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Switzerland, Southern France with kids and parents

Switzerland, Southern France with kids and parents

Old Feb 22nd, 2020, 12:08 PM
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Switzerland, Southern France with kids and parents

Hello all!
My husband and I were in Switzerland, Berlin and Paris for 5 weeks last summer and loved it. We want to bring our kids (3 & 6 years old) and parents back to Europe this summer in June/July. We have 17 days in hand. I definitely want to do some hiking with kids in Switzerland. From there, I need some help with itinerary. We like hiking, biking, cafe's, nature and exploring cities on foot.

Day 1: Fly into Zurich and stay 1 night
Day 2: Train to Wengen (base for 4 nights)
Day 3: Hike Manclienn
Day 4: Explore Interlaken
Day 5: Hike in Murren area
Day 6: Train to Geneva
Day 7: Drive to Southern France
... 9 days
Day 17: Fly out.

In Southern France, here's the wish list in no specific order: Cannes/Nice, Gorges , Parc Régional de Camargue, Marseilles, Avignon,Aix en provence, Coillure
Where should we make our base in Southern France? Are there places that we add or remove from my list?

Thank You in advance!
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Old Feb 22nd, 2020, 12:34 PM
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You've picked some wonderful locations! Just a few notes:
  • Are you planning to visit Zurich? If so, 1 night might not be enough. If not, consider going straight on to Wengen.
  • IMO, you have better options for day 4 than to explore Interlaken -- maybe Berne or Brienz or Thun. And you might wait until you are in the Bernese Oberland to decide, based on whether, which day to leave the area.
  • Are you planning to visit Geneva? If so, 1 night might not be enough. If not, consider alternatives to spending a night there -- or maybe you aren't planning to spend the night?
  • 9 days is very little for all the places you list in southern France -- I think you will need to decide on some priorities there.
If you haven't already seen them, you might find some useful information in my trip reports:
My delightful sampling of Switzerland’s gems, with many thanks
A stellar month in southeastern France

Hope that helps!
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Old Feb 22nd, 2020, 12:41 PM
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Day 17: Fly out

FLy out of where? I hope you're buying open-jaw tickets and not going back to Zurich.

You need to pick at most two bases in the "south of France," which is huge - there's a world of difference among the places you've mentioned, in terms of culture, food, architecture, sights, etc., and you could easily spend 9 days in/around any one of them.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2020, 02:14 PM
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StCirq: We'll be booking an open jaw flight. We are headed to India after France. Could you suggest a base for first time in South of France? Thanks for the help!
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Old Feb 22nd, 2020, 02:14 PM
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Kja, I read through your trip diaries and they are wonderful. I got many ideas from it. Thanks for your help!
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Old Feb 22nd, 2020, 02:48 PM
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So I did some more research and think Nice (3 nights) and Marseille (3 nights) would be good bases. Does that sound like a good plan?
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Old Feb 22nd, 2020, 03:12 PM
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Depends on your preferences, which seem to lean toward the more touristy Nice and Marseille and les Alpilles spots. Me, I love the coast of the Languedoc-Roussilon, but it's all personal preference
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Old Feb 22nd, 2020, 03:17 PM
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Originally Posted by 3GenMemories View Post
Kja, I read through your trip diaries and they are wonderful. I got many ideas from it. Thanks for your help!
I'm glad they proved useful!

Originally Posted by 3GenMemories View Post
I did some more research and think Nice (3 nights) and Marseille (3 nights) would be good bases. Does that sound like a good plan?
IMO, those are great cities, but as StCirq said, it really depends on your interests and preferences, and with so little time, you will need to think through your priorities.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2020, 05:31 PM
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I'm rethinking Switzerland. I was initially thinking kids and grand parents will need a rest day due to time difference and long flight from India & USA. Is better to stay at Lucerne or Zurich for a night? Then we can do 5 nights in Wengen.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2020, 05:36 PM
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What is better depends on your interests.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2020, 06:27 PM
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I have three kids and traveled a lot with them when they were young like yours. I would not underestimate the time it takes to really get over jet lag. We tend to spend our first two days in a bit of a fog. I would stay put for 2-3 nights wherever you decide to stay. We did this in Zurich two years ago and it worked well. You can take a boat trip on the lake, wander the city, and spend time at a beach club and swim in the lake right in the city. Public transportation is really easy and efficient.
We have been to the south of France twice and never felt the urge to stay in one of the big cities. However, I imagine that depends on your interests. We spent one week each time in the area near Gordes/Roussillon in a private house rental with a pool. It is nice to set up a home base and do day trips from there. You can easily drive to Aix for a day. There is lots to do and many beautiful drives. The place is slow and relaxed, perfect for little ones.
I would consider simplifying your itinerary to look something like this:
3 nights in or near Zurich
5 nights in Wengen for hiking/outdoor fun
7 nights in Provence
2 nights close to where you fly out from. We stayed in Cassis last summer, a lovely little beach town close to Marseille where our flight departed from.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2020, 06:38 AM
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Lucerne is much nicer than Zurich (above all for jetlagged people) and the train rid efrom Zurich airport is only half an hour longer.
Don't waste your time at Interlaken if you like scenic landscapes and hiking.

Wengen: have a plan B for the case of rainfall during 5 days.

Wengen - Geneva: travel via Spiez - Gstaad - Montreux (much nicer itinerary than via Bern). Stop over at Montreux/Chillon castle/Lavaux vineyards and Bouveret Vapeur Park and Aqua Park (for the kids)..
Geneva has some interesting museums (among them the Red Cross Museum). But many other Swiss cities are nicer and have more to offer to tourists.

Provence: the aera between Montpellier - Orange - Toulon can take you busy for more than a whole week. Collioure may make sense if you plan to fly home from Barcelona. If not, skip it.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2020, 07:05 AM
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Collioure only makes sense if you're planning to visit Languedoc-Roussillon, not Provence. So skip it in any event - it's for a totally different trip.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2020, 08:11 AM
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Originally Posted by neckervd View Post
Lucerne is much nicer than Zurich
While I love Lucerne, last time I was there it was so packed with other travelers that it was not easy to get around.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2020, 08:38 AM
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Are you going to be driving or using public transportation? Especially if you are depending on public transport, then I would be tempted to just choose one base in southern France depending on where you you will be flying out of which I guess will be either Marseilles or Nice.

Like St. Cirq-we prefer Languedoc-Roussilon over Côte d'Azur especially the coastal areas, but if you go there then flying out of Barcelona probably makes more sense-although you could go there and catch a domestic flight back up to Paris for your international flight.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2020, 11:39 AM
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I agree that Luzern/Lucerne and Zurich really do depend on your interests. You'll want to skip Interlaken and instead focus more time in the mountain villages and trails, time permitting. From Murren there are some wonderful hikes, and a trip up the train network to Schilthorn, weather permitting, will be a highlight. If weather turns, you can go to Bern as well as some other side trips. I too recommend the trip along the Golden Pass line to the north part of the lake. You can easily stay the night in Vevey or Montreaux or Lausanne and then take the train to the airport to pick up your car on the French side. The Chillon Castle and the ferry trip on the lake between towns are two highlights, along with the cog-wheel train from Montreaux. (I used to live in Lausanne and have a place in Nice).

I'd pick your next destination to be somewhere in Western Provence, in a mid to small sized base rather than a big city like Marseilles. A place like Isle sur la Sorgue or Arles or St. Remy might suit. Ending in Nice is fine, although you may consider Antibes or Juan-les-Pins or Villefranche-sur-Mer if beach is a priority. If you end in Nice, you can easily return your car early.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2020, 03:19 PM
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Thank you for all the input. I'm getting more clarity on the trip now. My son is learning French and he is very excited to go to France. So we're trying to make it happen in this trip.

Below is the plan - June 5 onwards

Barcelona (5 nights)
  • Park Guell, Sagrada Familia
  • Gothic Quarter, La Rambla
  • Science museum, Magic fountain
  • Ciutadella park and museum of chocolate
Drive around France/Spain border (6 nights) - From pictures online, these towns look very pretty. Is that a reality as well? Does Roussillon area have better countryside?
  • Costa brava
  • Dali museum
  • Ceret
  • Coillure
Wengen (4 nights)
  • Mannclienn hike to Klein
  • Boat to Briez & Ballenberg
  • Murren to Allmendhubel Funicular Train and hike down via Children adventure trail
Zurich (1 night to catch the flight back)

Thank You very very much!
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Old Feb 23rd, 2020, 03:24 PM
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Originally Posted by 3GenMemories View Post
Drive around France/Spain border (6 nights)
Are you planning to rent a car in Spain and drop off in France? Have you looked at the drop off fees?!?
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Old Feb 23rd, 2020, 04:03 PM
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I"m following for future travels. thanks!
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Old Feb 23rd, 2020, 04:06 PM
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kja is totally right about the drop off fee. You could drop of the car at the train station in Figueres and then take a train to Perpignan and pick up another car there for France. It is only 20-25 minutes depending on the train and that literally could save you a couple of hundred of dollars because of the drop off fee.

Are you going to drive to Switzerland as well? If the drop off fee is concern also then you can drop it on the French side of Switzerland sometimes for the same cost as dropping in France.

In Barcelona itself we love to base in Eixample-you can find nice lodging there and it isn't as crowded or noisy as some of the more tourist central areas

The area we love to base north of Barcelona is Roses-it's a really nice family town. You can park the car and walk everywhere and the beach is long and shallow-what they call and "mother and child's beach" sometime here in the US. So I could definitely.

One thing I might mention is that you really don't seem to be spending much time in France and I really don't think of Coillure as much of a family destination-it is mostly about the port and art galleries and tens to be more of an older crowd IME. Especially if your son is excited about France then I would try to choose at least one base that really allows him to interact with other families there. For kids, certainly for beach, I would look at some place more like Argelès-sur-Mer for example. Also, the areas north of Barcelona up to about Argelès-sur-Mer can be quite hilly so maybe not as friendly for kids-from your post it looks like your kids around maybe 5 and 7 now?

Once I have a better idea of whether you will driving or flying to Switzerland I might be able suggest some nice places in France-the whole area along the coast from Barcelona up to France all the way to Montpellier just as an example has some lovely places to base-it will just depend more on what your family is looking for.
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