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What to do?

My wife and I are celebrating our 30th anniversary in June 2014. We would like to visit Paris and Switzerland at least that is our current thinking. We like the sound of romantic Paris and love nature, i.e., mountains, etc. We have never been to Europe. We have ten days in Europe to spend. This does not include travel. I would like to take a Rick Steve's tour, but none of them includes either our time frame or locations. There is a 7 day Paris, but I really did not want to spend more than 2-3 days there. The tour that includes Switzerland, includes Germany and Austria not to mention 14 days. Any thoughts or suggestions?

Posted by
175 posts

Personally, I'd skip the tour and do it on your own, but it's your call. You mention wanting to spend only 2-3 days in Paris, and I'd extend that, especially since it's your first time. The first day, you will be jet-lagged and it will possibly only be a half-day anyway. For instance, I'm flying to Paris at the end of September. I'm leaving on Tuesday, but my flight arrives on Wednesday at 11:15. The thing is, I won't even have a half a day on Wednesday by the time all is said and done. It takes a while to get through customs and collect your bag if you've checked one, then you'll have to find an ATM and get euros, hail a cab, then there's the 45-60 minute ride into the city. Then you check into your hotel, and it's already mid-afternoon, if not later. So, if you only plan 2 days, you're really down to 1. Paris is beautiful. There are museums enough to fill months (if that's your thing). Give Paris half your trip. Take the TGV (high speed train) to a city in Switzerland and spend the second half of your trip in Switzerland. I think Geneva might be easily accessible from Paris, but somebody else will know better. Also, the French landscape is incredibly varied and beautiful. There are mountains and all kinds of beautiful landscapes. Check out a guidebook and see if you would prefer to spend the whole 10 days touring France.
By the way, congratulations! 30 years! Wow!

Posted by
3696 posts

Paris for 3 days... then on to Provence for the remainder would be a great trip. There are mountains in France as well as vineyards, seaside towns, the Carmague, the gorges de Verdon, villages and tons of markets. What more could you want??? And great food and a lavender field or two...
You can do this on your own and once you decide your itinerary you can get lots of recommendations for hotels, home bases and how to travel (a car in Provence is a plus... but the train from Paris to Avignon works well)

Posted by
7026 posts

You're probably not going to find a tour that does Paris and Switzerland in 10 days. I agree that you can do it on your own. You have lots of time to plan and lots of people here to give you advice on details (hotels,transportation choices, etc). Start by maximizing your 10 days by using open-jaw flights into Paris and out of Zurich (or vice versa). Plan on 4 full days in Paris and 1/2 to whole day for transfer between there and 1 or 2 bases in Switzerland (3 days Lauterbrunnen and 2 days Lucerne). Congrats on your 30 years and happy trip planning.

Posted by
7 posts

Y'all have excellent ideas! It is interesting some of the comments. We originally booked a full tour through Rick Steve's for 10 days in Italy back in 2010, but unfortunately it was cancelled at the last minute by my employer. That stunk! I wanted to go through the tour knowing that we had a short period of time and I wanted to be spoon fed the information on the tour maximize our time by someone who knows what to do and where to go meaning Rick Steves. Since then we have had a few friends travel in this area of the world and tells me with this much time before we go that I should be able to do my own research and do it ourselves. That's the reason for the ideas. I might contact one of you in the future to draw on your knowledge.

Posted by
9110 posts

Decide where you want to go. Make reservations. Decide how to get between places. Make reservations. Get on with it. By your second trip you will be able to skip the above.

Posted by
11294 posts

A good start would be getting Rick Steves Paris and Rick Steves Switzerland, as well as looking at other guidebooks. You should also look at travel videos of those locations (Rick's are on Hulu and YouTube). This will give you about a month's worth of "must sees," which you will then have to whittle down to 10 days. But that's OK - we all have to do that whittling. And no one can tell you your own priorities, so, while we can help, ultimately you have to decide what is most important or interesting to YOU. I agree that flying into Paris and out of Zurich or Geneva makes the most sense. To find these flights, look at, and choose "multi city" rather than "one way" or "round trip." To look at train schedules and times (just to get an idea, so you don't plan to connect two places without knowing how long it might take), use the Bahn (German Rail) website, following Rick's directions: Getting from Paris to the scenic parts of Switzerland takes about 6-7 hours of train time, so when you add packing and unpacking, getting to and from the stations, etc, you've used most of a day. Be sure to account for this. You will want to buy your flights and train from Paris to Switzerland ahead of time to get the best deal. You have plenty of time to do the research to have a great trip on your own, without a guided tour.

Posted by
501 posts

I agree with Nancy 200%!! This will wet your appetite for both locations, and you'll want to come back to both many times!

Posted by
784 posts

"I want to be spoon fed..." Trust me, you'll get a lot more out of the trip if you do your own research and do it on your own. You may not see everything, or learn about every detail, but what you do see and learn will be much more satisfying. Doing it on your own is not difficult. All you need is good guidebooks, good maps, and a flexible itinerary. You don't have to see it all - assume you will return. Select one or two manageable areas, such as Paris and the Loire Valley, or Paris and Normandy, or Paris and Provence and spend about half the time in each area. I agree that 2 or 3 days in Paris is not enough time,

Posted by
4132 posts

At least 5 days in Paris, because (1) it's marvelous, (2) you are newbies and will be moving slow, and (3) your first day is pretty jet laggy. A day of travel by rail to the Berner Oberland. At least 2 full days based in Murren or Gimmelwald (3 might be better), weather permitting. (Q: When in June?) Warning: Switzerland is expensive. Fly home from Zurich. That leaves you either 1 or 2 more days, which you might enjoy best in Paris (add a day trip). Other options include a quick stop in Burgundy or Alsace or Lucerne.

Posted by
32201 posts

Michael, It's great that you're getting an early start on planning! Is there any chance you could get more time? I'm assuming you have ~2 weeks total, and are allowing 2 days for flights? As this is your first trip to Europe, my first suggestion would be to read Europe Through The Back Door, as it has a LOT of information on "how" to travel in Europe. After that use the country-specific Guidebooks for hotels, transport, sightseeing, etc. The Paris 2014 book will be released Sept. 20 and the Switzerland (6th ed.) is available now. You could also use the Pocket Paris (available now). I used that version when in Paris in July, and it's very easy to pack around. Is there a particular area in Switzerland that you're interested in? I'd suggest open-jaw flights, inbound Paris and outbound Zürich. Would this work.... > D1 - Flight to Paris > D2 - Arrive CDG > D3 - Paris > D4 - Paris > D5 - Paris > D6 - Train from Gare du Lyon to Interlaken Ost (~5:05M, 1 change in Basel); travel to Lauterbrunnen, Mürren or Wengen. > D7 - Berner Oberland > D8 - Berner Oberland (day trip to Bern?) > D9 - Berner Oberland (day trip to Lucerne?) > D10 - Berner Oberland > D11 - Train to Zürich > D12 - Flight home If you'd prefer a "mix" of city and country in Switzerland, you could split your time between the Berner Oberland and Lucerne. There are LOTS of different possibilities, and this is just one suggestion. This doesn't show France or Switzerland, but you may find it helpful to have a look at this video: Also have a look at the excellent website. Good luck with your planning!

Posted by
437 posts

Consider flying in or out of Geneva. It is close to Chamonix with some of the best mountains anywhere, including Mont Blanc the highest in Europe. It has glaciers too, right above town. And awesome trams and cable cars to mountain tops and excellent views and hikes. Get a multiday pass for a discount off single rides. Switzerland is up the valley and over the pass by car, or under it on the train. If you want to see the Matterhorn (the most iconic mountain in the world) you need to go to Zermatt but Switzerland is crazy expensive! The Eiger is easier to get too, near Lauterbrunnen. Also refuges in the moutains are better than cafes in Paris, but those are great too! Having an espresso on a mountain top over Chamonix feels grand. Trip planning and learning the geography is fun and all the information is available in English, or you can easily use google translate. The RS guidebooks have lots of info on all these places. Congratulations on your 30th anniversary!

Posted by
13 posts

Michael, don't be afraid to plan your trip yourself, it can be overwhelming, but you know what you and your wife will like to see. There is a lot of information like this site you can draw from. I planned a trip to celebrate my 50th using Rick Steve's guide books and this site and had a fantastic trip. I have never been to Paris, but I have been to Switzerland and may I suggest you research Mureen, it is a quaint car free village and the most beautiful place I have been. Good luck! Enjoy the planning, you will be glad you did!

Posted by
50 posts

I agree with what Beth wrote and would add that you can pick up a car near wherever you stay in Paris (try hertz) when you are ready to venture off and you can return it to the Geneva airport "French side" to avoid country drop off fees. I have seen rates as low as 100 euro per week for next June. We are trying to figure out if we can see Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn and the Eiger all on our trip to France, Italy and Switzerland next June. Am wondering what town would be a good base to hit all 3.

Posted by
2081 posts

Michael, you ever hear of the saying....give a fish to a person and they eat for a day...teach them to fish and they eat for life (or until it gets fished out). I choose to explain how i do things when its asked since i believe in the sayings and its how i see Rick Steves (RS) books. They are guides to help you travel. Some people will just give you the answer and thats fine, but i prefer to explore and try more. That when, when i go back its not so mysterious and will be more de-ja-vu if not "been there done that". How i do it may not be correct/right or the best, but its an iterative and learning process. If you have the time, do your own homework and try to plan your trip. Go get a map of paris or where you want to go and plot out the sights and see where and how far you will be moving/traveling. Try to travel in a path and not go back and forth or cross the path alot. RS book on Paris/France is great for the sights and on my first trip is what i used to plan my stay in Paris. I will go back, but for now my next trip is to Russia and then work my way west back France and then beyond. feel free to ask questions too, but alot of what YOU want to see/do is YOUR choice/desires and what you will like to do wont be the same as me or others. use google, books, library and friends to find out whats out there where you want to go. Make a list and then sort them. using location (city/town) and such and then try placing them in some order or importance to you. YOu WONT be able to see EVERYTHING so dont even try. Thats what other trips are for and once you have a trip under your belt, the next one will be easier. 3 days for Paris is just about the minimum when i did it, i spent 4 full days there. again, it will depend on what YOU want to do/see. I saw all i planned to see when i was there, but that wont stop me from going back and to explore more. happy trails.

Posted by
32735 posts

Am wondering what town would be a good base to hit all 3. None. They are too far apart. (Mt Blanc, Matterhorn, Eiger)

Posted by
196 posts

Hey Michael, I've done this trip many times and I fly into Zurich (and head directly to Interlaken that morning) and fly home from Paris (or "open jaw" as others are talking about). You can get Eurail 2 country (Switzerland-France) 4 day Saver Pass currently for $386/person. I like rail passes because of the other travel discounts you get especially in Switzerland when you are using the local trains and cable cars to get around. In France, you can use one of your days to make a day trip to places like Normandy, Champagne country (Reims, Epernay) or Chartres to see the cathedral (be advised that 2014 is the 70th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy so it will be busy around June 6). There is now a French TJV high-speed train from Interlaken (Berner Oberland) to Paris that leaves at the very convenient time of 8:30 am. This requires a supplement to your rail pass (reservations required-no earlier than 90 days before departure). Definitely talk to the people at RailEurope for information on costs and reservations. I usually spend 2-3 nights in Murren up in the Alps where you can catch a cable car up to the top of the Schilthorn. I come back to Interlaken to spend the night (many hotels near Interlaken West station) before I get the train to Paris in the morning. During the day there, consider taking one of the boat rides on the lakes (Thun & Brientz). Plan on spending at least 4 nights in Paris-guarantee you won't be bored! I have stayed at many of the hotels Rick mentions in his Rue Cler neighborhood section (I like being near the Eiffel Tower) but that is just personal preference-many other great parts of the city to stay in. Hope you like to walk because Paris is definitely a walking city!