternoon wandering around Como and then had dinner at a very nice restaurant near the hotel - great food and we ended up having dinner there every night - Trattorini Pizzeria.

We woke up to sunshine - a perfect day to spend on Lake Como so walked into town and got the slow boat to Bellagio. Such pretty towns and scenery along the way and we fell in love with Bellagio. We wandered up and down the hills, and along the waterfront, and thoroughly enjoyed our day out.
Unfortunately the next day was gloomy but it was perfect weather to look around Como with the beautiful Duomo and lovely shops. What a shame that we were carrying luggage and I couldn't really shop.

Another train trip, this time to Venice via Milan. We love train travel in Europe, so easy and so comfortable and so efficient. We arrived in rain and wind, started walking to our hotel (Carlton Capri) and got to the first bridge. Ï'll carry the luggage" said my husband. I thought there goes our holiday - he'll be in hospital with a heart attack. Fortunately a porter came along at the right time and believe me, it was worth every euro to have the luggage taken off our hands and escorted right to the hotel - we would have been wandering around for hours. The weather didn't stop us walking around Venice in the rain and the wind, broken umbrellas piled up in heaps everywhere, water lapping over the footpaths.

The next day we bought vaporetto passes and off we went exploring Venice, armed with rain coats, umbrellas and cameras. What a fascinating place. I'm a fan of Donna Leon's books and loved that so much that she had written about came to life, particularly the men selling umbrellas. One moment umbrellas in the rain, out comes the sun and it's sunglasses, then handbags spread on the footpaths as evening comes. Loved loved loved Venice.


We wanted (this was one of my choices) to see some of the Greek Islands so sailed out of Venice on the Norwegian Jade for a week visiting Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos and Katakolon. It was only a taste but we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise and the little of Greece that we saw.

The ship returned to Venice and we were on the train again - this time to Locarno. This was almost a random choice but a very good one. Yet another place that we would love to return to. We couldn't believe how convenient our hotel (Hotel Geranio Au Lac) was - five minutes from the railway station. I had booked a room with a balcony overlooking the lake so our first move was to the balcony with the cameras. Our room was big, spotless, quiet , and breakfast the next morning was excellent. The friendly receptionist gave me lots of suggestions of good things to do so we spent the afternoon walking around the lake and checking out places to eat.

The following day was one out of the box - such a lovely location and beautiful sunshine. We took the funicular and the cable car to the top of the mountain - fantastic views over the lake and town. Back to the lake again and we took the ferry to Asconia. Such a pretty town and another place we would love to visit again.
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Old Dec 13th, 2013, 05:45 PM
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Part 3

From Locarno we took the train directly to Lucerne. We had visited before and wanted to do something different, so on the advice of the tourist bureau we took the ferry across the lake and then the cog railway to Mount Rigi. The nice lady at the tourist bureau said ïf you are lucky and the sun is out, the views are magnificent". Well, we were lucky, blue skies and brilliant sunshine and views to die for. We had a fabulous day and would recommend this to anyone.

I had always wanted to stay in one of the hotels by the river in Lucerne so this time we stayed at Hotel des Alpes with our window overlooking the covered bridge. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time hanging out of the window with the camera.
Pouring with rain and bitterly cold the next day, we took the train to Grindelwald and to our delight, it started snowing. You will understand, that as Australians, we rarely see snow so this was a bonus, not a problem. We arrived in Grindelwald to see everything covered in snow so we were out there with the cameras taking photo after photo.

This was our third visit to the Bernese Oberland (husband's choice but I love it too) and on previous visits we had stayed at Lauterbrunnen, but chose Grindelwald this time as a different option. Because of the weather we were limited in our activities during the three days we were there but still wandered around the area and saw as much as possible. We had booked a room with a balcony facing the Eiger at the Hotel Bernerhof but all we saw was clouds, rain and snow but still loved our stay there. The hotel was very comfortable and opposite the railway station so very convenient.


We had to get to Rotterdam to join our next cruise and knew that we had to cover some ground quickly so the next three days it was train journey in the morning, check into hotel, have lunch and sightsee in the afternoon. We knew we would only get a taste of the cities we visited but a taste was better than nothing. So from Grindelwald we went to Bern - our only down day as we got lost, it was pouring with rain, we didn't like the hotel and really had the miseries. But the day got better as we wandered into the old part of the city, loved the architecture, great atmosphere and found a Thai restaurant for a very pleasant dinner.

Next day it was Strasbourg - brilliant sunshine, loved our hotel (Best Western Monopole Metropole). It was Sunday, lots of people around, we had lunch under a big old tree in Petit France , walked and walked, saw the cathedral and generally fell in love with Strasbourg.

On to Luxembourg the next day - arrived by lunchtime, found some food and again walked and walked. We stayed at the Hotel Empire which was opposite the railway station, fairly basic but comfortable and run by nice people. This was a city not generally on the tourist route but a really nice place to visit.

From Luxembourg we went to Bruges - one of our all-time favourite places. We stayed at the Novotel - good spacious room, pleasant dining room and short walking distance to all we wanted to see. We had three nights here and could easily have stayed longer. We did all the tourist things - took a canal boat ride, walked to Minnewater and visited the Begijnhof . We had the best ever waffles with strawberries and cream at the 't Pallieterke opposite the visitors'centre. - had to go back the next day for more! This was our second visit to Bruges and on the previous visit we had toured around the area. This time we just wanted to soak in the atmosphere in the city.

Our next stop was Rotterdam where we joined the Holland America Rotterdam for a two week cruise along the Norwegian coast. We had visited Norway before and always wanted to see more of this country. Loved the cruise, loved the absolutely beautiful scenery. We visited many places including Flam (went on the railway), Geiranger, Trondheim, Tromso, Alesund, Bergen, Honingsvag and finally Stavanger.

We docked back again in Rotterdam and took the train into Amsterdam for our last night in Europe. The Riksmuseum had been partly closed on our last visit to Amsterdam but had just re-opened so that was one of the places we wanted to see. We had visited Amsterdam several times so this was a very brief visit before flying home.

A great holiday, or as my husband continually says, "the trip of a lifetime".
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Old Dec 13th, 2013, 06:54 PM
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You visited some of my favorite places in the world! Sounds like you had a wonderful time. The cruises allowed a little relaxation, but you guys were on the move! The Bernese Oberland has taken over my all time favorite. Don't know your ages, but I feel sure you will return. I'm no spring chicken and I still go to Europe 3-4 a year. I just love it! Travel is my only vice.
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Old Dec 13th, 2013, 11:38 PM
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Hi Marg
I enjoyed reading your trip report. You visited some of my very favourite places.

We staying in Wengen in September and it snowed 1 night and yes we were very excited too! We also stayed in Belagio on the same trip and loved it.

I like the sound of your Greek cruise and will add it to "my list" And your Norwegian cruise sounded great too.

Sounds like you did lots over your 6 weeks and lots of variety too.

Thanks for sharing.
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Old Dec 14th, 2013, 05:12 AM
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LOL. Can't imagine getting excited about snow... -25 C with 25 cm of snow expected today where I live. (
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Old Dec 14th, 2013, 10:32 AM
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Now you're talking, Marg..great, concise and informative TR...you seemed to have used each day of your six weeks to your complete advantage. That's a good score! Happy travels...many, many more.
stu
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Old Dec 17th, 2013, 01:36 PM
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Really enjoyed reading this Marg as we love travelling around by train and many of the places you have mentioned are favourites.
I do understand that feeling about being so far away and thinking we might never get back to Europe - but fingers crossed there will be many more trips to come.
I am still excited when we encounter snow - given that it is going to be 38C (100F) here today and 40C (104F) tomorrow.
I am envious of Melnq8 who has just posted that she is in Lauterbrunnen and enjoying the cold weather.

Hopefully you will travel again - Happy hot Christmas if your part of Oz is hot like here!
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Old Dec 17th, 2013, 01:43 PM
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Marg. This guy stu. Be careful--he is full of encouragement.

P.S. We booked 7 of 9 stops in Spain in September using the booking site--no problems
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Old Dec 17th, 2013, 01:44 PM
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Old Dec 18th, 2013, 03:27 PM
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Marg. This guy stu. Be careful--he is full of encouragement.

Dick...I do whatever I can to encourage senoior travelers to keep on traveling. You know that. Are you snowed in yet? I'm happy I got to see your gorgeous NH digs during October foliage time. STU
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Old Dec 19th, 2013, 12:09 PM
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Really enjoying your report. MY Dh and I are starting to plan a 3-4 month sabbatical/trip of a lifetime and this is a great resource! thanks
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Old Dec 21st, 2013, 09:33 AM
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As with so many European travelers, all you did is tell us the itinerary. we went ehre and then we went here. and we booked hotels;and this was the price.

where is the magic?

did anything at all happen? did you ever stare at a certain piece of art with awe and wonder and feel almost like a child?

what were your impressions in each place? what was the reason you felt you had to visit this or that place?

just an itinerary, a list of where you went.

this is very empty.
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Old Dec 21st, 2013, 06:20 PM
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Unbelievably rude Shirley. I don't see any trip reports from you, so perhaps keep your harsh opinions to yourself.
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Old Dec 21st, 2013, 07:27 PM
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Ignore Shirley's comments. I've thoroughly enjoyed your trip report. It has given me some ideas for my own forthcoming trip and, in particular, I have taken note of the hotels that you stayed at.

I truly hope that this won't be your last trip to Europe and that you are still fit and well enough for a number more of them yet.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2013, 08:07 AM
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As a couple in our mid 60's and just entering retirement and what we think of as "our traveling years," I'm always glad to hear from people who are in their 70's and 80's and still traveling. We've done a few trips to Europe but hope to begin going once or twice a year, with other trips around the US and perhaps to Australian/New Zealand, South America or Asia mixed in. I hope that this was not your last "trip of a life time." Thanks for an interesting and helpful trip report.
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