QUESTION: There are 4 of us (husband, me, two children - age 20 and 17). My husband and I have been to Europe, but first trip for our children.We previously went to Paris, Strausburg and Colmar -- LOVED it! Now we are doing 2 week vacation -- trying to see a lot. We are the type of travelers that move around and like to see a lot! We are taking train from Brussels on May 25 and will arrive at 10 am. We have 2 nights in France and then want to move to Interlaken area in Switzerland.  Want to see Paris(walking tour in afternoon on May 25) and Versailles (morning of May 26). We also would like to see some of the smaller towns of France for our children to see. My husband was thinking about the Lyon area? At first we thought we would spend 2 nights in Paris and stop in Lyon on way to Switzerland. Now we are thinking of spending one night and then leaving in afternoon of May 26 to Lyon area (or another area that you suggest) and spending one night there --- then move onto Switzerland. After Switzerland we are going to Italy (thought about trying to see Munich - beer garden for our 20 yr old -- but may skip and go straight to Italy).  Our children really aren't in to museums and art but want them to see some classics of course. We love good food and wine and beer. Love the countryside. Hope that helps....Can you help me figure this out!!! I'm so confused!

ANSWER: Hi, Maryann from Georgia!!

Appreciate ALL of your family and travel detail that you have provided.  My first reaction is that you are trying to do . . . LOTS and LOTS . . . in a fairly short period of time.  Brussels, France, Switzerland, Italy, etc., etc.  

On a paper map, it seems to look possible and working.  BUT, it is the challenge with the "logistics" for getting around that makes things more difficult.  Lots of stops means more time for getting to varied locations/stations, checking in, unpacking, packing back up, checking out, etc., etc.  

There is the question of what and how do you want to “ENJOY" and "EXPERIENCE" things in these great parts of Europe, etc?  [B][I]Rush-rush and gulp it down[/I][/B] like soda pop or beer . . . OR . . . [B][I]sip and savor the moment[/I][/B] like fine wine, doing people watching, sensing an enjoyment of life and the humanity, the architecture, history and charm? It's your choice.  

How much do you want to do via rail versus rental car?  How flexible is your budget?   With more budget, you can speed and/or ease some of the your logistical challenges.  

Have you already booked your air tickets?  Are you going into Brussels and flying back out of Italy?

What towns and locations are your priorities for Italy??

Below are some of my notes and ideas on Paris.  You seem to be blowing very quickly through this great city in a very short time.  

Reactions to these various questions and comments????  Look forward to hearing back from you with more details and specifics.

Does this start to help a little? What are your needs for added information?  Be happy to provide additional info and answer other questions after learning more from you.  Be sure to complete the evaluation section so that our "bosses" on this volunteer service know we are working hard to make inquiring minds as happy as possible. ENJOY!  Merci Beaucoup!

Thanks.  Terry Casey in Columbus, Ohio


FAST FACTS:   Paris is 2.1 million people in the main heart of the city.   There are 10.9 million in the metropolitan Paris area or 18% of the total for all of France.   The Metro has 124 miles of track with 368 stations.

36 million tourists visit Paris yearly, with 60% of them from abroad.   Paris has two main airports, Orly and de Gaulle, handling over 70 million customers.

WHAT MAKES PARIS GREAT/UNIQUE?:   With style and sophistication, Paris is correctly proud of its cultural achievements over the centuries.   This confidence is expressed in Parisian life, including its architecture from ancient structures to controversy over Hausmann's bold late 1800's master plan and more recent modern developments.

Paris has taken bold decisions, including the Lourve with is now well-accepted glass pyramid by I. M. Pei.

Although at the heart of Europe, Paris is very individualistic and intuitive.   The city has attracted great writers artists and thinkers.   Historically, it has been a city of unrest, rebellion and revolution (an idea they helped finance in America and that lead to the sharp-edged 1789 removal of the Royal family).   Paris has a special style and soul.   It is a high-flying mix of architecture, fashion, history, idiosyncrasy, style, texture, color and atmosphere.   Paris is romantic, distinctive!

(Some times might have been adjusted slightly since this was put together a couple of years ago; plus there can always be strikes, budget shortages, etc. that affect scheduled openings in France.)

1. LOUVRE (closed Tuesday, open 9-6, Monday and Wednesday until 9:45 p.m.) with Cafe Louvre on site for lunch or dinner (and break or rest), plus food court area with wide mix of different items. This museums’s encyclopedic coverage is divided into seven departments covering ancient times to middle of 19th century; Pyramid entrance designed by I. M. Pei, opened in 1989; very big and can spend four days there and still not see everything; Denon (south) Wing on first floor has many of the key European paintings; Richelieu (north) Wing opened in 1993 and has large, covered sculpture courtyard in its middle; Sully Wing (east) has mostly Egyptian and other antiquities.  Over eight million visited the Louvre in 2006.  It’s very popular! From this website (, you can get more detailed information about its collection exhibits, facilities, etc.

2. NOTRE DAME AND PALAIS DE JUSTICE on island of Seine River at site of Paris' start; Notre Dame completed during the 1163-1345 period, tours 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; famous southern Rose Windows, climb up 380 steps of the tower for the best views of the city; Sunday night 5:30 p.m. organ concerts; famous Rose stained glass windows; Sainte Chapelle near Palais de Justice is 700 years old with outstanding stained glass windows; La Conciergerie is prison where many, including Marie Antoinette were held prior to being guillotined, is well-light at night with its unique architecture, functioned as prison from 1391 to 1914.  Cathedral is open every day of the year from 8:00 am to 6:45 pm (7:15 pm on Saturdays and Sundays).  Web site: PRIORITY

3. MUSEE D'ORSAY (door-say) (closed Monday, open 10-6, except Thursday 10 am-9:45 pm), covers 1848-1914 period and is especially great for Impressionist art.  It is a former railway station and hotel with an excellent cafe in museum (doing lunch in this spectacular dining room is a nice way to break up the visit, re-charge and get nice food service).  This dining area is a magnificent space defined by enormous windows, lighted by crystal chandeliers with gilded decoration bringing out the radiance of the sculpted ceilings.   Thursday night is perfect for walk from museum west toward Assemblee Nationale and cross Seine River bridge towards Place de la Concorde seeing all of the building lighted and then looking back towards Eiffel Tower; Place de la Concorde was designed in 1775. From this website (, you can get more detailed information. PRIORITY

4. EIFFEL TOWER, (985' tall, 3rd floor at 305', built for 1889 Universal Exhibition). The vistas are magnificent and breathtaking from the topmost platform, especially one hour before sunset. Built in commemoration of the centenary of the French Revolution, weighing 7,000 tons, it was the world's tallest building until 1930. Nearly demolished in 1909 at the expiration of its 20-year lease, the Tower gained new utility as a perch for broadcast antennae and was saved. The Eiffel Tower is open every day all year long,
from 9:30 am to 11:00 pm, January 1 to June 12 and September 1 to December 31
- from 9:00 am to midnight, June 13 to August 31. Web site:

5. SEINE BOAT TRIP (can board at Pont Neuf), great views of famous Paris sights, especially at night as major buildings are lighted. From this website (www., you can get more detailed information on one of the companies offering these trips.  Doing the dinner cruise can be marginal.  The views and ride are special, not at a great dining experience.

6. CHAMPS-ELYSEES and ARC DE TRIOMPHE, started 1806 to celebrate Napoleon's early victories, completed in 1836, 165' high and is the world's largest triumphal arch. It is at the center of a star-shaped configuration of 12 radiating avenues, including the Champs Elysées. The Arc de Triomphe offers a vista seen the length of the Champs Elysées from the smaller Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in the Tuileries Gardens and from the Obélisque de Luxor in the Place de la Concorde.  Since 1920, the tomb of France's Unknown Soldier has been sheltered underneath the arch and this site has an eternal flame for World War I & II fallen soldiers.  There are stairs climbing to the top of the Arc de Triomphe with great views over the city from this vantage point.   Website:

7. MONTMARTRE/BASILIQUE DU SACRE-COEUR (church started being built in 1875 on one of highest points in Paris, dedicated in 1910); dome is second highest point in Paris, took 35 years to build with public conscription, great views at dawn and dusk plus from dome area over city, area made famous by artist Toulouse Lautrec, cubism born there; do direct Metro here, nearest station is Anvers or Pigalle. With its narrow cobblestone streets, gardens, steep steps and view over the city, this area is the emblem of romantic Paris.  This church was mainly dedicated in the memory of those thousands who died in the uprising of the Paris Commune of 1870-71.  Two dining options to consider in this area are: La Cremaillere on the famous Place du Tertre, where artists and intellectuals would meet. Just before World War I many artists such as Picassso, Modigliani, Utrillo and Apollinaire lived nearby. +33 1 4606 5859,, Open Hours: 9a-12:30a M-Su.  Au Lapin Agile gives a flavor of Montmartre as it was at the turn of the century when it was a favorite of local artists and intellectuals. Open Tuesday to Sunday 9pm to 2am. 22, Rue Saules, 75018 Paris, +33 1 46 06 85 87,

8. LUXEMBOURG PALAIS and Gardens, built in 17th century for Marie de Medici, now houses French Senate, food available in gardens, great place for picnics. This 25-hectare green oasis on Paris' fashionable Left Bank has formal gardens populated with many statues (including one of Sainte-Gèneviève, patron saint of Paris), fountains and beautiful flowers.

9. SAINT GERMAIN MARKET, open 8 a.m.-1 p.m. and 4-7 p.m., open air, various food and meat items, near apartment; many galleries, cafes and antiques shops in area; rue de Buci street market.

10. ST. SULPICE CHURCH, second largest church in Paris, block from our apartment, famous for its organ and DeLacroix paintings, took 134 years to build, open 7:30 7:30.

11. LE MARAIS Area, NE of Hotel de Ville/City Hall, has Musee Picasso (structure built in 1659, opened in 1985 to settle his estate, open Wednesday-Monday 9:15 5:15) and Musee Carnavalet (built in 1540, two adjoining mansions with decorative arts from the various periods in Paris history), older area starting around metro St Paul station, has Jewish section in area with special foods and historic areas.  It has the super great park and architecture of the Place des Vogue area. The Place des Vosges was the prototype for the residential squares of European cities that were to come. What was new about the Place Royale in 1612 was that the house fronts were all built to the same design, of red brick with strips of stone over vaulted arcades that stand on square pillars. Cardinal Richelieu had an equestrian bronze of Louis XIII placed in the center of this charming park. Nearby is Brasserie Bofinger, one of the oldest and classiest places to dine (  It has a gorgeous domed stained-glass ceiling over the main dining room.

12. MUSEE RODIN, has nice scale in both the interior exhibit area as an old mansion, plus the gardens with the outdoor sculpture, at Varenne Metro stop next to Hotel des Invaldes, has third largest private garden in Paris, originally built in 1730, Rodin used as his studio from 1908 until his death in 1917, open Tuesday Sunday 10-5:45.

13. PALAIS-ROYAL, former home of Cardinal Richelieu who died there in 1642, old houses, restaurants, teas rooms and shops border the formal gardens on three sides, near Louvre.

14. POMPIDOU CENTER or Beaubourg Museum, opened in 1977, closed Tuesday; mostly post 1918 art work; duct-work and steel framing on outside. From this website (, you can get more detailed information.

15. PARIS OPERA HOUSE/OPERA GARNIER, opened 1875; 2nd Empire style, see its grand staircase and foyer, 2156 seats, large stage area, current home of Paris Ballet.  Wonderful place to do a tour.  It was recently re-done in 2004 for many of the key reception rooms with all of the great gold trim, etc. Spectacular to see! A model for many auditoriums around the world, this fine piece of design was constructed in the time of Napoleon III as part of Haussmann's city development scheme. Charles Garnier submitted the winning design and construction lasted from 1860 to 1875. Enjoy the marble Grand Staircase, the red and gold auditorium, the ceiling by Chagall and an eight-ton crystal chandelier. From this website (, you can get more detailed information.

16. MUSEE DE L'ORANGERIE de Tuileries, impressionism collection, including Monet's work; closed Tuesday, open 9:45-5:15 p.m. ( It has unveiled a fresh look, with its 19th- and 20th-century works relocated underground, and Claude Monet's famed Nymphéas displayed as the artist intended them to be: lit by sunlight, in large oval galleries that recall the shape of the garden ponds on his Giverny estate.

17. MUSEE MARMOTTAN, open most every day (except Jan. 1, May 1 & Dec. 25) 11 am-6 pm, with its excellent impressionist art, including Monet works. From this website (, you can get more detailed information.  At 2, rue Louis-Boilly, this Museum possesses the world's largest collection of works by Claude Monet. It has a very complete and representative group of works of theses artistic movements, including more than three hundred paintings, pastels, watercolors and sculptures of the Impressionists and Post-impressionists super-stars.

18. HOTEL LES INVALIDES, Napoleon' s tomb, 643 foot dome, built in 1676 by Sun King, Louis XIV, for old soldiers, many disabled, open 10-5:45.

19. ILE SAINT LOUIS is one of the most charming little areas in all of Paris. So nice to stroll up its main street as you walk towards Notre Dame and other key highlights. Famed Berthillon ice cream: The only true Berthillon can be found at 31, rue St Louis-en-l'Ile, where it was born. This delicious ice cream has rich colors and equally intense flavors. It comes in myriad flavors, but the rum raisin, dark chocolate (chocolat noir) and mango (mangue) flavors are incredible. This is divine dessert territory.  Lots of Boutique shopping and dining places line this street in the heart of Paris.  Try Brasserie Ile St-Louis, 55 quai de Bourbon, 1er (tel. 01/43/54-02-59), that Frommers calls the last independent brasserie in Paris.  They note: “Far from the polished restaurants that masquerade as true brasseries, this one has as its heart old Paris.”

VERSAILLES: By suburban subway/train (RER-C5 line, from St-Michel, every 15 minutes) or train (30 minutes) from Saint Lazare; started being built in 1660's for Sun King Louis XIV (during 1661 to 1715 period, involved 32,000 to 45,000 workers) in French classical architectural style; conceived as a world unto itself as seat of government, permanent residence of the royal family and the cream of nobility, was previously modest hunting lodge in swampy area; palace highlight is 236-foot long Hall of Mirrors where the treaty was signed ending WWI; a three-year restoration of this spectacular Hall of Mirrors was just completed in June 2007; through 2020, they are completing a $455 million project to upgrade Versailles with cleanings, new roofs, other restorations, etc.; this property has 700 rooms, 2,153 windows, 352 chimneys and 28 acres of roof; in the huge garden areas are Grand Canal, Grand Trianon, Petit Trianon and Hameau used by Marie Antoinette; town population of 100,000; possible bus tour or car drive options out to Versailles; open 9:45-5, park open sunrise to sunset; tour palace first and gardens later (closed Monday). From this website (, you can get more detailed information.

PARIS METRO/SUBWAY: Great, great system! Probably best to buy packets of ten tickets, rather than a multi-day, three or five day pass. There are fourteen different subway lines, plus the four different suburban RER rail options. It is important to know which line or lines you want to use, IN ADVANCE, and the name of the end station for your direction so that you go down the right set of stairs to be on the correct side of the tracks. It's not as simple as New York City with uptown or downtown! But it offers totally great, fast, frequent service. Very clean and nice!  Single tickets (1.60 Euros) may be purchased at the counters each time, but the better value is a carnet of 10 (11.40 Euros), which will also save you waiting in line. For all day use, for adults (there is a cheaper children’s daily pass), the pass cost in euros is for one day (8.80), two days (14.4), three days (19.6), or five days (28.3).  Compared to London, the daily pass might not be the best value.  It depends on your needs.  WEBSITE for maps and other info/details:

PARIS MUSEUM PASS: Strongly suggest getting the Paris Museum Pass for access to 60 museums and monuments in Paris and the surrounding region. Multiple visits to the same museums are possible and there is no waiting in line. You get:
* Entry into more than 60 Paris museums and monuments inside and outside Paris, including Arc de Triomphe, Pantheon, The Louvre, Notre Dame, Musee d'Orsay, Musee National du Chateau de Versailles, Musee National Picasso, Pompidou Center, Musee Roding, Chateau de Rambouillet, Basilique Saint-Denis, Chateau de Chantilly, Fontainebleau, etc.
* Multiple visits to the same museums or monuments at no extra charge
* Validities: 2, 4 or 6 consecutive days
* No admission charge, no waiting in line
Paris Museum Pass, 2-Day Pass 32 Euro
Paris Museum Pass, 4-Day Pass 48 Euro
Paris Museum Pass, 6-Day Pass 64 Euro
You can get the Paris Museum Pass at the Paris Tourist Office, and in its reception offices in Paris train stations, and the Eiffel Tower or at over 60 museums and monuments concerned.
More info:

GIVERNY  is best known as Claude Monet's garden and home, sitting on the "right Bank" of the River Seine. The village lies 80km or 50 miles northwest of Paris on the border between the province of Normandy and the Île-de-France. Claude Monet noticed the village of Giverny while looking out the train window. He moved there, renting a house and in 1890, he saved enough money to buy the house and land.  He created the spectacular gardens he wanted to paint. Some of his most famous paintings, such as his water lily and Japanese bridge paintings, were of his garden in Giverny. This pond and bridge are actually separated by a roadway between this scenic feature and the main house/gardens. There is an under the road connector linking these two parts of this wonderful site.  Monet lived in Giverny from 1883 until his death in 1926. He is buried in the village cemetery. Monet's house and gardens were opened to public visit in 1980 It is open April 1-October 31, Tuesday through Sunday, closed on Monday.  You reach Giverney by taking the train from to Vernon. You can get more info about this area and its options from As per, two of the best rail connections to Vernon (Giverney's nearby town) are from St Lazare station at 8:20 am or 12:20 pm arriving in 46 minutes.  There are some other rail options, but they would involve changing trains at Mantes and this would take more time in getting to Vernon/Giverney.

South of Paris grand palaces and gardens:

FONTAINEBLEAU is one of the largest French royal chateaus.  It is located 34.5 miles south of Paris. The palace is the work of many French monarchs, building on an early 16th century structure of Francis I. The building is arranged around a series of courtyards. The city of Fontainebleau has grown up around the remainder of the Forest of Fontainebleau, a former royal hunting park. Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, began to transform Fontainebleau into a symbol of his grandeur, as an alternative to empty Versailles, with its Bourbon connotations. Napoleon hosted Pope Pius VII there in 1804, when he came to consecrate the emperor, and again in 1812–1814, when he was Napoleon's prisoner. With modifications of the château's structure, including the cobblestone entrance wide enough for his carriage, Napoleon helped make the château the place that visitors see today. At Fontainebleau Napoleon bade farewell to his Old Guard and went into exile in 1814. Fontainebleau was also the setting of the Second Empire court of his nephew Napoleon III.
Their website, but only in French:

VAUX-LE-VICOMTE, a baroque French chateau located near Melun, 55 km southeast of Paris, was built from 1658 to 1661 for Nicolas Fouquet, Louis XIV’s finance minister.
This grand estate was the most influential work and most elaborate and grand house built in Europe in the mid-17th century.  Architect Louis Le Vau and landscape architect André le Nôtre worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of a new order: the magnificent manner that is associated with the "Louis XIV style" involving a system of collective work, which could be applied to the structure, its interiors and works of art and the creation of an entire landscape. The garden's use of a baroque axis that extends to infinity is an example of this style. The château was lavish, refined, and dazzling to behold, but these characteristics proved tragic to its owner. The King had Fouquet arrested shortly after the famous party  on 17 August 1661, with Molière's play 'Les Fâcheux.  The celebration had been too impressive and the finance minister's home too luxurious. The King seized Vaux Le Vicomte, had his minister jailed and had its team of artists design what would be a much larger . . . the palace and gardens of Versailles!  
For more info:

For Paris and nearby bus/coach tours, look at:

For private, personal tours, check with
Or, her website of


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks so much for all of the information. Yes, I'm afraid of trying to do too much. Don't want to feel rushed, but still want to cover territory... a fine line I know! I will try to answer the questions you asked.

Flying into Brussels (land on the 24th) and out of Rome (June 6). Spending first night in Brugge and then catching either the 7:00 am or 9:00 am train to Paris on may 25 (thoughts on which train to take? --- with jet lag, etc.--- but anxious to get to Paris!) Our budget is flexible. Planning on traveling by rail (buying an unlimited pass) -- hoping to take high speed train or overnight trains when possible to maximize time). For Italy, we were going to do Venice, Tuscany (maybe one night), Cinque Terre area, and end in Rome (also would like to take our son to Ferrari). I think we should get a guide in Paris and Rome -- don't you -- so we can move around quicker, avoid lines, etc...?

Hi, again, Maryann from Georgia!!

Appreciate your nice ratings and added travel details.  

WOW!  Again!  I see mentions about doing Cinque Terre, the Ferrari plant, etc., etc.  Glad you are properly concerned on "trying to do too much".  As an example, if you are going to land on the morning of the 24th and then get to Bruges, that does not leave much "net, NET time" to see and enjoy that super enjoyable and charming town that we loved so much.  Especially given the jet lag and lack of solid sleep realities from your trans-atlantic flight, many people will find it harder to enjoy Bruges fully under these conditions.  AND, then early the next morning, you want to rush to Paris11//  I have done the train from Bruges to Brussels and then to Paris.  It is all possible, BUT, you are trying to pack in LOTS and LOTS!!!

Overnight trains can or might help, maybe111  BUT, do not expect all members of your family to get solid, ideal sleep when doing your logistics in that manner.  

AGAIN, what seems to connect or work on "paper", might NOT be as much fun and totally enjoyable when you need to accomplish this type of travel over a longer period of time.  

If you cut out Switzerland, that might make things more reasonable and possible.  Personal choice.  ALL of these varied locations are great.  We have been there.  Loved it all.  BUT, trying to do too much in too short of a time period has its challenges.  

There are pro/con factors on unlimited rail passes.  Personally, I would look at doing a mix of rail and rental car travel.  Have started to look at detailed rail schedule to see how this potential "SEE IT ALL" plan would work in a detailed manner?  

Tell me more and keep me posted on your travel planning.  

What are your needs for added information?  Be happy to answer any other questions.

ENJOY!  Merci Beaucoup!  

Thanks.  Terry Casey in Columbus, Ohio  


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Terry Casey


Most experienced for Paris, Loire Valley, Provence, Dordogne, Alsace, Burgundy, Normandy and Reims/Champagne Country. Terry likes helping travelers get trip "flow and pacing" right so your adventure is neither . . . a bore, NOR a blur! Make sure your timing works, fitting your interests, tastes, personal experiences and needs. Terry has planned and done great trips to the Baltics, Russia, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Ireland, England, Austria, Italy, Czech Republic, Hungary, Greece, Norway, Turkey and Switzerland, plus South America and Cuba. Did wonderful April, 2007, week in Paris, summer 2008 southern England trip, summer 2010 fjords/North Cape, Norway coast, etc. Has visited twenty=two different countries in Europe. You can check out our Norway coast/fjords adventure with lots of great pictures from last summer at: This live/blog has gotten nearly 52,000 views. For Villefranche, ports in Italy and along the the Croatian coast, you can check this live/blog. We are now at 42,762 views here. France is great, but these other parts of the Europe are wonderful, too!!!


There is much post 9-11-2001 worry about travel to Europe, but all reports and experiences say things are fine, with proper care and planning. From wide travels in many parts of Europe in 2005- 2008, my personal experiences are that things are good there and reasonably behaving Americans are treated well. See, enjoy the world and experience its great diversity! I have visited 20 countries in Europe and know that there's lots there to see and do. PROVIDE KEY BACKGROUND INFORMATION with QUESTION: To help me answer your questions better, please provide some info on your past France/Europe travel experiences, ages, general budget range, personal travel style/interests, number in your party, what you most want to enjoy and see, etc.

Ohio State University grad

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