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Old 01-12-2018, 06:42 AM   #1
Bobo Fett
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Planning a summer in Western Europe

Planning a big family trip over to Europe this summer - we're taking my parents on a European vacation for their 50th anniversary. So, for 6-7 weeks, UK and then France and Italy (and perhaps some other places) will be invaded by my wife and I, our teenaged son and daughter (16 & 18), and my parents. Europeans, you've been warned!

Besides giving notice that some might want to vacate, I'm posting this looking for feedback and advice. So far I just have a *very* rough outline of what we're going to do, but I'll be filling it in very quickly, as I need to get booking things. Here's the plan thus far:

~2-3 weeks in the UK, possibly including Ireland
~2 weeks in France
~2-3 weeks in Italy

May sidetrip over to Andorra and down to Barcelona (assuming things are more or less peaceful there then) during our France time.

Looking to mostly stay in homes rented via AirBnB, staying in different areas from 3-7 days. Likely travelling primarily by train, with thoughts of renting cars for single days in areas where we'd want to do a lot of exploring.

We arrive at Gatwick on June 26, and I was planning to start with a few nights in Brighton - the one place my daughter and mom really want to visit. Then was thinking of a few nights in Exeter as it looks like a beautiful area, then a few nights in Bath (sidetrip to Stonehenge from there). Plan to make our way up to Edinburgh and back down to London - not sure if the way up would be straight up the "center", or if going through Wales would be worthwhile. Also considering a hop over to Ireland and back.

Places I'm considering getting to, but likely we won't be able to do them all:

Oxford
Cotswolds
Stratford-upon-Avon
Settle to Carlisle Railway
Cambridge
Hadrian's Wall
Castles - not sure which or where, but I need to see some castles, dammit!

We'll end up in London for...IDK, 3-5 nights? Then I was thinking of taking a ferry from Dover to Calais. The original idea was to take the Chunnel, because it's...cool? But it's just a long tunnel,and I wanted to see the cliffs of Dover and perhaps Dunkirk and Normandy, so was thinking the ferry might make more sense, as I sort of assumed most trains through the Chunnel just keep on going towards Paris without a lot of stops in the north. But I haven't really looked into that yet.

Haven't really got any plans for France yet, other than Dunkirk, Normandy, obviously a number of nights in Paris, and definitely some stops along the French Riviera.

In Italy, I think we'll be overwhelmed with options, mostly in the North (Milan, Venice, Florence for starters), but we'll want to get to Rome as well.

So, if you actually got through all of that without nodding off, I'd love to hear any of your thoughts, even if (especially if?) it's just to tell me how dumb some of those ideas are. Specific advice, general tips, places I should see not on my list, places on my list I should steer clear of, whatever you'd like to contribute.
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Old 01-12-2018, 01:46 PM   #2
Fossilkid93
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Re: Planning a summer in Western Europe

It's a bit out of the way if you're going Normandy-Paris-French Riviera, but the Loire Valley (scattered around the city of Tours) is probably your best bet for seeing tons of awesome castles in a very short amount of time.

Here is some info on some of the best ones: CASTLES!!

(Château is French for castle)
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Old 01-13-2018, 07:40 AM   #3
Bobo Fett
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Re: Planning a summer in Western Europe

Thanks! Not necessarily that out of the way if we head over to Andorra and Barcelona before the Riviera.

Thinking now after Brighton, might skip Exeter and stay in Bristol - make that our home base for longer rather than staying in both Exeter and Bath, and just rent a car to drive down to Exeter, over to Stonehenge, up to Stratford, etc., and then take the train straight up from Bristol to Liverpool/Manchester.

3 nights in Brighton, then perhaps 4-5 in Bristol. Train to Manchester, maybe a few nights in Manchester/Liverpool area, then rent a car to go up to Edinburgh/Glasgow for a few days, back to Manchester with car, then train back down to London - maybe stop in Cambridge on the way. 4-5 nights in London, then to Dover to ferry over to France.

At least that's the rough plan now, subject to change on a daily basis until I actually book stays. Only things booked so far are the plane tickets there and first 3 nights in Brighton. So there's still time to stop me if I'm doing anything crazy or missing anything I'll regret!
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Old 01-13-2018, 09:36 AM   #4
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Re: Planning a summer in Western Europe

My wife and I loved Bordeaux. She loved it for the chateaus, and I for everything else, since I don't drink much wine. Normandy is absolutely incredible, would highly recommend it if you get the chance. My grandfather is buried in the cemetery there, and it's amazing to walk through. Think smaller version of Arlington in D.C., but worth it in my estimation.

I just recently moved to Europe myself, so I'm not that knowledgeable of most sites around me yet. Switzerland is very expensive but has some great sites to see as well, Matterhorn, JungFrauJoch for 2 examples. I'm sure you really can't go wrong wherever you decide to go. Just make sure to check travel warnings on the State Department's website for all the countries you plan to attend, it'll tell you if you should be on higher alert than normal, and warn you of crime to watch out for.

Last edited by BartendingAA; 01-13-2018 at 09:38 AM. Reason: Grammar
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Old 01-13-2018, 10:21 AM   #5
Mike Haven
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Re: Planning a summer in Western Europe

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobo Fett View Post
Planning a big family trip over to Europe this summer - we're taking my parents on a European vacation for their 50th anniversary. So, for 6-7 weeks, UK and then France and Italy (and perhaps some other places) will be invaded by my wife and I, our teenaged son and daughter (16 & 18), and my parents. Europeans, you've been warned!

Besides giving notice that some might want to vacate, I'm posting this looking for feedback and advice. So far I just have a *very* rough outline of what we're going to do, but I'll be filling it in very quickly, as I need to get booking things. Here's the plan thus far:

~2-3 weeks in the UK, possibly including Ireland
~2 weeks in France
~2-3 weeks in Italy

May sidetrip over to Andorra and down to Barcelona (assuming things are more or less peaceful there then) during our France time.

BARCELONA DEFINITELY WORTH A SIDE TRIP. I WOULD HIRE A CAR IN SOUTHERN FRANCE AND DRIVE DOWN OVER THE PYRENEES (INCLUDING ANDORRA IF YOU LIKE – QUITE HIGH UP) TO BARCELONA. ALSO SOME LOVELY COASTAL VILLAGES NEAR THE FRENCH-SPANISH BORDER – PLACES LIKE COLLIOURE (WHERE MATISSE PAINTED) AND CERBERE.

Looking to mostly stay in homes rented via AirBnB, staying in different areas from 3-7 days. Likely travelling primarily by train, with thoughts of renting cars for single days in areas where we'd want to do a lot of exploring.

We arrive at Gatwick on June 26, and I was planning to start with a few nights in Brighton - the one place my daughter and mom really want to visit. Then was thinking of a few nights in Exeter as it looks like a beautiful area,

EXETER ITSELF ISN’T VERY SPECIAL, BUT THERE ARE SOME NICE RESORTS FURTHER DOWN THE COAST AROUND TORQUAY. THOUGH IF YOU HAVE TIME I’D RECOMMEND HEADING ON TO EASTERN CORNWALL INSTEAD. THE EDEN PROJECT IS WELL WORH A VISIT AND THERE ARE LOTS OF FANTASTIC LITTLE FISHING VILLAGES.

then a few nights in Bath (sidetrip to Stonehenge from there). Plan to make our way up to Edinburgh and back down to London - not sure if the way up would be straight up the "center", or if going through Wales would be worthwhile. Also considering a hop over to Ireland and back.

YES, DEFINITELY BATH AND EDINBURGH. MAYBE STOP OFF IN YORK.

Places I'm considering getting to, but likely we won't be able to do them all:

Oxford
Cotswolds
Stratford-upon-Avon
Settle to Carlisle Railway
Cambridge
Hadrian's Wall
Castles - not sure which or where, but I need to see some castles, dammit!

ALL THE ABOVE GOOD PLACES TO GO. BEST CASTLES ARE IN WALES! AND SNOWDONIA IS GREAT (CLIMB SNOWDON?) – COULD ALSO GO TO HARLECH CASTE IF IN SNOWDONIA.

We'll end up in London for...IDK, 3-5 nights?

4 NIGHTS ABOUT RIGHT FOR LONDON.

Then I was thinking of taking a ferry from Dover to Calais. The original idea was to take the Chunnel, because it's...cool? But it's just a long tunnel,and I wanted to see the cliffs of Dover and perhaps Dunkirk and Normandy, so was thinking the ferry might make more sense, as I sort of assumed most trains through the Chunnel just keep on going towards Paris without a lot of stops in the north. But I haven't really looked into that yet.

YES, DEFINITELY FERRY.

Haven't really got any plans for France yet, other than Dunkirk, Normandy, obviously a number of nights in France, and definitely some stops along the French Riviera.

I WOULD AVOID MOST OF NORTHERN FRANCE, MOST OF WHICH IS FLAT, DULL AND NOT PARTICULARLY FRIENDLY TO VISITORS, (UNLESS OF COURSE YOU WANT TO VISIT THE WAR MEMORIALS, ETC, ON THE COAST, WHICH IS A DIFFERENT MATTER). SPEND A FEW DAYS IN PARIS, OBVIOUSLY, THEN HEAD SOUTH TO A CHATEAU OR TWO IN LOIRE VALLEY AND ON TO THE PYRENEES. I LOVE THE AREA BETWEEN TOULOUSE AND BARCELONA – VERY ANCIENT VILLAGES, BEAUTIFUL SCENERY, INTERESTING FOOD.

In Italy, I think we'll be overwhelmed with options, mostly in the North (Milan, Venice, Florence for starters), but we'll want to get to Rome as well.

ALMOST EVERYTHING IN ITALY IS GREAT THOUGH MILAN WOULDN’T BE ON MY LIST – A MODERN CITY, EXPENSIVE, NOISY. THINK ABOUT BOLOGNA AND PISA TOO. IF YOU LIKE MOUNTAINS AND MOUNTAIN TRAIN JOURNEYS, TRY AND GO VIA SWITZERLAND.

So, if you actually got through all of that without nodding off, I'd love to hear any of your thoughts, even if (especially if?) it's just to tell me how dumb some of those ideas are. Specific advice, general tips, places I should see not on my list, places on my list I should steer clear of, whatever you'd like to contribute.
I’M JEALOUS!

Last edited by Mike Haven; 01-13-2018 at 11:53 AM.
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Old 01-13-2018, 08:21 PM   #6
Bobo Fett
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Re: Planning a summer in Western Europe

Quote:
Originally Posted by BartendingAA View Post
My wife and I loved Bordeaux. She loved it for the chateaus, and I for everything else, since I don't drink much wine.
Added to my list, thanks. Might be able to get over there if we go to Andorra & Barcelona.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BartendingAA View Post
Normandy is absolutely incredible, would highly recommend it if you get the chance. My grandfather is buried in the cemetery there, and it's amazing to walk through. Think smaller version of Arlington in D.C., but worth it in my estimation.
Excellent, that's the plan. Perhaps surprisingly to some, it's one of the only things our 16 year old son has said he wants to see.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BartendingAA View Post
I just recently moved to Europe myself, so I'm not that knowledgeable of most sites around me yet. Switzerland is very expensive but has some great sites to see as well, Matterhorn, JungFrauJoch for 2 examples.
Swinging through there is definitely being considered, but time may be our enemy on that.

Thanks for the suggestions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Haven View Post
BARCELONA DEFINITELY WORTH A SIDE TRIP. I WOULD HIRE A CAR IN SOUTHERN FRANCE AND DRIVE DOWN OVER THE PYRENEES (INCLUDING ANDORRA IF YOU LIKE – QUITE HIGH UP) TO BARCELONA. ALSO SOME LOVELY COASTAL VILLAGES NEAR THE FRENCH-SPANISH BORDER – PLACES LIKE COLLIOURE (WHERE MATISSE PAINTED) AND CERBERE.
Yeah, my original thought was some kind or trip via train from Paris through Tours down to Andorra and Barcelona, but now that I start looking into it more closely it would seem that, incredibly, the train system wasn't designed to fulfill my every whim and such a trip might not be so easy. So now I'm thinking train/bus to Toulouse and rent a car from there to go down to Andorra and back. But I've always been assuming that renting a car and returning it to a different destination is expensive there, as it is here - if I find I'm wrong about that, it could open up a lot of possibilities.

Edit to add: Just checked into a Paris-Marseilles car rental, and the one way fee is only $150 - new doors of opportunity have opened!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Haven View Post
EXETER ITSELF ISN’T VERY SPECIAL, BUT THERE ARE SOME NICE RESORTS FURTHER DOWN THE COAST AROUND TORQUAY. THOUGH IF YOU HAVE TIME I’D RECOMMEND HEADING ON TO EASTERN CORNWALL INSTEAD. THE EDEN PROJECT IS WELL WORH A VISIT AND THERE ARE LOTS OF FANTASTIC LITTLE FISHING VILLAGES.
Yeah, staying in Exeter was really about the surrounding area, which we should be able to drive to from Bristol instead.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Haven View Post
YES, DEFINITELY BATH AND EDINBURGH. MAYBE STOP OFF IN YORK.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Haven View Post
ALL THE ABOVE GOOD PLACES TO GO. BEST CASTLES ARE IN WALES! AND SNOWDONIA IS GREAT (CLIMB SNOWDON?) – COULD ALSO GO TO HARLECH CASTE IF IN SNOWDONIA.
I had been thinking of a side trip to Snodownia from Liverpool/Manchester; good to see some confirmation that it would be worthwhile.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Haven View Post
I WOULD AVOID MOST OF NORTHERN FRANCE, MOST OF WHICH IS FLAT, DULL AND NOT PARTICULARLY FRIENDLY TO VISITORS, (UNLESS OF COURSE YOU WANT TO VISIT THE WAR MEMORIALS, ETC, ON THE COAST, WHICH IS A DIFFERENT MATTER).
Yes, war memorials and related historic sites are the purpose.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Haven View Post
SPEND A FEW DAYS IN PARIS, OBVIOUSLY, THEN HEAD SOUTH TO A CHATEAU OR TWO IN LOIRE VALLEY AND ON TO THE PYRENEES. I LOVE THE AREA BETWEEN TOULOUSE AND BARCELONA – VERY ANCIENT VILLAGES, BEAUTIFUL SCENERY, INTERESTING FOOD.
Awesome.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Haven View Post
ALMOST EVERYTHING IN ITALY IS GREAT THOUGH MILAN WOULDN’T BE ON MY LIST – A MODERN CITY, EXPENSIVE, NOISY. THINK ABOUT BOLOGNA AND PISA TOO. IF YOU LIKE MOUNTAINS AND MOUNTAIN TRAIN JOURNEYS, TRY AND GO VIA SWITZERLAND.
Good to know about Milan; no way I'm going to get to everything I'd like to in Italy anyway. Switzerland's definitely getting some consideration, especially since we have some family living there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Haven View Post
I’M JEALOUS!
I think I'm the one who should be jealous, since you live a hop, skip, and a jump away from all of this!
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Old 01-13-2018, 08:46 PM   #7
kaby
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Re: Planning a summer in Western Europe

Milan and Venice are lame imo, I'd skip those. Venice is beautiful and all but it's such a tourist trap. Interesting if you're into insanely crowded open air museums.

Rather than going to Milan I'd spend 4-5 days each in Florence + Tuscany, Rome, Naples & surroundings.
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Old 01-13-2018, 09:16 PM   #8
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Re: Planning a summer in Western Europe

Scotland>>>England, in terms of tourist viewing imo. Some places like one day in london + one day in Cambridge could be good. Ireland is only good if you have a car to hit the coastlines, if you can do that its awesome, hit cliffs of Moher, etc, if not only visiting dublin is a waste of time flying over imo, Unless your goal is to drink, which with a family I guess its not.

If you rent a car and view Scotland youll also get as many Castles as you desire.

I dont know too much about France, but for me Milan you can skip, Venice is worth going to but probably as packed as youll ever see a tourist spot, take the boat to Moreno, its cheap(<$10) and more beautiful than Venice, also takes about 1hr passing various towns.

From there id go to Florence, and Rome is worth visiting.
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Old 01-16-2018, 07:53 AM   #9
Bobo Fett
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Re: Planning a summer in Western Europe

Thanks for the Italy tips. I can't see outright skipping Venice; feel like we all want to at least see it once. But at the very least, now we probably won't plan a few days there. Also already enough to see that skipping Milan sounds like a decent plan.

Really rethinking this whole Dover-Calais over to Dunkirk plan. With only so much time, and a lot of people that may not be as excited about hopping on and off multiple modes of transport in one day, I'm not sure that it's a wise investment of time just to see some white cliffs and a war museum. I mean, I want to see both, as well as Vimy Ridge, but it might be wiser to save that for another trip where it's just my wife and I who can easily rent a cheap car (as opposed to 150-200 CAD/day for a van for 6), and just hop on a train from London straight to Paris this time and give ourselves more time for other things.

Sooooo much to see, which means I always knew we'd only scratch the surface - probably better to keep plans for a large group simpler and make sure everyone enjoys themselves.
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