Good news for Francophiles. Because of scare stories concerning "expensive" France, the French are doing something about it. Michel Bouquier, director general of the French Government Tourist Office in the United States, breezed into Los Angeles the other day, telling how dozens of hotel/bus/train operators and others are guaranteeing discounted prices in dollars for the entire year. Some surprising bargains. Even in Paris. Rooms at 120 Parisian hotels are $79 a night this spring. In Cannes you'll pay only $80 at half a dozen select hotels. And at a couple of four-star luxury hotels (the Beach Regency in Nice and the Gray D'Albion in Cannes) the cost is $299 per person (double occupancy) for four nights--with a fifth night free.
The promotion by the French Government Tourist Office in cooperation with Air France is providing bargains for train travelers (rail passes for $85 for four days), chateau accommodations starting at $70, a seven-day "rail 'n' drive" pass for $129, seven-day fly passes within France, $210. A free brochure with maps, prices, color pictures is offered. Call toll-free (800) 237-2747 or write to the French Government Tourist Office, 9401 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 840, Beverly Hills 90212.
Bon Voyage Gifts
Baskets to Go is a specialty company serving passengers sailing from the Port of Los Angeles. For $9.50 here's what you get: a reusable wicker serving tray, two small splits of California champagne, two champagne flutes and an assortment of candies. Delivery is free. The company offers five other gift arrangements with prices ranging upward to $55. The $9.50 basket is the company's "Home Port Special." Other baskets, depending on price, contain wines, cheeses, pate, champagnes, chocolates. Even suntan lotion, sun visors and beach mats. Place your order with your travel agent or call Baskets to Go direct, toll-free (800) 227-5386 or (213) 437-7659.
Well Wishers of Covina also serves cruisers. Besides Los Angeles, deliveries are made in the Orient, South Pacific, Canada, Mexico. Wine, chocolates, fruit baskets, flowers. Well Wishers International, P.O. Box 22, Covina 91723. Telephone toll-free (800) 221-8940 (California) or (800) 423-6525 (nationwide).
Colorado Dude Ranches
Thirty-seven ranches are listed in the 1988 "Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Guide." Selections vary from rustic to highbrow (Mobil 5 Star and Relais Chateaux properties). The ranches are described as "some of the best hide-outs in Colorado," including Dick and Ginny Elder's Colorado Trails Ranch in Durango (AAA), the country clublike C Lazy U and the low-key Drowsy waters (Granby), Ken Jones' Home Ranch and Frank and Winton Brophy's Vista Verde Guest Ranch (near Steamboat Springs).
Spent a memorable couple of days last year at Patricia and Scott MacTiernan's San Juan Guest Ranch at Ridgway. North of Ouray ("the Switzerland of America"), surrounded by 14,000-foot mountains. A note from Scott MacTiernan tells us: "The more guests we have the more I realize how vacationers are starved for good old-fashioned personal service." That's a specialty of the San Juan: 2882 Hwy. 23, Ridgway, Colo. 81432. Call (303) 626-5360. The guide describing all 37 ranches is free. Write to the Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Assn., Box 300PR, Tabernash, Colo. 80478.
Another guide, published by the 74-member Dude Ranch Assn., names properties in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming. Weekly rates $400/$1,000 per person. For a copy of the guide, send $1 to the Dude Ranch Assn., P.O. Box 471, La Porte, Colo. 80535.
A pass entitling American travelers to shelter in France for as little as $8 a night is free again this year from International Friendship Service. Accommodations at schools, universities. Anyone 16 or older qualifies. Students, families, seniors, groups. Sites include Tours, La Rochelle, Bayonne, Mulhouse, Fontainebleau, Beauvais. More than 5,000 rooms offered mid-June till mid-September. Write to International Friendship Service, 22994 El Toro Road, El Toro, Calif. 92630 or phone (714) 458-8868. Note: IFS also operates a home-stay program for students ages 14 to 27. Costs $890 (two weeks). Includes round-trip air fare from Los Angeles, lodging, three meals a day.
Kiahuna Plantation on Kauai's Poipu Beach has joined other Hawaii resorts in performing marriage ceremonies. Packages start at $295. Service includes live music, flower leis, a wedding bouquet, champagne, photos, a video tape. A choice of garden/beach setting. Kiahuna is a plantation-style condominium resort rising on 35 acres. One- and two-bedroom suites with private lanais, kitchens, dining areas. Low-season rates (starting April 1) begin at $119 a night. Call toll-free (800) 367-7052.