Questions?

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Questions? I am happy to answer any questions about Europe travel and vacation rentals or point you to some good resources.

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Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.

23 thoughts on “Questions?”

  1. We will be adding resources for Switzerland to Slow Europe soon. There are two good ways to find vacation rentals in Switzerland:

    1. Use the agency Interhome. They have a good website and vacation rentals all over Switzerland. Prices are listed on the site. I was using their site this afternoon to look at rentals for a trip we are planning in July.

    2. If you know which town you want to stay in, go to the tourist offices website. They are all in the format townname.ch. For example http://www.zermatt.ch or http://www.gstaad.ch . Nearly every tourist office website has a database of vacation rentals for the town and prices are listed.

    Prices of vacation rentals in Switzerland are good. We have been there many times in the summer. The quality of vacation rentals is high. For example, an apartment for two in Brienz (near Interlaken) is $744 per week in July (from the Interhome site).

  2. Pauline, I have read your blogs about Switzerland. I am currently in the process of putting ideas together for my 50th (yikes!) birthday, which corresponds with our 25th wedding anniversary. I’ve always wanted to see the Matterhorn since I was a young girl. Can you give advice for someone who has never been to Switzerland as to where to go? It all seems so beautiful! Please let me know. Thank you. Lillian

  3. Hi Lillian! You will love Switzerland. One thing to be aware of is the best time of year to go. The Matterhorn is best seen from Zermatt (in the Valais), a beautiful town up in the mountains and the best months to be there are June – September. July is a fabulous month in Switzerland because the wildflowers are in bloom – fields full of wildflowers. There are very nice vacation rentals and hotels in Zermatt. It is a popular town with tourists. You cannot drive there. If you drive you park 10 miles away and take the train in (we have done this). http://www.zermatt.ch

    You really don’t need a car in Switzerland because their trains and buses are very good.

    If you like to go walking/hiking, you can easily spend a week in Zermatt and take the mountain rides and do some walking. If you don’t plan to go walking, maybe just a few days in Zermatt because it is not a good base for exploring the area (it is too far away from other places).

    Another town that I would recommend for a first-timer is Grindelwald, up into the mountains from Interlaken, at the base of the Eiger. There is plenty to explore from here (and it is a good hiking area). You can take the train to the Jungfrau – up to a glacier. You can visit a lot of mountain towns in the area. Interlaken is also a good base here – and is a larger town. http://www.grindelwald.ch

    You might also consider a few days in Zurich (especially if you are flying in there) or Lucerne (smaller and only an hour from Zurich).

    I am happy to talk endlessly about Switzerland. We are planning to spend July there this summer. We have not booked anything yet – most places do not fill up in the summer – but are thinking about returning to Gstaad-Saanen (we love that area for hiking) and trying someplace new in the Valais.

  4. My husband and I will be returning to Switzerland for a 2nd trip (the first was 25 years ago) next year. His family comes from Bern, and so that is his favorite area, but when we were there before we traveled around most of the country but did not get to the southern (Italian) area so I would like to see the lakes, too. We won’t be doing serious hiking, but love the scenery, history, museums. Can you save our marriage? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Hi Vera! Bern is my favorite canton – I love all the Bernese Oberland towns starting with Engelberg (just outside the canton), to Meiringen, Grindelwald, Kandersteg, Lenk ending at Gstaad-Saane. Beautiful towns, incredible mountains. But you have probably seen that whole area.

    We have been to the Ticino (southern Switzerland on the Lakes) and I like Locarno. Swiss combined with Italian. It sits on the northern end of Lake Maggiore and you can take a boat into Italy (most of the lake is in Italy) or drive (or take buses) up into the small Ticino mountain towns. Friends of mine from England love Ascona, just west of Locarno – a beautiful lakeside resort.

    If you are starting in Bern to see family, maybe a nice plan would be to drive from Bern to Lac Leman and spend time in Lausanne, Vevey or Montreux. Still Switzerland, but now you are in the French speaking area. My friends who love Ascona are not hikers and like to explore the way you do – they loved the lakeside towns along Lac Leman. It is a beautiful area. We spent 2.5 wks in Leysin, up in the mountains above this area, summer 2007.

    From there you could drive through the Valais, over the Simplon Pass and into Italy, then cut across at Domodossola to Locarno. This drive is supposed to be incredible. The trip when we had planned to do it, the weather was so horrible that we skipped it. In Locarno you are back in Switzerland which keeps your Swiss husband happy, but you are almost in Italy.

    Then go into Italy to Lake Como or to the southern part of Lake Maggiore. This part of Italy is spectacular.

    That would be an incredible trip and would give you time in the French speaking part of Switzerland which is very different from the German area, and in the Italian speaking part and then into Italy.

    We both love Switzerland. It is always amazing to us the difference when you cross the border to Italy – cars no longer parked straight, more garbage along the road, a slight feeling of chaos, better coffee and the best pasta you have ever had.

  6. Ironically, my favorite location in the world is Greece and since my husband loved the orderliness of Switzerland, I was afraid the Mediterranean modus operendi would drive him crazy. Turned out he liked Greece (and Italy) as much as I did. But I still prefer the messy Med to the tidiness of the Swiss. As one of my sons said (admiringly) “This whole country is just one big postcard.”
    No family to visit–just ghosts of ancestors.
    Thanks for your suggestions for Ticino. I’m sure hubby be very happy at the prospect of all those mountain roads. He actually loves to drive in mountains–think its genetic?
    Anyhow, we will probably skip Lausanne and Montreux since we have been there before. But since our Italian trip took us only as far north as Venice, dipping into Italy is a very attractive prospect.

  7. Pauline, Thank you so much for all of your advice! We are really excited about this trip!! If you think of anything else I’ll be checking daily. I hope you have a wonderful time on your trip…it certainly sounds like it! Lillian

  8. Lillian, ask any questions as they come up. I added a “subscribe to post” feature where you get an email any time someone posts a comment here. It is below the “Leave a Comment” box.

  9. Pauline and Steve!
    Thom and I return to France for the last two weeks of May … celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary. This time we’re traveling on the weekend and will arrive 8:00 am Sunday, CDG. We’ve arranged a car service from the airport to our hotel in the 7th arrondissement. We leave the following morning from Paris for Beaugency, then Amboise, Saumur, Orleans and Paris. As you know, the countryside is our thing and the cafes and the beauty of French villages. Can you recommend some of these while we’re in that region? Also, a Sunday activity for our arrival afternoon … perhaps the Marais as shops may be open there? Our best to you both!

  10. Hi Nancy! Steve and I will be in Paris too, at the end of May. It sounds like a great trip. We debated about spending the week in the countryside or in Nice or in Paris and finally decided on Paris because it has been 21 yrs since we have been there. Also, this is a long trip (10 weeks) and the rest of it is in the English and Swiss countryside. But – I can’t answer your question because we don’t know France well. I will ask Marta and Chris, who both travel regularly to France, to post something.

  11. Nancy, if you really want to shop in Paris, the Marais is your best bet, because most retail outlets elsewhere in Paris are closed on Sundays. It’s a fun area for shopping, and on Sunday you will often find street musicians and/or people selling crafts in Place des Vosges. Another alternative would be to take one of the tour boats (or the batobus) from Tour Eiffel to Notre Dame, and maybe walk back to the 7th via Luxembourg Gardens. We always like to just walk around and savor Paris on our first day.

    Will you have a car outside Paris? It’s hard to make any specific recommendations without knowing more about what your plans are. Are you visiting specific chateaus?

  12. Pauline, are all your Paris meals reserved? Can we meet? We’ll be homeless for a week starting May 23, but still here.

    Dave

  13. Hi, Pauline,
    I’m in the beginning stages of planning my next grandmother-grandchild trip…I’m thinking of taking the now-16 year old to Italy, Florence specifically. We’re looking at October 2010.
    I have a few questions…we need a good 2 br/2 bath apartment that doesn’t cost the sun and the moon. I want the boy to have his own bedroom and bathroom. Actually, I want to have MY own bedroom and bathroom! Any recommendations? Any advice?
    Great website, Ms. Pauline!
    Oh, yes…have a fabulous time in France! My son is going there for a month and leaving in a few days. Hateful child, isn’t he?

  14. Hi Brenda! You are planning October 2010 and I still don’t have anything figured out for July 2009 (we will be in Europe and I am sure we will figure it out in June).

    As you know, apartments in cities are more expensive than in the countryside. Rome, Florence, Venice, Paris, London – all much more expensive. I have never rented an apartment in Florence, but I would probably look for something on the outskirts of the historic center or at least south of the Arno. October will be less expensive than June or September.

    Remember to compare apples to apples – if you were staying in a hotel, you would have two rooms. For a comparable price you can get a spacious apartment with a kitchen – I know that you are like me and like to prepare some of your own meals and that saves a lot of travel money.

    It is not always the case that you save money renting directly from the owner, but I do think it is less expensive (usually) to book with a local agency. We have a list of our favorites on the site: http://www.sloweurope.com/vacation-rentals/italy/florence.php

    Remember to send us a review after your trip!

  15. Hi Pauline,
    Any chance of posting some photos of the area you are in now? Trying to decide a day trip or two from Chipping Campden for this trip 2009. Looking at the free maps I got from tourist info. office. Towns seem fairly close, but driving on the wrong side of the road will be a challenge/scare for me.

    chiaro

  16. I will post photos in the next few weeks. I have some photos on Cotswolder: http://www.cotswolder.com/photos/ (one is a walk through Burford).

    From Chipping Campden there are great nearby places to explore. I like the village of Blockley (and it is Kathy Wood’s favorite). There are two gardens – Hidcote and Kiftsgate. You are not far from Broadway, a beautiful market town like Chipping Campden. From there you can get to the Broadway Tower (William Morris lived there!) and Snowshill Manor (we toured this on the weekend and loved the house and gardens).

    Stow-on-the-Wold is probably a 15 minute drive. It can be a bit crowded with tourists, but I love visiting this town – great restaurants, tea rooms and shops. It has many charming nearby villages: Adlestrop (Jane Austen’s uncle lived here and she used to visit), Oddington (Norman church), Lower Slaughter (picture perfect town on the River Windrush) and more.

    Burford is only another 15 minutes from Stow and really is a charming town, but if you are seeing Chipping Campden, Broadway and Stow, you don’t need to continue on to Burford unless you are in the mood for a drive.

    Tons more info on http://www.cotswolder.com (I know that you know this, but I can’t pass up a chance to link to it ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

    Email me your day trip plans if you want and I will give you my opinion.

    I just received a recommendation for a car service in the Cotswolds. The woman who wrote to me found my Cotswolder site. She was nervous about driving, so hired a local car service for four days and loved the tours. It is http://www.tourthecotswolds.co.uk. I will post her review on Cotswolder this week.

  17. We will be driving a rental car from Neuchatel to Florence, Italy at the end of July. We need to drop off two members of our family in Zurich before we drive to Florence. Can you recommend the best route to take (Neuchatel-Zurich-Florence) and how long that will take us?
    Should we have the two family members go by train to Zurich rather than driving them ourselves?

    *Julie

  18. I use http://www.viamichelin.com for European driving distances and it is great. We have driven from Zurich to Italy. It is autobahn/autostrada the whole way. You go through the Gotthard Tunnel, which is the best way to get through the Alps. There is usually heavy traffic before the tunnel as all the lanes merge to one and as the highway climbs up, and then you spend 20 minutes driving through the tunnel which I thought would be horrible, but it wasn’t.

    The signs are German (Eingang) on entry and Italian (Uscita) when you come out of the tunnel – which we found very amusing for no reason. We stopped at the first AutoGrill across the Italian border and the coffee was better but the cars were not parked as neatly!

    The trains are great in Switzerland so that might be a good option – to drive them to a main trainline and not to Zurich. Zurich is not such a huge, crazy city for driving though.

  19. Neuchatel is further west than I realized. You are going out of your way quite a bit to take your family members to Zurich. From Neuchatel you can drive to Lake Geneva, then take the St Bernard tunnel from south of Martigny. We drove through this tunnel 2 years ago and it is shorter than Gottard. You could out in northern Italy near Aosta.

    I would put the family members on a train to Zurich. You can look up the train schedules online. http://www.myswitzerland.com/ is a good resource.

  20. We’re back from France (Paris/Loire Valley) and celebrated our 40th anniversary with wonderful memories yet again! Weather just a little tricky, several overcast days but none with outright rain. Just wanted to mention, our Visa credit card is the type that must be swiped rather than inserted into those hand-held devices that many merchants/cafes are switching to. This proved to be troublesome as they didn’t want to take the next step in the card acceptance protocol which is to call and verify. It was occuring at random so it was hard to plan for. When it first occurred in Beaugency, I called Visa and was told if merchants accept Visa, they are obliged to carry out the protocol. Just FYI for summer travellers. We’re already thinking about Brussels/Denmark/Sweden for next year. Gotta tell you folks though, the Airbus coach situation is dreadful. We flew USAirways and it was soooo uncomfortable. I suppose it’s just a grin and bear it situation unless you want to fly business … we are not frequent flyers so no upgrades available for us.

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