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Inexpensive Europe Vacation
Old 02-24-2005, 04:00 PM   #1
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Inexpensive Europe Vacation

My wife and I want to travel to Europe in Fall '05. We will have about 2-3 weeks and want to go to Spain, France, England, Germany and Italy.
Any suggestions on the best way to go, to get the most for the least and how to have the best tourist experience. We are really interested in learning the history of the country(s) and not just looking at the tall buildings on the post cards.
Is rail , boat, or bus the best way to travel between the country's.
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation
Old 02-24-2005, 07:13 PM   #2
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation

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My wife and I want to travel to Europe in Fall '05. We will have about 2-3 weeks and want to go to Spain, France, England, Germany and Italy.
All I can say is that if you are going to try to see 5 countries in Europe in 2 to 3 weeks, you're going to spend more time moving your bodies around and not enough time enjoying the places you visit.

There's a difference between "seeing" a place and "enjoying" it. I can "see" pictures of all these places on the Internet, but I can only enjoy them if I immerse myself in the culture. When I go to Europe or any other destination, I like to sit with the locals and talk about what life is like in that part of the world. I like to go inside a museum and take my time perusing, not just see the museum from the outside and maybe take a quick walkthrough. I like to find the restaurants the locals go and get a flavor of the true local cuisine, not just stop for a quick bite at a tourist trap.

My recommendation is to pick one country and spend 2 or 3 weeks there. Plan your trip (at least in a general sense) so you are not wasting time trying to figure out what to do and where to go when you are there. It's great to have a plan, but keep it flexible enough to be spontaneous if you come across something else that interests you.
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation
Old 02-24-2005, 08:25 PM   #3
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation

Wow, I agree, especially if you are trying to experience more than just "looking at tall buildings" as you put it.

We spent almost a month in Italy and could have easily done another month there. Best experiences: full day hiking the Cinque Terre... riding the water taxi up and down the Grand Canal in Venice during a lightning storm... picnic at the Pantheon... getting lost in Florence....

If you're going to do that many countries in 2-3 weeks you're going to spend more time on a bus or train between places than actually experiencing Europe. I know what its like - we are always tempted to squeeze in just one more city or country when we go abroad, but I truly think a slower trip will end up being more fun.
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation
Old 02-25-2005, 11:40 AM   #4
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation

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Wow, I agree, especially if you are trying to experience more than just "looking at tall buildings" as you put it. *

We spent almost a month in Italy and could have easily done another month there. * *I know what its like - we are always tempted to squeeze in just one more city or country when we go abroad, but I truly think a slower trip will end up being more fun.
Definitely agree... we lived in Italy for two years and it wasn't enough time.

For travel planning in Italy, recommend checking out slowtalk.com ...a wonderful travel resource. *For 2-3 weeks, rec. pick at the most four cities, or two regions, or it's all going to blend together with your most vivid memories being the compartments of various modes of transportation.

Regarding rail, boat or bus (or yes! even car), I would figure out first where you want to go, and then worry about transportation.

Assume this is your first trip to Europe? If so, then you want to hit the "must sees"?
Slowtalk.com has tons of threads on your questions, it's the RE website equivalent of people who looove to travel, esp in Italy. Most of them though are not cheap, so if you want cheap suggestions, will be happy to comply.
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation
Old 02-25-2005, 12:11 PM   #5
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation

I'll add my voice to the pick one country suggestion. *2-3 weeks is not enough time to really see all the countries that you are listing. *I spent 3 weeks in Italy last fall (Sept-Oct) and it was still tight to see the things we wanted. *I highly recommend doing most of the travel by rail though a car for a couple of days can make some more rural locations more easily accessible particularly since you are on a tight travel schedule. *I rented a car for 3 days out of Florence (got a Smart for Four) with a return in Siena. *This allowed us to hit the small Tuscan hill towns. *If I was retired and travelling then I wouldn't have bothered with the car but would have taken the train/bus to the towns.

You can also plan when you travel between towns to maximize your time. *For Italy we would travel early in the morning often catching one of the very first trains. *That way we would arrive no later than mid-morning which would give us plenty of time to find a hotel, freshen up and drop the bags and then grab lunch before having an afternoon in the new city. *For longer trips (some we did in China for example) we would take the night train and sleep our way between cities.

Travel light. *Let me say it again travel light. *It's so much easier to get around if you aren't humping along a couple of giant suitcases each (though I saw some poor schlubs trying). *A backpack makes an excellent choice - if you want get one of the ones that converts into a suitcase. *This makes riding the busses, getting to the train, *getting around the station, getting up the stairs, etc. all much easier. *It also makes it easy to leave your one bag at the baggage check at the train station if you want to just look around the city for a couple of hours (we left the bags at the station in Pisa and just spent 2-3 hours in the city before going back to the station, getting the bags, and moving on). *I have a couple of good links on this but they are at home - if I remember I'll post them later.

Another thing to consider is your flights. *The way most people plan they fly into and out of the same city. *This often leads to wasted time travelling back to the arrival city. *I've made good use of what are called "open jaws" tickets - fly into one city and out of another. *On my Italy trip that was into Napoli (Naples) and out of Venezia (Venice). *On a previous China trip we went into Hong Kong and flew out of Beijing.

An interesting option posted a while back by ESRBob is to take a canal boat vacation. *You rent the boat and cruise the canals of a particular region (Britain, Benelux, France, etc.). *Here's some discussion of that - http://early-retirement.org/cgi-bin/...867219;start=1

Finally, take some time to learn the basics of the language before you go. *It will make the trip a much more pleasurable experience. *Your local adult ed French or Italian or German or whatever class is cheap and will help.

P.S. If you do go to Italy then I agree with Flowgirl about Cinque Terre. *Don't book a hotel there but arrive early enough in the day (better still not on a Friday or Saturday) and you will be able to find a room in somebody's house. *We stayed in a home with an sea view belonging to a charming old widow who gave us the lowdown on which restaurants to eat at (and avoid) plus she shared some delicious home-made limoncino! *
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation
Old 02-25-2005, 01:49 PM   #6
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation

I agree that Italy should be the first place to go if you are going anywhere in Europe. I've been to Tuscany and Venice and they rate #1 out of all the places I've traveled thus far in my short life. If you can go to Siena during the "Palio" you can treat yourself to one of the shortest, yet most exciting horse races in the world. Wild boar is a specialty in most Tuscan restaurants and the "gelato" (ice-cream) is a must have on those hot summer nights as you take a leisurely stroll through the town.

By the way, Hyperborea, it's actually "Limoncello" and I've enjoyed that drink at many homes and restaurants in Italy. I found that at some of the "cheaper" restaurants, limoncello tends to be watered down and not served from the freezer as it should be. I believe the drink originated in Sorrento where the only place you will find a bottle of watered-down limoncello is stuck in the head of the person serving it once the patron has a taste. They sure take pride in that drink in most parts of Italy.
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation
Old 02-25-2005, 02:01 PM   #7
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation

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By the way, Hyperborea, it's actually "Limoncello" and I've enjoyed that drink at many homes and restaurants in Italy.
Yup, it's limoncello in most of Italy but it was called limoncino in Cinque Terre. I was told that it was because of the local dialect. I noticed different pronunciations for certain words too. The local Cinque Terre wine made from raisins called sciacchetrà was pronounced like sha-ke-tra in Cinque Terre but in Florence they were saying ski-a-ke-tra.
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation
Old 02-25-2005, 04:48 PM   #8
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation

We spent the 1990s living overseas in a non-tourist area of the Middle East, but the vacations allowed us to do a tremendous amount of travel. (Unlimited stops/around the words airfares were cheaper than round trips to the US.) So we did.

We never found the "day or two" stops very satisfying, and after the first few trips we limited such stops to making plane changes more relaxing -- we'd spend a couple of days in Singapore on the way to Bali (where we spent 10 days), rather than just changing planes there. But having done so, we can't claim to have seen much at all of Singapore, and feel like we only scratched the surface of Bali.

When we were cruising the eart coast, we seldom stopped for less than a week, and often a month. In our one overseas trip since retiring, we spent almost the entire 10 days in the southwest corner of Ireland.

So I join the others in saying, don't rush it.

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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation
Old 02-26-2005, 08:07 AM   #9
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation

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Travel light. *Let me say it again travel light.
<snip>
I have a couple of good links on this but they are at home - if I remember I'll post them later.
Ok, here is probably the best light packing advice:

http://www.oratory.com/onebag/home.html

Edit:

I found this other link that I had. I was sure that there was another site but I hadn't filed this one away properly.

http://www.travelite.org/
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation
Old 02-26-2005, 09:42 AM   #10
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation

Here is a link to the bag I travel with.

http://www.ebags.com/ebags/weekender...xlrg&N=2003986

I fly Space-A alot on small C-21 A/C and this bag is the hook. What I like about it is the backpack option or the normal carry-on option. You can always stuff it and get 30+ lbs in it but my normal load-out is about 22 lbs. You know "Pack Light Freeze @ night"

JDW
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation
Old 02-26-2005, 11:33 AM   #11
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation

Definitely concur about packing light - nothing makes me crankier than having to hike from train station to hotel with a heavy load. Through experience we've cut down to the point where we each carry a small-medium sized backpack. We also invested in some of those lightweight quick drying travel clothes (2 outfits each) and generally just wash in the sink and hang to dry each night. We bring our sarongs everywhere too - they can do triple duty as towels, blanket, or beach wrap, and they dry out in no time. Most things you need can be bought overseas so when in doubt I leave it out.

I suggest dressing conservatively as well - long pants, sleeved shirts, sensible shoes. I was amazed at the number of tourists who missed out on must-see places like St. Peter's Basilica because because they showed up in shorts and halter tops.
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation
Old 02-26-2005, 01:37 PM   #12
 
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation

One of the things I miss about my "biker days" (just
concluded) is "packing light". I would leave for 2 weeks
with only what I had on my back/in my jacket, and 2 saddle bags. It was great to be limited in this way.
Plus, it reminds you how little you actually need to get
along.

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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation
Old 02-26-2005, 05:35 PM   #13
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation

I really liked the zip-off leg pants. They came in handy a number of times. I wore them when hiking the trails in Cinque Terre - the morning was cool but by mid-morning it had warmed up and I took the legs off. Later that day before we went for dinner in Monte Rosso (the town at the end of the trail) I zipped them back on again.

I also found the compressor bags to be useful. You put your clothes in, zip it closed and then push the air out through one-way valves. It really cuts the bulk of certain clothing items down. A mini-compass with a tiny flashlight was really handy too. It's way too easy to get lost in Venice especially at night and this will make sure that you are at least pointing in the right direction.

I'm looking at picking up one of those micro-fibre quick drying towels for the next trip. I'd also like to find a good cheap source for Woolite in little pouches. I used some of those on the Italy trip and they were great for handwashing clothes and there was little chance of a leak (they went in a ziplock anyways just in case).
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation
Old 02-26-2005, 08:02 PM   #14
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation

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...It's way too easy to get lost in Venice especially at night...
I thought the exact opposite. Venice is a relatively small island with most of the "tourist" areas on the outer edges of that island. I got a 3 or 4 day pass and could take the water buses when I needed to get to the other side or to the neighboring smaller islands of Murano and Burano. Getting lost in Venice was not a problem for me. Rome was a different story.
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation
Old 02-27-2005, 06:50 AM   #15
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Re: Inexpensive Europe Vacation

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I thought the exact opposite. *Venice is a relatively small island with most of the "tourist" areas on the outer edges of that island. *I got a 3 or 4 day pass and could take the water buses when I needed to get to the other side or to the neighboring smaller islands of Murano and Burano. *Getting lost in Venice was not a problem for me.
Oh all those tiny twisty little streets (these are narrow too for those who haven't been - made not for cars but pedestrians) that often would dead end into a canal were frustrating. *You would see a bridge down the canal and then try and work your way back to it and would end up in another dead-end somewhere. *It was very mazelike. * The height of the buildings on either side also made it difficult to see the sun to use for direction and being overcast a lot of the time meant that even if the buildings hadn't been in the way you wouldn't have seen it.

Quote:
Rome was a different story.
Now that's strange because for me Rome was generally pretty easy. *The layout wasn't too bad and there were enough landmarks that were visible from a distance such as the monument to Vittorio Emanuele II.

The little compass was still a very handy thing, it doesn't weigh very much, and it was only $12. *Another good use was when you come up out of a subway station in a place you've never been before you may not know which way is which. *The little flashlight on ours was also good for checking the map at night or in one of the places we stayed the stair light had burned out.

http://www.rei.com/online/store/Prod...cat=REI_SEARCH
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