When in Paris, Do as the Parisians Do
Sunday, August 3, 2008; Page P03
Q My wife and I often stay at Residence Inn, Homewood Suites or Embassy Suites when traveling with our 11-year-old son. Next spring we'll be visiting our daughter in Paris for a week. Are there comparable suite hotels in Paris?
A Full kitchens, breakfast buffets and sundowner receptions haven't exactly caught on in the City of Light. But consider the next best thing: short-term apartment rentals. Most have maid service and kitchens, are cheaper than hotels when you factor in home-cooked meals, and allow you to sample life as a Parisian, not a tourist.
Among the firms recommended by the French Government Tourist Office is France Appartements, whose units all have kitchens and Internet access; you can search by price or location in such neighborhoods as Trocadero, Saint Germain des Pres, the Marais and Ile Saint Louis. A small one-bedroom in a renovated 19th-century building in the Marais, within walking distance of the Picasso museum and near food shops, cafes and restaurants, goes for $270 a night (011-33-1-56-89-31-00, http:/
Find other vetted companies on the French Government Tourist Office Web site, http:/
Wherever you rent, avoid surprises by asking the agency beforehand about neighborhood and apartment amenities, whether it's a walk-up (not uncommon) or has an elevator, safety concerns, transportation from the airport or train station, cancellation policies, security deposits and English-speaking contacts on site.
Can you recommend any touring groups or sources for touring the Napa Valley? We are interested in a small group tour that would include transportation and accommodations.
Lots of options here, but our mistake was starting at the high end. After talking with Jackie Richmond of Napa's Wine Country Concierge, we wouldn't want to see the valley any other way. Richmond, a longtime Napa resident who knows from vintners and innkeepers, takes care of everything: lodging at area inns, drivers and guides, reservations at select wineries and dinner reservations at such iconic spots as the French Laundry. Her clients are picked up in the morning in stretch limos, SUVs or vans, visiting about three wineries before tucking into an afternoon spa treatment. "I tend to send them where there's more of an experience than where they're just sucking down the wine. . . . I've got some great connections here." Of course, her expertise will cost you: Her minimum fee is $500, exclusive of drivers' rates ($150 an hour plus tip), winery fees ($35 per person per winery, on average), lodging ($250 a night minimum) and food (sky's the limit). For more information: 707-252-4472, http:/
But back down to earth. Kimberly Sargle, media representative for the Napa Valley Conference & Visitors Bureau, said visitor center reps can assist callers in hiring guides at all price points (707-226-7459, http:/
And here's another tip from Sargle: Fly into Sacramento rather than San Francisco. "The Sacramento airport is much easier to get in and out of."
Bonus tip: Try to visit midweek. "Sunday through Thursday is fantastic. . . . It's much less crowded, and you can have a one-on-one experience with the vintners."
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