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Plan My European Trip, Please!

We live in Dallas, TX and have only visited Switzerland and Germany up to this point. I am not an easy traveler: light sleeper, need to plan everything. We don't do nightlife or many museums or tourist stuff. We walk, walk, walk, eat, and talk to locals. We just love being in a place.

We are flying into Paris on Oct. 15th. We have lodgings there through Oct. 25. Then the plan needs help.

We want to see Madrid, Barcelona, Cinque Terre, Milan (w/Lake Como), and Venice before we leave on a cruise out of Venice (to Greece)on Nov. 9th.

We don't want to hustle around and feel rushed. We will likely fly to each place to save time. We are considering giving up something to stay longer in one place, but we don't know which place would most warrant a full week.

On top of that, I love cool weather but suffer in daytimes below 50-45F especially when windy, so we are trying to avoid being in an area at the "wrong" time weather wise.

I welcome voices of experience in planning this trip. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

Kitty

Posted by
360 posts

I can address the light sleeper issue. I can't sleep in hotels as there's always some noise. After a visit to Paris was almost ruined from lack of sleep, I started taking sleeping pills. Love them. I take one & I'm asleep almost immediately. I wake up about 8 hrs later & feel great. I've done some experimenting at home & think I'd still function if I had to get up because of some emergency. Getting a good night's sleep will help you cope with anything that comes along.

Posted by
6788 posts

Sorry, you're being wildly unrealistic. Europe is not a cruise. You can't do France, Spain and Italy, 7 different cities/regions, in 2 weeks. Not gonna happen.

If you're asking me to plan your trip for you (and you did), I'd say: cancel the cruise (a waste of time and money IMHO), pick one or two countries, and limit yourself to a few cities. If you bail on the cruise, you'll have enough time to visit a few places and actually experience a bit of them (rather than just seeing them flash by out a window.

Posted by
32247 posts

Kitty, I have to agree with David! Trying to fit that many stops into a two week time frame is a bit unrealistic, especially as you said that "We don't want to hustle around and feel rushed".

I'd suggest dropping Madrid and Barcelona first, given the distance (and travel times) from the other locations and more importantly your final destination, Venice. Would something like this work for you:

Oct. 25, fly Paris-Milan - train to Cinque Terre (with travel to/from airports, check-in & security and train times, plan on the better part of a day for this trip).

Cinque Terre - 3 days? (which village were you planning to stay in?)

Train to Lago di Como via Milan

Lago di Como - 4 days (which town were you planning to stay?) From here you could either just enjoy the ambience of the area or take a few day trips to Bellagio, Villa d'Este (gardens), the actual town of Como or other locations. Varenna is a wonderful "home base".

Train to Milan

Milan - 4 days (as well as seeing The Last Supper, the Opera House or whatever, you could also take a few day trips, or just enjoy the shopping in Milan).

Train to Venice

Given your stated criteria of staying on one place a bit longer, my preference would be a more relaxed Itinerary rather than spending a lot of time rushing between places. Regarding the weather, you should at least prepare for fall weather in northern Italy, as it could be "cooler".

Cheers!

Posted by
27 posts

Thank you each for your input. This is exactly what I wanted. I had no idea what to realistically expect. Your experience is my benefit.

More info: We have to do Madrid and Barcelona to met with host families for my daughters school next year. We don't have to be there more than a couple of days but I didn't want to rush so I was thinking 5 days in Madrid and 4 in Barcelona. Other than that I personally would have never chosen Spain.

My personal interest is in Italy. I would love to do Cinque Terre or Lake Como but don't think both are reasonable. If I knew which would be the least cold, I'd go that route.

Let's say I drop the cruise, were would you spend a solid week out of my list: Milan, Venice, Veranzza, CinqueTerre (I'm thinking Monterosso or Levanto), Madrid, Barcelona?

Be as critical as you need to get me on the right path!!!

Much Thanks,
Kitty

Posted by
6788 posts

With another week, I'd do Venice, Florence, maybe Siena, maybe Rome, maybe Cinque Terre, maybe Sorento/Amalfi (not all of them -- pick 2 or 3 maximum). Barcelona is wonderful, too, but it's not "near" anything. The nice thing about stuff in northern Italy is that there are many 5-star places that are no more than a few hours apart by train (although some of the places I listed are not THAT close together). I love Barcelona, but it can be hard to make it fit efficiently into a trip if you're short on time and trying to be most efficient.

Posted by
7209 posts

I agree about dropping the cruise. I just don't think you get the real European experience if you have to "sleep" on the boat. I'm sure some will disagree...namely Frank who lurks around here...but we've taken 2 different families with us on different occasions. Each of them have done the European Cruise thing, and they told us while on the cruise they didn't see/experience anything even close to what they did with us (no cruise).

Posted by
11 posts

Kitty, I can say that you will find plenty to do in Paris in that time without museums or touristy stuff. I could walk all day there. Get to know the pedestrian friendly neighborhoods as some areas can be a bit "busy".

Posted by
5 posts

My sister did Cinque Terre and loved it. She recommended having plenty of time to tour the cities and do the hike between the 5 (I think!) cities. If you do, take plenty of water! The hike is more adventurous than she first imagined.

My advice for Venice is to arrive EARLY in the morning. We arrived by train in Venice at like 5 in the morning. It was really cool to see the city in the early hours before the hordes of tourists arrived. I do mean hordes! It was unbelievable how many people showed up. If you want to see St. Mark's, get in line early. I think tours open at 8. If you check your bag around the corner (It was in the Rick Steves book the exact place), you get to cut the line. It's only a couple of Euro to check the bag. By going early to Venice, you'll won't feel rushed by the thousands (not an exaggeration) of people trying to cram their way through the tiny alleys. Oh, and eat seafood in Venice, it's great!

Posted by
32247 posts

Kitty, a few additional comments....

I'd also suggest dropping the cruise (if possible). You indicated that you like to "walk, eat and talk to the locals. We just love being in a place". Spending more time in Italy will allow you to do that (put Greece on the list for next time).

Regarding the destinations you mentioned in your last post:

Milan - given the short time frame, I wouldn't bother (except as a transit point).

Venice - 2 nights would be good. Spending more time there would reduce time in other destinations.

"Veranzza" - I'm assuming you're referring to Vernazza, one of the five villages in the Cinque Terre? I'd suggest staying in one of the five rather than Levanto. If you decide to hike the trails, the one from Monterosso to Vernazza is the most challenging, from Vernazza to Corniglia almost the same. The others are relatively easy.

Given that you "personally would have never chosen Spain", you might want to reduce your time. Three days in Madrid would be fine and about the same in Barcelona (assuming that allows you enough time to meet with your daughter's host families?).

Since your "personal interest" is Italy, you might want to focus on that. I was a bit surprised to see that Rome wasn't on the list? Some other smaller towns you might enjoy are Siena, Orvieto or Lucca.

If you do decide to keep Lago di Como on your list of destinations, Varenna is a great "home base". Easily reachable by train from Milano (1 hour) and easy to do a day trip to the town of Bellagio. I found Varenna so relaxing, I didn't want to leave (especially after tasting Laura's Ravioli at Albergo Olivedo!).

Hope your planning is going well. Good luck!

Posted by
189 posts

Just got back from Greece, Italy, Munich and Austria. I would agree to do Florence and spend just one night in Rome - possibly two - to see the important sights: Vatican, Colosseo and the incredible Roman Forum. Or make it a day trip from Florence. Rome, aside from the incredible sights, is all hustle, noise and bad signage. PS: We LOVED Venice and Athens. With one or two nights you'd have time for the major sights and Burano and Aegina to get the flavor of the nearby islands.

Posted by
15578 posts

Just saw this...

First, I hope Tim from Knoxville was not talking about me because the last thing I would recommend in Europe is a large cruise. (That's why they invented the Caribbean--and Tums).

I say flip a coin. All the places you want to see are terrific. If you decide to skip the cruise, don't leave out Venice. I loved walking around Venice. I'd also suggest taking a hop over to Burano--small, quaint, pretty and very easy to get around.

Save Greece for another trip.

Posted by
116 posts

I keep hearing from German friends how Milan is just another fashionable, big city. But BOY OH BOY do they love the Italian Lake District for just relaxing, hiking (summer holidays), skiing (winter and spring holidays), etc. However, I think the whole Milan/Lake Como area will already be pretty chilly in October, esp later October.

I would say hit coastal Italy to stay warm enough. Personally, this mid-October time is when I want to do southern coastal Italy since I think the water will still be warm enough from their hot summers and the tourist masses will be down.

No clue on Spain.

Cruise: Depending on so many factors a cruise can be just what you want, so I think it's dumb that PP are telling you to bag it not knowing so many details. If this type of cruise (gosh and there are SO many different kinds) is what you want, then go ahead and enjoy it!

Personally - Paris to me is only good for a few days, but that's just me.

Posted by
27 posts

Update: I took your various opinions to heart and made some changes.

I scratched the cruise, but will plan to do it on a future trip as we love cruising. Being a "sensitive" traveler, cruises have always been a respite for me, especially when trying to fit in a lot of sites in a short time.

I did add Florence and Siena to the list and reduced Milan to just the day before we fly home.

I extended Cinque Terre to 5 nights. I did leave out Rome because we are spending a week there (and points south) with friend next summer.

I reduced Madrid and Barcelona to 4 nights each to give us time with host families. And Paris is the first 5 nights of the trip.

So we are Paris 5 nights, Madrid 4, Barcelona 4, Cinque Terre 5, Siena/Florence 2, Venice 4, Como 2, Milan 1 then home.

Kitty

Posted by
32247 posts

Kitty,

A few more suggestions for "fine tuning" your Itinerary.

I'd suggest staying in the Cinque Terre for 3 nights, and adding two nights to Siena and Florence. The CT is going to be very "quiet" in late October, as some of the smaller businesses will be preparing to close down for the winter (typically Dec. & Jan.). You might enjoy the atmosphere in the larger centres at that time of year.

My preference would also be to scratch a day from Venice and add to Lago di Como. Were you planning to stay in Varenna?

If you're planning to visit any of the Museums in Paris, you might consider a Paris Museum Pass (perhaps the two day version?).

Hopefully, some of the others will have some comments on these points.

Cheers!

Posted by
3258 posts

Hi Kitty,
I like the first part of your itinerary which includes: Paris 5 nights, Madrid 4, Barcelona 4. Then, as Ken suggested, I'd adjust the last part--something like: Cinque Terre 3 nights, Siena/Florence 4 nights (we stayed in Siena and took a bus to daytrip to Florence), Venice 3 nights, Como 3 nights (in Como--hopefully you're considering Varenna--you might find the same off-season closings as Ken mentioned might be the case in Cinque Terre at that time of year), Milan 1 then home. I think that you'll find that 1 night in Milan is enough. Sounds like an amazing trip!

Posted by
19 posts

Since you like to walk, eat, walk, talk and walk some more, Cinque Terre is perfect! We stayed in Manarola and did several of the walks between towns. The best by far was the day the trail between Manarola and Corniglia was closed & so we took an alternate trail(#6 & 6A)called the route of the Sanctuaries-one for each villag--this path winds up the mountain to Volastra and Nostra Signora della Salute and back down to Corniglia (took nearly 4 hours). It was hot in June & strenuous but well worth it leading us long the grape terraces, through olive groves with fantastic high views! I'd highly recommend taking some of these alternate footpaths. You can pick up maps that show the trails and they are well marked.

Posted by
32247 posts

Karen

Don't forget that Kitty's trip will be in late October, leading into November. The weather in the Cinque Terre may or may not be favourable for the hikes you suggested.

I still feel that 3 days in the CT would be adequate on this occasion, given the short time frame and desire to also visit Lago di Como.

Cheers!