Etiquette Hell

A Civil World. Off-topic discussions on a variety of topics. Guests, register for forum membership to see all the boards. => Trans-Atlantic Knowledge Exchange => Travel => Topic started by: Isometric on January 29, 2012, 10:57:15 PM

Title: Europe!
Post by: Isometric on January 29, 2012, 10:57:15 PM
I know it's a very broad question, but I'm after tips on which countries to visit. Are there any places you would recommend, or advise against?

Any tips for travelling, security, etc?

Title: Re: Europe!
Post by: Irishkitty on January 30, 2012, 05:21:48 AM
That's a very broad question.

Not being biased or anything, but I'd say Ireland is a must  8)

It really depends on how long your trip is, I'd always suggest spending a minimum of 3 days in each country, rather than a whirlwind tour around as many countries as you can. And really, those 3 days would really only be in one city.

If you're visiting a country where the first language is not english (so basically, anywhere in Europe excl Ireland and the UK) it's always nice to have a couple of stock phrases in the local language, sometimes it helps get better service, well, that's my litte trick anyway   ;)

EG: Spain (forgive my spelling, it's been years!)

Thank you - Gracias
Please - Por Favor
Hello - Buenas Dias
I'm sorry, I don't speak Spanish - Lo siento, no habla espanol

Quite a lot of European people speak English as a second language, especially in the more touristy areas. So you should be fine.

Security for Travel
Well, if you're from the states I'm thinking it's pretty strict over there? So for flying remember - 100ml max of liquids, all gels and liquids in a clear plastic bag (if in your carry on luggage). No sharp items. You'll probably have to take your shoes, belt and coat off at the security gates, so best to wear easy to take off/put on items.

Country to Country personal security
You should always be wary of pickpockets, especially in large cities (even Dublin). Try not to stand in the middle of the path with a huge map, it kind of gives the game away that you're not from around here, and therefore might have lots of this strange European money in your pocket.

Travelling by train/bus/tram make sure you have a valid ticket. Some countries will give you a huge on-the-spot fine, regardless of whether or not you made an innocent mistake.

If you're travelling around Ireland remember that we have the Euro, but Northern Ireland is part of the UK and therefore has a different currency, pound sterling.

Be prepared for rain :) especially if you're travelling around northern Europe at any time of year.

Some random suggestions for countries & places to visit:

Ireland - Dublin, Cork, Galway
UK - London, Cornwall, Glasgow
France - Paris, Anywhere in the south of France
Spain - Barcelona
Italy - Rome, Venice
Germany - Munich

Title: Re: Europe!
Post by: mechtilde on January 30, 2012, 05:26:04 AM
It is really hard to narrow this down!

Do think about cliamte- if you can't handle cold, then maybe Berlin in winter is not a good idea. If you can't handle heat and humidity then Rome in summer is a bad idea.

Do consider Central Europe- Poland, The Czech Republic and Hungary are lovely places in my own experience, but some cities (like Krakow or Prague for example) have problems with British stag parties who tend to be very drunk, rowdy and downright rude. Go off the beaten track a bit, and look at some of the smaller towns and villages. Look at some of the less well known cities too- I loved Warsaw, for example.

I love Germany too- again consider going off the beaten tourist trail a bit. The Netherlands are lovely, but again consider going to places like Delft or Utrecht instead of Amsterdam.

Do try the local foods and drinks as well.

You will find that there are more people in western europe who speak English than in the former eastern bloc, but that has changed a lot over the past twenty years.

What sort of things do you like doing OP?
Title: Re: Europe!
Post by: Ereine on January 30, 2012, 06:09:11 AM
I second the suggestion of Utrecht in The Netherlands, I really enjoyed visiting it when I was studying abroad in the country. I never could really get into Amsterdam and Utrecht had the things I enjoyed with the hordes of tourists. I also liked Maastricht and Leiden and Brussels and Antwerp and Ghent in Belgium. That area has the benefit that it's very easy to travel and you can easily do day trips from a town like Utrecht.

Finland isn't as convenient but as a Finn I should probably say that Helsinki is a nice place and the archipelago near where I live (Turku) is very beautiful, it covers almost the whole sea between Finland and Sweden. You can travel by boat from Stockholm to Helsinki and get to see two interesting towns too, they're rather different from the more Southern countries. I'd do that trip in summer to get advantage of long days. And if you're adventurous it's easy to get to St. Petersburg in Russian from Helsinki by train.

Baltic countries, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are also interesting, though I've only visited Estonia I'd like to see the others. Tallinn is a lovely town, though not always safe for drunk tourists.
Title: Re: Europe!
Post by: a on January 30, 2012, 07:46:26 AM
How long have you got, and what do you want to experience: nature, scenery, outdoors or culture, music, history? Or a mixture? Is there any period in history that you are particularly interested in and would like to learn more about? Do you have connections to any country?
I would recommend focusing on a few countries. 3 days sound far too little to me in one country, but it would be enough for one city/town. If you have one week e.g. I’d say 2 countries at a push – if they’re close to each other. For two weeks, you can probably fit in 3, but you might enjoy seeing more of a few places than getting off the bus and ticking off x and z off your list before you continue... We see a lot of that here...

Do remember that you will want a lot of time for “random experiences”, like checking out that café you saw from the bus that looked so nice, or visiting the shop, or going for a drink with random person you met, so do not plan everything from home – let yourself go with the flow and see what you want to do!

I would also advise you not to book into too expensive hotels/hotel chains – they are often far more impersonal than other places. If you do not mind travelling within a city, the best way of exploring it could be to live on the outskirts, where life is less “tourist” and/or business related, and more “normal people” focused.

So give us a bit more and we’ll help you out :-)
Title: Re: Europe!
Post by: Thipu1 on January 30, 2012, 08:16:09 AM
Although it may not sound terribly appealing, we often take a good sightseeing bus on our first day in a new city.  This gives us a reasonable idea of where things we want to see and do lie in relation to each other.  We spend the rest of our visit on our own. 

BTW, Barcelona has a wonderful tourist bus.
Title: Re: Europe!
Post by: mechtilde on January 30, 2012, 08:18:34 AM
Although it may not sound terribly appealing, we often take a good sightseeing bus on our first day in a new city.  This gives us a reasonable idea of where things we want to see and do lie in relation to each other.  We spend the rest of our visit on our own. 

BTW, Barcelona has a wonderful tourist bus.

Good idea- especially in larger cities.
Title: Re: Europe!
Post by: shadowfox79 on January 30, 2012, 09:43:45 AM
I would always recommend Italy's Amalfi coast. The scenery is breathtaking and there are lots of little villages to visit which have amazing shops, pizzerias and gelaterias - in particular there was a pizzeria next to the Duomo in Amalfi which had fantastic pizza, and a dessert cafe in Positano where we had delicious lemon tiramisu.
Title: Re: Europe!
Post by: Thipu1 on January 30, 2012, 10:19:42 AM
Although it may not sound terribly appealing, we often take a good sightseeing bus on our first day in a new city.  This gives us a reasonable idea of where things we want to see and do lie in relation to each other.  We spend the rest of our visit on our own. 

BTW, Barcelona has a wonderful tourist bus.

Good idea- especially in larger cities.

It does work because city maps can be deceiving.  They don't take changes in elevation into account. 

Most of the places of interest in Rome, with the exception of the Vatican, are pretty close to each other.  In cities such as Paris or London, what you want to visit may be miles apart.  Take the bus, bring along a map and a notepad.  After the bus ride, retire to a cafe or the hotel and plan the rest of your visit. 
Title: Re: Europe!
Post by: Margo on January 30, 2012, 10:33:23 AM
I agree with IrishKitty about not trying to do too much. It's tempting to cram a lot in, but giving yourself more time in a single country/city means you get to spend more time doing things, seeing the sights, and less time rushing from one place to another.

Consider what you most want to see & do.

England has a lot to offer in a small area, plus you will understand the language. But it depends what your interests are. If you want sunshine and seashore and ancient history then Greece might appeal, for instance.
Title: Re: Europe!
Post by: Betelnut on January 30, 2012, 10:34:20 AM
The most important question is:  What are you interested in?

Museums, especially art museums?
Famous sites, i.e. Eiffel Tower, the Spanish Steps, St. Peter's, etc?
Literature, i.e. Stratford Upon Avon?
Theater and/or opera?
Sports such as hiking, skiing, etc?
Bars, wine, food?
Local color and/or off the beaten track?
Lying on the beach?

So much depends on this!
Title: Re: Europe!
Post by: Shopaholic on January 30, 2012, 10:53:48 AM
I agree with everyone who said that you need to be more specific about what you want to do and what interests you.

3 days in each country I think is way too hectic, unless you sort of "city-hop" between major cities.
I personally wouldn't go that route because travelling between destinations takes a lot of time, and I would either zone in on two places or rent a car in one place and drive along.
The car option is better if you want to factor in scenic routes, maybe some nature walks and if you want to get a little off the beaten path.

The most fun I ever had in Europe was in Barcelona. I could have stayed there for a month. The food is great, the atmosphere is fun and there are many things to do in the area that are relatively easy to access. Barcelona also has some great museums - the Picasso museum in the Gothic Quarter is one of the best museums I have ever seen. The Dali one in Figueras is also vey interesting, and if you don't go on a Sunday there are also places to see and things to do in the village.

(Of course I also recommend London, Paris, Florence, Prague, Warsaw and Krakow and I'm dying to see more places in Europe like St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Bruges, Rome, Madrid, Edinburgh... the list is very long. :D)
Title: Re: Europe!
Post by: Steve on January 30, 2012, 11:37:58 AM
THis list can keep going and going.... I am Dutch, and ofcours I could recommend visiting us (I love us) but to be honest:
If I had to choose a destination within Europe to go to: go to Paris. The louvre has everything you would want in a museum, the food is great, the history is there. It really is a "must visit".

Then if you have time to spare: add on to your trip the sites that offer what you like. If you are a history -buff.. go to Italy. If you like water and watersports, come here, if you like beer: visit Belgium, if you like meat: visist Germany.

But I would start in Paris, France.
Title: Re: Europe!
Post by: Angel B. on January 30, 2012, 11:44:23 AM
One place I would highly recommend that nobody has mentioned is Portugal. It's right next to Spain, so there is the potential to country hop.

Lisbon is beautiful, and easy to get around in. There are other cities you could consider visiting, one recently was named a World Culture site for 2011, but I can't remember the name for the life of me right now. Portugal is a little cheaper than other European countries at the moment, and has good shopping, food, and the people are very friendly. Portugal has an incredibly rich history, which one often would not expect at all.

If you do make a stop there, be sure to get the famous Pastel de Belem, you can't get it anywhere else in the world(there are versions of it in countries that were colonized by Portugal).

The great thing about Europe is that it's easy to get around in, especially between countries!

I would also recommend England, but others can speak to it much better than I ever could.
Title: Re: Europe!
Post by: Betelnut on January 30, 2012, 11:51:05 AM
Actually, I agree with Steve--I too would recommend Paris unless you are really interested in a nature or sporting tour of Europe.  Paris has it all.

Also, don't try to see it all.  I've only been to Europe/British Isles three times and have seen relatively few places but for a longer period.  I might have missed some of the high spots (I regret that I didn't go to Venice when I was in Italy) but I did get to see A LOT of where I did end up.
Title: Re: Europe!
Post by: lesserspotted on January 30, 2012, 03:07:03 PM
Paris is a lovely city, but I'm going to be biased and say that you should really visit London (unless you're planning to be in Europe this July / August - not exactly the best time for sightseeing). Actually, you could combine Paris and London quite easily if you get the Eurostar between them. Still in the UK, Stratford-upon-Avon appeals to a lot of people for the history and it's only about 90 minutes by train from London.

The other place I would recommend is Bruges in Belgium. It's a beautiful city and is one of the few major European cities that hasn't got that much modern building work in the centre.
Title: Re: Europe!
Post by: Isometric on January 30, 2012, 04:59:08 PM
Thank you all so much for taking the time to give such great advice! I really appreciate it. Sorry about the lack of detail, hubs and I are really in the first stages of planning the trip, but don't even know where to start!

We're thinking of going early next year, but where we live it snows approximately 0 times per year so I'm worried that it might be too cold for us. (But I want to experience snow too!)

We'll probably be there 4 weeks all up. We haven't been before so we'd want to do all the touristy things (Don't throw things at me!!  ;D) I think France and England will definitely be on the list, and I'd love to go to Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, and maybe Switzerland?

I adore food, local culture and beautiful scenery. Hubs is a history buff and loves museums, castles etc.
Title: Re: Europe!
Post by: Steve on January 31, 2012, 08:26:48 AM
Hi Isometric,
It sounds like you have nice plans :) maybe a bit ambitious, but you should see that if you try and make an itenerary. All of these countries are easily reachable from eachother.

From your list of likes, maybe you should think about adding Italy (Rome in particular). The food there is brilliant, and it is where western culture was based.
Title: Re: Europe!
Post by: Reason on January 31, 2012, 11:36:35 AM
The louvre has everything you would want in a museum, the food is great, the history is there. It really is a "must visit".

I think the same can be said of the Hermitage, the Prado, The British museum or the Vatican Museum (sorry if I missed anything).

The question really is a little too difficult to answer without knowing how much time you intend to spend in Europe. If you are an experienced traveller with 2-3 weeks on your hands, I would recommend a train pass from Euro Railways or something like that. That way you can spend as much time as you need in whatever city you choose and hop the train to your next destination when you feel you've seen enough of one country.

I honestly do not feel there is a best destination. For example, my favorite destination in Europe is a small village in the Ural mountains where I used to spend my summers with my grandmother. It's really beautiful up there, but obviously it's very far off from the tourist destinations of note. I am sure someone else would be a lot less fond of it, as it gets really cold.
Title: Re: Europe!
Post by: GeauxTigers on February 10, 2012, 10:21:21 PM
POD on the Eurostar between London and Paris. It's brilliant. Book tickets online in advance, print before you leave, scan at the station. You'll clear the French border in London, and the British border in Paris. Takes less than 2 1/2 hours, is comfortable and remarkably quiet. You can buy Metro tickets in the food car, unsure about the Tube. The only downside is that it's not really suited for large quantities of luggage and/or big cases as the luggage racks are very small and it's hard to heave them up onto the train. We stashed our huge cases in the food/bar car.

Multi-day museum passes are your friends in Paris. Don't try to do the Louvre in one visit - it's just too much.

Don't underestimate the impact of visiting old European churches. Everybody goes to Notre-Dame, but how many have been to the basilica of St-Denis? The royal tombs are stunning, almost as spectacular as the stained glass.

The cheateau of Versailles is included in the museum pass, and is a short commuter train ride away. Go early - you can easily spend a day in the gardens. I've been twice, and have yet to make it to the Trianons.  Expect huge groups of Chinese tourists.

Watch out for the tacky souvenir hawkers near the major landmarks - they're a lot more aggressive than they were 10 years ago, and they WILL get into your personal space. Always watch your purses and pockets.

If you're a photographer, Paris is God's way of telling you "Learn how to bracket." Take extra media with you. Take the fastest glass you own, the best zoom you own, the best low-light glass you own, a Gorillapod, and at least a circular polarizing filter. If you own neutral-density filters, bring them, too. In summer, the days are very long and perfect for blue-hour shots.

It's been almost a year since I was in London - many segments of the Tube were closed due to renovations, requiring bus rides (with detours due to road works) between stops. The traffic congestion was unbelievable.

It costs 16 pounds to visit Westminster Abbey, but it is not to be missed. I was able to attend a small prayer service at the altar of St. Edward the Confessor (where William and Kate retreated after their vows). Downside? No photography allowed.

Wherever I travel, I come up with 3 lists:

A: Must-see or must-do, bucket-list worthy stuff
B: Sights or activities that I would really like to see and/or do
C: Nice to see or do, but wouldn't break my heart if it didn't happen

I try to learn where all of these things are, and their proximity to other items on the list  - then decide on a starting point and take it from there, wherever my feet, the Tube or the Metro takes me. There will always be something to do. Break the day up into 3 or 4 chunks and figure out what you would like to do, at your own pace.

Watch out for labor strikes - they'll usually be annouced with several day's warning. Some can be very inconvenient, such as public transportation or, in my 2nd trip, bank couriers (it's always fun when the ATMs haven't been restocked)

Essential: Good shoes. Foam tape for blistered toes and/or heels. Aleve.

Try to book a hotel that has a tub you can soak in.

Wonderful, wonderful French wine with dinner or lunch may be cheaper than Coca-Cola.

You'll walk so much that you burn off all those wonderful, delicious calories in Paris.

Feel free to PM me with any questions.