Tips and Inspiration for your European holiday

I’m on the countdown to the day of departure for my annual trip to Europe and whilst I have all the travel and accommodation booked (I do like to be organized!), I have left plenty of room in my itinerary for some spontaneity when it comes to what to see and do - and I'd love your input.


Where I'm traveling on my 2015 European holiday

These days I tend to stay in fewer places for longer durations at each which gives my husband and I the opportunity to really explore our surroundings and hunt out some of the lesser known things to see and do. It also allows us to have a rest day if we feel like just chilling out by the pool or grabbing a coffee at a local café and people watching if that’s about as much energy as we can muster.


On this year’s itinerary there are places and sights that I have noted as ‘must visits’ but I would also love to hear suggestions from you. If you’ve visited a ‘hidden’ village or eaten in an amazing restaurant, or perhaps seen the most incredible view, please share it with me so that I can include it in my sightseeing itinerary. We'll be picking up a car that I've pre-booked via the tax-free vehicle leasing program once we arrive in Languedoc and will drop it off in Munich prior to flying to Greece, so we'll have the flexibility to visit smaller villages without having to rely on public transport.


Below is our European itinerary for 2015 which includes stays in some favourite destinations that we’ve visited before as well as a few new places. I think it will be a fairly good balance of old and new and I’d love to receive your input on what we should be sure to see and do in each destination. 


Paris, France – 2 nights

What I plan to see and do in Paris

  • We have tickets for the Masters Tournament which is being run in conjunction with the French Tennis Open at Roland Garros
  • A lovely dinner at a Parisian Brasserie is also a priority


Olonzac, Languedoc, France – 10 nights

What I plan to see and do in Olonzac

  • A half day Chocolate and Wine Tasting Tour of Carcassonne, and we'll visit the fortified Cite of Carcassonne
  • Explore a bit more of the Mediterranean coast between Gruissan and Collioure


Cabrieres-d’Avignon, Provence, France – 7 nights

What I plan to see and do in Provence

  • Visit Avignon
  • Visit some of the Luberon villages such as Gordes, Lourmarin, Menerbes and Lacoste
  • Hopefully I'll get to see lots of fields bursting with the colours of lavender and sunflowers


Villefranche sur Mer (near Nice), Cote d’Azur, France – 2 nights

What I plan to see and do in Villefranche sur Mer

  • Wander around the old town of Nice
  • Visit Villa Ephrussi (the Rothschild garden) at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
  • Visit St. Paul de Vence


Levanto (near Cinque Terre), Italy – 4 nights

What I plan to see and do in Levanto

  • Explore the five villages of the Cinque Terre
  • Walk part of the famous trail between the villages
  • Take a boat from Levanto to one of the villages as I’ve been told the best views are from the water


Ceva, Piedmont, Italy – 2 nights

What I plan to see and do in Ceva


We are staying with friends for two nights so our sightseeing will be organised by them. Last time we visited them, they gave us a fantastic ‘tour’ of Piedmont.


Varenna (Lake Como), Italy – 6 nights

What I plan to see and do at Lake Como

  • Catch the ferry to Bellagio for lunch at Café Bilacus
  • Visit one of the beautiful gardens on the lake
  • Take the train to Milan to see The Last Supper and do a walking tour of the city

 

Varenna, Lake Como

 

Salo (Lake Garda), Italy – 3 nights

What I plan to see and do at Lake Garda

  • Relax by the lake
  • Wander around Sirmione
  • Possibly catch the train to Venice or Verona for the day


Selva Gardena (The Dolomites), Italy – 5 nights

What I plan to see and do in the Dolomites

  • Explore the mountain village of Selva
  • Enjoy the alpine scenery and fresh mountain air with some (easy) hiking
  • Visit the Trauttmansdorff Gardens at Merano
  • Spend some time with family


Munich, Germany – 1 night

Our stay in Munich is only an overnighter as we are catching an early flight to Greece the next day.


Kos Island, Greece – 7 nights

What I plan to see and do on Kos Island

  • Spend lots of time by the pool at our resort
  • Maybe take a boat trip (30 minutes) to Bodrum in Turkey


Have I missed anything? Do you know of an off-the-beaten-path village I should visit or have you enjoyed the best pizza ever at a tiny pizzeria? If you’re willing to share your holiday highlights with me I’d be very grateful. Please let me know in the comments below or email me.


During my trip I’ll be posting photos on the Holidays to Europe Facebook page so you can travel with me vicariously. And who knows – I might visit a particular place thanks to your recommendation.

 

 

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Comments   

# Carolyn 2015-06-15 01:03
Quoting Kylie:
Hi Carolyn, I have just come across your website and love it! I've just returned from the Cinque Terre where we used Vernazza as a base for 5 nights. We walked from Vernazza to Monterosso which took a couple of hours, had a lovely lunch and then decided to walk back again! Be sure to try some pesto pasta when in the region, I had it a few times it was so delicious! The walk from Vernazza to Corniglia was a little more strenuous but worth it for the beautiful views. The coastal path from Coniglia to Manarola is closed so we took the high way, and high is an understatement!! Quite difficult as its a really steep climb, but again stunning views. The path from Manarola to Riomaggiore is closed, so I would recommend arriving by boat to this beautiful village.
We did a day trip by train to Lucca which is a beautiful city with a city wall you can walk/ride around. When in Milan there are great views from the top of the Duomo. Your itinerary looks great, enjoy

Hi Kylie, thanks for your comments - it's great to hear from you - and thanks for the tips about the Cinque Terre. It's good to know in advance that some of the paths are closed so we'll be able to plan our days there accordingly. We'll be using Levanto as a base during our stay. I'll definitely be trying the pesto pasta :)
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# Kylie 2015-06-14 18:12
Hi Carolyn, I have just come across your website and love it! I've just returned from the Cinque Terre where we used Vernazza as a base for 5 nights. We walked from Vernazza to Monterosso which took a couple of hours, had a lovely lunch and then decided to walk back again! Be sure to try some pesto pasta when in the region, I had it a few times it was so delicious! The walk from Vernazza to Corniglia was a little more strenuous but worth it for the beautiful views. The coastal path from Coniglia to Manarola is closed so we took the high way, and high is an understatement! ! Quite difficult as its a really steep climb, but again stunning views. The path from Manarola to Riomaggiore is closed, so I would recommend arriving by boat to this beautiful village.
We did a day trip by train to Lucca which is a beautiful city with a city wall you can walk/ride around. When in Milan there are great views from the top of the Duomo. Your itinerary looks great, enjoy
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# Carolyn 2015-05-28 09:03
Quoting Nicky:
Bon Voyage Carolyn. Safe travels

Thanks Nicky. :)
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# Nicky 2015-05-27 16:31
Bon Voyage Carolyn. Safe travels
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# Carolyn 2015-05-05 16:25
Quoting Crawford:
Dear Carolyn
Sounds like a great adventure. I would like to suggest you include Caunes Minervois. It is just 15 minutes from olonzac.
It is a small but lovely village where there are lots of artists, writers and in the summer lots of music.
There are also several good restaurants one of which rick stein included in his programme. Hotel D'alibert. It is also nearby to many gorgeous areas of interest. Minerve, Gouffre de carsparine etc

Regards crawford

Hi Crawford, thanks for your suggestions. I'll definitely include a visit to Caunes Minervois. I think I've been through there before (on my way to Minerve) but it sounds like it's worth a visit on its own. I might even pay a visit to Hotel D'Alibert.
I appreciate you commenting - thanks again.
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# Crawford 2015-05-05 15:21
Dear Carolyn
Sounds like a great adventure. I would like to suggest you include Caunes Minervois. It is just 15 minutes from olonzac.
It is a small but lovely village where there are lots of artists, writers and in the summer lots of music.
There are also several good restaurants one of which rick stein included in his programme. Hotel D'alibert. It is also nearby to many gorgeous areas of interest. Minerve, Gouffre de carsparine etc

Regards crawford
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# Carolyn 2015-05-04 15:37
Quoting Sharon:
Sounds like a wonderful trip. We are heading off in a couple of weeks for 4 weeks visiting France, Switzerland, Italy and Greece. We might just bump into you. I'll be watching your photos and comparing with mine. We will be staying in Manarola when we visit the Cinque Terre. Having read people's comments makes me even more excited.

Wouldn't that be amazing if we bumped into each one, Sharon? I hope you have a wonderful holiday and am keen to hear your thoughts on staying in Manarola - and all about the rest of your trip. Safe travels.
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# Sharon 2015-05-04 13:46
Sounds like a wonderful trip. We are heading off in a couple of weeks for 4 weeks visiting France, Switzerland, Italy and Greece. We might just bump into you. I'll be watching your photos and comparing with mine. We will be staying in Manarola when we visit the Cinque Terre. Having read people's comments makes me even more excited.
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# Carolyn 2015-05-02 22:19
Quoting Kay:
whilst in the Piedmont region and you like a challenge, try the Tibetan bridge walk in Claviere near the French italian border. Spectacular if the weather is fine and sunny.

That sounds interesting, Kay. Is that a long suspension bridge? I'll have to check it out.

Thanks for the tip.
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# Kay 2015-05-02 21:09
whilst in the Piedmont region and you like a challenge, try the Tibetan bridge walk in Claviere near the French italian border. Spectacular if the weather is fine and sunny.
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# Carolyn 2015-05-02 10:39
Quoting MICHELLE WASON:
Wow!! I am so jealous. Think I must be due for another holiday Carolyn! It seems so long since our great European adventure. If you get time when near Villefranche sur Mer, pop over to the beautiful walled city of Lucca. So much history and it's just amazing. If you're lucky you might just happen to be there for a local first communion service in a spectacular church in a little piazza....done only as the Italians can do. A wonderful experience for us. :)

Great tip, Michelle. I'll definitely keep that in mind. Looking at the map, Lucca's not too far from the Cinque Terre, either, so it could be an option from there. Thanks for the suggestion.
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# MICHELLE WASON 2015-05-02 08:56
Wow!! I am so jealous. Think I must be due for another holiday Carolyn! It seems so long since our great European adventure. If you get time when near Villefranche sur Mer, pop over to the beautiful walled city of Lucca. So much history and it's just amazing. If you're lucky you might just happen to be there for a local first communion service in a spectacular church in a little piazza....done only as the Italians can do. A wonderful experience for us. :)
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# Carolyn 2015-05-01 21:35
Quoting Otto Kruse:
if you pass through Menton the Citrus gardens are certainly worth a visit, especially if the trees are in fragrant bloom.Also, the drive through the Gorges of Verdon to get there was certainly an EXPERIENCE !!!

Thanks Otto. I think we will be passing through Menton so I'll keep an eye out for the Citrus Gardens as I am a garden fan. The drive through the Gorges sounds good - if time permits we'll keep that in mind.

Thanks for your suggestions.
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# Carolyn 2015-05-01 21:33
Quoting Sandra Lowther:
Whilst staying at Cabrieres d'Avignon you could visit St Remy de Provence where Vincent Van Gough did many paintings. Wednesday is market day, so a good day but you must get there early for parking. On the way back a visit to Les Beaux is a must. Sunday is market day in L'Isle sur la Sorgue and this is a great village with water wheels around the village. Fontaine de Vaucluse is another must visit village, only about 10 minutes from Cabrieres. The Muse de Lavande is located close by to Cabrieres. During your time at Sirmione, Lake Garda, you should take one of the boat rides around the lake, which have quite an exciting finish. Your trip sounds very exciting and I feel as though I have planned your itinerary. Enjoy.
Oh, I can't wait to get to Provence now, Sandra. So many great suggestions ... The markets and villages will are a definite visit. Thanks for the tips.

I've been to Lake Garda before but haven't done a lake cruise but that sounds like fun.
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# Sandra Lowther 2015-05-01 20:11
Whilst staying at Cabrieres d'Avignon you could visit St Remy de Provence where Vincent Van Gough did many paintings. Wednesday is market day, so a good day but you must get there early for parking. On the way back a visit to Les Beaux is a must. Sunday is market day in L'Isle sur la Sorgue and this is a great village with water wheels around the village. Fontaine de Vaucluse is another must visit village, only about 10 minutes from Cabrieres. The Muse de Lavande is located close by to Cabrieres. During your time at Sirmione, Lake Garda, you should take one of the boat rides around the lake, which have quite an exciting finish. Your trip sounds very exciting and I feel as though I have planned your itinerary. Enjoy.
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# Carolyn 2015-05-01 19:42
Quoting Gaye:
Sounds amazing Carolyn, brings back some wonderful memories of my trip to Europe even though it's been nearly 4 years now. You'll love Carcassonne, I stayed there a couple of nights just outside the old walled city where you can easily spend a whole day just wandering around. Beautiful countryside! I've only been to a couple of other places on your list so I'll be sure to follow your travels on Facebook. I'm sure you'll have an amazing time!

Thanks Gaye - I hope my photos on Facebook inspire you to return to Europe in the not too distant future. I'll be sure to have a glass of wine and for you in Carcassonne!
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# Gaye 2015-05-01 19:01
Sounds amazing Carolyn, brings back some wonderful memories of my trip to Europe even though it's been nearly 4 years now. You'll love Carcassonne, I stayed there a couple of nights just outside the old walled city where you can easily spend a whole day just wandering around. Beautiful countryside! I've only been to a couple of other places on your list so I'll be sure to follow your travels on Facebook. I'm sure you'll have an amazing time!
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# Carolyn 2015-05-01 17:20
Quoting Barbara Learmonth:
Sounds great. So jealous! In Olonzac take the little boat cruise in Homps along the Canal du Midi, and swim in Lac de Jourres only a few minutes away. Travel south of Olonzac for a day trip and see the Cathar castles, Mirepoix and Foix Especially on market days. In Milan there is a department store in the large gallery next to the Duomo and they have a cafe on the top floor that is level with the spires. It is amazing to see them up close while enjoying a coffee!

Thanks for the tips, Barbara. So many things to add to my sightseeing list. I know where I'll be heading for coffee in Milan now!
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# Barbara Learmonth 2015-05-01 16:29
Sounds great. So jealous! In Olonzac take the little boat cruise in Homps along the Canal du Midi, and swim in Lac de Jourres only a few minutes away. Travel south of Olonzac for a day trip and see the Cathar castles, Mirepoix and Foix Especially on market days. In Milan there is a department store in the large gallery next to the Duomo and they have a cafe on the top floor that is level with the spires. It is amazing to see them up close while enjoying a coffee!
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# Carolyn 2015-05-01 15:02
Quoting Rhianna:
Sounds like you are going to have an amazing time!

I hope so. I am SO looking forward to it.
Thanks for stopping by!
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# Carolyn 2015-05-01 15:02
Quoting [email protected]:
Munich was one of my favourite cities in Europe I would aim to get there a few days earlier.

Definitely head over to Bodrum and explore the castle, personally Kos wasn't my favourite island. Very busy.

I agree, Sally. Munich is a great city and I'm a bit sad to not be spending more time there this trip - oh well, there's always next time.

Thanks for the warning about Kos. I'll be there in July so am expecting it to be busy. Hopefully I can still bag a sunlounge by the pool!
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# Rhianna 2015-04-30 12:23
Sounds like you are going to have an amazing time!
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# [email protected] 2015-04-30 09:01
Munich was one of my favourite cities in Europe I would aim to get there a few days earlier.

Definitely head over to Bodrum and explore the castle, personally Kos wasn't my favourite island. Very busy.
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# Carolyn 2015-04-29 21:24
Quoting Zita:
So many fantastic places that are on my bucketlist!

I hope you get to a few of them one day soon, Zita. Thanks for stopping by.
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# Carolyn 2015-04-29 21:23
Quoting Malinda @mybrownpape:
What a wonderful trip you are going to have! I do that too, book the accommodation, usually longer in one place, and then have loose idea of what we want to do and see while we are there. Keeping it flexible is the best way to go but knowing where you are going to rest your head each night makes it less stressful.
When you visit the Cinque Terre be sure to do the boat from one end to the other, the villages really do look great fromthe water. The first 'lovers walk' is paved, flat and easy. If you are moderately fit then do another of the walks between the villages, it is beautiful and gives you a whole other perspective.
Thanks for joining in #wednesdaywanderlust link party

I can't wait to get to the Cinque Terre, Malinda, and I'll definitely be packing my walking shoes for the walks you mention. I think I can classify myself as moderately fit (although a holiday in Italy with all that delicious food and wine might put paid to that!!) so I will attempt to walk between a couple of the villages. Anything for a photo op!
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# Carolyn 2015-04-29 21:21
Quoting Fairlie:
Sounds like a fabulous itinerary! While you're in Milan, make sure you climb to the roof of the Duomo - it is such a great experience to walk on the roof and take in the views over the city across to the Alps. (And you would already know this...but viewing of The Last Supper has to be booked in advance. Lots of people turn up expecting to just walk in, and that is not possible.)

Thanks for the tips, Fairlie. I've got the Last Supper covered (it's included with my city walking tour) but I'll definitely add a visit to the top of the Duomo to my list.
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# Zita 2015-04-29 20:38
So many fantastic places that are on my bucketlist!
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# Malinda @mybrownpape 2015-04-29 20:06
What a wonderful trip you are going to have! I do that too, book the accommodation, usually longer in one place, and then have loose idea of what we want to do and see while we are there. Keeping it flexible is the best way to go but knowing where you are going to rest your head each night makes it less stressful.
When you visit the Cinque Terre be sure to do the boat from one end to the other, the villages really do look great fromthe water. The first 'lovers walk' is paved, flat and easy. If you are moderately fit then do another of the walks between the villages, it is beautiful and gives you a whole other perspective.
Thanks for joining in #wednesdaywande rlust link party
Reply
# Fairlie 2015-04-29 17:42
Sounds like a fabulous itinerary! While you're in Milan, make sure you climb to the roof of the Duomo - it is such a great experience to walk on the roof and take in the views over the city across to the Alps. (And you would already know this...but viewing of The Last Supper has to be booked in advance. Lots of people turn up expecting to just walk in, and that is not possible.)
Reply