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Travel Questions Frequently Asked Karen

TRAVEL QUESTIONS FOR KAREN:

Dear Travelers,

I hope you will understand that because of the overwhelming number of questions received each day it is impossible for me to answer every one. I will select questions to answer based on what I believe will benefit and interest the greatest number of travelers. Also, please make your questions as specific as possible and know that I do not have the luxury of time to plan or detail personalized travel itineraries.

If your question is not selected, I sincerely apologize, as given the time, I would answer them all. If your question is selected you will be informed that it is published on our website as well as receive the answer by email.

Kindest regards,
Karen

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Category: General

Question:
Hello Karen, I will be travelling from Switzerland to Chicago next month. I was not able to find any information for Chicago - can you please help me find it? Thanks Shivangi
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Jun 22, 2011]


Answer:

Dear Shivangi,

Unfortunately, we do not have any information published as a guide or on our website for Chicago - although, it is a wonderful city! We have just yet to formally research it.  

I would suggest you start by contacting the Chicago Tourist Office:  http://www.explorechicago.org/city/en.html

They have lots of information on what to see; where to stay; local events and discounts.  

Enjoy Chicago!  Karen

 

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Category: Italy

Question:
Looking for accommodations in an Italian castle. I am a mother and journalist (so used to getting about in a kind of round-about-way if necessary) travelling with my daughter to see close friends in Switzerland (about two hours north of Milan.). 9 year old daughters dream is a medieval sort of place. We have about ten days altogether and want to spend like 3 alone i. Italy. I have loved every place you have recommended but my favorite is La Radicci in San Casciano de Bagne. Given this is the atmosphere i am seeking, do you have a recommendation?
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Jun 18, 2011]


Answer:
Accommodation within an authentic Medieval setting along with warm hospitality can be found at the following Karen Brown recommended places in Tuscany: Castello di Ripa d'OrciaCastello di MeletoCastello di SpaltennaCastello S. CristinaCastello di ProcenoAlternatively, and depending on budget and location preferences, you can also try one of the delightful B&Bs within a Medieval village, such as is the case with:
La TorrettaL'Antico PozzoLa Locanda del Castello
Wishing you happy travels in Italy!Nicole Franchini, Contributing Author

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Category: Italy

Question:
I recently bought your Tuscany & Umbria book for the planning of an upcoming trip to Florence and Tuscany. I noticed that although your book speaks very highly of the Lungarno Hotel in Florence, it is no longer mentioned on your website, and I wondered if you had changed your mind about it? Thank you, Bunny Meyercord
Asked by Bunny Meyercord [Jun 11, 2011]


Answer:

Dear Bunny,

We do recommend them.  However, they have chosen not to participate on our website for which there is a nominal administrative fee. There is no fee to be in our published guide as we want nothing to influence our selection or editorial. Unfortunately, as a result of not being on the website, they are missing the exposure to our larger internet audience and it also makes travelers think we no longer recommend them when they cross-reference with our published guide. I am sorry for the confusion. 

Hope you have a wonderful trip and thank you for using our guides!

Karen

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Category: France

Question:
We are considering a trip to Provence in September. How would you compare Goult, Venasque, Joucas, Murs, and Vacqueras?  Which would you recommend to stay in?  We like small, old villages.  
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Jun 6, 2011]


Answer:

I forwarded your question on to Marie Notot, who lives in the south of France and is a contributing research author for our guides. She is extremely knowledgeable and also has a company, Elegant Europe and can assist with personalized trip planning should you be interested.  Her response is as follows:

All these villages are charming and interesting in their own individual way.

As a personal suggestion, after staying so many times in Provence, and especially if you prefer small and intimate villages I will opt for either Murs with his 15th century castle as soon as you enter the village, or Joucas (perched village), they are lovely villages, fulfilled of History; well located to visit the area and do some day trips from there. Do not hesitate to contact me if you need further assistance with your upcoming trip to Provence.

Marie Notot

Owner manager

www.elegant-europe.com

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Category: Portugal

Question:
I have followed all your trips to Mexico and loved them and stayed at your home and bed and breakfast in California... You talked us in to touching the whales in Mexico-- wonderful trip... We have a September trip planned to Lisbon or Porto-- we only have 8 days... My husband loves good wine... What would you recommend we do and see?
Asked by Susan Hawes [May 30, 2011]


Answer:

What fun to hear from you and I am so glad you enjoyed your previous adventures based on our recommendations!

Concerning Portugal, know that distances aren't great and so you can cover a lot or areas in 8 days.  I would recommend combining highlights from our various itineraries as detailed below:

Lisbon Highlights: Lisbon and Sintra

   Stay in Lisbon, possibly Sintra

http://www.karenbrown.com/Travel_Planning_Itinerary/Portugal/Lisbon_Highlights/59.php

Port to Port: Obidos, Batalha & Bussaco Palaces, Coimbra

   Stay in Obidos

http://www.karenbrown.com/Travel_Planning_Itinerary/Portugal/Port_to_Port/57.php

Back to the Beginning: the gorgeous wine river valley, the Douro Valley, Porto, Lamego, Pinhao and the wine towns

     Stay in Porto  and either Pinhao or Casal de Loivos

http://www.karenbrown.com/Travel_Planning_Itinerary/Portugal/Back_to_the_Beginning/60.php

Enjoy your next adventure!  Regards, Karen

 

 

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Category: France

Question:
Another of your recommended hotels we booked was La Clos de Saunieres. Beautiful area and convenient location. Handicapped room was not adequate for us, but he did reduce the price to 100E cash. Your website says all credit cards accepted at Le Clos, but Bruno said he wouldn't have credit card capability for 2 weeks. l had bank wired 100E to him as a deposit, and had the copy of the bank receipt with me. At first the "handicapped " room was going to be 120E, but they reduced it to 100E after I showed them the receipt for deposit and the room was very modest, small bed, not handicapped equipped. These are small matters money wise, but it is possible that negotiating a rate in cash works with some proprietors! Especially when we were informed on the day of departure that credit cards were not accepted. This does not fall into the "question" category, but I do not want to leave a negative impression for other visitors who might not contend with the same circumstances.
Asked by Kyra Hidalgo [May 26, 2011]


Answer:

Thank you so much for sharing your experience.  I think you are correct in that cash often affords a discount!  Also, I will contact them to make sure they will be taking credit cards. This could be a real inconvenience for someone who arrives expecting to settle their bill with a credit card and does not have enough cash on hand.  Thank you for bringing this to our attention.  Can I ask if you learned if they had a handicap accessible room even if it wasn't made available to you?

Best, Karen

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Category: France

Question:
We just returned from 2 1/2 weeks in Europe, starting in Paris. Great hotel in Paris, the Au Manoir des St. Germain des Pres. We went to the La Thiaumerie in Normandy, which I had found in the listing of recommended by other KB members, not visited by your staff. We had to downgrade to get a room suitable for my husband who is handicapped. I had made a 75E deposit for our original room using paypal as instructed. For our room, the rate was 65E and we expected our rate to be adjusted due to the higher deposit. Our hostess, Sally Byrne, said on the morning of our departure that she had misplaced her receipt book (!!) and she just accepted our 65E with no adjustment for the higher deposit we had made. They were a pleasant couple, but we were left with the impression that they have a cash only operation in order to avoid paying taxes, and that they have very lax record keeping. I would be interested to know how many of the B&B's are operating this way. Standard practice? Or bad luck on our part.
Asked by Kyra Hidalgo [May 26, 2011]


Answer:
It is hard for me to believe that a hotelier would not accept your word concerning payment, especially since she lost her own records!  I also feel very confident in saying that I would not consider this standard practice.  Lesson to be learned, is always carry proof of deposits made in case they are ever in question.  I am sorry for your experience.  Karen

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Category: Italy

Question:
Currently living in Trento. Would like to visit and stay a night in a farmhouse located where the inhabitants are mostly shepherds Looking for pecorino and ricotta cheeses, restaurants, staying with a family in the farmhouse..
Asked by Leonard Riccio [May 25, 2011]


Answer:

How wonderful!   In terms of finding a farmhouse I would suggest using our website; go to the region for Trento (link below), and from there you can read about all the places we recommend.  Since your desires are so specific, I would also take advantage when you communicate with the various properties if they are aware of a farmhouse with shephards.

Enjoy your time in Italy! Karen

 LINK:  http://www.karenbrown.com/Regional_Trip_Planner/Italy/Trentino-Alto_Adige/56.php

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Category: Britain

Question:
Karen - We are visiting England for two weeks in late July and have booked all of our reservations per your guide recommendations. For the Cotwolds portion of our trip, we plan to spend three nights with Broadway as our base (Olive Branch). While we are there we plan to visit Warwick Castle and enjoy the scenery of the surrounding Cotswold towns. We are traveling with our three children (ages 13, 10, 8) who are also Harry Potter fans. I am wondering if you think a trip to Lacock Abbey is worth it from Broadway or would that be too much time in the car? Likewise, I have the same question regarding Stonehenge - worth it or too much travel time? We will have a car and do not mind driving for a not-to-be-missed town/site but we also want to enjoy our surroundings and not spend huge amounts of time in the car. When we leave Broadway, we will travel to Oxford where we will stay two nights at the Old Parsonage Hotel before returning to the US. Thank you for your assistance. P.S. Prior to the Cotswolds we will be in London, York (The Grange), and Bolton Abbey (Devonshire Arms) all per the recommendations in your England guide. Thank you!
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [May 25, 2011]


Answer:

Broadway is a lovely base for your explorations of the Cotswolds. Perhaps consider an early start from Yorkshire and traveling via the M1, M42 and M40 visit Warwick Castle on your way to Broadway. This will give you 2 full days of sightseeing locally in the Cotswolds.  I do not recommend visiting Lacock Abbey from Broadway or Oxford...likewise Stonehenge. There are several Harry Potter locations in Oxford that I am sure your family will enjoy visiting. You have chosen some lovely places to stay in England. Have a fun family holiday. Best wishes.

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Category: France

Question:
Dear Karen, Thank you for the answers to many of my questions.  The last link in the plans is to have a car to use while in Normandy.  You sent a train schedule from Paris to Le Havre .. when I use AutoEurope and put in pickup at Le Havre ( train station) it defers to the Le Havre airport .  You also mentioned taking a bus to our final destination ( Honfleur).  We would like to have a car to explore the area ..what do you suggest ?  We are arriving on a Saturday , Aug.6th.. and will have the car until Tues. Aug.9th..when we head to the Hyatt Regency near DeGaulle airport.  The car rental works if we train to Rouen from Paris, I believe. Is the car rental at the train station ( Rouen ) open on Saturday?   Do I read the quotes for the car when it says  $172.88 ( Opel Astra , stick shift)  to $ 500.08 ( Renault) .. per day? Thank you for the help.  You have given us wonderful ideas through the years. Some of our memories are incredible .. like Schloss Matsen ( castle) in Austria. and Delphi Lodge in the Connemara, Ireland.  Are they still taking guests? 
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [May 24, 2011]


Answer:
I was just trying to give you some general guidelines.  I would recommend that you contact AutoEurope directly for rental information, office times, etc.  Since they are a consolidator and don't have their own fleet of cars, but rather "shop" the best price and options for you, they can help you decide where to pick up a car knowing that you will be returning it to the airport.  Different cities have different drop off fees/restrictions.   Most cities of any size will offer the option of a downtown/airport or train station location and it is important to know which one best suits your needs and itinerary.

I would call them directly - so that you can discuss details and variables.  Their number is 800-223-5555. Definitely mention that you are a Karen Brown Traveler for a preferred discount.

And finally, for personalized trip planning I highly recommend Marie Notot (she is a researcher for our guides to France and is based in the south of France) if you would like personal help with making recommendations, reservations and arrangements.  She is extremely knowledgeable and wonderful to work with. I honestly cannot recommend her highly enough.  Everyone who has used her services raves about how wonderful she is and how her help made for a better trip!

Her website is www.elegant-europe.com, her email:
marie@elegant-europe.com.

In terms of hotels, Delphi Lodge is still there and still recommended. Schloss Matsen sadly closed as a hotel after a divorce and is once again a private home.

Thank you for using our guides and for your kind note!

 Best, Karen 

 

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