Paris to Rome via Bordeaux, San Sebastian, Bilbao, Madrid, Toledo, Avignon, Marseilles, Nice, Manarola (Cinque Terra coast), Venice and Florence - it was our retirement trip and we're already savings for the next trip - who knows when?
We travelled by train in all but one section (coach San Sebastian to Bilbao) and used a Eurail Pass - I'm still to be totally convinced that we actually saved money by using a rail pass.
Accommodation was mostly in 3 star hotels, but there was also 3 B&B's (pensiones) and 2 apartments (Rome and Barcelona). In our opinion apartments are the way to stay for longer than 3 or 4 nights - cheaper than hotels, room sizes larger and because of facilities, the ability to save considerably on meals. Down side - the apartment in Barcelona was a shocker and we nearly demanded our deposit back owing to the filthy condition of the apartment (we nick named it "Casa del Cockaroacher" and actually had one "chase" us out the door.")
I must admit to being a bit of a planner and researcher, so the concept of the trip took something like 6 months to research using the internet and guide books borrowed from the local library. We drew up a rough plan and made a wish-list of the cities we'd like to visit and then researched the what to do/see when we were there. Gradually the list materialised and we realised that 2 months was not really enough to see everything. Owing to time constraints the list was shortened and we had to prune one week off the trip.
Finding places to stay within our budget proved to be a real time consumer. We needed places that were adequate for our 60 + year old bodies and close to public transport options as taxis can be very expensive. We didn't want to be staying right beside rail stations as those areas can be noisy and are in themselves often a magnet for pick pocketers and other petty criminals. We found a great variety of standards of accommodation listed as 3 star. Best was the almost new Hotel Avenida in San Sebastian and perhaps the worst was the Hotel de l'Orchidée in Paris - and I'm judging on size of hotel and standard of rooms rather than service levels. Not always easy to come up with the "right" hotel when using the internet. Discovering accommodation providores own web sites was also a hard task as there are more than enough wholesalers web sites where no doubt commissions are paid - at our expense.
We had to set a budget of $A400 per day all inclusive excluding airfares from Melbourne, Australia. This $A400 was to cover everything including accommodation, meals, sightseeing and off course transport. Shopping had to be severely restricted to save money and weight as anything purchased had to be lugged through, it seemed, too many rail and metro stations - and our 2 wheeled suitcases were heavy enough. We also had a day pack each.
We left Melbourne on Monday 14th May, 2007 at 7.20pm and flew to Singapore for a transit stop, then onto Dubai for another transit stop and finally arrived in Paris at 1.30 pm on Tuesday 15th May.
Come on board and share the journey and some of the fun we had over 8 weeks in Europe and then a 3 day stop over in Dubai before returning to Melbourne on 17th July via Perth in Western Australia for my fathers birthday celebration.
To make it easier for you to follow our adventures, just click on the links below and in trip order. You could also read the tips and travelogues attached to most of the pages - enjoy
Back to Paris, France
San Sebastian, Spain
Barcelona, Spain and side trip to Montserrat
Avignon, France and side trip to Les Baux-de-Provence and onto the Pont du Gard
Nice, France with 2 side trips - Entrevaux and Monaco
Manarola (Cinque Terra coast), Italy
On the way to Venice, Italy a short look at Pisa, Italy
End of the European section of the trip in Rome, Italy and while we were there the must-see The Vatican Museum and St Peters Basilica
Finally a 3 day stop over in Dubai, U.A.E. before returning to home in Melbourne, Australia, via Perth