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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--a family of 4 with 2 teens--will spend our final full day in Italy driving from Florence to Padua on Ferragosta (15Aug09). As we will pass through the Emilia-Romagna area, we thought it would be lovely to spend a leisurely family lunch at a country restaurant or agriturismo. Prefer in the hills where it might be cooler and have a view. Can you make any specific recommendations or recommend an area to guide our search for a lovely place? Grazie!
Asked by Sarah Wolz [Jul 9, 2009]


Answer:
We have lots of wonderful properties in this region. I would suggest using our website to better assist your selection. First select DESTINATION: ITALY then REGION: EMILIA-ROMAGNA and then from the Green Tab Bar/Places to Stay you can access a list of both B&Bs and Hotels that are located in this region. Two properties that do come to mind are Albergo al Vecchio Convento and Villa Belfiore. Remember, however, to call before arrival to make sure they are serving lunch on the day of your travels! Thank you for using our recommendations and enjoy your family adventure. Karen

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Category: Italy

Question:
I am looking for a cooking wine tour in Tuscany/Umbria
Asked by Lauren Altieri [Jul 9, 2009]


Answer:
Dear Lauren, I do not have a specific company that I recommend for an actual organized cooking and wine tour. However, you might want to contact a woman, Rosemary Pedretti who specializes in helping people with trips to Italy and might have some recommendations. Her contact information is: Rosemary Pedretti Travel With Taste ...all around the world Leisure Travel Alliance Member Affiliated with Morrison International Telephone: 650 365 3834 Fax: 650 363 5965 E-mail: rosemary@travelwithtasteonline.com However, if you want to travel independently, there are a number of properties that we recommend that have cooking programs. They are identified by an icon of a sauce pan. We hope to soon have a search and sort capability on our website to identify the properties - your email reminds me of that need! Thank you for using our recommendations and wishing you a wonderful trip to Italy! Karen

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Category: France

Question:
Karen - We will be following your Provence itinerary the week of July 12-17. I realize Bastille Day occurs during this time. Is there a particular place on your Provence itinerary that would be a good location to visit (or avoid) on Bastille Day? Should we expect sights and businesses to be open or closed? Secondly our children would like to visit the beach if possible during our visit. Is there a nearby beach that you recommend for a day trip? Cassis? Would Hyeres / Ile de Porquerolles be too far and/or too crowded during this time for a day trip? We truly appreciate your assistance! Kind regards, Colleen Zorn
Asked by Colleen Zorn [Jun 22, 2009]


Answer:
Dear Colleen, I contacted Marie, who contributes to our French B&B guide, as she lives on the Riviera and I thought she would be better able to address your questions. Her response: There is no major changes during Bastille Day ; but I will recommend to be at night in a bigger city, because fire works will be much nicer. Avignon or Aix will be good places to be and good ambience at night. Cassis is a nice place and from there they can take a boat to visit the calanques (the kids will love it); or if they have more time, they can take a boat to go to the islands of Porquerolles or Port Cros (there they can rent bikes and visit the island). Hope that will help…. Marie Notot Research Editor

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Category: France

Question:
Subject: French Riviera and Piedmont  We are attending a conference in Cuneo in October and would like to plan a trip involving the French riviera and the Piedmont area of Italy.  Do you have any books with itineraries and lodging in this area?
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Jun 16, 2009]


Answer:
Most definitely! We have two guides to France - both include regional countryside driving itineraries (specific to your interest: Hilltowns of the French Riviera) but differ in the type of accommodation they include - one is titled France Bed & Breakfasts and the other France Hotels. We also have similar titles for Italy - again a Bed & Breakfast and a Hotel guide with regional itineraries. However, you can also reference our website to find all our selections married together and you can also purchase the itineraries individually in downloadable PDF format. I would suggest focusing your search: 1) select DESTINATION FRANCE and then ITALY 2) Select REGION Provence, Alpes, Cote d'Azur (France) and then Piedmont (Italy) 3) you can either select properties by clicking on icons on the map OR use the Green Tabs for lists of Places to Stay, Attractions or Cities. Hope this is of some help and thank you for your interest in our recommendations. Best, Karen

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Category: General

Question:
I'm not sure if this is up your alley, but I like everything about your recommendations, so I thought I would ask.  What advice would you give a 22-year-old guy, who has never been to Europe and would like to plan a trip with a friend?   Thanks!
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Jun 15, 2009]


Answer:
My primary recommendation would be to travel with a sense of adventure, be flexible, don't have too many preconceived expectations, and take advantage of unexpected opportunities and diversions.   If this is your first trip, I would recommend travel by train as you can reach a number of destinations that will appeal to your first time adventure. Definitely research rail passes as they are a bargain compared to point to point reservations and tickets. Travel light as you do not want the hassle of lots of luggage when traveling by train.   Where to stay: Make use of our website. Many of the places we recommend in our guides are featured on our website with a description, photos and direct email and website links. Whether or not advance reservations are necessary is based more on when you are traveling - at the height of season, you definitely do not want to spend precious travel time searching for a hotel room - and also, you do not want to have your only choices the last rooms left in town (these will fall into the categories of most expensive or least desirable.) That being said, I always recommend booking at least your first night...it is comforting to know where you will lay your head that first night and there are so many other issues to deal with on arrival that it is nice not to have to add the search for a place to stay.   Where to travel: Again, make use of our website for town, sightseeing recommendations and definitely put to use our Trip Planning function - it is incredible. You can build a personalized itinerary which will detail your route.     Money-wise, almost everyone takes credit cards; cash is always easily stolen; travelers checks are always wise; ATMs are now readily available even in the smallest villages BUT you want to understand withdrawal and bank charges from your bank before you leave. I had a friend who withdrew just $20 a time wanting to minimize cash on hand only to discover on her return that the bank fee was $10 EACH time so each $20 cost her $10!   Phones - similar to money, research with your phone carrier options, fees and availability for international coverage.   Bottom line: Have fun and travel safe!  

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Category: General

Question:
In your 2009 France B&B on page 285 you list Saint Lormel, La Pastourelle B&B. I cannot find it on your web site to find out more and its email. Just does not exist. Why?
Asked by Janet Minar [Jun 10, 2009]


Answer:
La Pastourelle is a Karen Brown Recommendation but they have not opted to participate on our website. There are no fees to be included in our guide as we do not want anything to influence our selection or editorial, but we do have a nominal fee to cover administrative costs if they want exposure to our internet audience. Visitors to our website can see all the properties we recommend whether or not a property chooses to participate, at the Premier and First Class membership levels. In terms of emails, if they had a presence on our website and they have an email, a direct link would be provided from their Karen Brown website page. We do not publish the emails in the printed guide as we have found properties change them frequently and so they are often incorrect as soon as we go to press. For your own reference, the email we currently have on file for La Pastourelle is: la-pastourelle.stlormel@wanadoo.fr Thank you for using our guides! Karen

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Category: General

Question:
We are trying to decide on an itinerary for travel in early September to the Pacific Northwest. All your itineraries sound wonderful. Is there one or two (we have about 10 days) that you would most recommend for that time of year?
Asked by Leslie Melman [Jun 5, 2009]


Answer:
There are so many beautiful areas of the Pacific Northwest and most especially beautiful in the fall - so this is a challenging question!!! Our itinerary "To Canada & Back Again" includes a bit of everything: the picturesque port city of Seattle, the bays and inlets of Puget Sound, the beautiful parks of the Olympic Peninsula and crosses over to Vancouver Island with the wonderful, British city of Victoria and the dramatic beauty of the island itself with its dramatic, rocky coastline and wildlife. We recommend eight days for this route and you could also include a final stop by crossing over to Vancouver. Another suggestion would be to begin in Seattle and then continue on to follow our itinerary, "The Island Life" and then cross over to Vancouver Island and pick up the end of the previous itinerary. I hope this serves to help rather than confuse! Thank you so much for using our recommendations. Karen

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Category: General

Question:
Karen, I've looked over your wonderful suggestions for traveling in Ireland. However, none of them seem to answer my dilemma. We are traveling to southern Ireland this summer as a 6-member/3 generational family..i.e. 2 grandparents/2 parents/2 grandchildren in a van. While your B&B and inns sound charming, I'm not sure they welcome children (ages 10 & 13) nor would the children appreciate the antiquity. So what do I do now? I would like to have reservations secured so that I don't have to worry each morning as to where we all will be sleeping that night. Any suggestions? And yes, the cost is also a factor.
Asked by Welby Loane [Jun 4, 2009]


Answer:
Welby: Bed and breakfasts in Ireland welcome children with open arms. In these difficult economic times I am sure they will give you a really competative price for 6 people, especaially if you stay 2 nights which is what we recommend. I agree with your decision to have your route planned and suggest that you contact properties explaining your situation i.e "We are a party of six, two grandparents, parents and two children (ages 10 and 13) hoping that you can give us a group discount. We would like to stay with you from.... to ...., for 2 nights. What would be the cost for B&B (and evening meal if applicable). Also mention that you are happy to share a room with your children if this will make a difference in the price---many properties have larger rooms with several beds that accommodate children and parents. Wishing you all the best, June

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Category: Germany

Question:
  Dear Karen Brown,   Could you please help us.  We are planning a trip to Bavaria and would like to start at lake Constance and enjoy the sights along the way to Vienna and back to Munich.  We have 3 kids and a baby and would like your suggestions to stay at a reasonable rate in suites or apartments.  We have your book on both Germany and Austria but would like your suggestions for our situation. Best regards and Your best fans. Annonymous P.S. We so enjoyed your book on France.  We used it constantly while we were in the Provence.
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Jun 3, 2009]


Answer:
Dear Best Fans! I hope my suggestions will offer some help so that I can retain your loyalty and status as my Best Fans!!! Thank you!  First, traveling with three kids and a baby, I would recommend a combination of train and car travel to minimize long hours on the road with children restricted by car seats and seat belts. Trains let everyone wander and roam and offer a real sense of adventure. However, travel by train is difficult if you are traveling with lots of luggage - so I would pack just the basics and purchase diapers as needed as you go. On Lake Constance (the Bodensee) there is a wonderful medieval town, Meersburg that also has two charming, reasonably priced inns (Gasthof zum Baren and Weinstube Lowen). There are frequent ferries in the summer that cross to the island of Mainau (beautiful gardens), to Gottlieben and Stein am Rhein (Switzerland-another option for a place to stay here would be the Hotel Rheinfels - refer to our website since you don't have the guide-they have a fabulous riverside apartment with its own dock - that is extremely reasonable-an exceptional value!), Lindau and Bregenz (Austria) and your children would probably also enjoy the town of Schaffhausen and Reinau (Switzerland) (Note: all destinations described in our guides and on our website). I would use use either Meersburg or Stein am Rhein as your base - easier to settle in to one hotel rather than move around, packing and unpacking, checking in and checking out! I would then suggest traveling by train (connection in Winterthur) to Munich - a wonderful city and the train station is right at the heart of the old town - spend a night or simply connect on to the heart of Bavaria - there is a direct train to Garmisch Partenkirchen and then rent a car in order to explore the region and the castles of Mad King Ludwig.  We have lots of wonderful small inns that we recommend in the region, but one  suggestion would be the Hotel Post in Grainau as they also have some apts that rent on a weekly basis - and even the guestrooms on a nightly basis are very reasonably priced - lovely family as well! The next leg of your journey I would recommend by train. You mention Vienna - but you can't go to Austria and bypass Salzburg!  This is a magical city - Sound of Music country - and the city with its crowning castle is so much fun to explore on foot. For a reasonably priced place to stay here - most definitely the Hotel Wolf - great location and great price. Easy train from Salzburg to Vienna - beautiful city, again, wonderful and easy to explore on foot. You might want to consider getting tickets to the Spanish Riding School in advance - they are not always available spur of the moment. Lots within the city to see and do.  You could also take a boat ride on the Danube for a day's excursion to Durnstein - have lunch - makes for a fun day trip. Our most reasonably priced hotel with a great location in Vienna is the Wiener Staatsoper. (IF you want to explore the countryside in Austria - I would recommend renting a car when you are ready to leave Salzburg - easy to navigate out of the city and then use Landhaus zu Appesbach in St Wolfgang as your base of explorations. It is right on the lake outside the charming town of St Wolfgang - they have reasonable family rooms (although, I would consider a lakefront room for yourselves as the views are incredible and serene), and boats for exploring the lake.  I would then take a day trip to Hallstatt - where visiting the salt mines is a real adventure and it is a picture-perfect lakeside town.) From Vienna - it is an easy train trip back to Munich - and your flight home.  If you do decide to travel by train, definitely look into passes - as they are so much more reasonable than point to point tickets and Rail Europe does have some train/car rental packages as well. Enjoy your travels! Hope my recommendations are along the lines of what you wanted and serve to help! Kindest regards,Karen

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Category: France

Question:
Hi Karen,  I am totally confused!  I am going to Barcelona for 2 nights, June 10-12 and then had planned to take the train to Avignon on the 12th and stay 3 nights before taking the bullet train to Paris on the afternoon of June 15.  I bought flexible train passes as you suggested. I have been reading all your information about Paris and feel that we (me with my daughters) and feel we are missing out by not seeing the villages surrounding Paris! We are not renting a car and have such a short amount of travel time and I am wondering if I should rethink things.  Is 2 nights in Avignon (6 hour train from BCN) enough or should we skip it and fly or look for a bullet train to Paris? I would love to find a walking place with plenty to see and do but don't want to overwhelm everyone.  Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thank you, Annonymous
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Jun 3, 2009]


Answer:
You are right - your time is limited and you have to choose - you don't have time for both. However, to visit towns on the outskirts of Paris is not easy - with or without a car.  If you want the countryside experience, I would keep to the plan of visiting Provence with Avignon as your base. You can travel as I mentioned previously, easily by train between the two wonderful cities of Avignon and Arles - and you can also rent a car right from Avignon for a day or so if you want to truly explore the countryside.  If you decide to fly direct to Paris from Barcelona, the plus would be you would have an extra day and a half that you would have used in train travel time.  If you do go direct to Paris, I would recommend staying in the city and then perhaps a day trip out to Monet's home at Giverny (train stop Vernon, taxi to the hamlet of Giverny) - and you could even overnight at one of my favorite B&Bs - La Reserve (set in the apple orchards above Monet's home and gardens) and then return to Paris.  In terms of "village surrounding Paris" - you could take day trips out to Versailles, Vaux le Vicomte, Barbizon - but I would only select destinations you can reach by train - driving in and out of Paris is very time consuming and very stressful. As said previously, I hope my comments serve to help and not confuse. Anywhere you choose - I know you will enjoy your travels with your daughters! Karen

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