First of all, I want to thank everyone who's posted here with tips, ideas, and input...I've read through this site so much the last few weeks and I've gotten a LOT of great ideas. I'm 28 years old and not getting any younger, so I figure this is the best chance I'll have to visit Europe for a while. I took 3 years of French in high school, along with a semester in college, so I'll be less "lost" in France than elsewhere, and I don't know any German, Italian, or Dutch (though I understand many speak English in the Netherlands).
I wanted to run this itinerary by you seasoned vets to see if anything stands out as a bad idea or that could/should be tweaked. I haven't actually reserved any hostels or legs of the rail travel, but I do plan on getting a Railpass of some kind, depending on how my final itinerary shapes up.
For a little background, this is my first time outside the US (day trip over Texas border I don't count
) and it was kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing.
The first hitch that could cause all this to really crash down is if I run into a snag with my Passport - as soon as I get home next Monday I'm going to the courthouse for a birth certificate - that'd give me exactly 2 weeks for an expedited Passport with all the proper envelopes for rush delivery, etc. Anyone have any hellish stories of expedited passports that I should consider? Anything in particular to make it go more smoothly other than what's on the State Department Website? I'm not near a major city back home in Iowa, so I can't just walk up to an official Passport office.
For a pack, I just ordered a North Face Stamina 70 backpack tonight (tough bugger to find - was out of stock nearly everwhere) that'll be to me with plenty of time to spare.
If the passport issue goes off without a hitch, I'm planning on heading out of the states for London and returning via Paris on American via fares from Expedia. My basic itinerary is below:
10 Flight departs DSM
11 Arrive LONDON AM - hostel - London area
12 London area
13 London area
14 London AM - to Amsterdam PM
15 Amsterdam area
16 Amsterdam area until PM - Leave for Berlin
17 Arrive Berlin AM - Berlin area
18 Berlin area (East/Central Germany)
19 Berlin area (East/Central Germany)
20 Berlin area until PM - Leave for Frankfurt PM
21 Arrive Frankfurt AM - Frankfurt area
22 Frankfurt area
23 Depart Frankfurt for Rome PM
24 Arrive Rome Mid-day - Rome area
25 Rome area
26 Rome area
27 Depart Rome for Paris PM
28 Arrive Paris AM - Paris area
29 Paris area
30 Paris AM to Bayeux PM
31 Omaha Beach - Normandy/Bayeux
1 Cherbourg (Utah Beach) OR Paris Area
2 Paris area
3 Flight depart (Paris) - AM DSM
Though I have longed to go to Europe for years, the focal point of this trip is the Colleville-sur Mer cemetary, where I plan to spend Memorial day. Unfortunately, I've got an obligation back home for the weekend of June 4-6 or I'd be there for what I assume will be a large display for the 60th anniversary of D-Day.
I've tried to mix it up a bit with a planned itinerary with some room to adjust in the German portion - I don't have much of a goal in Germany yet except visiting the major sites in Berlin and Frankfurt. I may well take that entire 7-day stretch between Amsterdam and Rome and just explore Germany informally. That's probably push me towards the 21-day Railpass instead of trying to limit the number of trips/days on a less-expensive plan
Any major problems you can see just taking off for Berlin in a generally-South path until I get to Frankfurt or Munich to make the trek to Rome? That's kind of what I'm planning for at the moment.
The end portion is also a little loose - I'd like to spend as much time as possible IN Paris, but I already cut out a Geneva stop between Rome and Paris to add to it, and I'd like to visit Mont St. Michel while I'm in the Normandy area.
Any strong reason to put Geneva back in as a stopoff from 8 AM one day to 8 PM the next?
Would you recommend adding time to Paris after Omaha beach, or should I be able to get a large chunk of what I'm hoping for (major sites in the city) in the day-and-a-half after the Rome leg and the day prior to my flight out?
What about weekends in Europe? I tried to plan things so that I wasn't travelling overnight on any Friday or Saturday evening. Would those generally be good nights to head out to the local pubs/clubs/social areas or are those equally exciting during the week?
Anyway, thanks for any ideas/critiques you can give me on this itinerary and I'll be sure to get back here with any tips I may come up with along the way. Sorry if this is a tad long - I'm so excited about this trip it's hard not to just write down all the questions I have running through my head!