My husband and I are tenatively planning a vacation around Easter (late March, early April), and I've never been to Europe. I cannot decide where I want to go! We will leave on a Friday midday from the US east coast, which puts us somewhere Saturday morning, and we will staying until the following Sunday. Considering several days in Paris, then a train ride to Munich (my husband is military and there is a nice military lodge in Garmisch), but I'm looking for input on what might be the best choices for our first trip there. Different cities? Smaller more quaint towns? I also really want to go to Italy. Any input is appreciated!
It sounds like you have 8 full days (not counting your flying in and flying out days). In planning your itinerary, an important thing is for you to have a realistic idea of the travel time to get from one European destination to another. This is important because travel time to get from one place to another greatly affects how many places you can realistically "do" in 8 days. Because this is a first time trip to Europe, recommend you click the link below, which will take you to info and links that will help you get a realistic idea of the travel time between various destinations. http://www.ricksteves.com/graffiti/helpline/index.cfm/rurl/topic/39876/bhow-much-time-to-get-there--itinerary-questions-answered-hereb.html
That's right, 8 full days. I had already checked trains from Paris to Munich, it's about 7 hours. I can't decide if that is worth it or not, or if we should just pick one city/region and stay put for the week. I'm very certain that Paris could occupy us for 8 days easily, as could Munich and the surrounding area.
Some travelers would try to see 2 destinations on an 8 day trip. You've mentioned Paris and the Munich - Garmisch areas. One option would be 4 days in each. Other travelers would love to do 8 days all in Paris, with a couple of day trips to places like Chartres. And other first-time travelers to Europe might find 8 days in Paris a tad daunting (perhaps a long time to go not speaking much English, Paris is one of the few big European cities where that could be an issue). Don't know about all 8 days in Munich, for a first-time trip to Europe. You also mentioned Italy and Easter - some locations in Italy (for example, Rome) would be very crowded at Easter.
Lisa, If I were you I would want to see two cities/countries in eight days, but I would be hesitant to spend 7 daylight hours on a train on a short trip like that. If you want to do Paris and Munich, you should consider taking the overnight train, leaving Paris at 8:20 pm and arriving in Munich at 7:16 am. That train is the German Railways' CityNightLine (CNL) which are the nicest night trains in Europe. I'd further suggest you read Rick Steves' "Europe Through the Back Door" book for what to expect with European night trains. Garmisch is about an hour and a half from Munich. I was stationed with the Army in Germany for three years but never went to that lodge- I was more into cities than resort areas. Alternatively, you could go from Paris to London (2.5 hours plus check-in) or Amsterdam (3hr 20 min), or any number of other places, really. Good luck, Will
Here is my thread about Garmisch:
http://www.ricksteves.com/graffiti/helpline/index.cfm/rurl/topic/72530/garmisch-best-tips.html I found a website called "All Things Garmisch" that was pretty useful. Also, if you are staying in the Edelweiss, they have lots and lots of activities to sign up for, including tours to Munich, Salzburg, Dachau, Neuschwanstein, Breweries, and so on. The area around Garmisch is gorgeous, and the Zugspitz is practically next to the hotel. Though some have suggested taking a night train, I find one of the best things about riding a train is seeing the scenery. You miss that going at night or by flying. For me, it is part of the vacation, to see the land.
If you spend "several days" - maybe half your trip - in Paris, and you've got maybe 4 days to see a bit of Germany, then it seems unwise to spend 7.5+ hours of your time traveling all the way across the country to get to Garmisch. From Paris, you can be in Germany in under two hours. Trier, Germany's oldest city, and Cologne are just 3 hours from Paris, and between these two cities lie the villages, castles, and wineries of the Rhine and Mosel valleys: http://www.mosel-reisefuehrer.de/moselhighengl/moselhighlightsengl.html http://www.loreley-info.com/eng/rhein-rhine/castles.php B&Bs and inns in this area are very reasonable: http://www.bensbauernhof.com/accommodationsrhinemosel.html
My husband and I just spent 11 days in France this past April. We loved the Alsace region which is on the German border and stayed at a lovely B&B in Beblenheim called Le Gambrinus (owner speaks fluent English, his wife does not). It was perfect for touring the wine route and many beautiful small old towns surrounding it (Riquewihr my favorite). We spent 2 days there and I think the train from Paris can get you there in under 2 hours. We had a car and so, traveled south to Provence then on to the Dordogne region in SW France. Also staying in the less expensive and delightful B&B's. I prefer the smaller towns as opposed to the big cities. Less crowded, intimate and genuinely friendly folk seem to be the norm. Although, my favorite country is Italy (and we were there for Easter one year...exciting with many festivals and rarely seen religious marches in small villages) I would save that for a trip by itself. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. Good luck! Anywhere you go will be wonderful. Paris does get VERY crowded and can be expensive. We stayed in the Marais district at the Hotel de Nice. Don't miss the markets! Wherever you go, these are a must in my opinion.
Wow, lots and lots of great information, thank you all so much!! We have a lot to think about and decide now.....I really appreciate all of the input. If anyone has any other suggestions of B&B's in smaller areas, they would be appreciated as well. When I checked the rates of some posted here, they were shockingly less than I had anticipated, and far less than the Edelweiss Lodge. We had intended to go there assuming we would get a great rate, but that is not necessarily the case. I'm sure I will be back between now and the trip, asking more questions!!
If you're going to be getting a Eurail pass then I believe there is a night train between Munich and Paris. If so, then you only need pay 60 Euro supplement (eac person) for private sleeper berth (includes sink and wc, some with showers). That solves the delima of loosing a day, each way, to travel. Without rail pass then the cost of a sleeping berth on overnight train is very expensive.
Will, sorry about the redundancy. I missed your response, which pretty much covers it.
As active duty, you can stay at the French military hotel in Paris here: http://www.cnaparis.com/en/hotel
Which can be a good deal for 2 people compared to regular hotels. I would not go the distance to the MWR hotel in Garmisch, there's just too much to do in Paris. Alsace is a much shorter train ride, as is Brussels, or even London; all are better options than Garmisch for your short trip.
I looked up that French military hotel, and read an indignant review from an American who was excluded from the public areas because of his shorts and sneakers. Kind of hilarious. It's an active French officers' mess apparently, so no enlisted allowed (seething class consciousness from former enlisted resurfacing).
There are seriously no enlisted allowed at that place? Wow......well, the excludes us, my husband is enlisted. Thanks for the idea though!
If you decide to stay put, there is plenty to do in Garmisch area. You could easily fill 4 days. I highly recommend the Salt Mines in Berchtesgaden, the Zugspitze mountain top, the King Ludwig castles, with Neuschwanstein being the crown jewel of Baravian castles. If you pick up a car in Garmisch, you can go all over the place. The villages are incredibly charming, the hotels are clean and sausage and beer out of this world.
Best wishes, whatever you do!
First trip and 8 days...Paris and Rome.
My vote goes to Germany for the 8 days that you have. I love the Garmisch area. I would save Paris for another time and just focus on Bavaria. There is a lot to see and do as the poster before me has said. I had a car when I was there and the roads were fun to drive. The train is easy to take too it is up to you how you like to travel. I have been to Germany, Austria and Switzerland two times in Sept and loved it. I was in Rome for Easter this year and it was way to crowded for me. I prefer the shoulder season. I am planning on going in 2012 in late Sept. France is nice in the spring. If you decide on Paris then I would do three days in Paris and spend some time in the Loire Valley or Normandy depending on your interest. For sure buy Rick's Europe through the back door and check out the travel books at your library or local bookstore and look to see which one you are more interested in. Please Thank your husband for his service to our wonderful country and thank you for being a supportive wife to him.
Thanks again to all for your input, and Darla, thank you for your kind words. You guys all gave such great tips and I still don't really know what we are going to do. However, I have decided that wherever we go, we will stay put, no wasting of time on long train rides, etc, when we have such a short time. I don't want to feel all rushed and stressed out, and don't want to pay for the overnight train ride (although I think I would love it!).