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Turning 50 in 2007-Should we go to Europe?

Turning 50 in 2007-Should we go to Europe?

Old Jan 20th, 2006, 05:13 PM
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Turning 50 in 2007-Should we go to Europe?

In 2007 my husband and I both turn 50!! Where did the time go??? Anyway, we had planned to go to Tahiti at 50 but lately We've been rethinking it. Since we've never been to Europe, maybe at 50 years old it's time to go? We can save Tahiti for 60 yrs old!

So, I'm hoping you European experts can help us figure out which and how many countries we should visit during a 7 to 10 day trip. What is the BEST way to country hop? Thought taking the train would be exciting, but a friend said we should fly to destinations.

We will be flying from Boston and the countries we're most interested in are England, France, Italy, Ireland and Holland, not necessarily in that order. I love sightseeing but my husband prefers to relax on vacation. (Probably why we've never been to Europe)! Thanks for any information!!
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Old Jan 20th, 2006, 05:28 PM
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Suggestion number 1: Pick 2 cities in the same country. That's about all you shouldtry to do in 7 days. Three cities max.

If you don't have a slight preference of a particular country then go to your local video store and rent some travel videos that'll give you and idea of thing to do and see in the countries you're interested in.

Start making a list of things that appeal to you most, like museums, architecture, nature, mountains etc whatever. Then maybe try to match those things up with certain countries or cities. Just don't try to stuff too much into a short period of time because you'll be exhausted. Have enough time in one place to relax and enjoy yourselves.
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Old Jan 20th, 2006, 05:30 PM
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forgot to ask...what time of year are you going?
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Old Jan 20th, 2006, 05:30 PM
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I agree with Sandi.
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Old Jan 20th, 2006, 05:35 PM
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How many countries in 7 - 10 days? One. And not all of that one.

or you could hit two cities - London/Paris, Rome/Venice, Venice/Florence, London/Amsterdam, Amsterdam/Paris.

You can't really "country hop" in such a short trip.

Whether to travel by train or plane really depends on which country/cities you choose.
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Old Jan 20th, 2006, 05:38 PM
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I agree with Sandi, too little time to country hop unless you think you'll like the old "if it's tuesday it must be belgium" routine.

Wherever you go, mix it up so your hubby also gets some relaxing time. My husband feels same way, so we have always done a little city/ a little rest. France: Paris, and then some time driving Brittany/Normandy and a lovely chateaux 'relax' part along the way. England: London, and some relax time in Bath/Dorset/Poole area. Italy (my favorite) -Rome or Florence for a few days, give him his rest in Tuscany/Siena/San Gimignano area or the Amalfi Coast. Or some combo like that, but in that time frame it wouldn't appeal to me to be changing every few days and if he likes to have some relax time, he might get way to overloaded plus flying from place to place eats up so much time - getting to airport, the hours needed to check in, at the other end, - for me, anyway.

On the trains you at least get some scenery and they are easier and you don't have to be there hours before they leave like an airplane. For 7-10 days, I'd want to really get a flavor for one country.
I'd push for at least 10-12 dys b/c you lose two flying, unless you aren't counting those days.
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Old Jan 20th, 2006, 05:41 PM
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Hi, Jayneann,

With only 7 to 10 days, I would stick to one country; maybe two cities if you have 10 days not including travel days.

Or, with 9 to 10 days, you could get a taste of two of the major cities, e.g. London/Paris, Rome/Venice, etc.

Others will probably tell you a good way to divide your time would be 5 or 6 days in a major city, with the rest of the time in smaller towns in the same country, for a different pace and some balance.

The combinations and permutations are vast, so why not get several good guidebooks to various countries (starting with Fodor's, of course) and see what appeals. You have lots of time to plan and discover what appeals to you most.

I think most Fodorites will agree that 5 or 6 countries/destinations in 9 or 10 days is too hectic a pace to really enjoy or absorb what you're seeing...although there are those who seem to thrive on that kind of thing. For me, it's too much time in transit, packing/unpacking, etc.

Slow down. You couldn't really hit the highlights in a whole month, and Europe will still be there for next time. And I bet it'll be long before you're 60!

Hey, once you get a taste...

As I said, narrow down your choices and then come back here for the best travel input anywhere. And congratulations on turning 50 next year; you wanna trade?
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Old Jan 20th, 2006, 05:53 PM
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LUCKY YOU! I'm turnig 70 in 2007!
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Old Jan 20th, 2006, 05:56 PM
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Hi Jayneann!

We celebrated my 50th this past August with a cruise to Tahiti. It was absolutely amazing and I, for one, highly recommend it. Lots of honeymooners also, so the crowd is varied. If you have specific questions, please e-mail me directly at [email protected].

As for a European adventure, I will chime in with the rest and recommend a Rome/Venice combo via train or, perhaps, Rome/Tuscan Countryside (rent a car for this leg), if your Birthdays fall between March and late October.
You really could not enjoy much more than that in a 10 day period.

In any event, congratulations and many more!

Anna Roz
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Old Jan 20th, 2006, 06:07 PM
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I am sorry if this is way too much information, but I've posted below my trip report of London-Paris-Amsterdam, from last June. My husband and I are in our early 50s, and we traveled with our 20-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son. We had never visited these cities and loved our itinerary for the two week vacation. I think you can do more than one country if you plan carefully and strategically. My own preference, though, would be to stay no less than 4 nights in one city, maybe even at least 5.
First stop: London. Four nights’ stay, first visit for my husband and I, second visit for our two teens.

We liked the Hyde Park Radnor Hotel very much. Nice simple breakfast included eggs with ham plus cold cereals, juice, coffee, etc.. VERY small room and bath, though, for a quad family room. But a very clean and nicely kept place. Location very safe, and close to Paddington tube. Beautiful residential neighborhood to stroll around in.

First vacation problem we encountered, though, was when we arrived on United airlines at Heathrow. We kept waiting for my husband's bag to come up on the carousel. Finally it dawned on us that the one remaining bag going around, which looked identical to my husband's but wasn't his, was the only bag left.

It turned out some dunderhead took my husband's bag by mistake, didn't check the nametag on it, and headed off to Wales! Not what you need at the beginning of the trip. The good news was that it was just clothes, and worst case my husband could borrow some of our 17 year old son's clothes. Plus, we were staying in London four nights, so we hoped the bag would show up before we left.

Luckily, the dunderhead discovered the mistake before driving too far and United delivered the bag to our hotel late that night. Lesson learned-- maybe put a bright swatch of tape or a ribbon on your bag to easily distinguish it.

We were getting a very late start on dinner one night, and knew the kitchens were closing at that late hour, so we opted to simply walk the pretty neighborhood by our hotel. We found the excellent Indian restaurant down the street from the Hyde Park Radnor, the “Noorjahan 2” at 26 Sussex Place. I had an amazing prawn dish with shrimp so big you'd think they were lobster tails, in this incredible sauce. (And this from someone who thought she didn’t like Indian food!)

Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower was interesting and memorable. (Tickets are limited, but free if you inquire by mail in advance.)

Thames River cruise at night with Circular Cruise was very pretty to see the city lit up.

Great lunch at a restaurant across the street from Parliament, St. Stephans Tavern If you stand at the main street facing the Parliament, it’s on the left, across the street, on the first corner down. Very nice, traditional English atmosphere-- wood and leaded glass . Good sandwiches. Minimum age is 18, but they let in our 17 year old son anyway.

Also a nice lunch near the Hyde Park Radnor Hotel, at Sawyers Arms, 8-9 London Street. Nothing really special, but good sandwiches, good value, cute atmosphere and good service.

Took the tube one evening to see “Abbey Road” and take our corny pictures crossing it. Then we took the tube to Hampstead for dinner. Found the La Gaffe Italian restaurant there, which was very good. Barely caught the last tube into Paddington at midnight and back to our hotel. Very fun evening.

Toured Kensington Palace, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. The Banqueting House was closed, so we unfortunately missed seeing the Rubens ceiling.

Saw the queen’s royal guards on horseback, parading from Hyde Park with canons in tow, to give the Salute to the Crown on June 2 (which we missed because we had a train to catch). Saw royal marching band practicing, too, on the parade grounds near Buckingham Palace the afternoon before.

Our daughter liked shopping on Oxford Street, at TopShop, Mango and Zara mostly. Our son discovered the Apple Store there, too. We adults thought Oxford Circus way too crowded for our tastes.

Used the tube and city buses extensively. Very easy to figure out and get around.

Second stop: Paris. Four nights’ stay, first visit for all of us.

Stayed at Hotel la Bourdonnais, in the 7th and liked it very much. Nice-sized quad room for our family, with A/C and a lift. GREAT view of the Eiffel Tower from our little balcony. Friendly front desk, too. Offered a simple breakfast buffet, but we chose to visit Rue Cler in the mornings, for coffee, croissants, crepes and fresh fruit. A nice market next door to the hotel was handy, too. Metro stop on the corner, Batobus stop close by, too, at the Eiffel Tower. Even an ATM machine at the corner bank. Loved the location and the upscale neighborhood. An easy walk through the Champs de Mars to the Eiffel Tower.

Funny experience—on the Rue Cler, I met a woman who must be related to Seinfeld’s “Soup Nazi”! (Remember that classic episode?) When I went into a patisserie/coffee shop there, to place my order, using my decent but very basic college-level French, and my best manners, I was immediately, loudly and firmly told by the counter attendant to “Go, sit!” I never did understand why I was ordered to sit, when many French women went up to the counter and had no problem ordering their items take-out. I wanted to sit outside anyway, but still didn’t understand the system.

When I wanted another cup of coffee, I threw caution to the wind, and went back inside to ask for another “s’il vous plait.” I was again ordered to “Go, sit.” Very odd. Enough so that I sure didn’t return the next mornings!

One morning at brunch, at La Terrasse, around the corner from Hotel la Bourdonnais, we had a very nice young French man who waited on us and spoke excellent English. When we complimented his English, he said he’d studied in Washington D.C., and that he wanted to move permanently to the U.S. because he said, “People here are rude!”

(Please, don't anyone infer I am saying Parisians are rude in general-- just reporting two funny incidents. All told, we found Paris as welcoming and friendly as you'd expect any large city to be that hosts hordes of tourists-- like New York City-- who wouldn't get edgy now and then? But the Croissant Nazi, now she has no excuse!)

Bought the Batobus two-day pass and enjoyed hopping on and off the boat to get to the sights, plus seeing the beautiful city lit up, from the river at night.

Toured Notre Dame, Sainte Chappelle, walked to the second level of the Eiffel Tower, visited the Louvre and the d’Orsay. Walked the Champs Elysee and window-shopped the designer houses. Our daughter did some shopping at Zara there, and our son got some French perfume for his girlfriend on the Champs Elysee, too.

We walked everywhere, but didn’t have time to get to Montmartre and Sacre Coeur, or to the Sorbonne and Latin Quarter. Too much to see in Paris for only three days there.

Had our favorite meal on Ille St. Louis, at Le Caveau de l’Isle, at 36 rue Saint-Louuis en l’Isle. Great menu, with a three-course fixed prix around 30 EU. Excellent and friendly service. Small and atmospheric place.

First dinner at Le Champ de Mars on Avenue de la Bourdonnais simply because it was close and we were starving. Good enough food poor service as only two waiters were serving the entire place. Nothing memorable, except the price of an iced tea or cola there is outrageous! The kids ordered one apiece at this first meal, and they were 6 EU for the small size and 8 EU for a medium!! Tried not to make that mistake again. Wine at the same place was only 4 EU a glass.

Not so good dining experience, also on Ille St. Louis (that’s what we get for returning a second night!). A place called Sergeant at Arms or something like that. It is more a family place, but we were too exhausted and hungry to search further. The waiter was very funny and friendly, the food basic but plentiful. The problem was that shortly after we were seated and had started our salads, a table of SEVEN middle school girls was put next to us. Seating was very tight, and four of the girls shared the banquette seating with two of us. They proceeded to get out of control right away, singing loudly, jumping up and down on the banquette seat, running around, spitting food out and laughing, generally cutting up inappropriately in a restaurant.

They were part of a large party of about 35 people, with the adults all sitting together in an area a level above ours. We thought it was rude of the adults not to mind the kids, or care they were disturbing the rest of the restaurant. And a mistake on the restaurant’s part to seat them there, also, instead of hiding them in the back, behind their parents’ tables. After asking twice to move, we were finally given another table on the other side of the room from them. We also noticed a couple was seated next to the girls, but soon asked to be moved as well.

Final stop: Amsterdam. Five nights’ stay, first visit for all of us.

LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Amsterdam! You always hear of the Red Light district and the coffee shops and the laissez-faire attitude, but you don’t hear how open and friendly the people are, how lovely the canals and side streets, how wonderfully trendy the restaurants and cafes, how people are out strolling at all hours of the night and you feel safe everywhere. I think I’d expected it to be quaint and charming (which it is), but in a dark wood-paneled cliché way, not in the young and contemporary way it is.

The standard reply we were given in Amsterdam, when we asked for anything, was always “Of course!” How refreshing.

We stayed in a fabulous location, at The Hotel Residence le Coin, which was directly across a small street from the Hotel de l’Europe, down the street from the Hotel Doelan, on Nieuwe Doelenstraat (sp?). A great neighborhood in the heart of old Amsterdam.

The hotel has a lift and A/C, also free use of the hotel’s washing machine and clothes dryer in the basement (which was welcome as we’d been traveling over a week when we arrived there). Each room has a little kitchenette, a nice-sized bath, large rooms with wooden floors and a sitting area. It’s fairly new, so everything sparkles. Very friendly front desk, too.

Two cafes on the same block as the hotel were wonderful: Café Katoen for a university atmosphere, and Café de Jaren, for great table seating on the canal.

Amazing dinners at two restaurants in particular:
“Stout!”, at Haarlemmerstraat 73 ( Fabulous ‘foamy asparagus’ soup with shrimp, chateaubriande, fresh fish, dessert course, wine list. Very trendy lighting. Great service. We’d gone to the neighborhood in search of a restaurant called “Lof” which we’d seen written up. We didn’t like its atmosphere, but were lucky that Stout! was just across the street.

Also at “Restaurant Dining Eleven” we had a great dinner. It’s at Reestraat 11. Also trendy and contempory, well-presented and beautifully-served meal.

Another nice dinner at “frenzi”, at Swanenburgwal 232. Very simple and contemporary. We arrived shortly after 10:00p.m., when most restaurants close in Amsterdam, and persuaded the owner to sell us any left-overs they had in the kitchen! They put together a nice Caesar salad with cooked-in-the-shell shrimp and mango. Very nice.

Also a good brunch at a place across the street from frenzi—called “Puccini”. Creative salads and sandwiches. Very nice also.

We took a canal cruise one evening. Toured the Anne Frank Huis and the Van Gogh Museum. Visited the Nieuwe Kerk (sp?) Our teens went to a concert at the Paradiso and loved it.

One afternoon we did the 2:30 “Best of Holland” excursion to Volendam and Marken, with a stop to see wooden clogs made, Gouda cheese created, and to visit windmills. It was by bus, with a boat from Volendam to Marken. A lot of fun. Even our two teens liked it.

Our teens also liked shopping at one street in particular, between our hotel and the museum district. Also a Zara shop there, and many others like it. They thought the selection and prices were better in Amsterdam than what they’d seen in London and Paris even.

A detail about Amsterdam if you go there-- carry enough Euros in cash, because many places won't accept a credit card for a 'small' purchase (i.e. under 25 EU).
The only unpleasantness we encountered in Amsterdam related to cab rides and inconsistent pricing. Especially when our two teens were grossly overcharged cabbing to the hotel from the concert. They were well aware of the route, having walked it already twice, but we'd wanted them to cab home late at night. They knew the cabbie took a very round-about way back in order to over-charge. Also, when we arrived at the taxi sand at Central Station, I was literally swarmed by rather aggressive cabbies and felt uncomfortably jostled by them all.

A great trip all in all. Weather was spotty, with rain showers on and off, but not bad.
We enjoyed EuroStar from London to Paris. Then we took the Thalys from Paris to Amsterdam. It, too, was very nice, until we encountered a derailment which had rail traffic stopped at central station. We were re-routed to Schipol airport, and told our tickets would get us to Central Station on another train. It didn't make much sense, as that train also got held up by the derailment mess, and was a commuter which was quite slow. Also, they didn't give us much direction as to how to find the next train, but we figured it out. Some locals simply shrugged and indicated that the train system didn't usually run 100 percent smoothly. Not a good start to Amsterdam, but we loved it there anyway.

Now we're home and suffering from post-vacation blues! Who wants to come do the laundry for me? C'est la vie. Where to next?? We're thinking of sun and sand...

Old Jan 20th, 2006, 06:28 PM
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I went to Morocco for cooking school for my 50th, so I can relate to the need for something special.

Just go to Paris. It's the most romantic city in the world. With 7-10 days you can see most of the major sights in Paris and maybe a daytrip out to Chartes or Chantilly or Senlis or Auvers-sur-Oise or Vaux-le-Vicomte or Fontainebleu - it will be fabulous, I guarantee. DON'T try to cram too much into this vacation. Go to ONE country and enjoy it!
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Old Jan 20th, 2006, 06:33 PM
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Wow, thanks everyone for the quick replies!!! I LOVE the thought of Italy, especially Venice, but my husband thinks he might like Ireland, then I remember my grandparents were from England, and isn't Paris supposed to be the most beautiful city in the world? And how can I go to Europe and not visit Amsterdam??? See my dilemma?

Seriously though, how far is London from Paris? What about Amsterdam? Thanks MaureenB for such a detailed report!! Very helpful!

Also, how far is Venice from Calabria? My husband and I are both beach people so maybe this would be a good trip. Does anyone have any thoughts about which country is best to visit for a first timer?

Thanks again for all the help. I love this forum and just returned from a trip to Costa Rica that I planned based on the advice from this message board!
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Old Jan 20th, 2006, 06:46 PM
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Trust me..most of us had the same problem on our first trip..trying to decide. But, decide you must. Euope will still be there for your second and third trip etc.

Narrow it down. Did you mention the time of year you'd be going?
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Old Jan 20th, 2006, 06:50 PM
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I was thinking we would probably go in the summer, sometime between June and August.
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Old Jan 20th, 2006, 07:17 PM
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Get a map of Italy so that you can see distances to different cities and regions. Calabria will be very hot in the summer, but if you don't mind that, you could do a great beach vacation there. I would fly from Venice to Reggio Calabria if I could. I think you can fly from the UK to Reggio Calabria, inexpensively.

Amsterdam and Paris are connected by fast rail, so that could be an option. Ditto London and Paris. And those cities with Amsterdam.

Sometimes distances are as important as good rail or flight connections.

For my 50th, we spent 6 nights in Paris, doing everything, basically, that I wanted. It was heavenly. Im over halfway to my 60th and I can't at all decide where I want to go.
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Old Jan 20th, 2006, 07:24 PM
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May I ask you what you did for 6 nights in Paris? For your 60th, what about South Pacific or Australia?
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Old Jan 21st, 2006, 03:14 AM
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I think the other posters are correct. 7-10 days is , in my opinion, 2 cities at most. The most important question would be "What is it about Europe that attracts you?" then pick from there. I am sure there are wonderful beaches in Europe, but if the beach is your main objective, then the Tahiti cruise may be more your thing.

London is easy as people there speak nearly the same language. Paris is only 2.5 hours away by Eurostar. Both cities have more than enough attractions to keep you busy for a week, and a combination of the two will give you all the history, art, shows, good food and famous monuments you could ask for.

Much as I love Paris, my favourite country is Italy. Venice is unique - it will be hot and crowded, but for all my reservations before going there (Historical disneyland for the sickeningly romantic), I fell in love with the place, and will continue to return. Rome is wonderful and well worth doing. people have been flocking to Florence for centuries, and with good reason.

Whatever you decide on, have a wonderful trip.

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Old Jan 21st, 2006, 03:37 AM
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Hi J,

>May I ask you what you did for 6 nights in Paris?<

For a start, look up Paris under "Destinations".

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Old Jan 21st, 2006, 04:08 AM
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I never got to Europe until I was 60,but since then I have traveled France 2 weeks, London, Ireland and Scotland, Eastern Europe, and Rome and will go to Amsterdam in the spring.
My suggestions as others is either pick 1 or 2 countries. France is great. Paris alone you could spend the whole time,but take daytrips as suggested out of the city to Versailles or maybe take the TGV to Nice for a few days added on to Paris. Rome you could do the same. Enough there to keep yo busy the whole time or take a daytrip to Orvieto or split the time and go to the Amalfi Coast in addition.
I would go as early in June as possible as it gets hot and many more tourist. My favorite month to travel to Europe is May.
Whatever you decide you will enjoy,but don't try to cover so much territory.
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Old Jan 21st, 2006, 06:19 AM
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try not to make your travel in August. Very Hot, crowded and a lot of shops may be closed since August is the travel month for a lot of Europeans.
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