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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:
We are looking to rent an apartment or small villa in Italy's Lake District and then in Cinque Terre -- family of 5. Can you recommend any good rental websites -- is VRBO any good? Any recommendations? Thank you. Peter
Asked by Peter Brautigam [Jun 28, 2010]


Answer:

I would suggest contacting Nicole Franchini, a contributing author to our Italy guides. She is American born but now lives in Italy and has a company we recommend called Hidden Treasures of Italy.  She personally visits many properties and might know of rental properties in the Lake District or on the Cinque Terre. In terms of VRBO - unfortunately, I cannot offer you feedback based on personal experience.

Nicole's contact information is:

USA toll free: 888-419-6700

email: info@htitaly.com

website: www.htitaly.com

Have a wonderful trip and thank you for using our recommendations!

Kindest regards,

Karen

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Category: Switzerland

Question:
We are planning a trip to Italy and are considering taking the Lake Maggiore Express, a combination train trip that goes into southern Switzerland to Locarno and boat trip back down Lake Maggiore. You do not mention this in any of your books and we were wondering if you thought that this trip is worthwhile. Also, how long does it take to drive from Bellagio to Stresa or Luinoa? We are planning to stay in Bellagio while at Lake Como and were wondering if we could use it as a base for Lake Maggiore as well.
Asked by Marilyn Wilton [Jun 28, 2010]


Answer:

Although, we do not personally recommend the Lake Maggiore Express, it travels a scenic route and I would assume would be lovely.  We do however, recommend excursions specific to Lake Maggiore. Below is copied from our website:

Like Lake Garda and Lake Como, Maggiore offers ferries to many of its quaint towns and adds a special treat, the Borromean Islands, a small archipelago of three small islands, Isola Bella, Isola Madre, and Isola dei Pescatori. These enchanting islands can be reached by ferry from Stresa, Baveno, or Pallanza, but the most convenient of these departure points is Stresa. There are private taxi-boats available, but the most reasonable transportation is by public ferry. Another sightseeing excursion on Lake Maggiore is to the park at Villa Taranto. Its gardens, created in the 20th century by a Scottish captain, Neil McEacharn, are splendid with over 2000 species of plants, including huge water lilies, giant rhododendrons, and colorful azaleas. Adding to the botanical masterpiece, are fountains, waterfalls, beautiful trees and sculptures. 

In terms of where to stay and whether or not to use one location as a base, the distances are not great (approximately two hours from Bellagio to Stressa as an example), but then the decision should also be based on your personal preference.  We find it easier to settle in to one property and use it as a base - eliminates the need and time involved with check-in, check-out and getting oriented.  However, if you are traveling at the height of the season, the roads are crowded and you might regret the need to back-track to a "base" and would rather select places to stay that progress your journey.

For the Lake District, we do recommend (from our Swiss guide):

"Three nights in the Lake District will give you two full days to explore this romantic part of Switzerland. You need sufficient time to take boat excursions onteh gorgeous lakes, do a bit of sightseeing, and visit nearby quaint villages. lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano are very close to each other, so select one or the other lake as your hub. If you choose Lake Maggiore, we suggest Ascona as a place to stay. If you choose Lake Lugano, we recommend Lugano, Morcote or Castagnola."

Note: Specific to your trip, for Lake Como - we love Bellagio as a place to stay!

Also, for determining distances, take advantage of the TRIP PLANNER feature of our website. Simply add destinations to your personalized itinerary and it will generate directions and approximate travel times between the locations.

Have a wonderful trip!

Karen

 

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Category: Britain

Question:
Hi, Karen. I'm in over my head! I'm planning a trip at Christmas for my mother, sister, niece and I - it's our first holiday after losing my dad and our first Christmas abroad. We're thinking of England but don't know the best place to be actually on the 24-27th? We won't have a car..I was thinking York or Edinburgh? Heard London was a bit closed down on the actual holiday? Susan
Asked by Susan Salley [Jun 19, 2010]


Answer:

Dear Susan,

One of the most memorable Christmasses I spent was in the UK when researching the first edition of our guide. First, I loved London at the holidays! Shopping, afternoon tea and the city dressed in holiday fare was so festive!  I would suggest at least a few days in the city and then train out to York, Oxford, Bath or yes, even Edinburgh (but as you progress north it tends to get even colder!)

Even though it would require transportation from a train station to a hotel in a remote countryside location, you might also want to consider places that offer a holiday packages.  I have often known of properties in the Cotswolds, for example, that stage a week of festivities including lovely dinners, carriage rides and boxing day events.  You might want to check with the hotels directly to see if they are offering any packages and about pricing and availability. A few that I can think of that might be offering a package would be: Buckland Manor, Lords of the Manor, Chewton Glen, Hambleton Hall...to name a few...but your email has also prompted me to contact all the places we recommend for holiday programs!  I will pass on any information I receive.

Thank you for using our recommendations.

Kindest regards,

Karen

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Category: General

Question:
My husband and I are spending a month in Italy in October. Can you recommend a travel insurance company that I can contact. thank you Mary Ellen Lawrence
Asked by Mary Ellen Lawrence [Jun 15, 2010]


Answer:

We recommend Access America. They have lots of plans to fit your needs and are happy to discuss the options.  The link to their website and information is:

http://www.accessamerica.com/AA/SelectAPlan.aspx

Safe Travels!

Karen 

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Category: Website

Question:
I cannot seem to save any destinations/attractions to my itinerary, is there anyone I can contact to help me through this?
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Jun 12, 2010]


Answer:

Dear Kelly,

Please help me better understand your problem. When I look at your account I see a trip (My Trip) that has been successfully saved with two itinerary segments. I then added four or five random additional destinations to your itinerary with no problem.  (I have now deleted those). Two thoughts:

1) you have to be logged in to be able to save your trip taking advantage of your premier membership level

2) after the first save, any additional segments, automatically save - you won't receive a prompt.

But, again, let me know how we can help. I am sorry you have struggled with our trip planning and for any frustration.

Kindest regards,

Karen

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Category: Belgium

Question:
My husband and I are flying into Amsterdam and returning home 17 days later from Paris. We would like to spend 3-4 days in Amsterdam, a few days in Belgium, a few days in Paris (we have been there more than once), Giverny, Normandy (incl. the Omaha beach), and back to Paris (basically one week Amsterdam/Belgium, one week Paris/Normandy). I would like to minimize time spent carrying/lifting luggage, and we are generally comfortable driving in other countries. I am interested in suggestions as to where we should rent and use a car (rent in Amsterdam and drive through Belgium en route to Paris? rent in Paris and drive through Normandy, or take a train to Giverny and then rent?), and a suggested route in Normandy that would bring us back to Paris (the Normandy route in the book does not return to Paris). Thank you for any assistance. We have enjoyed your books!
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Jun 11, 2010]


Answer:

Sounds like you have a wonderful journey ahead of you!  The trip I am going to suggest incorporates some train and car rental with an effort to minimize the cost of a rental in the cities where a car only serves to be a nuisance and an added expense (parking).

I would recommend that you:

1) spend a few days in Amsterdam

2) train from Amsterdam to Brussels (Either overnight or connect directly on to Bruges.) 

3) train from Brussels to Bruges (a wonderful medieval city-not to be missed!)

4) Train from Bruges to Paris (there are some direct trains) and it is so easy as the train stations are at the heart of the city so all you need to do is catch a cab to your hotel.

5) spend a few nights in the beautiful city of Paris

6) depending on your comfort zone for navigating out of Paris - either pick up your car downtown (some companies will deliver to your hotel for a fee)  OR take the train out to CDG and pick up a car rental at the airport. 

7) Drive to Giverny (I would recommend La Reserve - it is under new management and I have yet to meet the owners but, the property is gorgeous and ideally located in the orchards above Monet's home.)

8) In Normandy, I would include visits to Reims (Cathedral and Jeanne d'Arc), Honfleur (port and fishing town captured on canvas by many impressionist painters) and , Bayeux (tapestry museum), D-Day Beaches and the heart of its farmland.  I would select two places to stay: one in or near Honfleur so you can explore the port town and the cheese country to its south and towns such as LIvarot, the second closer to Bayeux to facilitate exploring the D-Day beaches, museums and the wonderful tapestry museum. Depending on when you leave Giverny, I would suggest taking the autoroute out to your furthest-most point west of Paris and then enjoy a leisurely pace back, i.e. begin near Bayeux and end near Honfleur.

9) When it comes time to return to Paris - I would not return to the city. I would suggest you spend all the time you want to spend in the city when you arrive in Paris from Bruges and either stay at an airport hotel (the Sheraton is right in the airport) - this affords you the opportunity to drop your car the night before (one less rental day) and eliminates the car rental return task on the day of your departure.  If your flight is late afternoon or evening, another suggestion would be stay at one of the places we recommend that would afford you one more night in the countryside - Plaisance in Othis is one suggestion - located just a half hour from the CDG airport.

I hope the above helps! Thank you so much for using our guides and recommendations!

Kindest regards,

Karen

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Category: France

Question:
We have stayed in KB hotels in Tuscany, Bordeaux, and Ireland--loved them all! When we are in NW/W France this Sept., we plan much time in Burgundy, as we love wine and wine tours, etc. We will be at Vault de Lugny for two nights, and have three nights for Beaune area. Le Cep is totally booked (boo-hoo), and I can't decide between Andre Ziltener and Le Clos. I know that they are entirely different, and there's a big difference in cost. We will be visiting wineries during the day and going out for lovely dinners at night. Is one of these a "don't miss"? Which of the hotels do you think is the best value for the money? Does the proximity to Beaune make a big difference for driving after dinner? Thank you very much! Stephanie Muller
Asked by Stephanie Muller [Jun 9, 2010]


Answer:

Dear Stephanie,

Thank you for your kind note and for so enthusiastically liking the places we recommend! Positive feedback is always so welcome!

In terms of your upcoming trip to Burgundy, you have selected a personal favorite - the Vault de Lugny. I hope you were able to secure one of their "royal" rooms - they are named King, Queen etc.  and definitely allow yourself some time in your schedule to simply enjoy the setting. Concerning where to stay at the heart of Burgundy, another personal favorite is the Chateau Andre Ziltener (220 to 380 euro)- it is gorgeous - staff is fantastic - but they do not have a restaurant (will serve light meals) and we actually drove to a neighboring town to dine. I love the Andre Ziltener! Le Clos is nice, extremely well priced (80 to 200 euro) but the accommodation are simpler and the family, while nice, aren't as doting. The setting is in the hills and one would also have to drive to the nearest restaurant. 

To confuse you further (apologies!), you might want to also consider a lovely bed & breakfast, Le Clos des Sauniers (130 to 200 euro). The link to their page below:

http://www.karenbrown.com/Hotel_Guide/France/Burgundy/Bligny_les_Beaune/Le_Clos_des_Saunieres/2508.php

And, to the north, near the Chateau de Vougeot in the town of GIlly is a lovely chateau hotel, set on a moat, with a nice restaurant and rooms that range from 170 to 743 euro - 743 being your private pavillon! The link to their page is:

http://www.karenbrown.com/Hotel_Guide/France/Burgundy/Gilly_%28Vougeot%29/Chateau_de_Gilly/861.php

The fact that you are not staying in the city of Beaune, where you could explore the town without a car - any other place you select will require a car.  Le Clos is too far to walk.

Hope this helps! If you have a moment on your return, I would love to know where you stayed and your impressions! Again, thank you so much for using our guides.

Kindest regards,

Karen

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Category: Ireland

Question:
My husband and are traveling to Ireland this summer. We plan to rent a car from Dublin. We enjoy bed and breakfasts and quaint accommodations. Which of your products would meet our needs the best?
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Jun 4, 2010]


Answer:

If you plan to explore much of the green isle or if you haven't yet decided where you want to travel, I would recommend purchasing our guide which includes four regional itineraries (The Southeast, The Southwest, The West, The North) as well as a Dublin Walking tour in addition to individual page descriptions of over 100 places to stay.  The itineraries detail a scenic route, suggest a pacing and highlight recommended towns and sightseeing.  Our books are priced at $19.95 and are available through our website store.  If you already know where you would like to travel, another option would be to simply purchase the itinerary of your choice (they are available for $8.50 per itinerary in a PDF downloadable format) and then use our website to research all the places we recommend that participate on our website.  Even if you purchase our guide, I would recommend using the website as an excellent source for additional information on the various properties and sightseeing, and provided website and email links facilitate direct contact.

Another wonderful function of our website is TRIP PLANNER.  (Go to the BLUE TAB Trip Planner for instructions.)  With Trip Planner you can actually build/create a personalized trip and the trip you create based on the places and sightseeing you select, will even generate directions, detail distances and let you print out your personal itinerary and route.

Hope this helps!

Thank you for inquiring about our Karen Brown information and content! We personally love Ireland!

Best,

Karen

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Category: Switzerland

Question:
Karen and staff, We're thinking of taking the 2 weeks at Christmas and going to Europe. Would like to be able to maybe spend the actual holiday in the Alps or some snowy mtn where our daughter (age 13) can ski (beginner to mid level). Do you have a recommendation on renting a "hut"/cabin or such thing in Switzerland. Does our book cover things related to the holidays? thanks for any recommendations, trying to plan ahead. Would it be cheaper to stay in Austria or France side of the mtns?
Asked by Jennifer Bennett [May 23, 2010]


Answer:

Although, I love the thought of renting a hut in the alps and I know it is possible, I have yet to do it and so cannot offer you any advice based on personal experience.  However, if this is something you really want to consider, I would suggest contacting the tourist office for the country of your choice and asking them for their honest feedback as to the experience you should expect.  I also know there are "huts" that people can trek between and they are stocked with food and linens...but, again, I cannot offer you any personal feedback and I don't know if I would recommend this for the winter months or with a teenage daughter.

In terms of a more traditional ski vacation - I can hopefully be of some help!  You will find excellent ski instruction at almost any European ski resort and almost all include terrain to address different levels of ability.  That being said, I would select a ski town with some charm so you can also enjoy the apres ski life as well and experience the ambiance of Europe and not feel as if you are in a resort similar to one you would find in the states.   Zermatt is wonderful and the adventure begins before you even reach the town as it is restricted to pedestrian traffic and you can only reach it by train. We recommend a number of places to stay in Zermatt. I also love the town of Klosters and have personal memories of staying at the Romantik Hotel Chesa Grishuna when I was 13 and skiing with my family!  Both towns would be especially magical - decorated for the holidays.

In terms of whether it is cheaper to stay on the Austrian or French side of the mountains...not necessarily so.  Cost will be determined by the place you select to stay.  The resort ticket prices will all be comparable.  

Enjoy your Family Ski Vacation!

Karen

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Category: Germany

Question:
Hi, Karen,   We traveled Tuscany using your guide and liked it very much. We are planning a short trip starting in Frankfurt. We are wondering about your 2 German itineraries: Castles of the Rhine &  Mosel and Bavaria. For how many days are they designed?   Also how long (miles/km) are these routes (Castles of the Rhine &  Mosel and Bavaria).   Thank you!   Elena
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [May 20, 2010]


Answer:

Dear Elena,

Thank you for your email and thank you for using Karen's Guides. We offer pacing suggestions for our itineraries but the actual trips can usually be done on a faster or slower pace depending on the traveler and what you want to see and do.

We recommend three nights along for the Rhine & Mosel itinerary - one night along the Rhine and two along the Mosel. You could drive the route in a day or you could easily stretch it into 5 if you want to visit wineries on a leisurely pace. The towns along the Mosel are charming!

The Bavaria itinerary could be cut down to 5 days although we would recommend 8-10 especially if you are including time in the beautiful city of Munich.  It also depends if you are only including in your travels to Bavaria what I think of as the "heart" - Munich, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Oberammergau and the castles of Mad King Ludwig, etc. Or if you also intend to travel to Austrian border and include the area around Berchtesgaden. 

In terms of distances, you can always refer to a map BUT I would encourage you to create/build a personalized itinerary on our website. (Available through the TRIP PLANNER function of our site - go to the top Blue Tab for instructions!).  Your personal itinerary will generate directions and detail distances between each destination you select...it is honestly similar to generating directions in map quest and is wonderful!!!  

Hope this helps and again, thank you for using our guides!

Karen

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