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Old 12-14-2014, 06:57 PM   #1
Skowinski OP
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Going to the Isle Of Man TT - But Seeing Europe

Skowinski-wife and I are headed to the IOM TT this coming June. All travel and lodging for getting to the IOM from Birmingham England and back are done. But -we want to arrive about 10 days early and roam around Europe, Italy and Spain primarily are of interest. We're looking at 1) flying 2) train travel 3) rental car.

We love the idea of seeing places along the way, so flying is at the bottom of the list. We've driven in Mexico many times, so not afraid of that way of getting around. Neither of us have done train travel much. Any advice?
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Old 12-15-2014, 04:04 AM   #2
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Any advice?
Hah!

Depends on what you want to see. If it's cities, the train is a wonderful way to travel (get a Eurail Pass* before you leave).

If it's back roads and smaller towns, the flexibility of a private vehicle can't be beat.

* There are many flavors to Eurail passes - length of validity and countries covered are just two. There are also rail/rental car combo passes - X many days of rail travel and X many days of car rental.

Look into an "Open Jaw" ticket to and from the States (I'm assuming that you're from the U.S.) to fly into - say - Vienna with the return flight from the UK after the TT. The leg from Vienna to Birmingham can be done a number of ways. I'd drive (actually, I'd rent a bike), but that's me.
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Old 12-15-2014, 05:21 AM   #3
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Michael has given you some good advice, particularly with the open jaw ticket. That would be a perfect trip, Vienna -> England by train in 10 days.

But according to what I read here, you may already be locked into airfare in and out of Birgmingham. With that in mind, I have a few pieces of advice for you.

First, don't underestimate the distances you're talking about. Training it down to Italy or Spain from England, even with the chunnel, is 2-3 days of travel each way if you take into account the likely schedules. London - Paris on the Eurostar has to be at least the better part of a day's travel I would say, and you don't want to skip Paris in my opinion. Just for reference, last summer I spent time meandering south from Helsinki to near Rome, and just the trip through Germany was 5 days allowing time for stopping to see things. Yes, you can go faster, but you'll miss a lot.

So if you have 10 days total you'd probably spend half or more of the time just on the trains to go that far and back. I really enjoy trains, but what you may wish to consider is remaining a bit more local: Britain itself is a wonderful, amazing place full of great things to see and do. Just southern England alone would be a full itinerary of places to see and things to do. But if you want to go further, you could work in just that NW corner of France (Normandy) and parts of Belgium and/or Netherlands (such as the Ardenne forest in Belgium) and have a full 10+ days just with that. Note that with the 100th anniversary of the great war ongoing, there are a lot of ceremonies and things happening in this area.

If your hearts are set on Italy (nice place but VERY crowded at that time of year at the tourist spots), I would probably fly.

Just a couple thoughts.
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Old 12-15-2014, 08:40 AM   #4
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Thanks for the comments. We aren't locked into anything yet - except for the Birmingham - Douglas - Birmingham flights for the TT itself. Everything else is open including the amount of time (well, within limits because if I had my way I'd go over there, buy a motorcycle, and not come home for a few months...).
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Old 12-17-2014, 01:49 AM   #5
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Well in that case, consider Michael's advice about flying into one city and then making your way to England on a one-way basis and fly out of London or someplace. A 10 day adventure by rail, one-way, is eminently do-able from basically anywhere in Western Europe. You could easily fly into Rome or Barcelona/Madrid and then make your way to Birmingham. You will spend a fair amount of time on trains, but they are generally enjoyable.

Still, don't underestimate the crowds in Italy in summer. Especially tourist locaitons like Tuscany (Florence) are just so overrun with people that enjoyment is honestly a bit hard. I found peace and great things in the Appenine hills but many of the towns were hardly bearable. At least with trains you won't have to deal with traffic, but many tourist places will be crammed. I have found Germany and Austria to be extremely pleasant at that time of year and have also really enjoyed trips in Belgium and the Netherlands. Northern France is on my short list but haven't been there.
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Old 12-17-2014, 02:29 AM   #6
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My perspective

For what it is worth.....
Look up Rick Steves on Google, use his TV show and website to explore possible places to visit. When you decide upon something, his guide books are like having a local in your hip pocket.
For me, I highly recommend Croatia as a fantastic country to visit. It is extremely beautiful, very affordable, they love Americans, and it has an extraordinary amount of history and natural beauty. Visiting southern Germany is a great destination and offers so very much. Good luck deciding and taking advantage of the extensive train network in Europe you should be able to see and do a lot.
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Old 12-17-2014, 02:31 AM   #7
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If you are interested in Italy then Croatia is for you. It has all of the charm and history of Italy and less crowds and much cheaper.

Look at Dubrovnik and the Dalmation Coast. You won't be disappointed.
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Old 12-17-2014, 04:20 AM   #8
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Still, don't underestimate the crowds in Italy in summer. Especially tourist locaitons like Tuscany (Florence) are just so overrun with people that enjoyment is honestly a bit hard.
He will be there from late May to Mid June for the TT. If he does his 10 days before the TT, everybody will still be at work and the tourists haven't really descended yet. Doing it after the TT, the crowds will just be starting to arrive.

Either way, it's not like late July or August.
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Old 12-18-2014, 12:31 PM   #9
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Look up Rick Steves on Google, use his TV show and website to explore possible places to visit. When you decide upon something, his guide books are like having a local in your hip pocket.
I have Netflix, and like to watch a variety of shows covering an area:

Rick Steves (museums and tourist stuff)
Rudy Maxa (cultural sites, fine dining, and music)
Samantha Brown (fun stuff and getting around)
Three Sheets (a funny guide to drinking yourself around the world)
Globe Trekker (counter culture, gay parades, and other weird stuff)
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Old 12-19-2014, 09:29 AM   #10
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Thanks again for the comments. I've just returned from a meeting where a friend from England was attending. I talked to him a bit about this. He said 1) flights around Europe are super cheap, 2) trains can be limiting in routes if you really like to explore off the beaten path, and 3) a car allows the ultimate freedom (probably important for people like Skowinski-wife and I, because we like to roam free day-to-day) and it's not that far from England to Spain, but Italy is a bit of a drive for ~10 days.
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Old 12-26-2014, 01:30 AM   #11
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Old 12-27-2014, 02:33 PM   #12
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Old 12-27-2014, 07:40 PM   #13
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Skowinski; if you are flying into and out of Birmingham you should consider just a car rental and do some touring in the UK. It has as much or more history as continental Europe and the scenery in the Lake District and the Scottish highlands is magnificent. Hope you have arranged a bike rental for the Island. TT is the pits on foot or public transit. Getting around to the various vantage points on the course is best done on a bike. Been there in '86 with a rental car and '88 & '90 on a bike. The ferry from Heysham is also a huge part of the experience. Went for 28 days in '88 and toured from one end of the UK to the other. Never once bored and lots of history from Roman ruins to Castles museums etc. The National Motorcycle Museum near Birmingham is better than Barber's in my opinion. Bikes are all at or below eye level and not hung 40 to a post and hard to see. I personally would leave any of the continent for another trip when I had more time. Just my .02 worth. Have a great trip however you plan it..Dave

PS..if you do rent a car do it from this side of the pond. It is a lot cheaper that way.
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Old 12-28-2014, 05:24 PM   #14
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Boots, message me my good man.

Wildman, for sure would love to catch up, we will be around something like late May to June 5, but completely unsure of details.

Dave, I'd actually considered that, just hanging around in the UK. But, I think we'd like to get further afield. We threaten each other with going to Europe almost every year, but work and time constraints keep it from happening. This is our opportunity.
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Old 12-28-2014, 06:45 PM   #15
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Glad you are getting the pretty views done 1st cos the TT will melt your melon.

Profanities will neverbe again as justified.

You lucky people.

Start saving to get back for the year after.
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