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Old 01-09-2016, 10:22 AM   #61
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Thank you so much for all the tips and advice! It's really helpful!

So we nailed it down to Venice, Florence, Rome and Paris. The wife wants to see the museums, a few shows, nice countryside and definitely a gondola ride she says. I'm pretty easily entertained, just traveling and seeing something different is nice for me.

Any suggestions on that now that we have it narrowed down?
OK, good choices. That gives you a reasonable amount of time in each city. As it happens, DW and I have been to all of them. Here is what we liked, and there are of course other things to consider.

Venice - Piazza San Marco, Doge's Palace, St Marks, Museo Correr (we only had 1 day) You could add Murano, among other things.
Florence - Accademia Gallery, Uffizi (only had 1 day again)
Rome - Vatican Museum (get tickets in advance), all the Roman ruins, Museo Nazionale Romano, get a city pass
Paris - Louvre, Versailles, Musee d'Orsay, Musee Cluny, main city landmarks, Paris Opera House
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Old 01-09-2016, 10:45 AM   #62
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If you have time in Rome, take the train out to the Ostia Antica site. It is like a small version of Pompeii, but not nearly as crowded. We were there last year on the one free day a month and had many of the ruins to ourselves.
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Old 01-09-2016, 11:35 AM   #63
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... I carry nearly all of our valuables, in my waist belt. .....
This is such good advice.
When I was a young child my mother would pin what probably amounts to $100 inside my shirt in case I got lost.

Now they sell wonderful hidden pocket things you can wear, unlike fanny packs that are quickly stolen.
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Old 01-09-2016, 11:43 AM   #64
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Originally Posted by Hardatit View Post
So we nailed it down to Venice, Florence, Rome and Paris.
I'm going to repost some of my past suggestions for Paris, Rome, Venice and Florence. I have tried to go beyond the most typical tourist attractions, which will be adequately covered in any guidebook. I hope you find this useful. If you would like specific hotel and restaurant recommendations, please feel free to ask.

Paris:

1) Have lunch or dinner on the Île Saint Louis, which is right next to the Île de la Cité in the middle of the Seine. After dinner, walk the circumference of the island. Sit on the quai, eat ice cream and watch the world go by. Île Saint-Louis

2) Go to the Marché aux Puces de St. Ouen, which is the original and largest flea market in the world. All sorts of interesting things and people to be seen. You can get there easily on the Metro. Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen

3) Visit the Paris Catacombs. It is both humbling and fascinating. Six million souls, all alike in death. The Resistance hid out there during WWII. The entrance is at Place d'Enfert-Rocherau. Catacombs of Paris

4) Visit the Musée de Cluny, which was a Roman bath, then medieval abbey and now a museum. They have interesting exhibits, including 600 year old tapestries. Musée national du Moyen Âge


Rome:

1) Tour the catacombs, and then San Clemente, which is three churches built one atop the other, and all atop a Mithraic temple. This is the tour we took. Rome Catacombs Tour & Basilica di San Clemente | Dark Rome Tours

2) Visit the Largo di Torre Argentina, which has the remains of four Republican era temples and is where Julius Caesar was assassinated. It also has hundreds of stray cats, who sometimes will let you pet them if you need a feline fix. Largo di Torre Argentina.

3) Visit the Forum Boarium, the former cattle market of Rome, where there are two very well preserved Republican era temples and the church of Santa Maria in Cosmodin, on whose front porch sits the Bocca della Verità made famous in the Audrey Hepburn film "Roman Holiday". Forum Boarium
Bocca della Verità

4) Walk to the top of the Janiculum hill. The panoramic view of Rome from the Finnish embassy is fantastic. On the way, stop at Bramante's Tempietto located within the courtyard of the church of San Pietro in Montorio. Also stop at the strikingly beautiful, white Giancolense Ossario Mausoleo, which is a monument to the Garibaldini who defended Rome against the French in the siege of 1849.
Janiculum
San Pietro in Montorio
Gianicolense Mausoleum Monument (Mausoleo Ossario Gianicolense)


Florence:

1. Go to the opera at St. Mark's English Church. It is a very intimate venue and we enjoyed a lovely performance of Carmen there. The proceeds go to help orphaned children in Africa. Opera at St Mark's Church Florence, a unique intimate venue

2. Stop in the small, simple Church of Santa Margherita dei Cerchi, in which you will find the crypt of Dante's great love, Beatrice Portinari. The lovelorn leave notes and letters for Beatrice in the two wicker baskets that sit next to her burial vault. If you are bold enough, you can pull some out to read. Written in all all hands and every language, they pour out their hopes and dreams to a young woman who died over 700 years ago. The most poignant one I read said simply (in English), "I just want to find someone to love me."

3. If you are in shape to climb 463 steps, you can go up to the the top of the Duomo. Climbing through the rabbit warren of tunnels between the inner and outer domes, you can appreciate the genius of Brunelleschi the architect. Twice on the way up, the stairs stop and you are on one of the two inner balconies that circle the great dome at its base. The congregants below look like ants and you have a spectacular view of Vasari's painting that covers the inner surface of the dome. The real reward, however, is the view outside, from the top of the dome. You get a 360 degree view out over Florence and the surrounding countryside.

4. Walk out of town, south of the Arno, to the hill known as Bellosguardo. Within half a mile of the Arno, the city stops and you will be surrounded by stone walls, olive groves and old farmhouses. When you finally get to the top of the hill, you can look back at the picture postcard view of the city, with Brunelleschi's great red tiled dome rising there in the middle of it.


Venice:


1. The famous tourist things:

a. Doge's Palace -- we got tickets for a special behind the scenes tour here. Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries, Venice - Venice (Veneto) - Tickets and Booking It was quite fun. I've dealt with Select Italy many times and have always been pleased.

b. Basilica San Marco -- go here to get tickets to enter by the side door and skip the long line. Tickets St Marks Basilica Venice Italy | Skip the Line San Marco Venezia


2. A little off the beaten path:

a. Museo Storico Navale -- The Italian Naval History Museum. It is incredibly cool and incredibly cheap. Heck, it's cheaper to pay to go in here and use their restroom than to go to one of the dedicated pay restrooms in town, plus you get to see all the cool displays. From Piazza San Marco, walk east along the Riva degli Schiavone to the Campo San Biagio, just past the Arsenale vaporetto stop. Naval History Museum Venice - Marina Militare

b. after the Naval History Museum, continue east on the Riva degli Schiavone. You'll come to a large park, with real trees and grass - the only one we saw in Venice. In the park, right along the Riva, is the Ristorante Paradiso, which is a great place for lunch. You can sit on their terrace, look out over the lagoon and watch people walk by. You might see some of the midshipmen from the Naval Academy, which is at the very end of the park at the eastern tip of Venice.

c. Burano and Torcello -- we enjoyed these two islands more than Murano (we weren't all that interested in decorative glass). You can get to them by vaporetto (No. 12) from the Fondamente Nuove stop. The long boat ride out and back is most refreshing. I can recommend the Ristorante Riva Rosa on Burano for lunch.
Burano island of Venice Italy - Official Website and Guide
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torcello
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Old 01-09-2016, 12:19 PM   #65
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I still think you have 1 or 2 cities too many to see all the sights that people here are suggesting.

I did a night train from Paris to Verona (but it continued to Venice). If you do this - spring for more than 2 couchettes - you'll get better sleep because you won't be woken up everytime someone in your cabin needs to go potty or get on/off the train. They have cabins that are private for 2 people. Much nicer. (We did 2 overnight train legs on our 9 weeks in Europe this past summer.)

Don't forget that when you travel between cities you need to not just account for the travel time - but the time at the station before hand, the time to check out of the hotel to get to the station, the time to pack - and on the other end the time to get to the new hotel and check in, the time to unpack and freshen up. Even cities that are fairly close together - (eg Florence and Venice) this can eat into your time. With 14 (or 17 days if you tack on a the weekend before or after). I assume your travel to/from the states is in your 2 weeks as well.

I would rule out sights like Versaille unless you have a full day - since that's an hour train in either direction, and even if you have a museum pass to "skip the line" - the line is still long. Especially at that time of year.

I strongly recommend an open jaw ticket - fly into Paris or Rome, and out of the other.

Another thing to consider with the night trains - what to do with your luggage from when you check out till the train leaves. We took a night train from Venice that left at 10pm - but had to check out of our rental apartment at 11am. Fortunately, the owner let us keep our luggage in the (locked) hall outside the apartment. But it still added to the hassle factor that day.
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Old 01-09-2016, 12:24 PM   #66
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We didn't enjoy the night train in Europe even though we were in a private first class cabin. Just not restful.
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Old 01-09-2016, 04:06 PM   #67
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Lots of advice - only thing I would add is to use this site http://www.seat61.com

To figure out the train services between countries- and even ferry service when applicable

Trains are great in Europe but not everything is high speed
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Old 01-09-2016, 04:36 PM   #68
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We didn't enjoy the night train in Europe even though we were in a private first class cabin. Just not restful.
I'd have to agree with that- I haven't taken one for a long time but they're basically large, reclining seats with a lot of leg room. Definitely not the same as a bed! And, although they no longer check passports at European country borders, I suppose you're still open to routine ticket checks in the wee hours of the morning.
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Old 01-09-2016, 04:48 PM   #69
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We took a sleeper train from Zurich to Budapest about six years ago--we had a little private room with two berths that a porter made up. It was a very old train that made a lot of stops but we still really slept well. There was a shower and everything, and "meals" were included.

It was relatively expensive vs flying or even a high speed train but it did serve as the hotel room for the night and we hit the ground running in Budapest. It was just part of the adventure.
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Old 01-09-2016, 05:40 PM   #70
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I recently got great advice from this group in a thread in the Travel forum section for my one week trip to Florence and Tuscany. I will go bump it up and add my recent planning to it, you might find it helpful!
The thread is titled "one week only in Florence and Tuscany" or something close...
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Old 01-09-2016, 06:14 PM   #71
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I'd have to agree with that- I haven't taken one for a long time but they're basically large, reclining seats with a lot of leg room. Definitely not the same as a bed! And, although they no longer check passports at European country borders, I suppose you're still open to routine ticket checks in the wee hours of the morning.
We were in a private cabin with bath with bench seats that converted to a two or three level bunk. It was cramped and uncomfortable. Neither the bunk nor the bed was comfy. This was just two years ago, but the City Nightline train seemed pretty old. The breakfast was forgettable.
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Old 01-10-2016, 04:38 AM   #72
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I'm going to repost some of my past suggestions for Paris, Rome, Venice and Florence. I have tried to go beyond the most typical tourist attractions, which will be adequately covered in any guidebook. I hope you find this useful. If you would like specific hotel and restaurant recommendations, please feel free to ask.

Paris:

1) Have lunch or dinner on the Île Saint Louis, which is right next to the Île de la Cité in the middle of the Seine. After dinner, walk the circumference of the island. Sit on the quai, eat ice cream and watch the world go by. Île Saint-Louis

2) Go to the Marché aux Puces de St. Ouen, which is the original and largest flea market in the world. All sorts of interesting things and people to be seen. You can get there easily on the Metro. Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen

3) Visit the Paris Catacombs. It is both humbling and fascinating. Six million souls, all alike in death. The Resistance hid out there during WWII. The entrance is at Place d'Enfert-Rocherau. Catacombs of Paris

4) Visit the Musée de Cluny, which was a Roman bath, then medieval abbey and now a museum. They have interesting exhibits, including 600 year old tapestries. Musée national du Moyen Âge


Rome:

1) Tour the catacombs, and then San Clemente, which is three churches built one atop the other, and all atop a Mithraic temple. This is the tour we took. Rome Catacombs Tour & Basilica di San Clemente | Dark Rome Tours

2) Visit the Largo di Torre Argentina, which has the remains of four Republican era temples and is where Julius Caesar was assassinated. It also has hundreds of stray cats, who sometimes will let you pet them if you need a feline fix. Largo di Torre Argentina.

3) Visit the Forum Boarium, the former cattle market of Rome, where there are two very well preserved Republican era temples and the church of Santa Maria in Cosmodin, on whose front porch sits the Bocca della Verità made famous in the Audrey Hepburn film "Roman Holiday". Forum Boarium
Bocca della Verità

4) Walk to the top of the Janiculum hill. The panoramic view of Rome from the Finnish embassy is fantastic. On the way, stop at Bramante's Tempietto located within the courtyard of the church of San Pietro in Montorio. Also stop at the strikingly beautiful, white Giancolense Ossario Mausoleo, which is a monument to the Garibaldini who defended Rome against the French in the siege of 1849.
Janiculum
San Pietro in Montorio
Gianicolense Mausoleum Monument (Mausoleo Ossario Gianicolense)


Florence:

1. Go to the opera at St. Mark's English Church. It is a very intimate venue and we enjoyed a lovely performance of Carmen there. The proceeds go to help orphaned children in Africa. Opera at St Mark's Church Florence, a unique intimate venue

2. Stop in the small, simple Church of Santa Margherita dei Cerchi, in which you will find the crypt of Dante's great love, Beatrice Portinari. The lovelorn leave notes and letters for Beatrice in the two wicker baskets that sit next to her burial vault. If you are bold enough, you can pull some out to read. Written in all all hands and every language, they pour out their hopes and dreams to a young woman who died over 700 years ago. The most poignant one I read said simply (in English), "I just want to find someone to love me."

3. If you are in shape to climb 463 steps, you can go up to the the top of the Duomo. Climbing through the rabbit warren of tunnels between the inner and outer domes, you can appreciate the genius of Brunelleschi the architect. Twice on the way up, the stairs stop and you are on one of the two inner balconies that circle the great dome at its base. The congregants below look like ants and you have a spectacular view of Vasari's painting that covers the inner surface of the dome. The real reward, however, is the view outside, from the top of the dome. You get a 360 degree view out over Florence and the surrounding countryside.

4. Walk out of town, south of the Arno, to the hill known as Bellosguardo. Within half a mile of the Arno, the city stops and you will be surrounded by stone walls, olive groves and old farmhouses. When you finally get to the top of the hill, you can look back at the picture postcard view of the city, with Brunelleschi's great red tiled dome rising there in the middle of it.


Venice:


1. The famous tourist things:

a. Doge's Palace -- we got tickets for a special behind the scenes tour here. Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries, Venice - Venice (Veneto) - Tickets and Booking It was quite fun. I've dealt with Select Italy many times and have always been pleased.

b. Basilica San Marco -- go here to get tickets to enter by the side door and skip the long line. Tickets St Marks Basilica Venice Italy | Skip the Line San Marco Venezia


2. A little off the beaten path:

a. Museo Storico Navale -- The Italian Naval History Museum. It is incredibly cool and incredibly cheap. Heck, it's cheaper to pay to go in here and use their restroom than to go to one of the dedicated pay restrooms in town, plus you get to see all the cool displays. From Piazza San Marco, walk east along the Riva degli Schiavone to the Campo San Biagio, just past the Arsenale vaporetto stop. Naval History Museum Venice - Marina Militare

b. after the Naval History Museum, continue east on the Riva degli Schiavone. You'll come to a large park, with real trees and grass - the only one we saw in Venice. In the park, right along the Riva, is the Ristorante Paradiso, which is a great place for lunch. You can sit on their terrace, look out over the lagoon and watch people walk by. You might see some of the midshipmen from the Naval Academy, which is at the very end of the park at the eastern tip of Venice.

c. Burano and Torcello -- we enjoyed these two islands more than Murano (we weren't all that interested in decorative glass). You can get to them by vaporetto (No. 12) from the Fondamente Nuove stop. The long boat ride out and back is most refreshing. I can recommend the Ristorante Riva Rosa on Burano for lunch.
Burano island of Venice Italy - Official Website and Guide
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torcello
Thank you so much for putting all of that together. We will definitely go see some of those places. I like those types of places that are off the beaten path without the big crowds. We'll look more into the links that you shared, so much good info! If anyone else has any more off the beaten path hidden jewels please share!


Quote:
Originally Posted by rodi View Post
I still think you have 1 or 2 cities too many to see all the sights that people here are suggesting.

I did a night train from Paris to Verona (but it continued to Venice). If you do this - spring for more than 2 couchettes - you'll get better sleep because you won't be woken up everytime someone in your cabin needs to go potty or get on/off the train. They have cabins that are private for 2 people. Much nicer. (We did 2 overnight train legs on our 9 weeks in Europe this past summer.)

Don't forget that when you travel between cities you need to not just account for the travel time - but the time at the station before hand, the time to check out of the hotel to get to the station, the time to pack - and on the other end the time to get to the new hotel and check in, the time to unpack and freshen up. Even cities that are fairly close together - (eg Florence and Venice) this can eat into your time. With 14 (or 17 days if you tack on a the weekend before or after). I assume your travel to/from the states is in your 2 weeks as well.

I would rule out sights like Versaille unless you have a full day - since that's an hour train in either direction, and even if you have a museum pass to "skip the line" - the line is still long. Especially at that time of year.

I strongly recommend an open jaw ticket - fly into Paris or Rome, and out of the other.

Another thing to consider with the night trains - what to do with your luggage from when you check out till the train leaves. We took a night train from Venice that left at 10pm - but had to check out of our rental apartment at 11am. Fortunately, the owner let us keep our luggage in the (locked) hall outside the apartment. But it still added to the hassle factor that day.
When I get home and can sit down and talk face to face with the wife (only about 15 more days!)and we can look over this together, we may decide to narrow it down more. I'm actually overseas (not for fun) now trying to get a head start on our honeymoon planning during my downtime. I've been able to talk about it over the phone and text with the wife but we'll really have to sit down and talk it over. Thanks for the honest advice and we may very well decide to narrow it down more.

The two weeks are flexible. We don't really have an allotted time. We could say the two weeks won't include travel time.

A few have mentioned open jaw tickets. Can you elaborate more on the reasons and benefits to do that? This is the first time I've heard that term. Like I said, this self-funded for fun overseas travel is new to both of us. Thanks so much for the replies!
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Old 01-10-2016, 06:14 AM   #73
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Open jaws tickets are easy and convenient: your travel agent will know what to do. If you are booking yourself, select "multiple destinations" or something like that. Think of it as buying two one-way tickets : USA -> Rome, and Paris -> USA. That way, you know spent one day or night on the train. Or you could do USA -> Rome and Venice -> USA and spent your time enjoying Italy instead of on the train.
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Old 01-10-2016, 08:11 AM   #74
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Thank you so much for putting all of that together. We will definitely go see some of those places. I like those types of places that are off the beaten path without the big crowds. We'll look more into the links that you shared, so much good info! If anyone else has any more off the beaten path hidden jewels please share! When I get home and can sit down and talk face to face with the wife (only about 15 more days!)and we can look over this together, we may decide to narrow it down more. I'm actually overseas (not for fun) now trying to get a head start on our honeymoon planning during my downtime. I've been able to talk about it over the phone and text with the wife but we'll really have to sit down and talk it over. Thanks for the honest advice and we may very well decide to narrow it down more. The two weeks are flexible. We don't really have an allotted time. We could say the two weeks won't include travel time. A few have mentioned open jaw tickets. Can you elaborate more on the reasons and benefits to do that? This is the first time I've heard that term. Like I said, this self-funded for fun overseas travel is new to both of us. Thanks so much for the replies!
Open jaw simply means selecting multiple cities on the travel website you use to book, such as Expedia. No mystery and you certainly don't need a travel agent. We have always flown in and out of two different cities. If you do decide to narrow down your cities from 4 to three or two, the natural choice given your list of Venice, Florence, Rome and Paris would be to drop Paris. If you did that you could easily travel between Venice and Florence and then Florence to Rome by train and you would not need to do the night train. The travel time for these two links is short enough that you would only spend several hours on the train and not lose the entire day. Traveling can be very wearying when you only stay in a hotel for two or three nights.
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Old 01-10-2016, 08:30 AM   #75
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When I get home and can sit down and talk face to face with the wife (only about 15 more days!)and we can look over this together, we may decide to narrow it down more.
Deciding how long to spend and how much is "too much" is pretty simple if you sketch out a basic itinerary for your trip. Now that you have some cities selected, use the suggestions you've gotten here and elsewhere (Tripadvisor, etc.) to put together a wish list for each of the places you want to visit.

What I do then is "Save" each place I want to go in Google Maps. With the geographic location of all the sites plotted out you can see which attractions are in close proximity and might be grouped together for a day of sightseeing. With that information, it's possible to build realistic daily itineraries for each city.

Once you've done that, you'll have a very good idea of how much time you want in each city.

Enjoy!
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Old 01-11-2016, 09:36 AM   #76
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That makes sense now. That's a great idea Gone4Good. We will definitely do that. Are there any airlines to avoid as far as getting from the states to abroad? With a quick search of tickets, I found some through Turkish air for around $800 each.
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Old 01-11-2016, 09:40 AM   #77
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That makes sense now. That's a great idea Gone4Good. We will definitely do that. Are there any airlines to avoid as far as getting from the states to abroad? With a quick search of tickets, I found some through Turkish air for around $800 each.
Check the flight durations before booking, some airlines have extensive layovers; For example, Turkish, AFAIK, routes through Istanbul and you may be sitting in the airport there for quite a while.
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Old 01-11-2016, 09:41 AM   #78
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That makes sense now. That's a great idea Gone4Good. We will definitely do that. Are there any airlines to avoid as far as getting from the states to abroad? With a quick search of tickets, I found some through Turkish air for around $800 each.
I have heard good things about Turkish Airlines, which has won awards:

Turkish Airlines - News - turkishairlines.com

Disclaimer: I have not flown on Turkish Airlines.
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Old 01-11-2016, 06:43 PM   #79
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We try to fly direct if at all possible, even though it costs more. Less time sitting in an uncomfortable seat and less chance for a blown connection. We've had good experiences on British Airways, Air France and Alitalia. We usually take a Saturday evening flight out of JFK (say 5:30 or 6:30pm) and arrive in Europe on Sunday morning. I swear I'm going to get some sleep every time, but I never really do.
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Old 01-11-2016, 07:31 PM   #80
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Originally Posted by Gumby View Post
We try to fly direct if at all possible, even though it costs more. Less time sitting in an uncomfortable seat and less chance for a blown connection. We've had good experiences on British Airways, Air France and Alitalia. We usually take a Saturday evening flight out of JFK (say 5:30 or 6:30pm) and arrive in Europe on Sunday morning. I swear I'm going to get some sleep every time, but I never really do.
This. (the no sleep part).
DH, on the other hand, has a glass of wine when the plane takes off and is zzz'ing by the time we've reached full altitude. Drives me nuts.
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