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Thread: Travel by trains in Europe: your suggestions/advice, sil vous plait!

  1. #16
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    Everyone, thank you so much for all your precious advice and practical suggestions!

    Let's talk and Olympia, thank you for mentioning Loire Valley and its link. I already knew there are a couple of famous chateaux, e.g. Chambord and Chenonceau, but the link and its map just has surprised me to notice the area actually has almost 80 chateaux!
    The last time we visited France we spent a lot of time in Paris, so that we are thinking to skip Paris this time and to start our trip within France from Lyon. Checking the site, however, it now sounds a good idea to visit Loire area. The problem would be, I think, it takes longer to move from West to East via trains in France (while it's usually easy faster and more convenient to travel down South from Paris via TGV)...

    As for Roma, a Japanese TV has just aired "Roman Holiday" by Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck tonight. Though I watched this lovely movie a couple of times already since childhood and it's Monday night , why could I not help but watching it once more? As Kalina suggests, we should stay there at least three days!

  2. #17
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    I suggested three days for Rome because Rome is big and there's something noteworthy to see everywhere, even in the outskirts of the city, so you might want to take your time looking around. I remember staying a week and I probably didn't see much, so you should think carefully about what you really want to see before you get there.

    I don't really know about what you might be interested in -- just looking around the city, museums, or shopping (there are lots of tourists that come here only for that, actually) -- but there are some very practical advices I can give you that are useful regardless first thing, you'll probably have no problem in finding good, even last-minute deals for hotels in both Rome and Florence, but Venice is, on the average, much more expensive: you might want to look at hotels in Venice first, and look carefully. Another thing is that although Venice looks small, getting around it on foot takes too much time and you'll surely need to take the vaporetto a lot (it's a waterbus): but a vaporetto ticket (lasts 1 hour) is 7 euros so first thing to do, when you get off the train, is to buy a vaporetto pass for the number of days that you're staying there. You'll need it not only to get around but also if you want to visit all of the islands of Venice: Burano is pretty, Lido is too, Murano is full of murano glass shops and nothing else so you might want to skip it, unless you're interested in that of course.
    For Florence, if you can get to an hotel near the railway station of Santa Maria Novella, then you can go everywhere on foot, no problem at all. If you want to visit the Uffizi museum, know that you have to reserve the tickets online beforehand, and that visiting the Duomo is almost impossible, the queue is endless. But maybe it will be different in October.
    In Rome you'll need a bus/subway pass too. I see that there are three-day passes which are good for both the subway and the bus, but I suggest taking the subway only, because there's so much traffic in Rome that you might find yourself waiting for a bus for an hour or more. Also, finding an hotel near Termini railway station is probably a good idea, because the train/bus to Fiumicino (the airport) leaves from there, but that depends on how you decide to plan your journey.

    On a totally different note, something that you really need to know about eating in restaurants (all restaurants, even the non-fancy ones) in touristy places in Italy, is that you have to be careful about the coperto/cover charge/service charge. Here is an article that explains it very well. I can't leave it out, I still remember one Japanese couple making the news because a restaurant in Rome had charged them around 700 euros for one meal and of course they'd gone to the police. It was an extreme situation, but it's better if you know.

  3. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kalina View Post
    On a totally different note, something that you really need to know about eating in restaurants (all restaurants, even the non-fancy ones) in touristy places in Italy, is that you have to be careful about the coperto/cover charge/service charge. Here is an article that explains it very well. I can't leave it out, I still remember one Japanese couple making the news because a restaurant in Rome had charged them around 700 euros for one meal and of course they'd gone to the police. It was an extreme situation, but it's better if you know.
    Thanks a lot for the info!

    Yeah, that was quite a news in Japan back then... the story ended up that the Italian Minister of Tourism had to offer this couple an invitation to Rome one more time for $$$ reason; which was they feared this incident might give a misleading impression of Italy/Rome and may lose quite a number of travelers from Japan in the future, I remember.

    I have a question to those who are familiar with train systems in France.
    How conveninent (or inconvenient) to move from West to East (or vice versa); for instance, from Tours (Loire Valley area) to Lyon, or from Bordeaux to Lyon? Does anyone know, please? I know it takes longer because there are no TGVs available in between, but my question is how often local/express trains do run?

    Also, I am interested in Agriturismo in, say, Tuscana Italy.
    Do they accept tourists for a short stay? Normally, they accept tourists on a weekly basis, right? but we probably can afford staying overnight (or two nights at the lonegest), I think. And these places are usually located far from the nearest stations, if so we may have to give up the plan.
    Are there any places you would recommend to visit besides Milano, Venezia, Firenze and Roma? e would like to visit Italian countryside; e.g. a beautiful village with vineyard. But since we will travel not by a car but trains oWnly, we would prefer places that are not too far from stations.

    Again many thanks a lot in advance!

  4. #19
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    I loved the Eurail pass when I went. I admit that my plan changed daily, though. My itinerary went out the window by the third country. Eventually, sleeping on a park bench in Spain due to poor planning made me wish I didn't change it so drastically.

  5. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by ImaginaryPogue View Post
    I loved the Eurail pass when I went. I admit that my plan changed daily, though. My itinerary went out the window by the third country. Eventually, sleeping on a park bench in Spain due to poor planning made me wish I didn't change it so drastically.
    You are the first one to have posted a comment as someone who actually traveled Europe using Eurail pass. Thanks a lot for that, Pogue!

    And so sorry to learn that you had to sleep on a park bench in Spain...I sincerely hope the local people in each country were good enough and kind to you during your whole trip, so that you did not get into any serious trouble.

  6. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by let`s talk View Post
    Versailles is technically in the surburb of Paris but it's always overcrowded. I wasn't shocked with its beauty simply because in my home city St-Petersburg palaces are way more beautiful.
    It's off topic but I saw your home city on TV tonight, let's talk!

    I love watching 'Sekai Machi-aruki' programs on NHK BS-1 whenever I have time, and tonight's was on St-Petersburg. Palaces are so beautiful as you said. Fountains decorated with gold are gorgeous and all over the city. Sunrise over Neva River just breathtaking!

    Followings are episodes I enjoyed from tonight's program:

    -Chimney cleaners are one of the most valued/being respected jobs in St-Petersburg ...because pepole can not survive long and cold winters without clean chimneys! Even Peter the Great had to bow to the chimney cleaner back in the day.

    -Boys write love letters on the streets! Not one boy, many boys. It's been a tradition for generations to write them on the streets in St-Petersburg, the old gentleman explained. "Young boys these days, however, have no sense of lyrisicm. I used to write more lyric and romantic ones when I was younger!", this guy also complained. 'Forgive me, baby!' 'Can't live without you..' sidewalks and streets are filled with love letters, so that girl can get to see them from windows where they live.

    It's always fascinating to learn about other countries, its cultures and its people for me!

  7. #22
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    But werent the palaces in St Petersburg built to rival Versailles?

    I do agree though that the palaces in St Petersburg are gorgeous and the gardens and fountains of peterhof certainly rival those of Versailles or Fontainebleu.

    I loved St Petersburg and would love to go back particularly to spend time at the Hermitage.

    Just back this week from Spain loved it there as well - am a bit of a travel fiend but no eurail for me - any train trips are advance booked and loved to drive in europe too!

  8. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by deedee1 View Post
    It's off topic but I saw your home city on TV tonight, let's talk!

    I love watching 'Sekai Machi-aruki' programs on NHK BS-1 whenever I have time, and tonight's was on St-Petersburg. Palaces are so beautiful as you said. Fountains decorated with gold are gorgeous and all over the city. Sunrise over Neva River just breathtaking!

    Followings are episodes I enjoyed from tonight's program:

    -Chimney cleaners are one of the most valued/being respected jobs in St-Petersburg ...because pepole can not survive long and cold winters without clean chimneys! Even Peter the Great had to bow to the chimney cleaner back in the day.

    -Boys write love letters on the streets! Not one boy, many boys. It's been a tradition for generations to write them on the streets in St-Petersburg, the old gentleman explained. "Young boys these days, however, have no sense of lyrisicm. I used to write more lyric and romantic ones when I was younger!", this guy also complained. 'Forgive me, baby!' 'Can't live without you..' sidewalks and streets are filled with love letters, so that girl can get to see them from windows where they live.

    It's always fascinating to learn about other countries, its cultures and its people for me!
    OOOH... thank you! It serves me right that I don't visit Le Cafe often, and as the result I am late with the respond. The city is marvelous, extravagant and unique. Besides palaces, the streets are fashion catwalks and restaurants are gourmet paradise. Romatic notes are common. But I am not sure about chimney cleaners reference. You mean they WERE the most valued job, not ARE. The city is on central heating system since Stalin's era (quite a complex system run by city hall, mandatory requirment for all buildings, otherwise you can' survive in winter, not available in Japan). The fireplaces exist in some historical buildings as interior, not as a real fireplace (it's prohibited by fire department regulations). In the St-Petersburg country cottages it could be different, depends on the cottage.

  9. #24
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    An update on my trip to Europe, just in case one or two of you might be still interested.

    We have decided to travel to France only for various reasons, unfortunately. But we will try to visit and cover as much areas as possible throughout France by trains.
    We are finalizing our itinerary...literally arguing in front of map and Mr. Thomas Cook , so that we have hardly touched packing yet.

    We will fly into Paris on Oct 11. Our first choice shall be straight to Bretagne from CDG airport via TGV, probably.

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    Oh, that sounds delightful, despite the smaller range of your expedition. We hope for reports when you get back home. By the way, listen for the local language, Breton, when you're in Brittany. I've heard it spoken but haven't studied it. The names on paper are lovely and very different from French, because it's a Celtic language, like Welsh or Gaelic.

  11. #26
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    Are you gonna take interail or eurorail? cause interail pass even though you have it it is not valid for the very fast trains in France and Germany at least. And in some other you needto book the seat. I ll send you pm.

  12. #27
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    Thank you so much, seniorita!
    I have sent you PM back.

    As for Eurorail pass, I don't like the few allotments available for passholders when getting on fast trains such as TVGs.
    So I decided NOT to buy it, and instead purchased French (National) rail pass, because they also sell seats to this pas holders as long as seats left until the very last minutes.

  13. #28
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    Leaving for Paris around midnight tonight.

    We are all set and very excited! A little sad 'cause I am going to miss the first half of Grand Prix, though ...Please cheer for all the skaters in the world, who are currently competing, who are so brave, fantastic, determined and devoted for the sport they love and their fans love, for me.

    And many many thanks to everyone for such considerate messages and practical advice!
    Will see you guys in about a month.

  14. #29
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    oh wow! Have fun deedee! safe travels, can't wait to hear how it went!

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    Bon voyage, Deedee! Have a splendid time, and may all travel be smooth and safe.

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