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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: France

Question:
Hi Karen, My husband and I are traveling to France for our 30th wedding anniversary in mid-October. We will be staying in Beaune for four nights and seeing the wine country by both auto and bicycle. After that we are going to spend 5 night or so at Bastide de Boulbon outside of Avignon. We think it might be fun touring the Provence area by scooter. What do you think? Is there a rental agency you could suggest?
Asked by Kathy Hunt [Aug 10, 2010]


Answer:

Dear Kathy,

Although, traveling the roads in Europe (or for that matter anywhere in the world!) by bike, scooter or motorcycle scares me a bit....if you stay to the quieter countryside roads I know people love the experience the slower pace affords!  You see so much more (although, you cover less territory) traveling at 30 kph versus 100 kph! Also, there are lots of destinations in proximity to Avignon that would make for great day adventures by scooter and many scenic routes. 

In terms of a recommendation for a rental agency, I found a lot when I googled "scooter rentals in Provence".  To share just a few:

www.2wheeltravel.com/Motorcycle%20Hire/francehire.htm

www.provence.angloinfo.com

www.amb-cotedazur.com/Car-Bike-Hire

However, I have never rented a scooter so I cannot recommend from personal experience.  I would suggest the place you are staying might prove to be your best resource.  They should be able to recommend a reputable company and also one that is convenient to your location.

Enjoy your trip and Happy Anniversary!

Karen

 

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Category: General

Question:
We will be traveling in Western Italy, Southern France and all over Spain. Do we need maps if we have a GPS system?
Asked by Sheila Perry [Aug 9, 2010]


Answer:

Although, I was at first skeptical about GPS systems I am now amazed at how great they are and they do in fact help navigate to even the remotest of villages/hamlets/little tucked away inns-they are invaluable!  That being said, I also still strongly believe that printed maps help you with orientation-the GPS maps are limited in scope.  Also, with an overview map, even though the route generated by the GPS might be the most efficient, there might be a scenic country road just a few miles distance that would be detailed on an overview map and one you might want to consider.  So, my response to your question is YES I still want a printed map to refer to and also to review and reference each night in my room as I plan the next day's journey and adventure!

Have a wonderful trip!

Karen

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Category: General

Question:
We are going to be in Cinque Terre and then picking up a rental car in Genoa and driving through southern France to Barcelona and then to Seville for a week long bike ride, then touring the rest of Spain and returning home to the US from Madrid. What is the best way to handle the car rental? Should we turn in the car the week we are on the bike ride and then rent another one for the rest of our trip? Our total tip time is one month. September 4th through October 5th.
Asked by Sheila Perry [Aug 8, 2010]


Answer:

Dear Sheila,

It is hard for me to evaluate the best options in terms of convenience and cost without having an exact itinerary and not being able to quote prices. A few thoughts: Having one car for the entire rental is convenient and often the daily rate if you qualify for a lease is a price incentive....it might actual prove to be less than two separate rentals with a shorter combined rental period.   Also, multiple rentals...picking up and dropping off cars takes time. 

I would recommend contacting AutoEurope (telephone: 1-800-223-5555) they can "shop" all rental car agencies and help you determine what best fits your needs and budget.

Enjoy your trip both using a four and a two wheel vehicle!

Karen

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Category: France

Question:
Hello, We just purchased your book on France. We are traveling with our 1 year old in September. Your book doesn't mention anything about cribs... Any advise? Should we rent one and try to bring it with us in the car? Email each accommodation and see if the have one? Purchase a portable/travel one? Thanks for you help and time.  
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Jul 28, 2010]


Answer:
As a parent, I think I would honestly purchase and travel with my own portable crib.  You could always contact the properties directly but, even though they might say they have something suitable for use, it might not meet health and safety standards. Enjoy your trip to France! Karen

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Category: Spain

Question:
I am planning to visit Cardona in Catalunia first or second week of September. In your excellent book "Karen Brown's Spain" you mentioned that there is an annual running of the bulls festival there in the first half of September. Would you happen to know when it will happen this year? I could not the exact dates on the internet... Thank you in advance, Mikhael
Asked by Mikhael Lerer [Jul 25, 2010]


Answer:

Dear Mikhael,

I, too, could not find the exact dates on the internet. I have contacted the Cordona tourist office and have requested the information from them.  I will let you know what I learn.  In the meantime, for your own reference, the contact information for tourist office in Cordona is:

Oficina de Turismeoficinaturisme@cardona.catSobre aquesta webweb@cardona.cat

Thank you for referring to our guide as EXCELLENT! Much appreciated! 

Kindest regards, Karen 

UPDATE: RESPONSE FROM TOURIST OFFICE RECEIVED AUGUST 10, 2010:


Dear Sir,

The dates for the running of the bulls for this September 2010 are:

       SATURDAY, 11th at 8:00 am "Corre de Bou" in the streets, "encierro" and at 8:00 pm traditional "Corre de Bou"

       SUNDAY, 12th at 5:30 pm traditional "Corre de Bou"

       MONDAY, 13th at 5:30 pm traditional "Corre de Bou"

Best regards,

TOURIST INFORMATION OFFICE

Tel: 93 869 27 98   

 

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Category: Britain

Question:
Karen-You list Dunmurray Lodge in your new England, Wales and Scotland guide but I cannot find it on your website. I would like to stay there. Is there a problem with the site?
Asked by Duncan Marriott [Jul 14, 2010]


Answer:

To answer your question, yes Dunmurray Lodge is recommended in our guide but they have chosen not to participate on our website. There is no charge to be included in our guide as we want nothing to influence our selection or editorial but we do have a nominal website fee to cover our administrative costs.  Unfortunately, they have opted not to have the exposure afforded by the internet.  I apologize as it is confusing to many who use our guides and then cross-reference with the website.

So please know Dunmurray Lodge is still proudly recommended by Karen Brown's Guides!

Thank you for using our guides and recommendations! Karen

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Category: Italy

Question:
Karen, My husband and I are making a dream trip to Italy this fall, and I have been using your Tuscany and Umbria guide. We both love art and wine and are planning 4 nights in Florence, 6 in the hill towns, and 4 in Rome. I am overwhelmed with the choices. Do you recommend moving around in the hill towns?(we want to see Siena and Assisi as well as wineries. Also, I cannot find a hotel/B&B in your book near the Piazza Navona in Rome. Is there one?
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Jul 14, 2010]


Answer:

Italy is a perfect destination for a dream trip-it truly is magical!  I agree, the planning is a bit overwhelming - especially as there are so many wonderful choices! Your pacing is good: 4 nights in Florence and Rome, and six in the countryside.  I would divide the six nights in the countryside into two stays...select one place in or near Siena (Tuscany) and the second in or near Assisi (Umbria). It is nice to settle in to one place, however, if you spent all six nights in one spot, I am afraid you would feel that you were spending a chunk of each day covering the same miles to and from your accommodation if you want to explore both regions. 

The advantage of staying in a larger town (i.e., Siena and Assisi) is that there would be some shopping and dining options that you might not find if you are staying at one of our remote, countryside hotels or bed & breakfasts!

I would not recommend renting a car until you are ready to leave Florence and return it as soon as you arrive in Rome - a car is a nuisance and an expense in the cities.  Another thought would be to pick up and drop off the car at the airports and take transportation into and out of the cities. 

In terms of places to stay near the Piazza Navona, we don't have any recommendations on the Piazza but two that are in close proximity are: Hotel due Torri and Fontanella Borghese!

Hope this helps and doesn't serve to further confuse!

Best, Karen

 

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Category: Italy

Question:
Hi Karen, Firstly, great guide to Tuscany and Umbria, very helpful indeed!! I was wondering whether you could help my fiancee and I find a restaurant in Pisa which can serve us at around 11-11.30pm. Our flight arrives at Pisa quite late in the evening, and the hotel can only provide us with room service. Since we are only in Pisa for that one night (and some of the following day), I was hoping your extensive knowledge could help us find a nice late-night restaurant in the city. Thanks in advance for your help, and thanks again for your wonderfully helpful guide. Best regards, Alex Karageorgis
Asked by Alex Karageorgis [Jul 14, 2010]


Answer:

Unfortunately, our research covers mostly places to stay and not restaurants….this is in part because we are not in a particular town or city often enough to feel comfortable with dining recommendations –we feel to reliably recommend restaurants one should patronize the restaurant on a regular basis to experience the food, service and welcome.   That being said, I would definitely ask the hotel where you are staying for their recommendations.  They WILL know the restaurants in their neighborhood.  They will understand that you want to dine out and not in the hotel room.   I will also copy Nicole who is a contributing editor to our guides to Italy and lives in Italy in case she might have a recommendation.  I have also posted your question on Facebook and asked our fellow Karen Brown Travelers if they have a recommendation.  Hopefully one of these resources will prove fruitful!

Wishing you a wonderful honeymoon trip and a lifetime of happiness!

Karen

P.S. If you find a restaurant you love - we would love to know about it! You can share it as a Reader Discovery on the Karen Brown Community of our website!

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Category: General

Question:
We are flying to Paris from New Orleans on September 15. Our friends from New Orleans are judging a wine event in Cognac from the 14 to the 18. We would like to meet them there, stay until the 18th and make our way back to Paris on the 21. (probably spending the 21-27 in Paris but still don't have a place to stay). We want to stay in the 6th district. Could you suggest an itinerary for us with places to stay along the way. We can rent a car or use the train, but we are big wine buffs. So, in conclusion: Sept. 15 :Paris Place to Stay Sept. 16: Paris to Cognac (train?) Sept 16-18: Place to stay in Cognac and things to do Sept 18-20: Cognac to Paris--route and accommodations Sept. 20-28: Paris - accommodations (6th Arr.) Things to do Thanks so much. I followed your advise years ago to Italy with my two daughters and we head the time of our lives. It was fabulous! Thanks, Janie Charbonnet
Asked by Jane Charbonnet [Jul 8, 2010]


Answer:

Dear Janie,

Thank you for continuing to use our recommendations. It is so nice to know we have long-term followers!

In terms of recommendations for your trip, I can offer a basic outline but if you want further assistance with reservations and detailed recommendations, I would suggest you contact Marie of Elegant Europe.  She lives in France and is a contributor to both our guides to France.  Her website is: http://www.elegant-europe.com/.>

For your trip:

1) If you haven't already made your flight reservations, I would recommend booking a flight direct to Bordeaux (most likely via Paris-and often for just a little more than the cost of a flight just to Paris!). If you have already booked your air, companies such as Ryan Air have very reasonable inter-Europe flights.

2) rent a car and travel to be with your friends in Cognac

3) I would then recommend you settle in the Dordogne for your few extra days - it is one of my favorite regions and the drive back to Paris is long so you would spend much of your time covering distances and not sightseeing.

4) In the Dordogne, I would use one place as a base and then explore from there. Unfortunately, I have lots of favorites: Coly, Domme, Lacave, Tremlot, Meyrals.....In terms of sightseeing, ones I would highlight are: Brantome, Lascaux II, Les Eyzies, Domme, Sarlat, Beynac, La Rogue Gageac. You might want to consider our itinerary, "Dordogne & Lot River Valleys" that is available through our website store as a downloadable PDF ($8.50) or published in either of our guides ($19.95) to France (Hotel or B&B-but I would recommend the Hotel book for you since almost all of the recommendations for places to stay are hotels in this case!)

5) I would then train back to Paris and arrive right in the heart of the city-makes arrival so easy, avoids hassle of driving in, parking etc, and even if you fly back from Bordeaux it then requires you get into the city from the airport - cost and time.   The town/station you choose will be dependent on convenience to where you stay in the Dordogne, but I do know there is a TGV from Brive that I have taken. Also, another note would be to check fees for returning a car rental to a different city...you might find there is a charge to pick up in Bordeaux and drop in Brive but not if you return the car in Limoges, as an example....I just mention it so you consider all options. AutoEurope which we highly recommend will shop options for all car rental agencies and are great at helping you with honest comparisons.  Be sure to mention you are a Karen Brown Traveler for additional discounts.

6) In Paris in the sixth arrondissement, my personal favorites are St Germain Left Bank Hotel and the Relais Christine - but I also like the others we recommend as well: Victoria Palace (near Gare Montparnasse) Hotel d'Aubusson, Au manoir Saint Germain des Pres.  To confuse you further, nearby in the seventh is another favorite, Hotel duc de St Simon.

Hope my recommendations help to get you started with your trip!

Kindest regards,

Karen

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Category: Italy

Question:
We would like to plan a trip to Southern Italy and combine it with a trip to Sicily. What is the best way (including transportation) of doing this?
Asked by Lynn Whelan [Jul 3, 2010]


Answer:

Published in either of our guides to Italy (the Hotel or B&B title-each available for $19.95) and also available individually for purchase ($8.50 each) on our website as downloadable PDF files are two itineraries that I think would cover the areas of your interest.  The first itinerary, "Highlights of Southern Italy" travels the west coast between Rome and Maratea and then travels east to Brindisi on the east coast.  We then have a second itinerary, "Exploring the Wonders of Sicily" which can easily be an extension of the Highlights Itinerary.

To give you an idea of the itineraries the following is an excerpt from "Highlights of Southern Italy":

Memories of childhood history lessons vaguely call forth such names as Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Paestum, yet, all too frequently, the urge to visit these jewels is lost in the misconception that southern Italy is a rather lackluster destination. What a mistake! Southern Italy has fascinating archaeological sites, appealing medieval towns, white sand beaches and the dazzling Amalfi Coast with its picture-perfect villages. Travelers who venture south from Rome are thrilled when they wander through the fabulous Greek site of Paestum with its splendidly preserved temples rivaling those found in Greece or discover the mysterious town of Alberobello with its twisting streets lined by cute, whitewashed, beehive-like Trulli houses.

Recommended Pacing: Spend a minimum of three nights in Rome. Then, choose one town along the Amalfi Coast and stay for a minimum of five nights so that you will have time to make an excursion to Capri. Your next stop, Maratea, does not have much sightseeing but is a perfect place to relax for a couple of nights. The final destination is near the “heel” of Italy. Choose one place to use as your home base in Apulia and plan to spend at least three nights so that you will have time to explore this remote, beautiful part of Italy.

This itinerary makes a circle of the south in order to suit the travel needs of a wide selection of tourists. Follow the entire route or select the portion best for you since this itinerary is particularly suitable for the traveler who wants to take only a segment. For instance, the journey from Rome to Brindisi is a favorite one for the lucky tourists on their way to Greece, while the west coast is a popular drive for the tourist who wants to visit Sicily and then return to Rome by air or ferry. Most popular of all is the segment from Rome to the Amalfi Drive. This itinerary allows you to custom tailor your journey and gives you tantalizing sightseeing along the way.

And the following is an excerpt from "Exploring the Wonders of Sicily":

Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean, is a wondrous destination. This triangular hunk of land jutting out from the tip of Italy’s toe became the crossroads of the ancient world. Nowhere in your travels can you discover a more diverse archaeological treasure-trove. Stone-Age tools and figures carved in the Grotta di Addaura at Monte Pellegrino indicate people were living in Sicily during the Paleolithic Age. About 1270 B.C. the island was invaded by a Mediterranean tribe called Siculians, but they were not the only settlers: excavations show the arrival of tribes from Asia. Beginning in the 10th century B.C., pioneering Phoenicians took a fancy to this fertile land, followed later by their descendants, the Carthaginians. However, the true dawn of Sicily’s reign of glory began with the colonization by the Greeks whose enormous influence permeates Sicily today. However, the rich fabric of Sicily’s heritage does not end with the Greek influence: later the Romans invaded, then the Normans, then the Spanish, and on and on. This resulting melting pot of cultures makes Sicily an absolute MUST for those who delight in the romance of archaeology. The true magic of Sicily is that most of the ruins are so natural in their setting. Frequently you discover you are alone—the only tourist walking through a field of wildflowers to gaze in awe at an exquisite temple.

Recommended Pacing: We recommend a minimum of a week to follow this itinerary. If you are passionate about archaeology, you could stay in Sicily for a month or more to delve in depth with its many glorious sites. Plan to spend two nights in Taormina (one of Sicily’s most attractive cities) two nights in Agrigento to see the incredible temples in the Valle dei Templi, and then three nights in northwest Sicily (Palermo or another hub) to visit Palermo, Segesta, Monreale, and Erice.

Enjoy your travels and thank you for using our recommendations! 

Karen

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