Intimate France Tours e-News

Issue 9, July 2013



At Intimate France, we specialize in small groups - usually eight travelers or fewer, never more than 16. Read more about how we are different.





May 4-16, 2014

Tour priced at $3,995 per person sharing accommodation. Singles $550 extra.Tour begins in Lyon, ends at Strasbourg.

(more information)


Normandy-Loire, May 18-30, 2014

Tour priced at $3,995 per person sharing accommodation. Singles $550 extra.Tour begins and ends at Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris.

(more information)


Romantic Germany, Sept. 7-19, 2014

Tour priced at $3,995 per person sharing accommodation. Singles $550 extra.Tour begins and ends at Toulouse Airport.

(more information)


Italian Lakes & Venice, Sept. 21- Oct. 3, 2014

Tour priced at $3,995 per person sharing accommodation. Singles $550 extra.Tour begins at Milan airport, ends at Venice airport.

(more information)







George Nevin


Intimate France Tours



The Highways
of Europe –
No More Free Ride


    French cultural quiz, part 1 – Why does the accident rate increase on French highways right before a presidential election?                                 Answer – Because France has a long tradition of forgiving minor highway infractions when a new president is sworn in.    

     It's human nature for people to drive a bit more recklessly when they know their transgressions will be forgiven in a few weeks.   

    I have been driving in Europe for four decades (accident-free, you will be happy to know) and I've seen the culture there evolve from a general acceptance of poor driving habits to one in which highway infractions, particularly speeding, are no longer tolerated.

    And that's a good thing.


    A bit of background – most European countries don't have highway patrols that cruise the freeways looking for miscreants.
    Instead, traffic police set up checkpoints on the highway – on toll roads, that's typically at toll booths.

    There, they wait for traffic to come to them, and pull over anyone they want to investigate. Tourists are seldom pulled over.


Highway checkpoint, France


    My travelers often ask me who the police are likely to stop. I tell them there are four categories:

  •  Cars with faulty equipment, such as lights.
  • Cars driving erratically.
  • Cars lacking a green insurance sticker on the windshield.
  • Cars driven by attractive women.

    There was a time, not too long ago, when these checkpoints were the only place drivers could expect to encounter the police. Today's that's no longer true.


Reliance on Radar

    European nations have embraced traffic-enforcement radar in a big way. Just in the past five years I have seen evidence in Italy, Spain and France of its increasing use.
    Recently, I was tooling along a French superhighway (under the speed limit, if you please) when a car zoomed past on my left, going at least 50 km over the limit.

    It had no sooner passed me when I spotted, ahead on the right, an electronic sign board lighting up like a pinball machine.

    "License 504 FY 34, you are going too fast!" read the display. Radar had captured the offending car's speed as well as its tag number, and posted the warning. Presumably, that driver got a ticket in the mail in a few days.

    That's how it works now in France – automatic radar catches you and a computer spits out a speeding ticket.

    Today there's a diabolical twist to the radar system on French highways – the cameras  not only capture speeders, they capture everyone's plate number, speeding or not, and record them in real time.     Then, 50 km down the road, there's another camera. If the driver in question averaged a speed between the two cameras that was over the limit, a ticket would be generated.

    So it's no longer good enough to slow down when a radar camera is ahead.

    In yet another twist, I read that the French authorities are finally sending police cars onto the highway to catch speeders.    

    But these aren't patrol cars – they are vehicles fitted with special license plates that conceal a radar setup plus a camera. These vehicles will prowl French highways as a sort of mobile radar squad.


Spain Gets Into the Act

    The Spanish, too, have entered the radar game in a big way. Within the past year, Americans have been reporting receiving speeding tickets in the mail from the Spanish authorities.                             Conveniently, there is a website where the speeder can pay his ticket with a credit card – at a discount off the normal price.

    Not to be outdone in the ticket-in-the-mail game, Italian cities are clamping down on cars that drive into city centers without authorization.

    These forbidden zones are called ZTLs, for Zona Trafica Limitata. Typically, access is limited to residents, delivery vehicles, buses and taxis, and police and emergency vehicles.

    ZTLs have been around for a long time, but enforcing them using plate-capturing cameras is much newer.        

    Once again, foreigners are receiving tickets in the mail. What's not clear is whether there's any enforcement mechanism – if an American ignores a ticket, will he/she be stopped at the rental counter on the next trip to Italy and be made to pay up?


Times Have Changed

    In France, speeding tickets generated by the radar system formerly were mailed to offending drivers along with a photo showing the driver's face through the windshield, as well as the plate number. But French police now send just the ticket – the photo is available only on request.

    French cultural quiz, part 2 – Why did the police stop routinely sending out the photos?.
    Answer – Because too often, a French housewife would open the mail and see a photo of her husband, and next to him in the car a woman who was not the wife.

    One thing is clear – the days of thumbing one's nose at the local authorities are over. For better or worse, European police have shed their do-nothing image.





    After 25 years of travel and research, we founded Intimate France in 1994 to share our accumulated wisdom and exciting discoveries with you. In the years since then, we’ve taken hundreds of Americans to France, Italy, Spain, Croatia and the Alps.


    Our small groups (never more than 16) assure the utmost in personal service, attention to detail and flexibility.

    Our small group size allows us to take care of you and your needs the way you deserve. Our long familiarity with Europe has taught us the hidden, authentic visits and sights not in any guidebook.


    Our cheerful, experienced, bilingual guides love Europe with a passion and want to share this feeling with you. Our carefully planned itineraries feature a multitude of enriching visits – all included in the tour price. Optional excursions at additional expense are virtually non-existent.  


    At Intimate France, we believe that cookie-cutter hotels, tourist-oriented restaurants and fast-paced sightseeing are barriers to enjoying the real Europe.   


      Over time we have discovered small, family-run hotels, local bistros and insider sights. You’ll visit the top attractions in each town while also having experiences that are more typically European.



(800) 676-1247


An occasional newsletter from George Nevin, founder, Intimate France Tours






The economic crisis gripping Spain has spawned opportunities – like this 'Menu Anticrisis' in Ainsa.




    Our 2013 tours have all sold out. With only eight seats per tour, this often happens. Some departures were filled nine months in advance.

    For 2014, we will repeat the popular Italian Lakes & Venice tour, which is likely to depart with 16 travelers. We've also revamped two popular tours of the past, Burgundy and Alsace, combining elements of each into one tour. Finally, we're introducing a new tour, Romantic Germany, and bringing back a popular tour, Normandy & Loire Valley.





In June we returned from six weeks in Italy, Slovenia, France and Spain. It was a generally cold and rainy time – one Italian winemaker complained that it was the wettest spring in 200 years! But there were sunny days plus some memorable experiences. Here are some highlights.



Friuli, a part of eastern Italy seldom visited by Americans, was a revelation. It has wonderful food, world-class wines, tons of history and a mellow ambiance. Here, the enchanting town of Cividale del Friuli.



Udine is the capital of Friuli. It's a charming, vibrant small city proud of its past and its present. Here, Piazza San Giacomo.



Public art is everywhere and quite clever. Here, dog sculptures in the garden of Isola Madre, an island in Italy's Lago Maggiore.



You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but you can tell a lot about a restaurant by the decals on its door, especially if they are from trusted sources. Here, Hostaria Alle Testiere, Venice.



Cividale del Friuli stands atop a spectacular gorge high above the Natisone River, inside Italy but near its border with Slovenia.



Slovenia, without doubt the most prosperous of the republics of the former Yugoslavia, was a revelation – beautiful landscapes, tidy villages, soaring Alps and a proud spirit. Here, the award-winning World War I museum at Kobarid, where Ernest Hemingway drove an ambulance.



Lake Garda, one of Northern Italy's three majestic sub-Alpine lakes, is a slice of heaven. Here, the resort of Riva del Garda, on the lake's northern shore.




The Russians Are Coming! This fall, our Pyrénées group spends three nights in Foix, France, in the Hôtel Lons. At the same time of our September visit, there will be a group of Russians. Hotel managers say the Russians come twice yearly, spring and fall.




The faithful gather every night at 9 p.m. in front of the basilicas of Lourdes, France, for a torchlight procession..



The Romanesque Monastery of San Juan de la Peña shelters beneath a soaring rock will west of the Spanish town of Jaca.


2014 Tour Lineup


Hospice de Beaune, Burgundy, the city's old hospital


Burgundy & Alsace - May 4-16, 2014


Tour priced at $3,995 per person sharing accommodation. Singles $550 extra. Discounts available. Tour begins at Lyon Airport, ends at Strasbourg Airport.t.

  • Comfortable hotels and charming inns – all rooms with private bath
  • Transportation in van or mini-bus
  • Outstanding cuisine and wine
  • Château visits – Veugeot, Savigny-les-Beaune
  • Fabulous outdoor markets and picnic with local products
  • The wine villages of Burgundy
  • Walled city of Beaune and its Hospice
  • Dijon, world’s mustard capital
  • The wines of Burgundy, among France’s best
  • Proud Lyon, a center for art on the banks of two rivers.
  • Groundbreaking mid-20th century architecture – Notre Dame de Haut, by Le Corbusier.
  • The wine villages of Alsace – Riquewihr, Ribeauvillé, Kaysersburg
  • The charming regional capital of Colmar
  • The grand city of Strasbourg and its world-renowned gothic cathedral, built of red sandstone.
  • The delicate wines of Alsace, some of France’s best
  • Visits recalling a troubled past: World Wars I and II.

More information or to sign up



The Old Port at Honfleur, one of France's most scenic.

Normandy & Châteaux of the Loire,

May 18-30, 2014


Tour priced at $3,995 per person sharing accommodation. Singles $550 extra. Discounts available. Tour begins and ends at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport.t.

  • Comfortable hotels and charming inns – all rooms with private bath
  • Transportation in van or mini-bus
  • Outstanding cuisine and wine
  • The gardens, studio and home of Claude Monet in Giverny
  • Old Bayeux, and its most famous sight, the Bayeux Tapestry
  • D-Day beaches & monuments
  • Magnificent Chartres Cathedral
  • Belle Epoque resorts of Deauville and Trouville
  • Outdoor markets, local cheeses, cider & calvados
  • Fresh seafood – some of the best in France
  • Stunning coastal scenery
  • Medieval Abbey of Mont St. Michel, soaring high above its bay
  • Cathedrals, castles, markets, cafés, art, fine dining, exceptional wines.

More information or to sign up



The Rhine is Germany's most romantic river.


Germany's Romantic Road, Rhine & Mosel Valleys - September 7-19, 2014


Tour priced at $3,995 per person sharing accommodation. Singles $550 extra. Discounts available. Tour begins at Munich Airport, ends at Frankfurt Airport.t.

  • Comfortable hotels and charming inns – all rooms with private bath
  • The fabled Romantic Road and its most-loved village, Rothenburg ob der Tauber
  • Transportation in van or mini-bus
  • Outstanding cuisine and world-class wines from the Rhine and Mosel valleys
  • Two castles associated with 'Mad' King Ludwig –  Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau
  • The castles, half-timbered villages and vineyards of the Rhine River Valley
  • Burg (Castle) Eltz, a 700-year old fortress furnished as it was five centuries ago.
  • The impossibly picturesque Mosel Valley, with vineyards clinging to its steep slopes.
  • Ancient Trier, already a center of art and learning in Roman times.
  • Romantic Road villages of Dinkelsbühl, Nördlingen, Donauwörth
  • Old centers of art and architecture – Würzburg, Limburg.

More information or to sign up




The village of Bellagio, on Lake Como, is a highlight.


Italian Lakes & Venice - September 21-October 3, 2014


Tour priced at $3,995 per person sharing accommodation. Singles $550 extra. Discounts available. Tour begins at Milan Malpensa Airport, ends at Venice Airport..

  • Comfortable hotels and charming inns – all rooms with private bath
  • The splendor of the Italian lakes – Maggiore, Como, Garda
  • Transportation in van or mini-bus
  • Outstanding cuisine and wine
  • The splendid Palladian architecture of the Veneto
  • The magnificent villas and gardens of the lake country
  • Beautiful villages with stairstep streets and murmuring fountains
  • Medieval Verona, known for its Roman past and for Romeo and Juliet
  • Venice, perhaps the world’s most beautiful and splendid city
  • Aperitivi, gelato, formaggio, salume
  • Lovely towns of Vicenza and Padova

More information or to sign up

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