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cincy jacket
06-04-2010, 01:24 PM
I am currently beginning to plan a trip to Europe for sometime late next spring or early next summer. I was wondering if anyone could offer any tips or recommendations? It will be me and my wife, no kids. It will be both ours first time to visit Europe.

Currently planning on a 2-3 week trip. Was thinking about doing a Eastern Mediterranian cruise and then coming back to hit Paris and London for a few days after the cruise. Really have no idea if that is a good way to see more sights the first time or not. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

BuckWild03
06-04-2010, 01:26 PM
If you're planning on visiting multiple cities, get yourself a Eurail pass. It's a great way to see Europe at a reasonable price.

WMR
06-04-2010, 01:27 PM
Don't advertise the fact that you're American.

BuckeyeRed27
06-04-2010, 01:30 PM
Don't advertise the fact that you're American.

Don't worry you won't have to.

The cruise is a great idea. Gives you a good "sampler platter" of some cool spots. I really loved Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels/Brugge, Belgium.

redsmetz
06-04-2010, 01:43 PM
I'm not necessarily recommending his tours, but he has books about traveling throughout Europe that are spot on, so check out Rick Steves' site and see if the library has any of his books.

http://www.ricksteves.com/

westofyou
06-04-2010, 01:44 PM
Loved Paris, I'd avoid pricy stuffy places for food and visit the markets and corner bakeries, do the museums early and don't be afraid of using the Metro and your feet.

westofyou
06-04-2010, 01:45 PM
I'm not necessarily recommending his tours, but he has books about traveling throughout Europe that are spot on, so check out Rick Steves' site and see if the library has any of his books.

http://www.ricksteves.com/

Good guy for basic tips.

redsmetz
06-04-2010, 01:51 PM
Good guy for basic tips.

What I catch from his shows and I've heard friends who went to hear him speak say this too, he's great at getting us to understand other cultures, how to step out of "the usual" and help folks get over whatever trepidations they may have about traveling abroad.

I've only visited Germany once, back in 1977 when my brother finished studying for a year in Heidelberg. I stayed with friends I had met over here in the same town and we then traveled to Wurzburg, Munich and Tubingen. I was only 22, but I was struck at how friendly everyone was. We took a sidetrip to Landau near where my Metz family was from to check out some family history. I still remember the clerk in a records office just exclaiming over and over, "you came all the way from America to see us!". Given how difficult it was to communicate long distance then, my 3rd cousin discovered an old family history in a ltter while I was over there and had no way to contact me so we didn't get to see the village my great grandfather came from.

It was great to be able to hit places that were off the beaten path. I can highly recommend Munich, which was just a beautiful city. I fell in love with Wurzburg, a smaller town, but equally beautiful.

SunDeck
06-04-2010, 02:15 PM
This is a hard sell, but I think the best way to do a European trip is to pick a place and stay there for the duration. Use it as a base to visit other locations- over night trains are one of the best ways to get from one town to another and save time.

I say it's a hard sell because there is such a temptation to hit every European highlight, which to me is mind numbing.

Rojo
06-04-2010, 02:43 PM
Don't advertise the fact that you're American.

Actually, I think it might be better to be an American than another European -- they have a long history of intra-continental animosity.

reds1869
06-04-2010, 03:44 PM
Don't advertise the fact that you're American.

Or go to the UK. I was treated very well by the English and Welsh. Most of them were thrilled to meet an American; the only place where there was any real tension was Oxford.

As far as other countries, I think you will find Americans are better received than you think. And, trust me, they will know you are American. :D

George Anderson
06-04-2010, 03:57 PM
And, trust me, they will know you are American. :D

We went to Russia a few years back and we were focused on trying not to look American. Now I am as patriotic as anyone but with the situation we were in of adopting a child from Russia I didn't wanna start a ruckus for being American so I went along with the try not to look American thing. I asked a good friend of mines wife who is Russian how to look Russian. She laughed and told us not to wear shorts no matter how hot it was and try to wear dark colors only but she also said it isn't going to matter because everyone will know you are American. I had a hard time believeing this was true until at the very end of our trip we were in a souvenier store in Moscow and I saw a guy and I just knew he was an American. He was dressed as a Russian but he just had an "I'm American" look. It's hard to describe but even though for the most part we share the same skin color we don't look the same or act the same as Europeans/Russians.

George Anderson
06-04-2010, 03:59 PM
I am currently beginning to plan a trip to Europe for sometime late next spring or early next summer. I was wondering if anyone could offer any tips or recommendations? It will be me and my wife, no kids. It will be both ours first time to visit Europe.

Currently planning on a 2-3 week trip. Was thinking about doing a Eastern Mediterranian cruise and then coming back to hit Paris and London for a few days after the cruise. Really have no idea if that is a good way to see more sights the first time or not. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

I went to London and Paris back around 87' and enjoyed Paris sightseeing but London was alot of fun. London had pubs on every corner and the people were very friendly. My memory may be bad but I believe that most of the beer/ale sold in pubs is warm. We also could go to a Burger King and get a beer with our meal. It was pretty cool.

SunDeck
06-04-2010, 04:14 PM
There is no way to not look american, or European. My wife, who also spent a lot of time in Germany, loves to play "spot the German", and I am pretty sure we are just as recognizable to them.

From my travels in Europe, treatment has always been very positive and in general it can be said that Europeans like Americans a lot, but not when they act like obnoxious tourists. They probably don't like obnoxious European tourists, either.

If the fear of looking like an American is based on some notion that one might be a target of terrorism, it's probably not well founded; the likelihood of a terrorist specifically plotting against one person who is simply passing through seems low. If there is a danger it is probably in staying at traditionally "touristy" locations.

oneupper
06-04-2010, 04:28 PM
I've been to Europe about a dozen times over the last three/four years for business/leisure and both. There is a lot to see/do and even in 2-3 weeks you won't get to everything.

First thing: season. Go for spring and not summer. Not only does it get hot as hell in the summer, Europe is overrun by tourists. Getting up the Eiffel Tower or into the Louvre can be a battle. The Colloseum in Rome is handling huge queues to get in. They don't show you that in the brochures, so be prepared.
We did a lot in winter actually. The weather stinks, but there are few(er) people.

A cruise may not be a bad idea cost and logistics-wise, but you will spend a decent amount of time on the boat and the shore-trips could leave you wanting for more. For example, they may take you to Rome or Florence for a day. It's not enough. However, this being your first time, it is more structured and could be more comfortable for you.
And there isn't that much sail time between ports. But if you've cruised before, you know the boarding/de-boarding can be a hassle. (At least it is in the Caribbean).

Since you do have time to plan, look into arriving in one country and leaving from another. You may fly into Rome, for example, and make your way by train to Paris and London and fly back from there. (Rome-Florence-Venice-Milan-Marseille-Paris-London or something like that).

I've never done Europass, since we usually did shorter one or two country trips. For a long trip with a lot of rail, its probably worth it.

The Euro just dropped under 1.20, which is good for you. But stuff is still going to be expensive. Good Luck.

bucksfan2
06-04-2010, 04:29 PM
I have been to Europe twice and am going to Italy over Thanksgiving. I have hit a couple of cities twice (Rome and Interlaken, Switzerland) but still enjoyed them a second time around. The other cities I have been to are London, Paris, Munich, Florence, Cinque Terre, Venice, and St. Andrews Scotland. There still are many other cities that I eventually want to travel to its just a matter of finding time and money.

As for advice pick a region and stick to that region. It really is impractical to start in London, head down to Spain, and then over to Italy. It is doable but you will spend a lot of time on the train or in airports traveling. For example its pretty easy to maneuver your self around a set of coutries like Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy by using the euro rail. No rail trip is longer than 4-6 hours and you are able to hit a bunch of very cool cities.

I would bookend your trip with two different cities. Start at one place, do your traveling, and fly back home out of a different place. It is more difficult to travel throughout Europe and then have to short circuit your travels by making it back to your original city. As for a Mediterranean cruise I have always wanted to do that, just don't know about the state of Greece right now. I have also heard Athens has great land marks but itself is a dump.

I assume your an American. You will look American. No matter how much you try and fit in your still going to look American. I wouldn't worry about that too much. I have never had much of an issue being an American over seas. You just need to be a little more watchful of your personal belongings.

If you don't already have one, get an American Express card. They don't charge to convert currencies, most places accept it, and they offer travel insurance. Credit card is the easiest way to pay for many things as long as your card doesn't charge a currency conversion.

Finally enjoy yourself. Do find time to stay in a place for 2-3 nights and have a relaxing day or two. There are too many things to see in Europe and you will run yourself ragged trying to do so. Find some time just to relax, maybe a beach or lake town fits the bill. You will appreciate that.

Nugget
06-04-2010, 06:40 PM
Take a few guidebooks, attempt to speak the local language, don't expect everyone to speak English and no speaking louder does not make them understand it more.

Rojo
06-04-2010, 07:25 PM
She laughed and told us not to wear shorts no matter how hot it was and try to wear dark colors

Good advice anywhere. Shorts are for the beach.

BillDoran
06-04-2010, 07:32 PM
The cities I'd recommend would be: Berlin, Zurich, Bilbao (had friends there, though), and Cinque Terre.

I agree with SunDeck's advice as well. Less is more when traveling Europe. I'd much rather get an intimate feel for a couple of cities than a rushed glimpse of a dozen.

And as for sticking out as an American, I had little to no problem. But just like over here, there's a certain number of jerks in every crowd.

Raisor
06-04-2010, 09:26 PM
Watch the movie EuroTrip. Study and take notes.

RFS62
06-04-2010, 10:42 PM
Gotta visit Kazakhstan if you're going to Europe

klw
06-04-2010, 10:58 PM
Watch the movie EuroTrip. Study and take notes.

Great advice.

bucksfan also gives great advice. If you try to do to much you will get to feeling ragged. A cruise would mitigate this but I imagine you would get less of a feel for the place. I would skip Paris and go to London istead. The lines are shorter and the museums are free. The National Gallery is incredible and I always try to see Freidrich's "winter landscape" whenever I go to London. Go to the countryside somewhere. Maybe go from Geneva to Vienna, hitting the Alps. You could then shoot down to somewhere in Italy- Florence. so much of it depends though on what you like and are interested in. If you like sports try to go to something there like a Premier League match. If you don't like big cities make sure you are not trying to go to all of them. Is this a once in a lifetime trip or a scouting expedition? Do you like mountains or beaches? I would also suggest going in the spring as airfare and other costs will be much lower, fewer crowds, and the weather should be nice.

Yachtzee
06-05-2010, 01:04 AM
Don't advertise the fact that you're American.

I think this is a fair statement, but not in the way you might think. Of course you will likely stick out as an American even if you try to look "Euro." It took me a good year in Austria before strangers didn't automatically think I was American. However, I think it is important for Americans traveling to Europe (or any foreign destination) to be somewhat self-aware of how you might be perceived in a foreign context. Most Europeans will be very friendly with Americans they perceive as nice, but no so much with people they deem obnoxious. Here are some tips based on my experience:

1) Always remember that you are a guest in their country. If you wouldn't do something when invited over to someone's house, don't do it in someone else's country. However, don't feel like you need to hide being an American. I've met some of the most interesting people who wanted to talk to me simply because I was an American. You'll meet jerks as well, but that can't be helped. Every place has its jerks.
1a) This is not Disney. Just because someone is wearing traditional dress does not mean that person is there to entertain you. For example, if visiting Salzburg, Austria, don't comment on how the locals are dressed up just like the "Sound of Music Kids" or ask them to sing "Edelweiss."

2) Don't talk so loud. Nothing says "Here come obnoxious Americans" more than a group of tourists speaking English so loud you can hear them 1/4 a mile away on a crowded street.

3) Learning "please" and "Thank you" in each language goes a long way.

4) As has been said earlier, it's best to save the shorts for the beach. The reason being that if you are checking out museums or churches, shorts are considered inappropriate.

5) Leave the sneakers in your bag unless you're taking a morning run. Instead, wear comfortable shoes with sturdy soles. You will be doing a lot of walking and cobblestone streets can be murder on your feet if you don't have the right footwear.

6) Keep your head on a swivel, especially in Train Stations, Metro/Subway stations, and large public squares. While you probably won't run into terrorists looking to take you down, you will probably run into pickpockets and thieves. Gypsies are real and you will run into those who fit the stereotype, especially in Southern and Eastern Europe. Rome was the worst in my experience. Avoid groups of children hanging outside the train station, aggressive female beggars in pairs or more, and don't let crazy people on the metro distract you. Don't be afraid, just be aware.

klw
06-05-2010, 03:23 PM
Unless you buy a whole new wardrobe and likely change your body type, people will have a pretty good idea that you are an American (though you could probably fake it as a Canadian (have we annexed them yet I forget)). When I was in India, years ago, you could usually easily pinpoint where travelers were from by their appearance. For some reason, Germans were usually identifiable by their socks. Each country has its own identifyers and giveaways- what we have is not always something you would consider but would be easier for someone from outside the US to describe.

Rojo
06-08-2010, 07:52 PM
I would skip Paris and go to London istead.

Really? I can't imagine going to Europe and not seeing Paris.

RBA
06-08-2010, 08:07 PM
I have been mistaken for being Dutch, German, Greek, French and English. Americans don't stick out.

klw
06-08-2010, 10:53 PM
Really? I can't imagine going to Europe and not seeing Paris.

I have enjoyed Paris (other than some imbecile dropping fireworks right next to me on New years Eve) but it depends what you are hoping to do on the trip. I think if I were going to Europe for the first time and had a limited amount of time I would choose London due to less congestion and lost time in lines. For a variety of reasons, I have spent a lot more time in London that in Paris so I am somewhat biased in favor of London and have a great comfort there. Plus I am cheap and the museums in London are free for the most part.

15fan
06-08-2010, 11:14 PM
Italy.

Nugget
06-09-2010, 02:14 PM
I have enjoyed Paris (other than some imbecile dropping fireworks right next to me on New years Eve) but it depends what you are hoping to do on the trip. I think if I were going to Europe for the first time and had a limited amount of time I would choose London due to less congestion and lost time in lines. For a variety of reasons, I have spent a lot more time in London that in Paris so I am somewhat biased in favor of London and have a great comfort there. Plus I am cheap and the museums in London are free for the most part.

I don't see London as being any less congested as Paris. The free Museums are good but then outside of the Louvre there are a number of places around Paris which are not too costly and not too crowded. Admittedly they are smaller. Paris you get the diversity and I think with the limited time and the convenience of Eurostar one can do both.

I managed to check out both in 3 days getting to see all the sights (admittedly I didn't actually go into the Louvre or the Tate).

Cedric
06-09-2010, 02:45 PM
I am planning on going to Norway, Sweden, and other areas next March.

I have been to Italy and Portugal. I loved both. The Italians were overall extremely nice and helpful I thought.

Rojo
06-09-2010, 03:06 PM
I have been mistaken for being Dutch, German, Greek, French and English. Americans don't stick out.

I'm with you. I was mistaken for English a couple of times.

Maybe it's just midwesterners who stick out. :)

reds1869
06-09-2010, 06:01 PM
I'm with you. I was mistaken for English a couple of times.

Maybe it's just midwesterners who stick out. :)

I've been mistaken for being English as well--in England. But that all came to an end when I spoke. :)

Yachtzee
06-18-2010, 07:06 PM
I have been mistaken for being Dutch, German, Greek, French and English. Americans don't stick out.

I was mistaken for English, German, Austrian, Swedish and Czech, but that was after I had lived there for a while. The funniest was having picked up enough of Austrian dialect so that an Austrian friend and I had two Austrian girls believing that I was from Linz and he was from Ohio.