|Subject: Re: Questions from a first timer to Europe!|
London is very expensive so be prepared. I agree that day trips out of London are a good way to see the country. Consider taking the trip to Greenwich, which is on the other side of the Thames across from the Isle of Dogs. You can take the local commuter train or the Underground. Very easy to get to and you'll be there in less than 1/2 hour. Greenwich requires some walking, but you take it slowly, visit the Observatory, stand on the prime meridien, see the Cutty Sark and lunch at a local pub. The regular train leaves from London's Charing Cross Station. The Underground station will depend on where you are staying. I'd also highly recommend a visit to Hampton Court, if you're interested in history. It's beautiful and the gardens are very large and soothing for the busy tourist. It's also easily accessible by train, again from Charing Cross Station. Both these locations are really suburbs of London and you won't feel worn out when you return to the city for dinner.
If you decide to spend time outside of London, why not consider Cornwall? It's fabulous. You'll need a car and you'll need to plan a bit because it's a busy area. If you're nervous about finding lodgings, you can book ahead.
I'd nix Ireland for this trip because getting there will take up valuable time and once you're there you'll need at least 7 days to get the full flavour of this beautiful country.
You are packing in a lot and I agree with other ziners who have cautioned you about trying to see it all. If you are staying in Amsterdam or Rome, you can get to just about anywhere on the Continent very easily. Belgium and Holland outside of Amsterdam have much to offer and exploring Normandy and Brittany are good choices.
Personally, I'm not a big fan of Rome but you must see it of course. I'd suggest two possible itineraries from there. Explore the Amalfi Coast by train from Rome to Naples and then you can hire a car or take the local bus - a better option. You can use Sorrento (and catch the ferry to Capri for a day visit) as your base for this exploring and three days would be enough. Alternatively, head north from Rome and visit some of the more interesting towns in Tuscany and Umbria (Spoleto, Assisi, Orvieto, Siena and Florence for example). We've been to Italy about a dozen times, having explored virtually all parts of the mainland, Sicily, Sardinia and many of the smaller islands. We never tire of it. Word of warning, however. Taking the train may limit you to the larger towns or longish waits for a local connection. A car is a better alternative for getting into the countryside, small towns and villages.
Spain is huge and I don't think you'll be able to do it justice in such a short time. On our first trip we stayed for six weeks; on our second we stayed for three weeks. There are large distances between towns. But, hey, don't let that stop you if you want to eat paella, drink sangria and enjoy Spanish hospitality.
Happy planning. Lucy in Toronto