13 day Itinerary - Bath, London, Paris, Belgium(?) Amsterdam

My husband & I will be traveling mid-Jun into London, out of Amsterdam. We are not planning on having a car but would be willing to try it for day trips. I have planned an itinerary but think I may need to tweak it a bit- particularly the Belgium piece. Plan was to stay in Brussels and day trip to Brugges (I've been there but husband has not). But now I'm thinking that our time might be better spent not staying in Brussels (still figuring out a way to do Brugges) but adding on a few days after Paris to explore a bit more areas of France (Provence maybe), or even training to Germany for a Mainz - Koblenz trip up the Rhine. Staying in Mainz on enight is a definite possibility. I would truly apreciate anyone's opinion & suggestions. Here is what I have so far... Arival London - train to Bath Bath (2 nights) London (2 nights) Chunnel to Paris Paris (4 nights) Belgium (3 nights)
Amsterdam (2 nights) One more thing... we will be staying in Hiltons. Only availability in Paris in at CDG airport. Will it be awful taking train into Paris each day? I would love to stay in Paris but would rather save $$ on hotels by using our points. Thank you!

Posted by Tim
Wyckoff, NJ, USA
673 posts

Pat, if you hadn't said that you've been to Brugge, I'd guess from your itinerary that this was your first trip to Europe. There is way too much traveling. I've been to Provence on the TGV (twice) from Paris, and your thoughts about adding to that in to your congested schedule is crazy. I suggest London-Paris-Amsterdam at most. < London's in the top three and Paris ain't close to the top ten.] I couldn't disagree more with this opinion. Our first trip to Europe, in 1988, was a week in Paris and a week in London. We've been back to both, but more often to Paris, at least five times-as part of other itineraries. I love Germany too, but you can't include it with the list you already have. Planning to stay at the Paris airport is, as they say about something else, like taking a shower with a raincoat on. I can't stand scary hotels, but you can stay in a clean, pleasant smaller hotel in Paris for 110-150 Euros a night. See TripAdvisor if Rick's ratings aren't clear enough. I used it to find Hotel Louvre Sainte-Anne, but have stayed many other places. I doubt you need a car. Brussels, and Amsterdam have superb, easy to use trains to nearby cities. Paris and London are only harder because there are so many stations than only go to one set of destinations. But with these short visits, Versailles is the only possible day trip needed. (I'll bet you thought you'd have breakfast in Versailles and go to Giverny for lunch-I don't mean to sound mean, but I think you are going about this the wrong way.)

Posted by Pat
San Antonio, TX, USA
10 posts

Thanks for all your opinions - no need to apologize for the lectures, I appreciate the honesty. I guess my whirlwind tendencies are due to my travels with the Air Force (civilian) when I went to many places for a week or so but only had a short time to explore away from my primary duty location. For example, while in Vicenza, Italy, I took a 1.5hr train to Venice - stayed 4 hrs and returned. In Brussels, on way from airport, I asked cab driver what to do - he mentioned Brugges & I was on the train to Brugges in a few hours - before my meetings started the next day. Not ideal but there is some basis for my twisted logic. Based on your comments, I am scratching Bath. I agree that London is worth more than 2 days. So now I'm looking at: 4 nights in London (13-16th) 4 nights in paris (17-20th) 3 nights somewhere 2 nights in Amsterdam (24th-25th)
Depart 26th Im still thinking about the CDG airport lodging in Paris. There is availablility at Hilton Paris La Defense (but only for 2 days) and only at end of my itinerary (23-24th). Can't see how that could work but if you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them and any other suggestions you might have. Thanks aagin.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7976 posts

Speaking only of the hotel location decision: It's going to take you a few (unknown) minutes to get from the hotel to an RER station by Val or shuttle. After that, it's forty-five minutes into the city. Once there, you'll have three potential stops to hop off or make a line change. The first is Nord, it's a mess for a line change and too far north for much of a jumping off point. The second is Chatelet, it's the largest undergound station in the world and a worse mess for making a change, but really handy as a place to get off. The third is St Michel, a smaller station just on the south side of the river, it's pretty good for connections to lines on that side. It's not quite as bad as it seems, since from Chatlet you can wander, see a lot, and eventuallly wind up close to a better station. It may not be much of a problem at all since you can walk just about the whole city once you get in. The system will be running early enough in the morning, but if you're a late-nighter watch out - - it starts shutting down around one depending on the station. A ticket into the city will stiff you about thirteen bucks per person each way. There are passes that may help, but I've never had one so can't discuss them intelligently. Eating supper on the airport complex stinks, just like anywhere else.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7976 posts

Speaking only of the Provence idea: It's going to take you right at three hours to get to Avignon leaving from the CDG TGV station at Terminal 2, plus whatever little time it takes to scoot over there. You'll need to balance those departure times against others that would take longer and entail a metro/rer hike to Gare de Lyon. Essentially, it's a change at dreaded Chatelet to any number of lines that go over to G. Lyon. For me, it'd be out of the question for a short trip, even blowing off what amounts to a half day each way. Provence is just too big and too varied for anything less than a week. A month is about right for a first visit. It's that good, and I'm a cynic.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7976 posts

The rest is personal opinion and mine's no better than anybody elses, but the Bath idea strikes me as being not so good. Assuming you chug into Heathrow with the eight o'clock arrival mob, there's no way you can be settled in in Bath before noon, even if you skip lunch. Maybe you'll crash, maybe not. If you do, it's one whole day down the tubes. If you don't, you've still got to get up early that second morning and burn another half day getting back to London and settled in again. No matter what, you've used up two half days dashing back and forth across the south end of England. What you've got left is a day and a half in London since you want to get up early to catch the Eurostar the following day. You've just equated London to Bath. Now I'm going to puff up my chest to make a point: I flat-out know the hundred major cities of the world (with maybe a couple of exceptions that don't come to mind, but certainly the national capitals as well as the Bostons, Lyons, LAs, Hobarts, etc - - okay, way more than a hundred) better than anybody who's spent a couple of weeks in any of them. Maybe not the art museums and such, but I know the cities. London's in the top three and Paris ain't close to the top ten. Over the years I'd spent cumulative months there and thought I knew all there was to know. I quit going into the city. I'd bounce out of the airports, hit the bypass and scram. I neglected the place for a decade and a half, then I was showing somebody around a few years ago and started noticing what I'd missed. I started going back. Right before Thanksgiving I was sitting on grandkids for a couple of weeks and got up before daylight and started poking around for a few hours. I didn't do half of what I wanted. You cannot cut London short, and certainly not for Bath.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

You've heard the phrase "your eyes are bigger than your stomach"? Well, your want-to-see list will take longer than the time you have for this trip. We all have the same problem - what to cut out and save for another trip - so I do understand, but please accept now that you cannot see everything. For me, this would be far too much moving around, and too little time in places that deserve more. I certainly wouldn't be adding even more destinations like Provence or Germany. The trip you've outlined above will be a whirlwind that you will barely remember (like the famous movie title If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium). Which place to cut is a personal choice, and everyone will have their opinions. For Belgium logistics, there are two trains an hour between Bruges and Brussels, taking an hour, so pick one as your base, and you can take an easy day trip to the other. You can also see Ghent (between Bruges and Brussels) and Antwerp as daytrips from either one. Here I will give my opinion: I loved Antwerp, liked Bruges a lot (I was there in April when it was busy but not insanely crowded), warmed up to Ghent, and didn't like Brussels except for my Art Nouveau tour through ARAU. But that's just my experience; the issue of feelings about Belgian cities is very contentious (just search this board for evidence). "Will it be awful taking train into Paris each day?" It would be for me. I know a free hotel is hard to pass up, but I'd do it, just to be in Paris instead of at the airport. And as Ed said, there's not time, but money, involved in commuting.

Posted by Tim
Wyckoff, NJ, USA
673 posts

You didn't mention if your military-related experience might give you any special deals anymore. With your revised proposal, I will go back on my previous advice and, understanding your travel desires more, will allow you (!) to include Cologne or Frankfurt, whichever has the better train route position between Paris and Amsterdam. I prefer Cologne. Cologne has a good connection to Brussels, but I don't like Brussels as much as Antwerp. I suggest you make a chart of train times, starting with Rick's train maps. It is not true that Belgium is like The Netherlands (I much prefer Belgium, except possibly for Amsterdam ... ), but I question whether you need to hit both on the same trip. Just a thought. I think it's not your style of travel, but while my wife was on business in Amsterdam, I went to ONE city each day by train, after-rush-hour day-tickets: Leiden, Delft, Haarlem, Amersfoort, Utrecht, etc. On the Hilton issue: Last year, TripAdvisor indicated that the Hague Hilton was really nice (I agree-we stayed there) but that the Rotterdam Hilton was not satisfactory at that time. But I just don't see that as a reason alone to go to the Hague!. However, the proximity of Rotterdam, Kinderdijk, and Delft IS a reason to go there. (I don't see you devoting four hours to see Kinderdijk by public transportation, on your schedule.)