Planning my 2023 trip to Europe: I

[Written Saturday, 11 June 2022] While I’m just about ready to start pre-packing for my New England road trip next week, I began my second (or is it the third?) iteration of developing an itinerary for 2023. My intent was to build onto the cancelled 2020 (due to the Covid pandemic) trip: a transatlantic from Miami to northern France, heading south along the French-German border to Switzerland and crossing eastward before taking the train around St Moritz and entering Italy. The objective back 2 years ago was to thoroughly explore Italy.

Earlier this year, on a whim, I booked a 12-day bus-and-boat “river cruise” with Viking, to take me from Paris to Zurich. During the week before I cancelled this booking, I identified the cathedrals in Paris and in those cities we’d have passed through, and then augmented it with two extensive road trips in France. Brittany + Normandy was the first, and Languedoc (southwest France) was the other.

Prompted by an email newsletter, I called my “travel agency” (associated with one of my Mexican timeshares) to ask about the 117-day Cunard around-the-world cruise to see what the penalty was for travelling solo. I’ve come to recognize the stigma associated with not being paired, and fully believe that my best trips usually are the ones where I explore on my own. In any case, the fare for the Queen Mary, outside cabin which started at $26K per person jumped to well over $50K for just me. A bit too pricy for my budget.

The agent, however, was persistent, and asked as to my other cruise musings. With a westbound transatlantic planned for this fall, I had been toying with the idea of a TA eastbound in 2023. The options tended towards Barcelona and Rome in the Mediterranean, Southampton, Amsterdam and Copenhagen for the more northern port destinations. Lengths ran from 7 days to 18, some with no extra ports of call, most with at least one (Azores) but not always somewhere “new” for me.

When Arrielle and I spoke next, I had three options I’d found at CruiseCritics.com. Once she revealed the Cunard cost and I backed away (rapidly) from it, I told her about the Norwegian Epic 15-day to Barcelona, and the two Holland sailings. The NCL left from NYC to Barcelona, with the quoted per person cost at $1,229 for an inside cabin. [I was on the Epic during my eastern Caribbean cruise earlier this year, in a solo cabin.) The solo cabin is $1.6K, single fare for an inside cabin ~$2K.

Looking at the HAL offerings, both out of Ft Lauderdale, the mid-April sailing on the Rotterdam for 14 days started at a quoted $550 pp, and Arrielle got it to a final total price of $1423 solo. For the sailing on the Zuiderdam a month later for 16 days, quoted was $700 but by then I was set for the April trip to Amsterdam on the Rotterdam.

Returning to my 2023 itinerary spreadsheet, I inserted the 14 days I’ll be at sea, with 2 stops in the Azores (but not on Terceira, where the only cathedral is), Cherbourg (where most of the excursions should be to the D-Day beaches) and “Brussels”, which I assume is Zeebrugge before debarking in Amsterdam. The Normandy stop should allow me to visit the cathedrals in Bayeux and Coustances, as well as the basilica in Cherbourg. In Belgium I hope to arrange a circuit to Tournai, Ypres and Brugge.

At some point during the doldrums of isolation during the pandemic, I began exploring multiple “road trip” routes. One of those was based in Amsterdam, and included the 9 cathedrals in the Netherlands. (Also known as Holland, that label actually refers to 2 of the 12 Dutch provinces, and has officially been dropped in international and diplomatic circles.) I had a Google Maps north-to-south routing identified. Using this as a starter, and having learned to check for cathedrals near to the border while building a trip itinerary, I looked at my spreadsheet of “cathedrals I have missed”. My Belgian and German lists were in need of updates, as I hadn’t pulled those included in Cathedrals to the Glory of God, plus I had created a new worksheet for France which also need updating.


With my lists more up-to-date, I created a list of locations by country, and used this list to generate a map of potential sites I might look at while planning a trip. I wound up adding Luxembourg and Switzerland in a subsequent iteration. EasyMapMaker.com has a useful and free tool and with a visual representation, it was helpful in developing a “routing possibilities” Word document. Note: this tool is not always accurate, and some locations are skewed.

Here's the preliminary “routing possibilities” list that I’ve created from my first brainstorming session. You’ll note that there are no timeframes listed – that will be the next step, as I figure out if I spend an overnight, or if I try to do a “bump and run” where I come into a town, drop my bag, run off to the cathedral for pictures and a visit, and then return to head to the next place. It ends in Strasbourg, where I would merge it into the 2020 plan, which has about 2 months of travel already planned. (You can read my “virtual trip” on the blog where I spent each day in summer 2020 writing up what I expected I would have done, following that itinerary. Best to start at the bottom of the blog and work up, to “travel” in chronological order.

Arrive in Amsterdam 29 April.

Day trip to Haarlem

Circuit trip: The Hague, Rotterdam, Breda, ‘s-Hertogenbosh, Utrecht

To Groningen in NE

By bus 3hrs to Bremen, then Hamburg by train

Train to Hanover, with day trip to Hildesheim and Himmelsthur

Train to Osnabruck, and then Munster

Onward to Essen by train

Train (3) or Train + bus to Roermond

Trains via Maastricht to Liege

Day trips from Liege to Hasselt, Tongeren (N, same train line) and Malmedy (SE 2 trains)

Train to Namur

2 trains via Tournai to Lille

1-2 trains to Amiens

Train to Paris

Train Paris to Soissons and then Laon

Train to Reims

3 trains Reims to Verdun

2 trains Verdun to Metz

Train to Luxembourg City

Train To Trier

2 trains to Mainz via Koblenz

Train(s) south to Speyer

Trains to Strasbourg via Karlsruhe


More will follow on this theme as I dig around on the ‘net and plot transit routes and additional items to weave into the great cathedral obsession.

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