You’ve finally saved enough to go on a 2-week trip to Europe — yay!!!
You don’t want to go on one of those big bus tours where you’re herded around like cattle with 40-60 other tourists.
You could get a travel agency to put together a trip for you but you know it will cost you a pretty penny.
What you really want is to DIY your trip: customize your itinerary to make sure it suits your tastes AND at the same time covers all the must-sees.
But You Just. Don’t. Have. The Time.
Well, you’re in luck. 🙂
In this article, we’re going to teach you the basics of putting together an 11-day European itinerary that will give you the best bang for your buck. We also share tips and other things we learned — sometimes the hard way — on our previous trips to Europe.
And if you want to skip all that and just get a really detailed itinerary — one that you can actually submit to the Embassy when you apply for a Schengen visa — we can give you that too. We’ve put together an 11-day itinerary (14 days in all, including transit) that has flight times, train times, daily schedules, tips, and links to where you can book everything you need to book. If that’s what you want, click HERE.
It was a last-minute decision to stay at the Hotel Terminus Lyon (and by “last-minute” I mean that the decision was made a few days before we filed our visa application, 2 months before our trip). We had planned to take a sleeper train from Nice to Paris, to save on time and accommodations, but it turned out there were no sleepers scheduled that night. We therefore decided we would just take a TGV that arrived in Paris right before midnight and sleep at a hotel near the station.
The Hotel Terminus Lyon is just across Gare de Lyon and was exactly what we needed. It’s a no-frills hotel that was nevertheless very clean and comfortable and had the essentials (and by “essentials” I of course mean WiFi). Staying near the train station also meant that we could easily transfer the next day to the hotel where we stayed during the rest of our time in Paris. We got a double room for USD 75 with an early bird discount — we were there on a January — but their actual room rates vary greatly within the year or even within a week.
As much as possible when I’m traveling, I like to stay in a central area that will allow me to walk to places of interest and easily access public transportation. The drawback of centrally located hotels is that they tend to be more expensive than those in the peripheries, but with a bit of research you can almost always find one that is an acceptable compromise in terms of convenience, comfort, and cost.
A good example is the Grand Hotel du Loiret in Paris. Located just a few steps from the Rue de Rivoli, it is within walking distance to the Seine, the Notre Dame, the Louvre, and the Place des Vosges, to name a few. There’s a Metro station just a few short blocks away and the Hotel de Ville stop of the Batobus is nearby as well. There are also many cafes and grocery stores in the area, and BHV is just around the corner.
Our room was big enough and simply but tastefully furnished. The hotel had a lift, worth mentioning because many small hotels don’t (a big problem if you have luggage). The only significant drawback for me was the WiFi; the process for logging in (back in January 2014 anyway) was so complicated that I never quite managed to figure it out. Fortunately, many of Paris’ parks — like the Place des Vosges or the Square Jean XXIII at the back of the Notre Dame — had free WiFi, so the hotel’s internet foible didn’t matter as much as it could have. At 100 euros per night for a double, the Grand Hotel du Loiret is not exactly cheap but it is definitely less expensive than most of its neighbors of comparable quality.
Plus: the reception staff were great. There seemed to be three of them on rotating schedules. The guy who checked us in spoke excellent English and was very friendly. The next one we encountered was also friendly and helpful; one time, before giving us our key, he asked us to say our room number in French and looked absolutely delighted when I was able to comply (but not as delighted as I secretly was, heh). The third guy was elderly, not as fluent in English, and seemed grumpy at first, but he turned out to be nice enough. He even shared a bit of his hard-earned wisdom when my travel buddy anxiously asked him if he’d seen me. “Don’t worry,” he said. “Women. International! SHOPPING.”
(Actually I was attending vespers at the Notre Dame but whatever.)