Q. Our group of four plans to visit Scotland in September and travel in a rented van. Any suggestions about how we can ease the dollar-vs.-pound expenses?
Language lesson first: Ask for a “people carrier” instead of a van, or you're liable to end up with something you could move furniture in. But if your group doesn't have a ton of luggage, you might want to consider not renting a van at all. The tab for a Kia Sedona people carrier, for example, is $642 a week through the British car rental firm 1car1, compared with $356 for a five-passenger, manual transmission Vectra. (It looks like a Toyota Camry.) Linda Daller of 1car1 said the Vectra should fit your group of four comfortably, assuming one piece of luggage each. Both rates include all taxes and fees, and the company offers a free meet-and-greet service at most U.K. airports. Details: www.1car1.us.
To trim lodging costs, stay in self-catering cottages rather than hotels, advises Jeremy Viray of VisitBritain, the U.K.'s tourism office. These short-term rentals can be found in almost every region and usually house up to eight people. VisitBritain's online catalog, for example, includes West Holmhead Cottage, on an organic farm above Loch Ken in southwest Scotland “surrounded by woodlands, rocks, flowering marshes, rivers and green hills, with wonderful wildlife.” The 250-year-old stone cottage rents for $435 to $750 a week. Self-catering cottages also cut down on food expenses. You can search for them by city and region at www.visitbritain.us; click on “Accommodation,” then “Short-term rental.”
If culture is on your agenda, you'll find that admission to many of Glasgow's galleries and museums is free, including Glasgow's Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (the United Kingdom's most-visited museum outside London) and Edinburgh's National Museum of Scotland. And if stately homes are your thing, consider VisitBritain's Great British Heritage Pass, which allows unlimited entry to about 600 stately homes, castles and properties throughout the country. A four-day pass is $60; seven-day, $88; 15-day, $117; and 30-day, $157. Details: www.visitbri tain.com/onlineshop.
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Q. Could you suggest a travel itinerary for someone who is interested in all aspects of perfume, from production to sales? I think this would be a European trip, but I could be wrong.
You're on the right scent. The undisputed perfume capital of the world is Grasse, a flower-drenched, 18th-century town on the French Riviera, about 12 miles northwest of Cannes. With more than two dozen perfumeries, the town is the center of the French perfume industry and produces more than three-quarters of the world's fragrances. It's an appealing place, with a picturesque public square, flower markets and knockout views of the Cote d'Azur. But most people visit for the perfume factories, many of which offer tours, workshops and gift shops. You can follow the process from extraction and distillation to mixing and classifying scents, and even create your own perfume.
To get there from Paris, take the train (about 6.5 hours, from $135 round trip; schedules at www.voyages-sncf.com). Or join a half-day tour with a company such as Executive Transport Service (www.executive-transport-service .com; about $232 per person double from Cannes or Antibes). For more info on the region: Grasse Tourism Office, www.grasse-riviera.com.
As long as you're in Paris, visit a few exclusive perfume boutiques with a self-described “passionate perfumista.” Neela Vermeire's Perfume Paths walking tours visit boutiques such as Guerlain and Hermes; she'll help you pick out a fragrance based on your preferences and personality. “You can't choose a perfume unless you're in the right environment. It's like choosing lingerie,” she says. Walks last about four hours and cover five or six houses; cost is about $218 (shorter tours are available for $145). She also offers custom tours of Grasse from Paris: Typical trips run three days and include visits to the perfumeries, meals in local restaurants and gallery visits. Details: www.perfumepaths.com.