Friday, November 9, 2007

France-Loire/Paris & Tallinn,Estonia -By Barbara

Just returned from a wedding in France at the veritable Chateau Chambord - the largest, most magnificent chateau of the Loire Valley. the wedding was charming and there was a magic to being in the chateaux with extraordinarily beautiful weather, This was not a destination wedding precisely sincew the bridge (daughter of a good frient) married the son of a baroness from the Loire Valley and their family still resides there.

I forgot how flat the Loire Valley was which makes it ideal for bicycle trips and a perfect one for families. the touring is wonderful and takes one back to another epoch. the countryside is still quite rurual so going between towns and their chateaux can be a wondereful amble through fields and country roads, the temperatures were in the high 60's, low 70's so October is still a good month to go.

also a wonderful spot to send clients for a 2 - 3 day stay as a side trip from Paris. we stayed at a charming chateau B & B run b y the original family just outside of Chambord for `147 euros per night incldg. breakfast. Chateau Hotels site check it out:

some things i learned thru my travels:

1. CDG - Air France has a new spectacular terminal in Paris , very well staffed at customs and security, The almost flat-bed seating in biz class is quite comfortable and cabin service in both directions was extremely good.

On way back from Tallin, I had the opportunity to experience connecting in Paris as a transit passenger from Terminal 1 to the new Terminal 2. it worked incredibly well and was quite ewasy to navigate incldg the bus between terminals. when the bus dropped us off at Terminal 2 we had the chance to clear immigration since there were no lines and a bunch of imm agents standing by - with 3 hours between flights this was a welcome plus for us smokers.

Also the security at CDG works exceptionally well. no lines since they disperse security at clusters of gates rather than one bottleneck for the whole terminal - it was relatively painless.

2, Excess baggage charges in Europe - on my Estonian Air flt. from CDG - TLL they only allow 20kgs. i learnt that all intra-European flights have this weight restriction 20 kgs. therefore it is important to alert you pax of this when they are taking inter-European flights that they may have to pay excess baggage if over 20kgs. (i did!)

3, France & Euro - yes France was expensive! i read a good quote:" Americans find themselves 40% poorer with the exchange rate". while it is true it is expensive there are many ways to keep it an affordable vacation. in the course of my research, i learnt that there are wonderful PAris apartments available for rental some of them quite luxurious and not at all expensive. if you want more info on this ask me for sites.

also check out the chateaux B & B site

4. Tallinn, Estonia - the old town has some wonderful preserved mideval charm and a veryw ell preserved mideval village feel. some charming things to visit and must work well as a Baltic cruise port of call. apart from a brief stop, Estonia is not a destination per se. one still gets a strong feel of the Soviet era with its cement block buildings and watchtowerss all over and revovling cameras on every corner.

The people of Estonia are really working on trying to eliminate this stigma and they are host to Finns, Germans & Swedish visitors primarily but would like to encourage more visitors from other parts.

The food is okay and several restaurants we enjoyed had good chefs. One dinner was in a Design Hotel (they are really coming on strong for small, unique hotels) hotel is Three Sisters in Old Town,. the dinner, service and style of the hotel was excellent for those that like an authentic experience.

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