|Subject: Re: First Trip to Europe Planning|
Your trip sounds great! In May/June 2001 I did a five-week driving circuit of Western Europe, including several of the locations you mentioned. (Travelogue is at http://www.travelpod.com, user id janice.
We saw the cathedral at Chartres, but were disappointed with the visit. We decided to keep our Loire touring to one chateau only and chose Chenonceaux. What a wonderful visit we had -- beautiful weather and, since this was near the end of our five weeks, we'd calmed down considerably from our initial frenetic tourist behaviour. We had a wonderful outdoor lunch at the chateau's l'Orangerie (?) restaurant.
Our first stop, after touchdown in Paris, was Mont-Saint-Michel and two nights in Bayeux. I wish we could have spent more time there. The town is gorgeous and there are enough sights in the area to keep you busy for at least two days.
My usual style of planning is to begin preparing well in advance -- up to two years ahead of the trip. I research everything and plan every minute of the holiday. Then I sit back for a while and enjoy thinking about the trip I'm going to take. A few months before I go, I start re-scheduling my planned activities. By this point, I've thought about them all so much, I feel as if I've already toured them and can cut some out of my itinerary.
I suspect, like me, you may have tended to include too many activities for the time allowed. Be prepared to let some of them go. I think the most valuable travel advice I've ever come across was: Travel with the idea that you'll come back again another time. This sure frees me up to let go of some of those must-sees and focus more on the overall experience of smelling the local roses.
I'll be in Paris with my 12-year-old niece about the same time you will be. If you see a tall blonde with glasses and a short blonde with glasses wandering about the Louvre with a dazed look in their eyes, be sure to introduce yourselves and say, Bonjour.