Travel by trains in Europe: your suggestions/advice, s'il vous plait!
Dear GS members,
I plan a trip to Europe in October. My original plan is to purchase an Eurail Global Pass (=discount train pass for foreign travellers outside of Europe), fly into one of European cities from Tokyo, and travel by trains within Europe for 3-4 weeks.
I bought travel guidebooks and started my planning. I was initially thinking of flying into Zurich, for instance, travel by trains within Switzerland for 4-5 days first. From Bern to Lyonn via Express train (TGV? idk for sure), stay there 2 days, then travel down to Provence and Monaco by local trains, staying overnight at a couple of places in between for 4-5 days. Then to Italy and travel about one week; probably to Milan, Firenze, Roma (and Venezia if the schedule allows us). And go to Zurich and fly back to Tokyo.
Or, flying into Amsterdam first, then to Brussel and Paris, and travel down to Lyonn, Provence and Italy. Then fly from Milan/Roma to Amsterdam and back to Tokyo.
The problem right now for me is the more I learn about how train system works within Europe and the detailed conditions for Eurail Global Pass, the more I am at a loss...In order to get on an Express trains; such as TGV, Thalys or Eurostar Italia, I, as an Eurail pass holder, need to pay extra for these trains, need to pay and reserve the seat (because they have all-reserved seats, only). And the slots (number of seats) for Eurail pass holders are very limited. If the slots are sold out already, I have to buy a ticket at full cost to get on that specific express trains. The worst senario, the guidebook tells me, is even though I am willing to pay for a ticket at full cost, all seats are all sold out in advance for some most popular trains; e.g. Glaicer Express (especially in summer), TGV btwn Paris-Marseille, or Chizarpino btwn Italy-Swiss, so that there is no way for me to get on those trains to begin with...There seem so many strict conditions for pass holders and unforseeable things for me, maybe? Now I am not sure how reasonal/beneficial/flexible/convenient to hold this Eurail Global Pass, or if it's even worth to purchase this pass...
Maybe I should forget about this pass, and buy a French Rail Pass instead, which 'Easy access service' enables me to buy tickets for at least all TGVs at the additional charge of euro12, as long as any of reserved seats are still available. Then just go to stations at each city where I stay, and try to buy tickets for the next day.
To those who traveled from outside of Europe using Eurail Global Pass, please let me know how convenient it was. And to those who live within Europe and are familiar with these train systems, what do you think is the best way for me to purchase pass/tickets. I would very very very much appreciate you for any suggestions and advice.
Also, recommending me a couple of cities/towns/villages I should visit, especially in autumn, besides big cities such as Milan and Roma would be much appreciated. I would prefer smaller cities than, say Paris.
Many many thanks in advance!
Last edited by deedee1; 08-30-2012 at 01:45 PM.
How delectable your trip sounds, even at this early stage.They say that October is the best time to visit Europe, because the summer crowds have left. I hope Seniorita checks in to this thread, because she seems to be quite a traveler. I've only been to Britain, so I can't advise on details, but I've seen pictures of the chateaux in the Loire Valley in France, and they're splendid. Switzerland is a place I've always wanted to see, and in Italy, Siena is supposed to be a knockout.
I know Seniorita is on vacation/holiday at the moment, but I suggest PMing her. She does quite a bit of travelling in Europe. I've never been, but I would suggest looking at http://www.tripadvisor.com for reviews and help (I think they have a forum for questions like yours).
Thanks a lot, Olympia and Toni!
Sounds a great idea to contact Seniorita via PM. I will do that. Will also check 'tripadvisor'. Again thank YOU, TWO!!!
We can't wait to hear about your grand adventure. I hope you enjoy every moment of it, even the planning.
Wicked Yankee Girl
Oh deedee1 do tell us about it all when you return.
I can't do trips that strenuous, but I love to hear about them and travel vicariously.
And by train! What could be better. The entire landscape will open out to you.
If you travel in Central Europe, you might end up on railway lines Dvorak used. Here's a quote from an information source:
"After music, Dvorak's strongest interest was trains, and he was often seen at the railway station in Prague observing, studying railway schedules, and visiting with railway engineers."
Have you used Google Earth to scope out places you might visit? I hear it gives amazing views.
And maybe you'll even get to see some skating events, if you're in the right place at the right time.
leave no stone unturned
I ll write next days
yes! definitely keep us updated. one of my favorite parts of a trip is the planning! sounds weird I know, but I love wittling down the itinerary... I'm a massive planner, drives people nuts, but it's so much fun! even when it's confusing, it's like a puzzle!
THANK YOU, Seniorita!!! But as I wrote, you do not have to hurry to do that, okay?
Originally Posted by seniorita
Toni, I always love making itinerary on my own, too! When I finish making it, packing my stuff and get on the limousine bus to the airport finally, it's like half of my trip is over already. The happiest moment for me in the first half of my trip is the moment I get too excited and exhausted by the time, and fall asleep in that limouisne bus on my way to the airport.
Originally Posted by Tonichelle
As for 'driving people nuts', my hubby felt that way, I guess, when I told him I wanted to buy Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable (written in English, of course). The problem is it's also killing myself this time, though.
Ha ha! I can just imagine, but wow what an adventure, all of it will be so worth it!
Oh, man, the Cook's Timetable. I have a really old one; it's a thick book that was a hand-me-down from a friend who replaced her old copy with a more up-to-date one. It has every train line you can imagine, even lines in Burma (now Myanmar, but this is an old book). With me the thing that entrances is the place names. Irawaddy! Szeged! I also love looking in Webster's Geographical Dictionary for the same reasons. The Webster's lists locations all over the world, and gives their ancient names as well--for example, it gives the ancient Roman or Gaulish names of lots of European cities. London was Londinium, and Paris was Lutecia. And I also love taxonomy, the genus and species names of animals, like Acinonyx jubatus, the cheetah.
Originally Posted by deedee1
Have fun doing your planning, Deedee. Your husband will be grateful for your foresight when you get him smoothly from place to place. You will be far too gracious to say "I told you so," of course. But you can come tell us.
Last edited by Olympia; 09-01-2012 at 07:00 PM.
Originally Posted by deedee1
Oh, my! I seldom check Le Cafe and what a gorgeous thread I see here. Your European vacation is gonna be marvelous! Especially if you don't spoil it with the need to rush around ticket offices. They have travel agencies and internet that will solve all your problems. The difference in price is not worthy to waste your time on some logistics crap when you are on holiday. I never use any Pass because they are all discounts tickets which means you will be their last priority.
To start you trip with Amsterdam is just cool! The city of idyllic canals and never-end yourth party. And in Amsterdam they serve you real Heineken, not some beerwater in green cans. Paris is well-described in all guide books. Just keep your eye on the wallet especially in Montmartre (better not to keep big money in the wallet at all, put banknotes in the guide-book, nobody steals guidebooks). I am not saying that European cities are not safe. I am saying that Japan is unrealistically safe. Europe is just a real world. The Eiffel Tower is mandatory to visit at night. With all that illumination it's like a science fiction, a spaceship that landed on earth. 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. The nice place to escape the noisy Paris for a day could be the town Chartres. The local train takes your there for abour 40-45 minutes for like 15 euros or somesuch. This town is not mentioned in every guide book and honestly I never heard about it before I went there. During one of my visits in Paris some stuff was canceled, and I wanted to get to the nature somewhere but I couldn't leave Paris yet. I simple asked the hotel staff and the lovely woman recommended me that place. Btw, all this talks that French are arrogant are bs. Just address them "Madam" with the stress on the second syllable instead of "Excuse me" and you are "in". It's a fabulous town that is unfairly forgotten by most of major tourist routes. http://www.chartres-tourisme.com/ www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chartres Loire Valley is marvelous and unbelievably picturesque. The Fairy Tale. We went there by car on our way from Spain, so I have no idea how to go there by public transport. http://loirevalley-worldheritage.org...photos)/Autumn http://loire-chateaux.org/ Saint-Paul de Vence is maybe just a town, but it's greatly popular with its artistc atmosphere and liberal taste www.saint-pauldevence.com Monaco is good because everyone gets up at around 2pm. So all morning beaches and sea will be yours. But compared to Cannes Monaco is boring. You put Venice in (..) with "if the schedule allow us"? Oh, come on! Trash such an Italian schedule that doesn't include Venice. Actually the city at first might look not that wow! as guide books usually describe it. For me it looked like a ghost-city that was left by its citizens and now only tourists are wandering around. Most of the buidlings are in bad conditions and urgently need renovation. In fact Italy in general looks messier and less taken care of than Germany and France. But each Italian city/town/village is a museum in the open air. Btw, you might be disasppointed with the taste of Italian food in Italy, even in fancy places. I mean Italian restaurants in Japan serve much more delicious stuff. All major Italian cities are perfectly presented in books, so no need for me here to say what you might already know. I just say that Rome was the most shocking city for me with its quintessence of history and art. Switzerland is Paradise! Especially their villages and countryside. Green fields, flowers everywhere, cows with ribbons in the "hair", etc. I took my picture on the hotel terrace and my friends thought that I was in the museum standing in front of some painting. They couldn't believe that it was the reality, not a picture. Besides major cities the Chillon Castle on Lake Geneva is worth visiting www.chillon.ch/en/ And in the peaceful tiny Grindelwald you'll see the real Alps (not the fake ones in Japan)! http://grindelwald.ch What a shame that Spain is out of your route now. As well as Austria, Prague... Oh, well. Next time then. Bon voyage!
There--you see? A second vote for the chateaux on the Loire River (and Let's Talk is obviously an experienced traveler, not like me who's just seen pictures). I echo LT's suggestion to put Chartres on your list. If you like cathedrals, Chartres is one of the most beautiful in the world. It has a rose window that will make you shed tears.
This thread is becoming more and more delightful!
I can't say much about other countries in Europe (I visited, but I'm not an expert), but if you need some info about Italy, feel free to ask
Roma and Venezia are a must see, but if you're staying a week and you want to visit a couple of museums too, you might not have time to visit something else. A good schedule, considering travel times as well would be Venezia for a couple of days, Firenze one is enough unless you plan to visit Uffizi or the Duomo, Roma for three days.