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Paris to Milan, via Switzerland - Family Trip Early April 2015

Paris to Milan, via Switzerland - Family Trip Early April 2015

Old Dec 30th, 2014, 07:28 AM
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Paris to Milan, via Switzerland - Family Trip Early April 2015

Our family of 4 (incl. kids aged 6 and 9) will be traveling from Paris to Milan in early April 2015 (week before Easter). We will leave Paris on Wed. and want to be in Italy (Florence or Pisa) on Saturday morning. We'd like to use this as an opportunity to see Switzerland for the first time and understand the time window is short. Our original plan was to take TGV from Paris to Zurich, then Zurich to Chur to St. Moritz and stay two nights in Silvaplana. This would allow us to experience the Alps and also take the scenic bernina express (or regional trains along the same rail lines) from St. Moritz to Tirano then on to Milan and our final destination in Italy. Our main interests include just seeing a new part of the world, taking photographs, walking around, and experiencing a taste of alpine life. We will not be interested in skiing, museums or shopping. We assume we will stay the night near Florence or Pisa on Friday night to be closer to our destination Saturday morning.

1) Is there a better, more "efficient" route to get this experience in Switzerland given that we are traveling from Paris and to Italy? Our current plan revolves around the Bernina train route (Rhaetian) given our reading on this scenic route.

2) If we keep this plan, does anyone have any family-friendly suggestions for things to do in the Upper Engadin area?

Thanks so much for any insight!!
ajskippy is offline  
Old Dec 30th, 2014, 07:42 AM
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The Bernina Pass rail route is fantastic but a long long detour off the most efficient route - you don't have much time and to do that would be on the train most of the time.

Instead perhaps spend a few days in the fabulous Jungfrau Region around Grindelwald or Wengen, etc. This is the dreamy Alpine Wonderland perhaps picture of Switzerland etched in your minds eyes - toylike mountain trians and thrilling aerial cable ways go off in all directions - hiking paths from easy to difficult, etc.

And is about half way to Pisa from Paris - anyway for loads of great stuff on Swiss trains check out these IMO superb sources: www.ricksteves.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.swisstravelsystem.com. You probably are not traveling enough on trains to benefit from a Swiss Pass in such a short time. Better if you could spend a few more days then yes.
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Old Dec 30th, 2014, 09:09 AM
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In April, there will of course be snow in the Upper Engadine (as well as at the places above Wengen and Grindelwald).

There are basically 5 itineraries from Paris through Switzerland to Florence:
1. Paris - TGV - Geneva - bus - Chamonix- cog wheel train - Martigny - train - Visp (Zermatt) - Brig (Aletsch Glacier) - Stresa (Borromean Islands) - Milan - Florence;
2. Paris TGV - Lausanne - train - Montreux (Chillon castle) - Martigny - Visp.....
3. Paris - TGV - Basle - Spiez (Bernese Oberland/Jungfrau) - Visp ...
4. Paris - TGV - Basle - Lucerne (Titlis) - Bellinzona (castles) - Lugano (Swissminiatur) - Como - Milan - Florence
5. Paris - TGV - Zurich - train - Chur - Bernina Express - Upper Engadine - Bernina Diavolezza (gondola to the glaciers) - Tirano - train - Varenna - Milan or boat Varenna - Como - train - Milan - Florence.

The TGV line Paris - Lausanne is more scenic than the other 4 TGV itineraries.

SWiTZERLAND WITH CHILDREN

As public transport is rather expensive in Switzerland, study carefully the sites about Swiss Pass, Swiss Flexipass and Swiss half fare card: http://www.swisstravelsystem.ch/Tick...l?&L=2#s_h_f_c

Check the Swiss Travel System Family Card
The Swiss Travel System Family Card is issued at no cost to parents who wish to take along their children under the age of 16 at no cost. Please note that at least one parent has to travel with the child/ren.

Some ideas (not all these places may be open in April; check with the links below if you are interested in):

historic steamboats on Lake Geneva:
http://www.cgn.ch/horaires/pdf/AffA2-ete-10.pdf
http://www.cgn.ch/eng/flotte

Swiss Vapeur Park Le Bouveret:
http://www.swissvapeur.ch/en/index.php

Signal de Bougy:
http://www.parc-aventure.ch/Signal-de-Bougy/
http://www.signaldebougy.ch/

Menhirs at Yverdon
http://www.yverdonlesbainsregion.ch/...menhirs_clendy

Blonay-Chamby historic railway:
http://www.blonay-chamby.ch/index-en.php

Chillon castle:
http://www.chillon.ch/en/

Gruyeres castle, cheese diary and chocolate factory:
http://www.chateau-gruyeres.ch/e/mul...spectacle.html
http://www.la-gruyere.ch/en/navpage-...FR-120085.html
http://www.lamaisondugruyere.ch/inde...=142&Itemid=56
http://www.lamaisondugruyere.ch/inde...=142&Itemid=56

Chatelard-Emosson (Mont Blanc area):
http://www.chatelard.net/english/pages/descr_e.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emosson
http://www.emosson.ch/PublicEN/default-en.htm

Zermatt-Gornergrat:
http://www.gornergrat.ch/home/index.php
http://www.klein-matterhorn.ch/photos/
http://www.zermatt.ch/en/index.cfm

Entirely walled city of Murten:
http://www.murtentourismus.ch/en/nav...nFR-99305.html
http://www.murtentourismus.ch/en/nav...-MurtenFR.html
Medieval city of Bern:
http://www.berninfo.com/en/page.cfm/Information
http://www.kleinbahn-gurten.ch/

Swiss Village Park Ballenberg:
http://ballenberg.ch/en/Welcome

Lugano and Swissminiatur:
http://www.lugano-tourism.ch/en/291/default.aspx
http://www.swissminiatur.ch/

Seewen in the Jura close to Basel:
http://www.bundesmuseen.ch/musikauto...x.html?lang=en

Rapperswil:
http://www.zuerichsee.ch/en/page.cfm...FamilyDRZ/1230
http://www.knieskinderzoo.ch/
http://www.zuerichsee.ch/en/page.cfm/SightsRZ
http://www.zuerich.com/en/page.cfm/r...gion_zuerich_x

Rhine Falls Adventure Park
http://www.rheinfall.ch/Attraktionen...ark?lang=en-US

Furka steam train
http://www.furka-bergstrecke.ch/eng/train/timetable.php

You may have a look at
http://www.myswitzerland.com/en/interests/family.html
http://www.takethefamily.com/where/s...ays-and-breaks
http://www.eparenting.co.uk/family_h...tzerland.shtml
http://www.reka.ch/en/rekaferien/Pages/default.aspx
http://littletravellers.com/destinat...y-switzerland/
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Old Dec 31st, 2014, 04:45 AM
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In a nutshell, there are fast and efficient ways from Paris to Milan, including direct TGVs from 29 euros which don't go through Switzerland, or Paris-Zurich-Milan or Paris-Geneva-Milan or Paris-Lausanne-Milan using standard-gauge mainline trains throughout.

But the Bernina route, even though narrow gauge and slow, is FABULOUS and a highlight of your European trip. THE best ride through the Alps you can get. So I'd stick with that plan.

Just make sure you ease out the trip with days in Switzerland as far as your time allows.
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Old Dec 31st, 2014, 08:47 AM
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The Bernina is awesomely great but with the OP's few days in Switzerland to do that they will need to be on trains most of the time.
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Old Dec 31st, 2014, 12:52 PM
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If wanting to do the Bernina to Italy best with that short time best is to take a TGV from Paris to Zurich, then go via Chur to the St Moritz area, spend however long you have there and then take the Bernina Pass rail route to Tirano, Italy for trains to Milan. There are official Bernina Express trains and about hourly local trains that need no reservations as the official posh Bernina Express trains do.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2015, 08:51 AM
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Hello, all! Thank you SO MUCH for the thoughtful replies! I greatly appreciate it. The Bernina route is what inspired me to make a detour through Switzerland in the first place, so after reading your responses and doing more research, we are sticking with it. We know that we will have some significant time on trains, but we also know that sometimes the most "memorable" memories are those that come with a little adversity. Also, I am determined to make another trip someday and focus on the BO area. The last 7 nights of our trip will be at the same place, so we are willing to view this middle part of the trip as being a bit more "on the move." We will travel from Paris to Zurich arriving at 11:26am. It seems that we will reach our destination of Silvaplana (via Chur) by 15:00 or 16:00. We will stay in Silvaplana two nights, and then leave in the morning to make our way to Milan via Tirano (it seems we will easily be in Milan, with some time built in along the way, by 15:00). Our goal is to be in Pisa, Italy, to meet friends by Saturday at 10am (for our week in Tuscany where we will have a rental car). The fastest route to Pisa from Milan seems to be through Florence, so we will either stay in Florence on that Friday night or continue on to Pisa. A few remaining questions...

1) The route from Silvaplana to Milan via Tirano seems to have a couple of options. Either a bus from Silvaplana to St. Moritz or a bus from Silvaplana to Pontresina. Is one a better option over the other?

2) We have already purchased all fast train tickets (Paris to Zurich and Milan to Florence) but understand that we will book all other train tickets right at the time of travel (Zurich to Chur to St. Moritz, St. Moritz (or Pontresina) to Tirano). Is this correct? Also, I know I need to figure out the kid fares in Switzerland.

3) Are there any major issues that you can see with this itinerary? (other than being crazy enough to spend several hours on trains with kids)

4) Any suggestions for must-do activities or restaurants (family-friendly) near Silvaplana?

5) Any thoughts (understanding this is probably just personal preference which I welcome from you!) on staying in Florence on that Friday night and attempting to get a feel for the city in just one single evening (no activities - just eating and walking around) or should we just go on to Pisa?

Thanks so much!!!! I appreciate your input greatly!!!
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Old Jan 3rd, 2015, 12:24 PM
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1- don't matter - which ever is closer and serves the train time you want.

2- Get a free Family Pass in Switzerland at stations and all kids under 16 travel free on all Swiss conveyances - all. Gondolas, trains, etc.
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Old Jan 4th, 2015, 08:00 AM
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Timetables:
Paris Gare de Lyon dp 7.21 - Zurich 11.26/11.37 - Chur (same platform) 12.52/12.58 - St. Moritz 14.55/15.04 - Silvaplana Posta ar 15.16 (Zurich - Chur: Bistro Car and minibar).

Silvaplana - Bernina - Tirano - Milano:
Works along the railway line St. Moritz - Pontresina: March 30th - April 2nd and April 7th - May 8th. During this period, it's better to change from bus to train at Pontresina railway station.

Direct trains Milano C - Pisa:
Milan dp 16.05 - Pisa ar 20.17, super economy web fare 9 EUR, standard fare 35 EUR
Milan dp 17.05 - Pisa ar 21.38, standard fare 22 EUR
Milan dp 18.05 - Pisa ar 22.17, super economy web fare 9 EUR, standard fare 35 EUR
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Old Jan 4th, 2015, 12:55 PM
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I'd do Pisa, a nice but not spectacular city, as a day trip sans luggage from Florence and be in a very lively Florence at night - spend a whole day in Florence and a day trip to Pisa rather than staying in Pisa is what I and many I think would recommend.
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