35 Day Adventure

Our trip was fantastic! Many thanks to everyone who helped us plan the itinerary over the past 18 months! My wife and I (age 62) had only been to Europe once before for a two week vacation. Recently retired, this was our first chance to spend an extended amount of time travelling. What a delight! Prior to leaving, we wondered if 35 days away from home would be too long. Answer: NO PROBLEM! In fact, we probably could have gone another week or two before crying for home. The trip was from May 24 through June 27. We picked this time as we felt 1) the weather should be excellent; 2) lots of daylight; 3) crowds would be manageable. Points 2 & 3 worked out perfectly as planned. The weather I would rate as "average". This trip was also planned to include places to which we had never been .... An advanture at every turn. As for the weather, we had a few good days but most days were cool, cloudy and periodic drizzle. It was mostly mid 50s to mid 60s. That was a bit of a disappointment. But, we felt we were better off than had it been 95 degrees and humid. Before I begin this report, I will admit that we did not follow one piece of advice that is often given in the Forum and that is ...... don't try to cover too much. "Assume you will return".. We knew that we would return but we still wanted to cover a lot of ground, kind of an "overview" trip to better position us to do a "European Highlight Trip" with our granddaughters in the future. As it turned out, the pace was perfect (for us).
If anyone has questions about our trip feel free to ask (or private message me) I will be GLAD to help.

Posted by Tom
Oak Brook, IL
160 posts

May 24 through May 28 Originating in Chicago, our trip began with a 5 day stay outside of Boston visiting our son and his family. After a wonderful visit with the family, we were off to Europe. May 29 -30 We travelled from Boston to Milan (through Newark). Half day tour of Milan and caught a 5:20pm train for Varenna for our first of two nights on Lake Como. May 31 Varenna is a beautiful town and a great place for a home base. We took the ferry to Bellagio for a half day visit and back to Varenna for a fabulous dinner at the La Vista Restaurant. We loved Varenna.
June 1 We left Varenna on an early train to Monterosso with a day stop in Santa Margherita (on the way). We took a local bus half way to Portofino and walked the rest of the way along a beautiful trail. We had lunch at the Portofino Harbor and then walked all the way back along the sea to Santa Margherita. We spent a few hours touring Santa Margherita before catching an early evening train for Monterosso. It was a perfect day. This was to be our first of two nights in Monterosso.

Posted by Tom
Oak Brook, IL
160 posts

June 2 We hiked to Vernazza and then toured each Cinque Terre town via the train with a delightful evening in Monterosso. Monterosso is definitely on our "go back to list". Vernazza was just okay (IMO). Crowded and a little overloaded with ferries filled with tourists. Staying overnight night in Vernazza might have improved our opinion but we were very glad we stayed in Monterosso. After seeing all 5 towns, Monterosso remains our pick in the future. June 3 We awoke to clouds and rain so we decided not to stop in Pisa but rather go directly to Florence for one night. We had been to Florence before so this stop was essentially to position us for our flight to Munich in the morning. A low key day strolling Florence in the afternoon and evening with a great evening dinner made for a memorable day.
June 4 We took a morning flight to Munich and spent the rest of the day touring the city. In the evening, we went to the Augusteiner Beer Garden where we met 5 Swedish businessmen and had a blast! I will admit, we got back to the hotel, a little too late. ? lol

Posted by Tom
Oak Brook, IL
160 posts

June 5 We took the train to Rothenburg ob der Tauber in the morning arriving about noon. We spent the rest of the day and evening touring Rothenburg. Rothenburg is a picturesque town and our evening stroll without many tourists was very relaxing (just like RS says in his book). The night watchman tour was very enjoyable and we found it to be worth doing. That said, we didn't need more than a day in Rothenburg. We were glad we visited but probably wouldn't go out of our way to go back.
June 6 We took a mid -morning train to Bacharach. We had planned to take an afternoon cruise on the Rhine to St Goar but couldn't because of the flooding. That didn't stop us. We took a short train ride to St Goar and, while much of the town was under water, we were able to hike to the Rheinfels Castle. Our heart goes out to the people of St Goar. Mother Nature was not kind to them. Not much was happening in St Goar so we headed back to our hotel in Bacharach for a cleanup, stroll and dinner. Bacharach is a cute town and, if we were passing through, we'd probably try to stay again to take the Rhine cruise but we wouldn't make is a focal point for our next trip to Europe.

Posted by Tom
Oak Brook, IL
160 posts

June 7 Today a mid-morning train put us in the direction of Amsterdam. But, before arriving in Amsterdam, we scheduled a 90 minute layover in Cologne so we could see the Cathedral there. It is a beautiful church indeed. We arrived in Amsterdam in mid-afternoon for the first of two nights. We found Amsterdam a little overwhelming at first but got used to it very quickly. The architecture is terrific and the canals turn it into a beautiful and interesting city. Between, the buses, trams, bikes, cars and people, tourists have to have their heads on a swivel until you figure out how to defend yourself. June 8 We had a fun day doing all the touristy stuff in Amsterdam. We found the Rijksmuseum to be fantastic. We weren't sure if we would like Amsterdam but we actually liked it a lot.
June 9 This day started with a train to Bruges. Originally, we had planned to go directly from Amsterdam to York for two nights but a few months before we left, we became interested in what we read about Bruges and decided to split our time staying one night in each. I know, I know ... too many one night stays but, for us, it wasn't a problem at all. We were in Bruges by 11am and spent the rest of the day leisurely walking the town, eating chocolates and drinking beer (in addition to a waffle or two). In our opinion, a canal cruise is a must. Staying overnight was indeed a treat as the town became very quiet with lots of daylight long into the evening. It is a beautiful town to enjoy at night on a cool evening.

Posted by Tom
Oak Brook, IL
160 posts

June 10 This day was a "hard start". We were on a train for Brussels by 6:30. Thankfully, our B&B host picked us up at the train on our arrival yesterday and brought us back to the train today. If you can believe it, he also made us a full breakfast at 5:30am before we departed for the train. What a treat! With a transfer to the Eurostar in Brussels and a transfer in London, we were in York by 1pm, in time for lunch! While having lunch at a local pub, my wife started talking with a man at the table next to us and before we knew it he offered to give us a tour of the city! The next 4 hours were spent touring York with our new friend!
June 11 Today was a slower start but not too slow as we joined another local tour seeing other areas of York. York has lots of interesting history, more than we realized. We departed York about 4pm on our way to Bath (via London). We enjoyed York and didn't get a chance to see it all. It isn't a "must see again" location like a Monterosso and Varenna are but we would likely stay again for a night if we were traveling between London and Edinburgh, for example. Going to Bath via London was cheaper and it gave us a chance to have dinner in London between our change in stations. It was a late arrival in Bath (about 10pm) but this was to be the first of three nights so a late arrival was to be followed with a few slower days.

Posted by Tom
Oak Brook, IL
160 posts

June 12 & 13 After breakfast we took the free tour with one of the Mayor's Honorary Guides which was definitely worth doing. After lunch, we took a small group tour to Stonehenge and spent the evening walking around Bath. The following day we had scheduled an all day tour of the Cotswolds (again small group tour) which was an easy and convenient way to see the countryside. We considered renting a car and spending the day by ourselves but decided on a tour as we thought finding our way through the countryside (and concentrating constantly to stay on the left side of the road) wasn't worth the effort. The day ended with a quiet night in Bath. Would we go back to Bath? Bath would not be high on our list for a repeat but I honestly believe it is a required stop at least once. It is a beautiful city with easy access to the Cotswolds and it is easily reached from London.
June 14 , 15, 16, 17 We took a 9:15am train to London from Bath and settled into our 3 night and 4 day visit to London. We found London to be a joy and we'll be back for sure! We did lots of typical sightseeing activities but didn't come close to doing everything we wanted. We found the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey to be highlights. We splurged and spent two evenings at the theater which we'd do again in a heartbeat. Our last day in London ended with a 6pm train for Portsmouth Harbour where we boarded an overnight ferry to Caen, France.

Posted by Tom
Oak Brook, IL
160 posts

June 18 We arrived in Caen at 6:45am. The weather was clear so we were able to see the shores of Normandy as we approached. It made us reflect on how awful it must have been on the morning of June 6, 1944. We took a short bus ride to the train station and a quick 15 minute train to Bayeux. We arrived in Bayeux by 9am and, to our surprise, we felt well rested. This was a pleasant surprise as we were not sure that we'd sleep well enough on the overnight ferry. The morning was spent seeing the Bayeux Tapestry. Right after lunch, we met our small group for a scheduled guided tour of the Normandy beaches. Upon our return to Bayeux we had a great French dinner despite that fact that the power went out midway during the dinner!
June 19 Right after breakfast we took a shuttle van to Mont St Michel (booked through our hotel). Once again, we had to decide if we wanted to rent a car or choose the shuttle. In our case, we are glad we took the shuttle. It was a 90 minute drive there; we were left to tour by ourselves for 3 hours and the drive back took 90 minutes (after a short lunch). It turned out to be a great day. Our early afternoon arrival in Bayeux allowed time for us to tour the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Bayeux before catching our 4:30pm train to Paris (7:15 arrival). This was to be the first of four nights in Paris

Posted by Tom
Oak Brook, IL
160 posts

June 20, 21, 22 It came as no surprise, ..... Paris was great! We did the typical things first time visitors would likely do; Versailles, the Louvre, the Orsay, Eiffel Tower, Champs- Elysees, Cathedral of Notre Dame etc etc. AND of course great food. Of the four nights we were there we had two FANTASTIC dinners and two excellent ones. Whether you were sitting down to a fancy dinner or picking up some cheese at the market, we found the food to be excellent everywhere.
June 23 After four days in Paris we moved on to our last stop, Murren Switzerland. We took the 8am train from Paris to Lausanne. We did that so we could go to Murren via Montreux and Zweisimmen (the Golden Pass Route). This route, while a little longer, is one of the most scenic train rides in all of Switzerland (or so we were told). Unfortunately, we'll have to believe what we read as the weather was not in our favor and we experienced cloudy skies and drizzle. We could see enough, however, to tell that with bright clear skies that train ride would be magnificent. We arrived in Murren about 6pm to heavy overcast and rain, hoping that the next few days would be clear.

Posted by Tom
Oak Brook, IL
160 posts

June 24, 25 Unfortunately, the weather failed us over the next two days; cloudy, cold and rain (morning temps 38 degrees). We needed to move into backup plan mode. We adjusted by taking a day trip to Luzern one day and Bern the next. Both were enjoyable cities. While we had our hearts set taking short day hikes in the Alps for three days, the weather wasn't going to let that happen. In hindsight, it worked out just fine as we enjoyed seeing two beautiful Swiss cities that weren't in our original plan.

Posted by Tom
Oak Brook, IL
160 posts

June 26 Our final day in the Alps and the last full day of our trip. We woke to again cloudy skies but we could see small breaks in the clouds from time to time. While we hadn't hiked on the Murren side of the valley, we did get to Gimmelwald and walked through Murren one evening. We wanted to see the other side of the valley so we went to Wengen. To our surprise, upon our arrival, we learned that they had just opened the trail from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg. The fog was heavy but the lift was open to Mannlichen so we figured it was worth the chance. The walk to Kleine Scheidegg had 100 yard visibility and there was some snow on the trail but it was open and for that we were grateful. This was our last day. As we approached Kleine Scheidegg, the visibility improved. We took the train from there to Grindelwald and, as we approached Grindelwald, the sun was coming out! The views went from fog to fantastic over the course of 3 hours. Finally, we felt like we were in the Swiss Alps. We enjoyed the ride from Grindelwald to First, and had lunch at the top. Glorious views! It was getting late in the day so we headed back to Murren trying to get there by 5pm so we could catch the last Allmendhubel funicular. We made it! The very last one at 5pm! T hat allowed us to spend a couple of hours enjoying the walk back down. Our last day turned out to be a great day!
June 27 An uneventful day travelling home (thankfully). All in all a fantastic trip filled with freedom and adventure. We'd do it again in a heartbeat!

Posted by Dawn
Denver, CO
256 posts

Tom, Thank you SO much for taking the time to post your trip report. I poured myself a glass of wine and went with you on your 35 day adventure! This fall, we are going to some of the same places you went. We'll be going to Amsterdam, Bruges, Paris, Munich and Salzburg, so it was great reading your eloquent reports of some of these towns. Reading your account of Murren, where the weather wasn't cooperative at first, shows how important a positive outlook is! You were able to see two great cities that you might otherwise have missed. And in the end, you were awarded with great views of the Alps! Best wishes for many more great trips!!!

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7818 posts

Great trip report Tom, sounds like you had a wonderful time and had a taste of many places.. I am impresseed with your energy levels !

Posted by Grier
Carmel, IN
1050 posts

Terrific report, Tom. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Posted by DERRIC
algona, wa, usa
8 posts

What a great Adventure! Thanks for sharing and helping me dream some more.