17 Days in Europe – The Practical Bits

By 29th August 2017Europe17

If you want to read a diary about our trip through Italy, France and Switzerland, click here.

For the more mundane bits…keep on reading.

Where did we stay?

All in all, we stayed at 4 places – 2 in Italy (with one for just 1 night and the other for 7 nights), France for 2 nights and then Switzerland for 7 nights.

Our stop over in Brescia was in a Hotel.  It was great, included breakfast and had a small outdoor swimming pool and play area.  The rooms were a good size and good quality.  You could walk to the centre in about 15 minutes and it meant that you didn’t have to drive far off the motorway to reach it.  Click here for more info.

At Lake Garda we stayed in an Airbnb apartment.  It was spacious but basic.  It had good access to the Lake and shops but was up a hill.  Near Malcesine, it meant we were higher up the East side of the Lake, but that suited us and meant we had the most outstanding views.  Click here for details.

We didn’t actually stay in Chamonix, France.  Just outside in a place called Passy.  We would have preferred to stay in Chamonix, but just couldn’t afford it.  I wouldn’t be quick to recommend this place, but it was easy to get into Chamonix and overall, served us well.

And finally, we stayed in Grindelwald in Switzerland.  Our apartment was attached to a Hotel.  The place is really spacious, sleeps 8 and has an amazing view.  But a few things let it down, such as the loud road outside, the noisy apartment above, and issues with water pressure.  Still, it was very central and had free parking.

Getting around

We drove from accommodation to accommodation.  Our goal this time was to do as much of the travelling at the start and end of the trip, reducing the travel days on the actual holiday itself.  Brescia to Lake Garda was less than half a day (and most of that was sat in traffic), from there to Chamonix was about the same – maybe a little longer, and then from Chamonix to Grindelwald about 4 hours.

Think to yourself “You need to check out of one accommodation at 10am and can’t get in the next one until 2pm” – that’s pretty much dead time anyway, so why not make that travel time.

At Lake Garda we used the car pretty much all of the time and did the same in Passy.  In Grindelwald we invested in some travel passes – these are expensive but give you free travel on almost everything for the duration that you are there.  They are a must if you plan to go up and down the cable cars and use the trains.  There are quite a few on offer depending on what you want to see and how long you are going for.  This is the one that we bought.  Beware – it is over £200 pound per person.

What did you do?

Here is a full list of our key activities with links and a brief overview –

  1. Italy – Malcesine – Mount Baldo.  Amazing views and a rotating cable car.  Boom.
  2. Italy – Limone – a beautiful town set in the mountain side.  Famous for its lemons.
  3. Italy – Venice.  We drove from our place.  Took about 2 hours and we parked on the outskirts of Venice itself which mean we could walk in.  Parking was not really much of a problem, but be prepared to wait in the multistory for a little while.  We had no issues with traffic at all.  We parked here.  Venice is not everyones cup of tea, but in my opinion, should not be missed.
  4. Italy – Verona.  For me, this city captures everything about Italy.  It is really worth a day.  Again, we drove – about 1 hour from the Lake.  Parking was easy, traffic was normal for a city this size but not really a problem.  We parked on ‘8 Via Cesare Battisti, Verona’.  This time, we visited the Arena and watched a show.  I would recommend this, but chose what you want to see and where you want to sit carefully.
  5. Italy – Bardolino.  This is a great little town on the Lake side.  Touristy but still fairly classy.
  6. Italy – The Dolomites.  Absolutely not to be missed.  But you either need a car, or need to book yourself on a bus trip.  Either way you are in for a long long day, but a worthwhile one (weather permitting).  A highlight is the cable car up the Pordoi Pass.
  7. France – Auguille du Midi.  Essentially, this is as close to Mont Blanc as you can get other than walking up it.  The cable car takes you up through breathtaking scenery and spits you out very high up indeed.  It’s an expensive day out but if you love mountains, how could you not do it?  And of course, wander around Chamonix when you decide to come back down to earth.
  8. Switzerland – Schilthorn & Lauterbrunnen Valley.  For the full James Bond experience, travel to Piz Gloria on the top of the Schilthorn mountain.  Do a very exhilarating cliff walk and then wander back through the most beautiful valley in the world.  It is worth coming to Switzerland just to do this one day.
  9. Switzerland – The Top of Europe.  Extremely touristy, but for a reason.  Amazing really when you think about the whole experience – a train through a mountain and then the biggest glacier in Europe.  Zipwires, tubing and skiing all year round.
  10. Switzerland – Schynige Platte.  Not as developed as the other high points here, but possibly the best all round view that I have ever experienced.  Get the train to the top, take a picnic.
  11. Switzerland – First and Bachalpsee Lake.  Stunning views from a restaurant that serves great food and drink.  An easy walk to a spectacular Lake, a cliff walk, zipwires, play parks and bikes.  Something for the whole family.
  12. Switzerland – Mannlichen – The Royal Walk.  Not as good as the other things on the list, but a day where the travel is completely included in the travel pass prices and gives a really good overview of the whole area.

Where to eat?

I’m not even going to bother putting anything down here – there are a million places to eat, all much of a muchness.  Use Tripadvisor and local knowledge to get the most up to date info for your trip.

Money

Italy and France were relatively cheap – although we could have got stung for food if we had not shopped around.  Switzerland is like a cash black hole.  We spent £1000 in 3 days.  But we lived it large!  You can live thrifty here, but it takes significant planning.  Take heart though – it can be done.

If you have any specific questions please ask.

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