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Taking Mother to Paris and Either Provence or Italy: Advice Needed

Taking Mother to Paris and Either Provence or Italy: Advice Needed

Jan 17th, 2008, 12:59 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 55
Taking Mother to Paris and Either Provence or Italy: Advice Needed

Here's the background. My 68 year-old mother has never been out of the country. I've traveled pretty extensively. Every time I go on a trip, shes convinced Im going to come home in a body bag. Whether it's Africa, India, China or even Europe. Thus, I was shocked when out of the blue she said that one of her regrets in life is that she never traveled. Who knew?

So good son that I am, I asked her if shed like me to take her to Paris for her birthday in October. She was thrilled. (Probably that I finally picked up on her hints.) So anyway, I reserved FF tickets to CDG.

Here's my dilemma. Where to go in addition to Paris? We've got fourteen days on the ground, and spending the entire two weeks in Paris is not an option.

I was all set on the following itinerary:

5 days in Paris, 6 days in Provence, 3 days in London. Wed TGV it to Avignon, rent a car and then fly from Nice to London.

But then a couple of red flags were raised:

A couple of people on this board have written that the best time to go to Provence is when the flowers are in bloom, which is definitely not October.

Also, meandering around the countryside for 6 days in a tiny rental car isnt really my mothers idea of fun. She wants to see sights, not deal with maps and unfriendly locals in tiny villages. (Yes, the locals are perfectly friendly. She, however, is slightly fearful of the unfamiliar.)

So then I came up with these alternatives:

7 days Paris, 7 Days Rome


5 days in Paris, 5 days Rome, 4 days Florence or Venice


5 days Paris, 5 days Rome, 4 days London.

Ive been to all of the places mentioned, some several times. So this is all about her. BUT she doesnt want to be involved in the itinerary planning at all. She just wants to get on a plane and see the sights. Im trying to minimize the packing and unpacking, which is why Im limiting us to no more than three or four stops. Im also mindful of the weather that time of year (the middle of October), which is why Im considering Italy.

So bearing in mind my mothers age, inexperience, and skittishness, does anyone have any advice? Am I over-thinking it? Should I just commit to Paris and Southern France and stop worrying about it?

Thanks in advance. The Africa board was incredibly useful when I planned my safari. Im sure you folks on the Europe board are eager to put those guys to shame!

(On a side note, I dont wish to imply that 68 years old is ancient and decrepit. But even though shes perfectly healthy, my mother sometimes deals with situations like shes ten years older than she really is. So I dont want to overtax her, either physically or psychologically. I just want her to have a really nice trip.)
TravlinFool is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 01:56 AM
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Hi travlin,

may I ask why you have jetisoned London from your plans? has she been before?

i liked your first plan from teh point of view that you started off in London, where she will at least understand the language, while she's recovering from jetlag. you could see the sights, take in a show, and ease her gently into the culture shock that is to come.
After London, I suggest a train to Paris - very civilsied in first class on eurostar.

then from Paris, I suggest that you get another train to geneva, [about 4 hours trip] and see the lakes/mountains - IME older people really like boat trips, which should still be going that time of year.

Finally, another train to Venice - 8 hours this time, but train travel is much more relaxing than flying, and you get to see all that scenery.

i know that Venice can be very crowded, but after the tour buses have gone home at night it tends to be less crowded, and in October it shouldn't be too busy or too hot. plenty to do and see and if she gets tired, you can always hop on a boat.

good luck,

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 02:19 AM
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What a wonderful idea! I can just tell a bit of the experience we had with my mum when we took her with us - at that stage she was 79 years old! Quite a difference in age but I will still share our experience!

My Mum went on organised tours to Western and Central Europe and the Scandinavian countries between the age of 55 - 60. She went 3 times and enjoyed each tour more than the previous one. She still enjoys telling tales! On two of the tours she was accompanied by my two sisters. I never had the opportunity to accompany her and decided I want to do that before she is too old to enjoy it.

We usually visit a city and then some towns and villages in the countryside. Favourites are Paris + Provence/Dordogne and Rome + Umbria/Tuscany. When asking her what she would like to do, her answer was she wants to return to Rome - and see some villages while basing in one and driving around. Because she only did organised tours she was looking forward to this "freedom"

So it happened that we start our trip in Nice (we flew open jaw, spent a week close to Vence - and did some driving and sight seeing from there.We just drove in another direction every day and stop when we see a small village. After that we flew to Rome and immediately left for Assisi where we spent another 5 days - driving around and took her to Orvieto, Montalcino, Pienza etc. We all have been to Florence and Venice before. We ended our trip wih 4 days in Rome where her only wish was to visit St Peters again to see the Pieta.

She did not enjoy Rome - although she was grateful that she could see the Pieta. She said is was too busy, noisy etc.

For her, the highlight of the trip was the small villages in the countryside. She enjoyed France and Italy but France was her favourite. We never rushed and saw to it that we were "home" every day for her to take a nap. Later in he afternoon we would go out again - sometimes only to drive somewhere where we could sit at a cafe on a square and people watch while drinking coffee or eating gelato.

We knew the trip would be different from what we are used to - this time it was to treat her - and all of us have memories to treasure forever!

But for you - I think Mum is still young enough to enjoy the cities! And how can one not love Paris? If it was me, I would pick your 5 days Paris, 5 days Rome, 4 days Florence or Venice combination. But that is only because they are my favourites! As I said, we usually enjoy a combination of city and countryside.

You are going to have a wonderful time - and your mother will have a birthday she will never forget!
chiarachiara is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 02:42 AM
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I like annhig's suggestion of
flying to London & train to Paris.
I think it will help ease your Mom
into Europe. You could see a play
while in London as a bonus.
And while in Paris, an easy train
trip to Versailles which depending
on your pace would fill one day.

Then, onto to Venice via train with
posible side trips form Venice.
Just a thought.
Rhea58 is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 04:21 AM
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I totally get what you are saying. My mother is 69 and we are going on our second trip to Paris this coming April. She also does not want anything to do with the planning. She just wants to pack, get on a plane, and see the sights.

Having been to all of the places you suggested and understanding that this could possibly be the only trip with your Mom, I would go to Paris, Rome and Venice. Each is significantly different from the other and I believe she will love all three. As you already know, there is much to see and do in each. For your Mom to be able to see the Eiffel, the Coliseum, and the gondolas I think would be the perfect experience.

If you search my name in Fodor's you will see my upcoming itinerary for April and my past trip report from 2006. It might help you with ideas for things to do with your mom. For me, it was most important to have things to do but also schedule leisure time for just walking and sitting. This plan kept her well-rested and eager to do the next thing.

You will remember this the rest of your life. I know I will always treasure these trips with my mom. Have fun!
Dejais is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 04:26 AM
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Hi T,

>5 days Paris, 5 days Rome, 4 days London.

Fly into London and out of Rome


Fly into London - 1 week with 1-2 daytrips, Eurostar to Paris - 1 week. Fly home.

The less that Mom has to pack and unpack the better.

Also, arriving in London lets Mom get used to the idea of being in another country, but she can still understand the language (mostly).

Enjoy your visit.

ira is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 06:13 AM
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I think you are a wonderful son to take your mother to Europe. I hope this will be just the beginning of a great love affair with travel for her. I am a little younger than your mom but expect to still be travelling everywhere when I am a lot older.

I note that she wants to see "sights" rather than meander about the countryside. For that reason, I would take her to London, Paris and Venice. I would fly into Venice and out of London. I would spend 4 full days in London, 5 in Paris and 4 in Venice.

She will see plenty of sights and her appetite will be whetted for more. Take her to see the sights, to the theatre, to a couple of wonderful restaurants and make sure she has excellent walking shoes as the best part of all of these cities is walking from place to place and enjoying the journey as much as the destination.

Have a wonderful time!
mamc is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 06:24 AM
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What a great son you are.

I agree with the others that flying into London might "ease" Mom into the whole "European experience" thing. Managing in London is much easier when they speak the same (or similar) language, and it will be easier for her to get her bearings and adjust.

London and Paris would be my top choices, and if you want to add a third city, make it Venice or Rome.
cheryllj is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 06:43 AM
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I'd stick with London for a week and Paris for a week with the Eurostar between them. I think there's plenty on the ground in both places, maybe with a day trip or two (Versailles, Chartres, Giverny, Rouen in Paris; Stonehenge, Windsor in London) in addition. I think 3 cities in that amount of time is rushed for a first time traveler of my mother's age ;-). This way you could kick back and really relax and see the two cities.
amyb is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 07:03 AM
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Jump on the Thalys train, from Paris, and go up to Brussels for the day. When you exit the station, in Brussels, directly across the street, is the tourist bus that goes around the city allowing you to jump on and off wherever you want to. Maybe you could even get to Brugge on the same day,too... if you leave early enough out of Paris.Don't forget to take your passport. I know that some people lock them in their hotel safes and take copies around with them.

The Thalys train is non-stop and takes about an hour and a half. You can be back in Paris in the evening. Happy Travels!
Guenmai is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 07:14 AM
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Also, maybe you should rent an apartment in Paris. I'm taking my 80 year-old mother again. She's the opposite though and thinks like a 50 year old, has traveled a lot, and isn't nervous. She always wants to go...go...go... But, there are certain dietary and other needs that need to be met and it's been difficult in the past to meet some needs by staying in a hotel.
I've been going to Paris, and traveling all over, almost annually for 30-plus years and have now decided to rent an apartment in Paris due to my mother's changing needs. Try vacationinparis.com apartment#122. Your mom would be very comfortable in that neighborhood. I've been in that neighborhood since the early 80s.
I think you are really overplanning due to her nervousness. I think maybe 6-7 days in Paris ,in an apartmnet, to get her used to being in a foreign country and over the JETLAG and food changes and then start moving around a bit. Take little day trips out of Paris. You can always go to the Cityrama tourist office on rue Rivoli and pick up a brochure for ideas and then if you don't want to go with them, plan a similiar excursion on public transportation. Happy Travels!
Guenmai is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 09:38 AM
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I'd definitely include London, also, unless there was some reason you dropped it. London, Paris, Rome sounds great for someone who has never traveled much and wants to sightsee in the grand cities.

I'd forget the whole Provence thing. This is your idea, not hers, I can tell. Driving around in a car in the countryside is not what she is probably wanting out of this grand European trip of a lifetime (and I don't blame her, I wouldn't have either for my first trip). It sounds like she didn't have any itnerest in that at all, and I don't think it has to do with whether the locals are friendly or not.

If you want to tour the countryside a bit, there are places that might make more sense or have some interest to you (or can be done on a day tour bus or something). YOu aren't going there, but I did such a bus tour from Edinburgh in Scotland and saw the heather, castles and lovely countryside and enjoyed it. The English Lake Country is very nice, also, and the area between there, Stratford, Windsor and London. I think she could probably relate to that, but the PRovence thing is just out of nowhere.
Christina is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 10:37 AM
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I would tend to split the trip between London and Paris. the first will be less of a culture shock and the transit from one to the other very easy. Also - both have a bunch of easy day trips in the surrounding area - that can be done easily by train or car.

It sounds like she would be more comfortable with this - and perhaps a day trip to Windsor Castle and another to Bath - and from Paris do Versailles and perhaps Chartres.

That will leave you with enough days not to be rushed in either London or Paris.
nytraveler is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 01:13 PM
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I agree that if your mother wants to see the sights, she's not going to be happy driving around Provence. Those of you who are suggesting they start in London seem to have missed the fact that their airline tickets are to Paris. I assume you're also flying home from Paris?

I was going to recommend either the 7 days Paris/7 days Rome itinerary or the 5 days Paris/5 days Rome/4 days Venice one. I would lean towards the last one, except that if you have to fly home from Paris, that's an additional move from Venice back to Paris to fly home. If you could do an open-jaw flight into Paris for 5 nights, fly to Venice for 4, train to Rome for 5 and fly home from Rome, I think it would be perfect!
SusanP is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 01:49 PM
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Susan P said, "If you could do an open-jaw flight into Paris for 5 nights, fly to Venice for 4, train to Rome for 5 and fly home from Rome, I think it would be perfect!"

And I agree, as a 72-year-old, I'd like that if this was my first and maybe only trip to Europe. (I've been about 15 times, so I'm thinking about what would be the most satisfying for her.) And since you have been there and know the ropes, I don't think the language problem will be so bad. She'll have you to rely on for getting around.

charnees is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 02:07 PM
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Wow. Great suggestions, everyone. I'm going do some investigating and see what open jaw tickets are available. We're using FF tickets, so that might limit my options. Will let you know how it goes.
TravlinFool is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 02:56 PM
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If my son would be willing to take me on such a trip, here's what I'd choose.

Fly into London, stay 4 days, fly or train to Paris for 4 days, and fly or train to Venice for 3 days.

Eleven days not counting travel between cities. I'm 70 and have traveled a lot. But, the above are my favorite European cities.

If I could only see Europe once, (my view from experience) these are the most fabulous cities, in my opinion.

Rome has a lot of history but it's extremely hectic and dirty - lot's of graffiti. I was so disappointed. Unless your Mom wants to walk a lot I would pass on Rome. Maybe if she loves this trip you could just take her to Rome at a later date.

I think October is a perfect month albeit one year Europe had a heat wave and none of us had packed for that! We bought t-shirts from the street vendors
nancy is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 03:12 PM
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Rome may be hectic and dirty, but it is still fabulous and full of those sights his mother wants to see! When I'm there, I hardly ever notice the graffiti because I'm focusing on all the wonderful things to see.

And London and Paris will both also mean lots of walking. You can't get around some walking in Europe.
SusanP is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 03:17 PM
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What about Paris...Brussels ( go to Brugge day trip)then Vienna and out?
Brussels is a great central point for many day trips....Provence is wonderful and would be somewhat uncrowded...lots of easy day trips ie Avignon, Aigue Mortes, Uzes, Nice...depending on where u are based. Vienna is so fantastic and so walkable, if you choose, and the trains are so easy to use. I sort of view Paris as the center of the universe, and could never take that from the itinerary.

Bon voyage. Want to adopt me?
deedeezee is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 03:31 PM
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TravlinFool: Your instincts seem very sound and I would go with them, regardless of what we posters advise to the contrary.

A couple of caveats, cavils and qualifiers, however:

1. Your mother wants "to see the sights". Maybe this is just a default mechanism. She's never travelled in Europe so she cannot imagine what pleasures there are in just "being" (in Provence) as opposed to "doing" (in a "sight"-strewn city).

On my first solo trip to Europe (aged 17), Paris overwhelmed and depressed me, Provence was a revelation. Which was the reverse of what I would have expected..... since I, like all neophytes, was keen to see "sights".

2. Rome is perfect in October and I cannot imagine any city that, to the same degree. combines famous "sights" with a liveable scale and a walkable environment.

(Yes, there are graffiti. That's how you know you're in a city, Nancy.)

3. Now, London I do find kinda large and overwhelming. There's just so much of it! And it's so pricey. And Londoners really are NOT awfully nice (my personal conclusion after a dozen or more visits).

Great city -- but perhaps not where I'd take a first-time traveller.
tedgale is offline  

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