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Old August 23rd, 2008, 08:47 PM
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Default Dublin and Tuscany...Help me out well travelled ones...

OK here's the deal. I have a cruise booked but looks as though we will cancel it for a variety of reasons, bottom line we cannot be away for that long, so since we have paid for air and made some land based arrangements already we have decided to go ahead and make the most of our time in Europe. We will leave Chicago on the 20th of November, arriving in London on the 21st. we'll spend two days there, then fly to Milan and will rent a car to take us to a house we've rented for a week. During that time I would like to drive around Tuscany eating and drinking with wild abandon until I explode, since we'll be close to Florence, Pisa, Genoa, Parma, Modena etc... that should be an easy task. I'd like to take the train south to Rome for a day or so and then fly to Dublin where we'll spend two or three days.

I am looking for recommendations for anything in Tuscany, Rome or Dublin, or if anyone has any ideas in London it would be great. I have a short list in Dublin that includes Guiness, and some castles, Rome the Vatican and Sistine Chapel (I would love the name of a good tour operator so we don't have to stand in line.) So for Tuscany I would love to know anything you feel would be worthwhile. Please share!
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Old August 23rd, 2008, 11:23 PM
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Beenie--

Asking for recommendations for a couple days in London is a little like being the three sailors "On the Town" in New York. You have no idea where to start unless you narrow things down. You can't possibly begin to do justice to London in less than two weeks, so tell us what categories of things interest you the most?

Tuscany: you can't go wrong. Just don't miss the smaller towns, of which I think San Gemignano is a spectacular example. Don't miss visiting the potter. Buy one his unique olive oil pitchers. For my money, Genoa is just OK. If you skipped it, it would be no great loss.

Rome for a day makes me as nervous as London for two days. In any event, if you really only intend to spend a day there, I'd think carefully whether you want to spend the bulk of it in the Vatican. I mean sure, everybody should see St. Pete's, but they should also see the Pantheon, Trevi, the Forum, the Colosseum, Victor Emmanuel, Spanish Steps, Villa Borghese, etc. And it would be a shame not to have a coffee on the Via Veneto. The hop-on, hop-off busses are a practical way to get around. I would truly skip the Sistene Chapel unless there's nobody in line, or it has overwhelmingly high priority for religious reasons. If you spend all or most of your day in the Vatican, you'll have to come back another time to see Rome.

Dublin is lovely, but for my money it has considerably less to offer than either London or Rome.
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Old August 24th, 2008, 12:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AR
Beenie--

Asking for recommendations for a couple days in London is a little like being the three sailors "On the Town" in New York. You have no idea where to start unless you narrow things down. You can't possibly begin to do justice to London in less than two weeks, so tell us what categories of things interest you the most?

Tuscany: you can't go wrong. Just don't miss the smaller towns, of which I think San Gemignano is a spectacular example. Don't miss visiting the potter. Buy one his unique olive oil pitchers. For my money, Genoa is just OK. If you skipped it, it would be no great loss.

Rome for a day makes me as nervous as London for two days. In any event, if you really only intend to spend a day there, I'd think carefully whether you want to spend the bulk of it in the Vatican. I mean sure, everybody should see St. Pete's, but they should also see the Pantheon, Trevi, the Forum, the Colosseum, Victor Emmanuel, Spanish Steps, Villa Borghese, etc. And it would be a shame not to have a coffee on the Via Veneto. The hop-on, hop-off busses are a practical way to get around. I would truly skip the Sistene Chapel unless there's nobody in line, or it has overwhelmingly high priority for religious reasons. If you spend all or most of your day in the Vatican, you'll have to come back another time to see Rome.

Dublin is lovely, but for my money it has considerably less to offer than either London or Rome.
Beenie your trip sounds great, but I wholeheartedly agree wih AR regarding Rome. You wouldn't even be able to get into the Vatican museum or Sisten Chapel without a guide and you may as well plan on spending at least half a day there. Take the hop-off bus or arrange for a driver (such as Stefano of Rome Cabs) to show you around. Stefano can arrange a half day or whole day to show you the sights of Rome ending the evening with Champagne on a hilltop overlooking Rome. However you decide to see Rome, be sure to see the Spanish Steps, Villa Borghese and stroll past the Colosseum and see the Pantheon. Don't miss the Trevi Fountain but make that your last stop of the day. Grab a Gelato and then toss the coin over your shoulder to ensure your return (and hopefully longer stay) to Rome. I booked a couple of our Rome tours on-line before we left home, through Viator.com and they did an excellent job and at competitive pricing.

You might look up Papillion tours to help you look around Tuscany and you have to see 'The David' at the Accademia gallery. A pre-arranged tour guide can get you advance tickets and take you right past the line to get into the gallery.
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Old August 24th, 2008, 12:52 AM
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I would allocate two days to Rome. Here is a tour company we used for walking tours:

http://www.contexttravel.com/rome/

They have a series of two to four hour walking tours; max group size is six. We took four tours with them:

Ancient Rome - four hours
Vatican - four hours
Evening tour from Piazza Navonna to Spanish Steps - three hours
Villa Borghese - two hours

I believe that the Ancient Rome and Vatican tours are a must for any first time visitor to Rome. We had the same docent for both tours. She had a masters in art history, was American, but taught in Rome. The Vatican tour that she gave us was probably the best tour we have ever taken. Of course, the Villa Borghese tour we took with her was also fantastic.

You can fit all four of these tours into two days. If you had additional time, I would also tour San Angelo Castle and many of the other churches around Rome.
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Old August 24th, 2008, 10:31 AM
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Beautiful!!! This is the kind of information I was looking for! For London, we're not getting too terribly wound up and planning very much. The reason we're stopping in London is to enjoy an 8 hour flight, rather than a 12 hour flight if we were to go directly to Italy. It will hopefully give us a little time to adjust to the time change too. If it were just d/h and I it would be fine, but since we're bringing the kids, we're breaking the trip up into smaller portions. In London we want to see the Tower of London...one of my ancestors was the Constable back in the 1300's, so it would be neat to explain that to the kids as we are making family tree books for them both.
I thought the tour company below sounded good as well and will likely try it, and those two activities should be enough for London with the family before we head to Italy.
"Big Bus Company Tour Ticket you get a Live Commentary. your ticket is valid for 24 hours and you get a free river cruise and walking tours. Adult Ticket £14.00 ($21 USD). Book on line and save £1 (normal price £15) Child Ticket £6.00 ($9 USD)."

You guys have given me lots of ideas and I really appreciate all of your ideas. Thanks!
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Old August 24th, 2008, 12:42 PM
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you might try going online and looking at some of Rick Steven's tv shows about these cities...I never really put much stock in them until recently and they are not that bad in giving you an idea on what you might selectively want to see while you are there..at least you will have a reference

sounds like you are going to have a fun trip..which airline are you flying ?
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Old August 24th, 2008, 12:47 PM
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We're flying from Chicago to London on Virgin Atlantic and then flying back from Dublin on Aer Lingus.

It was really difficult to find a decent price returning from Europe to the U.S. I ended up paying $1,300 for four tickets, which I thought was pretty good, but I looked around for a couple of days before finding that deal.

Thanks for the info on Rick Steven's shows, I will check them out.
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Old August 24th, 2008, 01:22 PM
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OK, "London for Kids" actually does narrow things a little. Naturally, the London Eye wheel would be a big hit. Madam Tussaud's might go over well. I'm glad you want to see the Tower and I think that the ancestral link is very cool, and the Beefeaters will probably be very interested as well. Be sure to bring all the documentation/info you have with you, and just chat up a Beefeater about it. They are uniformly great folks, almost exclusively old soldiers, who genuinely like people. It's even money that they may direct you to more information about your heritage. At the Tower, while you look at the Crown Jewels, send the kids on the walk along the ramparts if the weather is good. It's an easy walk with great views. They'll probably also enjoy the suits of armor and other armaments in the museum in the White Tower.

Also please put "Ceremony of the Keys, Tower of London" into your favorite browser and read about the ceremonial locking of the Tower every night at 10. All the info is there about how to request a free invitation (which must be done in advance via a letter to the Governor of the Tower). The ceremony is short and goosebumpy, but the real treat is to be within the Tower at night and essentially alone, standing at Traitor's Gate, with every footfall of the guard sounding like an earthquake. Heavy stuff, when you realize they've been locking the Tower like this every night for the last 700 years.

Beyond that, a half day general tour is always a good idea (either bus or private). Then there are the obvious things like a play in the West End. I was very pleased to discover several years ago that the Cabinet War Rooms are now open to the public under Whitehall. This was Churchill's secret subterranean command post during WWII, and if you care about such things is really fascinating. Naturally, the new Globe Theater on the river is great for Shakespeare fans, but the kids might not care for it unless they understand about the Bard.

I guess I'd also put a marker down for at least a short stop in to see St. Paul's. Wren really was a master, and this building is wonderful inside and out. It strikes me far more deeply than St. Pete's in Rome or Notre Dame in Paris, or Westminster down the street in London.

I do have a restaurant recommendation in London. It is London's oldest restaurant, called Rules, in Covent Garden near the theater district. It is not cheap, but it is fairly priced, it is historic as the dickens (or even the Dickens), the food is very, very good, and the people are lovely. I respect it enough that I would not go in without at least a sport coat, but many do not feel the same way, and of course kids get a pass on that. They are fabulous for pre-theater dinners and always see to it that you don't miss your curtain. Plus, if you're going to the theater, they'll give you good advice about when to arrive for dinner so you won't be rushed. They also have a lovely website which I recommend you look at.
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Old August 24th, 2008, 01:45 PM
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AR, all I can say is WOW and THANKS! These are great suggestions for our family and definitely fall where our interests lie. I am getting very excited about this trip.
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Old August 25th, 2008, 08:57 PM
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Default Ideas on Dublin

We have been to Ireland 11 times. We love the west coast better than Dublin. I know everyone must see it once so---The best way to see Dublin is to take the hop on hop off tours, it will take you to all the important places. You can see Dublin in 2 days. I do have some suggestions for food and where we stayed. Let me know if you would like me to get the list for you! We usually base in Clifden, rent a car and take day trips. This is the beautiful side of Ireland--the cliffs are breathtaking. That is the real Ireland! The picture that we post on this board was taken in Ireland!
Good luck on your travels, we were in the Tuscany area last April. It is lovely.
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Old August 26th, 2008, 10:02 AM
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I would love that!! Thanks for all the information.
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Old August 26th, 2008, 11:57 AM
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Oh, geez, I can't believe I forgot this. Punch up www.walks.com and look at the wonderful variety of two-hour walks you can take with fabulous guides in London. I always take a least one walk on every trip.

The way it works is brilliant: no reservations, no pain no strain. Each walk begins and ends at a tube (subway) stop. You recognize the guide because he's holding up one of their brochures. You pay him or her 7 quid (kids FREE), and off you go for a fascinating two hours that is guaranteed to end either at the same or another tube stop.

We were fortunate last time to take the "Jack the Ripper" walk with the renowned guide Donald Rumbelow, who you will read about on the website. One of my other favorites was the "Inns of Court" walk. In fact, when I checked the website before writing this I punched up the Inns of Court walk, and they have soundbites with the guide there for you to listen to. He's hysterical, and it reminded me of that terrific time among the barristers. You learn great stuff on these walks. During Inns of Court I learned where the expression "red tape" comes from. All the briefs and other legal papers there are tied with red ribbons. That's it. Plus, if you're not into British slang you may not know the expression, "He's down Queer Street," meaning "He's broke." It comes from the fact that the Divorce Court used to be on Queer Street, and it was believed that men generally didn't stand a chance regarding the settlement, and that they'd come out of court very much poorer than when they went in. The expression persists, even though the court is no longer on Queer Street. Oh, it's in the same place it always was, but they've changed the name of the street. Wonder why.

Anyway, I'd definitely put the London Walks schedule in your bag. Their guides are uniformly terrific. They put any guide I've ever had on a ship's tour utterly to shame. And so easy and inexpensive. Just reading the list is great fun.
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Old August 26th, 2008, 03:32 PM
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AR, Thanks again for another great idea.
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Old August 27th, 2008, 11:17 AM
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Evderyone gave you great suggestions! I vote for the hop on, hop off buses for Dublin and even Rome. If you could manage 2 days in Rome instead of just one, you could fit everything in, all the main sights. The Sistine Chapel is awesome but on limited time I would not stand in line.

I did a driving trip around Italy for 2 weeks and we were in Rome for 2 days prior to picking up our rental car. Tuscany is awesome so many wonderful little towns.

My advice on driving around, as so many towns are built on hill tops, if you don't mind walking, park a little further away. My friend did not like to walk (not a good thing) and we spent way too much time trying to find parking.

Sounds like an awesome trip, enjoy!
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Old August 27th, 2008, 04:23 PM
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Beenie, I've already posted some suggestions to the thread and just wanted to add that I hope you have a wonderful time. We hope to return to Rome next year if possible. We fell in love with Italy but mostly Rome. Do you have your hotel booked for Rome yet? We stayed at the Hotel Ambasciatorri Palace on Via Veneto and it was wonderful, although a bit pricey. I understand that there are some very nice B&B's in Rome as well. One in particular that we have looked at is the Best B&B and they have one near the Pantheon and at least one other in Rome.
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Old August 27th, 2008, 05:45 PM
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I tell you, this trip is a constant work in progress. The minute I think I have a detail pinned down, it somehow changes. D/H came up with a couple of great ideas last night and now we're considering those, so what's a girl to do?

I really appreciate everyones ideas. It has been great to come hear and have all of your experiences as resources to plan our trip. The information is terrific. I can't wait to actually put together our final plan, and go do it to it.

I have printed out all of your posts and put it in my Europe folder. If we find we don't get all of these great things done on this trip, I guess that means we'll just have to go back
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Old August 28th, 2008, 09:19 PM
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The last time we were in Dublin, we stayed at the Mercer Hotel
http://www.mercerhotel.ie/location.html
This is a very small hotel right in the city center. We enjoyed our stay.
Real irish food can be found at Gallaghers Boxy House http://www.boxtyhouse.ie/
We have had several meals and all have been very good. Right down the street is a great pub Oliver St. John Gogarty
This is in the Temple Bar area--a must
http://www.visit-templebar.com/


Hope this helps
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