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Londonlover Apr 28th, 2010 09:53 AM

Train suggestions for Rome-Switzerland-Paris
 
In May I'm going into Rome and want to end up in Paris about two weeks later, I'm using FF miles so my end date is flexible.

I've never really travelled between European cities before and not sure what to do. I am hoping to travel from Rome to Switzerland (city not decided, preferably one easy to get to), then to Bayeaux (or Cain) and back to Paris.

I'm assuming I should get either a three country Eurail pass or one of the passes where you can use 5 tickets on one day.

Can any experience travelers help me out on what trains you would take for this kind of trip?

Palenque Apr 28th, 2010 10:17 AM

I would definitely advise any first-time traveler to Switzerland to head to the fantastic Jungfrau Region by Interlaken and to sweet Alpine villages like Wengen, Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen, etc - this area is the essence of the Switzerland pictures etched in our minds' eyes - dramatic snow- and glacier-girdled high peaks - toy-like mountain-climbing trains, a plethora of aerial cable cars and hiking paths for all degrees of difficulties

And this area is smack on - or actually a short detour - off a main rail route between Italy and Paris - Paris is just a few hours away by high-speed TGV trains. I'd spend at least a few days here.

As for railpasses some may find the Swiss Pass itself to be the best deal since it covers in full trains to places in the Jungfrau Region whereas a Eurailpass only gives 25% off trains above Interlaken. And trains in Italy are relatively cheap - and at www.voyages-sncf.com you can nab really cheap PREM fares from say Basel or Geneva or Bern to Paris - combine those with a Swiss Pass - which would take you from the Italian border to the French border - could be the best bet. Or the Eurail Select Saverpass good for 3 countries - Italy, Switzerland and France. The Swiss Pass is almost always IMO a great deal for plans like yours.
For loads of great info on Swiss and Italian and French trains and railpasses i always highlight these info-laden sites: www.ricksteves.com; www.seat61.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com - download the latter's free and superb IMO European Planning & Rail Guide that has a good chapter on Switzerland with itineraries, rail maps, etc. For Switzerland along www.swisstravelsystem.com has a wealth of info on not only trains but Special Tourist Scenic Trains like the fabled Golden Pass train that you can take from Interlaken to the shores of Lake Geneva at Montreux - another great Swiss area that could well be incorporated into reaching Paris.

Londonlover Apr 28th, 2010 12:09 PM

thanks palenque but I need a bump

Londonlover Apr 28th, 2010 12:13 PM

Palenque could you be more specific on the route I need to take? Rome to what city in Switzerland?

Palenque Apr 29th, 2010 09:36 AM

If from Rome go via Florence and Milan (just a few hours now from Rome) and then via Stresa (great stop off for Lake Stresa and the fabled Borromean Islands just off shore - Stresa is a captivating cutesy resort town on this idyllic lake) -

anyway go via the Simplon Tunnel and Brig to Spiez - change at Spiez to Interlaken.

Interlaken is the gateway to the fantastic Berner Oberland - a k a Jungfrau Region and in the hills dreamy towns like Wengen, Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen - all easily reached by rail - or stay in Interlaken itself and use it as a base.

Then when heading to France hop the Golden Pass special scenic train to Montreux on Lake Geneva - another nice base for a few days with lots of places nearby of interest - like the Chateau Chillon, a lakeside aboade once of Lord Byron (i believe)

Then hop a few-minute train to nearby Lausanne to blast into Paris on the high-speed (nearly 190 mph at top speed) TGV in about four hours.

Or from Interlaken you could go to nearby Bern and take a French TGV from there to Paris.

Palenque Apr 29th, 2010 11:37 AM

The above is a really easy rail route - main lines with trains every hour or more. Now Rome to Interlaken is about 7 hours - a longtime for most to be on a train. So since you have at least two weeks i'd suggest going perhaps to Lake Stresa and staying in Stresa - about half-way to Interlaken

and in Italy besides Rome Florence (1.5 hrs from Rome) is smack on the route to Milan and Switzerland

and you could go from Florence to Venice - about 3 hrs

and then Venice to Stresa

Stresa to Interlaken and Jungfrau Region

then either Golden Pass rail route to Montreux, from Interlaken and thence onto Paris from there

or if wanting to go direct from Interlaken area to Paris then go via nearby Bern for direct TGV trains to Paris - about 5 hours all told from Interlaken.

There are many neat little day trips to take from any Interlaken area base so several days can be wonderfully spent in what many consider to be the absolute highlight of Switzerland for the average tourist.

Palenque Apr 30th, 2010 10:38 AM

In the Interlaken area here are some popular and tremendous IME day excursions

Boat rides on either of the lakes that bookend Interlaken - Lake Thun or Lake Brienz (Swiss passes valid on boats just like trains)

Train up to the Jungfraujoch station - 11,300+ ft - highest station in Europe and in a sea of snow and ice and fantastic 360 degree views over Alps and Interlaken nestled between its lakes far far below

The Lauterbrunnen Valley - Trummelbach Falls - a thundering water cascade INSIDE a mountain - walkway take you inside to oogle it

Bern - 45 min by train or less from Interlaken - a rainy day trip - fine old town

Lucerne is also a possible day trip - via the scenic Brunig Pass rail route - Lucerne IMO is one of the most visually gorgeous cities in Europe

And hikes galore for all degrees of difficulty - like the famous and easy and flat Mannlichen to Kleine Schiedegg ridge walk

And my favorite the trip from Lauterbrunnen up the cliff a few thousand feet to Murren and Gimmelwald with a side trip to the Schilthorn and back down by a really thrilling aerial cableway to the Lauterbrunnen Valley

Ricardo_215 Apr 30th, 2010 11:35 AM

As we drove from Basel to Lauterbrunnen in May '07 there was a strange beep on the hire car - it was a frost warning. "You should have come last week, we were sunbathing" was the welcome. After the mild few weeks, the sudden plunge of temperatures damaged most of the young growth. Visibility was poor, so we decided against doing the high cable cars and train to Jungfrau. Still, we enjoyed it, loved the Trummelbach Falls, and hope to return when we can see more.

Palenque May 3rd, 2010 09:31 AM

Tant pis that you were frozen out of the higher cable cars in the Lauterbrunnen Valley - like doing what is my favorite excursion in the whole of the Berner Oberland:

From Lauterbrunnen take the new aerial cableway up the cliff a few thousand feet to Grutschalp - to hop on an electric train that hugs the cliff - affording some of the most fantastic views in all of Europe from a train seat (sit on left side for views) to Murren - and then hop another aerial cableway down to nearby Gimmelwald - a farming hamlet out in the middle of nowhere but surrounded by glaciers and snow-capped peaks of the awesome Jungfrau Massif in the near distance

and then hop the cableway back down to the Lauterbrunnen Valley at Stechelberg - tucked in at the very end of the valley to hop an iconic Swiss postal bus the few miles back to Lauterbrunnen (accessible by trains from Interlaken, Grindelwald and Wengen).

The Gimmelwald-Stechelberg aerial cableway is a real thrill ride and the cable seemingly plunges to the ground a few thousand feet below - nervous Nellies stand in the middle so you cannot see out the solid glass cage!

Ricardo_215 May 3rd, 2010 09:53 AM

Ah, the memories. Yes we must go back there. We had thought of sleeping in the car to save money, but as it was so cold I enquired at the hotel in Stechelberg, but it was full. A nice lady told us about a hostel 2 minutes walk away. I don't speak German, but managed to say "Sprechen zie englisch?" to the man there, who thankfully turned out to be Welsh with an Aussie wife. They gave us a very warm welcome, had a room ready for someone who hadn't turned up (it was about 8 or 9pm I think) and as we were the only ones there we had our meal with them in their own kitchen instead of using the communal one for guests. They had been full up the previous night as people had been stuck because of the weather.
We saw all the cable cars. Apparently the children often use them for going to school, depending on their age. Beats the school bus. I still have the tourist map/diagram of Schilthorn showing all the mountains and trains/cable cars on my office wall to remind me. But we did manage a valley walk from Stechelberg to Lauterbrunnen and the waterfalls were beautiful, just shooting straight off the top of the cliffs.

Ricardo_215 May 3rd, 2010 09:56 AM

Yes those cable cars looked amazing, mind you we did a ride in Colorado Royal Gorge last year with, I think, the highest drop or some superlative like that. It suddenly stopped 3/4 of the way across and 1 or 2 screamed. Somebody - I think it was me - had jogged the door. Thankfully it didn't open!
We did plan to return to Switzerland last year but our son got married in Canada so we went there instead. But your description is making me yearn to go back to the Alps again.

Palenque May 4th, 2010 07:14 AM

And you can hop what purportedly is the longest aerial cableway in the Alps - from Murren, on the above Lauterbrunnen-Murren-Gimmelwad-Stechelberg-Lauterbrunnen Loop you can from Murren hop the several kilometre-long cableway to the remote icy outpost of the Schilthorn - where there is the famous revolving restaurant from a James Bond movie (On Her/His Majesty's Service i believe) - anyway there is a terrace out in the middle of ice and snow with awesome views all around - including down to Interlaken far below, nestled between its lakes.

Though all the cables, trains and buses of the Lauterbrunnen-Murren-Gimmelwald-Stechelberg-Lauterbrunnen Loop are covered 100% by a Swiss Pass the Murren to Schilthorn detour is 50% off with a Swiss Pass.

pookymimi May 4th, 2010 04:22 PM

Oh Palenque,

I need to stop reading your postings, hahaha
Now I'm adding more to our visits to Switzerland!

Palenque May 5th, 2010 11:37 AM

And to mix in a little easy hiking or really Alpine walking into the above Lauterbrunnen-Murren-Gimmelwald-Stechelberg Loop then eschew the aerial cableway from Murren to Gimmelwald and instead hoof it down - yes down the few miles to Gimmelwald on a nice paved path - one that yields scintillating views over the Lauterbrunne Valley far below and teh Jungfrau Massif right opposite.

And from Stechelberg you can walk a flat two miles or so to Lauterbrunnen, following a girgling stream - instead of taking the postal bus. A sweet easy walk with the rugged rocky cliffs on each side of the Lauterbrunnen Valaley rising steeply on each side.

Palenque May 7th, 2010 12:28 PM

And the easy Stechelberg to Lauterbrunnen walk takes you right by Trummelbach Falls - though you cannot see the falls as this is a rumbling tumbling torrent cascading down the inside of the cliff - said to be the sole drain of the Jungfrau Massif on the north side there is always water loudy gushing down - catwalks let you see the unique falls.

And right before Lauterbrunnen the path goes by Staubbach Falls, which cascades down from Murren high above - in summer it could be a trickle however - but you can walk up to the base.


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