Our situation was probably quite similar to many Australian couples travelling to Europe together – one of us had seen a lot of the continent, the other had never been. So our itinerary had to have a bit of everything. Let’s face it, this itinerary is a bit of a whirlwind and doesn’t exactly have the exotic cache of dog sledding in the Arctic Circle or whatever, but there are reasons why France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and the UK continue to be some of the most ‘holidayed’ places in the world. Well trodden as they are – we loved this trip and would go back to (most of) these places in a heartbeat.
Itinerary at a glance UK (5 nights) - London, Bath Germany (5 nights) - Berlin, Bamberg Switzerland (2 nights) - Lucerne Italy (5 nights) - Venice, Florence France (9 nights) - Nice, Sarlat-Le-Caneda, Toulouse, Paris
What made this trip successful?
1. Big cities v small towns I never tire of cities like London or Paris and had always wanted to go to Berlin – and it is so easy to plan a trip around going from one fabulous city to the next fabulous city when you are time poor. But I think we had the best time on this trip in some of the smaller towns in Italy, Germany and France, and as a result had a better all round experience. One of the added benefits is that the food often improves considerably outside the big tourist centres and your photos will elicit comments from your friends of ‘Ooh where is that?’ rather than ‘O I see you went to Versailles, did you make it to Louis the 14th’s blah blah blah’.
2. Eurail Prohibitively expensive when I was a student – and still a considerable investment given over 26’s have to purchase first class passes – Eurail is nevertheless the very best way to travel as an independent traveler from outside Europe. The pass gave us great flexibility to our program – there are few places in Western Europe that are difficult to access by rail, trains are comfortable and travel times are constantly improving. If you are going down the Eurail route, be sure to know the rules in the various countries you are using the pass for – especially the reservation policy and costs – for example – seat reservations are not required in Germany, but are compulsory and free in France (though can be difficult to get at peak times so reserve well in advance). In other countries like Italy, reservations are required for some trains and can attract hefty fees.