I need your help. I'm planning
a trip to Europe this spring (most likely during the last two weeks
of May) and have been asking everyone I know for his or her advice.
This has gotten me all kinds of answers, most of which contradict each
other. "Make sure you go to Italy," one person said. "Don't go to Italy," another said. You
can see the bind I'm in.
What I do know for sure is that I
want to fly in and out of London (from Toronto) and spend some time
in the U.K. I also want to see Ireland. I also want to see
France, Austria and Germany, Italy and the Vatican if there's time. (And it should go without saying that if
anyone schedules a western European nodermeet during the last two
weeks of May, I want in!)
Here's where you come in: personal
experiences are obviously more valuable to me than any travel brochure
or guidebook. I've combed the internet and Wikitravel for thoughts,
but I'd rather have honest-to-goodness advice from the people I trust
If you have some -- any -- wisdom about travelling in
Western Europe to impart, please /msg me. I'm looking for details on
where to stay, little-known must-sees, what to eat and how to save
If you are in Western Europe and are interested in having a nodermeet during my visit, please /msg me. I love meeting noders.
How'd this come about?
sort of came into some money unexpectedly -- a very generous family
member made a bit of a killing with some investments and decided to
share the wealth. My initial funds are sitting in a high-interest
savings account, and I'll be adding to them on a monthly basis. I
should be in a great position to travel halfway around the world by
May, and will also not starve during my stay there. Huzzah!
wasn't sure exactly what to use the money for, however, and was
pondering some rather substantial purchases (including a new
computer, and starting a savings fund for an eventual
condo down payment and/or eventual retirement) when my
good friend and effectively second mother put a stop to that.
blowing it on a trip," she said. It was not a question. Now, I did
reach the conclusion to use the money to travel on my own, but it was
at that moment that I realized that all I'd been waiting for was one
responsible adult to tell me to spend that money on a trip.
then occurred to me that not only have I always wanted to go to Europe,
but that I wanted to use the gift in a fashion my globetrotting grandma
(by the generosity of whom I have this money) would approve of. I
started doing the math and began to get very excited.
What, exactly, do you want to see?
is a must and is non-negotiable. Not only has the country's history
fascinated me for as long as I can remember, I recently learned of my
own ancestral history there. My great-grandfather came to Canada from
Lancashire when he was a teenager, then proceeded to serve in the
Canadian forces in both world wars. I want
to see Lancashire, where his father was also born. The family went to Lancashire from Ireland.
is also non-negotiable. My heritage is more Irish than anything else. I
am named after a county and I have always wanted to go. It is
I would very much like to see France. I love
French history too. I'm also part French, though that part of the
family inhabited New France for generations and I'm not even sure
when they left France proper.
Being the classical music nerd that I am, I am going to Austria. This, too, is non-negotiable. I must see Vienna.
How much time do you have?
planning on two weeks (15 days, more accurately) at the end of May, as
I've said. How much time I'll spend in each destination has not yet
What's been suggested to you so far?
Courtesy of everyone I've asked (a growing list if there ever was one!), here's what's been recommended:
- Prague, especially in spring
- The Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam (these two courtesy of a co-worker)
in and out of London because it's cheaper than flying in and out of
just about everywhere else (courtesy of one of my housemates, who just
finished a six-week internship in said city)
- "You have two weeks? Three places. AT MOST go to your essential places,
or you will end up going to nowhere having been everywhere. Talk
quieter than usual. Eat food whose name you do not understand." (Thanks, DonJaime!
- "Hi, you don't mention Berlin, but I have visited it twice (I live in
the UK) and think it's really worth seeing. On my two visits I stayed
at the Circus Hostel - colourful, friendly and (imho) well-priced.
It's pretty central and very relaxed. I recommend the East Side Gallery
(the partial remains of some of the Berlin Wall), but there is tons to
see. If you want any more info, msg me, but don't want to go on at
length unless you're interested! Enjoy your trip - it sounds fantastic!" (Thanks, squeezie!)
- "Oh no! From the way it looks, we will miss each other by 2
weeks...maybe three. I'm going to spend the end of April and beginning
of May (or so it seems so far) in England. We are going to be getting
Britnoders together and Dimview and maybe some other Europey types may
come over....I'll keep you posted, it's contingent on a wedding, so it
may be that we will overlap afterall!! (mobissimo.com for the cheapest
air fares ever...although a travel agent can sometimes do better.)" (Thanks, Junkill!)
- "If you're going to be in England, contact the britnoders. Given notice they will make you very welcome. (And are lovely people)." (Thanks, Andrew Aguecheek!
- "I've been to Paris three times. It's worth visiting, though you already
have a Brit-heavy schedule. And if you want to see the Cote d'azur,
check out Frejus. Fewer trendy tourists and actual Roman ruins." (Thanks, Timeshredder!)
- "Go to Prague. Seriously. I went there, then just had to move there." (Thanks, sirspens!)
- "I must say that two weeks for four countries seems like a short time,
especially since you will need at least half a day to travel between
countries each time! You'll have three days per country... So I'd
advise sticking with the countries you chose and not adding any more
(although I would love to recommend Amsterdam to you...) But, in France, don't miss Paris (duh!!) and on your way to Wien you might stop along the way at Strasbourg, Muenchen or Salzburg. All very nice. In England, London is not to be missed and you could try Oxford or Cambridge." (Thanks, sloebertje!)
- "This sounds like a blast! Unfortunately I've never been to these
countries (except the UK, but I'm sure the Britnoders would be a better
source on that) so I can't help you out, but I do want to know if we'll
be seeing pictures, perhaps a Flickr album?" (You bet, rootbeer277!)
- "Given how many places you want to get to in a fortnight,
I wonder whether it might make sense to fly in near one end of your
path through Europe and out near the other, rather than just going to
and from London. For example, YYZ-LHR/MUC-YYZ would probably be not
much more expensive than YYZ-LHR-YYZ, could still be done with direct
flights on Air Canada, and would save some backtracking on the ground.
Something like YYZ-SNN/VIE-YYZ would be even better geographically, but
more expensive, and it would likely involve some suboptimal air routes.
And then there are some rather unlikely combinations that work out to
be surprisingly affordable, like YYZ-LCY (via ZRH) / PRG-YYZ (via FRA).
So my advice is to experiment a bit with the possibilities (I think there's also some discount airline that does cheap-o flights from Hamilton to Liverpool, but I can't vouch for it.) As for what to do and see while you're there, I'm torn between trying
to add destinations to your list and counselling you to limit the
number so as to spend a decent amount of time in each place. I do want
to put in another good word for Prague, though, especially since you're
into music. Prague is a wonderful place for wandering into baroque
churches and discovering serendipitous and inexpensive recitals of
music that's been being performed in them for the past few hundred
years. (Thanks, WaldemarExkul!)
- your suggestion here!