We'd really like to get an opinion on a few parts of our Europe plan.
Basic outline is;
We will arrive in London and depart for Paris with 24 hours.
Paris & surrounds (Versailles etc) for 3 nights/4 days.
To Dijon & Burgundy for 4 days (Hiring a car - return to Dijon)
Dijon to Venice on overnight train - 3 nights/3 days in Venice.
Venice to Rome - Hiring car & touring thru Genova/Portofino/Pisa/Tuscany etc (5 days).
Rome (2 days) and then fly to Barcelona.
Barcelona (3 days) and then (hire car or Van?) drive south thru Valencia, Malagaa to... Portugal (3-5 days) to Madrid (drop vehicle).
Fly from Madrid to Edinburgh (for 2 days)..then Train from Edinburgh to London.
The specific questions I'd like to get answered ARE:
1) The safety aspects of the overnight train to Venice (read internet scare stories of being robbed whilst sleeping) AND as a couple should we opt for a 2 person couchette? Is there such a thing as a double-bed on the Artesia overnights?
2) Will we luck into easy accomodation in both Spain & Italy if we intend to just drive and then stop - rather than booking ahead?
3) Is it safe enought for a pair of 50-ish grey nomads to hire & sleep in a van thru Spain?
4) Is it worthwhile - to see a whole bunch of English country-side - to take the 8 hour day journey from Scotland to London?
I am aware that we are cramming a large amount into 31-ish days, but we just gotta do it. This is our first time and we will obviously come back to those parts that we missed or loved a lot. Any advise (apart from "you're crazy !") would be appreciated.
The itinery sounds great. Can't knock it at all. And I wouldn't even think of the phrase 'You're crazy' on this plan.
If I was to alter it at all, I would suggest just one and a half days in Venice absolute maximum - no more. You can walk round it in 3-4 hours and then apart from the museums and a ride on the very smelly water, there's little else to do. 3 days is far too long.
Of all your itinery (I've done quite a bit of your route, but not all of it), the nicest bit for me was the trip from Malaga up to Portugal. I'm assuming you're doing the coast road and not the inland route.
Safety aspects of being on overnight trains.. Well - yes, there's always a chance of getting fleeced while you both asleep. It happens everywhere and there are many people across Europe (both East and west) that do it as their profession, if you can call it that. The ideal solution is to not both sleep at the same time. The journey won't be an epic and 4-5 hours sleep each will do it. I've not been robbed myself, but know people that have been. One guy I met fell asleep and when he woke up everything was gone. All he had left was the clothes he was wearing. Money, rucksack, passport, wallet - all gone. One of you stay awake - job done.
Never bother booking a room in advance through Spain and Italy, although the two countries don't border each other. You've got France in between. Still, there are plenty of places en-route to stop, both on major and small roads.
You'll be fine hiring and sleeping overnight in a camper van. There are plenty of small camp sites throughout the country that only charge a few €'s to park up, if you feel safer doing that - plus it'll give you the opportunity to empty your waste and refill your water supplies etc.
The road journey from Edinburgh to London won't take in too much countryside if you want to do it as quickly as possible. There are some nice side roads you can take across the middle from Edinburgh to the A74(M) and then on to the M6 southbound towards London. But if you want to see the real scenery, it's going to be smaller roads all the way and zig-zagging. I would suggest Edinburgh across to Glasgow, then on to the M74, down to the M6 and off into the Lake District on the A590. Then after the Lakes, drive South along the A6 along the West coast before making your way down the M6 again - towards London. Don't take the M1, but do the M42/M40 (off the M6) instead. Then stop off in Warwick and Stratford (Shakespeare's home town). After that, come off the M40 on to the A34 and have a bit of time in Oxford. It's going to take you a lot longer than 8 hours, possibly 3 days - but you'll love it. A much nicer and more interesting route down towards London than taking the M1. The M1 is just fields on both sides with very little to see on the way.
The train from London to Edinburgh (if you get the fastest one) is just over 4 hours.
Sounds like a great journey.
...thanks so much for that, FlyingBob...
My mistake in not including the word "train" in the 8-hour day journey from Edinburgh to London. I think i would appreciate just taking in the view and not driving on that last leg.
Everything else sounds great - especially your endorsement of driving a van in Spain & Portugal.
Do you have any recommendations of companys to use? I wont use Europcar - here in Australia we have had a lot of press about their ficticious (post journey) damage charges.
What company would you suggest for a car in Italy?
Thanks for the tip on Venice - that gives us an extra day to explore more of Italy or Spain.
My plan now is to drive north from Venice to at least see some of the Italian Alps, on the way down to Palma/Portofino.
Does anybody else have any suggestions on whether we should do the two person couchette on the overnight train from France to Italy?
...thanks again, muchly....
Your plan sounds busy and a lil bit "jumpy" but very interesting.
Sounds like an interesting , although for me a bit rushed trip.
You asked about the saftey of sleeping in a van in Spain. There are no worries on this front. I've done it quite a lot and you'll find that theres plenty who do. On the motorways its common for people to sleep in vans at the service stations. Also other places. Although strictly speaking its illegal, in reality for odd nights here and there you should have no probs - just be discreet.
One thing I'd mention is that 3-5 days for Barcelona,Valencia, Malaga, Portugal to Madrid in a van seems you won't realy have much time to see anything , apart from the roads !
[ Edit: Edited on 10-May-2010, at 06:01 by ritch-2010 ]