En Francais!

Today we had that satisfying feeling of purchasing the flights that will carry us from Portland to France in June -- a feel-good moment even though airfares have gone up significantly over the past 5 years.

This trip has been more than a year in the works, with a 5-bedroom villa in Provence as the centerpiece of the vacation. During that week we'll be celebrating Brent's, Una's, and Cindy's birthdays, and villas are definitely the best way for a group of friends to stay abroad. We've rented them before in Portugal and Italy and always have the most wonderful time.

The villa in Tuscany (2005)

The Villa in Portugal (Algarve, 2003)

Before Provence, since we gotta fly into Paris anyway, we might as well spend a few days in that city magnifique. Last time Rob and I were there it was terrible weather, so I'm looking forward to being able to hum "I Love Paris in the Springtime" as we stroll down the banks of the Seine. I'm looking forward to seeing how the Parisians are coping with their new smoking ban.

Then the villa, outside the small town of Fayence along the French Riviera. This is "greater Provence" a bit west of Provence proper, but the idea is still the same. Our days will surely be spent reading by the pool, playing skip-bo, shopping at markets, picking lavender and olives, hiking through the hills, driving to quaint little country towns, provencial cooking, drinking wine (lots of wine), and dining out a time or two as well. We won't be far from Nice, which is nice, and we could drive to Italy to fetch some meats and cheeses if we were so inclined. Other possible excursions, less than an hour away, include Cannes and Monaco.

After a week in the villa, we'll say au revoir to Cindy and Una and drive west to Barcelona -- about 5 hours. Brent and Dan have been there, but I never have, and I'm really looking forward to seeing La Familia, the Picasso Museum, and the general cosmopolitanness of this great Spainish city. A few days later we'll fly to Ibiza and address our long-term deficit of not having had any truly good place to dance in Portland for the past several years.

My two favorite travel resources these days are kayak.com and vayama.com. With Kayak, you can enter the cities you're looking to travel between and it will query hundreds of websites -- from the airlines themselves to the discount travel services -- and find you the best fare. Because airfares fluxuate all the time, I like Kayak's charts that show you how today's lowest fare compares with high and low fares over the past several weeks. Kayak sends you directly to the other sites to make your purchase.

Vayama.com is a web-based travel agency that specializes in international fares. (I found them through Kayak.) They purchase bulk flights from international carriers, and offer them at less-that-published rates to American travelers. It's the same way that Orbitz and Travelocity used to have an advantage over domestic flights, but then airlines were forced to bring down their own costs to assure their own customers of the lowest price. This cheap-airfare-no-matter-how-and-where-you-buy-it conclusion hasn't happened with international flights yet; thus, Vayama has an advantage, and I'm taking advantage of that. Also the people on the phone at Vayama were very kind and helpful, so I don't feel that customer service gets short shrift in purchasing these fares at such a discount.

What kind of discount? The best round trip fares I can find from PDX to CDG in Paris in June are $1591 on NWA (thorough their new PDX-Amsterdam flight) or $1805 for Lufthansa (which flies PDX-Frankfurt.) But on Vayama, not only can I get PDX to CDG for less, I can actually get Portland to Paris and a more complicated return (Ibiza to Portland) all for only $1524. On Lufthansa. I love it.

Je ne parle pas francais, but I think we'll be OK!

1 comment:

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