2.5 weeks: Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, French Riviera, Spain, Portuga
March 13, 2018 11:44 AM   Subscribe

Planning a trip throughout Europe leaving 4/19 flying into Dublin and planning to fly out of Porto, Portugal. I abandoned my goal of traveling to Asia for my 30th birthday and decided to switch it to a trip to see where my ancestors came from (Ireland and Germany) plus a few other places along the way. I'll put my planned itinerary in the extended explanation, but for a few countries, I still have not decided exactly where I want to go/best way to travel between the two. I am looking for both suggestions/alternatives/obvious things I am overlooking.

4/19 - Redeye into Dublin (ticket already booked - $110 Norwegian from Providence in case anyone wants to do a quick jaunt to Ireland)
4/20 - 8 AM Arrival - Spend some of the day in Dublin and then travel to....? Planning on going to the West and leaving the 23rd on a late flight into Germany so toying with staying one night in more of a city (Galway) and the rest in a secluded B/B
4/21 - Ireland
4/22 - Ireland
4/22 - Ireland
4/23 - Drive back to Dublin for a flight to Germany
4/24 - Germany - Leaning towards Munich in Germany, since I'm planning on moving on to Switzerland from there and hoping to take the train rather than another flight although there are quick flights from Berlin but really open to any and all suggestions
4/25 - Germany
4/26 - Germany to Switzerland - I've already been to Lucerne and absolutely loved it, but I'm traveling with my mom and she hasn't. I am open to pretty much anywhere in Switzerland but I loved having the combination of the water/city/mountains of Lucerne before. We will also be moving on to the French coast from here so it seemed like Geneva/Zurich would be the easiest.
4/27 - Switzerland
4/28 -Switzerland
4/29 - Switzerland to Nice - Again open to other suggestions along the French Riviera (Marseille?) but planning to go from Barcelona from here
4/29 - Nice?
4/30 - Nice?
5/1 - Nice to Barcelona (1 hr 9 am flight)
5/2 - Barcelona (Actual birthday)
5/3 - Barcelona - This is when my mom would fly home and I would continue on for a few days to Portugal

Is it dumb to plan on flying from all of these spots? Although they are quick flights will I be eating up too much time in/out of airports? I've done a 1 month trip in Euro before going from city to city like this so I don't think I'll be overwhelmed by the pace of travel

Last thing (I think)! Should I try and get away with packing a large carry on (like the away bigger carry on) for the whole trip so I wouldn't have to check a bag for the short legs?
posted by Bossypants to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
We are renting a car in Ireland, and am open to doing it between other locations, but since we would be traveling between countries I wasn't sure if it would be too complicated. For example, the drive from Switzerland to France seems like it could be beautiful and a cool way to stop at some interesting places along the way.
posted by Bossypants at 11:49 AM on March 13

Except for Dublin to Germany, I feel that you have plenty of time to take the train between each place. Seat 61 is a good resource to find out typical travel conditions, routes and times. Some of those cheap, quick flights could charge for a carry-on as well as checked baggage.

For renting a car, plug in your start and end cities into Avis and Hertz to get a quote. Before booking, I would call them and see what the list of allowed countries is based on your pick up a drop off points. Some may not be available, but the site should tell you that.

In Ireland, Galway is nice for both the Cliffs of Moher and Connemara. Another choice would be to go north to Belfast and the Antrim coast.
posted by soelo at 12:06 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]

If I were you, I'd rent a car already in Munich, and make the whole Germany — Switzerland — France — Spain into a kind of open, road-trip kind of voyage, where you can plan ahead but also be a bit impulsive. I've driven this route a few times with different stops, and it's really lovely. There'll be some snow in the Alps, but they are good at clearing the roads, I don't think it will be a problem at all.
For instance, en route from Munich to Luzern, the little border town of Bregenz has an amazing art gallery, and I've enjoyed staying there and had good food. Then on your way to Nice, you'll pass by the North Italian lakes, Lugano and Como, and both the main towns, of the same names, and the little villages along their shores are incredibly charming. You'll also pass by Milan, which is a huge bustling city, and though it is not as friendly as Munich, it has great art, a magnificent cathedral, and thousands of very, very good restaurants. You could also go to Genova, which has more charm than Milan, and even better food.
In France, Nice is a fine city, but I might prefer to stay in one of the smaller towns, like Cagnes sur Mer, Frejus or Antibes. You get more of the charm of southern France there. Or maybe even go up in the hills, to like St. Paul de Vence or Grasse. I wouldn't go to Marseille on the type of trip you are planning, but maybe to Aix en Provence. Then I'd go ahead to Spain, and when there, I'd stop at Figueres and Girona on the way to Barcelona. Specially Girona. I love road trips! I wouldn't stop as many places as listed here, but I would research the options and make a plan that can be changed.
Definitely look at booking the car from home, it may be a lot cheaper.
Alternatively, go by train through the Alps and then drive from Nice to Barcelona, or Genova to Barcelona. Trains are lovely and you can relax more than when you are driving.
posted by mumimor at 12:30 PM on March 13

Thank you! So if it were only me driving I would do the rental car thing for the entire time, as I also love road trips. However, I will be with my mom who is not the best passenger (actively screeches and overreacts to other cars which actually does create dangerous situations). I'm torn if the beautiful scenery would be enough to distract her. So I would probably want to pick one maybe two legs to get a car.
posted by Bossypants at 12:46 PM on March 13

My daughter did 8 or 9 countries in 25 days over Easter Break last year - flying between every county, except maybe she took a train from Geneva to Germany. Ryan Air etc. is more like flying busses anyway, and she commented she was never in a security line for more than 5 minutes. So I think flying is fine if it works for your schedule/budget.
posted by COD at 1:06 PM on March 13

Are there any smaller towns/cities you would recommend that we could take the train from Lucerne/Geneva on the French Coast that is closer to Barcelona and then travel by car to there?
posted by Bossypants at 2:01 PM on March 13

Renting cars to travel across borders in Europe can be prohibitively expensive, FYI. I recently did a road trip in Switzerland (worth it if you want to consider that - driving from Lucerne through some of the Alpine passes to Grindelwald high up in the mountains, it is gorgeous*) with an intention of driving across into Italy. It ended up being 1/4th the price to take a train (first-class) from Switzerland to Italy, and I did my road trip from Lucerne to Bern. Feel free to MeMail me if you need more information on that piece.

*Roads are narrow and very wind-y, and could be wet in April, so I'm not sure if your mother would find this traumatic. People will tell you some of the passes can be fatally threatening, but take this with a grain of salt. You're not racing around these bends at 90 mph, so they're relatively safe. I drove a Jetta at 50-60 mph, used pullouts if I saw faster drivers, and it was perfectly fine.)

I agree with the comment upthread that the smaller towns in Southern France are more charming than Nice itself. Aix en Provence is beautiful!
posted by Everydayville at 2:03 PM on March 13

Are there any smaller towns/cities you would recommend that we could take the train from Lucerne/Geneva on the French Coast that is closer to Barcelona and then travel by car to there?

Seat 61 has this information for travel from Switzerland to France.

Toulouse to Barcelona is a reasonable trip, but Toulouse is not on the French coast. It's a very charming city.
posted by Everydayville at 2:20 PM on March 13

Are there any smaller towns/cities you would recommend that we could take the train from Lucerne/Geneva on the French Coast that is closer to Barcelona and then travel by car to there?

IMO the last stretch, from ca. Aix en Provence to Barcelona is the one to do by train. Or even the entire stretch from the Swiss border to the Spanish. Reading what you wrote about your mother as a passenger, you might want to avoid too much driving in Italy, France and Spain. There is this rather racist idea that southern Europeans drive badly, which is not true, they are very considerate drivers, but they do drive in a different manner than northerners, and that might cause worry. Switzerland is as safe and well-regulated as Disneyland. The trains everywhere on your route are very good and frequent, though they don't go to the smaller towns and villages in the hills. They do go to places like Aix and Cagnes sur Mer etc.
Contra to what I just wrote: driving in France is very very slow, because of thousands of roundabouts, and it never gets really frantic in spite of the French driving style. Maybe drive from Nice to Aix?
posted by mumimor at 2:22 PM on March 13

The train from Dublin to Galway is a bit expensive but very convenient - it drops you right in the heart of Galway town and requires no awkward station changes. You could then pick up a rental car or get around by bus while on the west coast. That way you can get your eye used to the other-side-of-the-extremely-narrow-road driving before you have to dive right in to it with a passenger who might not be the best seat mate.

If you do take the train, you'll be going from Heuston Station. That is extremely convenient (as in a quick walk) to Guinness, to the Collin's Barracks Museum, and to my favourite museum in Dublin: IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art). Honestly, IMMA is world-class if you like contemporary art at all.

From Galway, one of the nicest daytrips/overnights you can take is a jaunt out to the Aran Islands. Go for the day or stay at one of the very nice B&Bs there. The islands are almost car-free, have a few great pubs, incredible views and one truly outstanding archaeological site. And you can take the bus and the boat there if you don't want to bother with driving. I did the trip often as a car-free university student.
posted by DSime at 10:56 AM on March 14

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