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Need Serious Help!

by marcenekylander Online Now Mar 7, 2013 at 12:42 PM

OK, I have read through to page 13 of these AMAZING posts and have cut and pasted a lot of suggestions but I am overwhelmed at this point and would be so grateful for some help! I will be traveling with a husband (until he has to head home to California) and 14 and 16 year old daughters. We will be leaving Paris on August 6 and my dream is to travel through Switzerland and Austria. We need to head to London on August 15, so we need to end up in a location where we can fly out. I know that is a lot to do in 9 days, but that is what we are hoping for. We are looking for quaint/historical sights and really need to take in the Alps. We are not big hikers and really just want to hit the highlights on this trip. We will travel by train and am over whelmed with how to do this as well. I will also need hotels close to the stations or detailed directions to get to and from. Is anyone willing to take my trip on?

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11 Answers
  • leics's Profile Photo

    Re: Need Serious Help!

    by leics Online Now Mar 7, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    Welcome to VT! We're not travel agents (we're just ordinary travellers) but, with contributions from various different members, we should be able to help you organise your trip.

    I can help with the train aspect......but you are right that 9 days is really not a lot of time. Paris>Switzerland>Austria>UK sems to me the most logical routing.

    To get to the UK from mainland Europe by train you can only take the under-Channel Eurostar. You need to book this as early as you can for best prices: I'd suggest you start checking now to see if your dates are available for booking (I think booking from the US has a longer booking 'window' than the UK?). The official site is

    www.eurostar.com

    But you might find it easier, and faster, to fly back from e.g. Vienna to London rather than spend a long time on the train. Your choice. www.skyscanner.ent will give you all carriers and (usually) fares for your dates and route.

    The excellent seat61 site will give you detailed info on how to travel by train from Switzerland to the UK (simply reverse the advice):

    http://www.seat61.com/Switzerland.htm

    or Austria:

    http://www.seat61.com/Austria.htm

    For hotels, I suggest you use the reliable www.booking.com and www.venere.com  Both sites are used by many VT-ers and extensive listings. Both also have very good mapping which will enable you to see which hotels are nearest to the railway stations. Neither site will take any money from you as long as you turn up (excluding, obviously, the prepaid special rates which some hotels offer)  and the majoriy of hotels listed allow free cancellation up to 24 or 48 hours in advance.

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  • MikeBird's Profile Photo

    Re: Need Serious Help!

    by MikeBird Online Now Mar 7, 2013 at 1:02 PM

    Hi,
    From Paris you could take the TGV fast train to Lausanne on Lake Geneva. From there you can transfer onto the Swiss Railway system and head on towards Zermatt high up in the Alps. There is even a small rack and pinion branch line to Gornergrat from where you have magnificent views of the Matterhorn. Zermatt is the western terminus of the Glacier Express which is a wonderful train journey onto to St Moritz. I recently completed a trip on it and it was a terrific experience. You could stay overnight in Zermatt and pick up the Glacier Express the next day. If you head on east you could change trains at Chur which would give you about 5 hours, including lunch on board, the train which is designed for tourists. From Chur you could head south up and over the Alps down to Italy but you may be better off heading into Austria via Zurich.
    I'm sorry but I cannot advise on Austria as it has been decades ( literally) since I was last there. For all your train travel in Switzerland it might be advisable to buy the Swiss Rail pass which covers the Glacier Express apart from your seat reservations. You also get 50% discount off the Gornergrat railway from Zermatt. Details of the Rail Pass can be found at:
    http://www.swiss-pass.ch/

    Hope you have a super trip. I'm looking forward to my summertime trip on the Swiss rail network. I expect it's just as efficient in summer as it is in winter.

    Regards,
    Mike

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  • gwened's Profile Photo

    Re: Need Serious Help!

    by gwened Online Now Mar 7, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    train from France to Switzerland is very easy, you have many choices, play with your dates and times at
    www.voyages-sncf.com
    train

    the train from gare de lyon to Geneva(there are many other connections), which is the one I take the most on business is the TGV Lyria
    here it is in French of course,
    http://tgv-lyria.voyages-sncf.com/

    hope it helps

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  • riorich55's Profile Photo

    Re: Need Serious Help!

    by riorich55 Online Now Mar 7, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    Let me get you started on a couple of videos with music I took and then compiled on iMovie to get you in the spirit. The first one is our cable car and train ride up from Lauterbrunnen to Schilthorn.

    youtube.com/watch?v=suAabbCK...

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  • riorich55's Profile Photo

    Re: Need Serious Help!

    by riorich55 Online Now Mar 7, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    The next is a little paragliding over the town of Interlaken that my wife and I did.

    youtube.com/watch?v=qMQGlF_C...

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  • riorich55's Profile Photo

    Re: Need Serious Help!

    by riorich55 Online Now Mar 7, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    Finally our train ride from Lauterbrunnen to Lucerne.

    youtube.com/watch?v=2qMn4N2w...

    Got to get going right now, but I'll check back and see if I can give you some answers after others have checked in.

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  • Beausoleil's Profile Photo

    Re: Need Serious Help!

    by Beausoleil Online Now Mar 7, 2013 at 3:05 PM

    If you are not familiar with Google Maps, you might want to use it to help your planning. You type in a town. It will load a map for you and you can use it as a map or you can click on satellite view and see the actual streets. There is a little yellow peg-man (stick-man) and you can grab him with your computer mouse and pull him down onto the street and see the actual building such as a hotel you are checking. If you click on the street arrows, you can walk up and down the street and check out the neighborhood.

    Most importantly, it will have the train stations and bus stops posted so you can see if your hotel is near one. Most of the train stations are in the center of town and near several hotels so you don't need to worry about it, just have to book them.

    Here's the Google Map site: http://maps.google.com/

    You can click on Directions and choose public transportation (train icon), walking (man icon), driving (car icon) . . . you get the idea. It is great for walking directions from the train station to your hotel.

    The other excellent web site for this is the Michelin Map web site and you can get good directions for walking there too. http://www.viamichelin.com/

    Also, type the names of the various places that interest you into the VT Search Window above and see what members have already written about them. There will be photos, hotels, restaurants, transportation information and lots of external web links to help you. You can also click on the names of anyone who answers you here to go to their Home Page. Then check their Travel Pages for the places you want to see. It's a great resource here on VT and lots of fun.

    Enjoy your trip.

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  • matjung's Profile Photo

    Re: Need Serious Help!

    by matjung Online Now Mar 7, 2013 at 3:38 PM

    Just be prepared that not all trains have working air conditioning in the summer months.
    I think I would skip Austria, and do something like

    Paris - Lausanne - Alps - Zürich - Heidelberg - Luxembourg - Bruxelles - London
    Paris - Lausanne ~ 4 hours by train
    ~~
    Zürich - Heidelberg ~ 4 hours by train
    Heidelberg - Luxembourg ~ 4 hours by train
    Luxembourg - Bruxelles ~ 3 hours by train
    Bruxelles - London ~ 3 hours by train

    Zürich, Heidelberg, Luxembourg and Bruxelles are small cities compared with London or Paris. All of them are worth a visit. You can travel in the morning to the next city, check in at your hotel and do sight seeing in the afternoon/evening.
    Based on this itinerary you could spend about 6 days in Switzerland, and three days travelling back to London.
    There is a hotel chain in Europe, IBIS they are having hotels in most cities For a family of four travelling through Europe you might get discounts or free upgrades when you stay with them.
    In the Alps you better stay at family run local Hotels / Bed and Breakfasts.

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  • alza's Profile Photo

    Re: Need Serious Help!

    by alza Online Now Mar 7, 2013 at 5:53 PM

    Hi marcenekylander,
    You indicated that you would be travelling by train on the continent (and flying out to London on 15 August.) Previous replies already gave you SNCF links for trains Paris to Switzerland, which you should check out.
    Note that SNCF site will not show fares and schedules for August. I think they show that info for the coming 3 months. For planning purposes, you can put in a "mock" date within that timeframe. Fares & schedules are unlikely to change drastically for your actual date of 6 August, and you'll know what to expect.

    I did a "mock" search for SNCF TGV Lyria on 6 May, from Paris Gare de Lyon to Genève-Cornavin (main railway station in Genève centre).
    Best fare for 1 adult is 37 Euros (48 USD.) Depart 08:11 am, duration 3h16m, direct. Reservation required (already included in fare, as far as I could see.)
    There are other departures but I only noted that one, to give you an idea.

    You might like to consider a cheap flight Paris-Geneva (or elsewhere in Switzerland.) A friend of mine works in Paris and goes home to Berne regularly. He's tested all options over time and considers that he saves time & money by flying with easyJet. He recommends Momondo.com to search for cheapest flights, I've used that site and it's excellent. The site offers various languages, click "English".
    Momondo only suggests flights. Once you select one, it transfers you to the selling agency. The end rate remains the same, but you'll be offered further options (flight insurance, baggage check (1 luggage per passenger=14 Euros), etc. Up to you to select such options. Rates shown include taxes.

    I did a "mock" search on Momondo from Paris-Orly to Geneva Airport for 6 August.
    Found flight for 50 Euros (66 USD), leaving 5 pm, arriving 6:15 pm (duration 1h05m.)
    Momondo gives a note from 10 (best) to 1 (worst) based on price and average flight time and the flight above was the only Note 10 shown.
    (I tried searching Paris to "Geneva-Lausanne", which automatically appeared in destination choices --Lausanne alone was not offered-- but that returned a "No flight found for your destination". I didn't search other Swiss destinations but they appear in automatic destination choices so you could check out the one you would prefer.)

    Remember that baggage check on easyJet and most low-cost airlines are strictly applied. 4 passengers = 14 Euros per passenger for one checked baggage each. Check the box for required number of checked baggage as you reserve and pay. Asking to check a baggage later will involve a higher cost.

    All this in case you'd also like to consider flying to Switzerland. I don't think you save time flying to Geneva but my friend says he saves 2 hours flying to Berne. Up to you.

    Have a good trip!

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  • vpas's Profile Photo

    Re: Need Serious Help!

    by vpas Online Now Mar 7, 2013 at 6:56 PM

    Every part of Switzerland is beautiful. However, instead of running to different parts, since you have a limited time, you could just do one region. If you are coming from France, you could cover Geneva, Zermatt region. Read my pages on Saas Fee and the surrounding villages of Stalden, St.Nikolas etc. You will surely not regret going there.
    You can stay at one of the many home stays and gorge on the fresh, delicious farm food!! You can also visit some of the mountain tops like Gornergrat (see my pages)
    Have a good trip,

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  • gwened's Profile Photo

    Re: Need Serious Help!

    by gwened Online Now Mar 8, 2013 at 5:32 AM

    Vpas has a wise suggestion, I agree.
    Cheers

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