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Young Couple's First EuroTrip

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Nov 4th, 2013, 09:31 AM
  #1
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Young Couple's First EuroTrip

Hello! I've recently begun planning my first trip to Europe with my husband for late Sept/Oct 2014 from the US. We are planning 5days in London (with a show and day trip - unsure of where yet), 5days in Paris with day trip to Normandy for D-Day beaches (are there good towns for wine not far from Paris?), overnight train to 4days in Munich with day trips to Dachau and Neuschwanstein castle (sp?) and finishing with 3-4days in Prague. We love to walk/hike, eat, and enjoy history. Looking for suggestions for London area day trips, tips for travel to Normandy and between Munich/Prague, overall lodging (apt rental vs hotels or private hostel rooms) and general encouragement. I've traveled and am comfortable in big cities (Sydney/Gold Coast AUS, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, Chicago) but am a little nervous re: language barriers (I speak English/Spanish). Thank you!
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Nov 4th, 2013, 09:48 AM
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Well since you are presumably going by train check out these superb sites IMO for lots of help planning a European rail trip - www.seat61.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.

One crucial train is the Eurostar train London to Paris - go to www.eurostar.com for all the various fares - booking months in advance can save a huge amount of money - just show up and you both may pay $100 or so more - but discounted tickets are set in stone - non-changeable non-refundable so be sure of your time. IME mid-week days have the lower fares - this is a tiered fare system - the earlier you book the lower you pay.

For trains schedules all over Europe I always use www.bahn.de/en - the German Railways web site as it is for me and many the easiest to use and always seems accurate.

For travel between Paris and Munich check www.voyages-sncf.com for advance discounted fares on the CNL night train you mention and also for fares from Munich to Prague - for trains to Neuschwanstein (a k a Mad Ludwig's Neuschwanstein use the Bavaria Pass which for about 29 euros or so total you can ride any regional train in Bavaria for a whole day - well not just one train but any train and to Fuessen, railhead for Neuschwanstein - about two miles out of town with buses or taxis there or a lovely footpath thru a forest there from the Fuessen train station - anyway only regional trains go to Fuessen so that ticket is a bargain (Bavarian Lander Card - can only use regional trains, not faster IC or ICE trains but also valid on trams, buses and S- and U-Bahns in Munich for the whole day as well - buy that ticket at the train station.

Since you have a limited number of train trips eschew any railpass - none that I can think of would help with your plans - and consider booking ahead on the French or German railways site for nifty discounts (but again non-changeable non-refundable and sold in limited numbers so have to book weeks early to guarantee.

The Paris to Bayeux/Caen train needs not be booked in advance as there are very little savings if any on many trains on that route over full fare - just buy a ticket at Saint-Lazare station in Paris - hourly trains or more so no problem getting on.
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Nov 4th, 2013, 09:48 AM
  #3
 
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are there good towns for wine not far from Paris?

Not really, although the TGV can zip you to the Loire valley, Dijon or Reims in no time. Normandy is apple country.

It sounds as though you have not looked at guidebooks. Start leafing through them and buy the one that would appear to fit your own style of traveling.
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Nov 4th, 2013, 09:51 AM
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I personally think you are trying to do too much.

5 days in London will actually be 3. Your first day is mostly lost to jet lag and acclimating. Then you want a day trip outside town. So you will have very little free time IN the city.

Almost the same for Paris . You will lose half a day between your hotel in London and getting settled in Paris and then want to spend a VERY long day touring Normandy. Leaving about 3.5 days for Paris.

I'd seriously consider picking either Munich OR Prague and spend 2 or 3 days in one of the two and add the extra time to London and Paris.
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Nov 4th, 2013, 10:04 AM
  #5
 
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Well as you are usually presumptively intending by means of coach have a look at these kind of excellent internet sites IMO for lots of aid arranging a Western european track getaway :.
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Nov 4th, 2013, 10:15 AM
  #6
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Palen, thx for the great train info! I've looked at the Bahn site a little bit but glad to have your input all in one place. Michael, I have Rick Steve's Best of Europe but it mainly focuses on the big cities so I haven't done a lot of town/country reading yet. We do like apples so that might be fun in Normandy! Will look into the wine places you mention. Janis, we do have 3 extra days (18-21 day trip) that I failed to mention if we find that 5 in London/Paris isn't feasible. So we could do 6 days in those places, keeping both Munich and Prague. Thoughts? Those places are important to us as my husband's family is from Germany and I have distant and yet-unknown relatives near Prague.
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Nov 4th, 2013, 10:19 AM
  #7
 
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Just those few extra days would help a LOT IMO. I'd maybe allot one more day to London than Paris simply because of the jet lag . But that is a minor quibble.
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Nov 4th, 2013, 11:18 AM
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"...(are there good towns for wine not far from Paris?..."

http://www.reims-tourism.com/reims-c...champagne.aspx

Less than an hour by train from Paris-Est, about a train an hour, see www.voyages-sncf.com
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Nov 5th, 2013, 07:26 AM
  #9
 
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I think it will be difficult to schedule Normandy as a day trip because most of the guided tours leave before the train arrives from Paris to Bayeaux.If you really want to do this, look into the WWII museum trips in Caen. My memory is that
the museum trips can be done because they will pick up at the train station in Caen and then start the tour. You really should have a tour of the WWII landing beaches. We stayed in Bayeux for two nights and all this information is from memory.

Pat
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Nov 5th, 2013, 08:30 AM
  #10
 
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As above, a one day trip tour to Normandy is possible to book from Paris, but it will be an 18 hour day! But you really don't have that many days IN Paris to begin with--and you're looking for a wine tour from there also.
I also think too many places, and not really enough time. Why not say your total time right now, and then allocate the days.
For moving around a lot, I am a "hotel person", not apartments. It's just easier all around, and you have a desk to help with reservations or directions, etc.
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Nov 5th, 2013, 09:08 AM
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I would drop a place on your list, Munich?, and , for example, spend two nights in Normandy. It is too far to enjoy as a day trip. Add the extra days to Paris and London. I don't usually do day trips on my first visit to a major city as there is so much to see there.
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Nov 5th, 2013, 01:29 PM
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Last time I was in Bayeux - several years back now the tourist office arranged on the spot D-day tours that left around noon - half-day tours and a hotel right opposite the Bayeux train station was offering mini-bus tours on the spot whenever. Check with the Bayeux tourist office - they have a comprehensive listing of tour operators and details last I checked.
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Nov 5th, 2013, 02:20 PM
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If you get to Munich late in September, first week of October, it's the time of the Oktoberfest. The bad news is that hotel prices get really expensive but it certainly is an experience worth experiencing at least once.

If you want to invest an additional day for the trip from Munich to Prague, I'd either go via Dresden, spend a night there and then take a boat trip through the Elbe sandstone mountains (the boat trip runs parallel to the rail from Dresden to Prague, so you just get on the train to Prague at the station where you end the boat trip). The boat trip obviously depends on the weather

The alternative is going via Vienna (or Bratislava) and spend a night there.

For finding hotels I like www.hrs.de

For appartments in Prague, I had a very good experience with Prague First Choice Appartments, staying in Truhlarska.

As for wine tasting, I'd consider spending a few euro more each day on wine in Paris restaurants instead of spending the money for a day trip
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Nov 5th, 2013, 02:32 PM
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I just did a day trip to Bayeux for the Normandy WWII sites, it was very easy and not a problem at all. There are half day tours that start around 1 pm, that's all. It's easy to get there on the train from Paris (and I even had time to see the tapestry before the tour, plus have lunch) before then. I think I got there around 11 am probably, or 10:30. And it's easy to walk to town center from the train station as Bayeux is small. The tour finished around 5 pm, they know the time the TGV leaves for Paris (around 6:15 pm), and then you are back around 8 pm or so.

I used Normandy Sightseeing tours and it was excellent, very enjoyable. http://www.normandy-sightseeing-tours.com/en/
I did the afternoon Omaha Beach tour.
http://www.normandy-sightseeing-tour...noon-tour.html

There are some other companies that do that, also, like this one http://www.overlordtour.com/overlord...es_prices.html
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Nov 5th, 2013, 02:34 PM
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And I forgot, don't worry about the language barrier.

You won't have any serious issues in the cities you mentioned speaking only English/Spanish. They're visited by literally milions of tourists who don't speak the local language and hotels, railway stations, museums etc. are prepared to deal with them. Even in the worst case a smile, some sign language and the little English spoken by everybody will get you a dinner.
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Nov 5th, 2013, 04:22 PM
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I also think you are trying to do too much too quickly. There is so much to see in London & Paris; perhaps leave exploring Loire/Burgundy/Champagne for another visit. Yes, it will be harvest time, and if you do choose to go easterly to that region overnight, then you should skip Normandy. Leave the Normandy trip w/ the coastline towns of Honfleur, Dieppe, Etretat and Mont St. Michel for 'next time.' Every time we have gone to Paris, we add on a new direction for some nights. You will find wonderful wines in Paris without seeking out a specific additional region. Do not worry about not speaking the language in big cities; everyone 50 or so and under speaks some English to some degree, especially in hotels, restaurants and shops. Menus are frequently bi-lingual w/ English. Travel by train wherever you can, it is so much more relaxing than car rental. Good luck and plan to go back soon! My first visit to Europe was at age 40 and I've gone now 12 times.
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Nov 5th, 2013, 04:32 PM
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Normandy is not known for its wines, but it has great hard cider!
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Nov 5th, 2013, 04:43 PM
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"...Normandy is not known for its wines, but it has great hard cider!..."

And don't forget Calvados - it only sounds Spanish, it's the Normandie's equivalent to cognac, made from apples - a heavenly drop!
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Nov 5th, 2013, 08:39 PM
  #19
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Christina and PalenQ, thank you for the update on the 1/2day Normandy tours. I will definitely check into the company mentioned! I am also intrigued by the hard cider post in Normandy as well as Calvados.. zorros and Michel - I am sold!! The wine country bit was just something I thought I should get opinions on, so I'm glad I didnt go overboard doing research before discovering that it would just be too much for this time. Hans, also thanks for the info on the boat tour, it sounds lovely if we are able to add another day to Munich/Prague at the end. Worth some reading for sure!! We are very excited, my husband has never been outside of North America and I'm trying to remedy that as best as I can.
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Nov 6th, 2013, 04:47 AM
  #20
 
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ckwmn writes, "...5days in Paris ...overnight train to 4days in Munich with day trips to Dachau and Neuschwanstein castle (sp?) and finishing with 3-4days in Prague. We love to walk/hike, eat, and enjoy history.

I would definitely reconsider this part.

1.) Take note of Hans' cautionary comment about Oktoberfest. Room prices are astronomical - and often not even available months in advance.

2.) Though Munich's a nice place, your trip is already overloaded on huge cities, and you'll actually see more of historic, old-world Germany in places that were less devastated during WW II than Munich.

3.) N'stein isn't a real castle but a late 19th-century palace, just FYI.

4.) Night trains sound romantic but the rigors of travel usually demand a good night's sleep. Opt for a late afternoon train?

I would axe Munich. Make stops on a more direct route to Prague... Spend 2 nights in Mainz and 3 in Nuremberg instead.

Mainz: Leave Paris at about 5 pm, arrive around 9 pm in Mainz. Daytrip the next day to the Middle Rhine Valley (40 castles in 40 miles between Bingen and Koblenz; take a river cruise? Tour Marksburg, stop in old world villages like Bacharach and Oberwesel.)

Mainz: http://www.mainz-ferienapartment.de/...cn0067_400.jpg

MR Valley: http://www.welterbe-mittelrheintal.d...php?id=274&L=3

Nuremberg: Less than 3 hours from Mainz. WW II: Nazi Documentation Center... Handsome old town area... Kaiserburg Castle... Nice beer halls

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractio...a_Bavaria.html

http://www.nuku.de/pictures/restaura...-12093-800.jpg

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...erburg_002.jpg

From Nuremberg, take a daytrip to Bamberg, Rothenburg, or the Bad Windsheim open-air museum.

Bamberg: http://pb.schweigt.net/_index/_medias/_sb/sb_4.jpg

BW museum: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractio...conia_Bav.html

From Nuremberg, you are less than 4 hours from Prague.
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