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Amsterdam start Apr 8, Paris end Apr 18

Never traveled overseas. Going with husband for his 50th birthday. He is a huge history buff. Plan to stay in Amsterdam first 4 days. After that we were thinking a few days hitting Belgium sites then ending with Normandy and Paris for last 3 days. Think we’ve got Amsterdam planned out but not sure how to go about the remainder of the itinerary. Don’t know what’s realistic to see and travel to during that time. Should we rent a car or travel via train? Any and all suggestions would be appreciated.

Posted by
123 posts

Doing both Normandy and Paris in 3 days will be tough to do. I think you would need to decide if Paris deserves the full amount of time for you, or you can remove three nights there to see Normandy. As always, if you can add more time to the trip, you can do a lot more :)

We just did a similar trip last summer and did the following:

7 Nights in Amsterdam (Was for work, but would have done 4 if no conference)
4 Nights in Brussels (Day trips to Bruges and Ghent). Really did this for beer and Bruges/Ghent
4 Nights in Paris (our 3rd time there, so was more cafe's and shopping then museums and sites)

You lose the first half of each day traveling, so really only had 3 full days in Brussels and 3 in Paris.

I honestly would skip Belgium unless you love beer or there is something specific you want to see there.

You didn't say if you are leaving the USA on April 8th, meaning you get to Europe on the 9th.

April 8th- Depart USA
April 9th- Arrive in Amsterdam
10th- Amsterdam
11th- Amsterdam
12th- Amsterdam
13th- Train to Paris. Stay in Paris OR Train to Bayeux.
14th- Paris OR Bayeux/normandy area
15th- Paris OR Bayeux/normandy Area
16th- Paris OR Train back to Paris.
17th- Paris
18th- Fly home

Posted by
7 posts

That is fantastic information. We do love beer but I was teetering on whether to include Belgium anyway. I was worried we would be trying to do too much. Just haven’t heard great things about Paris even though I do love shopping and sitting at a cafe people-watching. Is there anything specific you would recommend in Paris? Would love to do the champagne region if that’s possible. Is that an entire day event? Thx so much for your help.

Posted by
6387 posts

Do you have the plane tickets yet? If so what cities are you flying roundtrip to and from. That info makes a difference in how to realistically organize your trip

Posted by
7 posts

Land in Amsterdam at 845 on the 8th and leave Paris at 4 pm on the 18th

Posted by
7606 posts

"Just haven’t heard great things about Paris"

Oh gosh, I'm sure Paris is not everyone's cup of tea/glass of wine but to me it's fabulous and I don't even "like" big cities, lol! If you are listening to people who last traveled there in the 70's and 80's...don't! I'm not a shopper although I do people watch I'm not much one for sitting in a cafe more than just for a meal or glass of wine. Again, I know others enjoy this but as a solo traveler, not much to interest me there! I DO love the museums (history and art), gardens, churches/cathedrals and walking, walking, walking!

There are tons of sights IN Paris related to WWII if that is of interest to your husband. There is a new museum that opened August 25 2019 covering the Liberation of Paris and the Resistance Movement in Paris leading up to it's liberation. It's free and was very good. (http://www.museeliberation-leclerc-moulin.paris.fr/en) The Army Museum is also excellent - no joke, I've spent 5 hours there and totally wore myself out, lol. It has excellent galleries for WWI and WWII. (https://www.musee-armee.fr/en/english-version.html ) I particularly love the Paris Walks walking tours. I've done the Occupation of Paris one twice it is so good. ( www.paris-walks.com )

Random sights also include plaques along the Seine River and next to the Entrance for the Concorde Metro Stop with memorials to Resistance Fighters who fell the day Paris was liberated.

Of course you can't see everything your first trip .... and I'll bet you will go back!

Posted by
123 posts

Paris is my favorite city in the world. I really recommend getting Rick's guide book or something similar to see what sites/attractions interest you. I love museums, and Paris has some of the best in the world. Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Orsay, l'Orangerie, Pompidou, Saint Chapelle, Cluny, Rodin, Invalides, Arc de Triomphe, Palais Garnier, etc etc etc. I can go on and on. I spend over a hundred hours researching, planning, and understanding how to make the vacation worthwhile, educational, and fun :)

We did a day trip to Reims for Champagne, but that was on a 10 night trip (all in Paris) so we had time to do a day trip.

I think you just need to plan exactly where you want to go for your days, and then we can help you out on maximizing that time in each location, transportation options, etc.

Posted by
7 posts

I should clarify my comments about Paris. I’ve heard it is tricky to navigate if you don’t know the language, and it’s quite chaotic and busy but after the above comments and buying Rick Steves’ book on Paris, I think we have decided to dive in and skip Belgium to enjoy Paris for the remainder of the trip. Thinking to start in Amsterdam landing early on the morn of the 8th staying there through Sunday morn then head to Normandy on Sunday. Is there a preferred way to get there (train, car)? Should we stay the night there or head into Paris to stay the night there? If it’s an entire day in Normandy I’m thinking it might be easier to head into Paris on Monday. In all actuality, I think we will be able to spend an entire day at the Army Museum in Paris, and with all the museums and sightseeing ( Versailles, Occupation of Paris walking tour, Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Saint Chapelle, day trip to Champagne) I’ve read about to keep us busy in Paris, I don’t see how we can realistically fit in a Belgium stop on this trip. Thx for everyone’s input. It’s been quite helpful.

We did almost the exact same trip, but in reverse. We flew into Paris for four days, then we were off to Amsterdam for a week. We took the Thalys train from Paris to Amsterdam. It worked out great. There was so much to see and do in Paris, we both want to go back! You would need to book the train NOW to make sure you get a reservation for the day you want.

Posted by
1406 posts

hey hey kami
happy 50th birthday to your husband. you'll have a fun time. youare going at a busy time with it being easter week, but if you plan ahead and research it will be much better for you two. i would book your train ticket "amsterdam to paris" with thalys.com sunday is easter and i'm sure seats are filling up fast for the cheaper fares.
do you have your hotel booked in paris? you have to grade paris on your own and not listen to what others say. lots of english spoken, learn the key words, hello, goodbye, no thank you, miss, mr, always greet when walking in or out of stores/shops, ploiteness goes far, google translate if need be on phone.
stay in the single digit arrondisments (districts) near some of the sites. wear comfy shoes, lots of walking, cobblestones/uneven pavements, if tired feet hail a cab.
paris-walks.com or discoverwalks.com has some free walks. one of my favorites places is montmartre and place de tertre where lots of artists show they art for sale or have one painted/drawn of you. have a snack and glass of wine/beer, people watch.
stopped at la cuisine de philippe for my "fix" on souffle. i had passion fruit and friend had grand marnier, it was soooo yummy. lunch is noon to 2pm, dinner is 7-10pm, small hole in the wall place near luxembourg garden. also stopped at bakeries that had eclairs, like i was on a mission to rate the best.
o'chateau.com has a champagne tasting cruise
breizhcafe.com yummy crepes, think i had apricot/raspberry mix. near the marais area.
retro-tour.com enjoy a ride in a sidecar motorcycle thru some parts of city for your husband.
tuktukinparis.com check the tours they have around sites of the city
eatwith.com have lunch or dinner in a locals house, meet other travelers, drink wine and taste french food.
2CVparistour.com

eiffel tower buy your tickets online when they go on sale which should be soon. it's by date and time.
(toureiffel.paris)
just a few options for you to check out. you don't have that many days in paris, check out what tour is available for you to go to DDay. it will be a long day. have a great trip, and enjoy paris.
aloha

Posted by
9 posts

Since your husband is a history buff you should plan on spending a day in Ypres and seeing all the World War I sites. It would be a shame to be so close and to miss it. The city is beautiful. Better than spending a day in Brussels.

Posted by
3431 posts

You could spend your entire time in France, touring the war zones. The French concentrate on WW1 because a lot of it was fought on their territory (and Belgium). WW2 sites were mostly contested by the Allies from elsewhere. Normandy's beaches draw much attention and I strongly recommend taking a full-day guided tour, not for transport but for the context and details supplied by the guide. Tours of the trench warfare from the previous war can be helpful too and the graveyards are sadly too easy to find. Canadians flock to Vimy and the national memorial there, which tells a lot about trench battle, including tunnel warfare, under the gaze of an immense memorial that allows only sorrow, no celebration of battle. The town of Arras is a convenient base for that part of the
Western Front.

To state the obvious, you have a lot of research ahead of you to understand where to go, and, particularly, why to go. You can start with city and regional tourist boards; they are all on the web.

PS: to understand getting around by train: www.seat61.com

Posted by
7606 posts

"I should clarify my comments about Paris. I’ve heard it is tricky to navigate if you don’t know the language, and it’s quite chaotic and busy"

I have horrible foreign language skills. I just can't "hear" other languages and certainly can speak no more than the polite phrases. I don't find any problem at all as long as I start ANY interaction with Bonjour. Really. The guy in the ticket booth in the Metro. The staff member at the reception desk at the hotel. The lady in the breakfast room. The sales clerk in the store. Literally everywhere.

To me Paris is less chaotic than Amsterdam where you have all those bikes whizzing by from every direction, lol! If there is a time when I've gotten in to an area that feels too busy there is always a park or a church you can duck in to for some quiet!

Posted by
506 posts

You wrote: "Thinking to start in Amsterdam landing early on the morn of the 8th staying there through Sunday morn then head to Normandy on Sunday. Is there a preferred way to get there (train, car)? Should we stay the night there or head into Paris to stay the night there? If it’s an entire day in Normandy I’m thinking it might be easier to head into Paris on Monday. In all actuality, I think we will be able to spend an entire day at the Army Museum in Paris, and with all the museums and sightseeing ( Versailles, Occupation of Paris walking tour, Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Saint Chapelle, day trip to Champagne) I’ve read about to keep us busy in Paris, I don’t see how we can realistically fit in a Belgium stop on this trip."

We found two days of touring the American sites with a guide to be about the right amount. Look at what the tours take you too and decide if one or two days suits you best. Stay in Bayeux, it's charming and a break from the big cities. There's a high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris, then change train stations via taxi, take a train to Bayeux (or Caen if you want to rent a car). Click on the magnifying glass at the top of the page and type "Normandy" or D-Day for more details.

There is so much to see in Paris. You may find you can't hit all your highlights in one trip and that's OK, it gives you a reason to go back!

Posted by
7 posts

I recently just finished my itinerary and decided to do exact that: taking Thalys from Amsterdam to Paris, taxi to train station, going directly to Bayeux. Hired Band of Brothers tour guide for 1 day then spending another day there just to explore. It’s getting close and we are so excited.

Posted by
4670 posts

kami67, I'm 68, so I have standing to tell you that the canard you heard about navigating Paris without French is a relic given to you by people who last visited Paris 25 years ago! I've been to France every five years (approximately) since 1987, and each time, acceptance of English and friendliness of locals has improved noticeably. Today, partly as a result of language rules set by multinational companies (never mind governments), English is widely welcomed in France, especially in Paris. Do not consider this issue when deciding on your itinerary.

If you watch classic movies, or read about prewar diplomacy, you will know that French was, once, the "common language" of Europe. That is no longer the case. For better or worse, it's English. The industrial rise of Asia is a factor in this, but it's an established situation today.

The only people in France who have ever actually been rude to me have been Air France check-in people in Paris, and that's not recently.

Posted by
306 posts

Regarding Paris, it is not hard to navigate the city. The metro is an excellent system. Many of the streets change names every few blocks so you can tell if you are going in the right direction. Have only been once, but we studied our maps and made best use of our time there.
Regarding language, yes English is spoken more widely but the French still appreciate attempts at speaking their native language, especially if you visit any smaller towns or villages.
While in Paris, can recommend the Hotel Favart in the 2nd Arr.

Be sure to visit Angelina's Tearoom for some of the best Hot chocolate!
Enjoy your visit.

Posted by
226 posts

Princess Pupile is so right ! Plz don't dare enter a bus or cafe or department store without eye contact while saying BONJOUR ! The French are offended if you do not greet them .

Posted by
1406 posts

hey hey kami
we took the thalys train paris to amsterdam, book early for cheaper rates. we also picked up some snacks, drinks, bottle of wine (we always carry a corkscrew) depending on train departure, at a grocery store. in paris we sometimes took taxis back to our apt and they would stop at small stores for us to get things, meter running, but worth it. enjoy the ride and scenery, so relaxing.

aloha

Posted by
7 posts

Draft itinerary below. Suggestions and add-one welcome.

Day 1: land Amsterdam 845 am, to hotel drop bags, rent bikes for city tour, dinner and brown bar cocktails, bed no earlier than 10 pm 😴

Day 2: rent bikes for Keukenhof tulip tour to Harlem, train back, private evening canal tour with Pulitzer Hotel boat, red light district at night

Day 3: Church in the Attic, (suggestions welcome)

Day 4: Dutch Resistance Museum, Anne Frank House

Day 5: early morning Thalys train to Paris, cab to Paris St Lazard train station to travel to Bayeux, arriving 3:15 pm, to Hotel Le Lion d’Or. Evening open.

Day 6: Band of Brothers guide to pick us up at hotel 830 to spend day touring ending at 530 (dinner/drinks recommendations welcome)

Day 7: train to Paris arriving 1030 am. Taxi to Hotel St James. Paris Muse murder mystery tour at 130 ending at 4 pm. Dinner then twilight walk by Arc de Triomphe

Day 8: Historic Paris walk ( I’ll de la Cite, Latin Qtr, Sainte Chapelle. Eiffel Tower for Sunset (8 pm tickets)

Day 9: Army Museum and Napolean’s Tomb (figure most of day for this as it’s my husband’s happy place)

Day 10: really want to go to Champagne here. Suggestions????

Day 11: metro to airport arriving 2 pm for 4 pm flight.

I realize we aren’t doing any art museums but given our lack of time, and considering our lack of enthusiasm for staring at art (I know it sounds ridiculous) we will save those for another trip, unless the bug hits us while we are there. 🤷🏼‍♀️ Would appreciate any add-on recommendations for events/dinners/cocktails. Left it a little loose to make amendments. Thx so much for everyone’s input. It’s all been very helpful.

Posted by
4670 posts

Have you bought Anne Frank Huis tickets online yet??? Very hard to get!

Do you mean the province where Champagne is produced, or a glass of it in Paris?

I'm not crazy about your in-Paris itinerary, but it's of course a matter of opinion. I hope you will be open to changes if you see something that attracts you. Outside peak season, it may not be that hard to get into this or that.

Planning is very important. But I want you and your husband to consider how new all of this is for you. I know that there are WW II memorials over the United States, some of them by famous sculptors. But the "presence" of the two big wars (not to mention things like the St. Bartholomew's day massacre) is much more pronounced in Europe than it is in the U.S. You cannot begin to imagine how many meaningful spots you may miss if you have a list that you are rushing to and from. Let me give you one example-It's not a place you "must-see", and it's out of the way:

On our eighth or so time in Paris, we went to the Parc Floral de Paris for the first time. (We're big on gardens.) It made sense to visit Chateau Vincennes on the same Metro outing because it's right there. On the way from one to the other, we jaywalked (!) across a circular medallion that looked like a place where a statue had been but with not even the bolts in place anymore. Sure enough, in French (which I can understand pretty well), I read that there had been a military statue there before WW I. When the Germans marched through, they tore it down. Between the wars, it was replaced by proud French folks. When the Germans took Paris in WW II, they made a point of tearing it down a second time! After that war, the French decided that the "absence" of the statue was a better memorial. Wow.

You don't have time for Leuven, Belgium. But there is an exceptionally beautiful university library there (no interior access for non-students) that was demolished in WWI by the Germans, and rebuilt by international funding because it was such a memorable building. In WW II, the Allies accidentally bombed it, and it was rebuilt a second time!

I've never seen much value in visiting anonymous-looking green farm fields, even if thousands of people died there. But these tangible traces strike me as being very powerful.

In this respect, the Dutch Resistance Museum is a superb choice for you. But only steps away is the staggering experience of the Stadt Schouwberg (sp.?) deportation memorial building.

Posted by
7 posts

Yes, we do have Anne Frank tix. This is my worry, that we will miss some very important and awe-inspiring things. What would you take out of my itinerary or add? We really do like to just walk and happen upon things but don’t want to waste precious time 🤷🏼‍♀️ Thought maybe the area of Champagne would be fun for a break in the historical action but not necessary if something more appealing comes up that is closer.

Posted by
506 posts

"This is my worry, that we will miss some very important and awe-inspiring things." Yes, you will not have time to see all the things. I keep telling myself that I will be back as a way to stop myself from stressing too much.

I like your latest itinerary but have a few suggestion about your time in Bayeux and Paris.
Day 5: (speaking of not missing things) you might have time to drop your bags and visit the Bayeux Tapestry - it doesn't close until 6:30 pm in April (last tickets sold 5:45pm). If you're not enthralled you don't have to stay long.

Days 8-10: I'd arrange these in order of importance to you (doing the most importance first) or else order them so that the indoor day falls when rain is predicted (i.e. le Musée de Armée). Or look at them geographically: the Army Museum is within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower so maybe move the museum to the day you have Eiffel Tower tickets.

If you get tired during your Historic Walk, the Vedettes du Pont Neuf is right there for an hour's cruise on the Seine. No reservation needed. We liked this so much we did it once as a rest break and once for sunset.

Hope this helps,
Marty