Posted: Sun Oct 22, 2006 3:39 pm Post subject: France & Europe holiday suggestions
If everything goes according to plan, my husband and I will be spending 2 weeks in Europe come next May (2007) to celebrate a milestone birthday (mine). When I suggested this trip (2 years ago) I had in mind that I wanted to be within view of the Eiffel Tower for my birthday dinner. Now that I am actually sitting down and trying out to figure where and what I want to do I am finding it rather overwhelming.
This will be the first time in our 20-some years of marriage that we have had a holiday of this kind. We've done a few Caribbean vacations but nothing of this magnitude. I visted Europe when I was a teenager, doing a whirlwind one-week tour of Brussels, Holland, Switzerland, Germany and France. I have been perusing all the Paris & France restaurant/hotel suggestions on this forum and am compiling a list (a huge one, as you can imagine.)
So I am looking for some suggestions.
1) We will probably travel mostly by rail when we get there. (Who needs the stress of driving in a foreign country?)
2) Food and wine are a huge factor in how well we enjoy a vacation. That said, we don't have unlimited funds.
3)I definitely want to spend at least 3-5 days in Paris, but would also like to see some of the French countryside. Where?
4) I think we will probably rent an apartment, rather than stay in a hotel. I am looking forward to browsing some of the Paris food shops.
5) I am thinking that a France/Italy combination might be very nice. Where in Italy?
6) I remember loving Amsterdam when we were there. (The canals...I love water!) Would adding a 2 day in Amsterdam be too much?
7) The regular tourist attractions are not that important to me. I like to be immersed in the geography of a place.
We don't want this to be an over-planned vacation; we want to be able to have the freedom to say "let's stay here awhile." The chance of us returning to Europe in the near future is not very likely so I really want to make the most of it.
So, my European friends & world travellers, any suggestions? Any places that are a must see?
Heather _________________ Life is too short to drink cheap wine.
Joined: 13 Nov 2004 Posts: 899 Location: Gold Coast Australia
Posted: Sun Oct 22, 2006 10:01 pm Post subject:
How exciting JustMe. I have both driven in France and used the trains out to the countryside. It was fun driving and you could stop whenever you saw something worth exploring. Coming from New Zealand and having to drive on the opposite side of the road did not make for a relaxing time though. If you take the train option carry as little luggage as possible. _________________ Barbara
Joined: 22 Oct 2006 Posts: 296 Location: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: Sun Oct 22, 2006 11:13 pm Post subject:
If you want to see some of the French countryside within relatively easy reach of Paris, I can heartily recommend the Loire Valley. (okay, perhaps I'm a bit prejudiced as I lived there for a year!) The TGV to Tours (which is probably the best place to be based, in terms of transport links) only takes an hour from Paris, there are loads of lovely chateaux and fantastic food and wine... what more could you ask for?
Joined: 19 Oct 2006 Posts: 9 Location: The Netherlands
Posted: Mon Oct 23, 2006 9:41 am Post subject:
On the Amsterdam topic; I think 2 days in Amsterdam would fit in really well! Esp if you remember loving the city so much... Foodwise though, I don't feel like Amsterdam, or The Netherlands for that matter, has a lot to offer, but that might be just a personal opinion.
As far as the French countryside goes, I don't know for how much 'country' you are looking, but the Limousin/Centre regions are defenitely pure, simple and 'country'. There are not many touristy things to see or do, it is just pure French life. La nature is more than beautiful.. You'd need a car there though.
Okay, so naturally I have to root for my hometown when it comes to Germany, which is Cologne. It would also fit in nicely, if you plan to visit Belgium and the Netherlands, since it's not that far (about three hours from Amsterdam, though I'm not so sure how long it takes by train).
Cologne, I must admit, is not beautiful in the sense of pretty houses and such, but it's such a great and lively town.
When it comes to food you can either go for the regional food and go to one of the breweries. You should consult a guidebook then, I bet the popular ones should be in there.
Then of course there's the chocolate museum (http://www.schokoladenmuseum.de/index_e.html), which I personally haven't been to yet, but it sounds great.
As for eating out, there's one special restaurant called unsicht-bar (unsichtbar means invisble), which is a totally darkened restaurant. The food there is about average, only you get the full experience of eating in total darkness, which I can only recommend for the adventurous foodie. You have to make reservations though, which is easier on weekdays but need to be a arranged a couple of weeks in advance for the weekend (including Friday). The link is here: http://www.unsicht-bar.com/unsicht-bar-koeln/html/home_1.html, but unfortunately it's German only. If you are interested, just contact me and I could try to help you arrange it.
And just a small thing, but I though I should mention it: There's a small patisserie in the city, which is called "Törtchen Törtchen", selling french, italian and american inspired cakes and the like. It's awesome, relly tiny and cute. The link is here, again it's all German, but all you need is the address really: http://www.toertchentoertchen.de/
I'm currently exploring the culinary secrets of Cologne, so I might have more to recommend in the future. So if you really want to come here, just tell me and I'll see if I have any more culinary hints.
Gosh JustMe, I'm thinking if you have 2 weeks and are leaning towards a France/Italy combination (my concept of heaven mind you) then I'd skip Amsterdam, as fine a city as it may be, and save it for a later trip concentrating on the low countries.
Trains are a wonderful way to travel long distances in France, but a car makes the small wonders and beauties so much more accessible. Feet of course are all one needs in Paris.
Four days in Paris, a train trip to Avignon or Aix-en-Provence, rent a car for 3 or 4 days and tour the countryside leisurely and with a knife and corkscrew at hand, then train to Rome or Florence for an Italian adventure! Then no problem getting a train back to Paris for a day and your return flight. _________________ Vivant Linguae Mortuae!!
I agree with David when it comes to trains vs. cars. I actually don't know anything about travelling France via train, but if you want to experience the countryside of France (like Provence and such) you'd be in awful need of a car, at least I can't think of a way to travel through Provence and experience all those tiny little villages without a car.
Maybe you can travel to a bigger city by train and then rent a car there for a few days. I'm not sure how well that would work, but it might be a possibility to have a bit of both, bigger cities and beautiful littly villages.
Joined: 01 Oct 2004 Posts: 256 Location: Richmond, VA, usa
Posted: Mon Oct 23, 2006 3:43 pm Post subject:
we did not want to drive out of Paris so took the TGV to Dijon & rented there (cheaper to do that anyway) and drove around Burgundy....to Beaune and up to Vezelay & all the way to Tours & turned the car in there and took train back up to Paris (or straight to the airport) _________________ Make me half the person my dog thinks I am.
Joined: 26 Aug 2005 Posts: 16 Location: Dallas, TX
Posted: Mon Oct 23, 2006 7:44 pm Post subject:
If you do want to go to Amsterdam, I would recommend flying there, then going to Paris, and ending up in Italy (or the reverse.) You can buy an open-jaw ticket that lets you fly into one city and out of another. They are a little more expensive that a round trip out of the same city, but it may be worth it to you so that you don't have to back track.
Most apartments in Paris rent by the week and start go from Sunday to Sunday (check in Sunday afternoon, check out Saturday or Sunday morning.) They can be cheaper than hotels, but you will have to weigh this over the amount of time you want to spend in Paris versus seeing some other parts of France. You can do day trips out of Paris fairly easily and get a feel for the French countryside as well, so don't think you have to leave and go to a completely separate area.
If you do want to see another part of France, Dijon or Provence or the Cote d'Azure makes the most sense geographically since they're "on the way" to Italy. From any of those locations, it would be easy to get to Tuscany (Florence). or even to Rome via train. I would highly recommend Tuscany as a wonderful area to experience the "true" Italy. Then again, Rome is the eternal city!
Also, you may check out the forums on fodors.com - they have always been very helpful to me in planning any trip. Whatever you decide, it will be a great trip and you will have a memorable experience, so don't worry about it! Just pick a few places and enjoy your birthday with your husband! Good luck with planning!
Such wonderful suggestions: all of them. Thanks for your input.
You're not making the decisions any easier! Since posting this I have received several invitations from people overseas (including a stay in Holland) and a farmhouse in southwest France! It makes the decisions even more difficult. Oh well, I am sure that no matter what we decide we'll have a good time.
I am torn between trying to do an in depth tour of one or two places or just a touch of many places. It is highly unlikely that I'll be making the trek back to Europe for a few years after next year.
Keep the suggestions coming! _________________ Life is too short to drink cheap wine.
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