Go­ing Our Way

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL - BY CAROL SOT­TILI

A Euro­pean trip for re­con­nected friends.

Kay Payne of Quicks­burg, Va., and Doris Christie, of Apopka, Fla., have a friend­ship forged in youth. So even though they had been out of touch for the past 18 years, the con­nec­tions they shared more than 50 years ago — work­ing in the same of­fice, rooming to­gether, maid of honor du­ties — have al­lowed them to seam­lessly take up where they left off. Now they want to take a friend­ship-cel­e­brat­ing trip to­gether to Europe, where Christie wants to re­visit the scenes of her child­hood. But even with a bond as strong as theirs, a roots trip is tricky when only one mem­ber of the travel party has those roots.

Christie, who em­i­grated from Ger­many to the United States in 1956, wants to go back to the Black For­est, which holds not only her par­ents’ graves but also mem­o­ries of be­ing evac­u­ated to her grand­mother’s home dur­ing World War II. And she needs to re­con­nect with her sis­ter in Stuttgart.

Re­call­ing my own ex­pe­ri­ence ac­com­pa­ny­ing my mother back to her home in Aus­tria, I have to say that the two women need to talk openly about po­ten­tial con­flicts be­fore they go. Will Payne feel left out as the two sis­ters con­verse in Ger­man? While in Stuttgart, will they stay on neu­tral ground or in Christie’s sis­ter’s home? Will Payne be able to em­pathize with what may be a very emo­tional trip for Christie?

Also, while the prom­ise of vis­it­ing other coun­tries is the linch­pin of this trip’s suc­cess, hit­ting seven or eight cities in four coun­tries within two weeks is a non-starter. The two would limp home. I’d save Aus­tria and France for an­other day, and in­stead con­cen­trate on Ger­many and Italy, but since this is a once-in-a-life­time trip, adding just Vi­enna or Paris is doable.

Days 1-3. The trip will be­gin with more ex­cite­ment if Christie flies from Or­lando to Dulles and then the two con­tinue on to­gether for the overnight con­nect­ing flight to Stuttgart. Un­less Christie’s sis­ter has spa­cious ac­com­mo­da­tions, it may make sense to stay in a nearby ho­tel, such as the Park Inn Stuttgart, with rates of about $147 a night.

The first day will prob­a­bly be spent get­ting ac­quainted and re­cov­er­ing from jet lag, but the women will need a cou­ple of more days to ex­plore the city’s beau­ti­ful parks, palaces, vine­yards and gar­dens ( www.stuttgart-tourist.de for more info). Don’t miss the car mu­se­ums: The Mercedes-Benz Mu­seum ( www.mercedes-benz-clas­sic.com) and the Porsche Mu­seum ( www.porsche.com) are both worth vis­it­ing.

Days 4 and 5. It would be easy to make day trips into the Black For­est from Stuttgart, but con­sider stay­ing at a small coun­try inn for a cou­ple of nights. If Christie’s sis­ter isn’t chauf­feur­ing, rent a car and head to the south­ern end of the for­est. Stay in the quiet vil­lage of Wieden ( www.wieden.de) at a small inn such as Haus Erika (www.black­forest­breaks.com), with rates of $73 a night. More info: www.black­for­est-tourism.com.

Days 6-8. Drive back to Stuttgart, turn in the car and head to the air­port for the $91 flight to Florence on dis­count car­rier Air Ber­lin ( www.air­ber­lin.com). The pub­lic Vo­lain­bus makes the 20minute ride from the air­port to Florence’s city cen­ter.

Florence can be eas­ily ex­plored on foot and via pub­lic trans­port and guided tours. Stay in a cen­trally lo­cated ho­tel or B&B, such as Ho­tel Cestelli ( www.hotel­ces­telli.com), with rates of about $133 a night.

First-time vis­i­tors to Florence, con­sid­ered the birthplace of the Re­nais­sance, will find plenty to do over three days. Must-sees in­clude the Ac­cademia Gallery, which houses Michelan­gelo’s David; the Uf­fizi Gallery, with its in­cred­i­ble col­lec­tion of Re­nais­sance art; the Basil­ica of San Lorenzo, founded in A.D. 393; the Pitti Palace; Santa Maria del Fiore, known as the Duomo, the city’s main cathe­dral; and the Basil­ica of Santa Croce, where Michelan­gelo, Galileo and a host of other fa­mous Ital­ians are buried. Info: www.firen­ze­tur­ismo.it.

Days 9-11. Take the train from Florence to Venice’s Mestre sta­tion ( www.tren­i­talia.com or www.raileu­rope.com); sched­ules and fares for May travel have not been posted yet, but ex­pect to pay about $60 for a high-speed train. From Mestre, take the 10-minute ride on a lo­cal train to Venice’s Santa Lu­cia sta­tion, where you can catch a wa­ter­bus to the ho­tel. Ho­tel Al Ponte Mocenigo (www. alpon­te­mocenigo. lo­cated near the Rialto Bridge and within a short walk of the San Stae wa­ter taxi stop, is a four-star fa­cil­ity with rates of about $190 a night.

High­lights of a visit to Venice in­clude St. Mark’s Square, St. Mark’s Basil­ica and the ad­ja­cent Doge’s Palace (take the el­e­va­tor to the top of St. Mark’s cam­panile, or bell tower, for great views). A gon­dola ride, while ex­pen­sive and touristy, is part of the Venice ex­pe­ri­ence. For more ideas, go to www.tur­is­movenezia.it.

A day trip to Verona ( www.tourism.verona.it) is easy to do by train; the one-hour trip from Mestre sta­tion costs about $50 round trip.

Days 12-14. Call it: heads, go to Vi­enna, tails to Paris. Air Ber­lin flies from Venice to Vi­enna for about $97, while the fare on EasyJet to Paris starts at about $34. ( Tip: All dis­count car­ri­ers charge ex­tra for bags, so trav­el­ing light will limit costs.) Even mid-range ho­tels in a cen­tral lo­ca­tion in Paris are ex­pen­sive; the Best Western Paris Lou­vre Opera ( www.hotel­paris­lou­vre­opera.com), for ex­am­ple, is about $212 per night. Vi­enna is also ex­pen­sive, but of­fers more inns, such as Benedik­tushaus Guest House (www.benedik­tushaus.at), with rooms for about $130 a night. For more in­for­ma­tion on Paris, go to en.paris­info.com and for Vi­enna, www.vi­enna.

To­tal cost: SAS was re­cently of­fer­ing mid-May flights for $748 to Stuttgart with re­turn from Paris or $849 with re­turn from Vi­enna. Fares change, but ex­pect to pay no more than $900 for transat­lantic air­fare. Trans­porta­tion in Europe, in­clud­ing air­fares, a car and train tick­ets, will cost at least $900 for two. Lodg­ing will cost be­tween $1,400 and $1,800. Splurge on sight­see­ing by tak­ing a few guided tours, es­pe­cially in Florence and Venice; bud­get at least $500 per per­son.

Pos­si­bil­i­ties in Florence and Venice from Vi­a­tor ( www.via tor.com) in­clude a “Skip the Line: Venice in One Day” tour de­signed for first-timers that costs about $70 per per­son and a “Skip the Line: Uf­fizi Gallery and Vasari Cor­ri­dor Walk­ing Tour” for $99 a per­son. Tick­i­taly ( www. tick italy.com) has an Ac­cademia Gallery guided tour for $52 a per­son or an all-day guided tour of Florence, in­clud­ing lunch, for $143 a per­son. A healthy sight­see­ing bud­get could also be used to take day trips from the cities, such as a “ Tus­cany in One Day” tour from Vi­a­tor for $94 a per­son.

You’d still be left with about $200 for both per day for food and shop­ping. In­ter­ested in hav­ing us help plan your trip? Go to wash­ing­ton­post.com /goingourway.


Rich in cul­ture and his­tory, Verona, a UNESCO world her­itage site, is an easy day trip from Venice.

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