I already posted this in the To The North forum, but i wanted to cover my bases: I just returned from my 2011 Europe trip (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, Czech Rep) a month ago, and I think it's time to start planning my 2012 trip! I'll have significantly less time to go next year, so it's looking like I'll only have 11 nights to play with this time around. The absolute musts this trip are London and Paris. Aside from the places noted above, I have already been to Italy as well, and London and Paris have been on my list forever. I'm thinking of doing an open-jaw flight (into London, out of Paris or the other way around, doesn't matter) in Sept or Oct 2012. I want to do 4 nights in London, 4 nights in Paris, and 3 nights someplace else. I am looking for ideas for the "someplace else." A little background: I'll be 30 (AAH!) when this trip happens, and I'll be going with my mother who will be 60. However, note that she is not your average 60 year old (she regularly runs 5k and 10k races, so she can keep up with me no problem). We don't like to be in one place too long, which is why I want to add one more location to the trip. We like to see a few of the absolute musts everywhere, but we also like to assume that we'll be back someday to catch anything we may have missed. We like to be busy most of the day but save an hour or two for relaxing and/or shopping. I would like to maybe do a bike tour someplace. I'm wondering where a good place would be to spend 3 nights. We will either take trains or intra-Europe flights, whichever is easier. I was thinking maybe Nice/Monaco? Or Tours? Someplace in the English countryside perhaps? Even a flight to another country wouldn't be out of the question (Madrid maybe)? Since we have over a year to plan, the details are still very open. Any suggestions? Thanks!
How about Amsterdam. London to Amsterdam, then train to Paris and fly home from Paris.
For our son's first trip to Europe, we visited London, Paris and the Loire Valley in about the same number of nights that you have. That way, he got more variety by seeing some of the French countryside. And the chateaux are very interesting.
Very exciting!! Well from London you can do just about anything! If you want to avoid flights, consider Wales, Bath, Cotswolds or along the southern coast or even Cornwall... all very great destinations if you would like to explore by car or train. Also you can go up to Oxford or Cambridge, York or even all the way up to Edinburgh! I've been wanting to do the rail and sail from London Liverpool Street to Harwich and ferry to the Hook of Holland. Really Europe is your oyster!
Both Amsterdam and the Loire, as suggested above are excellent choices. If it makes a difference, the Loire would be easier to get around by car, whereas Amsterdam is absolutely for walking and streetcars. You could indeed do Nice. in that case, I would fly into Nice, then train 5.5 hrs to Paris, then 2.25 hrs to London, and fly home out of London. However, if you are going in Sept/October, I don't think swimming will be an option. Still, Nice will be sunny and warm, and a fun place to stroll and eat and shop. Another option you might consider is to simply restrict the trip to Paris and London, and take daytrips from either or both. From London you could do a daytrip to the Cotswolds if you rented a car when out of London, you could train daytrip to Bath or Cambridge and you overnight to York or Liverpool. if your mother is 60, my age, she no doubt has strong Beatle memories, and Liverpool makes a wonderful overnight excursion from London. PM me or search this site for earlier discussion of the Beatle sites in Liverpool. From Paris, you could easily do a daytrip to Chartres, and even (a long day) to Strasbourg or Brussels. Lots of good choices!
If you have not been to England before I would suggest the Cotswolds or any area that interests you within driving distance of London. Very easy to get a car at Heathrow and head out. You could also include Wales, as previously suggested. A great look at the diversity of England and the countryside is beautiful. If you do not think you can do the driving thing then I would go from Paris to Avignon on the fast train and get a car there and explore Provence. I think it has a lot more to offer than Nice (another big city) and you can explore the french countryside. I would no do another flight as there can be delays and the airports take up a lot of time. You are already in wonderful locations to explore from.
Jen, all of the possibilities you and others mentioned are possible. Amsterdam is great. However, I would stay in England. As much as I love Kent, Cornwall, Edinburgh, and the Lake District, I would opt for the Cotswolds. I concur with the suggestion to rent a car at Heathrow. Within easy reach of whatever base you choose are the cotswold villages, Stratford-upon-Avon, Blenheim, Coventry, and Oxford. That is more than enough to fill 3 days and offers stunning variety. Given the time of year you are going, I would suggest flying to London first and then train to Paris. While it may backfire, it is more likely that Paris will be warmer than London.
Amsterdam was the first city that came to my mind also. You can rent bikes by the day there and feel like you are one of the locals. Another options is Brussels-Bruge-Ghent. You could stay in Ghent and day-trip to the otheres. IMHO not enough in any one of them for 3 days. London - the Paralympics will be on until Sept 9. October might be better than September.
We prefer to fly into Heathrow, spend 2-3 nights, Eurostar round trip to Paris for whatever days you have and then TGV high speed train to Monaco. First class tickets on the upper deck are cheap if you book 90 days in advance of travel. Two nights there is plenty and you can always visit Nice from there. Back to Paris for a night or two then back to London to fly home. That avoids the hell that is CDG. Go to www.seat61.com for how to purchase all train tickets. The luxurious train ride through the Loire valley is spectacular.
Ah the upper-deck of the TGV on the old PLM route. However, it's a little confusing why anyone would waste time and money doubling back to Paris and London when you can fly out of Nice to New York and perhaps other US cities as well. Also the TGV doesn't travel the Loire Valley on its way to Marseille; it goes through the Rhone Valley, which is indeed lovely. The trip is three hours from Paris to Marseille but since the high speed TGV tracks end in Marseille, it's another 3 hours along the coast from Paris to Nice, making that a 6-hour trip. Some of the trains continue on to Monaco but many times people have to switch to a local train in Nice to reach neighboring Monaco.