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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: General

Question:
Hello, I've recently registered to your excellent website. My family runs a little but quality bed and breakfast in Tuscany, Italy, close to the sea and to some of the most renowned wine regions in italy (the area is referred to as Maremma, close to San Vincenzo). Our website is www.ipietrai.it (it has an up to date english version, all is maintained by us!). In short, we would like to "list" or "add" our website to your list. Can KBWOT act as a referral or should we instead have some of our guests write about it ?? Thank you for your reply. BTW, do not hesitate to call as I live in MA actually...
Asked by Tancredi Botto [Nov 3, 2008]


Answer:
Dear BTW, We love learning about new places and your sounds wonderful! Thank you for writing us. We will definitely add your bed and breakfast to our list of to sees for our next research trip in your area. We only include properties in our published guides that one of our research staff has seen and approved for recommendation. However, we have just made it possible for readers to submit their own personal discoveries to share with other visitors to our website. Therefore, if you have a guest write and submit a reader review about your place - it will be made available on our website as a Reader Recommendation and hopefully lots of our Karen Brown Travelers will contact you for information and reservations. We look forward to meeting you in person and seeing your home! Kindest regards, Karen

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Category: General

Question:
A group of 6-8 friends want a central place to stay in Tuscany while we tour during the day The choices are overwhelming. Would you suggest a few with room, bath and meals for each. We want something very nice, but reasonable In May, 2009
Asked by Jo Ann Baxter [Nov 2, 2008]


Answer:
Dear Jo Ann, We have very few hotels in Tuscany that offer breakfast and dinner. The only ones we have that include breakfast & dinner are: Panzano in Chianti, Villa Le Barone, rates Euros 230-400 (good location in heart of Tuscany, very pretty villa) Florence-Fiesole, Pensione Bencista, euros 120 to 430 (hilltown above Florence, pretty setting, but mixed reviews on food and rooms) There are quite a few places to stay in the B&B book that have apartments where money could be stayed by cooking some of their own meals. A really lovely property in a great location is the Castello di Meleto in Gaiole in Chianti. This has lovely apartments (one which accommodates 7 people). The prices are quite good and it is a very pretty property--there is a 7 nights is minimum stay. Many of the B&Bs we recommend have apartments that are good buys. Again, I would choose the area between Florence and Siena. I would suggest that you look at our website and sort by Tuscany and see which places fit into your price range. The ideal place to choose a hotel is in the Chianti area between Florence and Siena. There are no really inexpensive hotels or B&Bs in Tuscany. Almost all of the places begin at over 100 euros for a double. I hope this is of some help! To be honest you cannot go wrong with Tuscany - you and your friends will have a fantastic time! Thank you for using our recommendations. Kindest regards, Karen

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Category: Switzerland

Question:
I will be traveling to Switzerland in April with my 11 year old twin boys. This is their first trip out of the US. What areas or attractions would appeal to them. I'm sure the scenery and architecture will wow them, but I'd hate for their eyes to glaze over as we go visit yet another medieval village. Thanks, Carolyn
Asked by Carolyn Yapchanyk [Oct 24, 2008]


Answer:
Dear Carolyn, What fun to be taking them on their very first trip to Europe and Switzerland is an excellent choice. Distances between destinations are relatively short compared to other countries and the regions offer wonderful diversity. I would also recommend combining different modes of transportation, train boat and car which will add to the adventure. The following are some recommendations based on what I believe will interest your boys. I am going to assume Zurich as your arrival point. 1) Drive to Schaffhausen - dramatic waterfalls and the neighboring town of Stein am Rhein is very scenic and from here you can take boat trips on the Bodensee. 2) Continue on to Appenzell - check on local festivals - it is cow country and in the Spring many of the villages have festivals in celebration of taking the cows up to higher pastures. 3) Continue on to St Moritz and take the Glacier Express to Zermatt - an incredible journey by train - something they will remember for a lifetime and then they will love Zermatt and being able to say they saw the Matterhorn. Zermatt, a pedestrian only town, also offers so much outdoor adventure for teenage boys. If the weather cooperates definitely take the cog railway up to the Gornegrat station and from there you can hike down to the next station enjoying spectacular views of the Matterhorn. 4) Train to Interlaken and either base in a town on the water - definitely want to include the outdoor museum of Ballenburg near Brienz, and then consider another mountain adventure by journeying from Interlaken up to the Jungfraujoch. Certain towns are only accessible by rail: Wengen, Murren - great fun! 5) If departing from Geneva, definitely journey west to Lake Geneva and the town of Montreux. From Montreux is a fantastic round-trip journey by train that includes a stop in the cheese town of Gruyeres, but more importantly a stop at the Cailler-Nestle Chocolate factory. Even if departing from Zurich, if time allows I would include the chocolate factory - and then journey back to Zurich via Lucerne. 6) Lucerne is a lovely city, easy to explore on foot and, again, boat excursions are a great option. Have a wonderful adventure! Karen

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Category: General

Question:
I have to return a car in Florence and then catch a train. I want to select the closest car rental location to the train station. How do I find out how far the car rental location is from the train station?
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Oct 16, 2008]


Answer:
Your car rental location will depend on the car rental company you use. I would suggest you contact AutoEurope as they represent many car rental companies and can help you find one that hopefully meets both your budget and location needs. As an added note: If a car rental company does have a downtown rental office, it is usually near a transportation hub, such as a train station to convenience the traveler. Thank you for using our recommendations! Karen

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Category: General

Question:
I'd like to ask your expert opinion, and tried to join your KB community to pay for the privilege but it did not go through. I am looking into planning a 10 - 12 day Christmas vacation with my husband and 2 sons, ages 23 and 20. We are flexible, want a different, memorable experience as a family, and need advice. Thinking Italy, Mexico, Spain? My husband and I stayed in your Vallauris France B&B suggestion for our 25th anniversary and had an incredibly lovely experience. We are open to your insights. THANK YOU.
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Oct 9, 2008]


Answer:
First, it is not necessary to pay to submit a question. We simply ask that you login so that we can establish your info and allow us to process a response. In terms of your question - it is very difficult to answer not knowing your family preference in terms of type of vacation, i.e., travelling and exploring each day or settling in at a resort. I would recommend you visit our website and read about the itineraries we recommend for each country and decide what most appeals. All three destinations you have picked would be great as a winter destination and will be so festive at the Christmas holidays. In an attempt to offer you a recommendation based on what I would do, in Italy I would begin in Florence, explore Tuscany & Umbria and perhaps conclude the journey in Venice. In Spain, I would begin in the incredible city of Seville and journey to the coast following our Andalusian Adventures and in Mexico, I would explore the colonial towns and then settle in at a wonderful place on the coast to relax and enjoy the beach and sun. I hope this is of some help. Thank you for using our guides and I am thrilled to know that you also love the Vallauris! Karen

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Category: Austria

Question:
Would like to stay at Goldener Hirsch but they say very few non-smoking rooms. What do you think? Any other ideas for Salzburg June 09? Thanks.
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Oct 8, 2008]


Answer:
I believe if you request a non-smoking room the hotel will honor your request. There are always instances out of a hotel's control, but the Goldener Hirsch is one of Salzburg's finest hotels and if they know that having a non-smoking room is a condition of your reservation, I believe they will confirm the request. There is definitely time. I would recommend contacting them and asking them directly. Thank you for using our guides. Karen

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Category: France

Question:
Good Morning...I am going to France for the first time, I need to go to Paris for a few days, Normandy to fulfill a promise, and South of France for a couple of days for a visit...do you recommend that I fly into Paris, stay one night, rent a car and drive to the South of France (where I need to go), from there drive to Normandy for one night, then back to Paris for a few days of sightseeing...? I want to keep the trip practical, not super expensive..are there tours in Paris, etc. Do you know a B & B in Paris close to the downtown area (Louvre, etc ?) Is speaking English only a problem? Which Paris airport should I fly into...Thank you for your help...
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Oct 6, 2008]


Answer:
France is a large country and if you cover the distances you propose by car, you will spend all your time on the autoroute with no time to enjoy the destination. I would recommend flying into Paris (which airport is determined by the carrier you choose-CDG to the north, Orly to the south), renting a car at the airport and exploring Normandy first. Then, since it is so much easier to train into Paris than drive, I would recommend dropping the car off for example in Caen and then training back into the heart of Paris. You will need to research which companies allow for an airport pick up and a drop off at another location. I would recommend contacting AutoEurope as they represent a number of companies and will help you "shop" your best options. Plus they offer very competitive rates and excellent service. Also, if you mention you are a KB traveler you will be eligible for a discount on your car rental. After your research you might find you need to drop the car in another city in order to avoid drop fees. Then, once you arrive in Paris by train, take a cab to your hotel and then when you are ready to leave Paris, I would travel by train to the south of France. I don't know where in the south of France you are heading, but almost anywhere would require a minimum of eight hours and costs would include the rental and the price of filling your tank! Trains aren't cheap, but I think you would find you would spend far less than a car rental, gas and you can sit back and enjoy the trip in the comfort of the train. In terms of a B&B in Paris - we recommend a variety of hotels. Please visit our website and read our descriptions and select one that appeals to you based on your personal preference and budget. Concerning "tours" in Paris...if you are on a budget, I would recommend your own exploration - it is a wonderful city to walk with lots of sidewalk cafes to rest your feet. In terms of tours...an introductory tour by bus is always an excellent introduction and then will help you decide where you would like to spend more time and you might want to consider a trip on the Seine...but, honestly, Paris is a wonderful city to explore without a specific agenda or restrictions of a packaged tour. Thank you for using our guides. Enjoy your trip to France!

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Category: Italy

Question:
My daughter and I are planning a trip to Italy together on an economical budget. Are there monastary rooms that rent for 2 weeks - if so at what cost. Any tips are where to go in Italy.
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Oct 5, 2008]


Answer:
There definitely are monasteries that are offering reasonably priced rooms for overnight travelers. I understand the accommodations vary dramatically and are along the lines of what we used to think of as hostels. Unfortunately, we do recommend a few monasteries that have converted to offer accommodations - these are true hotels and not, I believe, what you are inquiring about. I would recommend contacting the Italian tourist office and ask them if they have literature or information about monastery stays. That being said, in our guide to Italy Bed & Breakfasts we have some wonderful, reasonably priced places where you and your daughter might want to consider staying. A few even have a cottage or apartment for longer term stays (usually self catering), but to be honest, so many of them are so reasonably priced and offer family style dining, that I would encourage you to stay on a bed & breakfast basis. Also, settling in at one property for a longer stay results in letting you get to know your hosts, enjoy the company and meet other guests and often you will enjoy the incentive of a longer-stay discount. Definitely ask the properties and explain your needs and they can best tell you what they have to offer. In terms of recommendations as to where to go - all of Italy is wonderful and the regions are diverse. Refer to our itineraries either in our printed guide or on our website and you will hopefully get a better idea as to what the regions offer and what might appeal to you personally. Also, depending on the age of your daughter, her interests, cities are great but also, more expensive than countryside accommodation. In terms of transportation, you might want to consider traveling by train so that you both are free to enjoy the countryside miles and scenery. Thank you for using our recommendations. Karen

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Category: General

Question:
Hello, we are considering 2 of your suggested properties this winter in Italy; The Hassler in Rome and the Hotel Regency in Florence. Our plans are for Dec 29th - Jan 3 and I would like to know if many museums, shops and restaurants will be open, or would it be fairly quiet? Thank you.
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Oct 5, 2008]


Answer:
Although, it is winter and most definitely off-season, cities such as Rome and Florence, particularly at the holidays are "alive and active" for local residents as well as the fortunate, off-season traveler. Except for specific holidays, museums should be open, although, their opening times might be different than in the summer months, for example. Shops will definitely be open for the holidays and I would imagine most restaurants as well - unless the owners are on holiday themselves! If you have your heart set on a particular museum, shop or restaurant, I would ask the hotel if they have any information - or in this wonderful day of the internet where we can "google" anything, I am certain you will find websites for the individual businesses with all the information you want. Thank you for using our recommendations! Karen

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Category: Italy

Question:
MY HUSBAND AND I ARE PLANNING A TRIP TO ITALY IN MAY O9. WE ARE ALREADY BOOKED ON HOLLAND AMERICAN AND WILL DISEMBARK IN ROME ON MAY 20TH. WE WOULD LIKE TO TRAVEL FROM ROME TO TUSCANY, VENICE, SAN MARINO? AND THEN FLY BACK TO NY FROM THAT AREA. WE WOULD NEED HOTELS/B&B'S, TRAIN RESERVATIONS. WE ARE OPEN TO THE AMOUNT OF TIME. ANY HELP YOU CAN GIVE WOULD BE APPRECIATED...THANK YOU
Asked by A Karen Brown Traveler [Sep 12, 2008]


Answer:
What a wonderful trip being able to combine cruising with land explorations! In terms of planning your trip, you might want to try using the recommendations on our website and build your own personalized trip through our trip planning function. You can read our review of properties; click through to them for more information and reservations as well as link through to Rail Europe for train information, reservations and tickets. Unfortunately, we don't have time to plan and efficiently follow up with reservations. However, if you want personal assistance we recommend Hidden Treasures of Italy. Nicole Franchini who owns the company researches for us in Italy and we trust her recommendations completely. As she states, they offer Customized Travel Service for Independent Travelers. She does have a fee for service. Her contact number is US Toll free: (888) 419-6700. Enjoy your trip! Karen

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