Step One. Where?

Jun 24th, 2013, 10:12 AM
  #1  
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Step One. Where?

Hi Everyone,
I am beginning the thought/planning process for a first trip to Europe year after next when I retire from teaching. Most likely it will be me (mom) and daughter (18 now). Possibly 20 something son, but he will be working, Dad, not a traveler unfortunately.

I went to England in college for a whirlwind spring break sports team week and definitely want to return to that country. Daughter is a fanatic about Shakespeare,and history. We both want to go to London, and would also like to spend some time in the English countryside. (I have read so many novels with that setting, it would seem criminal to me not to see it in person!)

While I would love to visit Paris, she likes the idea of Italy. If we had a budget of $5000 for the trip (not incl air - we would travel from any of the Washington DC airports) and probably no more than 10- 12 days ( so she could work her summer job), should we include Paris or Italy? Or should we just keep it to one country and really see a lot? I would love to go to Paris, she is keen on Italy, but I don't want to overextend ourselves.

I know that many of you take repeated trips abroad (I am very envious! but this seriously may be a trip that isn't followed by another one (at least for a looong time) What are your thoughts given your experiences? Thank you so much!
KandKsmom is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 10:25 AM
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Assuming you can stay out of the period mid July to end August (to keep costs down) then you could do a two centre holiday with 10 to 12 days with that sort of money for 2

With each stay being about 5 days long that allows you to rent an apartment (which keeps the costs down). I'd have the longer time at your arrival country to allow for jet lag killing a day.

I would recommend somewhere like Florence rather than Rome as it is smaller with easy access into Tuscany. You need to get a couple of guide books and start reading, assume you will never see everything but get a good idea of what you and your daughter actually want to see before you book flights.
bilboburgler is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 10:26 AM
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What do you want to visit in Italy? There are so many places, cities, lakes, mountains... Probably you will have 5 days for London and 5 for another place. 5 days is OK for Rome; or you can go 3 days to Venice and 2 at Lake Garda..

However, I would visit London and then Paris. It is easier to reach Paris than Rome, from London - save precious time.
Paris has so much to offer!

She is young, Italy will wait for her for another trip (longer).
valtor is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 10:37 AM
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I would add Paris on to your time in the UK but skip Italy.
suze is online now  
Jun 24th, 2013, 10:39 AM
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valtor, good point about her being young and having more time to go to Italy someday! Knowing her, she will grant me Paris. The other thing is her dad has always wanted to visit Normandy and maybe, just maybe, if we could make it affordable enough, I could get him to join us.

If we were to keep it to England and Paris, what would be a good breakup of the time spent in England? Can you see the Cotswold area, Stratford upon Avon and any other towns in three days and then spend 3 in London? Or vise-versa? bilboburger, would a mid-late June departure time be suitable for decent airfare? What is the best way to find apartments in each of the cities?
KandKsmom is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 10:46 AM
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KandK
no idea about US flights

Apartments; look at some threads on this site for the cities you are interested in and chose the ones that get good comments
bilboburgler is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 10:52 AM
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London needs more than 3 days -- it is ENORMOUS plus you'll be dealing w/ jet lag on arrival. 5 or 6 days minimum for London and that will barely scratch the surface.

Three days is fine for the Cotswolds/Stratford-upon-Avon. Not uber generous but you could see quite a bit.

the rest of your time in Paris. Fly in to London and home from Paris or vice versa (if you have the full 12 days). If you only have ten days then either London/Paris - OR - London/the Cotswolds is about the best you could manage.
janisj is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 11:16 AM
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Thanks janisj for the specifics on time suggestions; that is what I want to start with in terms of how much we can see comfortably and not being too rushed.

We are just going to need to think about whether we want to include Paris. I know she and I want to see more of England than London, and if we don't have but 10 days or so, like you said we might be best to stick with that plan. It is costly for these types of trips and we will be concerned with our budget. Adding more time most likely won't be feasible cost-wise and with her working. I just wonder if I will kick myself later for not trying to fit Paris in, but...
KandKsmom is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 11:25 AM
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Are you willing to drive in England (outside London of course)? Remember they drive on the left. However, you can be more efficient in your sight-seeing if you don't have to rely on public transportation, which is sparse in the Cotswolds.

There are one-day bus tours to the Normandy WWII sites from Paris, but that's a long whirlwind day. A better visit would be 2 days with a rental car. And that's just for the WWII stuff. There's quite a bit more to see in Normandy in addition.
Mimar is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 12:48 PM
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Given your interests, unless you really want to see Paris, I'd stick to England. There's so much to see just in London, and with you and your daughter's interest in history and literature, you could easily fill your time. Plus it will save you money moving from place to place, and in my (granted, limited) experience, Paris seems more expensive than London. It really comes down to what the two of you want to prioritize.

You can do a lot in England via public transit, but as Mimar says, you'll have the most flexibility in anywhere considered "countryside" with a car. I've been to the Lake District a couple of times without one, for example, but just for a couple of days each time. Any longer than that and I would have been wishing for a car.

A bit more detail on the Normandy-from-Paris question - I did a day tour of the main D-Day areas via Fat Tire last March. The tour itself was great and I'd recommend it, but as Mimar notes, it is a LONG day. We left Paris on an early train, got to Bayeux with time to have a snack, then spent 5 hours on the tour, then had to get back to Paris. With a train delay, we didn't get back until about 11pm. For me it was worth it, but it's not an easy trip like, say, Versailles.
jent103 is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 01:10 PM
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I am feeling like we might save Paris and Italy for another time (hopefully) and focus on England and as much of its wonder as we can manage! About the car...I have thought about that and whether I could muster up the courage to try it. Boy, would that add to the memory making! But I want it to be good memories! I can drive a stick, had my beloved Toyota Celica out of college and later a Honda Civic hatchback, but can I shift left handed and not freak out in traffic? That is the question. If one were to do that, I have read not to rent within London proper. Would you suggest catching a train from Heathrow and leaving from a smaller town in order to rent a car in order to start the driving tour in the countryside.

Then, possibly spend four days/five days outside London, drop the car off and then head back in by train into the city for the last part of the trip? What places/towns beside Stratford, the Cotswolds would be part of a great road trip?

Has anyone any experience doing something like this? Especially and early 50's moms with an adventurous spirit, but tiny little rational side?
KandKsmom is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 01:12 PM
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It's more complicated to rent apartments. For such very short stays in each place (3 days) I'd look at hotels or B&Bs instead. It will go a lot smoother with less research and planning required.
suze is online now  
Jun 24th, 2013, 01:24 PM
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>> but can I shift left handed and not freak out in traffic?<<

I am totally 100% useless w/ my left hand and yet I have no problem shifting left handed when in the UK. It isn't as if you are power shifting or drag racing off the line

Now I did have a traveling companion who 'broke' a car (you can read my trip report about the 6 ladies and 2 - make that 3 cars to get the full story) But she was a putz and though I wasn't with her at the time I'm almost 100% sure she fried the clutch which has to do w/ ineptitude - not shifting.
janisj is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 01:59 PM
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Oh my goodness, my daughter and I have been looking at the Cotwolds website just now. How beautiful this part of the country is! suze, that is great advice about the B&Bs rather than flats, especially if we are driving around during the first part of the trip. For London, I do think it would be really a neat experience to stay in an apartment rather than a hotel. I wonder, though, would any of them do partial weeks, especially if we were to go in late May/June?

On the Cotswold website it looked like many of the towns, Bath, Stratford, etc. are on the rail line. Maybe we could take the train out after we arrived and start with a car at first. If I cannot manage it, we could resort to just going to the places where we can use rail travel.

How many days do you all suggest for the Cotswolds? Is Warwick Castle a whole day as well? We also need to keep in mind we want to get as much of London as we can too! Thanks all so far for your help!
KandKsmom is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 02:33 PM
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I haven't driven in England, but I have driven in Ireland, and had no problems after a bit of adjustment. We did get an automatic car (I don't drive a stick at all), so if you want to remove one thing to worry about, they're available. I wouldn't drive too far on your first day, though - you'll be dealing with jet lag and lack of sleep in addition to the other side of the road.

It's been awhile, but during my study abroad semester we did Warwick Castle and Stratford-on-Avon in one day, seeing a play from the Royal Shakespeare Company that night. I'd think a half day would be fine.
jent103 is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 02:51 PM
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If you are going the Cotswolds route then look out fodorite flanneruk on this site, his notes are "interesting" but full of very useful details which make visiting this area very effective
bilboburgler is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 03:54 PM
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Bath is on a rail line. Stratford is on a rail line. But except for a few places on the very fringes (Moreton-in-Marsh, Cheltenham, Evesham . . .) no place on the Cotswolds is on a rail line. To tour the area you really do need a car.
janisj is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 03:56 PM
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We did a similar trip 5 years ago with our then 14 and 17-year old sons. I would imagine there are things you would enjoy that your daughter wouldn't and vice versa. We did 2 weeks covering Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, Paris and London because we didn't know if we'd have the opportunity to do it again with our kids. We involved them in the planning somewhat, to be sure we included things they wanted to do. My guess is your daughter will enjoy the cities more than touring the beautiful English and Italian countryside. (I could be wrong!)
The first time my husband and I went to London, we took a train to Stratford-on-Avon then rented a car there to tour the Cotswolds for a few days. Good luck with your planning!
TeriLS is offline  
Jun 25th, 2013, 08:15 AM
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One time we flew into Heathrow, took a bus to Bath, spent a couple days there touring and getting over jet-lag, then rented a car. (An automatic. Though used to manual transmission, in the UK I'm always afraid I'm going to open the door instead of change gears.)

Other options by bus from Heathrow: Oxford, Windsor, Brighton (all of which we've done), and Winchester, a very historic city. Bath and Oxford would be most contiguous with the Cotswolds.

For train journeys from Heathrow you have to go into London (by train or tube) and get to the correct train station. Or take a Railair bus from the airport to another train station like in Reading.
Mimar is offline  
Jun 25th, 2013, 09:19 AM
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Mimar: trust me - opening the door instead of shifting is pretty much impossible
janisj is offline  

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