Yes, you can fly to Paris, eat hamburgers, stay in a generic chain hotel, and return home with stacks of snapshots or you can follow our regional itineraries and venture into the ever-changing French countryside. You can eat, sleep, and drink France travel, enjoy lovely scenery and unusual sights, mingle with the French, and return home with special memories as well as snapshots to recall them. To further tempt you, we have selected magnificent places to lay your head each night: elegant châteaux, cozy inns, scenic mills, and refined manors owned and managed by warm and fascinating people. Many of these were designed and built centuries ago as private residences and are set in beautiful surroundings. Our list of France hotels, bed and breakfasts, inns, chateaux and other France lodging offers something for everyone, from the simple farms to the elegant castles. Our hotel travel guide offers fourteen wonderful driving itineraries in which to explore and experience the true France with or without pommes frites.

Select a region in , or choose one from the map below:


France



General Info and Resources

Itineraries:

We have developed thirteen driving itineraries to help you map a route through the various regions of France. Depending on your time and interests, you might want to patchwork together a trip encompassing a couple of itineraries. At the beginning of each itinerary we suggest our recommended pacing to help you decide the amount of time to allocate to each region. You can custom-tailor your own itinerary by combining segments of itineraries or using two back to back. The itineraries do not indicate a specific number of nights at each destination, since to do so seemed much too confining. Again, personality dictates what is best for a particular situation: some travelers like to see as much as possible in a short period of time and do not mind rising with the birds each morning to begin a new adventure, while for others, just the thought of packing and unpacking each night makes them shudder in horror and they would never stop for less than three or four nights at any one destination. A third type of tourist does not like to travel at all-the destination is the focus and he will use this guide to find the perfect spot from which he will never wander except for daytime excursions.



Airfare:

Karen Brown’s Guides have long recommended Auto Europe for their excellent car rental services. Their air travel division, Destination Europe, an airline broker working with major American and European carriers, offers deeply discounted coach- and business-class fares to over 200 European gateway cities. It also gives Karen Brown travelers an additional 5% discount off its already highly competitive prices (cannot be combined with any other offers or promotions). We recommend making reservations by phone at (800) 835-1555. When phoning, be sure to use the Karen Brown ID number 99006187 to secure your discount.

Another option is to visit Flight Reservations under the blue Travel Tools tab on all of our web pages. Here, you will find a myriad of prices from different air carriers.

Europe now has several low-cost air carriers, the largest being Ryanair, offering excellent prices for air travel within Europe. If you are traveling long distances across Europe it might be advantageous to look into flying rather taking the train.



Car Rental:

Readers frequently ask our advice on car rental companies. In Europe, we always use Auto Europe, a car rental broker that works with the major car rental companies to find the lowest possible price. Auto Europe prides themselves on their customer service. They also offer motor homes and chauffeur services. Auto Europe’s toll-free phone service from every European country connects you to their U.S.-based, 24-hour reservation center (ask for the European Phone Number Card to be sent to you). Auto Europe offers our readers a discount, and occasionally free upgrades. Be sure to use the Karen Brown ID number 99006187 to receive your discount and any special offers. You can also make your own reservations online via our website, www.karenbrown.com (select Auto Europe from the home page), or by telephone (800-223-5555).

When driving in France please note the following:

BELTS: It is mandatory and strictly enforced in France that every passenger wears a seat belt. Children under ten years of age must sit in the back seat.

DRIVER’S LICENSE: A valid driver’s license from your home country is accepted in France if your stay does not exceed one year. The minimum driving age is 18.

GASOLINE: Americans are shocked by the high price of gasoline in Europe, especially when they realize published prices are for liters—only one fourth of a gallon. At some self-service stations you must pay in advance, before using the pumps (credit cards such as MasterCard and Visa are now often accepted). “Fill her up, please” translates as “Faîtes le plein, s’il vous plaît.” Unleaded gas is called sans plumb and diesel is gaz diesel.

PARKING: It is illegal to park a car in the same place for more than 24 hours. In larger towns it is often customary that on the first 15 days of a month parking is permitted on the side of the road whose building addresses are odd numbers, and from the 16th to the end of the month on the even-numbered side of the road. Parking is prohibited in front of hospitals, police stations, and post offices. Blue Zones restrict parking to just one hour and require that you place a disc in your car window on Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 12:30 pm and again from 2:30 to 7 pm. Discs can be purchased at police stations and tobacco shops. Gray Zones are metered zones and a fee must be paid between the hours of 9 am and 7 pm.

ROADS: The French highway network consists of autoroutes (freeways or motorways), péages (autoroutes on which a toll is charged), and secondary roads (also excellent highways). Charges on toll roads are assessed according to the distance traveled. A travel ticket is issued on entry and you pay the toll on leaving the autoroute. The ticket will outline costs for distance traveled for various types of vehicles. It is expensive to travel on toll roads, so weigh carefully the advantage of time versus cost. If you have unlimited time and a limited budget, you may prefer the smaller highways and country roads. A suggestion would be to use the autoroutes to navigate in and out of, or bypass large cities and then return to the country roads. Credit cards are now accepted at tollbooths.

SPEED: Posted speed limits are strictly enforced and fines are hefty. Traffic moves fast on the autoroutes and toll roads with speed limits of 130 kph (81 mph). On the secondary highways the speed limit is 90 kph (56 mph). The speed limit within city and town boundaries is usually 60 kph (38 mph). Keep a lookout for the gendarmes!



Currency:

All pricing, including room rates, is quoted in euros, using the “ € ” symbol. The euro is now the official currency of most European Union countries, including France, having completely replaced national currencies as of February 2002.Thankfully, the money lost and time spent exchanging one currency for another when you cross borders are a thing of the past.

An increasingly popular and convenient way to obtain foreign currency is simply to use your bankcard at a seemingly ubiquitous ATM machine. You pay a fixed fee for this but, depending on the amount you withdraw, it is usually less than the percentage-based fee charged to exchange currency or travelers’ checks. Be sure to check with your bank or credit card company about their fees and necessary pin numbers prior to departure.

Many establishments accept one or more credit cards. If possible, pay using your credit card as the exchange rate is usually quite favorable. Paying by credit card reduces the need to carry large sums of cash and thus reduces potential loss in the case of theft. Keep a record of your credit card numbers at home as well as with you separately from your cards in case of loss or theft. Also, it is a good idea to contact your card issuer and inform them of your travel plans.



Driving:

CARS: See Car Rental

TRAINS: France has an excellent train system serving major towns and cities, but it is often necessary to supplement your train travel with either a taxi or car rental yo reach small countryside towns and solated inns. The trains, particularly the highspeed TGV, are great for covering long distances, Train travel comes in two classes, first and second. Generally, reserved seating is only first class. First class is more comfortable and less crowded.

If you plan to use trains in France, you can research schedules and fares and even purchase tickets and passes online. Note that many special fares and passes are available only if purchased in the United States. To check on information, fares or to book tickets click on Rail Europe under Travel Tools.



Electricity:

If you are taking any electrical appliances made for use in the United States, you will need a transformer plus a two-pin adapter. A voltage of 220 AC current at 50 cycles per second is almost countrywide, though in remote areas you may encounter 120V. The voltage is often displayed on the socket. Even though we recommend that you purchase appliances with dual-voltage options whenever possible, it will still be necessary to have the appropriate socket adapter. Also, be especially careful with expensive equipment such as computers—verify with the manufacturer the adapter/converter capabilities and requirements.



Tourism:

Syndicat d’Initiative is the name for the tourist offices (symbolized by a large “I”) found in all larger towns and resorts in France. Tourist offices are pleased to give advice on local events and timetables for local trains, buses and boats, and they often have maps and brochures on the region’s points of interest. They can also help with location and availability of local hotels and bed and breakfasts. The offices often close for two hours for lunch in the middle of the day. In Paris the main tourist office is located at 127, Avenue Champs Élysées, near the George V Métro stop. (Open all year, 9 am to 8 pm.) They also have a website: www.paris_touristoffice.com. There are also 45 regional Accueil de France (French Welcome) offices that will make reservations at hotels in their area no more than eight days in advance. A list of regional offices is available through the French Government Tourist Office. You can obtain assistance, information, and free brochures before you leave the United States for France by calling the hotline “France on Call” at (410) 286-8310 from 9 am to 7 pm EST. You can also visit their website at www.franceguide.com to obtain contact information for all the individual, regional tourist offices throughout France.

FRENCH GOVERNMENT TOURIST OFFICES

USA: 444 Madison Ave., 16th Floor, New York, NY 10022-6903, tel: (212) 838-7800

USA: 9454 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 715, Beverly Hills, CA 90212-2967, tel: (310) 271-6665

USA: 676 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 3214, Chicago, IL 60611, tel: (312) 327-0290

UK: 178 Piccadilly, London W1V 9AL, England, tel: (020) 7399 3500

CA: 1981 Ave., McGill College, Ste 490, Montreal, Quebec H3A 2W9, tel: (514) 288-4264



Cooking Classes:

We have all experienced the incredible cuisine offered at many of France’s fine hotels, inns and bed & breakfasts. French cuisine is considered some of the world’s finest both in culinary art and presentation. From family style meals to full-service restaurants, often what we sample as a guest are some of our most memorable dining and travel experiences.

Wonderfully, many French hosts/chefs of the places we recommend in France have introduced cooking classes for guest participation.  The programs vary from day classes to week-long stays; most are “hands on” requiring that you don an apron and test your own culinary talents and many include instruction not only in the kitchen but at the markets, bakeries and butcher where you will learn of local products that both influence and define the regional specialties.  These French cooking classes allow us to challenge the “chef” in all of us.



Spa:

Health and fitness are important to us all, but we don’t necessarily have the time and or the energy to follow through with our resolutions during our day to day routines. However, a French vacation affords the luxury of time lacking from our daily lives, and many of the places we recommend in France provide spa and fitness facilities and programs to enable guests to pursue a healthy regime.

More and more French resorts, hotels, inns and even bed & breakfasts are responding to the demands and requests of their guests. Many places to stay in France spa and fitness facilities that range from a room with basic exercise equipment to a full-service spa with staff to provide massages, mud baths, wraps and even personal trainers.



Long Term:

Many of the hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts we recommend in France, in addition to rooms rented on a nightly basis have an apartment, a cottage, a Gîte, a farmhouse or even a villa that they offer on a long term vacation rental basis.  Often these accommodations do not offer the same services as the traditional overnight rentals.  Many, for example, are termed “self-catering” which basically translates to “limited service”: breakfast may or may not be included; maid service may be provided once a week as opposed to daily; heating charges may be additional based on your usage, and in some cases it may even be necessary to provide your own linens.

Historically our research in France has focused our evaluation of properties based on their traditional overnight accommodation. However, there is so much information you will want to consider before committing to a long term vacation rental that we have encouraged the French hotels, inns and bed and breakfasts that we recommend to share information on long term rentals. It almost seems more important to understand just what you are renting in France when you commit to a rental of a week as opposed to a one or two night reservation.



Wedding Facilities:

France with its diversity of regions offers every desirable setting for a memorable wedding ceremony or reception. From the beaches in Normandy, to the vineyards in Burgundy, to a charming Alsatian village, to the lavender fields of Provence, or to the hill-town villages perched above the French Rivieraandmdash;the locations would all serve as a story book venue for a memorable wedding or reception. For every wonderful venue, France also offers a wealth of fabulous inns and hotels to host your wedding, your reception and offer romantic overnight accommodation for your guests and your honeymoon. However, it is important to note that many countries, including France, and often even regions within a country, have their own legal, religious and documentation requirements that you must adhere to and provide before you can be legally married.andnbsp; It is important to research what is necessary and the time frame involved in advance of making your arrangements for your French wedding or reception. The properties in France that host weddings and receptions are a great source of reference.