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Tons of questions!!

Old Oct 26th, 2009, 07:40 PM
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Tons of questions!!

This is our first trip to europe. We are going from december 13 to 26.
We are thinking expending 6 days in Paris (not necessarily consecutive) and the rest in Brussels, Bruges, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, and Strasbourg. We can't agree in how many days we should stay in each place. I know is not much time but we want to make the best of it, and because neither of us has been there, we are just guessing.

In addition to that I'm getting crazy because the europass vs tickets topic for this trips. I don't Know if the europass (France- Benelux) cover all this destinations without expending additional money?, can I choose de TGV train or it has to be the other one?.

Someone has spend cristhmas day in paris, what can we do in the 24th and 25th?

I know that I am asking for much but any help that you could give me will be great.
Thanks in advance
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Old Oct 26th, 2009, 09:07 PM
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>>6 days in Paris (not necessarily consecutive) and the rest in Brussels, Bruges, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, and Strasbourg.
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Old Oct 26th, 2009, 09:08 PM
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Why do you want to go to Luxembourg and Strasbourg?Are these all countries you have to go to? I would definitely spend Christmas in a bigger city as things close down early on Christmas Eve and sometimes even the day after Christmas.Give us some more information and we will be happy to help you plan.
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Old Oct 27th, 2009, 01:34 AM
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The advantage of being in Amsterdam for Christmas is that the museums are open then, which I am not sure they are in other countries.
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Old Oct 27th, 2009, 04:23 AM
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I have no actual facts, but somehow Strasburg seems a possible nice place to spend Christmas. How much will be close I do not know, better find out before going.
I would not spend time in Luxembourgh.
I know that in Strasbourg they have a famous Christmas Maket, which should make the city look very joyousThis year I am reading there will be an enormous Chritmas tree, skating rings and many concerts
around town. I do not know the dates may be this concerts take place in December but not necessarily in Christmas.
The Cathedral is magnificent and the whole old neighborhood La Petit France is very , very nice to walk around.
There are canals and of course a baateau muche that for a few euros can get you around, under bridges etc
The food is delicious, ah those choucroute garnie and so much more an the beer places and wine little places I am imagine that it might be a nice place for Christmas.
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Old Oct 27th, 2009, 10:00 AM
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Thanks for your answers. I new in Fodors, so I made a mistake and did not tell you that I already have the tickets arriving and departing in Paris. Because of this I'll be in Paris at the begining of my trip, and I think is best if I stay in Paris the days near the departure day(december 26th).
So it will have to be christmas in Paris (any ideas???)

After reading your reply, I Know we can't go to so many places so what would you recomend I should do, knowing we want to be in Paris beginig and end of our trip.

Someone told me about strasbourg and Colmar. Should I stay only un France or go to another country not far away?

Thanks for the help
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Old Oct 27th, 2009, 10:15 AM
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Luxembourg is usually not on a first timer's list. It is VERY expensive too.Most of the Christmas markets are usually closed before Christmas Eve.
I would think that a church service at Christmas at Notre Dame or smaller church might be very interesting?
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Old Oct 27th, 2009, 10:21 AM
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Agree you're trying to do way too much. You're not allowing for:

holiday and even when you can do little
very short daylight hours
shorter hours some things are open in winter
the time it takes to find and check into hotel, unpack, figure out wher you and other things are - so many times in so few days

In 13 days (I hope all on the ground, not counting arrival and departure) 3 cities is plenty, esp when one is Paris
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Old Oct 27th, 2009, 10:21 AM
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For your train and pass questions - yes the Benelux-France Pass can be used on all trains to all places you mention. In France it is valid on TGV trains but you must pay a 3 euro reservation fee that the pass won't cover but otherwise the fare is covered by the pass. In Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg (Benelux) you can hop on virtually any train anytime - seat reservations not even possible on most trains in those countries. And for the travel you envisage i'd say the pass would be a good deal - like many 2-country passes the first-class rate is not all that much more than the 2nd-class rate so i'd opt for that - in decades of using passes in Benelux i've rarely if ever not found ample empty seats in first class - 2nd class can be problematic at certain times of day and in first class you have wider seats - better chance of getting a window or aisle seat, more room for luggage, etc. - a more leisurely experience.
If you plan your itinerary carefully you will not have to take the Thalys train between Amsterdam or Brussels and Paris - this train, like TGVs requires reservations but imposes a really steep surcharge for railpass holders - of i think $30 in 2nd class and much more in 1st class, though in that class you do get decent comp food and wine.
But if you go Amsterdam to Bruges then you can take the IC trains you can just hop on and which are covered in full by the pass and from Bruges to Paris go via IC train to Lille then TGV to Paris - paying only the 3 euro TGV reservation fee - and travel time is about the same 2.5 hours all told, the same as going via Brussels and taking the Thalys train to Paris.
In any case for lots of great info on train travel in these countries and about passes i always refer to these great sources laden with objective info: www.seat61.com; www.ricksteves.com andhttp://www.budgeteuropetravel.com/id39.html. I've traveled for years on trains in these countries so if you have any rail questions i'll be pleased to try to answer them. This pass is not marketed in Europe to my knowledge but only to foreign travelers so buy it in your home country. Some folk will point out that www.voyages-sncf.com, the French Railways site has great PREM fares for the TGVs to Strasbourg or Luxembourg but these have to be booked far in advance to guarantee them and they cannot usually be changed or refunded - with the pass you do have complete flexibility to travel as you want as you go.
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Old Oct 27th, 2009, 11:00 AM
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Here is an idea:

Arrive at CDG on Sunday Dec 13.

Take a TGV (may be Thalys) from CGD to Brussels Midi station. Stow the bags at the station. Visit the Brussels main square (fabulous) for 2-3 hours.
Departures from CDG at 10:10 and 12:35 on Sundays. Allow 2 1/2 hrs between air landing & train departure. Trip is 1 3/4 hrs. They are futzing with the Dec 13 schedule on the Germain train site - so check updated schedules closer to your travel date.

Take a train from Brussels Midi to Amsterdam central. Many departures daily. Spend 3-4 nights in Amsterdam.

Take the Thalys/other from Amsterdam to Paris. Many departures. 3 1/4 hrs.

Stay 4 nights in Paris.

Take the TGV from Paris to Strasbourg. Many departures, 2 1/4 hrs. Stay 3 nights. Do a day trip to Colmar if you want (by train).

Take the TGV back to Paris & stay 2 nights.

Head home

Stu Dudley
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Old Oct 27th, 2009, 12:33 PM
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http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en?

this site, run by German Railways (DB) is the best and easiest i have encountered for train schedules in all of Europe. If the dates you want are too far in advance just put a day in that does show up as train schedules often do not change that much - if there are hourly trains now there will be a year from now, etc.
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Old Oct 27th, 2009, 12:51 PM
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The site Palenque gave you was the same one I offered earlier. In addition to Palenque's suggestion about changing dates if your travel date is too far in the future, quite often there are different schedules on different days of the week - particularily weekdays and weekends. Since you will arrive on a Sunday and may not want to go to Paris first, make sure you use a Sunday date if Dec 13 trains schedules are not "loaded" yet (like they aren't for Dec 13 travel to Amsterdam from CDG).

Stu Dudley
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Old Oct 27th, 2009, 01:05 PM
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Sorry i did not read carefully and duplicated Stu's link. And you can also access the Dutch Railways web site www.ns.nl; France www.voyages-sncf.com and

for Belgium SNCB

www.b-rail.be/main/E/

In the IC/IR timetable, a more compact version of the railway timetable, ...
http://www.b-rail.be/nat/E/timetable...ures/index.php

The bahn.de site will not give prices for trains not involving Germany usually but the national sites will so you can gauge the efficacy of a pass in money terms at least - of course IMO there are other pluses to passes than just cost effectiveness.
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Old Oct 28th, 2009, 06:04 AM
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Ok, I read all the info you all send me.
Stu Dudley, Your itinerary seems great. My husband is wondering if is better Amsterdam than Bruges (someone is been talking to him about it). My flyght is the 13th but I arrive the 14th at 11 am in paris, but I think that is not much difference right?

Palenque, I cheked the trains tickets for the itinerary Stu Dudley advice in rail europe and for the fares that I saw is still cheaper to buy the europass Benelux- France, and pay de 3 euro extra fee for reservation (I cheked the fastest way to go to every place), I'm wrong?
Other thing that I didn't not understand is the train ticket been less expensive Paris Amsterdam than Paris Strasbourg, how can that be?
Thanks for everything.
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Old Oct 28th, 2009, 06:08 AM
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Dutyfree,
Have you spend christmas in Paris? will be around 23, 24, 25, and leaving 26. Any tips on what to do the 24th? (in Colombia, where I'm from that night is the important not the 25th). And what about the 25th that everybody says everything is closed?
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Old Oct 28th, 2009, 06:43 AM
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Other thing that I didn't not understand is the train ticket been less expensive Paris Amsterdam than Paris Strasbourg, how can that be?
Thanks for everything.>

Yes it could well be as the Thalys trains you must take Paris to Amsterdam have a Byzantine fare structure with some really cheap tickets available if you book far in advance but the closer the train date comes the more expensive the tickets get as there are only x number sold at each fare level - full price should be more than Paris-Strasbourg full price i would expect.
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Old Oct 28th, 2009, 07:21 AM
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It is harder to get to Brugges than to Amsterdam to/from Paris.

Brugges is fantastic, but so is Amsterdam. If the weather is cold and/or rainy - I would prefer to be in Amsterdam.

We were in both cities in'07

Stu Dudley
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Old Oct 28th, 2009, 12:42 PM
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If you do the 3 hr visit of Brussels on the way from CDG to Amsterdam (or Bruges), note that the main square is near the Brussels Central station. So you'll have to make a short trip from the Midi station (where the train arrives & departs) to the central station. There is storage for bags at the central station - don't know about the Midi station.

Stu Dudley
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Old Oct 28th, 2009, 08:38 PM
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I have not spent Christmas there but New Years Eve back when I was in college studying French and Italian art. It was magical with the Christmas lights all up and down the Champs. People were happy,wine and champagne were flowing and it was a very special night.
Although Protestant in religion, I went to an Ash Wednesday service with a friend at Notre Dame and was mesmerized.The history filled the air within the church and the service(while in French)was interesting to watch. I thought that if you were actually in Paris for Christmas it might be on your list?
Because I fly for a US airline overseas everyweek, I said to be careful as you get closer to the Christmas holiday as each country seems to have its special hours. I have found that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are usually with family and lots of things and places to eat are closed. Perhaps one of the Fodor Frenchmen could help you?
I think that you have gotten some great suggestions from persons above so I wish you a wonderful holiday trip. Let us know what you decide.
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Old Oct 29th, 2009, 03:09 AM
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Hi Mar,

You have RT Paris airfare.

Is there a problem with spending 12 days in Paris?

You can daytrip to Dijon, Strasbourg, Lyon...... in a couple of hours.

Check train fares at www.voyages-sncf.com and compare to a railpass.
Railpass requires extra fee for many high-speed trains.

Enjoy your less frenetic visit to fewer places.

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