I marked a good map with the places that were important to Anne, or to her time, or that should give me more background, and researched them on line and from a pile of guide books that I bought used. I planned to see the châteaux in which she lived, the cathedrals in which major ceremonies took place and in which tombs are located and to walk around some of the old towns and cities that retain some historical character. I hoped the museums would be as valuable as those here in New York and Chicago.
I had read an article warning that American credit cards could not be used universally in Europe, where a different physical identification system is employed. A morning of calls to my banks and credit card companies resulted in learning that the cards with chips are not available here; but regular cards could be used in most places. However, every company had different fees, rates and systems for use in Europe. The best for me was a debit card linked to my checking account. I would be able to pay my bills upfront, at a much lower rate than any of my credit cards. Some of the online blogs cautioned that the best way to get railroad tickets is by not revealing that I am American: do it all on line, in French, and say that I’ll pick up the tickets there. I don’t know if it is true, but it warned that they charged higher rates to Americans. I was kind of nervous about that, but it worked! All my train arrangements are made—city to city. Next was hotels. Since I would be using trains, and in some cases, local buses, I wanted to stay in convenient areas. It was not difficult finding suitable hotels with the use of the guide books and several online booking sites. When I found something that looked like a good possibility, I would check customer reviews for affirmation or warnings that some were too noisy, too rude, not as advertised, or just perfect for the price. Some allowed me to make a reservation that could be cancelled; others had to be paid for in advance (these often seem to be the best bargains.) It probably would have been helpful to have a travel agent who knew all the places I’m interested in, but that just isn’t likely. The process of doing this research has been helpful and valuable, and has uncovered some places not generally known. I’ve also learned that some places I would have liked to see were destroyed in the past five hundred years.
Later note: it all worked out great. The trains were wonderful, and picking up the tickets was easy. The worst and most expensive part of travel was taxis to and from airports and train stations.
All of the hotels were fine, but the promised internet access was not always available.