Where to go?
June 3, 2008 4:00 AM   Subscribe

I won a trip! But where should I go? I've got six choices.

I have my choice of one of six travel packages. All come with business class airfare and five nights in a hotel w/ complimentary breakfast.

The cities I can choose from are Dublin, Venice, Amsterdam, Geneva, St. Maarten and wherever the Latin Grammys are going to be held. Some are tied to events, such as Geneva, which comes with tickets to the Montreaux Jazz Festival.

I've been to London many times, Germany and we honeymooned in Italy near Florence. The Latin Grammys are pretty much at the bottom of the list. Criteria for us are things like good food, reasonable prices (I don't think we get any spending money) and funky shopping.

I'm leaning toward Amsterdam but the others still sound really good too. It's a nice problem to have. If it matters, Amsterdam is in November. I think all the others are in spring/summer of 2009. Any tips?
posted by Atom12 to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Venice for Carnival. Unlike any other experience on earth. Party experience that is.
posted by Mutant at 4:12 AM on June 3, 2008

Whoops! Posted too quick. We keep a second flat in Amsterdam and we spend a lot of time there. November isn't the worst time of year to go to Amsterdam, but keep in mind it may be dark and grim - perhaps 15C tops during the day, down to 5C or less at night, often rainy.

This might present some problems for sightseeing. Unless, of course, you're inclined to sight see in a coffee shop in which case the weather won't matter too much at all.
posted by Mutant at 4:16 AM on June 3, 2008

Venice is fantastic, it lives up to the hype, but it's extremely not cheap and finding good restaurants is frankly a crap-shoot. We learned early that the guidebooks can't be trusted, and had our best meal in a gondoliers' cafe we found in a back alley. Most of the shops are aimed at tourists, but thankfully don't all sell the same tatty nonsense.

Amsterdam I don't know well but I've always eaten well and shopped well there. Like Venice and to a lesser extent Dublin it can fill up with tourists in certain seasons of the year, though November should be fine and probably wouldn't be too cold. Very high percentage of English speakers, if that makes a difference to you.

Dublin is a small city and one I love, with lots of arts and music stuff. Restaurants: if you've got a good guidebook you should be fine; there's a wide range, though it does the London thing of having a certain class of place geared towards tourists. Good shopping, though fewer really big shops or high-ticket chains than the others.

I can't speak for the others.
posted by Hogshead at 4:42 AM on June 3, 2008

For me it would be about money. I can't afford to travel "in season" many places so I often see places in their winter or "sholder season".

I would pick the places I would someday like to see and find out which is the most expensive to travel to and visit once there.

For me I think it would be Venice.
Flights are very pricey in the summer and I think accomadations are too.

( I like St Maarten but in the summer? Meh. )
posted by beccaj at 4:54 AM on June 3, 2008

If it's for the Montreux Jazz Festival that'll be in July. Montreux is a beautiful place, at the mountainous end of Lake Geneva, but about a 90 minute train ride from Geneva itself (worth bearing in mind for getting back to Geneva). The Festival is far from Jazz only and lots of big names play from plenty of different musical genres - last year I saw the Chemical Brothers and this year I have tickets for Madness. It takes over the whole town with outdoor concerts, stalls (might fulfill the funky shopping criteria), bars etc.

Weather wise can be a hit and miss, I went last year and it was chucking it down, but as a general rule, July here is OK-ish. Montreux aside the Lake Geneva area has plenty of sightseeing and eating opportunities, although it's not the cheapest place. Having free tickets for the concerts will be worth a lot - seats for some of the bigger concerts have a face value of £150 to £200.
posted by jontyjago at 5:06 AM on June 3, 2008

Wikipediea says the Latin Grammys are in Houston this year, if that's any help.
posted by biffa at 5:25 AM on June 3, 2008

Great prize! I'd go for Venice if you're interested in seeing it ever - the water level is rising and the buildings are sinking, and while there's work underway to resolve it, it would be interesting to see it right now and also to make sure you can see it. (Extreme regret here for ditching a New Orleans trip plan a few years ago.)

Amsterdam would probably be great too, but I don't think it's the best value use of the prize, if that's an issue.

I live in Dublin and would definitely recommend it for a visit, but it depends on your interests. It's a very expensive city and I'm not sure it rewards the outlay relative to other places. Eating out is pretty pricey and the quality is varied, often not commensurate with the price. Also, having five days in a hotel would suggest that it's not best suited to travelling around, and I'm not sure if you've been to Ireland before but you would likely have a much better trip by seeing other parts of the country in addition to five days in Dublin, and five days might be a lot to fill if it doesn't interest you hugely.

(If you do choose Dublin, I'd be delighted to pour out suggestions suiting your interests by MeFiMail or on another AskMe.)
posted by carbide at 5:51 AM on June 3, 2008

Also, Dublin can be wet at any time of year, with sunny weeks in April and September but a constant downpour in June - there isn't really a good or bad time from this point of view. The city is generally very tourist-heavy but April-September is particularly busy, as well as any and all holidays. Lots of the museums and galleries are free, or only charge for a single special exhibition.
posted by carbide at 6:08 AM on June 3, 2008

The best way to see Geneva is on someone else's tab.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:12 AM on June 3, 2008

you left out some really crucial information: where do you live and what currency do you generally deal in?

europe might be a great trip if you live in NYC, which I saw you posted about in another ad, but the netherlands antilles might be a better place right now considering you're tight and the euro is expensive.
posted by krautland at 7:36 AM on June 3, 2008

I disagree with Mutant: Venice is great, but "Carnival" is somewhat misinterpreted as a giant spectacle when really it's more of a family-friendly festival which mostly means (a) lots of clowns and (b) the already-crowded streets will be even more crowded. Oh, and when I went: freezing rain. (Northern Italy is cold in winter and early spring.)

Given the restrictions on your travel, I'd vote for Amsterdam, Geneva, or Dublin, in that order. Couldn't really go wrong with any of them.
posted by kittyprecious at 7:53 AM on June 3, 2008

It appears this is from some music related contest, so as a fan of music I would recommend Geneva for the festival. As it has been said, it isn't just jazz music, plus it is an even with lots of international flair and food. Geneva is a short train ride from several beautiful locations in the Alps.

Second choice would be Dublin.
posted by vagabond at 7:58 AM on June 3, 2008

I'm in Omaha, but there isn't a stipulation on where I travel from. Meaning, I don't have to get to NYC or Boston to get to Europe. As an American, I'm stuck with the lousy dollar.
posted by Atom12 at 8:17 AM on June 3, 2008

Congrats, very cool choices.

I would ax the Latin Grammy's trip, why bother going somewhere in the US if you can get a free trip abroad?

I would also skip Geneva, I spent a couple days there and found it excruciatingly boring. As Vagabond said, you could use it as a stepping off point, but Geneva is not a great city to visit.

Carbide's point about Dublin is great, and I was going to make the same one. It doesn't matter when you go, it's going to rain and that's part of the charm of the city. Dublin is awesome to visit, a great city just to "be" in.

For your criteria, Dublin or Amsterdam sound like the closest matches. Amsterdam will be a little more expensive for food and entertainment, but you will have more varied choices.

I fell in love with both cities, you may want to do a coin toss. I don't know if this matters, but I don't smoke pot and still had a really good time in Amsterdam. Also, keep in mind that Amsterdam gets cold too, I think we were there in July and it wasn't that toasty.
posted by jonah at 9:57 AM on June 3, 2008

I'm really rather miffed by this "it always rains in Ireland" thing.

Wikipedia: "Contrary to popular belief, Dublin does not experience as high rainfall as the West of Ireland... The total average annual rainfall (and other forms of precipitation) is 762 mm, lower than Sydney, New York City and even Dallas.

It is summer. I believe it has rained twice in the last month, for relatively brief showers. It will be warm and mild until September. People here are wearing little tiny shorts and going to the beach. We are not wandering around in macs and wellies.

Having said that, I'd go to St. Maarten or Amsterdam. Venice is a bit whiffy in the summer. Geneva is dull.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:35 PM on June 3, 2008

If you go to Geneva, make sure to do side trips to the Berner-Oberland, specifically the Lauterbrunnen Valley area. You'll not get great food or funky shopping, but you will see one of the most beautiful areas in the world. Google image search of Lauterbrunnen and Berner Oberland. It really does look like that.
posted by cnc at 1:45 PM on June 3, 2008

I was in Geneva and I personally thought it was a nice city, if not really exciting. But Switzerland as a whole is very, very expensive, so if you are covering your costs there and budget is an issue, I'd say skip.

The Venice carnival is kinda overrated unless you really, really like masks. And it is cold. But I imagine it would be absolutely lovely in the spring (although possibly too hot in the summer). If you haven't been there yet, go. The crazy thing about Venice is when you're there you're thinking "This whole city must be a tourist trap" but then you wander just 10 minutes away from the main "strip" and suddenly you're in this quiet wonderful neighborhood.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:04 AM on June 4, 2008

I've asked a few other people as well and the overwhelming consesnsus seems to be Amsterdam.

I really appreciate you guys taking the time to weigh in with your thoughts and tips.
posted by Atom12 at 12:29 AM on June 5, 2008

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