I'm sure the answers will be all over the place on this one, but here's a little background. I've finally earned enough points to purchase a travel package that would cover a cat 7 stay, with enough miles for a flight to Europe. This is the first trip the wife and I have taken out of the States, and she's a little nervous about traveling Internationally, so we're just looking to relax and enjoy the sites at our own leisure.
Initially we thought Germany would be a great vacation, specifically Munich, for the availability of day trips and variety of locations. With the certificate limiting us to one location we just wanted to make the most of it. However, I'm a huge fan of Scandinavian culture and would love to visit the Copenhagen/Malmo area because of the location and day trip availability. Then again, who wouldn't love to see Prague, Brussels, Paris, London, Vienna...etc.
So, I'm wiping the slate clean and asking for help from you well-traveled individuals. If you were limited to staying at one location, what would be one place you would visit in Europe? All factors considered (i.e. day trips, prices, food, beer, elite benefits) and personal opinions are very welcomed.
Thanks to everyone in advance for the assistance!
Wow chaznotbono, that's a great question you've posted, though not an easy one to answer, since there are so many great options, and you've mentioned many of them in your own post! Many of the cities in Europe that have full service Marriotts have either more than enough to keep you happily occupied for 7 days or have many attractions/towns proximal enough to where you're staying that you could easily do day trips, either by rental car or bus tours. I can only speak to a few cities really, but I know that others will weigh in with their experiences as well.
London - can totally occupy you for 7 days without leaving the city. For a break from the city, do a bus tour to Stonehenge, Salisbury (charming town, cathedral, magna carta) or Bath (don't do one that takes you to more than two places in a day, preferably one place/day outside the city, because you will be rushed through and end up wondering, 'What did we just see?'). You can also take the regional train from Waterloo to Windsor Castle, or tube to Kew Royal Botanical Gardens (wonderful).
Hotels - Lots of good Marriotts, I have only stayed at London County Hall and can recommend it as an excellent option.
Paris - same for this one, if you want to leave the city, you can take the regional train to Versailles or do a bus tour day trip to Bruges or the Loire Valley (for either visiting castles or wineries). Also if you are willing to rent a car for a day (we did, it was very reasonable), you can go to the Loire or elsewhere, like Chartres or Reims, and spend the night somewhere in a castle village at a charming boutique hotel for under 100€ (and great hospitality, I use www.booking.com), which is so reasonable. We did this, and while yes, we technically wasted points due to not spending one night in town, we had the convenience of being able to leave all of our stuff in the room in the city without packing it all up, and just grabbed an overnight bag and headed out on our mini-adventure in the countryside. You can do this cheaply anywhere in Europe (don't know about Scandinavia, having never been there.)
Hotels - Have stayed at 5 Paris Marriotts. For first timers, would recommend Champs-Elysees or Ambassador Opera (my new favorite). Another favorite on this forum is the Renaissance Arc de Triomphe. All are centrally located and provide excellent service/hospitality. Champs-Elysees, no CL but complimentary breakfast. Lobby coffee will cost you - an arm. Beautiful, centrally located hotel however.
Vienna - You could easily stay occupied for 4-5 days (or more), visit Schonnbrun Castle (by S or U-bahn), then take a day trip by river boat to Bratislava (on my list), or even do a day trip to Budapest (3 hours by train/bus, 2.5 hours by car), Cesky Krumlov, 2 hours by car or Salzburg, 2.5 hours by rail (or check guided tour bus options). The Marriott is best for location, but the Imperial Riding School is less points, both hotels are excellent.
Munich - Ah, now there are a lot of options, including Salzburg, Fussen (see King Ludwigs Castles/Palaces at Fussen, Schwangau and Linderhof), Garmish-Partenkirchen in the Alps, Dachau and Munich itself has a lot to offer. Maybe go during Oktoberfest.
Belgium - Stay in Ghent (Ghent Marriott) and do day trips to Bruges, Brussels, and even Amsterdam if you want. Or add a day or two in Amsterdam, flying in and out of Schipol (get to Ghent by train).
Rome - 7 nights at the Grand Flora, and there are a number of day trips you can take from Rome, Ostia Antica, Tivoli and Villa d'Este and Hadrian's Villa, Frascati (we did it by car), or the Medieval villages in the Sabine Hills (take a half day cooking class, super fun) or you can technically get to Florence (birthplace of the Renaissance) pretty quickly on a fast train, but there's just too much to do there, though you could get a nice overview in one day, I think. You could also do some villages in Tuscany or Umbria (2.5 hour drive by car). I think Pompeii, Sorrento, Amalfi or Capri (all south of Rome) would be probably be pushing it for a day trip, unless you wanted to add on a day or two, then - fantastic.
Well, there's a start. I look forward to reading other recommendations.
When are you thinking of taking your trip? Many of the popular hotels in the popular European destination cities book up months in advance. Being May, it's not too early to start looking and booking for next Spring. April is a great month to go and avoid the throng of tourists during the summer season. Also, whether March - June, plan on rain at least one day (I haven't been during any other months). It's Europe after all.
Spot on with Paris, Belgium and Rome. In the last 3-4 years, we've been to Paris twice, Rome (and other parts of Italy) twice and Belgium. You mentioned a number of day trips from Paris and Rome. I might even suggest you dig in to those cities and limit to a day trip per week. There is just so much to see. Every time we travel back, we peel the onion back just a bit more. Hang out in and discover new neighborhoods.
In Paris we took a market tour and cooking class in the Marais. Our one day trip, on one visit, was to Normandy. Long but rewarding day. Our other day trip, on another trip, was taking the high speed TGV out to Reims to tour champagne houses. In Paris, we stayed several times in the 7th and got to know the Boulanger, patisserie, fromagerie, our fruit guy at Rue Cler. And, though the metro is great and easy to navigate, we walk a ton. A great walking city! We are heading back next year - a week in Paris, after a week in Provence. Can't wait.
In our last Rome trip, we took a market walking tour through the neighborhood of Trastevere and spent time over in Testaccio, walking through their street merchandise marketing, visiting the beautiful protestant cemetery, strolling the very old (though in a new facility) Testaccio market, sitting at a small wine store in the evening, having glasses of wine with local families.
I've only done 1 day trip per visit as well (did 2 this last time, but only because we had the car an extra day, because of the way things worked out, so in addition to castle visiting in Loire, we took advantage and went over to Fontainebleu on another day. I agree, we'll never see all of Paris. But we can sure keep going back and trying, right?! We try not to do the same things over again whenever we go, unless it makes us really happy. This last visit, our 5th, we did musée l'Orangerie (guided tour in English, only 3 people and the guide was phenomenal), musée Picasso (reopened), Jardin Tuileries (beyond just a stroll through), Philharmonie de Paris, La Sorbonne (guided tour in French only, we hired an interpreter in advance, because we didn't want to miss a word!), Sainte-Chapelle (finally and which fit in perfectly with the Sorbonne), La Conciergerie, Saint-Séverin and Palais Garnier. Since you like to walk, have you by chance done Coulée Verte? I wanted to do it this trip, but couldn't sort it out. Now that I know where it is, I can't wait to return to check it out. I think it's just shy of about 3 miles long. Starts near Bastille and ends at Bois de Vincennes in the 12th. It looks like it puts NYC's High Line to shame (sorry, and I love the High Line.)
I like how you do the apartment stays. I would love to start doing that.
I would actually like to spend about a week in Normandie/Bretagne.
Paris lights my fire!
Great question, and pluto77 has some invaluable information that I would like to also expand on:
This would be easy for me, because having done it, it is efficient, cost effective, and memorable. Likewise, with a little help from your friends here at MRI, it will be easy, here goes;
Fly to London, stay at St. Pancras Ren!
From there plan on two day trips on the Eurostar that awaits you in the building. Go to Paris, one day, get out at Gare du Nord, take the "Open air bus" around Paris for the day, and go back to London that evening. If you like this, you can do the same to Brussels! All without having to pack/unpack and allowing others to drive you around in a cost effective way. You can see all of the sights, get off, if you like, and relax. Just remember to take some snacks for the trip with you, to save some money.
The rest of the time in London, you can also take the "Big Red Bus" around to all the sights in London, or take the tube, also in your building to places that you may be in a bigger hurry to see. The "Big Red Bus" stops at St. Pancras and is a lot of fun as well to see wonderful London from an open air seat.
That sounds pretty simple, but we all can help you with details, should you chose a trip like this.
Having been to all of the other places you mentioned, there is either not enough to fill up a week, or it is a much more expensive way to see the sights.
Good luck, you will have a lot of fun, no matter what you decide!
That is a great suggestion, jerrycoin!
chaznotbono, if you land on this suggestion, be sure to purchase your Eurostar tickets online and a couple of months in advance. It will save you some money. Train travel in France and Europe - Voyages-sncf.com
I've never done it. It doesn't appear to me to be very doable for a day trip, if that's what you are considering. Here are a couple of threads which describe all of the options, though none look worthy to me (a lot of time, hassle and expense to get to and from, not enough time to enjoy the sights.) In the past, I had considered taking a day trip from Paris to Normandie, but have never done it. Waiting to go to Normandie/Bretagne when I can give it the full amount of time it deserves on a leisurely schedule.
We did Normandy on a long day trip from Paris. They picked us up at our apartment in the 7th around 6:30am and dropped us off around 9:30pm (just in time for dinner). Went to the WWII museum in Caen - actually had a wonderful lunch there, with perfectly roasted chicken and bourdeaux. Then to Pont du Hoc, then Normandy, then the American Cemetery, then Juno Beach.
chaznotbono, good question! Maybe this will help!
Have been to Normandy about 5 times, and have yet to "Do it right"! Don't make the mistakes that I have made, here is an idea.
If Normandy is a priority, consider staying at La Defense Ren. in Paris. It is a nice property, with easy access to all in Paris. It is a lot less expensive than many other properties. You can drive, (Under 2 hours), or take a tour to Normandy. Note, I have always driven, and doing a trip on your own, is NOT the way to see Normandy. My experience is I don't have time on a one day trip to do Normandy justice.(On my own)
Now if you HQ in Paris, you could easily take the Eurostar, for the day to London, hop on the "Big Red Bus" at St. Pancras, and then go back to Paris that evening. The Eurostar trip will be memorable, and take about 2 hours 15 minutes. Other "Day trips", would include Versailles, The Loire Valley, Euro Disney, or Champaign region.
Give it some thought, and let us know how we can help!
You are sure coming up with plenty to do!
If you want to see WWI sights in France, consider staying at Euro Disney! You can take the Eurostar there from or to London. A commuter train serves Paris sights after about a 30 minute ride as well.
You sure have plenty to consider! What fun!
Eurostar Station at EuroDisney!
Plenty of rental car choices for a drive in the Marne, Loire, or Central France!
Again, have fun planning your trip!
And Marriott's Ille de France is right near Euro Disney. It will take about an hour and 15 minutes to get into Paris from there though (bus to Euro Disney train station and then train into Paris.) It is a great resort (timeshare) with golf nearby and excellent shopping 15 minutes away.
Wow! After looking at the St. Pancras Ren pictures I'm amazed, it looks incredible. I would have to pick up a chunk of points in the next few months to make a cat 9 feasible, but it definitely peaked my interest.
Is the Chambers club open to Gold/Plat in lieu of a CL? Also, do only certain guests have direct transfer from the hotel to the Eurostar, or did in interpret that wrong?
Thanks in advance.
Please tell us all about Scotland, doddsy69. It's on my list and I'm all ears. How would you recommend spending a 7 night Marriott travel package in Scotland? I saw my cousins pictures from Scotland. Looked pretty fantastic.
pluto77, did you make it to Scotland yet? If not, make sure you get out into the countryside. The highlands are a must see. It's a surreal landscape. Go in late spring or summer, and take coats and sweaters. We went in June and froze our butts off. I had to buy warmer clothes It was wonderful, though.
If you do go to Rome, here's the place to stay:
Grand Flora! Ask KH B732 @ HNL, as well, I took his advice and stayed in the same room he did. Spectacular!
This is the way to "Start your day"! In your room, and comped!
Rome and The Vatican offer so much! Don't forget to "Touch St. Peter"!
Trevi Fountain is a wonderful short walk from the hotel! One of the many fantastic sights of Rome!
Could not agree more on the Grand Flora. Stayed there for a week in April of 2014 and loved it. We stayed in Room 512. Large King, overlooking Via Veneto, but high enough to avoid the noise. As a Platinum gift, they had a wonderful bottle of chilled white wine and some fruit in the room. Very nice!! And breakfast every morning on the roof top terrace was Grand!
Good information to share! I never made it to the roof top terrace, but it sure sounded wonderful! I had to move from my initial room, because of the Via Veneto noise, (Low floor, but beautiful room). Moved to room 620, on the inside, and it was so peaceful. Wonderful place!
There was a wonderful "Sitting Room", and a nice bathroom as well!
The small shops around the hotel make staying there even more fun!
This is an awesome topic to have posed to the community chaznotbono!
Having never been to Europe, at all, to get over there, ANYWHERE, would be awesome!
When I get a chance to get over there, this forum is the first place I'll check for recommendations. No doubt about it.
Thanks for sharing!
It may sound predictable but I'd have to say Paris! The many attractions include The Louvre, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, etc and these are all great but what makes me keep going back is the food. My G-d! I have never eaten anywhere like I eat in Paris. It's also a great city for walking.
In addition there are so many day trips that you can take! Versaille, Champagne, and Normandy, and so many more locations. You can even take the Eurostar to London for a day trip via the Chunnel!
I'd have to agree on Paris as well. It is a great town for walking. You should also consider getting tickets for the bus tours and some offer a river tour along with 3 days of on-off tour busses. If you like to walk, you can really get all around this city by foot. It will wear you out though, so I'd suggest the bus to at least get you off your feet every now and then. My family and I spent 10 days in Paris in June of this year. We stayed at the Marriott Rive Gauche for 4 days and then went to the Marriott Village d'lle-de-France near Euro Disney. I think you'll see more of the city and save money if you also get the City Pass for museums. I probably wouldn't have gone into some if I'd had to pay extra and I was always glad after I went in. Musee d'Orsay is something that you just can't miss if you like art at all. The Louvre is also amazing but everything in d'Orsay is a masterpiece and is easily manageable in a few hours. I think I still have family lost in the Louvre.
Versailles is a good day trip as others have mentioned. It will be crowded unless you get there very early.
Some have suggested taking the train back and forth to London. If you do, get there early. There are sometimes backups in the lines to get through security and the trains DO NOT WAIT! I would suggest being there at least an hour early. You may just breeze through but you may not and you'll need the extra time. Also, if you know when you want to go, check the ticket prices on-line. There are large differences in ticket prices based on the day and time-of-day.
I'll be in Rome on in 3 days and it's been a while since I've been there so I'll wait to offer suggestions for that city until I get back.
Paris is a wonderful city. We have been going every other year lately and are heading back in the spring. Walking is the way to go. If you need to get somewhere quickly, just hop on the metro. Very easy to get around. If you want a very inexpensive way to see many of the major sites on a drive by, take the 69 bus from near the Eiffel Tower in the 7th, all the way to Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Then spend a few hours on a hunt through the cemetery, finding the tombs of famous folks like Balzac, Hahnemann, Oscar Wilde, Colette, Delacroix, Moliere, Marcel Proust, Rossini, Raspail, just to name a very small few - and yes, Jim Morrison if you must. It is a beautiful spot.
If interested in WWI sites in Belgium and WWII in Normandy, maybe consider something like this as an itinerary...
Fly into Brussels and train to Ghent for a night or two or more!
Train to Brugges for a few nights and do day trips to the WWI sites
Train to Lille and pick up a rental car
Drive to Normandy and see the the sites (Honfleur for a night or two, Bayeux for the tapestry, the WWII beaches, down to Mont St. Michel)
Drive to Caen, return the rental car and take the train to Paris. Or drive to Paris and return the car (some are skittish about driving in Paris)
Eurostar to London
Fly home from London
It was because of your single city requirement that I suggested Paris. It is more than large enough to keep you busy for a week and it is centrally located for lots of great day trips.
London, Brussels, and Rome would also fit a similar bill. One beauty of Paris, London, and Brussels is that you can make a day trip to any of them from each other.
Enjoy. You really can't make a bad choice among most of the suggestions that have been made on this thread.
3 places, depending on your personal tastes.
Cotswolds in England. Rent a car in London. Spend a day in Windsor to see the Castle. Drive to Bath and spend a night. Drive up through the Cotswolds staying there a couple of days. Stratford-on-Avon for the Shakespeare-philes. Maybe a night in Nottingham.
Amsterdam. Some of the best art museums on the planet, IMO. In particular the Reichsmuseum with some spectacular "Old Masters" paintings like Rembrandt's "Night Watch".
Rome. Can't get enough of the ruins there. And the food. Can easily spend a week in Rome. Maybe take a day trip to Florence.
FWIW, I've been to Paris over 100 times (one day trip each time). I can't think of a reason to go there voluntarily. I was also sorely disappointed with the Vatican. Particularly the Sistine Chapel. Didn't live up to the hype.
Here are a few reasons that I would go to Paris:
1. The food is fantastic!
2. Amazing museums, churches, gardens, parks, and other landmarks to see!
3. It's a great base for one day train trips to Champagne, Burgundy, Versaille, Lille, Amsterdam, London, and lots more.
4 A great city for just walking around.
We have been to Paris several times and we still want to go back.
I'm not as seasoned a traveler as many other Insiders, but of all the places I've traveled in Western Europe, England is my all-time favorite. I've got other posts in addition to the one here that you can locate on Insiders, if interested. No problem with language here, although it's most helpful to be able to drive on the English roads (steering wheel on right, and navigating the countryside on "wrong" side of the road for us Americans). You can take train into London, if you've never been there, but to me it's another big city, even though there are a number of interesting places to visit.
Thank you for all the advice, assistance, and recommendations. It's been a blast just reviewing and studying hotels and locations.
It looks like London is the front-runner, but my wife is making a push for Rome. She's very interested in the religious and historical aspects. From what I've seen on here, it looks like the Grand Hotel Flora is the place to be!!
Does anyone know if Gold Elites get complimentary breakfast there, or just the Platinums'?
Is there any possibility of booking the Flora with a 7-day cert? It looks difficult enough to get any reward stays there.
As always, thanks for the help!
Thanks to everyone that participated in this thread and offered advice and assistance.
My wife and I have decided to take our trip to Rome and do as the Romans. Unfortunately I didn't have the points for a Boscolo or Flora stay, so we'll settle for the Marriott Park this time.
Congratulations! You are in for a great time!
Having passed the hotel on the way to/from the airport, it is a nice value, good location, and should provide a great place to see/do all you desire in Rome.
BTW, keep watch on the news about the Rome airport. They have recently had problems with a terminal catching fire and some flights have been greatly delayed.
Don't forget to see previous posts on Rome travels and let us all know if you have specific questions that could make your trip more memorable and well within your budget!
Please let us know how it goes, and please send photo's if possible.
Good advice Jerry.
We flew back from Rome airport at the start of the month and had a nightmare journey.
Our flight was cancelled then the other flight we were supposed to be on was overbooked.
We ended up flying back to Gatwick instead and had a scenic bus ride from there to Heathrow after midnight!
So yes the fire they had at the airport has caused some disruption.
jerrycoin and sg1974,
I appreciate the heads up, looks like it was quite the ordeal for many people.
If anyone has some "must-do" tours, I would love the info. I was hoping that Dark Rome or Through Eternity would do a pick-up at the Marriott, but with it being that far out I'm not counting on it.
You are in for a wonderful time!
It is more expensive, but if you want something, memorable, hire a private guide and a driver! You will see everything in three hours and will be safe and comfortable. I would sacrifice, an expensive meal to enjoy the private tour. If you, or anyone else, wants to contact the guide, I would strongly recommend.
Patrick Lucey, at email@example.com
Patrick Lucey, take us thru the Sistine Chapel Gift Shop, where you can enjoy wonderful gift items!
This was a fantastic way to experience Rome! All in less than half a day!
On our first trip to Europe we went to Rome. You will love it, so much to do and see, and the food is wonderful. We booked an early morning tour at the Vatican through "Walks of Italy", I think it was called the Pristine Sistine. We were the first people in the chapel and it was not crowded and very quiet. We also did the Vatican "Scavi Tour" which you have to purchase well in advance through the Vatican. This tour takes you underground to the archealogical digs and tombs and to a small sampling of what they think are St. Peter's bones. We also enjoyed the Pantheon, the Colosseum, and the Roman Forum. We followed Rick Steve's night walk across Rome and that was beautiful. Towards the end we came around a corner and there was an orchestra playing in a small piazza and we sat and enjoyed a magical evening. I'm sure you will enjoy your trip!
Brilliant!! I'd never heard of the Scavi tour before, but I just emailed them after reading your post, it sounds amazing. My wife is Catholic and is very excited about seeing the Vatican and many of the Basilicas' in Rome. I think another huge draw for her will be the Scala Sancta.
I, on the other hand, am more excited about the underground Colosseum tour and making a day trip to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius.
Has anyone ventured to see the Ostia Antica?
Your wife may enjoy the Papal Audience on Wednesday mornings. You can get tickets here:
Do get there early and get a seat along the barriers for best view as he rides through in the Pope mobile. I was thisclose to him!!!
still very worthwhile to visit Vatican City and St. Peters. Also, look in to the Scavi Tour. A wonderful tour beneath St Peters, to some of the walls of the original St. Peters, built by Emperor/Pope Constantine, early Christian tombs, St Peters tomb and bones and much history on the history of Vatican Hill. Has to be booked well ahead of time, small tours, can request English. You get to go past the Swiss Guards, behind the walls. Very cool. www.scavi.va/content/scavi/en.html
Not sure where all my text went. We did the Scavi tour and loved it. Also crawled the Scala Sancta. Make sure you go to St Paul outside the Walls - one of the majors. Have been to Ostia. Went to Volpetti's in Testaccio and got all the making for a great picnic, along with a split of red. It was beautiful and only 35 minutes from the city by train. On the way back, we stopped off at the station for St Paul outside the walls. Incredible. We then walked back to the Pyramid station. Near the Pyramid station is the Protestant cemetery. I posted a picture above. And a few blocks from there is the new home of the very old and famous Testaccio market. Love Rome!
I lived in Europe for 10 years and traveled literally all over on business and for pleasure. My two favorite places in all of Europe are Provence (France) and Tuscany (Italy). In Provence I particularly like the area near Bonnieux, Ménerbes, and La Coste (the village of the Marquis de Sade, by the way). Magical area - one of the most beautiful places in the world, in my opinion. Great food, great weather, spectacular scenery - everything. My wife loves the market days they have in the little villages. Every time we go back she buys one of those Provençal style tablecloths that they sell in the markets. Tuscany is wonderful as well. Love the area around Montepulciano.
We have been to France a number of times, mostly Paris, but our first trip to Provence is coming up this spring - a week in Provence, followed by a week in Paris - with a few days stay in Lyon (and dining at Paul Bocuse). Looking forward to it. We love Tuscany. Montepulciano is beautiful and the wine is pretty special. Assisi, Perugia, Sienna, San Gimignano, Florence, Lucca - love it all.
As an American who has been all over the world, I find Europe kind of boring. Yes, many of the sites mentioned are beautiful and all of that. But being as the US is a melting pot of primarily European cultures, everything has a ring of familiarity. I would much rather be in Asia or Africa where the culture differences stand up and slap you in the face. See more cultural differences between California and Texas than I do between the US and most of Europe. So my favorite place in Europe is at an airport waiting for my flight to Asia.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity of living in Europe (Paris 1970's). This afforded me the opportunity to travel/visit cities in Western Europe at my whim.
Choosing one favorite place for me is impossible - the best I can do is to list my three favorite cities.
(In alphabetical order): AMSTERDAM, LONDON AND FLORENCE