Subject: Re: First Trip to Europe Planning! (Long)

Wow, what a trip you have planned. I definitely do not want to put a damper on your plans, but I have found that you will need down time because (a) you will be jetlagged; (b) you will find places that you love and don't want to leave; (c) part of the enjoyment of Europe is just slowing down and enjoying that 3 hour lunch in a cafe or the 2 hours you'll spend over morning coffee watching people go about their daily business or, yes you will want to do this, read the International Herald Tribune from cover to cover. (Some of my fondest memories are sharing parts of the newspaper with fellow travellers who wanted to check out the box scores -no one cares about news so much as they worry about the home team in whatever sport they feel is important). I would not tell you not to do any of the things you have planned, but remember that if you don't feel like moving on to the next stop, don't do it. Just have a wonderful time in Europe and savour this trip.

Chartres is not too far from Paris but it is a bit of a drive from the Loire Valley and visiting the Chateaux takes time. One of the most enjoyable pastimes about travelling in Europe is planning the next trip. Don't pack in too much. Savour, relax and most of all, eat. You will experience food in France like you never have in a way that you have never enjoyed. Even when I was 19 and first travelled to Europe, I realized that I had to slow down. I have now been travelling for 30 years and always remember this lesson.

And now here are two concrete pieces of advice. Skip Interlaken and head to Lauterbraunen or Grundelwald (in the same area as Interlaken).
>From Grundelwald you should get up early (about 4:30 a.m.) and take the first train at 6:00 a.m (on the oldest cog railway in Europe) to the top of the Jungfrau. Absolutely do not let the price stop you from doing this (it was about $60 when I last took it in 1994). You'll have a wonderful, memorable trip up there and then, in the middle of what should be spring, you'll find yourself in a cold, wintery, white wonderland. Most hotels and inns offer breakfast, but if you tell the owner/concierge the night before you leave that you are travelling to the top of the Jungfrau, they will make up a food box for you to bring with you on the trip and you can enjoy your little escapade without worrying about going hungry.

My second piece of advice. Skip the train because you don't have enough time to work around their schedules. Keep the car and don't concern yourself with the price of gas. You can move around as you please, driving is not difficult and the roads are, surprisingly, not that busy. If you've been on a busy road in North America, you'll find driving the highways in Europe (outside of Italy) a breeze. Just be forwarned, France and especially Switzerland, are expensive for accommodations.

Enjoy and fill us in when you return.