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shap_half
Dec 24th, 2012, 05:32 PM
Hello, everyone!

So, I'm taking a 6-week sabbatical to travel around Europe in January and February. (I reckon it's not really a sabbatical as it's so short, and I'm a freelancer so I suppose I will try to get some work done during this stretch.) The trip's first two weeks have a bit of structure to it:

I'm going to be in Portugal for a few days to celebrate New Year; then I'll be headed to Zurich for another three or four days and then checking out either Basel or Lausanne before heading to Geneva and flying out from there. Here's where it's a complete free-for-all. As I really want to go to places I've never been to before (I've been to both Lisbon and Zurich) I'm looking into going to Budapest. I've been told that winter in Hungary can be quite challenging as it's very cold. I personally don't mind - I live in New York, and while our current situation is unseasonably warm, I'm accustomed to biting winter climate. And I found a super cheap ticket from Geneva to Budapest on the day I want to fly out. From there I think I want to go back to Tel Aviv and get a bit warmer weather for a week or so.

Anyway, none of these has been booked so I wanted to reach out to the well-traveled TF community for some feedback. I just know that I have to fly back from Paris to New York on February 13th so I can't really travel to like South Africa or Thailand. And some other destinations I'm considering include Belfast, Manchester, Valencia, Munich, Marseille -I've never been to any of these places. I've also thought about going to Sicily, but it's not the most accessible from all the other places on my list. I really, really want to go to Beirut, but again access is the issue here. And I am a bit concerned to go to the Middle East in general, which is why going back to Tel Aviv is also a bit of an uncertainty.

PS: I don't know how to ski so Courchevel, Tirol and the like are out of the question.

kwilliams
Dec 24th, 2012, 06:44 PM
A friend of mine who lived in Switzerland for a number of years said that Basle was quite a snoozefest. I personally think a lot of Switzerland is a bit toooo sedate so if Basle is the worst of the big cities it must be bad! Lausanne at least seems to be beautifully situated (only went through it on the train but it looked nice!) and is close to Geneva.

I was in Budapest in February of 2010 which was a very bitter winter in Europe. There had been chunks of ice the size of cars floating in the Spree in Berlin!! Neither Berlin or Budapest were as cold as Paris was that Feb. though! If you haven't booked anywhere, I'd recommend Pal's Apts (on hostelworld.com) the apts are in different buildings around the main square. We had a perfect view of St. Stephen's Basilica!! Our apt was so quaint and retro. I felt like a spy behind the Iron Curtain in the 60s or something!! You have your own space and Pal is there if you need him but won't bother you otherwise! I found it to be a great setup...and the prices were VERY reasonable back then. Enjoy Budapest. It's a fantastic city!! Oh, there's a nice restaurant called Kyoto near the bridge (totally can't remember how to spell Schzenyi!!!) that does really nice cocktails...the food's decent but not amazing from what I remember.

There has been quite a bit of trouble in Belfast recently. Some local (Nationalist) councilors voted to remove the Union Jack from City Hall. It is only to be flown on special occasions a few times a year now and there has been unrest ever since. My brother's friend was up there recently and there was a petrol bomb thrown at a car right outside his hotel! Then a bus with an Irish registration plate was stopped by a mob in the street and bricks were thrown at the windows. A councilor's office was attacked. It's been a long time since there has been such unrest of this nature. It seems to be dying down but I'd say now might still not be the best time to visit. The Titanic Museum is supposed to be underwhelming as well.

Munich is fun and has a bit of everything but I haven't been there in years. I'd really like to go to Valencia but mostly just to see that science expo park. Lyon is supposed to be much better than Marseilles, if you'd consider going there.

Enjoy your trip!

Happy Holidays. Time for me to go for a tipple now :)

shap_half
Dec 26th, 2012, 04:39 PM
Thanks, Keith. Hope you had a lovely Christmas.

I'm still thinking through my plans. I want to have a loose itinerary, but I'm no backpacker so some structure is absolutely necessary. I'm looking into accommodations in Budapest now, and I'll most likely follow through with plans to go to Tel Aviv, at least for five our six days. I want to explore more of Israel, but the situation there is making it a bit scary. For example, I will not be boarding any busses.

Too bad about Belfast. I've long been fascinated, I have to say, but its airport isn't served by too many airlines for direct travel to the other places I want to go to so I suppose it's for the best to skip out on it for now.

I'll look into Lyon. At this point, I'd just be happy to see another part of France that isn't Paris. I've been to Paris five or six times, and I've yet to spend any time anywhere else.

I'm pretty sure I will definitely head to Munich. I really want to squeeze Valencia in there but I've no clue how...

Fantasy Hero
Dec 26th, 2012, 07:59 PM
you should consider taking a rail pass, that will be much cheaper and you will be able to move around with almost no additional costs, i've done that twice and i can give you some tips if you want.
Considering you will be starting from Lisbon, you could do something like Madrid, Barcellona, Geneva-Florence, Venice, Ljubljana-Vienna, Budapest. before going back to Paris and then to the USA.

azdaja
Dec 26th, 2012, 08:24 PM
Thanks, Keith. Hope you had a lovely Christmas.

I'm still thinking through my plans. I want to have a loose itinerary, but I'm no backpacker so some structure is absolutely necessary. I'm looking into accommodations in Budapest now, and I'll most likely follow through with plans to go to Tel Aviv, at least for five our six days. I want to explore more of Israel, but the situation there is making it a bit scary. For example, I will not be boarding any busses.

Too bad about Belfast. I've long been fascinated, I have to say, but its airport isn't served by too many airlines for direct travel to the other places I want to go to so I suppose it's for the best to skip out on it for now.

I'll look into Lyon. At this point, I'd just be happy to see another part of France that isn't Paris. I've been to Paris five or six times, and I've yet to spend any time anywhere else.

I'm pretty sure I will definitely head to Munich. I really want to squeeze Valencia in there but I've no clue how...
skip munich and go to valencia, i say :oh: i don't know if the time of the year is the best but valencia is totally underrated, mostly being in the shadow of barcelona.

i love budapest and there are many places to stay there that would be good for many different reasons. as for tel aviv, some of my friends will be there for the new year's eve.

bulava
Dec 27th, 2012, 09:10 AM
I'm looking into accommodations in Budapest now, and I'll most likely follow through with plans to go to Tel Aviv, at least for five our six days. I want to explore more of Israel, but the situation there is making it a bit scary. For example, I will not be boarding any busses.
It's not that scary now compared to 2000s, I've been there thrice on deputation (~11 months total time). You try to visit Haifa because it's a great place to be for many reasons.

About Europe, if you really want to enjoy (real watching/feeling) then try to travel by Eurail passes instead of flying. Of course it depends on your parameters, but consider a couple of Alpine countries if you enjoy lot of snow/skiing etc. Perhaps you may consider to low-prioritize Switzerland compared to great experiences in France/Germany/Italy. If you have time/money then do visit Finland and St. Petersburg in Russia. You'll be very happy in terms of experience.

PS: don't miss at least ONE experience on TGV and German Autobahn (if you could drive).

If you are an Engineering/Medical/Pharma student then I could recommend few more places to go. Example this masterpiece in Brussels:

http://i48.tinypic.com/16b12tv.jpg

Good luck :)

wayitis
Dec 27th, 2012, 02:26 PM
I did my 30 day little arc through Central Europe this past October and can assure you Budapest will not disappoint, it was one of the highlights of my trip... I stayed in the Burg Hotel, right opposite to St. Matthias Church on Castle Hill, installations are basic, but the views to the Danube and Parliament building are breathtaking! I read that you can get 5 star hotels right on the river for around $50/night if you bid through Priceline, especially during the winter low season... Ljubljana is another good option after you leave Budapest, it's about a 4 hour drive through the fields and lakes of the Hungarian countryside... It's a much smaller town though, so 1 or 2 days should be enough, especially considering that well located hotels are shockingly more expensive than in both Prague and Budapest...if you're going that way, make sure to visit the Vintgar Gorje, right after Bled, and if you're driving, like I did, take the road through Austria into Italy, and make pitstops in the Parco Naturale Dolomiti Friulane and Parco Naturale delle Dolomiti Bellunese, but check if the roads are snowed out... Renting a car was much cheaper than train because I got one of those deals where you have to deliver a car from Germany to Italy... Good luck!

kwilliams
Dec 27th, 2012, 03:21 PM
Thanks, Keith. Hope you had a lovely Christmas.

I'm still thinking through my plans. I want to have a loose itinerary, but I'm no backpacker so some structure is absolutely necessary. I'm looking into accommodations in Budapest now, and I'll most likely follow through with plans to go to Tel Aviv, at least for five our six days. I want to explore more of Israel, but the situation there is making it a bit scary. For example, I will not be boarding any busses.

Too bad about Belfast. I've long been fascinated, I have to say, but its airport isn't served by too many airlines for direct travel to the other places I want to go to so I suppose it's for the best to skip out on it for now.

I'll look into Lyon. At this point, I'd just be happy to see another part of France that isn't Paris. I've been to Paris five or six times, and I've yet to spend any time anywhere else.

I'm pretty sure I will definitely head to Munich. I really want to squeeze Valencia in there but I've no clue how...

Thanks. I had a lovely Christmas and St. Stephen's Day...now I'm vegetating! I hope you're enjoying some downtime as well! Maybe you're busy planning your trip. I know what you mean about having things in order in advance. I would never arrive somewhere and waste time looking for a good place to stay. I don't care if it saves money or is part of the adventure for some people. I like to be organised so I can spend as much time as possible enjoying the sights. Actually, I should look for accom in Copenhagen soon - but not today!

I know what you mean about Paris as well! I've been seven or eight times and I've only seen a little of the rest of the country - Versailles and Euro Disney, which barely count! Some of my earliest memories are of the Cote D'Azur but that barely counts either! So really, all I've seen of the rest of France is the Alps (The 3 Valleys) and parts of Brittany and a few airports. 9 trips and that's it!!

I'm going to have to take a leaf from your book and do the same one of these days. I was thinking of going to Rennes last year but I went to Stockholm instead.

I'm sure the situation in Belfast will get better soon. I think things are already getting better. It's a shame because things are better than ever. From what little I know, I think you're right about the lack of flights. There should be more. It's only a tour hour bus journey from Dublin but of course that's extra hassle and time. It's a nice little city that can be seen in a day. In fact, with an early start, you can see the city and get up to the Giant's Causeway and Carrick-a-rede (kinda cool rope bridge) Well, you can fit all that into a long summer's day. Actually, my sister was just saying the other day how she and her friends were up recently and they were refused service in a pub. She probably shouldn't have went into a pub called "The Royal" though!! I once made the mistake of going up on the 11th of July and that was intimidating!! I just thought that because it was the day before
Orange Day it would be okay but that was short-sighted of me! I went up again last summer and had a lovely day.

I hope you get to Munich and Valencia. Munich's one of those places I have to go back to. I was there on a school tour and didn't get to see all of it.

What airlines do you fly? Wizzair have really good connections from Budapest right? I'd say Ryanair or Easyjet's connections might be good from Valencia, though they could be seasonal.

shap_half
Dec 28th, 2012, 02:52 PM
you should consider taking a rail pass, that will be much cheaper and you will be able to move around with almost no additional costs, i've done that twice and i can give you some tips if you want.
Considering you will be starting from Lisbon, you could do something like Madrid, Barcellona, Geneva-Florence, Venice, Ljubljana-Vienna, Budapest. before going back to Paris and then to the USA.

Apologies to everyone in advance that I'll be responding to everyone individually!

Thank you for the advice. Unfortunately, my schedule isn't as flexible that would allow for rail travel. I have to do Lisbon and then Zurich. I'm a journalist so the Swiss Tourism Office here in New York gave me a Swiss Pass that will allow me to travel through Switzerland for free on bus, boat or train so that's why I figured I should see more of the country. From there I'm basically bouncing around the continent to see places I really want to. For example, on the itinerary you provided, I've been to all except Geneva, Budapest and Ljubljana. In fact, I was in Madrid and Vienna in the last couple of months. I'll try to see both Geneva and Budapest but Ljubljana is probably out of the question. As I'll want to go to Tel Aviv - I was there in June and I loved it.

I'm also considering going to Italy (Sicily, Verona and Trieste mostly), but again, it just doesn't seem like it'll fit.

shap_half
Dec 28th, 2012, 02:56 PM
skip munich and go to valencia, i say :oh: i don't know if the time of the year is the best but valencia is totally underrated, mostly being in the shadow of barcelona.

i love budapest and there are many places to stay there that would be good for many different reasons. as for tel aviv, some of my friends will be there for the new year's eve.

I may have like 10 days right before I need to go to Paris - a friend of mine might be meeting me so I may have to be there on the 6th. I think 10 or 11 days might be enough to do both Valencia and Munich - and skip Manchester. I've never been to either Valencia or Munich so I definitely want to make it to at least one. Ideally, I really want to go to a couple of new countries that I've never been to, but it seems like Hungary will be the only one this time around.

shap_half
Dec 28th, 2012, 03:08 PM
It's not that scary now compared to 2000s, I've been there thrice on deputation (~11 months total time). You try to visit Haifa because it's a great place to be for many reasons.

About Europe, if you really want to enjoy (real watching/feeling) then try to travel by Eurail passes instead of flying. Of course it depends on your parameters, but consider a couple of Alpine countries if you enjoy lot of snow/skiing etc. Perhaps you may consider to low-prioritize Switzerland compared to great experiences in France/Germany/Italy. If you have time/money then do visit Finland and St. Petersburg in Russia. You'll be very happy in terms of experience.

PS: don't miss at least ONE experience on TGV and German Autobahn (if you could drive).

If you are an Engineering/Medical/Pharma student then I could recommend few more places to go. Example this masterpiece in Brussels:

http://i48.tinypic.com/16b12tv.jpg

Good luck :)

Thank you! Unfortunately, I don't know how to drive. I've been to Germany many times - I'm usually in Berlin once or twice a year - but because I don't know how to drive, I've never been on the autobahn. I also have never skied in my life. I've just done a story on the most design-driven ski resorts in the world, and a couple of the properties in Europe have invited me check out the resorts, but I just wouldn't do anything there. Maybe next year!

shap_half
Dec 28th, 2012, 03:17 PM
I did my 30 day little arc through Central Europe this past October and can assure you Budapest will not disappoint, it was one of the highlights of my trip... I stayed in the Burg Hotel, right opposite to St. Matthias Church on Castle Hill, installations are basic, but the views to the Danube and Parliament building are breathtaking! I read that you can get 5 star hotels right on the river for around $50/night if you bid through Priceline, especially during the winter low season... Ljubljana is another good option after you leave Budapest, it's about a 4 hour drive through the fields and lakes of the Hungarian countryside... It's a much smaller town though, so 1 or 2 days should be enough, especially considering that well located hotels are shockingly more expensive than in both Prague and Budapest...if you're going that way, make sure to visit the Vintgar Gorje, right after Bled, and if you're driving, like I did, take the road through Austria into Italy, and make pitstops in the Parco Naturale Dolomiti Friulane and Parco Naturale delle Dolomiti Bellunese, but check if the roads are snowed out... Renting a car was much cheaper than train because I got one of those deals where you have to deliver a car from Germany to Italy... Good luck!

Thank you! I'm actually super excited about Budapest. I'm a bit concerned about the weather, but I think if I stayed in the city for five days that should make it more manageable. If you have tips on restaurants, bars, neighborhoods, etc., I'd love to hear them!

shap_half
Dec 29th, 2012, 02:20 AM
Thanks. I had a lovely Christmas and St. Stephen's Day...now I'm vegetating! I hope you're enjoying some downtime as well! Maybe you're busy planning your trip. I know what you mean about having things in order in advance. I would never arrive somewhere and waste time looking for a good place to stay. I don't care if it saves money or is part of the adventure for some people. I like to be organised so I can spend as much time as possible enjoying the sights. Actually, I should look for accom in Copenhagen soon - but not today!

I know what you mean about Paris as well! I've been seven or eight times and I've only seen a little of the rest of the country - Versailles and Euro Disney, which barely count! Some of my earliest memories are of the Cote D'Azur but that barely counts either! So really, all I've seen of the rest of France is the Alps (The 3 Valleys) and parts of Brittany and a few airports. 9 trips and that's it!!

I'm going to have to take a leaf from your book and do the same one of these days. I was thinking of going to Rennes last year but I went to Stockholm instead.

I'm sure the situation in Belfast will get better soon. I think things are already getting better. It's a shame because things are better than ever. From what little I know, I think you're right about the lack of flights. There should be more. It's only a tour hour bus journey from Dublin but of course that's extra hassle and time. It's a nice little city that can be seen in a day. In fact, with an early start, you can see the city and get up to the Giant's Causeway and Carrick-a-rede (kinda cool rope bridge) Well, you can fit all that into a long summer's day. Actually, my sister was just saying the other day how she and her friends were up recently and they were refused service in a pub. She probably shouldn't have went into a pub called "The Royal" though!! I once made the mistake of going up on the 11th of July and that was intimidating!! I just thought that because it was the day before
Orange Day it would be okay but that was short-sighted of me! I went up again last summer and had a lovely day.

I hope you get to Munich and Valencia. Munich's one of those places I have to go back to. I was there on a school tour and didn't get to see all of it.

What airlines do you fly? Wizzair have really good connections from Budapest right? I'd say Ryanair or Easyjet's connections might be good from Valencia, though they could be seasonal.

It looks like I won't be seeing another part of France this time around. I just really like the idea of going to Valencia and Munich before I spend a week in Paris. I really, really do love Paris though so I'm not too bummed about it.

I'm too old to really wing it when it comes to accommodations. I'm not a backpacker so I want to stay in a real hotel - sometimes I really want that room to have a bathtub. I want to be comfortable. I did the the whole hostel thing, and I'm just not in the same head space to deal with that again. Some nights I want to get dinner and then go to bed. I don't care that it's Friday night. This is impossible to do in a hostel.
I'm fortunate that my line of work allows me discounted hotel rates most of the time.

I try to fly whatever airline's the cheapest. Somtimes it's cheaper to fly on a legit airline rather than low-cost. I'm going to use Wizzair to fly to and from Budapest. It's like $16 (before all those annoying little fees) from Geneva; and then $75 to Tel Aviv. The issue with Valencia is that there are no cheap flights that'll fly direct to Munich so I may do a two-night stopover in Berlin and then take the train down to Munich. Or go on one of those car-share business and finally get to go on the Autobahn!!!

KournikovaFan91
Dec 29th, 2012, 03:00 AM
As was said already Belfast can totally be done in a day, seeing the mural and peace walls and all is pretty interesting and I've not seen the Titanic museum yet. I've never experienced the nightlife so can't help you there.

Dublin is way better for Craic though I'd imagine :angel: