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What is your dream 2 week "intro to Europe" trip?

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Jul 31st, 2008, 06:01 PM
  #1
LH
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What is your dream 2 week "intro to Europe" trip?

We are planning a trip to Europe next June (two adults and daughters aged 19 and 16). We have been to Italy two years ago but we stayed the whole two weeks there, and none of us have ever been anywhere else in Europe. I have been reading more books and travel posts than I can count, and am now even more overwhelmed...instead of helping me to streamline my itinerary, I just want to add more!
Can you help?

Here are the basics....we have 14 days, not including travel days. My "must sees" are Paris and Bavarian Germany. Other than that, there are WAY too many great choices. I'm looking at more of Germany (the Romantic Road area, and Rothenberg in particular), also am intrigued by Austria (Salzburg and Sound of Music scenery, and also REutte) and Switzerland (Lauterbratten valley). I'd also love to see Normandy and then go on to Bruges, Belgium...but then it seems like I am taking on way too much than reasonable in two weeks.

You are all going to ask what we like to see and do, and to be honest, we like a bit of everything. Basically we want to see the traditional favorites and what makes them so special. We are happy to sightsee landmarks, tour museums, hike/picnic, see churches and historical sights, etc. Ideally we would find a place to swim, either a lake or hotel pool. We ideally like to stay for several nights in each location, but that may not be possible with all we are trying to do here! For example, when we did our Italy trip two years ago we had a nice variety of city and rural areas....4 nights in Rome, then three nights in Sorrento on the Amalfi coast which we used as a homebase for daytrips to Pompeii and Capri), 4 night in Tuscany (day trip to Florence) and three nights in Venice. It was ideal for us as we saw a good variety of things.

Other thoughts....if we are seeing lots of castles in Germany, should we skip the Loire valley in France with all the chateau? (we don't want to get overloaded so we just gaze upon them with glazed eyes after the first few!) I am thinking we can do Versailles as a day trip from Paris...what about MOnet's garden? Is this a day trip?

I'd love to hear itineraries other people have traveled, or suggestions on how I should craft mine. Especially, advice on arrival and departure cities would be appreciated, which places you think are worth my visit, and for how long. I realize I will be back again (someday!) but we want this to be a good overview..and we don't know that we'll get back with our girls so would like to see the highlights together.

Thanks in advance!
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Jul 31st, 2008, 06:46 PM
  #2
 
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Good question !

My best advice is to assume you will return and go ahead and pre-plan 3 itineraires. That will help to avoid overloading the first one. Here are some samples. I suggest my favorite "starter" set to to include Munich, Salzburg area, and either the Swiss Alps or Italy lakes. Venice is also an option, but in 2 weeks try to keep to 4 destinations. Good luck !

BOB the NAVIGATOR’S FAVORITE ITINERAIRES
FOR OTHER DESTINATIONS IN EUOPE
http://www.worldisround.com/articles/83999/index.html


1. OF ALPS AND LAKES: Four destination in 12 days---train travel.
* Arrive & depart from Zurich---June thu September.
* Itinerary includes Bern. Oberland, Lugano, Luzern, Lago Como
* Option: You could rent a car in Lugano to tour Italy lakes.

2. MAGICAL FAIRYLANDS: Four destinations in 12 to 14 days.
* Arrive & depart Munich---car travel---May thru Sept.
* Itinerary has Salzburg area, Dolomites, Lago Garda, Bavaria.
* Option: Add Venice to the itinerary and drop Lago Garda.
* Bonus: Renting car in Germany versus Italy saves about 30%

3. FRENCH HIGHLIGHTS: Three destinations in 12 to 14 days
* Arrive Paris and depart Nice---car & train travel preferable
* Itinerary to include Paris, Provence, & Cote d’ Azur [5-4-3]
* Option: Can be done by train, but will limit Provence options.
* Bonus: AVG train to Avignon to get car for Provence.

4. ANDALUSIAN TREASURES[Spain]: Five destinations in 15 days.
* Arrive & depart Madrid---car and train travel
* Best time to go: April & May are best—avoid hotter months
* Itinerary to include Madrid, Seville, Ronda, Nerja, Granada
* Option: Substitute Toledo for Madrid & drive the entire trip
* NOTE: It really takes 4 trips to see Spain—this is just one.








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Jul 31st, 2008, 06:55 PM
  #3
 
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Monet's garden at Giverny is a short day trip.

I'm only here to point out to you -- and not in a condescending way I hope! -- that Europe also includes Spain, the Netherlands, Greece, etc. In fact, on one sense, an "introduction" to Europe that doesn't include Greece wouldn't make sense to a lot of people.

I'm bringing this up because it might help this trip fall into place better if you dropped the idea of viewing it as your family's "introduction to Europe." What it really looks like already is things you've seen in pictures and would like to experience in three dimensions -- which is a perfectly reasonable way to spend money on a vacation.

So far it looks to me like you want spectacular mountain scenery and castles, plus Paris, with all its artworks and style.

I've never been been to Bavaria, so I don't know how much time is involved or how much it can deliver your spectacular scenery (you can certainly have the castles), but why don't you focus on dividing your weeks between Paris, maybe with day trips to Normandy and Giverny (skip Versailles) plus castles and mountains/lakes Bavaria and elsewhere if needed?
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Jul 31st, 2008, 06:58 PM
  #4
 
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We love Germany, Austria and Switzerland. We have done a half dozen trips there in the last 10 years.

If you are interested, here are trip reports and photos from our last 3 trips. The 2007 trip was 3 weeks but the other two were about 2 weeks.


Link to 2007 Germany/Austria Trip Report on Fodors:

http://fodors.com/forums/threadselec...2&tid=35079647

Photos:
http://travel.webshots.com/album/561038806XxDcvw

Link to 2006 Germany & Switzerland trip report on Fodors:

http://fodors.com/forums/threadselec...2&tid=34813676

Photos:
http://travel.webshots.com/album/554510509SyxotU

Link to 2005 Germany & Austria trip report on Fodors:

http://fodors.com/forums/threadselec...2&tid=34625250

Photos:
http://travel.webshots.com/album/354616542PMkPVQ
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Jul 31st, 2008, 07:24 PM
  #5
dmlove
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It's so hard to get an introduction to Europe in just 2 weeks -- but here's what we have done:

First trip with the kids (one month)(then 13 and 11), 10 days in UK (London, York, Edinburgh), 8 days in France (Paris, Loire Valley), 2 days in Switzerland (Interlaken), 10 days in Italy (Venice, Florence, Rome, Viareggio). All travel was by train with the exception of Paris-Interlaken (rental car). This WAS a dream trip, but we had a month!

Second trip with kids (two weeks) (then 17 and 15), 6 days in London (Stonehenge, Bath, Oxford, Cambridge), 4 days in Mallorca, 4 days in Barcelona. Flew EasyJet to Mallorca and back from Barcelona. Only car was for the day trip to Stonehenge, Bath and Oxford.

Third trip with kids (16 days) (then 19 and 17) -- 2 days Amsterdam, 4 days Prague, 3 days Berlin, 6 days French Riviera. We flew from Amsterdam to Prague, the rest was on the train (we love trains).

If it were me, and I had two weeks for an "introductory" trip (excluding Italy), I'd probably go to London for week and Paris for a week, and do stuff around in and around those cities.
 
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Aug 1st, 2008, 06:29 AM
  #6
 
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We had 12 days in Germany-10 if you knock off the travel days, and I thought that our trip felt rushed. You can find my trip report easily by clicking my screen name. I'll let others plan your trip, but let me put in a pitch for Nurnberg. It is close to Rothenburg and the Romantic Road. Why I mention it is that there is a very cool pedestrian shopping area within the walled old city that I'm sure your daughters would enjoy.
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Aug 1st, 2008, 06:43 AM
  #7
 
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<<My "must sees" are Paris and Bavarian Germany.>>

If those are your musts, and with only two weeks, I'd personally stop right there!
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Aug 1st, 2008, 06:59 AM
  #8
 
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I agree with Suze. There would be plenty to see if you devoted a week each to Paris and Bavaria. I love that area of Germany and while many think Rothenburg is too touristy...we loved it...and the Night Watchman's Tour!http://www.nightwatchman.de/index.php?&sprache=ENG

Splitting up your trip between those two destinations is a nice blend of city and countryside...and it's very easy to get around by car in Germany. Salzburg is also very close by and an easy train trip from Munich or an hour by bus from Berchtesgaden (that's how we went).

If you have a history buff: http://www.eagles-nest-tours.com/EN/...ex.php?navid=2

Have a wonderful trip.
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Aug 1st, 2008, 08:01 AM
  #9
LH
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Wow, thanks for the great responses..I am printing them all. Note to Zeppole that I'd LOVE to go to Greece but that is a whole separate trip in my mind..one we hope to make in 2010 as as a 50th bday celebration.
This is my skeletal itinerary as of now..
Paris (4 nights)with a day trip to either Versailles or Giverny; Burgundy (2 nights), Murren, Switzerland (3 nights)....then I'm not sure...I as thinking two more stops....one to do southern Bavarian castles,(maybe daytrip to Salzburg?) and one for Rothenberg, Rheinfels castle areas. Not sure how to work this in.

Or should I take a train from Paris to Switzerland and skip Burgundy area? I'd still get to see the scenery but wouldn't commit to a two-night stay enroute, leaving those nights open to be spent in Germany.

Any recommendation on whether I should fly home from Frankfurt or Munich, based on my tentative itineray?

And looking at this itinerary, where am I best using the train vs. having a car? I thought a car would be ideal to explore the villages of the Romantic Road, but based on Missypies's driving "fun", I'm not sure I"m up for it (my husband and I almost KILLED each other trying to navigate in Florence!)

The more I plan the more I keep adding and that is where I am getting into trouble!
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Aug 1st, 2008, 08:27 AM
  #10
 
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Just a note regarding choosing between Versailles and Giverny.

Unless one of you has a very keen interest in Monet, and are planning making a visit to the Marmottan in Paris one of your priorities, I think taking time from the spectacular gardens of Paris to visit the garden in Giverny is not the way to go. But if Monet is a special interest, by all means go.

As for Versailles, it is a spectacular palace and garden, with unique features to be sure. However, the Louvre is also a palace, Paris has gorgeous gardens, and you are planning a trip rich with castle-sights. There is much of stunning architectural interest to see in Paris, in particular St Denis, which only takes a sunny morning.

I would also suggest that you not base yourselves in Murren, because to go anyplace else other than its peaks means getting off the mountaintop. Take a look at Spiez or towns in the Lauterbrunnen Valley, which gives you easy access to the heights, but also to lake trips and other sights by train in case it rains.

Have a great trip.
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Aug 1st, 2008, 09:01 AM
  #11
LH
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Thanks, Zeppole. Maybe we will skip the side-trip to Giverny...my father was there a couple of years ago and raved about it, so that is why I had it on my list. I definitely see your point about being able to see beautiful gardens elsewhere.
I've been reading Rick Steves books, and it was his recommendation that I was planning on Murren. He REALLY wants people to stay in Gimmenwald, which is a bit too remote for us (no restaurants, etc....and I notice he doesn't lodge his tours there)..so he had suggested Murren as a near-by "resort town". I am definitely one for convenience, so if Murren doesn't seem practical I am very open to your other suggestions. Thanks!
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Aug 1st, 2008, 09:05 AM
  #12
 
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Well I guess you didn't like my advice ;-) but I still say 3 countries with 5+ cities is too much for a two week trip.

Subtract your first and last day for airport arrival/departure, hotel check in/out, etc. You're down to 12 days. Subtract 1/2 day each time you change loations...

You're down to 10 days of actual sight-seeing.

If you're set on Switzerland the train Paris to Geneva or Lausanne is an easy one and the Lac Leman region is very beautiful.
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Aug 1st, 2008, 09:24 AM
  #13
dmlove
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suze, the OP said their 14 days was not including travel days, so subtract only the inter-city travel, rather than the first and last days.
 
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Aug 1st, 2008, 09:28 AM
  #14
ira
 
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Hi LH,

I usually recommend:

Fly into London - 1 week
train to Paris - 1 week
Fly home

>My "must sees" are Paris and Bavarian Germany.

In that case,

Fly into Munich - 2 nights - 1/2 day to Dachau

Rent car and drive to Fuessen - 2 nights (see Neuchwanstein, Hohenschwangau and Linderhof) as well as the area.

Drive to Rothenburg - 2 nights
OR
Lindau - 2 nights

Drive to Stuttgart and drop the car.

Train to Strasbourg - 2 nights.

Train to Paris - 6 nights.

You can do this in reverse, but I thought that I would save the best for last.

You might find my trip reports helpful:
Ira Visits Zurich, The Bodensee, Alsace and Paris – May 2008
http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=35136218

Ira Visits Europe – May, 2007 (Salzburg, Fuessen, Bodensee, Burgundy, Alsace)
http://fodors.com/forums/threadselec...2&tid=35014078



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Aug 1st, 2008, 09:37 AM
  #15
LH
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Yes, it is 14 days not including travel days. I understand what you are saying Suze...there is so much to see that I know being only a few days in each won't let us see everything...we are just looking for a good "overview" and then we can select our favorites for future extended "in-depth" stays. When we did our Italy trip in about the same amount of time, we did four different stops, and that was about perfect (two per week)...so if I could get this to four "home bases" that would be ideal. Paris, Lauterbrunen Valey, and then two others....one for southern sights of King Ludgwig's Castle, maybe Salzburg, and one more Northern for Rhine sights/Rheinfels/Bacarach. I am uncertain about distances/travel time between Rhine towns and Romatic Road sights. I have read many recommendations for people staying to spend the night in Rothenberg (to see it without the daytime chaos) so I'd like to do that and take the Night Watchman's tour. Then maybe go north and do Rheinfels..but how much time should I allow for all of this? Seems like a need a homebase near Ludwig castles/luge, then another night in Rothenbert and then another up by Rhine..but that is way too many one-nighters...any sugestions on one or two home bases that would let me cover that whole Rhine/Bavaria area in about a week?
I have noticed that frequent flier tickets are being released now for travel the end of June 2009 (when we plan to go) so I at least need to figure out my arrival/departure tickets and commit to that.....If I am planning a route..should I do Paris/Rhine/Bavaria/Switzerland and fly out of Switzerland (and which city?)....or Paris/Switzerland/Bavaria/Rhine..
then fly out of..Frankfurt?
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Aug 1st, 2008, 09:40 AM
  #16
LH
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Ira must have written is post as I was typing mine. Thank you, Ira you have given me a lot to think about. I am interested in what everyone else has to say about doing Paris last instead of first?
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Aug 1st, 2008, 11:33 AM
  #17
 
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Zurich or Geneva are both great airports to use in Switzerland. Both have a train station right there.
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Aug 1st, 2008, 11:39 AM
  #18
twk
 
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Do what Ira suggests. You'll get a little bit of everything without going so fast that you don't absorb anything.

When I graduated high school in 1985, I did a group trip where we circled Western Europe in 19 days. After it was done, I could say that I saw Amsterdam, Munich, Venice, Rome, Florence, Switzerland, Paris, and London, but that's about it. We spent almost half our waking hours on a bus. It gave me some ideas of places that I wanted to go back to, but so far, I'm woefully behind covering those places. Don't waste this trip by trying to stretch it too thin.
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Aug 1st, 2008, 11:48 AM
  #19
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One more thing: If you do follow Ira's intinerary (and I think I would keep Paris last), then I would strongly consider renting an apartment. We did when we went to Paris and found it to be a great experience. You don't have to cook--just enjoy have a place to relax, other than sitting on your bed, and a refrigerator where you can keep snacks or drinks. There are patisseries seemingly on every corner in Paris, and you'll be able to get a great light breakfast from them that you can enjoy in your apartment.
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Aug 1st, 2008, 12:01 PM
  #20
 
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Ah, I graduated from law school in 1985 - the good old days when the dollar was very strong! I took my first trip to Europe. We picked up a car in Frankfurt, drove up the Rhine and down the Mosel, then to Brussels and Amsterdam, then down to Paris (where we left the car), then to London. We did this all in two weeks and had a great time. I prefer a slower pace now, but it was a good introductory trip.

If you do as I say and not as I did, you could learn to use a GPS, fly into Paris first, then pick up a car and drive to Trier, then up the Mosel, down the Rhine, then to Bavaria - fly into Paris and out of Munich.

If you can stand to miss the Rhine Valley this trip, go to Paris first, take a train to Frankfurt, then spend one night in Rothenburg, one in Nurnburg, then head down to Bavaria, flying home out of Munich.
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