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Old 04-06-2006, 12:25 AM   #1
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ok, so this might be kinda dumb, but i am leaving for my first time in europe, and i will be there for a month alone, i will be going to mainly france, italy and spain (i think). So, i have absolutely no idea what to expect; i was hoping that some kind people would give me an idea of what to expect and some general advice and tips that might make it easier.
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Old 04-06-2006, 01:44 AM   #2
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Not dumb at all - that stepping off into the unknown is something most of us are familiar with, even with several trips under our belts!

Can you give us an idea of the sorts of things you like to do, where you think you might go, and why? I mean, do you want to hang out on beaches in Spain and sun all day, then go drinking all night? Or do you want to hike the Pyrenees? Or spend hours a day in museums, drinking in all the beautiful treasures there? The experiences are all quite different, so what you can expect will be different, too.

In general, you can expect to meet friendly people, eat amazing food and see stuff up close that you've only ever seen in pictures. Some of this will blow your mind, some will disappoint. To get ready, I'd recommend reading as much as you can about the things/places that interest you, and also a little about things that don't. You may not care much about architecture, but learning a little might help you appreciate the buildlings you see a little more. You might not care a whit for history, but knowing a little about Spanish history will add to your experience in places like Granada. Even fiction and travel writing can give you a good start - I'd suggest Michener's Iberia and Hemingway for Spain. All Quiet on the Western Front was in the forefront of my mind as I wandered through the trenches of Vimy Ridge.

But again, your unique experience will be based on what you want to see and do while you're there, so give us some idea of that, and we'll be able to give you a better idea of what to expect.

Happy planning!

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Old 04-06-2006, 02:15 AM   #3
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Good points, i guess since i know what i like to do i sometimes forget that not everyone does... Mainly i want to tour cities and appreciate things such as architecture and buildings that i can not find near me. Secondly, i want to do some touristy things and go and see museums that i've only ever heard about before. Third, i would like to experience some of what the night life has to offer, i don't want to go buck wild or anything (i am traveling alone which means i'm the only one who can take care of me). As to where i hope to travel to in france i want to go to Paris Bordeaux and Nice for sure. In spain i want to go to Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona. Then in italy i want to go to Florence Rome and Venice. I know these areas are touristy, but it's the placest i've heard most about and never having been to europe before i figured i would want to see them. I also want to leave a lot of flexability so that i can go to places that people tell me i must not miss, my whole trip has a lot of flexability and that is mainly cause i have absolutely no idea what to expect!
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Old 04-06-2006, 09:29 AM   #4
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What type of hostels are you looking for? Lots of people hostels with a good party atmosphere, or smaller, quieter, off the beaten path hostels?

Also, may I recommend Granada, Spain? The last stronghold of the Moors, Granada has architecture and culture that makes it unique from other places in spain. The Alhambra, a Moor palace, is AMAZING. If I can remember the name, I can recommend a nice friendly hostel as well. When I was there they had a tapas tour that included a trip to some amazing natural hotsprings in the countryside. Of course, there are lots of cool places that people will recommend, and you can't visit them all, but that's my 2 cents.
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Old 04-06-2006, 12:58 PM   #5
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I'm looking for a mixture of hostels, i want some good party atmosphere ones, but i also want a few days to have a quieter experience. I will look into going to Granada, i totally appreciate the recommendations because i am really clueless right now!
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Old 04-06-2006, 12:59 PM   #6
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In Italy, you can count on the trians being late more than you can count on them being on time. What that means is, if you have to change trains in a city, dont be surprised if you miss your next train because one of the trains was late. Its no big deal if you have a pass. Just sit down and wait for the next train to your destination to arrive. Every train station in europe has a wall of departing and arriving trains. You dont need to speak the language to read it. After one or two trips you can ride anywhere in europe and know how the system works.



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Old 04-06-2006, 01:21 PM   #7
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I have been to Europe 3 times and to Paris twice. I have also been to Florence and Rome. I have been to multiple other places you have not listed here. One side trip I would recommend for a couple days is Amsterdam. You can take the train from Paris easily and I believe that everyone should go there at least once. You can cover everytihng there is to do there in 3 days.

When you got more specific questions lets us know. There are tons here ready to help!

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Old 04-06-2006, 05:05 PM   #8
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i thought of a question, how long would you schedual for main cities like paris, florence and rome? are they the kind of places where i need to take a couple of extra days because there is so much to see?
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Old 04-06-2006, 06:05 PM   #9
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Rome, definitely...Paris as well (but only if you're really museumy and need to spend a lot of time in the louvre, like I do...even though I didn't actually GET to ) Although what's a lot of days for you? because what's longer for me is sometimes short for others, by alotting a decent amount of time for a place I'm thinking of like 4 full days

edited to add more advice

Oh, and while seeing madrid, I recommend day trips to Segovia and Toledo, they were gorgeous...madrid itself got pretty boring pretty fast for me . Oh, and try to stay at Cat's Hostel in Madrid it's pretty good, and right beside a famous flamenco dancing place which is cool.

Personally though I find Portugal a lot better than Spain...but that's my own opinion...
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Old 04-06-2006, 07:49 PM   #10
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yeah, i too would consider 4 full days a lot, i am only going to be gone for a month so i am trying to see as much as i can without missing too much because i'm going so fast.
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Old 04-08-2006, 05:59 AM   #11
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i def wouldn't miss granada or toledo. ended up having the two most impressive sights i saw in spain, the alhambra in granada and the cathedral of toledo. but if you're pressed for time then.... also, i wouldn't miss cinque terre. although i was there without tourists, offseason. also, i come from a very landlocked place in canada so that may have added to my amazement, but still probly the one place i've been that i DEFINITELY want to go back to. if you want to party, i would stay at kabul's in barcelona and the yellow hostel in rome. i spent 18 days at yellow. hahaha, and i only went sightseeing for like 3. what a loser. now i'm running out of money before i've gotten to all the places i planned to go. oh well, had a blast, the staff are amazing. my two cents.
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Old 04-08-2006, 09:33 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by annielee22@Apr 6 2006, 02:25 AM
ok, so this might be kinda dumb, but i am leaving for my first time in europe, and i will be there for a month alone, i will be going to mainly france, italy and spain (i think). So, i have absolutely no idea what to expect; i was hoping that some kind people would give me an idea of what to expect and some general advice and tips that might make it easier.
[snapback]110841[/snapback]
I just did exactly that, so let me give you my two cents worth. Oh and I blogged my trip pretty regularly at http://whereisjoeytoday.blogspot.com if you want to see some photos of what you will see.

Don't worry about traveling alone, I found people all along the route to hang with. In fact, I even met people in Florence and, by chance, ran across them weeks later in Munich.

If you have 30 days, this is what I recommend:


You can spend 30 days in Italy and still not see it all, so resolve yourself to be okay without seeing everything.

Spend 4 days in Paris (at least) and 4 days in Rome (at least) 3-4 in Florence 1-2 in Venice, 3-4 days in Madrid, 3 days in Granada, 3 in Barcelona, 3 in Santiago de Compostela, 3 days in Naples.

Learn some French before going to Paris and if you need to ask people for help, look for nonwhites. They are less likely to have that "I am French, and you are insulting my mother by asking me to speak English" attitude. Learn to speak 10 phrases in Italian and Spanish.

Now as far as other places, it depends (like others suggested) what you want. In Spain, I recommend going to some place other than Barcelona for your first city. Though from what I have heard from other travelers, it might not be a bad idea to skip it all together or just spend a day there before going somewhere else.

If you want to go to the beach, I definitely recommend Marbella. There is only one youth hostel, but I ended up staying with a family for a few weeks while I studied Spanish and they charge around 20 euros a day. If you want to see classic Spain, you want to go to Andalucia. Granada, is a must if only for the Alhambra. Funky Backpacker's Hostel is nice and has a great terrace view of the city. It is also very friendly!

Gibraltar (La Linea in Spain) is cool and a great day trip from a place like Marbella or Malaga. Sevilla, has a great cathedral and the Plaza de Espana which is in Star Wars and Lawerence of Arabia.

Make sure you go off the beaten path a few times. If you are in Madrid, like others have said, go to Toledo. Be ware, that the return trains sell out quickly. A small town named Avila, is a highlight that is often overlooked. Madrid is a cool city but not representative of Spain. Salamanca is a university town that is a wonderful spot to head toward if you land in Madrid. Maybe the most beautiful small town I have been to. I heard great things about Segovia as well.

In Italy, you need to see Rome. They don't call it the Eternal city for nothing. More impressive than Paris, Barcelona, Oslo, Madrid, New York, you name it! The most beautiful city I ever went to at night. Make sure you give one day to the Vatican and use a tour guide to skip the line. See the Trevi Fountain at night. Eat Italian ice cream. Don't overlook Florence (I recommend Hostel Archi Rossi, near the train station, real breakfasts!) for at the least a day trip (beautiful city and perfect if you want to see Pisa!), Pompeii Scavi (you need two days to see it completely but one is enough) in Naples, etc. Venice is great but can be done in a day.

Your Euros go further in Spain than the other two, and unless you have to, I recommend skipping the rail pass. Italy and Spain are cheap (usually).

My general plan was to tour Spain, leave out through Barcelona head to Milan via the best train in Europe, then after Italy, go to Paris through Munich (the Wombat Hostel is great!) and while there you can explore Austria a bit and some great beer.

In Barcelona and Rome, make sure you wear a money belt and money pouch. Then take a wallet with your euros for the day (no more than 50) and put it in your front pocket. While on subways, keep a death grip on it. Subways, busses, and crowds are what pickpockets look for. Be alert, but not paranoid. If someone approaches you, stick your hand palm out and yell no. Frequently scams are multiparty operations and if you walk with purpose you will not fall victim.


I wouldn't change cities any more often than every 3 days. The more time you spend in one place the more relaxed you feel. For example, I stayed in Florence for 5 days. One day I went to Pisa, another to Turin, the next Venice, the next Florence, the next Rome.

Take lots of photos and try to get yourself in at least 10-20%. Get plenty of space on your mem card. Burn CDs to back them up (keep one with you, send one home)

More than anything, HAVE FUN! This may be the trip of a lifetime, and if at all possible, try to keep your return flexible so that if you are having a lot of fun, you can extend your stay.

You are going to love it!

--Joey

PS, my family and friends loved the blog. I didn't bug people that couldn't care less and it helped me organize my thoughts. Plus, another way to back up some photos.
blogger.com makes it too simple to start one
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Old 04-24-2006, 09:35 AM   #13
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eurail pass is good for some things but if your doing extensive travel in spain then its probably not neccessary as the trains there arent overly expensive but at the same time they arent overly fast either.

i'd check out some of the budget airlines to save yourself some travel time. ryan air, easyjet, wizzair, etc. there are lots of them and you can get some really good deals if your somewhat flexible on your travel dates and can book 2 or so weeks in advance.
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