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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: Italy

Question:
In your 2007 "Italy Hotels" you praised Mantova and the Albergo San Lorenzo. We are planning a trip for fall 2011(we had tagged Mantova in the 2007 book for a"next place to visit") and were going to stay there-however, there is no listing in the 2010 publication-the latest we can get here in Raleigh. Is the town still as pretty as described and the hotel no longer recommended or is there another reason? BTW, thank you for introducing us to Hotel Verbana. For our first visit I was able to talk to the person who wrote your review-wonderful start!!!We are going back for our fourth visit on this trip and taking our daughter for her second visit to the lovely hotel. Thank you, John B. Emery, Jr., MD
Asked by John Emery MD [Nov 5, 2010]


Answer:

The town is as charming as ever. Unfortunately, in 2008 the Albergo San Lorenzo contacted us to say they were no longer operating as an inn and we have not found alternate accommodation to recommend to our Karen Brown Travelers.  If you find something wonderful - please share!!!

Thank you for using our recommendations!
Kindest regards, Karen

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Category: General

Question:
Karen, You have never steered our family wrong. We are planning on a 10 day holiday in Italy. We have 7 (yikes) children ranging in ages from 17-26. We would like spend 2 nights in Rome and then move on to Tuscany/Umbria for one week. We are looking for a farmhouse (just like the Whitford house in Vt.!) Our intent is to have an experience where the owners are on hand daily and interacting with our family so that we get a true picture of Italian life. We would like to be close to several villages and towns for daily sightseeing. Thanks for your help.
Asked by Patty Mulvihill [Oct 30, 2010]


Answer:

Dear Patty,

I asked Nicole Franchini who researches our guide to Italy Bed & Breakfasts for her recommendations based on your note as she is knows every property personally.  She recommends any of the following as "a more authentic farm experience and good for families":

UMBRIA

Torre Burchio, Bettona

La Casella, Ficulle

TUSCANY

La Ripolina, Buonconvento

Il Selvino, Terricciola

Casali della Aioli, Vagliali

Villa Sant'Andrea, Montefiridolfi

If you decide you would like help with your reservations, Nicole also has a business, Hidden Treasures of Italy.  Her website is: http://www.htitaly.com/.

Thank you for your kind note and confidence in our recommendations! 

Kindest regards and Happy Thanksgiving wishes to you and yours,

Karen

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Category: Germany

Question:
Having recently toured Germany following your itineraries there were a few errors on your pages and I was wondering if you would like me to point these errors out to you and give you some suggestions.
Asked by Susan Howson [Oct 26, 2010]


Answer:

Dear Susan,

I would welcome any corrections and suggestions!  We definitely make mistakes and appreciate when people point them out! We want our content to be as accurate as possible! 

Thank you for taking the time to contact us.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Kindest regards,

Karen

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Category: France

Question:
We have stayed at more than 20 Karen Brown recommended hotels over the past few years and have never been disappointed. We are now planning a trip to the French Alps and have been considering Les Roches Fleuries in Cordon. However, other reviews of this property are really a concern because most of them are SO negative. Do you continue to recommend this hotel or is there another one we should consider instead? We really trust your reviews!
Asked by Catherine White [Oct 22, 2010]


Answer:

Dear Catherine,

First, THANK YOU so much for using our recommendations for so many years!  It is obvious that we have the same taste if you have been so pleased with your selections.  I am glad.

In terms of Les Roches Fleuries in Cordon, I have not personally seen it for a few years, but, loved it again when I last saw it and we do not have any negative comments in our system (nor do we have any positive reviews).  If you do stay here, I would very much appreciate your feedback!

As far as other recommendations in the area:  I love Le Fer a Cheval in Megeve (although, it is quite a bit more expensive) and I also adore a charming, simple, intimate little inn (recommended in our France B&B book) Le Chalet des Troncs in Grand Borand (however, they do not participate on our website so you won't find them referenced there).  Should you wish to reach them, their telephone number is  04.50.02.28.50.

Again, thank you for being such a faithful Karen Brown Traveler!

Enjoy your travels!

Karen

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Category: Portugal

Question:
We only have one week in Portugal and will be flying into Lisbon - I purchased your book but have no idea how much we can do in one week and get back to Lisbon for our flight out - thinking of trying to do exploring the alentejo and back to the beginning since it is a circle - does this make since? Want to see the prettiest part of portugal - dont take lots of time in museums just want to drive and see the country and highlights - suggestions?
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Oct 15, 2010]


Answer:

Dear Friends,

You will need to decide your personal preference in just how much you want to cover in a day in terms of distance and whether or not you like to use one place as a base and minimize how many places you stay, but it is feasible with the luxury of a week to follow our Exploring  Alentejo then Medieval Monuments backwards. You could also feasibly squeeze in a loop out of Lisbon for an overnight in Sintra (and even possibly Obidos!). It is a bit hard to truly recommend exact itinerary allowances as I am not sure if you have 7 true days travel or 7 days total including transportation to and from Portugal. Lisbon is a wonderful city and an overnight on your arrival or the night before your departure would afford you an introduction to the city. I would decide on which night to overnight in the city based on your arrival and departure times.

Hope this proves of some help!

Karen

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Category: Spain

Question:
We will be spending 5 days in Madrid in November. Outside of lodging and transportation, how much can I expect to spend per day? We will be eating three meals, drinking -- and shopping of course!
Asked by Barbara Annas [Oct 14, 2010]


Answer:

Dear Barbara,

The amount you spend will directly correlate with where you eat and shop!  Cities always tend to be more expensive than the countryside but, there are always the little family style restaurants that are considerably less than the Michelin rated; in Spain you can also take advantage of Tapas bars and create a delicious meal of reasonably priced "smaller plates"; beer and Sangria are a better value than label wines or spirits, and cute little local boutiques compare reasonably to Prada! Not knowing your personal preferences, it is almost impossible for me to estimate a dollar amount that you will actually spend. 

However, if I were budgeting, I would estimate the following for meals:

Breakfast - usually included in the hotel rate

Lunch - many restaurants post a menú del día (menu of the day) or cubierto (fixed price menu)- these are both a great value and feature local specialties and what was available at the morning market. There is also often a menú turístico (a tourist menu) that is a full meal and recommended only for those who want to make lunch their main meal of the day....or to tide you over if you are planning on dining on the Spanish clock for the evening meal - ten later!  Menus at a moderately priced restaurant would run approximately 20 euros per person.  We also love to picnic which adds the wonderful experience of shopping at the local bakery, butcher and cheese shops!

Dinner - again, you might want to consider the daily offered menus for value.  A la carte, I would estimate a moderately priced menu at 35 euros per person.  If you opt to make dinner of the wonderful Tapas as served in the bars, plan on spending approximately 8 to 10 euros per plate.

Service is published on menus as included in the price of the meal, but it's customary to leave an additional 10% for exceptional service.

Hope this helps you with planning your trip budget!

Thank you for using our guides and website.

Regards, Karen

 

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Category: Britain

Question:
I have enjoyed many of your guidebooks & feel if it's recommended by Karen it'll fit my needs, but since you don't cover places like apartments in London, which I'm looking for now, I feel bereft! There are tons of websites, of course, but how does one know which one? I'd rather book through owners, to eliminate fees. Do you have any recommendations?
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Oct 12, 2010]


Answer:

Dear Friend,

Thank you for your kind note and the value you place in our recommendations!  In terms of apartment rentals in London this is something we have yet to personally research. I know there are quite a few companies and I am sorry not to be able to offer you a recommendation. 

One thought would be to look into home exchanges.  I have a few friends who have done this and have been extremely pleased.  This would be a way you could deal with the owner directly and avoid fees, save money on the rental....however, it does require that you open your home up to someone.

However, that being said a company that represents multiple rental properties would probably better represent the various options with honest appraisals for your comparison and selection and they also have so much more to loose if a property is not as portrayed; has problems or is not market value.  I would also worry a little dealing directly with an individual as in today's world of internet, you really don't know who you are dealing with and where they truly are located - especially if you need to pursue them after the fact.

I guess I will turn to you for feedback on what you learn! We would welcome a recommendation based on your personal experience!

Kindest regards,

Karen

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Category: Italy

Question:
There are eight of us traveling to Italy in July of 2011. Do you have any suggestions of how we should get around? I admit I am a little nervous about driving but may do it. Lugging a suitcase onto trains sounds like a lot of work. Some want to just do a tour but some do not. Any suggestions? Our ages are 29 to 61.
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Oct 5, 2010]


Answer:

Dear Friend,

Even though you probably assume that travel by train is the most economical, with a group of your size and the fact that everyone would need to purchase individual tickets, you might, in fact, find a van that would accommodate the size of your group, less expensive.  That being said, and if budget is not a concern, simply convenience, there are certain things to consider:

Travel by train:

1) Depending on how many destinations you include for your trip, point to point tickets are usually more expensive than rail passes - so I would definitely research and compare the two. If applicable, there are family discount passes. You can research fares and schedules through our Train Travel Link on our website.

2) The luxury of traveling by train is that you can ALL enjoy the ride as passengers.

3) Because your group numbers eight, you would be best to secure reservations in advance which then ties you to a definite schedule.

4) Once you arrive at the station, unless your hotel/sightseeing is within comfortable walking distance, you will STILL need to find additional means of transportation to reach your final destination...and multiple taxes, etc. might be hard to find and most definitely add to your cost.

5) You would definitely want to travel light - there is rarely porterage available at the stations and lugging luggage on and off trains can be difficult, especially if you are rushing to catch a train!

Travel by private car/van:

1) With a rental you have the luxury of detouring off your originally planned itinerary...venturing off down that scenic country road that alluringly beckons....

2) You are not tied to train schedules and destinations serviced by the train routes.

3) With a group of eight, you could need to consider two car rentals or a larger van.  The two cars would probably cost a bit more (or perhaps not) and would afford the option of groups heading out in separate directions if preferences varied-one could head off to the museum, the other to the stores!

4) If you decide on a larger van to accommodate eight, you need to realize that driving through the narrow cobbled streets of some medieval towns might prove difficult if not impossible and parking might often prove an issue.

5) If your itinerary stops are all cities, you might honestly find train better than a car rental as cars/vans would just prove to be a nuisance and an expense-especially where parking is concerned. Also, most train stations are wonderfully located at the heart of the city.

5) Someone (or two or three) would need to be comfortable driving a van in Europe.

6) I would recommend contacting AutoEurope to research rental options. They do not have their own fleet of cars but, rather, represent numerous rental companies.  Therefore, they are impartial and will help you "shop" the best options based on your needs.  Be sure to mention that you are a Karen Brown Traveler for a preferred discount.  Their tollfree number is:  1-800-223-5555.  You might want to also inquire about a driver!

If you want help with your travel arrangements, a contributing author to our guides is Nicole Franchini. She is based out of Italy and we recommend her company HIDDEN TREASURES OF ITALY for personalized trip planning. The US toll free number is 1-888-419-6700.

Hope my above rambles serve to help!

Enjoy your trip to Italy! 

Karen 

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Category: Belgium

Question:
Please provide hotel recommendations for Brugge, Belgium. Thank you! Gene Mayberry
Asked by Gene Mayberry [Oct 2, 2010]


Answer:

Dear Mr. Mayberry,

While we do not currently have a guide to Belgium, I researched Brugge for a cookbook that we published years ago but has since gone out of print.  In EUROPEAN COUNTRY CUISINE: ROMANTIC INNS & RECIPES we recommended: 

Hotel Duc de Bourgogne - lovely property on the river. If you saw the movie Brugge this was the hotel featured!  Huidenvettersplein 12, 8000 Brugge

AND in another publication now out of print (European Country Inns: Best on a Budget) we featured:

Hotel de Orangerie - no restaurant but in the heart of town. Also lovely, just not sure it still qualifies as a budget property! Kartuizerinnestraat 10, 8000 Brugge

AND finally, we recommend Romantik Hotel Members and they have a property in Brugge.  The link to their information on the Karen Brown website is http://www.karenbrown.com/Hotel_Guide/Belgium/Flemish/Br%C3%BCgge/Romantik_Pandhotel/6458.php.

Hope this proves of some help!

If you find a property you love, we would be thrilled if you would share it with us as a Traveler Recommendation!

Kindest regards,

Karen

 

 

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Category: Italy

Question:
While in Florence I will be needing a rental car so that I can travel Tuscany on my own. I arrive on October 4 but will not need the car until the 5th ( I assume I will just take a train or taxi to the hotel in Florence - ?) Should I book my car reservations before leaving the states and book it through the states or should I wait til I arrive in Florence. I am not sure which is the best way to go about getting a car. Can you give me advice?
Asked by Rachel Hortman [Sep 20, 2010]


Answer:

Dear Rachel,

You definitely do NOT want or need a car while in Florence. First it is an extremely difficult city to navigate in and out of due to the many one way and pedestrian streets. Also, in general, cars in a city serve to be an extra expense: extra rental day charges for a car you will probably never use; parking fees and the nuisance of finding a place to simply park for an extended period of time.

In terms of getting to your hotel, I would contact them for their advice.  They will know the best options based on their location. If you are traveling on your own, often public transportation is the most reasonable, but if there are three or four of you traveling together, sharing a private cab or car might prove as economical as, for example, the total cost for four individual bus tickets.

To answer your question as to reserving a car, I would definitely encourage you to rent it in advance of your trip.  You will have the luxury of time to research options. If you wait until you are in Florence, you will be using precious time making the reservation; probably relying on limited recommendations from your hotel and often, last minute car selection is limited if available at all. We recommend AutoEurope (1-800-224-5555) for car rental reservations. They do not have their own fleet of cars but, rather, can research options and prices from most car rental companies.  They will help you compare and select based on your preferences. Definitely, evaluate the cost of picking up a car at the airport (this would require getting back to the airport but it would eliminate navigating out of town) versus a downtown pick up location.  However, it is important to note there are often fees and taxes applied to a rental picked up at the airport that significantly increase the price.  And another consideration that might influence your choice, for a nominal fee, one can sometimes request the car delivered directly to your hotel when you select a downtown location so you can simply load your luggage and take off! If you contact AutoEurope, definitely mention that you are a Karen Brown Traveler and use ID number 99006187 for special offers and discounts.

Hope this helps! Enjoy your travels in Italy!

Kindest regards,

Karen

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