Hubby and I are planning a 3 x week junket end of MAY / JUNE which originally planned to explore just France, but now looking at trying to incorporate a brief stay in Switzerland and Italy as it will be my husband's first trip over there. Am conscious of not trying to do too much (but oh what a tease Europe is!!) Plans were to spend 3 nights Paris then head to the south of France, over to Switzerland and maybe try and do 2 x areas in Italy ( not Rome, Venice or Florence as I have been there but definitely Tuscany and possibly further south. Would LOVE your feedback on top tips on such a brief trip & top spots to incorporate. Will look at incorporating both flights + car to save time inbetween places. We love getting off the beaten track a little ( and a great way to avoid the crowds) Thanks Guys!
Actually, I do not think it is "too much". It is not the number of countries that counts, but rather the number of overnight stops and the travel time between. Although Switzerland is quick and easy from Paris, it is less so from the south of France. I suggest you look at travel from the coast of France ( I.e. Nice ot east of there) into Italy, maybe down the Ligurian coast to reach Tuscany, then back up to Switzerland via Milan or, if you want a really scenic train ride on the Bernina Express, head to Varenna on Lake Como, then Tirano and pickup the train to Pontresina. Spend a night or two in that area forAlps and glaciers. Then you can fly how out of Zurich. Putting Switzerland last gives you better chances of missing "shoulder season" ( meaning mud and melting snow) in the mountain areas.
Yes, too much. Choose any two and save the third for your next trip. You won't be sorry.
I think 3 weeks is plenty of time to do what you want. It is so hard to be there (especially first trip) and devote it to one or two areas. I am all for a whirlwind 'taste of Europe' the first few times. Then if you are lucky enough to return you have an idea of where you would like to spend more time. The way to get off the beaten path is simply get in the car and drive. Finding your own wonderful little villages is the fun of it.
Thanks so much for the feedback guys- really appreciate it. I like your thinking Lola on your ideas to fly in to France and work our way around to Italy, then Switzerland from there... So Car / train sounds great to me. I agree also Ann, it is just to far to go from Australia to limit us to two countries and I think we'll kick ourselves if we don't (especially pre-children) Do you think it neccessary to pre-book all our accomodation? (obviously main cities we will) I would say so being the time of year we are going..... Would love to go to San Sebastian but hopefully we are not trying to go to far south in the time we have? Thanks again!
Yikes, sorry Terry - I realised I just called you Ann!! :-)
You were doing real good..................until you tossed Spain in.
What Ed said. San Sebastian is far to the west. If you want to include some of northern Spain, then that limits the time you have for Italy and Switzerland, maybe eliminating one of them. Also you might think about a mix of coast, inland villages, and spectacular mountains. Since you live on a beautiful coast yourself, the Swiss Alps would offer something really different from what you can experience in Australia. As for car/ train, if you make it a nice compact 3- country trip, you could reasonably do it all by car ( once you leave Paris) since that is best for S. France and Tuscany. People will warn you off driving in Italy but that mainly applies to cities and the dreaded ZTLs or limited traffic zones, where they give out camera tickets. We personally have confined our Italy driving to rural areas and never had a problem. But if Switzerland is still in the mix, the high passes may not be open yet, meaning you would drive in via a long tunnel. Train would be more fun, and scenic, especially if you take the Bernina Express. As for pre-booking hotels, you will get different opinions. We are firmly in the " pre-book" camp, and I have fun with that part of the planning. We like the security of knowing where we will be staying, picking the best location, etc. And often we save money with early booking discounts. ( Actually the only trip in recent memory we haven't completely pre-booked was in the NSW backcountry. We waited until we gotto Australia to figure out where we wanted to go).
Thanks again Lola, yes you raise a valid point- We have spectacular coastlines where we live so the diversity of the Swiss Alps will enrich our holiday a little more. Good to get your advise on the driving also - yes don't fancy doing a lot of driving in the main cities. Have heard about the self guided bike trips in France where companies can transport your luggage to your desired location. Would love to do this for a few days but again....I doubt time will allow due to the distance we'll need to cover. Great to hear you've experienced what Australia has to offer also!
If your only goal for Switzerland is to see the Alps, realize that the Alps occupy a larger chunk of land in Italy than they do in any other country (total area, not percentage of the country's territory). This is a key consideration, because the hiking season usually begins earlier in the Italian Alps than it does a little farther to the north in Switzerland. Your time frame puts you just on cusp of the end of the shoulder season in the Swiss Alps. Don't get me wrong, I love all of the Swiss Alps, but given the extremely high cost of the country compared to those that surround it, it's not worth your time and money in the shoulder season. Also if you decide to go for the Italian Alps instead, someone may mention the "Dolomites" as if they are synonymous with the whole of Italy's Alpine territory. They aren't, they occupy only one small area of Italy's more vast Alpine region, and they do not lie along your direct route of travel.
Andrea, if you want to spend your time in France on a bike tour it should fit in. Tthis company does well-priced self-guided bike tours in various regions of France, such as this 5-day tour in the Loire valley: http://www.tripsite.com/bike/tours/loire-valley-i-orleans-to-tours/
Do not rent a car in one country and drop off in another unless you are super rich. In Italy each driver will need international drivers license. Good luck.
Terry here aka Ann:) I would not find it necessary to prebook as long as I have a car. If I don't find what I like I can just drive on, but the big cities I will often times book ahead. I prefer a really loose schedule so I can figure it out as I go along.
Thanks again guys...sorry for the tardy reply. Thanks Lola for the link - fantastic if you think we still have time to fit in a self guided bike tour. Terry - Ann :-) Great, I thought going in June it would be best to prebook the road trip route out of the main cities but the web can sometimes be deceiving on accommodation. Not pre-booking will allow us to be a little more flexible with our route depending on how long we spend in each place. If anyone has any top picks for an amazing villa in Tuscany let me know! Thanks!
I'd do the Cinque Terra in Italy, Tuscany (Siena was lovely), and head north into Switzerland (my favorite country in Europe). Spend time in Luzern, Berner Oberland, and Geneva/Montreux/Laussanne. I agree with one poster above that it's worth spending 2 nights minimum in each city (some 3-4 nights). Don't spend half of each day riding a train. I disagree with another poster that Switzerland isn't worth your money. It is more expensive, but it's OH SO WORTH IT.
Definitely not too much. My husband and I did this in just over two weeks, but three would have been perfect. We flew into Geneva, stayed in Montreax, with a day trip to Lauterbrunnen by train. Train to Lake Como, then Venice. Rented a car for a trip through Tuscany and then to the Cinque Terra. We stayed in Santa Marguarita near Portafino and took the train to Cinque Terra. We then drove through Provence, up through the Loire Valley, and then drove to Giverney. We dropped the car as we arrived in Paris, our final stop. If you aren't trying to fit in Venice, you should easily be able to see all three countries. My two tips: 1) get moving early on travel days, and 2) try to stay at least two nights at each destination. Better to take short day trips from one location than waste time checking in and out of hotels.
3 weeks are definitely enough. My adult son and I just did 19 days over the holidays. We flew into Zurich, stayed in Lucerne, Geneva, Nice(France), on to La Spezia(Italy), Florence, Rome and Sorrento. Flew home from Rome. Spent 2 nights in each location with exception of 3 nights in Geneva, Florence and Rome. This was our first trip. We traveled completely by Eurail. Found it to be perfect for us. Had a Flexipass for 10 days of travel. Managed to fit in day trips to Lucca, Monaco, Pisa, Pompeii, Positano, and Cinque Terre. Its good advice to get moving early on travel days. The day we moved on from Lucerne to Geneva, we managed to make a stop at Interlaken and take the local train, bus and tram up to Gimmelwald for a nice lunch in a little Inn. Beautiful views of the Alps. Still got into Geneva by about 4:30. Our final night was spent at a hotel at the Rome airport. Firm up your plans well in advance. For popular major tourist sites, I recommend making reservations instead of standing in long lines. We used Rick's guidebooks for all the attractions we visited. They are the best!
HI, Andrea: Three weeks is plenty of time to enjoy the areas you mentioned. We visited Munich, Florence, Provence, Switzerland (Berner Oberland) and Paris in three weeks during the same time of year, and did not feel at all rushed. One thing I would highly recommend, if you take the train up to the Jungfrau in Switzerland, is to walk back down to Wengen, and catch the train back to Interlaken. It is a very easy walk, more like a stroll, on well-marked trails, and you get to see beautiful scenery without having it whiz by from a train window. Just get the early train up, and you'll have time to walk part way down, and breathe in the sweet Swiss Alpine air. Also, I agree with the other posters who advised you not to pre-book accommodations. Flexibility is so under-rated, and easily outweighs the occasional "adventure" of wondering if you'll find a place to spend the night. (Don't worry--you'll find one.) Have a wonderful trip.
Thanks so much for all the tips and insights guys - that really helps a lot and gives me confidence we are not trying to fit too much in. I do think we might give the self guided bike tour a miss as we obviously won't cover as much ground.... But YES to not pre booking the road trip prior to travel - will pick some fave spots that we might like to stay but love that there won't be too much of a problem finding spots along the way. My husband is a keen surfer and whilst I've heard there is good surf in France sounds like we'll be there when there is no swell. Thanks - really appreciate it. :-)
Andrea, if you don't want to pre-book every hotel (does take some of the adventure out of it), you can ask for recommendations from one hotelier for a place in your next destination, or go online to something like booking.com and find last-minute options as well as normal vacancies, at least for the cities that might be crowded. I assume you don't want to spend a lot of time looking for a place to sleep every time you change locations, when you could be enjoying the sights. So a mix of pre-booking, recommendations, last-minute bookings and seat-of-your-pants door-to-door searches might be interesting enough and stable enough for you.
Yes Zoe, I like the sound of that to. I do love taking reccomendations as have always had such great experiences in the past with this and I do love trying to find some amazing spots along the way so will definitley do a mix of all of the above. Received a little surprise last week though and found out that I am pregnant! So while very exciting as we have been trying for some time I am completley torn about going on a holiday where I will not be able to have french wine & cheese! Will be about 5- 6mths pregnant possibly so long haul travel at that far along uncertain.... Can't relay to other friends for advise as it's too early to tell anyone! Urrrh! Go now or in a another couple of years when we can palm off the child to the grandparents.......A discussion probably not relevant for a travel forum - ha! Thanks anyway for your input already to date guys.
Well following my last post - we are going ahead with our 3 week trip dep 31st May! My question is now the best route to take once leaving Paris (3 x nights) Had planned to go through the middle as I hear it's beautiful but hubby is a surfer so would be crazy not to taking him over to Bordeaux region to some of the beach ( even though there may be little or no swell this time of year) Is this going to be too much of a detour? I hear Bordeaux dosen't live up to the name? We will then go through provence and into Italy, down to Tuscany. We weren't planning to go to Venice as I have been twice but hubby now has expressed interest in going - is this trying to do too much? Had planned to catch the train from Tuscany to Switzerland as suggested , so with this change just not quite sure the best way to get to Venice from Tuscany, then back up to Switzerland as I hear driving is only for country areas only?? Once I have a better feel on the above I can work our roughly how long we plan to stay in each area to map out the route properly. Really appreciate any advice!! Thanks!
After Tuscany, return the car in Florence, or maybe Bologna, and take the train to Venice. Mthen from there take the train to Milan to go to Switzerland.