Europe Trip

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Prudence
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Europe Trip

Post by Prudence »

I just reviewed a London-Paris thread which was very informative. I have a related question but I do not wish to hijack that thread. We will be retirees who would like to spend a few weeks in Europe in 2019 or 2020. What is the best time to visit (example, London, Paris, Rome) if we want mild weather (e.g. sweater and jacket), less crowds, and less expense? Saving money is nice but not a big priority. April, May, September? I am leaning to September when schools are in session in the U.S. I know that travel guides provide this kind of info, but, I am interested in your experience.
stan1
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by stan1 »

Late September to early November is often good, as is late April to early June. There's a higher risk of rain (sometimes realized, sometimes not) but the heat and crowds of summer make visiting these places very uncomfortable for me and I accept that risk. Most tourists in London/Paris are not Americans so US school schedules aren't that much of a factor once you get out of a Marriott or Hilton property.
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augryphon
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by augryphon »

we did Paris and Italy in the Aprilish time frame and the weather was perfect, cool but that's perfect for all the walking you'll do. Crowds were generally small, however there is a week in April that all museums in Italy are open free to students, so you may want to avoid that. But the kids were moving fast and we were taking our time, so it really didn't bother us much. We did the Vatican and most of Florence surrounded by 8th graders, but it wasn't as bad as it sounds.

We've tried the large big brand hotels, but we enjoy the small boutique hotels. They have less amenities, but the experience is so much better. They'll ask where your going when you leave and call your name when you come back and ask "did you enjoy the Duomo?"

One last comment, everything in Paris is wonderful, so much to see and do, but we felt like they'd rather we not be there. We could tolerate it, but it felt like a strange way to treat your visitors. it started with the airport staff and extended to the public safety officers, retail stores, and restaurants. Hotels, attractions, cafes, seemed to be the exception, we were treated well there. Don't get me wrong, I plan to return, but I wasn't prepared for the attitude.
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JMacDonald
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by JMacDonald »

I was in Paris once for Spring Break. it was crowded with students. Go in the Fall, after school starts before it gets cold.
Best Wishes, | Joe
moehoward
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by moehoward »

In general, do not go during the summer months, stick with shoulder season. Late April or late September
Rome Don't go during May-September. Crowds and temperatures are unbearable.
If you have never been to Europe think about a tour. My wife and I call the tours "scouting trips" and it's nice to have someone show you the lay of the land. Start your trip in Paris, public transportation will take you anywhere and there is lots to see. Don't know how much time you have but don't over extend. If you have to hurray to get places, its not a vacation. Paris-London is easily a two week trip, closer to 3 if you want to relax a bit.
bob60014
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by bob60014 »

Good advice above. Keep a eye on the UK school and bank holiday schedule as, just as here in the states, school holidays are used for exploring. Here is a guide for the school holidays. Be aware of the half term dates in May and September.

https://www.skyparksecure.com/blog/chec ... -holidays/
campy2010
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by campy2010 »

I was in Paris last year and London the year before the last two weeks of May and the last week of May and the first week of June, respectively. On both trips the weather was beautiful - in the high 70s, low 80s and no rain. Crowds were low(ish). Airfare was <$500. And an unexpected bonus in Paris was that close to the summer solstice, the sun was up until 10:30-11pm at night. You could visit sights during the day, take an afternoon nap, and have an evening of sightseeing and it still wasn't dark yet. Hands down my favorite time to be in Europe.

ETA: Consider taking a couple of trips instead of one big trip. 7 days in Paris is perfect and allows time for a day trip somewhere nearby. 4-5 days in London would be a longish weekend trip or you could add a few days and explore England. You should definitely do Italy separately.
caffeperfavore
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by caffeperfavore »

It all depends on your strategy and what you want to see. Nearly every time of year can be enjoyable.

We spent an April in Italy (Tuscany and Venice) and it was wonderful. Beautiful weather and relatively low crowds. However, that's also a wet time for Paris, so it all depends on where exactly you want to be. Normally, no one in their right mind would do the south of France in November, but we did. While we didn't get to see the lavender fields in their full glory, we did have all the small towns to ourselves. Imagine exploring hilltop Eze or St Paul de Vance at night on your own. It was magical. We stayed in very nice hotels for the cost of a Hampton Inn as they were a third of their high season prices. Meanwhile, we enjoyed Avignon's November wine festival and the Christmas markets in the Alps in December. We were recently in Paris in July (a terrible time to go, right?) and didn't have to contend with crowds because we enjoyed the less trafficked arrondissements. There's so much to enjoy in Paris outside of the touristy core. I expected it to be awful, but went to watch the Tour de France, so we didn't have a choice. It turned out to be great (but warm).

But if you want to avoid crowds though, go where they're not, regardless of time of year. For example, even in touristy Venice, you can escape the crowds by wandering the neighborhoods away from the main canal and visiting the local islands. I enjoyed that as much or more as St. Mark's Piazza (although you still have to at least see it).

If you want to see the big sights, then starting in Italy in April and working your way north might be a good strategy. But if you're more interested in soaking up the local culture and don't mind some weather, then nearly any time of year can be enjoyable.
caffeperfavore
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by caffeperfavore »

augryphon wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 7:46 am One last comment, everything in Paris is wonderful, so much to see and do, but we felt like they'd rather we not be there. We could tolerate it, but it felt like a strange way to treat your visitors. it started with the airport staff and extended to the public safety officers, retail stores, and restaurants. Hotels, attractions, cafes, seemed to be the exception, we were treated well there. Don't get me wrong, I plan to return, but I wasn't prepared for the attitude.
As my French skills have improved, so have my interactions with people. I've actually found the French to be very polite and mannerly, but their version of courtesy is to be formal, where we Americans prefer informality. The more informal you are, the ruder you seem to them. Little things make all the difference, e.g., always acknowledge and thank shopkeepers when entering an establishment (bonjour, madame). A few formalities and pleasantries will go a long way to getting you better service. I always begin by speaking some French to them and then we switch over or they ask if I prefer Anglais or Francais. I apologize for my poor French and say Anglais, which they usually laugh and say it's not a problem, then we get on well. If nothing else, just learn to say hello, goodbye, thank you and please.

Also, just like in the US, busy people, fast food employees, the grumpy hungover bus driver that hates his job, etc. don't want or have time to waste or chit-chat. They may be unpleasant regardless. Depends on where you are.
anonenigma
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by anonenigma »

We’re in the Cotswolds now after six nights in Paris and four in London. Weather was very mild but bring layers. With one minor exception, everyone we encountered (especially Uber drivers on the few occasions we used them) was nice and helpful.
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Prudence
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by Prudence »

campy2010 wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 8:40 am I was in Paris last year and London the year before the last two weeks of May and the last week of May and the first week of June, respectively. On both trips the weather was beautiful - in the high 70s, low 80s and no rain. Crowds were low(ish). Airfare was <$500. And an unexpected bonus in Paris was that close to the summer solstice, the sun was up until 10:30-11pm at night. You could visit sights during the day, take an afternoon nap, and have an evening of sightseeing and it still wasn't dark yet. Hands down my favorite time to be in Europe.

ETA: Consider taking a couple of trips instead of one big trip. 7 days in Paris is perfect and allows time for a day trip somewhere nearby. 4-5 days in London would be a longish weekend trip or you could add a few days and explore England. You should definitely do Italy separately.
We were thinking that going to Europe for several weeks in a single trip (i.e. 4, 8 or 12 week trip) would minimize air travel and jet lag issues versus making two or three trips. Not good?
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midareff
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by midareff »

We look at temperature and expected rainfall in the areas of interest first. Then we recognize May (end of April to end of May travel start) and likewise with October are premium periods for weather generally in Europe and the kids are back in school. We went to Europe with Viking .. Amsterdam to Budapest on a Viking Longship and it was was a truly amazing experience. It was sooo good we tried Moscow to St. Petersburg with equal results, then Odessa to Kiev. Now, we are a few weeks back from our first Viking Ocean experience which was also outstanding. AFAIC, we love having the hotel move from port to port and never have to hassle with luggage once you get unpacked.
curmudgeon
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by curmudgeon »

Prudence wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 11:07 am
campy2010 wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 8:40 am I was in Paris last year and London the year before the last two weeks of May and the last week of May and the first week of June, respectively. On both trips the weather was beautiful - in the high 70s, low 80s and no rain. Crowds were low(ish). Airfare was <$500. And an unexpected bonus in Paris was that close to the summer solstice, the sun was up until 10:30-11pm at night. You could visit sights during the day, take an afternoon nap, and have an evening of sightseeing and it still wasn't dark yet. Hands down my favorite time to be in Europe.

ETA: Consider taking a couple of trips instead of one big trip. 7 days in Paris is perfect and allows time for a day trip somewhere nearby. 4-5 days in London would be a longish weekend trip or you could add a few days and explore England. You should definitely do Italy separately.
We were thinking that going to Europe for several weeks in a single trip (i.e. 4, 8 or 12 week trip) would minimize air travel and jet lag issues versus making two or three trips. Not good?
September and October are great months for Europe. We've had good luck with April and May as well. Christmas markets can be fun, but the colder weather and shorter days are limiting for other activities. We firmly avoid August (traditional European vacation month), and lean away from June and July because of fuller flights.

I have an informal rule to not do trips with 10+ hour flights (from west coast) for less than three weeks, just because of the overhead of time spent on the plane and jet lag. On the other hand, too long on the road in close quarters can cause irritations to arise; sometimes you need your own space. We've been doing 4-5 weeks the last few trips.

We try to do nonstop flights, especially on the way back, or at least avoid a US stop on the return flight where you have to clear customs and recheck bags at the first US airport. Noise cancelling headphones also go a long ways towards reducing fatigue and jet lag for us.
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Watty
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by Watty »

As others have said also check on the local holidays, which can be both a plus or a minus. One thing to watch out for is that trains may be heavily booked on holidays or they may be running on a holiday schedule so train tickets may be more more expensive.

The big cities can also be more expensive when there is a big event going on that week. Sometimes when you are checking hotel prices they will be a lot less expensive if you can shift your dates by a week or two so check on that if your dates are flexible.

Hotels in London and Paris will be expensive. I am normally pretty good at finding very nice mid range or budget priced hotels, we seldom spend much time in the hotel so all we really need is some place that is clean, quiet, and safe. In those cities I "bit the bullet" and spent more than I normally do to get fairly nice hotels in good locations. The problem was that being in such an expensive city the more moderately priced hotels are often a bit dodgy, or they may be located in a bad part of town.

I am in the "frequent flyer" type points programs for the major hotel chains and they will often send emails for sales and specials. I normally do not like staying in a American style hotels when I am in Europe but I have occasionally gotten deals on Hilton hotels through these specials which made staying at them a good choice. I think it was something like $125 a night in London, which is great for London, and about $85 a night in Spain. These deals will be rare but they occasionally come up so it can be worth signing up for these and checking their emails.

Sometimes you can get a substantial discount on your hotel if you book your flight and hotel at the same time on a website like Expedia. You may need to call their 800 number if you only want the hotel for something like five nights of a 20 night trip but you may still may be able to get a discount for booking those five nights with your flight.

Since we do not travel during the peak season we usually will only make hotel reservations for key dates or when we will be in expensive big cities. The other nights we usually only make the reservations a day or two ahead of time so that we have more flexibility when we are traveling.
Prudence wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 7:02 am April, May, September? I am leaning to September when schools are in session in the U.S.
I would lean towards spring instead of the fall because everything will be green and the flowers and trees will be in bloom. Many of the tourist attractions will be clean and recently maintained in the spring but by the fall they will have just had five months of very hard use by big crowds.
Prudence wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 7:02 am I know that travel guides provide this kind of info, but, I am interested in your experience.
We find that after about three or four weeks of travel we are ready to go home.

You mentioned London, Paris, and Rome which are all great but they are all big cities and after a week or so you will get saturated with museums, cathedrals, and castles. If you are not going for a short trip then also plan on spending a lot of time outside the big cities to get different experiences. The big cities are also usually expensive so spending time outside the big cities will also allow you to go for a longer trip for the same price.

Southern Europe will be much less expensive and except for airfare I can travel there for a lot less than I can in the US.

We once went to the Greek Islands in mid to late September and had wonderful weather and found that we could get nice mid range hotels for around $50 a night that were only a block from the beach. On the less well known islands like Naxos the rates drop dramatically in mid-September. Santorini might be more expense because it is more popular but it is worth going to. We had a day trip that stopped in Mykonos and it is way overrated and expensive.

Three years ago we went to Spain for three weeks in May and we never paid more than $100 a night for nice mid range, or better, places even in the large cities(which took some planning). Partway through the trip we scheduled three days in a beach town as a "vacation from vacation".
WhiteMaxima
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by WhiteMaxima »

Actually, Christmas time is more interesting in Europe.I took Eurorail trip is last Christmas time. The holiday season is more interesting there. Christmas market, light, the food, and warm wine. It is cold there but definite very fun.
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Watty
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by Watty »

Prudence wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 11:07 am We were thinking that going to Europe for several weeks in a single trip (i.e. 4, 8 or 12 week trip) would minimize air travel and jet lag issues versus making two or three trips. Not good?
I look at it as a cost per day. 4 weeks is 28 days so if your ticket is $1,000 that is about $35 dollars per day.

Staying 8 weeks would only cut the cost per day in half, $17.50, would which would not be a lot relative to your other daily costs.

If you stay a long time and see multiple countries then you will also have transportation costs to move between countries which would at least partially offset any savings on future airfare.
WhiteMaxima
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by WhiteMaxima »

If you consider Turkey is an European country, I would strongly recommend. ConsiderIt use to be the eastern Roma capital. Besides, it across both European and Asian continents. Price is 1/3 of western europa. It is safer than you think. Paris, London, Roma, all become a tourist trap because of their popularity. High crime, expensive. If it's your 1st time travel to europe, you should go. 2nd or 3rd time, nah. Go find some unpopular place in europa. Actually, I feel europe is more culture diversified than USA. Each country or even city are quite different.
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Prudence
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by Prudence »

I appreciate everyone's comments and suggestions. Thank you!
eddot98
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by eddot98 »

Our answer is “It depends.” Our first trip to Europe was in 1992 when we were in our early 40’s. In two weeks we are going on our 20th trip, this time to Barcelona and the Basque region. Our first trip was only a week in Paris. We left our hotel by 9:00 am or so every morning and didn’t return until around 10:00 pm. We saw every possible thing that we could during that time. Now that we are older, we try to see sights, but we also try to just enjoy the culture.
Our preferred time of the year is November for all the reasons previously stated: no crowds, cheaper prices, etc. Southern European weather at that time is usually good, there is just less daylight. The past two years we also traveled in May to Portugal, our last Western European country to visit. Two weeks to 16 days is our preferred length of time, but we fly out of Newark because it’s our closest airport and our flights are in the 6 to 8 hour range. If we lived in the Midwest or on the west coast, that might lead us to stretch the time abroad.
We have never been on a tour and prefer to rent a car and drive wherever and whenever we want when we are outside of a major city. We use Rick Steves for sights, but not for hotels or restaurants. We also do our research and know pretty much what we will be doing on our trips before we go. That doesn’t mean that we don’t abandon our planned itinerary sometimes. Last year we had planned to stay in Venice for 3 nights, but we were having such a good time there, we added two more nights.
So, it depends. Once we realized that we could never “do” a whole country in two weeks or even a city in a week or so, our trips became less frantic and more enjoyable.
Outside of Copenhagen, we have yet to visit Scandinavia. We hope to get there, but not in November. That’s probably a trip for May, but we are seriously considering Croatia for May of 2019. If we had to pick our favorite European country, it would be Italy.
Also, a lot depends on your capacity to walk and your stamina. Walking around European cities (up and down hills) and through museums all day can be exhausting, especially if you’re not used to it. Cobblestones are tough to walk on for extended periods and European cities have lots of them.
shelanman
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by shelanman »

I just came home from 2 weeks in Europe. I was told that I was very lucky with the weather, but the weather was beautiful -- a few days of 55F and rain, most days of 65-75F and some sun, all with the rapidly advancing fall colors. My trip was 2 major destinations: London and Frankfurt, with one one-overnight trip (to Dover from London) and two separate day-trips (to Heidelberg and the Rhine River Valley, both from Frankfurt)

Personally, I find 2 weeks to be a great trip duration, and 2-3 destinations + day trips to be a good vacation density for a 2-week trip. I'm definitely going to travel in October again. Rome will be warmer and more humid, London will be cooler and more rainy.

I've never had the time to consider an 8-week or longer trip, though, so I don't know how to plan for something like that. Logistics are different when you need to stay places for a long time and have access to a more home-like environment.
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Prudence
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by Prudence »

Regarding last two postings (and others) I can see how a two to three week trip could be optimal (for multiple trips to Europe and perhaps elsewhere abroad). So, I will follow that advice and plan to stay in that range. Thank you.
stan1
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by stan1 »

One of the great things about London is that in addition to the many interesting sites in the city there are many day trips which can all be taken by train and walking with a few exceptions. It means there's a lot to do using London as a base even for two or three weeks if you are a little adventurous using trains, are able to walk, and don't really want to move to different hotels frequently.

Here are a few examples:
Cambridge (probably need a cab from train station to city center)
Oxford and parts of Cotswolds
Salisbury (but need additional transit for Stonehenge)
Windsor
Bath
Leeds Castle (accessible by local bus/shuttle)
Canterbury
Bletchley Park (Enigma, computer museum)
St. Albans

I'm sure I'm missing a few. Any to add, Valuethinker?
Starfish
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by Starfish »

I see light mention frequently here.
For me everything looks a lot better in the dark. Lunch time... not so much. Usually is way too hot, bright, crowded, you see the negative parts more. Nights are much better, more mysterious, romantic, everything looks much better to the point where I am disappointed when I revisit the place in the day time. It's also less hot in the summer. I really like walking around cities to 3am or so, you can also see the nigh life scene which pretty good in some parts of Europe. For the same reason jetlag is not an issue for me.

What I consider a major problem is the rain. November and spring can be very rainy in many places across Europe to the point where you have almost continuous rain for weeks at a time. I consider the best months to be September and October.
Most western Europe is pretty mild in climate at least in terms of temperature. Summers can be hot in Italy, Greece and Spain and Eastern Europe but Paris and London don't really have this issue. Winters can be cold at times but again, not in London and Paris (however rain is much worse than cold).
Starfish
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by Starfish »

augryphon wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 7:46 am we did Paris and Italy in the Aprilish time frame and the weather was perfect, cool but that's perfect for all the walking you'll do. Crowds were generally small, however there is a week in April that all museums in Italy are open free to students, so you may want to avoid that. But the kids were moving fast and we were taking our time, so it really didn't bother us much. We did the Vatican and most of Florence surrounded by 8th graders, but it wasn't as bad as it sounds.

We've tried the large big brand hotels, but we enjoy the small boutique hotels. They have less amenities, but the experience is so much better. They'll ask where your going when you leave and call your name when you come back and ask "did you enjoy the Duomo?"

One last comment, everything in Paris is wonderful, so much to see and do, but we felt like they'd rather we not be there. We could tolerate it, but it felt like a strange way to treat your visitors. it started with the airport staff and extended to the public safety officers, retail stores, and restaurants. Hotels, attractions, cafes, seemed to be the exception, we were treated well there. Don't get me wrong, I plan to return, but I wasn't prepared for the attitude.
I find French very polite and accommodating, like pretty much all people on the planet. Are you sure is not a perception issue?
TravelforFun
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by TravelforFun »

I'm eyeing a month-stay in the south of France, perhaps Nice first October after I fully retire. Was there a few years ago and love to go back.

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Misenplace
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by Misenplace »

Prudence wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 11:07 am [quote=campy2010 post_id=4193193 time=<a href="tel:1541079612">1541079612</a> user_id=22397]
I was in Paris last year and London the year before the last two weeks of May and the last week of May and the first week of June, respectively. On both trips the weather was beautiful - in the high 70s, low 80s and no rain. Crowds were low(ish). Airfare was <$500. And an unexpected bonus in Paris was that close to the summer solstice, the sun was up until 10:30-11pm at night. You could visit sights during the day, take an afternoon nap, and have an evening of sightseeing and it still wasn't dark yet. Hands down my favorite time to be in Europe.

ETA: Consider taking a couple of trips instead of one big trip. 7 days in Paris is perfect and allows time for a day trip somewhere nearby. 4-5 days in London would be a longish weekend trip or you could add a few days and explore England. You should definitely do Italy separately.
We were thinking that going to Europe for several weeks in a single trip (i.e. 4, 8 or 12 week trip) would minimize air travel and jet lag issues versus making two or three trips. Not good?
[/quote]

Don’t run afoul of the Schengen Agreement-90 day limit in the agreement territory if you are a US citizen.
tindel
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by tindel »

We went to Paris in for 10 days in early April, 2017. It was wonderful.

I found most of the locals friendly. We stayed in an air BnB outside of Paris proper, heading east (half way to Disney - one of our stops). We generally found the Parisians friendly, but not really interested in meeting English speakers, but always willing to answer a question or two... particularly if you spoke at least some French to start the conversation. 30 minute bus/train to Paris, 30 minute bus/train ride to Disney. More of a local vibe since we weren't in the city.

Disney was crowded, but not intolerable. The city was busy, but not crowded, I'd say. The catacombs were the only thing we stood in a significant line for - that was a two hour wait or so, if I recall. There were also short lines at the Musee d'Orsey, Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame. We did not go to the Louvre, but walked around the courtyard.

Cherry trees were in bloom. My daughter had many smiles on her face from ear to ear many times that trip. My wife and I had a bottle of wine under the Eiffel Tower on a full moon.

I want to go back. Lots of good family memories.
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Prudence
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by Prudence »

Wow, I love these perceptions and experiences, very useful for us!
caffeperfavore
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by caffeperfavore »

One advantage to going in the warmer months is that you can pack lighter. While I've enjoyed Europe in the winter, it also added at least one more piece of and many pounds to our luggage. Think shorts and short sleeve shirts versus bulkier pants and sweaters, etc. Just a thought FWIW.
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Watty
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by Watty »

tindel wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 7:11 am We generally found the Parisians friendly, but not really interested in meeting English speakers, but always willing to answer a question or two...
It is not just in Paris but one factor to keep in mind is that many of the popular European tourist destinations get literally tens of millions of tourist each year so at times the local people may seem a bit standoffish just because there are so many tourists. In some cities like Barcelona and Venice there is some open resentment against the tourists because they are so overwhelmed with them but even there individual interactions with people are usually good.

Sometimes we will actually have more interactions with other tourists from all over the world than we do with the local people. This is a good reason to not stay in American style hotels(Hilton, Marriott, etc) since you may mostly meet Americans. In smaller hotels that provide a breakfast it is pretty common to talk with the other guests some about where they are from and what they would recommend seeing.

One funny story is that one time I was in Ireland at a castle and we were talking with an American family and one if the kids was wearing a t-shirt from the city I was raised in. It turned out that the dad had gone to the same high school that I did about ten years after I graduated.
caffeperfavore
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by caffeperfavore »

Watty wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 9:16 am
tindel wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 7:11 am We generally found the Parisians friendly, but not really interested in meeting English speakers, but always willing to answer a question or two...
It is not just in Paris but one factor to keep in mind is that many of the popular European tourist destinations get literally tens of millions of tourist each year so at times the local people may seem a bit standoffish just because there are so many tourists. In some cities like Barcelona and Venice there is some open resentment against the tourists because they are so overwhelmed with them but even there individual interactions with people are usually good.
Good point. Also, many in the German and Scandanavian countries consider it polite to leave you alone. Saying hello to a stranger is kind of rude because you've violated their personal space. The Swiss don't like small talk. The Finns don't like to talk at all. (Stereotyping a teeny bit here, of course.) In general, Americans tend to reveal things about themselves to strangers that Europeans would only do with close friends.
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by Valuethinker »

Prudence wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 7:02 am I just reviewed a London-Paris thread which was very informative. I have a related question but I do not wish to hijack that thread. We will be retirees who would like to spend a few weeks in Europe in 2019 or 2020. What is the best time to visit (example, London, Paris, Rome) if we want mild weather (e.g. sweater and jacket), less crowds, and less expense?
Generally all of Europe is too busy and crazy expensive July & August, and only somewhat cheaper June and September (maybe not at all). If I were travelling in Europe in those months, I would go to Scandinavia/ the Baltic (it can be hot and humid).

London is 51 degrees north - that's north of the lower 48 states. Consequence is that we have long winter nights. So ideally you want to be here in late March or April. Or, conversely September - October.

London generally has mild winters - temperatures above freezing, etc. The downside is the rain - which is not predictable. And if we do have ice and/or snow, the place really cannot cope.

London is never not busy with tourists, but you absolutely want to avoid July & August and European school holidays in general. That includes that week around Easter that many European countries just take off. Our schools go back earlier than US schools (1st week of September) but we have half-term breaks both in autumn (fall) and winter - it's worth googling the dates (they do vary a bit by school) "half term break" because that's when London museums etc. fill up with kids and their parents (it's actually better if you are a commuter).

It's also worth knowing when the Bank Holidays are (2 in May) because although most things are open, hotels can be busy.
Saving money is nice but not a big priority. April, May, September? I am leaning to September when schools are in session in the U.S. I know that travel guides provide this kind of info, but, I am interested in your experience.
September works for London and it can be glorious (it can also be very rainy). April and May are pretty good, too. I think a lot of hotel etc prices drop when you get past 30/ Sept.

Paris has a similar latitude to London but a more Continental climate - warmer in summer, colder in winter. August all the Parisians are on holiday. Paris is lovely in the autumn (or the Spring).

If you plan to travel between London and Paris I would take Eurostar from St. Pancras International. I book a first class seat if I can book early enough - because the meal is worth having and so is the comfort. The only problem with the train is that on the French side it moves so fast it's hard to get a sense of it. Flying just wastes a day.

Note that museums in London are open 7 days a week. Other than Christmas Day (which is eerily quiet) London doesn't really do closed these days.

Paris almost all museums are closed on Mondays. Rome, also, I think. People go to Versailles on Monday -- everyone in the world seems to be at Versailles on a Monday.

Rome is really really hot the middle 4 months of the year. I probably wouldn't want to be there 15/ May to 15/ September (and it can still be plenty hot outside of those dates - so really not before October). Again you want to avoid the big European holidays around Easter (when many things in Rome will be closed). I have been there at Christmas, which was fun, but a lot was closed. Do take a sun hat, as Rome is blindingly bright much of the year (I think peak rainy season is January).
Valuethinker
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by Valuethinker »

caffeperfavore wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 9:23 am
Watty wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 9:16 am
tindel wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 7:11 am We generally found the Parisians friendly, but not really interested in meeting English speakers, but always willing to answer a question or two...
It is not just in Paris but one factor to keep in mind is that many of the popular European tourist destinations get literally tens of millions of tourist each year so at times the local people may seem a bit standoffish just because there are so many tourists. In some cities like Barcelona and Venice there is some open resentment against the tourists because they are so overwhelmed with them but even there individual interactions with people are usually good.
Good point. Also, many in the German and Scandanavian countries consider it polite to leave you alone. Saying hello to a stranger is kind of rude because you've violated their personal space. The Swiss don't like small talk. The Finns don't like to talk at all. (Stereotyping a teeny bit here, of course.) In general, Americans tend to reveal things about themselves to strangers that Europeans would only do with close friends.
Add to that. Imagine if a tourist spoke Spanish or French to you in New York. You might be able to answer (a bit) but you probably would not engage in a voluble conversation.

In rural areas people can be more friendly (as in all countries) but, conversely, fluent English is even rarer - I have (shock!) even been in places in Netherlands and Scandinavia where people didn't seem to have much English ;-).

People under 40 in Europe generally have much more English than the older generations - even in France, Italy, Spain & Portugal. Ditto anyone under 40 in Eastern Europe - the older generation learned Russian in school.

In London pubs and cabs you will encounter many people keen to communicate their opinions to you ;-).
Valuethinker
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by Valuethinker »

Starfish wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 6:55 pm
augryphon wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 7:46 am we did Paris and Italy in the Aprilish time frame and the weather was perfect, cool but that's perfect for all the walking you'll do. Crowds were generally small, however there is a week in April that all museums in Italy are open free to students, so you may want to avoid that. But the kids were moving fast and we were taking our time, so it really didn't bother us much. We did the Vatican and most of Florence surrounded by 8th graders, but it wasn't as bad as it sounds.

We've tried the large big brand hotels, but we enjoy the small boutique hotels. They have less amenities, but the experience is so much better. They'll ask where your going when you leave and call your name when you come back and ask "did you enjoy the Duomo?"

One last comment, everything in Paris is wonderful, so much to see and do, but we felt like they'd rather we not be there. We could tolerate it, but it felt like a strange way to treat your visitors. it started with the airport staff and extended to the public safety officers, retail stores, and restaurants. Hotels, attractions, cafes, seemed to be the exception, we were treated well there. Don't get me wrong, I plan to return, but I wasn't prepared for the attitude.
I find French very polite and accommodating, like pretty much all people on the planet. Are you sure is not a perception issue?
Paris, though? Even the French think Paris is rude.

I have encountered the Gallic shrug an awful lot of times - "what can I do about it?". It's supposed to be the world's most touristed city, and they are a bit blase.
02nz
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by 02nz »

A lot of Europe (London, Paris, and Rome included, indeed much of Italy) gets awfully crowded in the warmer months. And southern Europe (including Italy) can get really hot in summer, and unlike in the U.S. many/most places don't have AC.

I've always enjoyed traveling in Germany in the summer. Outside of the most touristy places (Neuschwanstein, Heidelberg) there are virtually no crowds anywhere. Tons of interesting things to see. Weather is variable but generally good in summer - lots of nice, warm, long days, perfect for nursing a beer. Food is quite good - I don't like traditional German food as I find it too heavy, but it's lightened up in recent years, and most places of any size have good international options (e.g. Italian, Thai, Vietnamese), too. Great infrastructure and public transport, reasonable prices, almost totally free of places that exist solely to rip off tourists. Beyond Berlin and Munich, I'd especially recommend Bamberg, Regensburg, Dresden, Leipzig, and Cologne.
Last edited by 02nz on Fri Nov 02, 2018 12:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Valuethinker
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by Valuethinker »

stan1 wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 6:36 pm One of the great things about London is that in addition to the many interesting sites in the city there are many day trips which can all be taken by train and walking with a few exceptions. It means there's a lot to do using London as a base even for two or three weeks if you are a little adventurous using trains, are able to walk, and don't really want to move to different hotels frequently.

Here are a few examples:
Cambridge (probably need a cab from train station to city center)
Oxford and parts of Cotswolds
Salisbury (but need additional transit for Stonehenge)
Stonehenge is probably easiest done by a bus tour from London. It can be disappointing though - you cannot approach the stones.

Winchester or Salisbury Cathedral are both worth doing (Winchester particularly, after Canterbury, & Westminster & St Paul's Cathedrals in London, and Yorkminster).
Windsor
The trick with seeing any of the Royal Castles (Buckingham Palace too) is that visiting can be restricted if one of the royals is in residence or there are one of the state ceremonies. So check the websites for those.
Bath
Leeds Castle (accessible by local bus/shuttle)
Canterbury
Bletchley Park (Enigma, computer museum)
St. Albans

I'm sure I'm missing a few. Any to add, Valuethinker?
Oxford and Cambridge would be top of my list, although you probably do not need to see both (some mild preference for Oxford in that however Cambridge has the American Flyers Cemetery - that part of England became virtually a giant airstrip for US 8th AAF in 1943-45 - it is quite moving.
It also has RAF Duxford which is a spend-a-day and not see it all airplane museum). The Cotswolds are very fine.

Brighton is a gay & artsy city on the south coast with a big English language student population. Do not go there in summer - overcrowded.

Americans don't see distance the way Brits do. So a trip to York, day or overnight, would probably be my other trip out of London besides Oxford or Cambridge. East Coast Main Line out of Kings Cross, book early for cheap tickets (First Class is often available at only a small premium to standard class, and is worth it).

Canterbury takes a surprisingly long time to get to but is worth it (the Cathedral in particular).

Dover is nothing to write home about and DO NOT plan to be there in the first couple of weeks post March 29, 2019 (Brexit day) - we really have no idea what travel arrangements will be and the trucks may be backed up the highway. However Dover Castle (medieval all the way to WW2 when the Dunkirk evacuation was planned from tunnels under the castle - which you can visit) is fascinating.
Valuethinker
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by Valuethinker »

29th March 2019 is Brexit day.

Until what the transition arrangements are is decided, expect that to be a difficult time to travel between UK and other European countries.

For example, thousands of travelling Brits who have gone down the EU passport holders line, will now have to go with the "other passports" ie you.

The ports in particular could be very busy/ congested. But also flights to Europe. Probably Eurostar is going to be not as bad (London to Paris or London to Brussels).

Good sense may yet prevail but at the moment it looks like a real mess.
Starfish
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by Starfish »

Valuethinker wrote: Fri Nov 02, 2018 12:35 pm
Starfish wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 6:55 pm
augryphon wrote: Thu Nov 01, 2018 7:46 am we did Paris and Italy in the Aprilish time frame and the weather was perfect, cool but that's perfect for all the walking you'll do. Crowds were generally small, however there is a week in April that all museums in Italy are open free to students, so you may want to avoid that. But the kids were moving fast and we were taking our time, so it really didn't bother us much. We did the Vatican and most of Florence surrounded by 8th graders, but it wasn't as bad as it sounds.

We've tried the large big brand hotels, but we enjoy the small boutique hotels. They have less amenities, but the experience is so much better. They'll ask where your going when you leave and call your name when you come back and ask "did you enjoy the Duomo?"

One last comment, everything in Paris is wonderful, so much to see and do, but we felt like they'd rather we not be there. We could tolerate it, but it felt like a strange way to treat your visitors. it started with the airport staff and extended to the public safety officers, retail stores, and restaurants. Hotels, attractions, cafes, seemed to be the exception, we were treated well there. Don't get me wrong, I plan to return, but I wasn't prepared for the attitude.
I find French very polite and accommodating, like pretty much all people on the planet. Are you sure is not a perception issue?
Paris, though? Even the French think Paris is rude.

I have encountered the Gallic shrug an awful lot of times - "what can I do about it?". It's supposed to be the world's most touristed city, and they are a bit blase.
There is some distortion in all big cities in the world. People are busy, time is tight and everywhere is full with tourists. Obviously has some impact on
behavior.
But I don't think Paris is worse than London and NY, especially if you control the incentives to fake politeness (like tips). I appreciate more honest behavior than the fake smiles.
The population between these place is not that different as a large portion of them is your standard mixture of foreigners.
phil64
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Re: Europe Trip

Post by phil64 »

So many great replies - I will second the last 2 weeks or 1st week of June - Paris is perfect at that time. A great reason to pick this time is it is right before the French take their summer holidays, and everyone is in a good mood as the weather is warming and people are looking forward to their vacations.

I also highly recommend the EuroStar 3 hours from downtown London to downtown Paris is great, and much cheaper if you book 3 months out.

Enjoy

Phil
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