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  1. #1
    PhotoJim's Avatar
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    Switzerland/France/Italy vacation help

    Next year I will be attaining the tender age of 40. My finances to date have not permitted me to travel abroad, but next year I plan to change that. Some friends who now live in Switzerland are pressuring us hard to visit, and it is getting hard to say no! So we are thinking of spending three to four weeks in Europe next year.

    By my Canadian standards, everything is so close together in Europe that there will be a strong temptation to try to do everything in one trip. I want to avoid that temptation. However, I do speak French so the idea of visiting part of France is very enticing. Also, the Italian Alps are nearby too so it seems a good opportunity to visit the northern parts of Italy.

    I like scenery; I like history. I like cultural things. I won't be doing photography every moment I'm there but I will be taking gear with me everywhere I go and plan to take a lot of photographs. I want to see some more rural areas in addition to the bigger cities.

    Looking at the map and thinking of logistics, an initial possibility would be to fly to Paris, spend several days there, then take the TGV to Marseille and explore Provence (which sounds divine), and then take the train or drive through the Alps into Switzerland. Our friends are in the Bern area but I'd like to see a lot of the country. If time permits, a few days into northern Italy (e.g. Turin) might be fun.

    Any suggestions or advice are appreciated. We will go for a minimum of three weeks, and I'd like to make it four.

    Thanks!
    Jim MacKenzie - Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

    A bunch of Nikons; Feds, Zorkis and a Kiev; Pentax 67-II (inherited from my deceased father-in-law); Bronica SQ-A; and a nice Shen Hao 4x5 field camera with 3 decent lenses that needs to be taken outside more. Oh, and as of mid-2012, one of those bodies we don't talk about here.

    Favourite film: do I need to pick only one?

  2. #2

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    hi jim

    we have family in eastern france so we visit when we can.
    we travelled to provence and went up/down from the franche-comté area and stayed in some really nice small inns. if you can pick up a copy of a "relais du silence" guidebook it might be helpful ...

    http://www.silencehotel.com

    if you find yourself in the franche-comté region, head over to bescancon < http://www.besancon.fr > see if you can get a tour of the arca swiss factory.

    sorry, i can't really comment on switzerland or italy, have a nice trip!

    -john
    silver magnets, trickle tanks sold
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  3. #3

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    Dear Jim,

    You are very wise not to try to do too much. By all means go to places that are a long way apart but do not try to spend too little time in each place. Think of the difference between Ontario and Quebec every 100 miles or so.

    Italians are the world's worst drivers (at least, against such competition as India, Mexico, Greece, Malta...) so be wary there. The villages perchees (hill villages) in southern France are stunning. You could even fit in Arles (the Recontres) if you are here at the right time.

    For history, and possibly for scenery too, I'd back France. For scenery, Switzerland, but it's sometimes a bit 'twee' and Sound of Music. Also much more expensive except in the Italian-speaking South.

    Post some more questions when the trip is nearer and we'll all try to answer them.

    Cheers,

    Roger (www.rogerandfrances.com -- and take a look at the French galleries on the site)

  4. #4
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    When I planned a similar trip (in part) that included Provence, the TGV had at the time only been completed to Lyons. So we took it from Paris to there and then drove down the Autoroute to Avignon etc.

    Unless you're set on seeing Marsailles, you might want to consider this - and as Roger suggests - by all means try to get over to Arles. As you head east toward Switzerland etc one thing to keep in mind in the mountaineous areas is that although actual distances may be short - due to narrow, winding roads you need to allow more time than you might at first think - espescially if, like we did, you make frequent stops to shoot pics!

    Boy, all this talk makes me want to go back....

  5. #5
    SuzanneR's Avatar
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    I have family in Switzerland, so we go quite often. I'll concur, it's expensive, but you might enjoy the Ticino in the Swiss alps. Another special place to visit is Fribourg in Switzerland. First French speaking city when you drive south from the German part of Switzerland, and feels more "French" somehow than the rest of Switzerland. Old Medieval city... it's great! And not far from the Gruyere factory. You may pass it on your way from France to Berne!

    I would also recomend finding a few places to stay longer, rather than seeing every little hamlet on the way. You'll get a much better feel for a place if you give it some time.

    Should be a fun trip! Good luck!

  6. #6
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    Torino is a nice city that is vastly under-rated by the guidebooks because of its industrial heritage. There are some very nice parks, churches, and palaces in Torino, all within walking distance of the train station. There is also the Fiat auto museum, if you are into cars. Of course, the Shroud of Turin is housed there, although they usually keep it under wraps (so to speak) to protect it as it is a very fragile piece of 12th century or so linen. There is a very nice public park behind the palace that has some terrific statuary and plantings that make for very interesting subject matter. Also, in the arcades lining the main thorougfare that connects the palace to the train station there are some neat neon signs for some of the cafes. Torino also has streetcars, but I think most of them are quite modern looking. Not far from Torino by train is Milano, which I think is a more interesting city, at least from an art-historical point of view. Whatever you choose to take a look at in northern Italy, don't use the Rough Guide series for information - not that they're inaccurate with regards to basic data, but they tend to be rather doom-and-gloom when it comes to their opinions of places. I found Torino to be quite charming, but they made it sound like an industrial armpit devoid of any redeeming aesthetic value. They also tend to heavily favor backpacker's accommodations in their ratings - most anything costing more than $50 USD per night is by their estimation overpriced, and frequently doesn't even get a mention.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by copake_ham
    you need to allow more time than you might at first think - espescially if, like we did, you make frequent stops to shoot pics!
    Absolutely. A LOT more time.

    I have to confess that I have never been to Marseilles, but from all I have heard, I wouldn't want to anyway.

    (Sorry to crow, George, but I live only 400 miles north of there. I fully take your point abouit going bsvk. But then there are the Pyrenees, northern Portugal, Slovenia... Photography is basically a way of funding/justifying my travel habit).

    Cheers,

    Roger

  8. #8

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    Why not fly into Nice? Take the train from there into Italy and then into Switzerland?

    It's more compact. So you'll spend less time on a train.

  9. #9
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    If you go to Marseilles just do it at the end of the trip and without the expensive cameras only with a little snapper! Paris is a good starting point but from there I would drive directly to Bern, Lucerne then Ticino, the Norditalian if still time to go west for Nizza or Cannes!
    And if you see a guy in Lucerne with a 8x10 Burke & James with red bellows it can only be me!
    Happy time, Armin
    Good light and nice shadows!

    www.artfoto.ch

  10. #10

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    Ah, have you been taking pictures last year in front of the KKL? And I thought it was a tourist.... :-)
    Light chaser

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