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Travel Questions Frequently Asked 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,

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Category: France

Hello Karen: I will be going to France (Provence and the Cote d'Azur) for 10 days toward to end of July (around the 20). I wanted to start off in Avignon and do the whole Gastronomy, Wine and the Arts thing and then end up in Monaco for a day. I am travelling alone for most of the trip and I don't drive unfortunately. Do you have any tips or advice for lone travellers like me?    
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [May 23, 2011]


Traveling on your own in Provence will be a rewarding experience!  It is a beautiful region, easy to navigate and the people are warm, friendly and welcoming! 

I wish the train network were more extensive as I would probably then recommend rail, but, your travels and adventures will be limited by the stations.  There are so many wonderful towns not easily accessible by train. But, perhaps you can do part by rail (Avignon, Arles, Aix, as examples) and then rent a car for a few days to combine some countryside exploration (Rail Europe has a rail/drive package).  If renting a car, since you won't have a navigator in the driver seat, you might want to also consider a GPS system to help with directions!

We publish two itineraries for the south of France that you might want to consider. Both are available in the editions of our guides or individually downloadable via our website: 

Provence http://www.karenbrown.com/Trip_Planning_Itinerary/France/Provence/28.php

and Hilltowns of the French Riviera http://www.karenbrown.com/Trip_Planning_Itinerary/France/Hilltowns_of_the_French_Riviera/27.php

If you would like personal help with making recommendations and arrangements for your trip, I highly recommend Marie Notot (she is a researcher for our guides to France and is based in the south of France).  She is extremely knowledgeable and wonderful to work with.  Her website is www.elegant-europe.com, her email: marie@elegant-europe.com.

Wishing you a safe and memorable trip!


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Category: Italy

Need a hotel near Florence airport, as we arrive very late (11 pm) rent the car at the airport and leave the next day for our Tuscany farm vacation. Where should we stay at or near the airport that first night?
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [May 18, 2011]


A few thoughts...

1) If you stay at an airport hotel you might want to simply return to the car rental center in the morning and pick up the car after a good night's rest....and possibly save on a day of rental.

2) If you decide to pick a car up on the evening you arrive, do confirm the car rental office hours since your flight is late and if delayed would probably take you into hours after midnight.

3) If you want to stay at an airport hotel (often more reasonably priced than an inn or B&B and since you will be arriving so late you won't benefit from all the inn or B&B amenities) definitely select one that has a complimentary shuttle.  I found a website that details airport hotels.  The link is:  http://www.firenzealbergo.it/EN/zone/airport.aspx

4) If you are determined to head out into the countryside on the night you arrive, remember your arrival at an inn or B&B will be late and it would be best to make special arrangements with the property as to how to find your key/room and an emergency number should they forget about your late arrival and lock up completely!

5) Although, we don't have any property in close proximity to the airport, we do have recommended places to stay in the countryside outside the city limits.  I would suggest you refer to the descriptions of the places we recommend (both from our B&B and our Hotel books) in Fiesole, Bagno a Ripoli, Galluzzzo, Antella and Feriolo.

Enjoy your travels! Karen


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Category: France

Question: We plan two point to point train trips from Paris. 1. Paris to Giverny  one day 2. Paris to Rouen -- rent a car travel to Honfleur. (stay 3 nights) We are seniors ( 70 ) .. and haven't used the trains in France. Do you recommend we buy tickets in US? I looked at your travel book and you talk about point to point travel as being expensive.. also to leave on early train for Giverny. Rail Europe only shows 2nd class seats for trip from Paris to Rouen. We will most grateful for your suggestions. 
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [May 17, 2011]


In terms of your travel plans, it is possible to travel out to Paris by train to visit Giverny.  You will actually train to Vernon and then it is about a three mile journey on to Giverny.  There are bikes for rent and taxis available at the station (some people also walk although, I don't think the road is that safe without sidewalks).   Assuming you take a cab, be sure to ask for the cabs telephone number so you can call for pick up when you are ready to go back to the station.

Some possible schedules and fares (always confirm times with Rail Europe - sometimes time changes based on travel day):

train #13101 de Paris/St Lazare  at 0720 ar Vernon at 0804  ($20 economy/ $30 comfort) train #13103 de Paris/St Lazare  at 0820 ar Vernon at 0905  ($15 economy/ $23 comfort) train #13105 de Paris/St Lazare  at 1020 ar Vernon at 1104  ($15 economy/ $23 comfort)

train #13120 de Vernon  at 1453 ar Paris/St Lazare  at 1540  ($15 economy/ $23 comfort) train #50004 de Vernon  at 1653 ar Paris/St Lazare  at 1740  ($15 economy/ $23 comfort)

Also, I ALWAYS find it so much easier to leave Paris by train rather than navigate in and out of the big city by car.  Saves lots of time and hassle and you would spend so much more on a car rental and gas than the cost of the train tickets!

In terms of traveling to Honfleur, the problem is there is not a train that goes all the way to Honfleur.  You need to train to Le Havre and then take a bus across the bridge to the town.

Some possible schedules and fares (always confirm times with Rail Europe & Bus - sometimes time changes based on travel day):


train #3105 de Paris/St Lazare  at 0853 ar Le Havre at 1057  ($36 economy/ $54 comfort) train #3115 de Paris/St Lazare  at 1450 ar Le Havre at 1655  ($36 economy/ $54 comfort)

Connecting bus service (link to the bus schedules: http://www.busverts.fr/281-Votre-deplacement.html)>;

Bus depart Le Havre 1243  arrive Honfleur 1316 Bus depart Le Havre 1751  arrive Honfleur 1758


Bus depart Honfleur 1143  arrive Le Havre 1216 Bus depart Honfleur 1433  arrive Le Havre 1501

train #3118 de Le Havre  at 1303 ar Paris/St Lazare at 1510  ($36 economy/ $54 comfort) train #3124 de Le Havre  at 1402 ar Paris/St Lazare at 1810  ($36 economy/ $54 comfort)

Since the train tickets are not that much, I would suggest just purchasing the point to point tickets.  A three day pass (for use within one month) costs $281 per person.  I would suggest getting reservations in advance (there is a fee for reservation) but, I always find it comforting to know I have an assigned seat and more importantly, with a reservation it confirms to me that the train I want actually travels on the day and time desired.

I hope the above information serves as some help! 

Kindest regards, Karen

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Category: Germany

Karen, I am traveling to Hamburg on business for a week in June and then I will stay over the weekend Fri-Mon, departing Tuesday to see the country side a bit. I am not a seasoned international traveler outside of planned meetings. Who should i turn to for advice on what my husband and I should consider for these 4 day on our own. My husbands ancestors were from Schulz...near Robstock I think it is in norther easter germany. We are thinking we will not rent a car but maybe travel by train and would love to find a little county inn where maybe the owners could communicate with us a little...we do not speak German. Where would you guide us to plan these few days?
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [May 15, 2011]


If you want to travel by train, know that the routes are somewhat limited in northern Germany.  That being said, I looked into possible destinations accessible by train that might prove of interest and make for a nice few days of travel and exploration.

In Northern Germany, *Keitum on the Isle of Sylt is a charming seaside village and we recommend a lovely hotel there, the Romantik Hotel Benen-Diken-Hof. This would make for a nice change from meetings in Hamburg.

To reach the Isle of Sylt by train, you would travel from Hamburg via either Elmshorn or Glueckstadt to *Westerland on the island. Total travel time is approximately 3.5 hours and the cost is approximately $120 per person.

Another town of interest would be *Lubeck.  From the Isle of Sylt you would need to return to Hamburg and then take a direct train from Hamburg on to Lubeck.   The additional travel time by train to Lubeck would be another half hour, total cost of the journey approximately $170.

Since your husband has roots in *Rostock, you can also reach the town by train, but, again, you would need to return to Hamburg from Lubeck and then train from Hamburg on to Rostock.  The travel time from Hamburg to Rostock is about 2 hours and the cost is about $170. The cost from Rostock back to Hamburg (assuming this is your return point) is about $70.

Because the point to point tickets add up so quickly, I would recommend considering a German Rail Pass.  3 days within a month is $351, 4 days is $374, 5 days is $404 (price per person, 1st class). The rail pass would let you also explore neighboring towns that might be accessible by rail.

*The information on the individual towns is available on our website.

As a final note, because the routes are so limited and spoke out from Hamburg rather than interlink, you might consider a car rental.  I looked up rental costs on AutoEurope (if you identify yourself as a Karen Brown Traveler they will extend an additional discount) and a 4 day rental was around $350 for a mid-size car.  A car will also allow you to explore at your own pace; not be tied to a train schedule, and save time since you won't be retracing your routes via the train. AutoEurope's tel  contact is 800-223-5555.

Also, if you are traveling the region by car, I would recommend following our itinerary: Schleswig Holstein-The Land Between the Seas

I wish you a wonderful trip! Karen


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Category: General

Karen- I am going to Edinburgh for a wedding on Sept 10th. We want to have a Rhine River Cruise before or after that event . Please advise.
Asked by Shirley Ambutas [May 12, 2011]


The Rhine is a long way from Edinburgh.  If you want to include a cruise on the Rhine, there are short trips available from Frankfurt and you could fly in or out of Germany as the first or last leg of your journey.  If you are thinking of a true cruise, I would suggest contacting the cruise line directly and ask about their air portion and policies.  They might be able to offer you a "package" that would allow you to include Edinburgh and also help with the arrangements.

Enjoy your travels and the wedding!


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Category: General

I will be staying 9 days in Boston with my husband and my Mom.... We would like to do your itineraries in New England driving one part per day returning to Boston each night. Do you have already something like this? Thank you! Ale Marcos
Asked by Ale Marcos [May 8, 2011]


Dear Ale,

In our published guide and available as downloadable PDF itineraries on our website, we do recommend destinations outside Boston.  In fact, most of our itineraries in Massachusetts originate in Boston.  Unfortunately, we do not have an itinerary that features day trips from Boston.  Instead, you would need to select the destinations on each itinerary that are in close proximity and of interest to you. I will detail below the destinations I feel are of interest and worth the journey:

From Sturbridge & the Connecticut Shore: Cambridge, Lexington, Concord (all within an hour's drive) and Sturbridge (approximately another hour further on)

From The Byways of Coastal Maine: Salem, Marblehead (approximately an hour), Rockport and Gloucester (another hour to the northeastern shore).

From Cape Cod, Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard & Newport: Duxbury and Plymouth and even Providence (just under two hours) is feasible.

For Boston itself, we have an itinerary, Boston: A Grand Beginning

For information on the towns, please refer to our guide or website.

Hope you have a wonderful trip with your family! 

Best, Karen

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Category: Italy

we are traveling to Tuscany and have made reservations at some of your recommendations but are looking for a small hotel / b&B along the coast above Viareggio as we want to do the coast road on our way back to Rome...ideas?
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [May 6, 2011]


Near Viareggio, recommendations of places to stay along the coastal road would be:

Hotel guide: Pietrasanta, Albergo Pietrasanta

 Link: http://www.karenbrown.com/Hotel_Guide/Italy/Tuscany/Pietrasanta/Albergo_Pietrasanta/352.php

Hotel guide: Forte dei Marmi, Hotel Byron

Link: http://www.karenbrown.com/Hotel_Guide/Italy/Tuscany/Forte_dei_Marmi/Hotel_Byron/7330.php

B&B guide: Tellaro,  Locanda Miranda

Link: http://www.karenbrown.com/B_and_B_Guide/Italy/Liguria/Tellaro/Locanda_Miranda/2689.php

 The descriptions and mapping information for all three can be found on our website.  I have provided hyperlinks for each one!  

Best, Karen

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Category: Italy

My husband and I are travelling by car from Avignon, France to San Gimignano, Italy on June 10. We have a place in San Gimignano starting on the 12th, so have two days to drive. What route would you suggest, and where should we stay overnight on our trip?
Asked by Dana Turnbull [Apr 27, 2011]


Assuming you might want to explore some of the charming towns along the French Riviera, I would suggest spending one night in either Cagnes sur Mer, St Paul de Vence or Vence (all convenient to the coastal and hilltowns) and then the next day continue following the coast across the Italian border and then stop somewhere to between Genoa and Pisa before heading inland to San Gimignano.  We have lots of recommendations to choose from in coastal towns such as Camogli, Portofino, Sestri Levante, Chiavari a Leivi, Tellaro, Levanto and Monterosso al Mare, Forte dei Marmi and Pietrasanta. All of the properties are found in our guides and most are featured on our website.

Thank you for using our guides! Karen

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Category: Website

I am trying to use trip planner for a trip to Paris and Normandy. I was previously able to print the itinerary with directions but have since added sites and it is no longer printing out the driving directions, which were most helpful previously as it provided distance and travel time. What am I doing wrong?
Asked by Janet Levine [Apr 20, 2011]

I apologize for the glitch. Seems there was a problem with the fact that google maps does not have a road from the mainland to Mont St Michel so it broke the itinerary route.  We reset Mont St Michel to a location on the mainland.  Hopefully it should work now.  Best, Karen

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Category: France

Karen, I am indebted to you for all of the wonderful trips I've taken to all of the countries you've written about over the last 25 years. I'll be travelling to France for a 6th visit in June. We've explored many of the hilltop villages in Provence and love them. This trip, we'll have 2 weeks and are considering the Dordogne & Lot region. We'd prefer to stay in just 2 places where the prettiest villages are for photos, along with some quaint shops and great restaurants. We'll have a car. Can you help me decide which 2 places we should stay? Thank you so much for all of your wonderful itineraries and recommendations!
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Apr 8, 2011]


Thank you for your kind note! Very much appreciated!  I have to apologize for being so late in answering your questions. I have been researching and only just returned from Europe.  I hope my information is not too late for your consideration - although, to be honest, anything in the region of the Dordogne and Lot is wonderful and the regions are some of my personal favorites!

It is honestly a hard task to whittle down recommendations to just two places to stay so I am going to recommend a few and let you decide based on your own personal taste and preference!

Domme, Hotel Esplanade (at the heart of the Dordogne) - mostly for the setting and town

link: http://www.karenbrown.com/Hotel_Guide/France/Aquitaine/Domme/H%C3%B4tel_de_lEsplanade/5044.php

Lacave, Chateau de la Treyne (between the two rivers) - a personal favorite! Gorgeous!

link: http://www.karenbrown.com/Hotel_Guide/France/Midi_Pyrenees/Lacave/Ch%C3%A2teau_de_la_Treyne/4606.php

Mercues, The Chateau de Mercues (overlooking the Lot) - very dramatic!

Link: http://www.karenbrown.com/Hotel_Guide/France/Midi_Pyrenees/Mercu%C3%A8s/Ch%C3%A2teau_de_Mercu%C3%A8s/4615.php

Coly, Manoir d'Hautegente (near Lescaux II, northern dordogne)

No link - they are recommended in our guide but do not participate on our website 

Tremolat: Le Vieux Logis - beautiful hotel and lovely location in a quiet town on the river

link: http://www.karenbrown.com/Hotel_Guide/France/Aquitaine/Tr%C3%A9molat/Le_Vieux_Logis_et_Ses_Logis_des_Champs/5490.php

Again, I am sorry to be so late in offering recommendations.  If you need additional advice, don't hesitate to contact me. I am back! 

Best, Karen


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