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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: Germany

Question:
Hello. WE are planning a trip to OBERAMMERGAU,Germany for the passion play from Sept 5-15 we will visit Frankfurt,Remagen,Cologne,Berlin,Leipzig,Nuremburg,Rothenberg,Munich,oberammergau,Lindau,Black Forest,Heidelberg,Frankfurt.I would need help on how to use your site to plan this itinerary.Is this help available?? andymorrow@rogers.com Dec 10-2009
Asked by Andrew Morrow [Dec 10, 2009]


Answer:

Dear Andy,

Thank you for your email and for using our guides.  How wonderful that you are able to experience the Passion Speil!  Know that it is never too early to secure tickets and that the hotels and tourist office in Oberammergau are a wonderful resource.

I am not sure I quite understand your question but will attempt to answer by explaining the function of our website that will help you build a personalized trip.  It is an incredible tool that we refer to as TRIP PLANNER.  To begin building a personalized trip:

1) Select a destination (e.g. Germany), then select a region (e.g. Bavaria)

2) at this point icons for hotels, towns and attractions (it is necessary to click on the attractions you want to see populate the map in the map key) will appear on the map

3) To begin to build your personalized itinerary click on the option ADD TO MY ITINERARY from the flag box that appears when you click on the icon or from the more detailed information page for any hotel, town or attraction.   As you begin to add destinations to your route you will see them populate your map with their numbered sequence and a connecting line.

4) To manage your trip (i.e., change the sequence of or delete destinations; add personal notes and comments; access point to point driving directions; print your itinerary, and/or add locations not currently featured in our database and, as a result, not available as a selection on our maps) it is necessary to go to the TRIP PLANNING section of our website. To do so, select from the BLUE TAB - TRIP PLANNER.

5) Our system allows you to build trips of up to 25 legs.  After 25 legs you will need to create multiple trips, e.g., Bavaria part 1, Bavaria part 2.  Also, very important to note, if you want to save a trip to return to for future reference and planning, it is necessary to purchase at least a Coach Membership at an annual fee of $10 per year (in addition to unlimited trip planning it affords a free downloadable itinerary - value $8.50 and 10% discount in our online store).  Very important, if you decide to purchase a membership AFTER you have begun building a trip, do not close your browser or you will lose your work in progress.

If you are looking for personal assistance with reservations and planning your trip, we do not currently offer this through our publishing office but do recommend Rosemary Pedretti a travel agent who specializes in European itineraries and is familar with the Karen Brown Recommendations. Her contact information is:

Rosemary Pedretti - Travel With Taste
...all around the world

rosemary pedretti [r2pedretti@earthlink.net]

 

Thank you again for using our recommendations. Wishing you a wonderful new year and travels in Bavaria!

Karen

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Category: Spain

Question:
First, we used your website to book all of our lodging on a trip to Italy 4 years ago and the recommendations were excellent! Now we are planning a trip to Spain. Can you advise for the driving itinerary "Old Castile and Cantabrian Coast" how many days we should plan for this drive/itinerary?? We would be leaving from Toledo but if you know the answer from Madrid that is fine. Thanks, Julius
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Nov 23, 2009]


Answer:

I am glad you had such a wonderful trip to Italy using our recommendations and I hope your trip to Spain proves as memorable.

In terms of pacing, it is always a bit hard as everyone has different preferences, but, basically, I would recommend at least two nights in Salamanca, one to two nights enroute to the coast, two on the coast (three if you plan to go to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilboa),  two nights near Pamplona and a minimum of two nights in Madrid (you could easily spend a week here if you like cities and museums.)

Thank you again for using our recommendations.

Best, Karen

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Category: France

Question:
We will be on a company-sponsored trip in April. Will end on April 23 or 24 in Lyon. We have been through much of France, but not Lyon, nor the Alps, nor the area of Burgundy or Alsace. We will have a week after that and would like to end up in Paris for a few nights. What do you advise? We LOVE French wine and food!
Asked by Julianne Holt [Nov 9, 2009]


Answer:

First, thank you for using our guides and recommendations!!!

In terms of itinerary suggestions you might want to refer to our French Alps, Burgundy and our Alsace itineraries. They are available individually in downloadable format at $8.50 each - or the best deal would be to purchase our guide (France Hotels or the France Bed & Breakfasts) which are on sale now for just $10 each and they include all fourteen itineraries.

But, a suggestion if you want to combine suggested routes, would be to spend a few days in the Alps and then Burgundy, or from Lyon travel straight to Burgundy and then on to Alsace. I don't think you would have time to do all three.

A quick overview for the two possible combinations:

Itinerary 1:

ALPS 2 to 3 nights: (Megeve, Chamonix, possibly Geneva, Annecy)

Lyon to Vieux Perouges - Ostellerie Vieux Perouges (hotel guide)

Heart of ALps: Megeve - Le Fer au Cheval (hotel guide) or Chalet de la Serraz in Clusaz (hotel guide)

On the waterfront outside Megeve, Yvoire, Hotel du Port (hotel guide)

BURGUNDY 3 to 4 nights (Sightseeing: Beaune, Vougeot, Wine routes)

heart of Burgundy: Chateau Andre Ziltener (countryside hotel), Chambolle Mussigny

or Gilly, the Chateau de Gilly (countryside hotel)or Beaune, Le Cep (Hotel in Beaune)

ENROUTE BACK TO PARIS 1 to 2 nights (Sightseeing: Vezelay, Abbaye de Fontenay)

Vault de Lugny - Chateau de Vault de Lugny (hotel)

 

Itinerary 2:

Lyon to Burgundy - same recommendations as above

Burgundy to Alsace:

Heart of Alsace:(wine towns & route, Colmar, Strasbourg, Riquewihr, Ribeauville)

Riquewihr, Hotel L'Oriel (hotel) OR

Ribeauville, Auberge des Seigneurs de Ribeauville (hotel) OR

Colmar (city), Hotel des Tetes (hotel) or Romantik Hotel Le Marechal (hotel) 

and then train from Strasbourg to Paris (TGV) or Colmar to Paris

 

Hope this is of some help.  More information as to sightseeing is detailed in the itinerary and information about the individual properties is available in our guides and on our website.

Safe travels! Karen

 

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Category: Italy

Question:
Last spring I forwarded a complaint to you regarding Fagiolari where we had stayed in April. I did receive a response that you valued our input and that the comments would be forwarded to the hostess. I would be interested to know if you received a response and/or if any further developments re this matter have occurred. Thank you Sandra
Asked by Sandra Monk [Nov 6, 2009]


Answer:

Dear Sandra,

I apologize that you were not copied on the response from the hotel (I will need to research why!). But, their response is published on their website page in association with your review.  (It might be necessary to click on the Option CLICK HERE TO SEE ALL REVIEWS - as only two to three can fit on the initial page - they rotate, but I don't know on which page your review and the hotel response will appear.)

The link direct to their page is:

http://www.karenbrown.com/B&B_Guide/Italy/Tuscany/Panzano_in_Chianti/Fagiolari/1165.php

But, also for your easy reference, I will copy and paste their response below:

 

PROPERTY RESPONSE: Dear Karen, Sorry for my English. In 14 years I have received few bad reviews and I never answered, but I accepted them trying to improve my behavour with the guests. This time it is really too much and I need to write my review on these 4 guests, whose names, they say, I did not remember. If this is true....is this a horrible fault?? They left two days earlier because not interested in touring the area, visiting historical places, arts etc etc. Their only interest was to list my faults and bad things on me and on my B&B. Why they did not talk to me during their stay ? In each room there is a very helpful booklet, in a very good English, with suggestions for restaurants, shopping, wine tasting, bus and taxi service, laundry etc etc etc and not withstanding this I always answer the many many questions and requests of my guests (sometimes I feel like a baby sitter). I really don’t know what I promise in the booklet that I don’t give ?! I cannot be available all day long, 24 hours per day to help my guests. In the area there is a very bad signal for the cell-phones: is this my fault ?? I let my guest use my telephone and I never charge for the calls. This is written in the helpful booklet. The front door key is perfectly working and is not my fault if few guests, including these 4, are awkward. I usually serve breakfast to 10-12 foreign people and I cannot talk with them during that time because I am busy in serving breakfast, but I do it the rest of the day!! I don’t think it is a fault to talk with my assistant to plan our busy busy day. I serve a typical Italian breakfast: milk, coffee, tea, corn flakes, yogurt, toasted bread, butter, 3 different kind of home made jams, fresh fruits, orange juice and every day a fresh home made breakfast cake. Why they did not ask me for something else ?...just to add some to their list of complains. About the cooking class and the ’little shopping’, I am happy when the guests ask me to do a lesson or buy oil, wine and all the other things displayed in the dining room, but if they decide to spend their money and time in another way, this is their choice. I can only imagine the review should I press the guests to buy something. It is not true that my only interest is the money: they left 2 days earlier and even is written on my site that the guests have anyway to pay for all the days reserved, I did not charge them any money.!! About the temperature in the rooms, we usually live at 20° Celsius all year round and not at 34° in Winter abusing the heating and wear only a T-shirt, and at 15° Celsius in Summer abusing the air conditioning. We are very concerned and respectful of energy saving. But believe me, I always try to comply with their requests, if they do the requests and not only list them for a future bad review. I still love my job and try to do my best even sometimes I am tired and stressed. Unfortunately, the guests quality is changing and more and more CHEAP and demanding persons are traveling: they expect and pretend a 5 stars hotel services in a B&B but they like the price of a B&B. I hope I will continue to welcome people appreciating my B&B with all its beautiful things, like the good location in the area, the old stone building, the garden, the pool, the view and many things to do here. I will be happy to cook for these people and as usual will remember their name!! The cheap guests can stay out of Chianti and out of my business. I mostly hope to continue with our good cooperation. Best regards, Giulietta - B&B Fagiolari -- Giulietta Giovannoni (November 4, 2009)

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Category: Switzerland

Question:
Hi, Karen! I can't TELL you how many vacations you've helped us plan & enjoy over the years! I must have 10 of your books! So THANK you soooooooooo much for your wealth of knowledge and invaluable advice! My question for you at this time is as follows: My hubby (of 40 years!) and I are planning a trip to Switzerland & Austria next July (2010) - and when we're in the Bernese Oberland area, we want to stay in either Grindelwald or Wengen - but we're confused as to WHICH village would "be most convenient" for our explorations. My concern is that, if we stay in Wengen, we'd have to take the TRAIN EVERY time we wanted to leave the area and go on a hike or drive some place ELSE. But - then again - Wengen seems much more "peaceful" than Grindelwald, as far as big hotels, etc. Would you say that the "views" are more spectacular from Wengen than Grindelwald? Or - are they equally as wonderful? Sorry - but there's another "concern" I have regarding the area, Karen. I am claustrophobic and I'm already WORRIED about the summer crowds "jamming" into the gondolas, trams & trains. Am I going to have a "good time" or will I be a "basket case"? Ha Ha. We chose JULY because of the good weather for hiking, etc. ... but I fear I won't be able to really enjoy ALL that is offered there because of "my problem". Are there plenty of hikes & outings you can take without ALWAYS having to cram into a "sardine can"? Guess I'll have to call you "Dr. Karen", the psychologist, if you can address all those concerns! THANK YOU so VERY VERY much for you HELP! We've always trusted your opinions and you've never let us down! Sincerely, Kathie
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Nov 6, 2009]


Answer:

Dear Kathie,

You have won me over!  Thank you for your all-too-kind note and thank you so much for using our recommendations. I am glad we have played a part in some wonderful trips and hope we can continue to do so!

For your trip next July - your question isn't easy!  If you are going to base in either Wengen or Grindelwald for multiple days, yes, your concern about going back and forth to Wengen on the cog train might prove to be a nuisance. However, the views from Wengen are unobstructed and particularly from view rooms at the Regina - absolutely incredible when the skies cooperate!

Grindelwald is a larger town, a bit more toursity and definitely more convenient (as it is also closer) to the jungfraujoch. 

In terms of crowds....again, it is so hard to advise. Surprisingly, July tends to be a "slow" month in Switzerland according to my hotel friends. I understand the Swiss leave the country. I don't honestly know how that impacts the mountain resorts (and the area you have selected is the most popular and better known with tourists) as our research never has us traveling in summer.  But there is NEVER a shortage of well-marked hiking trails (anywhere in Switzerland!) and the fact that the excursion up to the Jungfraujoch is fairly expensive - it limits the crowds. 

Now, not wanting to confuse, but to offer some suggestions of other destinations that afford incredible hikes and dramatic mountain settings - but that are lesser known:

Grimentz (on the other side of the mountains from Zermatt) - I LOVE this town and setting. Trails lead right from the edge of the cobbled village streets. The hotel we recommend here is simple, family run, traditionally Swiss (Hotel de Moiry).

In the Engadine Valley (eastern part) beautiful narrow valley towered by mountains, a personal favorite is the Hotel Meisser in Guarda (original rooms simplier, smaller and they also have renovated buildings within the village that have larger, more luxurious rooms) - but other places in the region that are also nice are Scoul, Tarasp, St Charl.....

Since you have "won me over" if you have additional questions - don't hesitate to ask!

Thank you so much again. We still exist because of loyal travelers such as yourself!

Also, make sure you have a current edition of our Swiss guide - it was completely redone a few years ago in terms of itineraries.  They are also on sale at half off at the moment (Nov 09)!

Kindest regards,

Karen

 

 

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Category: General

Question:
I noticed, that in one of your older Switzerland books (1998) you recommended the "Meierei Landgasthof" in St. Moritz. It looked like a wonderful (and more reasonable) alternative to "The Palace" - BUT - When I tried to find it on your website list of Switzerland Hotels, I didn't see it recommended any longer. Is there a reason WHY it is missing?
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Nov 4, 2009]


Answer:

Concerning the Meierei Landgasthof in St Moritz, it is a propertywe recommend, however, they have chosen not to participate on our website. We do not charge to be recommended in our guide as we want nothing to influence our selection or editorial, but we do have a nominal fee for a website presence. Not every property chooses to participate on the website and unfortunately they miss the exposure to an ever-growing internet audience and people like yourself who conclude we no longer recommend them. But, know that we do! However, that being said, one of our favorite properties that is in the area is the Hotel Privata in Sils Maria! Great value - great welcome and our readers awarded it the Warmest Welcome in 2008!Thank you for using our recommendations!

Kindest regards, Karen

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Category: General

Question:
I have clients booked into The Hotel Lisboa Plaza in Lisbon.They have your Portugal Book, and found it there. They would like to have a family Christmas Eve Dinner. The hotel is having a buffet, but they wondered if you could recommend any restaurants that I might contact instead in the general area of the hotel. Thank you, Barbara Fallon
Asked by Barbara Fallon,ctc [Oct 29, 2009]


Answer:

Dear Barbara,

I think (and hope) your clients will like the Lisboa Plaza - it is one of my personal favorites in large part because of the family who own it.  In terms of restaurants, this has never been a focus for us in terms of research for the very reason that in order to confidently recommend a place to dine one truly has to return multiple times in the course of the year and this isn't feasible with our research schedule and funds.  However, I have always felt the hotels are the best source for recommending places to eat. They are in a position to recommend to their guests and get feedback on a daily basis.  I would ask the Hotel Lisboa Plaza for their suggestions.  They will also be able to inform your clients as to which ones might have a private dining room and will best accommodate their needs.

Thank you for using our recommendations! So hard to believe that Christmas is fast approaching!

Best,

Karen

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Category: General

Question:
I am planning on going to Florence in May. As I will be traveling and staying in Florence by myself, would you have any recommendations for hotel accommodations. I am 61 years old, female, and wondered if any hotels would be safer or more helpful.
Asked by Sallye Hof [Oct 17, 2009]


Answer:

Dear Sallye,

I would recommend a central location - so that you are comfortable walking to and from points of interest and also, where there will be lots of other travelers so as a traveler on her own, you don't stand out.  Florence is a wonderful city and there are lots of places to stay.

I asked the authors of our two guides for their favorites.

Nicole - Italy B&B:

My favorite B&B, but high level, is right in the main piazza, delightful hosts- the In Piazza della Signoria OR Antica Torre di Via Tornabuoni (with its spectacular rooftop terrace and views plus additional suites, superbly decorated).  A Cheaper alternative: Palazzo Galletti

Clare, aka Mom - Italy Hotels:

I really love the Antica Torre Di Via Tornabuoni. It has an excellent location and has an unbelieveable roftop terrace. Another hotel that I think she would like very much is new in the book this year, it is La Casa del Garbo. It is a small hotel right in the heart of Florence and is very small and personal.

Hope these recommendations help!

Thank you for using our guides and website.

Enjoy Florence! Karen

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Category: General

Question:
Do you have any suggestions for a family of 4 in Paris? Children ages 9 & 12
Asked by Deanna Odermatt [Oct 15, 2009]


Answer:

Not sure if you are asking about sightseeing or where to stay - so I will address both!

Sorry for the delay in responding but we are under book deadlines.....!!!

In terms of where to stay, Hotel des Grandes Ecoles in the fifth arrondissement would be ideal. They have all sorts of rooms - I would definitely ask about a family suite or connecting rooms. But the reason I think it is ideal is that it is set off the behind its own entry gate and enjoys a garden setting.  If weather permits, you can breakfast in the garden - which is great with kids. The only drawback is that you probably will need to use the metro to get to most destinations.  The other reason the left bank location is good with kids is that there are alot of dining options - from casual, to cafes and fine restaurants - and dining is available round the clock.

On the right bank, I would recommend the Horset Opera - it includes a wonderful buffet breakfast which is a great way to start the day and is a great value (cafes are expensive).  It is also located within walking distance to the Louvre & Tuilerie gardens - a must for kids.

Other sightseeing suggestions great for kids:

Bateau Mouche - boat trip on the Seine

Eiffle Tower - a ride to the top

Louvre & Tuilerie gardens (they can join the Parisien Children in the park)

Walk the Champs Elysees & the Arc de Triomphe

A meal at Le Train Bleu - a restaurant in the Gare de Lyon - built for the universal exhibition of 1900

Montmartre & Sacre Coeur - also a great area with old streets and vendors

A great introduction to the city is always a bus tour - they will get a great orientation for the city without having to use the metro 

You might want to consider a day trip to Versailles

Have a wonderful time with your family in one of my favorite cities!

Thank you for using our recommendations!
Karen

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Category: General

Question:
Karen, In view of traveling light, are any of your guides published for use with the Sony Reader or the Kindle? That would be great!
Asked by Wendy Cedar [Oct 15, 2009]


Answer:

I am pleased to say all of our titles are available through Amazon for Kindle and will soon be available for Sony hand held devices.  I believe the Kindle price is $9.95.  Please let me know if you have any trouble finding them.

Thank you for using our guides in electronic format!

Karen

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