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Spain, France, Switzerland, and Austria in 4 weeks

Spain, France, Switzerland, and Austria in 4 weeks

Aug 17th, 2010, 07:42 AM
  #1  
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Spain, France, Switzerland, and Austria in 4 weeks

Hi everyone,
First of all I want to thank everyone for helping to plan our first trip to Europe in 2008 when my husband & I spend 13 days in Italy! My husband & I are beginning to plan a new trip for May 2011 for 4 weeks. We want to leave mid May, return mid June and travel to Spain, France, Switzerland, and end in Austria (where I have family). We have just begun our planning and due to building our own business we don't have near as much time to plan this trip as we did our trip to Italy. So, we would appreciate any insight on this bare bones itinerary considering we have never traveled to these countries before.

Our main interests are food, wine, culture, and beautiful scenery. I will be heading to the library to pick up some books and have contacted our AAA who is sending us information. A few questions we have are: 1) Spotlight cities to visit in each country 2) Best to travel by plane or train within Europe (we traveled by train throughout Italy which worked well but this trip will be covering much more ground) 3) Best way to book flights within Europe 3) Any tips on length of time in each country 4) Has anyone ever done any tours...specifically any culinary/wine tours in any of these countries

Thanks everyone! If anyone has any questions on Italy, please let me know...I still have my entire itinerary including places we stayed, restaurants, etc.

~Kim Bovre
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Aug 17th, 2010, 07:58 AM
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My husband & I are beginning to plan a new trip for May 2011 for 4 weeks. We want to leave mid May, return mid June and travel to Spain, France, Switzerland, and end in Austria (where I have family).>

mode of transport - plane or train?

for 4 weeks you have a lot of time to move between countries and thus to me the train seems the best - unless say you wanted to fly between Spain and Austria - a long distance. But i would slowly move from Spain to Austria by train via France and Switzerland - using bases in each place from which to explore the region around it (like Avignon for Provence - base in this dreamy old own and hop to nearby places like Les Baux, the Pont du Gard, Arles, etc) - then move onto another base - say in Switzerland like Montreux on Lake Geneva and base there.

For lots on planning a European train trip in these countries i always spotlight these really info-packed sites - www.ricksteves.com; www.seat61.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com - download the latter's free and superb IMO European Planning & Rail Guide which has rail-oriented chapters on each country with suggested itineraries, etc. And for train schedules for all of Europe i always use www.bahn.de - the German Rail site as it is the easiest i've seen to use and usually infallible.

overnight trains
PalenQ is offline  
Aug 17th, 2010, 09:09 AM
  #3  
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Thank you so much for all your tips! I forgot to mention we have a budget of about $10,000. Do you recommend any culinary/wine tours? We were thinking of spending a week in each country but it would be nice to stay longer in a place if we want to. Is it a must to make reservations before you arrive for hotels/bed & breakfasts? Or does flexibility depend on the country? I have heard Spain is much more relaxed and inexpensive than France?
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Aug 17th, 2010, 02:03 PM
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Availability depends a lot on time of year and May in most places is still not peak season and IMO a perfect time to go. And at that time you will certainly be able to find plenty of places to stay just by showing up in a town - if going by train there is usually a tourist office/hotel booking kiosk in most main train stations that will book you into a hotel in your price range.

that said finding hotels on your own in large cities takes time - i did it for years - just show up but not prefer to have everything booked ahead so i get off the train and just head to the hotel - preferably near the train station. And i can get a hotel that i have researched - read about experiences of others, etc. I mainly stay in B&Bs and it is best to book these online and they can be a whole lot cheaper than hotels.

For instance in Florence i got a B&B for 35 euros right opposite the train station - with bath/shower in room and huge breakfast - a hotel would have cost a lot more, etc.

Your budget is $300/day it seems and you can certainly get acceptable accommodations for $100-150 at that time of year - less in B&Bs IME - that seems like a really comfortable budget so you do not really have to worry about meeting that.

If going by car then it is easier to just pop into a hotel on the roads leading into many towns - by most autoroute exits there are gaggles of motel-type hotels that are good bargains - $100 or less often. This is especially true in France.

In Switzerland flexibility is easy if going by train as at many train stations there are hotel boards that list it seems every hotel in town and its prices, amenities and a green or red light to indicate availability and a free phone to call the hotel/B&B directly - in May you will have no problem finding Swiss rooms as you go along.

If you want flexibility i suggest you do some homework and find what looks like hotels/B&Bs you want to stay in and then just call the place a day or two before - once you are set on where you are going next. A guidebook like Fodor's will list dozens and dozens of places with phones and e-mail addresses and again in May on short notice you should be able to book many places.
PalenQ is offline  
Aug 17th, 2010, 04:41 PM
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I know you may not want to hear this but 4 weeks is not that long. I see Spain as the outlier---do you really need to include it? It will be easy to fill your time in the other countries and not have to travel so far.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2011, 09:21 PM
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Hi everyone,
I am feeling a bit overwhelmed and I am hoping you can help. My husband & I are taking our dream trip to Europe departing May 2011, returning June 2011. We want to start in Barcelona, travel to San Sebastian (and the wine regions in between), then to Paris, possibly some wine regions in France, then to Switzerland (cities we want to visit are Gimmelwald & Gryon and I am sure others I have not discovered yet) and end in Graz and Vienna, where I have family. I am overwhelmed because I have only traveled to Europe once in the past and it was only to Italy & I spent 100's of hours at the computer planning and that was just in 1 country and by train. I have spent several hours reading tips, etc. but can't seem to get any firm direction on the best route for us. I have heard it's very cheap to fly within Europe so we are open to all modes of transportation however we have no idea where to begin as far as finding the most efficient & cost effective ways to get around through 4 countries. I was telling my husband how I wish there was a website where we could enter in all the cities we want to visit and it would create route options for us. Perhaps a site like this already exists? I would appreciate any guidance any of you have! Thank you so very much.
~Kim & Gavin Bovre
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Jan 23rd, 2011, 09:36 PM
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I would eliminate one country, probably Switerland. We believe it is better to see a few places well, than many poorly. And since you have an interest in wine Switzerland goes.

This will also alleviate some of your anxiety now and when travelling.
Aduchamp1 is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2011, 10:22 PM
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Thanks aduchamp1! However, I failed to mention we are outdoorsy people and our main interests are scenery, wine, and food and it's been my husbands dream to see the alps in Switzerland so we can't leave that out. The best experience by definition for us is to enjoy amazing sites, food, wine, and to be with the people and for a short while feel like we live there. I agree...we don't want to see countries poorly.
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Jan 23rd, 2011, 10:28 PM
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Perhaps we leave out any other stops in France and just focus on Barcelona, San Sebastian, Paris, Gryon, and Vienna/Graz, Austria?
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Jan 24th, 2011, 11:24 AM
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I was telling my husband how I wish there was a website where we could enter in all the cities we want to visit and it would create route options for us. Perhaps a site like this already exists?>

Well for how to get from point A to B there is and it is the Wunderbar www.bahn.de German Railways web site that is the easiest and best I have seen for rail schedules all over Europe - just put in Barcelna and say San Sebastian and you get all the rail links and by highlighting 'show intermediate stops' you will get a list of all the stations en route the train stops at - and how far each one is from others. For a good link to the English schedul page of the bahn.de site go to the budgeteuropetravel site I listed in my first post on this thread above because not only will the link on the home page take you directly to the bahn.de English schedule page but it gives you several good tips on fully using bahn.de that may not be apparent at first glance.
PalenQ is offline  
Jan 24th, 2011, 11:28 AM
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For a wine region with also hiking possibilities in the Vosges, Alsace would seem to be an obvious choice.
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Jan 25th, 2011, 07:45 AM
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Or by bike too - the Alsace wine district - neat side roads meander thru famous wine towns like Riquewehr (sp) and Ribeauville (sp?) quite near Colmar, a lovely place to base - the marked Alsace Wine Road makes a great bike ride or from some villages sweet easy hikes thru the vineyards and up into the hills. In Colmar you can see a copy of the Statue of Liberty!
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Jan 25th, 2011, 09:50 AM
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Very affordable and frequent flights between Barcelona and Bilbao with Vueling. Direct bus to my favourite city on the planet, San Sebastián, in some 75 mins with PESA bus company once an hour. May would be a perfect time of year to go. Spring will be there in full and you are still a couple of months away from the invation of predominantly Spanish holiday visitors. http://marshlands.blogstream.com/
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Jan 25th, 2011, 10:37 AM
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the fabled Tren Eskro (sp?) also links Bilboa to Donostia, as locals want San Sebastian to be called and is its official name in Basque and not the San Sebastian of the despised Spanish 'colonials. a slower ride but goes thru numerous sleepy Basque villages.
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Jan 25th, 2011, 02:40 PM
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I do believe the Barcelona to Bilboa overnight Hotl Train is still running - another option to get between the two and save a night's lodging costs to boot!
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Jan 26th, 2011, 06:34 AM
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PalenQ,
Just to be picky: Natives refer to their city as San Sebastián quite as often as Donostia, but they will all call themselves donostiarras. Basque (euskara) is first language for just a minority of people in the region. Has been a revival of euskara in the past years through the Ikastolas (primary and secondary schools) and universities, but the basque language has not by far got the standing as for example catalan in Catalunya. In San Sebastián the vast majority speak Spanish as their first language and many would only have rudimentary if any knowledge of basque.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ba...corrected).JPG

About Eusko Tren who runs from Bilbao to San Sebastián.
http://www.euskotren.es/euskotren2/portada/ing
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Jan 26th, 2011, 09:44 AM
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kimhe - Thanks for that clarification. When I was last in San Sebastian all the San Sebstian on the bi-linguage signs it seemed were graffitied out and the Basque Donostia left - but this apparently is the work of a minority of Basque militants and not the generally Spanish speaking residents. Thanks.
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Jan 26th, 2011, 10:10 AM
  #18  
 
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bi-lingual

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/...7623190654780/
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