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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:
Karen, planning a trip to Italy - 14 days w/ husband & daughter (12). Right now planning on flying into Rome, then Tuscany area, Venice, over to Aosta & over the Alps (Mont-Blanc cable cars), into France then to Paris for the end. Question is first, is there a good base place in the Tuscan Region other than Florence - was thinking of the coastal area (small town) or nice smaller town/villa type thing since it seems can do most of the sights via day trips. Any thoughts on a couple of good base places? Thanks --jennifer
Asked by Jennifer Bennett [Jul 26, 2009]


Answer:
Dear Jennifer, We have an overwhelming number of places to stay in Tuscany!!! So many in fact that we have a separate book just on Tuscany and Umbria! So this is a very difficult question - since we love all the places we recommend and yet they are all so different. Since you are traveling with your daughter, you might want to select from one of the bed & breakfasts we recommend as they tend to be less formal and very family friendly. I would suggest using our website. First select destination ITALY, then the region TUSCANY and then you can either click on icons from the map or use the green tab and drop down list for Places to stay in Tuscany and then click through to properties directly from the list. The blue icon represents the B&Bs, the orange icon represents hotels. It is honestly hard for me to pick some for you as everyone's taste is so different. But know as you read through the descriptions that even though every property featured in our guides and on our website is a property we like - we try to be very honest and candid in the written description. So hopefully our descriptions will help you pick something that meets your personal needs and preference. If you whittle your choice down to a few - perhaps I can better help with a personal selection- once I better know your own choices. That being said, basing in a countryside town in Tuscany is a great idea and makes day travel less of a hassle than coming and going from a city. I love the countryside roads! A recommendation would be to perhaps first chart out the towns you want to visit and then select a place that makes for a convenient base. Also, take note, some of our "hidden" gems are found at the end of a long and demanding drive...which might get old on a day to day basis. Thank you for using our recommendations. I know you will have a wonderful trip! Best, Karen

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Category: General

Question:
Car rental/lease? We plan to go to Italy in 2010 (Oct-Dec), stay 3 months, our ages are 68 & 70, excellent health and driving records. Can we rent? Lease? What do you recommend? I have heard that age can be an issue, and that lease/purchase/sellback might be more economical. Would love any help. Thanks.
Asked by Kaaren Babb [Jul 25, 2009]


Answer:
Luckily for those of us getting older each year who still love to travel independently, many car rental companies have extended the age limits for renting cars. In terms of what might be best for your own travel needs based on destination, length of stay and budget, I would recommend contacting AutoEurope directly. They represent quite a few car rental companies and so they will help you research which company is the best "match" for you. They won't sell you on "their cars" since they don't have any! They will help you shop and can answer your questions as to age and the value of a rental as compared to a lease. Be sure to mention you are a Karen Brown Traveler (id number 99006187) to take advantage of the discount they offer our travelers. You can research options via their website, but I think you will be best served to talk directly with one of their agents. Tel: 800-223-5555. Have a wonderful trip! Karen

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Category: General

Question:
One Day Scenic Train Trips from Lake Como.....I am staying in Lake Como for a week and I want to take my young children on scenic mountain train ride that does not require more than 90 minutes of train time for each leg. (90 minutes one way, 90 minutes return is ok). Any ideas?
Asked by Gregor Lochtefeld [Jul 24, 2009]


Answer:
I am not familiar with any especially mountain scenic train routes from Lake Como. I know a train that goes over the Mount Blanc to Chamonix is lovely, but I don't think it goes directly from Como. Another possibility would be to take a train to Lake Garda to visit the quaint town of Sirmione and take a boat excursion around the lake (there are lots of mountains surrounding the lake).

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Category: General

Question:
Italy We are travelling from Sestri Levante to Rome and would like to stop enroute in Elba. Is it worth it to stay the night on this island, and if not, where would you suggest we stop to overnight? And what is the drive time between Elba and Rome? Thank you, Krystyna
Asked by Krystyna Roberts [Jul 24, 2009]


Answer:
I would not suggest stopping in Elba en route from Sestri Levante to Rome. The reason is that it is very ackward and time consuming to take the ferry back and forth from the port to the island and unless you have a lot of time, I don't think it is worth the extra effort. If you want to stop en route Pisa or Lucca are both interesting towns and not far off your path. Another choice would be in the town of Bracciano--the Hotel Villa Clementina is very nice. I suggest looking on the internet or at a map of Italy to check the distance. On the freeways, you can average 65 miles an hour.

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Category: General

Question:
Hi, We are planning a trip to Italy for our 25th anniversary in August. We will spend a weekend in Torino, then we have a private wine tour scheduled in Alba, followed by a few days in Portovenere where we plan to explore the Cinque Terra region (using Portovenere as our base). My question is what are the essentials to pack - I am hoping to pack as lightly as possible! I have been told Italy is "dressy" but I thought I would need hiking shoes/shorts for Cinque Terra. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Jul 22, 2009]


Answer:
Dear Mary, In today's world of travel it is most definitely best to travel as light as possible. Although, Italy is perhaps dressier than other countries, I sincerely believe people tend to be more casual in their attire when they travel as opposed to years ago. Basic rule of thumb, during the day informal wear is most appropriate, including comfortable slacks for women. In the evening, if you are at a sidewalk café or a simple pizzeria, women do not need to dress up nor men to wear coats and ties. However, Italy does have some elegant restaurants where a dress and coat and tie are definitely the proper attire. A basic principle is to dress as you would in any city at home. There are perhaps a few special situations: the churches are still very conservative—shorts are definitely inappropriate, as are low-cut dresses. Some of the cathedrals still insist that women have their arms covered. It is rare that a scarf on the head is required, but to wear one is a respectful gesture. If you have an audience with the Pope, then the dress code is even more conservative. The layered effect is ideal. Italy’s climate runs the gamut from usually cool in the mountains to frequently very hot in the south. The most efficient wardrobe is one where light blouses and shirts can be reinforced by layers of sweaters that can be added or peeled off as the day demands. And you definitely want to pack your own comfortable hiking shoes!!!! Shoes are not what you want to try to purchase overseas...I find our feet are different (at least mine are) and even if you could find the right size, you do not want to suffer through the blisters after breaking in a new pair of hiking shoes! Hope this helps! Enjoy your adventure, Karen

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Category: California

Question:
I'm planning a trip from SF to LA along the coast. Can it be done in two days with a few stops along the way or would three days be more reasonable? Can you suggest a two day itinerary and/or a three day?
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Jul 22, 2009]


Answer:
You have selected to travel one of the most beautiful drives in the world! It can feasibly done in two days - to drive it straight would probably take about nine hours - so you could split the time between two days but it would not allow for much time to see destinations enroute. Please refer to our itinerary (available for free online) SAN FRANCISCO TO LOS ANGELES VIA THE COAST for more details, but the following is a recommendation based on a three day trip (two nights) Day 1: SF to Monterey / Carmel (early departure so you have a full day in Monterey/Carmel) overnight in either Monterey or Carmel - they are neighboring towns Monterey: Cannery row, wharf, aquarium, Carmel: Seventeen Mile Drive, Carmel beach, town, Mission, Point Lobos Day 2: Carmel to Santa Barbara Enroute: Big Sur (Ventanas for lunch), Hearst Castle (need advance reservations), Cambria Overnight in Santa Barbara (town, mission, beach) Day 3: continue on to Los Angeles Thank you for using our recommendations. I would encourage you to build your own itinerary on top of our Karen Brown Suggested Route. Simply use the Trip Planner function and add destinations, attractions, hotels as you go. It will then provide directions and an outline for you to refer to. Safe travels! Karen

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Category: France

Question:
Karen, I have your two guide books of France and Italy which have been very helpful in planning my itineraries and overnight stays at all your recommended B&B's. I have tried to contact Les Cancades near Toulon in France on several occasions for an overnight stay but I have had no response. Do you know of any other B&B around Aix or Toulon for approx 100 euros per night. Mas de la Tourette at La Pradet requires you stay for 3 nights. This area is the only one I'm having problems with while trying to keep to my strict budget. Thanking you for your assistance, Kind regards, Belinda Munsie
Asked by Belinda Munsie [Jul 19, 2009]


Answer:
Dear Belinda, I am so sorry, but I don't have another recommendation that meets your price range. However, I would be very happy to forward on your request to Les Cancades to see if I can stimulate a response...and/or, even though a property states a minimum stay, they often will make exceptions based on the existing bookings. It can be almost like a puzzle - perhaps a room opens up for one night, sandwiched between other reservations - so I would encourage you always to ask! Thank you for using our recommendations, and again, if you want help contacting Les Cancades I am happy to do so on your behalf I would just need to know your requirements. Best, Karen

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Category: France

Question:
Could you suggest a B&B or other accommodation within a 1 hour trip to Charles du Gaulle airport?
Asked by David Hansen [Jul 12, 2009]


Answer:
A lovely property located approximately thirty minutes from the airport is La Doucinière. You will find it on our website searching either by its name or the postal town, Othis. Best, Karen

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Category: Italy

Question:
Dear Karen, We have used your books for years. We love your suggestions. We have stayed in beautiful inns and warm and fun agritursimi. We are spending two weeks in the southern part of Puglia, Italy with Italian friends. We will stay in Parabita, about an 8 hour drive from Rome. We would like to drive back up and spend two romantic nights in a comfortable place about 1 or 2 hours from the Fiumicino airport. Please tell me some of your all-time favorite places to stay in Lazio or Tuscany. We would like a beautiful view with good walks, the possibility of massage on site or nearby, and good food. Thanks, Denise
Asked by Denise Foley [Jul 11, 2009]


Answer:
WE HAVE SOME LOVELY HOTELS IN PUGLIA, BUT NOTHING WE CAN HIGHLY RECOMMEND EN ROUTE BETWEEN PUGLIA AND THE ROME AIRPORT. THERE ARE VERY FEW HOTELS NEAR THE AIRPORT BECAUSE ROME IS SO NEARBY. IF YOU WANT TO REALLY SPLURGE, THERE IS POSTA VECCHIO IN LADISPOLI, WHICH IS NORTH OF THE AIRPORT. OR, IF WANT TO GO NORTH OF ROME, THE VILLA CLEMENTINA IN BRACCIANO IS LOVELY. Thank you for using our guides! Karen

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Category: General

Question:
Hi Karen, this is our 1st time driving to France from Dover to Calais & we are making our way to Provence, but are wanting to stop over somewhere on the way. Do you have any recommendations for the way there & back? Many thanks Emma
Asked by Emma Davis [Jul 11, 2009]


Answer:
Dear Emma, It is a long journey by car from the north to the south of France. If you study a map, the most direct route would be from the coast to Reims, then south via Burgundy and then the final leg following the Rhone River Valley. If driving non-stop it is approximately a nine hour drive, almost 1,000 kilometers (I used Calais and Avignon as the two points of reference.) Based on your email address I assume you live in the UK and therefore are using a personal vehicle. If not, and you are using a rental car, I would suggest driving one direction and traveling the other by train. But, again, assuming this is your own car, if you need to cover the distance efficiently, it makes most sense to travel the same route there and back. If you have flexibility and time, you might want to take a different route on your return - but it would be longer in terms of distance and time. An alternate route back would be first west from Avignon via Carcassonne, through the Dordogne, continuing north to the Loire and then on to Normandy and the coast. In terms of actually where to stop - it is hard to recommend as I do not know your crossing schedule and time you will arrive in France. But, for the purpose of this reply, I will assume a morning arrival and so I would break the journey in Burgundy - about the half way point. We have lots of properties to choose from in this area. If you are trying to make a true trip of the journey south, I would recommend stopping to see Monet's Home in Giverny, Paris if you want to tackle the city, then continuing on to northern Burgundy (near Vezelay, Avallon), and then south to spend a few nights at the heart of Burgundy, and then traveling on to Provence. On the return, if you want the adventure of a second route, I would stop for a few nights in the region of the Dordogne/Lot River Valleys, continue on for a few nights to explore the castles of the Loire, traveling then further north to the Normandy coast and then crossing back to the UK. Hope this proves of some help. Karen

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