Taking Suggestions for Europe Travel!

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by rharrigill, Jul 6, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. rharrigill
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    rharrigill Silver Member

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    We are planning on going to Europe next year for 2 weeks and are trying to decide where to go. We've both never been to Europe, but we do want to go to London for a few nights to visit friends and Paris for a night or two. Other than that, we haven't decided yet.

    So, I'm taking suggestions! What is your favorite place in Europe that you've visited?

    Two weeks isn't nearly enough time as I would like to take, but that's what we've got to work with. We will be using AA miles flying from LIT, and are considering taking advantage of a stopover in NYC because we've never been there either.
     
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  2. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    With two weeks total time, including flights and a NYC stopover for a couple days, you could do Paris and London in a relaxed way. I think it would be crazy to go to Paris (don't miss Versailles) for only a night or two your first time. However, if the trip will be during the summer, you should rethink London/England plans because of the Olympics.

    I'd like you to see more of the countryside, away from big cities, as first timers. However, you probably should avoid renting a car and driving the first time. So this leaves places that are easy by train. From London, Cambridge is a nice day trip, about an hour by express (IIRC nonstop but not fancy) train. Either Bath or Edinborough would be nice for a night or two and the ride to Scotland is quite beautiful, starting a bit before York. If you like champagne, a nice trip for a night or two from Paris by train would be to Epernay or Reims. You could do a night in Honfleur. Another idea a bit farther away is Strassbourg; the region has distinctive food and wine and the canals and flowers are stunning in spring and summer.

    You could easily do USA (London) Paris and then take the train (about four hours and there are fancy trains that are the equivalent of very good restaurants for lunch) from Paris to Amsterdam, leaving for the USA from AMS, which is a very nice and efficient airport. You could spend a day in Brugges on the way to Amsterdam, but it tends to be packed with tourists and might require a train connection. If you do an internal European flight, Copenhagen, Munich, and Barcelona are very nice cities, perhaps for about three or four days in any of these places.
     
  3. JohnDeere19
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    JohnDeere19 Gold Member

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    I really enjoyed Paris. See my trip report below.
     
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  4. rwoman
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    rwoman Gold Member

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    Paris and London are always good picks for a first visit! I agree with the other posts on AMS, Brugge, Bath, and Edinburgh!

    In the UK: Dover/Dover Castle; Canterbury, Salisbury/Stonehenge/Bath (can be done together)
    France: Normandy - there are tours from Paris; French Riviera

    Elsewhere in Europe:
    - Depending on when you're coming, you could try to go to northern Norway to see the midnight sun
    - Madrid - great city, easy to get around!
    - Rome - well, it is Rome!
    - Venice, Florence, or Milan
    - Munich - mountains south of MUC (Garmisch) are great!

    As far as getting around...from London to Paris it's easy to take the train...although check fares as it's not always cheaper. Look for sales!

    There are numerous budget carriers (EasyJet, RyanAir, Germanwings to name a few), but some of the legacy carriers often offer competitive fares. I've ended up using BA, AF, KL, or Alitalia at times because it was competitively priced and I did not have to worry about extra $$ for a checked bag.

    Have a great trip!

    :)robin
     
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  5. SirRagnar
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    SirRagnar Silver Member

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    Being from Denmark I've traveled extensively in Europe (in fact I've been to all countries except Wales, Moldova, Belarus and some of the miniput countries like Andorra, San Marino and Lichtenstein).

    The countries and cities are very different and depending on your personality and who "we" are I have some ideas for recommendations, but it would be great to know what you are looking for in your visit?

    Quickly of my favorite countries are Spain and Switzerland, but it all really depends what you're looking for so let us know and you can get more personalized advices.
     
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  6. mynameismud
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    mynameismud Gold Member

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    If you need advise, recommendations from a french living in France, feel free to ask.

    Enjoy your stay in Europe
     
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  7. Gardyloo
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    Gardyloo Gold Member

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    February? August?
     
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  8. Analise
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    Analise Silver Member

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    Need to know the time of year.
     
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  9. rharrigill
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    rharrigill Silver Member

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    Thanks for the recommendations!

    We = my wife and I. We're both in our mid-20s, so we are open to almost anything.

    We want to go in the summer. Although we are flexible, it will most probably be late Spring/May/June, to beat the Olympics hustle and bustle in late July/August. Is June early enough?

    The reason I said only a night or two in Paris is because I have several friends who have been and they all said Paris was their least favorite European city that they've visited, so that's what my thoughts were based on.
     
  10. SirRagnar
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    SirRagnar Silver Member

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    I agree that it is vastly overrated, especially by Americans. It's really not THAT special as it sounds like in TV Series, Movies etc. :)

    That brings me back to my question about what kind of adventures you're looking for. Culture, meeting the locals, food experiences, sightseeing, architecture, nature, etc, etc.?
     
  11. rharrigill
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    rharrigill Silver Member

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    We definitely want to experience different cultures, sightseeing, and old architecture. These are probably the main things we're looking for.

    A few different food experiences will be nice, but we aren't foodies so that isn't our main mission. I'd like to see a little bit of countryside but that will most likely not be the main focus either because my wife hates riding in cars for long periods of time (unfortunately, I love it and if it were solely up to me I would probably just drive all over the place!)
     
  12. Analise
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    Analise Silver Member

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    Have you considered getting some kind of a Eurorail pass? If you're 25 and under or are students, you can get discounted passes. There are all kinds of trips you can take. Consider sightseeing by rail which will give you such freedom to see the countryside, make stops in major cities or small villages, and not have to drive (and avoid European gasoline prices).
     
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  13. sofasurfer
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    sofasurfer Silver Member

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    IIRC, there aren't just for U-25s any more. They may cost a little more, but can still be a good deal if you pick the right one for your needs.

    Or, you could investigate advance purchase tickets - one-way tickets in first can be exceptionally good value (e.g. in the UK and France).

    You might also want to consider flying IN to the UK but OUT of someplace else, and avoid the horrible APD tax that is now based on distance flown... maybe try for an open jaw?
     
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  14. SirRagnar
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    SirRagnar Silver Member

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    It sounds like you'll enjoy a trip to Madrid. It has a great café culture, a few sightseeings, plenty of old architecture and some interesting foods. It shouldn't be later than June though as it gets terrible hot. Spain is one of the cheapest of the Western European countries to eat and dine in and the Spanish people is really friendly. Especially in Madrid where they don't see as many tourist as for instance the hyper-tourist-crowded Barcelona.

    If you like beer you shouldn't miss out on Brussels. It also have some old architecture and the most amazing beer bars. It may have the image of a boring city due to the EU and NATO headquarters, but it is so much else than that.

    Both these cities are worth 2-3 days, but not much more (which city really is?). From Madrid you can take day trips to the countryside. There isn't far to the mountains: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sierra_de_Guadarrama and if you are renting a car anyways you can pay a visit to Toledo, which should be a very beautiful city: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toledo,_Spain (can also easily be reached by train from Madrid).
     
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  15. pokerhammy
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    pokerhammy Silver Member

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    Wow, I totally disagree with this. How much of a city are you really seeing for only 2-3 days?

    To the OP, for a first timer in Europe, I think London and Paris are great picks and they are good bases for side trips as well. As for Paris, unless you're not into museums, the Louvre and other museums would take at least a day, and Versailles another. Amsterdam or Bruges/Brussels are near enough if you want to visit by train, but I think with transport time considered it's not a lot of time for so many cities. If you're visiting NYC, then you have about 4-5 days in each city, which is just about enough. Of course, it really depends on your travel style and what your interests are. I'm speaking from my personal travel preference, which is to see a few sights leisurely, walk around town and explore, and relax a bit and perhaps do some shopping too ;).

    (I have to confess that I love Paris but I'm really into art and delicious food!)
     
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  16. Steven Schwartz
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    Steven Schwartz Gold Member

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    Hard to fathom that people are claiming Paris is over-rated! We're going in December for our 5th time!

    Okay - first timers - everyone is right - can't go wrong with Paris and London. Heck - you're in your 20s and will have plenty of additional trips. But I haven't seen anyone recommend just Italy. Our son and daughter-in-law just got back from 12 nights that encompassed Rome, Florence and Venice - three separate areas that are all beautiful and very different AND they feel they got a real sense of the country. I think you should consider that option too. Bon Voyage whatever you decide!
     
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  17. rharrigill
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    rharrigill Silver Member

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    A rail pass is something I've considered, but I haven't done much research into it yet since we're still in the early planning stage. When we travel next year, we will both be 25, but that's irrelevant if the 25&U deal no longer exists.

    I definitely already planned on flying into LHR and out of somewhere else to avoid the extra taxes (taxes were about $165 each ticket for the sample dates I looked at).

    These are all great options. Regarding the NYC stopover, we may not take it in order to use the extra time to explore Europe.

    Thanks everyone for the responses so far. Keep them coming, I like to hear what everyone has to say!
     
  18. pokerhammy
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    pokerhammy Silver Member

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    Italy's fantastic but it's another trip on its own I think, due to the distance from LHR.
     
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  19. Gardyloo
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    Gardyloo Gold Member

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    With two weeks and a 6-hour time change to accommodate, I'd make a couple of basic suggestions.

    The stopover in NYC is useful for a couple of reasons. First, if you haven't been, that's reason enough. Second, it allows you to take a morning flight from JFK to London (both BA and AA have flights departing in the morning.) The reason for suggesting this is that it very nearly extinguishes jetlag for most people, so, while you're technically "missing" a day (but "gaining" another night in NYC) many people find that by flying during the day, landing at dinnertime in London, sleeping in a (Priceline) bed near Heathrow - they're fit for duty the next morning, rather than wandering around with the zombies, having not had enough time to "sleep" on an overnight flight from the east coast.

    I'd do two days in London seeing London, then another two somewhere else in England, outside of London. Cambridge would be a top pick for the old-building crowd.

    Then spend at least 3 days in Paris, including a day at Versailles. It's full of tourists, sure, and there's a reason...

    Then, I'd hop a train and head to Holland, either Amsterdam or Delft. Why? Because they're like Europe 101. Gorgeous, historic, eclectic. Quiet. Small, intimate. Get a couple of bikes and make like locals. Head up to Haarlem and see cheese, or up to the coast. Listen to bike bells and church bells instead of car horns. Everyone speaks English. Magic.
     
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  20. SirRagnar
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    SirRagnar Silver Member

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    It's a matter of travel pattern I suppose. I never visits museums or the like (except Museos de Jamón in Spain ;)) so that likely saves me a day or two from every city visit.
    If I should spend 4-5 nights in a city it would have to include some serious nightlife as it can knock half a day off the day after. (Understand me correct, I always enjoy nightlife in cities, that's one of my highlights). Speaking of nightlife, my two suggestions Brussels and Madrid have some amazing nightlife. Be prepared in Madrid for late starters; with dinner time around 10-11pm the nightlife doesn't really start until 1am, but by then it seems like everybody and his dog is out partying in the weekends.

    Italy, as someone suggested, is already a great idea. I'd probably avoid Firenze during the summer as it is extremely crowded with tourist to the point where it is just too much. I've been to the city many times as I travel there as part of my work, so I can give some recommendations if you decide to go, but as mentioned, be prepared for some heavy touristing during summer. Rome is also a favorite city of mine and although it is filled with tourist in the summer, it doesn't feel as bad as Firenze since it is much bigger and handles it better.

    Holland absolutely gets my thumbs up as well, as Gardyloo says. Likely also because it reminds so much of Copenhagen in many ways with the canals, old buildings, liberty and bicycles. CPH is also well worth a visit by the way. It's a tad more expensive though, but I can help you with that if you let me know in advance. There are good deals to be had around, but just not where the tourists normally go. Everybody speaks English here as well, as in Amsterdam.
     
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  21. 7Continents
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    7Continents Silver Member

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    If you want to inject a little adventure into your itin, do what I did. I was on a sports trip through Spain. Madrid-Mountains-Barcelona-Costa del sol. I left my last few days free and refused to decide what I was going to do until the last minute. I ended up flying to Seville to meet one of the tour guides who was doing another tour there, then I went to a big party in Ibiza and stayed with a friend of the tour guide. It was great to be spontaneous and just go.
     
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  22. sofasurfer
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    sofasurfer Silver Member

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    Plenty of low cost flight options available from the UK... or, indeed, the other side of the channel.
    http://www.lowcostairlines.org/ isn't the prettiest site, but can be useful to learn about the existence of LCCs in various parts of the world.. cross-ref with reviews, TRs, etc and you should have a few more options to play with.
     
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  23. rharrigill
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    rharrigill Silver Member

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    Out of those mentioned, I think Spain and Holland appeal to me most. Italy I think should be a separate trip so we won't be rushed to see everything there in a short period of time.

    No one has mentioned Germany? Any recommendations there? Or perhaps Austria?
     
  24. SirRagnar
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    SirRagnar Silver Member

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    Germany is just one big high-way. Nah, just kidding, but that's the reputation is sometimes have in Scandinavia since it's used as high-way to France, Italy, Spain and other popular car vacations.

    Germany is under-rated in my opinion, but for a first timer in Europe there are other countries I'd rather recommend (like above). If you are serious about Germany though, the south has some impressive nature and if you happen to go in October you shouldn't miss out on the Oktoberfest in München.
    Austria also have very beautiful nature and Vienna is lovely. I don't have specific recommendations for those countries, since I have only been there a few times (except the high-ways in Germany :) )

    However, I think you do good in selecting Spain and Holland. You will see two very different cultures and countries.
     
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  25. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    There are rail passes that cover only a single country--for example, I once had a French rail pass good for travel IIRC 4 days in a thirty-day period,which was cheaper that a RT Paris-Marseille. The big Eurrail passes traditionally are good for people who will really use them intensely and cover a lot of territory, including overnighting on trains. This is not a good way to see Europe for a first time in two weeks. As first time visitors, I would suggest not attempting to drive a rental car.

    What sort of budget level do you have in mind? Youth hostel, top hotels, or something in between? Do either of you know any foreign languages well enough to help with getting around?

    For a first trip, I think you should go to relatively easier places: countries where a lot of English is spoken, possibly all countries that use the Euro (to lessen foreign money confusion), places where trains, etc. function well, possibly places where lack of air conditioning outside of good hotels and restaurants will be less of a problem, places where modest accommodations are likely to be clean and safe, etc. Personally, I would leave Italy for a later trip and stick more to northern Europe for a summer trip. Paris, Amsterdam, and stuff in between them would work well; if desired, you could include Strassbourg or the champagne region (Reims, Epernay) by train. If you do internal European flights, Copenhagen or Munich would be fun, maybe with a side trip to Salzberg by train (but avoid the dates of their summer music festival); Vienna seems far from Western Europe.
     
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