Talk about Travel

Apr 01, 2013

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Hello, travelers. Welcome to today's chat. We've got food on the mind today. (Some of us always have food on the mind, but today we have an excuse to talk about it even more than usual.) Hope you enjoyed our food-themed issues of Trael this past weekend, with my confession about the way I travel; Tom Sietsema's take on 3 restaurants in Atlanta; Eliza Mackintosh's exploration of London's new obsession with gourmet American-style fast food; writer Maya Kroth's quest for her father's favorite soup in Spain; and my attempt to get my fill of vegetables in Philly.

For today's travel prize, here's your question. It's an obvious one: What is your favorite food memory from your travels, and why? Tell us, and we'll pick our favorite to win a little something.

Let's get started!

So I'm going to skip the easy argument that no one can spend all day eating and you could easily fit both good food AND tourist sites into your trip and go straight to my own feelings on this topic. I never understood people who placed such an emphasis on food on their vacations. I get frustrated with travel stories that devote half the article to where the writer ate. Who cares?!?! I want to know every single site around that's interesting to see! The irony is I actually consider myself an amateur foodie. I love to cook, try new restaurants and explore different cuisines. But I think part of it is the feeling that I can do this at home. I live in Chicago, which has an amazing culinary scene, and I can spend the entire year delving into food. But traveling abroad is hard for me because of finances, so when I go to Italy in two weeks (holy crap, I'm going to Italy in two weeks!!!), my main interest is that I see the sites I've learned so much about in my history classes and that I can only see in Italy - hello Colosseum! Don't get me wrong - I want to get great food while I'm there and I've already made a list of restaurants with high recommendations from locals and plotted them on a map I downloaded to my phone so I have easy access to see what's near whenever we're in the mood for a bite. But food is definitely not my top priority on a trip. I guess I will go back to that easy argument: It's just too easy to have it all by enjoying great meals in between hitting the sites.

The best way to travel -- the only way to travel, really -- is to see what you want to see! So good for you for doing just that.

Of course, despite what I said in my piece on Sunday, I do see plenty of non-food sights when I travel; they just usually happen to be on the way to or from the eats. And if you think you can't spend all day eating, then, well, you haven't spent a day in Paris with me. (To answer some of the commenters on line, no, I'm not 300 pounds nor do I need to take Lipitor; I make it up by walking, walking, walking...)

BTW, I liked the Colosseum, too -- and the Vatican. I guess part of it is I really love being outside when I'm not eating, so many of my favorite sights are the ones I don't have to go inside for. So in Paris, a favorite spot is the Place des Vosges, best park space in the world. (Of course, it's a lovely place to take a little takeout lunch.) And I've sat on the Seine eating a croissant while a saxophonist practiced in the fog. That's about as Parisian as you can get.

Three couples staying near Shenandoah VA for a week. Enjoy light hiking, bird watching, interesting towns, restaurants and wineries. Can you suggest a few day trips? Thanks...

Well, you will be in a great area for all those things. Take a day to explore Winchester. The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley is world-class. Don't miss the gardens there either. Stroll the downtown mall, where there are tons of restaurants and shops. Other towns to see include Front Royal and, heading down I-81/U.S. 11, Middletown, Strasburg and Woodstock.

Be sure you visit Belle Grove Plantation, a historic manor house. There's some light hiking to be done on the estate, complete with lovely mountain views. I'm also partial to walking around Sky Meadows State Park. Right near the park, the Ashby Inn has one of the best restaurants in the region. One of my favorite area wineries is North Mountain Vineyard. It has a great porch where you and your friends can enjoy a bottle or two. Here's a story with a few more suggestions.

We, two retired (active) women, will spend a week in June on Inishmore, largest of the Aran Islands west of Galway. We next want to visit France - Normandy, Mont-St.-Michel, Chartes Cathedral, and then Paris. We have ten days before we need to be in Karlsruhe, Germany. Ferry from Ireland to France? Fly from Dublin to Paris and work our way back to Normandy? What would make sense? We will not have a car. Neither of us has been to France.

 I'd fly to Paris and work my way back to Normandy. There's easy train service to Chartres, which is only about an hour from Paris, as well as Mont St. Michel. A flight will cost only a little more than the ferry, somewhere between $100 and $150 (you could take a ferry for about $100). The ferry to Cherbourg takes 7 1/2 hours, though. Not sure that I personally would want to spend that much time on a ferry, when I could be in Paris instead! Chatters, what do you think?

I was the OP of the passport question from last week. I am afraid I don't fully understand your answer. I have legally changed my name to my married name but haven't gotten a new passport. Can I still travel under my maiden name without a problem? All my credit cards and other forms of ID are my married name. I guess my question is does the Airline, US Govt or Customs care what name I travel under as long as my ticket and passport names match? What if, god forbid, I need the embassy's help while traveling? Will it matter that I have two different names?

If the name on your passport and the name on your reservation match, you should have no problem. But if there's a discrepancy, then you would need to fix the name on your ticket to make it match your passport. I hope that helps.

My wife and I have to be Zurich in mid-June. So far the best fares from DC are around $1,400 RT. Is there much chance fare sales in the coming weeks might bring the cost down, or should we just find the best we can now and book?

June is high season and just around the corner. There may be some sales, but personally I wouldn't chance it. That fare sounds about right, actually, and I'd book it.

Hi there, Can you recommend a house swap agency? There seem to be plenty of outfits popping up and I'd like to go with a reputable one. I've heard of Intervac -- any thoughts? Thanks!

Here's a story by our former colleague Nancy Trejos about her home exchange/homestay experience, as well as a brief rundown of a few of the services. Chatters, thoughts on any of these?

why is this on the webpage today: Live Q&As Friday's Sessions-Politics: The Fix, 11 a.m. Cars: Real Wheels, 11 a.m. Advice: Carolyn Hax, 12 p.m. TV: Lisa de Moraes, 1 Weekly Schedule Recent Live Q&As

We have updated! Sorry about that.

Hi Joe, You mentioned in your piece on eating that you knew where to find kouign-amann in Paris. I adore this dessert! Could you please give me an idea as to exactly where to find it? I'll be in Paris this summer and I'd love to pick up a piece or two of what I consider the finest dessert on the planet! Bon appetit!

I've basically followed David Lebovitz's scouting in this area, because, well, who knows better? So I've found really good ones at Blé Sucré on Square Trousseau in the 12th, Larnicol on rue de Rivoli in the 4th boulevard Saint-Germain in the 6th; and Le Grenier à Pain on rue Faubourg Poissonière in the 9th. But I've heard they've been getting trendier and trendier in Paris, so there are probably even more places to find them since the last time I was there. (BTW, I'm not quite as picky as David about them, but we do agree on one thing: Nothing in Paris has been quite as amazing as the kouign-amanns in Brittany. Worth the trip.)

Chatters, have any of you found great kouign-amanns in Paris?

I hadn't booked a room through Hotwire, so maybe this is the norm, but I was surprised last weekend to find I still had to pay taxes at a hotel in Atlantic City in addition to the taxes and fees I'd already paid through Hotwire. If I still owed state and local taxes when I checked out, what did I pay through Hotwire?

The rate you were quoted should have been the price you paid, according to Hotwire. I would contact the company in writing, asking about the price difference. If you don't like the answer, please let me know. I'll try to help.

We are going to Aruba and were wondering about a day trip to Venezuela. Would that be possible? Worth doing?

I don't think  I'd advise anyone to travel to Venezuela these days. The crime rate is sky-high and the U.S. is hardly popular there. Stick to Aruba. If you must take a day trip somewhere, you could hop over to Curacao on a quick flight. Chatters, do you agree?

long enough topic title??? What schedule advice would you have to: you guessed it-- save money? prefer Wednesday 17th departure. IAD last choice. Is there a best advanced date to schedule the flight??

Not to sound cheeky, but the best day to buy the fare is when you find something you can afford. It could be today, it could be a few weeks from now. There have been all kinds of debates about the best days of the week to buy tickets, and I can't say I favor any over the other. For your departure date, Kayak says there's a 58 percent chance that fares will go up in the next week. Makes sense, since summer is a big travel season for Seattle. Mid-week departures are generally cheaper, so you've got that going for you. I'd say if you can get something for around $400 or less, you've probably done well. Unfortunately for you, the cheapest fares seem to be out of Dulles. Kayak is showing one-stop "hacker" fares (one way on Delta, the other on United) from BWI for $380, which doesn't sound bad at all.

Hello - My boyfriend and I are traveling to the Florida keys in mid-May for seven days, six nights. The first two nights we are going to camp at the Bahia Honda state park (reservations made), the second two nights we are going to stay at a B&B on Key West (reservations made) and we are keeping the last two nights open. I am a planner and my boyfriend is a spontaneous kind of guy so the leaving of the last two nights open is a compromise. My question is - given the time of year, would we have a problem finding a place to stay (hotel, B&B or campground) somewhere on the upper keys (since were are leaving out of Miami's airport, I told him we'd better stay closer to Miami the last night, at least) on a Sunday and Monday night without paying an arm and a leg to do so? I always know where I am staying when I travel by myself so this is tough for me but my boyfriend likes the idea of choosing something while there for the last two nights. Thanks for any advice you can give!

May is typically a quiet time in the Keys, so you should have no problem finding last-minute accommodation. That said, there are a few festivals around that time of year that might increase demand. Here's a full list. If all else fails, you can drive up to Homestead and find very affordable accommodations at the end of the Stretch.

I was taking a winery tour in South Australia which included lunch. On the menu was Kangaroo. I had to give it a shot so I picked that. The restaurant was family style so I was sitting witha bunch of strangers including this cute little old couple from eslwhere in Australia. When my 'roo showed up, the female half of the couple leaned into me and quietly said (and jokingly, I think) "I'm not sure I'm comfortable with someone eating our national symbol"! My response was something about it being skippy's time and I proceeded to chow down on what was a fabulous dish of medium rare 'roo. I think knowing that it was a national symbol made it taste even better.

It's a staple among the aborigines, I think, isn't it? Thanks for the tail -- er, tale.

Hi travel experts, thanks for taking my question! I am looking to meet up with a friend (friend from Chicago, me from DC) for a weekend away. We've looked at tons of destinations (Louisville, Memphis, Detroit, etc.) and can't seem to pick one. We want relatively cheap airfare, and when we travel we mostly eat, drink, and walk around a city. Not nature/outdoorsy people by any means! A food-centric place would be awesome, but we're both pescetarians so BBQ heaven wouldn't really work too well. Any suggestions?

Charleston, of course! Our dining critic Tom Sietsema also made Atlanta sound pretty appetizing this weekend.

So, my first grandbaby is due in early August in the San Francisco area. I'm in the DC area. I have a full-time job, so I can't just fly out there and stay for a month, though I would LOVE to do so! Should I jump on an airfare sale and buy a ticket now, in the hope that I am there for the big event? The risk is that the baby comes early or late and I miss all the excitement. I've thought about booking on Southwest because it will allow me to change flights with no penalty (although I would have to pay any difference in airfare). But Southwest requires connections, making a 5.5-hour flight into an 11-hour ordeal. Do you or the chatters have any advice on getting a cheap airfare for the blessed event? Thanks!

I like the Southwest option, but you're right -- the connections can make that a long trip. You could also try to use one of the opaque sites like Hotwire or Priceline for a last-minute fare. One other option is to book a flight the week the baby is due and if necessary, you can throw away the return ticket and buy a one-way ticket home, if it's a late arrival. But you're basically right -- there's no easy or foolproof way to do this.

To the first chatter - I think what we see and want to see in stories is very much biased towards our own preferences. What drives me batty is seeing all this focus on "shopping" as an activity. I generally go on faraway vacations for a week at a time and have been known to come back with nothing new. Nothing. Not for me, not for family, not for friends. I've even had immigration/customs raise their eyebrows in disbelief at the $0 listing. So the listing of boutiques and stores and etc. is a waste to me. On the other hand, where to eat - now THAT I could dream about! Just remember the stories are meant to strike a balance between all of us - as long as I read about the historical district and the walking paths (and the bistros), I'll deal with descriptions of arts and crafts displays, gold and jewels and carpets for sale.

To each his/her own, yes! I like shopping, to an extent -- but only if something about it feels unique.

an Aboriginal picnic in remote Western Australia. Ok...it was a hiking group. But we foraged nearly everything....and I **did** try the grub pate! Didn't taste like chicken exactly....but I was proud to try it! It was cool to eat a whole meal provided by nature and just as the native people did.

Now that's food as culture, indeed.

The felafel I had in paris was the BEST EVER. I had been to Israel a few years before, and it was great - but I went to the jewish quarter in Paris - and just remember having the BEST felafel I had ever had. I don't know exactly what it was about it, but it was so awesome.

It's just everything, I think -- the soft puffy pita, crisp but fluffy falafel itself, the pungent pickles vegetables, the tahini sauce... Aw, now I'm hungry, and I just had lunch.

Joe, I come from a farming background, so when I travel on vacations, I am particularly interested in how the local cuisine has integrated the natural food sources into their food. Our week in Maine, in addition to see and hiking the sights, was to taste the various ways lobster has been used in food. When we visited New Orleans, we were interested in seeing how locally available foods law crawfish and aligator and other ingredeints were used. Gumbos, poboys, etc provides insights into culture that just looking and reading can not do. Thank you for this article.

You're welcome!

I have seen a couple of questions recently about travel to Greece and second your recommendations to go. I spent about 11 days there (Athens, Meteora, Mykonos, Santorini) in Oct 2011 and loved it. My one caution to travelers is to allow buffer time in case of public strikes. The day after I left Athens there was a city-wide public strike - all transport and museums were closed. The day after I departed Greece a 2-day nationwide transit strike began - no air travel (including international), ferries, buses, rail etc. Allow enough time in your schedule that getting stuck somewhere for an extra day won't cause too much stress.

Sound advice! Thanks!

I bought a ticket for international travel in January and supplied my passport number. I renewed my passport in March and just received the new passport. It has a new passport number. What do I need to do? Will I have major headaches or will everyone realize that because my passport issue date is recent that this is OK? Thanks.

You should be able to call your airline and supply the new passport number. I would definitely ask about it now instead of doing nothing and hoping it doesn't become a problem. The airline and/or the TSA may overlook it, but I wouldn't count on it.

One of my favorite food memories is during my first trip to Israel... I went with someone who had lived there as a child, and who assured me that I would be able to get infinite varieties of one of my favorite noshes... baklava. Well, those first two days we walked and walked and walked and did much sightseeing and found all of the ethnic offerings in Tel Aviv - African, French, Chinese, Italian, Arabic, tons of seafood options, Mediterranean, of course, but NO baklava. One of my favorite photos from that trip is from late on the second day, me with bag in one hand, pastry in the other, big grin in front of the bakery. Of course after that it was ubiquitous... just that first day must have put us on the one baklava-free path in all of Tel Aviv.

I'm not sure you could repeat that route if you tried! Thanks.

Husband and I went to spain on our honeymoon. I just remember eating SO WELL. It was so wonderful. Olives and wine. Jerez. bocadillos. wonderful breakfasts. Wonderful everything. And we got home from the trip - and saw the credit card receipts. We ate like kings for about no money at all.

Ah, Spain. Yes. So good.

My favorite food memory is when I was in Paris for five days a few years ago, and I got crepes avec Nutella every day! It was pretty much the only thing I learned to say in French (I am horrible with foreign languages), and I just enjoyed eating them and wandering around the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, etc. Even now, Nutella always reminds me of that trip!

And I thought that I tended toward the obsessive!

perhaps the one that wasn't......riding a cargo boat in Ghana, West Africa. The staff wanted to honor me and served me the head of a fish -- I knew eating the eye ball would be a true honor. But I couldn't do it. So I told them it was taboo for my tribe (true since I'm Jewish.....)

As a new vegetarian, I will surely face this dilemma -- or others like it -- on my next trips!

Hey Travel Crew, love love LOVE your weekly discussion and columns, of course. I handle immigration for a big company and always recommned that a traveler also take a copy of the marriage license to show if there are any name issues on the trip.

Joe's article resonated with me, because it's so much the way I travel. Of course, I want to see the unique sights in each place I visit. But, for me, the true flavor of another country or region lies in the culture--the way local people live, their music, and most of all, their food. I'm not looking for fine dining, per se, I can find that anywhere. I'm interested in sampling the roast suckling lamb in Madrid, the Cuuy (Guinea pig) in Peru, or the fish boil in Door County, Wisconsin.

Yes, I'm with you. Some fine dining can be representative, but so much of the truly local stuff is on the cheap end, such as street food.

I keep getting a bar at the top of the screen that the travel chat is in Portuguese and would I like Google to translate it. An April Fool or a bizarre technical error?

Eu nao sei.

Hello, I would like to take a trip to Jamestown, NY to visit EVERYTHING I Love Lucy! I am a great fan of the old show, yet NO ONE is even slightly interested in going with me. I will be travelling by myself. I really do not wish to drive, would like to take the bus or train. Do you have any suggestions? Would like every thing included - any site fees, lodging stay, museum fees., etc. Safe enough to go alone? Thanks!

If you don't want to drive, you could do a very long haul trip of taking Amtrak to Buffalo via Penn Station, then connecting to a bus. Amtrak says it's 17 hours! Not sure what you mean by "would like everything included" -- I don't think there are too many all-inclusive packages. But really, you should contact their tourism office for more information. And I'm positive they would tell you it's very safe as a solo traveler!

Hi! I'm trying to plan a 2 week vacation in California this August for two grandparents, two parents, and two three and a half year olds. The trip has to include at least three days in Santa Cruz (visiting family), and the grandparents are reasonably active but have some mobility limitations. The kids are pretty decent travelers, but driving more than 2 or 3 hours at a stretch is painful. Any suggestions from the experts or the chatters about a good itinerary and or home base (or home bases)? We thought about the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but is there enough for little kids in that area to make it a good home base? Also have some friends in Sacramento we'd love to see, so wouldn't mind gradually moving north. I'm sort of overwhelmed by the options, and google is not being very helpful. Seems like maybe I need to pick a few towns and focus? Thanks so much for your help!

You're absolutely right. Too many choices! If you're in the Santa Cruz area, you need to take the kids to the aquarium in Monterey. I was there with two preschoolers last year, and I had to drag them away. Bring your camera; there are lots of great photo opportunities. The area around Monterey is really beautiful, and you could easily spend a few days walking, visiting museums, and chasing your kids around one of the many parks. But you could also head north to Northern California's famous wine country, which offers a lot for kids, too. (Ours loved the Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, Calif.). Plus, it's reasonably close to Sacramento. Basically, you can't go wrong, either way.

Hello Crew. I'm going to Japan in June for about 2 weeks. I haven't planned out what I'm going to do while I'm there so I thought I'd see if you or the chatters have any recommendations? I'm flying into Narita and then thought about going to Kyoto for a couple of nights but I'm really up for anything. I don't speak Japanese so I may not be able to do non-"touristy" things. Oh, and I usually plan my trips around food so restaurant ideas would be great too. Any recommendations will be greatly appreciated!

I'm so itching to get back to Japan. I definitely think you should get to Kyoto for a few days. Try to see some temples (Kinkaku-ji, or Temple of the Golden Pavilion, is breathtaking, even if it's crowded). If you can afford it, splurge on a traditional ryokan in Kyoto. A friend and I stayed in Hiiragiya there, and while it was I believe almost $500 apiece fot the night, it was worth it -- for the beautiful decor, for the private and communal baths, for the traditional making-up-your-bed service, and for the full kaiseki-style tasting-menu breakfast and dinner (the latter would be $250 alone outside a ryokan anyway).

As for Tokyo, wow, there's so much. I've often sung the praises of the Tsukiji Fish Market (and sushi for breakfast at any place there that has a line). My other favorite restaurant experience there was at Tenmatsu for the best tempura I've ever had.

I tried Kangeroo stew in Oz as well -- it was terrible! So then when I was doing a home stay I asked my hosts about trying kangeroo - I figured maybe they'd prepare it differently. They told me kangeroo meat is only for dogs......

I'm in Columbia, MD and my friend is in Memphis, TN. I'm trying to think of a cool city, where we could hang out and do/see interesting things for a weekend. Preferably someplace that wouldn't be too painful to get to by air from BWI or MEM. All I could come up with is Atlanta or New Orleans, but we've been to both together before. Any ideas?

Becky mentioned this earlier, so maybe that's why I have it on the brain, but how bout Charleston?

Hi, hope you can help me with this question. I am trying to estimate the cost of our family vacations to Europe. 2 adults and 2 teenagers (13 and 14). We are planning to visit Madrid, Rome and Paris for 14 days ( around 4 to 5 days in each city). We are planning to travel end of June. We are not looking for expensive hotels but we want to be in a safe place. Could you help estimate ball park the cost of the trip? Your help is really appreciated

Sorry, but there are so many variables (food, attractions, transportation, accommodations) that I'm not sure we can even venture a guess. You might want to hook up with a good travel agent to help you. You could also check out BudgetYourTrip.com to see if it can provide any insight.

Planning to visit Banff Park in Canada for a week in late August. Would like to add another week to the trip. What else should I look at in Canada or Montana? Will rent a car. Should I fly into Calgary or Great Falls, MT?

If you're renting a car, head north to Jasper for a few days. We just returned from the area, and the 148-mile drive, which takes you along the Columbia Icefields, is easily one of the most beautiful drives we've ever experienced. As a bonus, the wildlife in Jasper is unlike any you'll find in any North American national park. It literally stops traffic often. Bring your camera! 

I asked last week about the best trip you've taken.... If you could re-do one vacation that you've taken because it wasn't what you hoped. Where was it, what did you do and what would you have done differently.

What's up with these questions? Are you doing research for a book or something? :-)

I could not be more opposite from the first poster. Depending on the destination, food is often just as important as sites. I think it is such an easy entry point into the culture of a place, so it's not all about gluttony. My favorite food memory is, though. After a long journey to Lerici, Italy, our first dinner at Il Pescatori lived up to all expectations of an Italian meal. When a cart was wheeled out, we thought we were to make selections from among the assortment. No, it was all for us--and this was just antipasti. Grilled, fried, raw, we ate it all and finished with an amazing seafood pasta, followed by limoncello of course.

Nice. One of my favorite food memories was in Italy, too (natch). It was in Florence, and I was struggling with the language, but one way I tried to practice with menu-Italian was to just say "yes" to whatever I was asked about, and then wait to see what happened, and try to connect them. In a place with just the most beautiful grilled and roasted foods (everything you could imagine, roasted with tons of olive oil and garlic), I mistakenly ordered enough wine for 2 people. I stayed for hours and left very happy (and full).

I spent four months backpacking through Europe in the mid-80s. I decided early on that my limited budget allowed me to do things or eat things, but not both. So I ate the continental breakfasts available at the youth hostels, and otherwise limited myself to one full meal a week. Then I got to Spain, which was very cheap in those days. A dinner of roasted rabbit with potatoes, green beans and a carafe of wine was wonderfully delicious, and set me back a mere $2.50. It remains one of the most memorable meals of my life, and probably couldn't be replicated anywhere for that price these days.

All together, now: Ahhhhh, Spain.

We are going to New Zealand for several weeks in February 2014. We need advice about whether to include a few days in Christchurch. How is it, after the earthquakes?

Christchurch is still making its way back from the earthquake, but it's already come a very very long way. Many attractions and businesses have reopened, and tourism will help the city rebound even further. There's still some earthquake damage to be seen in the "red zone" -- the city center that was cordoned off after the quake -- but it's growing smaller by the day, and has even become a tourist attraction in itself. Christchurch is a lovely city. I'd give it a couple of days, for sure.

We've done this multiple times. It's the European way to go (with car). Overnight can be interesting in rough weather...these roll on-roll off ferries do not have the same stabilizers as ocean liners. It's a way to see how Europeans travel (Americans on board are quite obvious). If possible, make certain you do not have to use the upper bunks.

Ah yes - bad weather and boats -- a lethal combination! Thanks for your input.

My then-boyfriend and I had been traveling in Argentina for about a week with no luggage, limited Spanish, and unseasonable hot and muggy weather. I had a gluten allergy, so I had been eating steak, chicken, and french fries and was craving something healthy. We stopped at a local market and I saw these magnificent looking grapes, but neither of us could remember the word for grapes. After 10 minutes of trying to explain that we wanted the thing before wine, I remembered my 7th grade Spanish vocabulary and finally got the grapes I wanted so badly. (They ended up being totally gross and giving me horrible GI distress, but every time I hear "uvas" I can't help but smiling).

Oh, we could have an entire thread on GI distress from traveling, couldn't we? Glad you survived.

I'll be taking the kids to NYC. Best things to do? We're going to do circle line (since no liberty island :( ) - and empire state building. Is top of the rock worth it? Is the citypass worth it? Is there a good subway map app? Taking them to a broadway show. museum of natural history. Kid wants to go to MOMA (maybe the met too?). I know - times square. Is the south street seaport still worth it? Not so excited about the 9/11 memorial, we'll skip it. Maybe the central park zoo. chinatown. Anything that's not obvious that i'm missing (we went on the ferris wheel in toys r us last time - not so excited, but may end up there again).

Chatters, correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm not sure you'll need to do both the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock. You can get MTA system maps from the agency. Maybe someone has another favorite app to recommend? Here are more kid-friendly ideas. I also think the High Line is cool for all ages. When I was there last summer, there were some kid-friendly activities going on, as well as performances, ice cream carts and more.

Here's a twist on the travel/food question. I am not a vegetarian, and I quite enjoy various types of meat. Many of my friends are vegetarian (or vegan!), however, and we often travel together. Any tips on how to balance this out? Should we just take separate meals if, say, we're in Istanbul and I want to go to a famous kebab place but there aren't any veggie options? (We are actually thinking of going to Istanbul later this year -- and I don't want to miss out on authentic meaty fare, so tips specific to that city/country are welcome!)

That's an interesting question, possibly more about your style of traveling with your friends than anything else. Generally, I would say that if/when you want to be social, go to places where everyone has some decent options. But when it comes time to hit that famous place that you can't resist, maybe you can all work together to find a great vegetable-focused place they can try that night...

So, if we fly to Paris and take a train to Chartes, Mont-St.-Michel, and then get to the Normandy WWII beach (I have a personal interest because of a WWII family member who survived the invasion on a paraglider), would you suggest where we should stay near all of those sites before returning to Paris?

I would do the Normandy beaches before Mont St. Michel -- they lie between Paris and the Mont. The only place I've stayed is Mont St. Michel, and I would definitely advise you to stay on the mount itself -- there are only a handful of hotels and they're all comparable, so it doesn't matter which one you choose -- just book soon! We'll have to ask the chatters for advice on Chartres and Normany beaches lodging. Folks?

My inlaws had invited themselves on our family vacation, and wanted to take us out to dinner. I made the mistake of suggesting the kind of place we like - creative food, craft beers, lots of ambiance - instead of the kind of place they liked - your typical family restaurant. It was a very busy night, and the waitress was obviously stressed, which added to the problems. My MIL complained that this was not a good place to take children, ostentatiously scraped the edible flowers off her entree, and declared that tipping was unnecessary for such bad service. Meanwhile, we were sitting out on a deck overlooking a beautiful river, and my entree was so outstanding that I savored the memory of its taste for days, something that almost never happens for me. It was truly a best of times, worst of times kind of experience

Sometimes being with people who don't share your opinion of a place can ruin things, but sometimes it just clarifies for you the differences between you and them, and you can still enjoy yourself...

I remember the very first time I went to NYC, all I wanted to do was get a hotdog from a cart....the two attempts while there were thwarted by: a cart that had run out of dogs...and me not realizing that the carts in Central Park were not operational 24/7!! Final day, on the way to the airport, we were stopped at an intersection and there was a cart on the corner!! The driver graciously circled the block so I could get out to purchase one and eat it on the way to the airport.

That's a good cabbie.

I enjoyed a magnificent Seafood Pasta dish in a tavern in St Peter Port, Guernsey. It had mussels and oysters and a tomato white wine sauce that still makes my mouth water. It was a six hour cruise stop and by far the most memorable.

So good to hear that you found something delicious on a cruise stop...

No easy way to get to Jamestown, NY without driving -- but drive is relatively easy 6 to 7 hours with little interstate once past Breezewood -- I'm actually headed up there this week from DC. But one can fly to Erie (about 1 hour drive from there but from DC need to change planes either in Pittsburgh or Cleveland) or Buffalo ((2 hour drive) -- There is an airport in Jamestown -- i think via Cleveland, but maybe only in summer. Once in Jamestown/Chautauqua area -- you still need a car. But all facilities -- hotels/motels etc. exist. Lucy Museum is wonderful. Three day festival celebrating Luc & Desi in August.

Great. Nice to hear from someone with experience!

My favorite food memory is from a trip to London a few years ago. My husband and I spent a few short days in London on a trip to visit his family. While we were there, my husband (major sweet tooth) desperately wanted to stop somewhere for an afternoon tea. On our last day, on our way to the train station, we stopped at a lovely little tea shop in Bloomsbury and had an AMAZING afternoon tea. Turns out we had stumbled on a bit of a hidden gem--a wonderful, but fairly inexpensive, little shop that did the most fabulous tea. It was a great way to end our quick stop in London.

Perfect.

In Tianjin, PRC, in June 2001 I was a guest at a meal in a private room where more than 50 dishes were served. We were seated at a very large round table and as a dish would become empty or close to empty, another dish with yet another food item would appear. No sauces to hide the fresh flavors of the seafood and vegetables. Everything was delicious and nothing like any Chinese food I had before or since in the States. Most interestingly, at the end of the meal the hosts wanted to do karaoke (there was an area with sofas and a TV to the side). While pictures of the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, etc. were shown, the music was "Jingle Bells." A most interesting evening.

I'll say!

while studying abroad, one weekend we went to spain (that's another story, tried to get to barcelona, ended up in san sebastian). Anyway - we went out to dinner with some people we met on the train. We had a few bottles of wine, and ordered the 'meat with sauce' that was on the menu. We got our dinner - and my friend kept saying we were eating rabbit. And I think I had never had rabbit before. And then we kept trying to get each other to laugh and cry by saying: you're eating bugs bunny! it's the easter bunny! people keep rabbits as pets! That kinda stuff. With enough spanish wine, it was all good....

Your last line would make a good T-shirt slogan in some quarters.

OK, spill the Kouign Amann beans...what's your Paris source? Are you with David Lebovitz on Larnicol or Ble Sucre? Or do you have a secret source? My favorite ever was in Concarneau in Brittany, but my favorite in Paris was unexpectedly from a unpromising-looking vendor at the Salon de l'Agriculture, the giant annual farming/livestock/food show. The Kouign Amann was under an American-style pizza heat lamp, but man was it heavy, buttery, and salty.

Yes, I'm with David, but now I must go to the SdlA.

Nope not doing any research - I just like to find out the best and worst things. Call it nosy.

Well, okay, but I fear I can't supply you with an example of a trip that didn't work out. If things don't go quite as expected when I travel, I just make lemonade from those lemons! Maybe the chatters have stories of trips gone awry that they can share. Let's hear from you, people!

Flying in to Paris is advised. To really see most of what you'd want to see in Normandy, you will need a car, and it is pretty easy to manage. Yes, trains to go Bayeux, Mont St. Michele (acttually a bit further away in Pontsoron, but a bus goes directly to Mont St Michele from Rouen train station to Mere Poulard's Inn), but getting from train to sites (Omaha Beach, Bayeux tapestry, etc) is not easy without a car. Made the mistake the 1st time and had to rent a car in Caen. 2nd time, we rented out of Paris at an Avis near the outer road around Paris and it worked out great.

I agree that it's easier with a car.

My wife and I honeymooned on Crete, in a small coastal village about 20 km from Heraklion, the largest city on the island. We passed all the shops that offered souvlaki (and wiener schnitzel, fish and chips, and spaghetti). Away from the beach, we passed this little taverna, and decided to give it a shot. We were a little worried when we sat down and were handed a 6-page menu, but when the owner came over he took one of the menus and pointed to perhaps a half-dozen items and said "Today we have this, this, and... this." I had the most delicious lemon pork I've ever had. A couple of days later we went in and they were having grilled fish. We were invited in to the kitchen to pick our fish. Amazing! One time we were dining and we asked him how they chose what to offer on any particular day, and he said "It's whatever my wife want to cook in the morning." We later found out the spot was one of the most popular with the locals, and we can vouch for its wonderful food and friendly service. We still talk about returning many years later.

That's my kind of menu...

please also be mindful of differences in cost. I (vegan, non-drinker) once traveled with a group who ate meat and drank lots of beer. I didn't mind except when they split the bill evenly. I finally started to be proactive and just toss in my share as soon as the waiter brought the bill and before my companions did the math....

My favorite restaurant in Taiwan (where I lived for 8 years- in 2 chunks 20 years apart) is Ding Tai Feng (http://www.dintaifung.com.tw/en/default.htm) for the xiao long bao (pork "soup" dumplings). There is a spoonful of broth in each delicious dumpling. When I first went there in the 80's, the restaurant facilities were very basic - formica tables, slightly grungy walls - but the food was fantastic! My husband and I met in Taiwan, and we went there on our first date. About ten years later, we travelled through Taiwan with our five-year daughter, and took her there (of course). She ate one steamer basket by herself. Back in Taiwan 10 years later, it was the first and the last restaurant we visited. It had also been renovated, and now looked like a boutique restaurant. All the Japanese tour groups visit it. Besides the dumplings, they do great vegetables, soups, noodles, fried rice. My daughter is also very partial to their steamed red bean paste dumplings for dessert. (When she was little she thought red bean paste tasted like chocolate.)

A soup dumpling is a thing of beauty. If I'm in Taiwan, I might have to relax the vegetarianism to have some of these, because in NYC I've been just blown away by the taste.

I am a vegetarian - and there are ALWAYS vegetarian options. Even when I was taken to an argentinian steakhouse in amsterdam. Really. They actually had something on the menu (it was a salad and vegetables). Just be open - as in - you may take her to a kebab place (she can always get rice and veggies) but then be open to going somewhere she wants to go.

Traveling from Spain to Morocco on the ferry, I met a man who was on his way home. We spent the whole time talking and when we got off the ferry he invited me to his home for dinner. While there, I had the most wonderful mint tea I have ever had, and the food was amazing. This was an unexpected detour, but I got to experience some of the real Morocco and people there and see some if the culture. It was a wonderful pat if my trip.

Phenomenal.

I loved goign to the indonesian riistaffel (sp?) - it was awesome. I was alone most of the time (a month there for work)...so I had to get the smaller one from the menu rather than the larger ones, but it was so yummy. The food in amsterdam was so good...yummy indian/pakistani food as well.

I was in germany, staying at a hotel with a HUGE breakfast (meats and cheeses and everything you could dream of). I remember gouging myself at that WONDERFUL breakfast buffet (I was a student, limited money, spent probably too much on that hotel). And then I had my train ride back to france where I had to be for class the next morning. I didn't eat the rest of the day - the point of gouging myself - to save some money... it was so good.

Trudging along the hot streets of Rome and coming upon a outdoor cart that sold big hunks of ice-cold watermelon. And wondering, why don't we do that in the States?

Headed to Atlantic City this weekend, but I'm not much of a gambler. Any suggestions for fun things to do nearby and where to eat?

We did a nice little package on the new Revel resort last year. Here's Tim Carman's piece on the dining scene and Andrea's on the rest of the resort.

We love to travel and we love to try local foods, so I have lots of wonderful travel/food memories, but one that is a classic family story now. In a restaurant in Granada, Spain my husband asked me what a Tortilla Sacromonte was. I wasn't sure, but said maybe it was made with ham. (Tortilla in Spain is an omelet, BTW). He ordered it and said it sure didn't taste like ham. The next day as we wandered around, I glanced at another menu, posted outside another restaurant, as is common in Spain. It was a little more informative: Tortilla Sacromonte: sesos y criadillas. When I informed my husband that he had eaten brains and testicles he gasped and said "Whose?"

Priceless.

My boyfriend and I went to Italy last summer and stayed three days in Naples. As soon as we arrived and checked in, I insisted that we set out to Da Michele for pizza. Our hotel receptionist showed us on the map that it was a close 10 minute walk from the hotel. It seemed very straightforward, but somehow, we got completely lost on the way and ended up asking eight different people for directions (all of whom were friendly, but were unable to help despite us having everything written down in Italian), including one very friendly local woman who walked around with us for 20 minutes trying to figure it out. After over an hour of walking around in the 85 degree heat, we made it to Da Michele. My boyfriend said, I must really love you to be walking around for an hour looking for a pizza joint! Once we had our first bite, it was totally worth it, and indeed, it was only a ten minute walk back to the hotel. *embarrassed* We ate pizza for three days straight in Naples. It was fantastic.

I bet it tasted extra good because of the work involved in finding it!

A week in Mongolia...in the countryside, not UB, was a real adventure in food, among other things! I think having a real Mongolia BarBQ, cooked in our ger (round tent house) over our woodstove would have to be the most amazing. We started by picking up a nice freshly killed lamb which we carried along with us all day, no refreigeration of course, until we arrived at our host ger for the night. It was cooked by the man of the host camp (not the women) and he added potatoes and carrots and onions over a roaring fire in a heavy pot weighted down with a rock...a pressure cooker of sorts. It was served to us around the table in our ger with shots of bad vodka. I can still see our Mongolia guide gleefully slurping down the gobs of fat from the bone while my friend and I daintly ate around the fat as we chewed on our ribs. It may not have been my favorite meal ever while traveling (see: Italy!) but it was sure the most INTERESTING!

First, I applaud Joe for writing the piece. Some people will never understand, but some of us have food on our minds all the time, and have a hard time finding that pleasure and adventure anywhere else. I've been to Paris 5 times, all 3-4 day trips, and have not been to one museum. Every morning I left the hotel with a list of museums to see, only to be lured by little cafes, backstreets, food shops, and bakeries and have absolutely no regrets about it. Most of these trips I was either a student or a limited budget, so it was either the museums or the food. One of the reasons why I got to see the museums in London was because they are free, and they have pretty good food. I kept going back to the Victoria & Albert Museum because of their 5 pound "cream tea" (scone, clotted cream, jam, and a pot of tea made using loose tea) in the afternoons was so tasty, and of course, since I was there, I got to see more galleries. They also had very tasty pot pies, roasted lamb and vegetables, great number of sandwiches and salads etc. I heard that London museums looked into this couple years ago and decided to award a contract to one of the local companies after some kind of process, in which local people also got to vote (I think if Smithsonian looked into this, there would be more visitors, with limited options on the Mall, it is one of the things I consider when I plan visits to the museums or have guests to show our town. Most of the food at our museums are almost inedible, except for American Indian Museum, and terribly expensive) I have many food memories, but one of the best was last year, having oysters and champagne at Harrods food hall, not because I am a luxurious eater, but simply because I loved the experience of being surrounded by so much food and food-centric people especially because I was traveling alone over the holidays. Coming from a middle class family with peasant roots, I considered myself incredibly fortunate to be in that place and with an understanding of most of the products around me, which was almost a spiritual experience that brought tears to my eyes, in a way I never experienced in front of an object or in a place of worship.

Thanks!

Joe, I'm with you - all about the food when I travel! Husband and I make lists, and reservations, before we leave town. But one of my favorite food memories involves sheer happenstance. We were in Tokyo, visiting my brother-in-law and his Japanese girlfriend. They're not nearly as food-obsessed as we are, so while we always had good meals, none were especially memorable, and we'd sort of resigned ourselves to that part, since they were our hosts. But one night we took a boat cruise up the Sumida at sunset, winding up in Asakusa, and looked around for a place to eat before hopping on the train. We wound up at a little yakitori place where we were the only gaijin, and learned that much like sushi, you can tell the chef "omakase" and sit back to enjoy an amazing meal. Chicken parts I certainly didn't recognize, but some of the best food I've ever eaten.

It's true that as much as you plan, sometimes it's the serendipity that really makes for a good food experience. That tempura restaurant in Tokyo I mentioned? My friend Devra and I stumbled on it at the end of a long day, and we were hungry and walking around without a plan, and starting to get cranky (I call it "hangry") when we saw it. The name rang a bell from all our guidebook reading, and boy were we glad we found it.

I strongly encourage you not to do the drive alone-- you will take Route 15 to I86 and it is a long, boring stretch of road that you will be so bored that you can easily fall asleep and just be a bad driver. I live there and do not do it alone. Instead, look at going to the Chautauqua Institution-- it is a short drive away and may be perfect for you. From there you can easily find a trip over (not many people drive) and Chautauqua is amazing!

More advice for the "I Love Lucy" lover. Thanks.

When I went with a teen tour, one of my friends had been there many times before. Yes, there was a lot of GREAT food in israel. BUT I completely remember her taking us to this place in jerusalem called: don't pass me by, cakes and pies. We went there a bunch (we were in jerusalem for three weeks and had lots of time to ourselves) - and it was this hole in the wall with the best desserts ever. I remember when we only had a couple of days left and we were like: we have to get some more pie!

I would definitely make a beeline to a place by that name. Also, I love pie.

When I lived in atlanta, our next door neighbor owned a restaurant there. He found out we were going to charleston, where he has another restaurant (there are actually two in charleston). So he finds the tiniest scrap of paper, and writes out: **his name** gives a free meal for **our name**. So, we figure, hey we'll check out the restaurant (it was on the water). If we have to pay for our meal, well, whatever. So we order dinner, maybe dessert (can't remember) - and then the check comes. we explain everythign to the waitress and give her the paper. We figure they will tell us we are crazy. Waitress comes back - and tells us everything is taken care of - no problem. I maybe saw a wink -like, they've seen this before, don't worry, they know that one owner's a bit nutty. But we had a nice time, and left a great tip.

My husband and I just got back from a WONDERFUL 9-day trip to Istanbul! Can't recommend it highly enough. But, neither of our debit cards (Wells Fargo and a dinky WV bank) would work at point of sale (stores, restaurants). They did work at ATMs, thank heavens! So, we just kept withdrawing Turkish lira and paying for everything in cash. It is possible that the language barrier kept us from being understood; perhaps sales staff should have been doing something differently with our stupid American bank cards. Needless to say, before our next international trip, we will be opening an account at Bank of America, which offers a chip + PIN card. When are our banks going to catch up to the rest of the world when it comes to issuing secure credit cards that use the chip + PIN system????

We can't seem to get enough of this topic! I think I'm going to try to put something on chip-and-PIN together for our annual travel guide coming up in May. Anyone with thoughts/experiences to share can e-mail me at krystalr@washpost.com.

Poutine seems to be slightly trendy and as someone who lives not far from Quebec, I have had poutine in Queenstown NZ, British Columbia, Maine, Vermont, and similar "unholy mess" dishes with names other than poutine in other countries. Perhaps I spend too much time in bars? You have your food Joe; I have my beer.

Cheers!

I spent a semester of college in Edinburgh, Scotland. The program I was with put us up in various B&B's. The lovely lady who ran ours offered to give us some traditional Scottish fare with breakfast if we'd like. We had some very "interesting" breakfast. Haggis wasn't so bad, but blood pudding at 7:30AM was beyong my palate! (I'm pretty srue blood pudding at any time of day is beyond my palate!). My father makes maple syrup and sent a bottle over before I returned. We turned it over to Mrs. Miller and she offered to make french toast for breakfast so we could all enjoy it. Never having seen maple syrup, she was surprised at how thick it was...so she watered it down before she served it. There were some very disappointed college students sitting at breakfast that morning!

So many great and interesting tastes throughout my travels, puffin served on lava plates in Iceland, live/raw sea urchin in Korea, real mongolian barbecue in China, a cooking class in S. Africa in which we made awesome dumplings and spicy alligator, even enjoying a glass of lemoncello atop our hotel overlooking the Roman Colosseum as the sun set. My favorite ever, however, was the incredible Andalusian gazpacho in Spain. It took me several tries and I finally made a passable version of this at home but nothing comes close to the experience of having first tasted it in a cafe next to the incredible Mezquita in Cordoba.

just out of college in the early 80s.....vegetarian...took a bus to visit my former roommate in New England. After a 20 hour ride, got off the Greyhound (starving!) and there was a street vendor selling tofu-pups! Thought I'd gone to heaven....

I can see why!

when we were in san fran, we went to the stinking rose, a big tourist attraction - my husband and I both LOVE garlic. So, well, for dessert - we figured we HAD TO try the garlic ice cream. we hated it. it was terrible.

Yep. Just because you love it doesn't mean you want it in ice cream!

About ten years ago, in Peru. I showed up a few days before a business conference and had a weekend to entertain myself. I found a place that offered horseback riding. I ended up on an all day horseback ride in the mountains and beaches south of Lima. During our ride we stopped and tethered our horses outside a little beach shack - directly on the beach yards from the Pacific Ocean. The guys inside were making ceviche and other Peruvian delicacies. We ate well and continued. My first time with ceviche. Two memories later that day: galloping along the beach and losing my camera to the surf (fell out of pocket) and that night getting quite sick to my stomach from the ceviche. Not food poisoning - I think all that lemon juice did a number on my stomach - I felt gut punched. I recovered by morning and had more in the week.

Great story. I hate to differ with you, but I do think it was the ceviche, not the lemon juice that did a number on your stomach...

I studied abroad in nice, france. we fell in love with the croissants. I had a chocolate croissant and cafe au lait every morning for breakfast. I thought it was SO good. Then I went to paris. OMG. It was ridiculous. They must put a stick of butter in each croissant in paris. It was just so amazing.

Last year while I was in London, I went to Borough Market and walked around to see and sample the food from the vendors. Then I bought raclette (this is where they broil half a wheel of the cheese under the heat and scoop it over boiled potatoes, and serve with cornichons), paired it with thinly sliced truffle mortadella, and a hoppy beer from eastern England on pink outdoor tables at the yard of the church next door. The cheese had a caramely crust on tiny creamy potatoes, the cornichons were wonderfully briny, the mortadella with truffles was melting on your tongue, and hops in the beer made everything pop in your mouth like fireworks. The happiness must have reflected to my face because the Spanish people who were sitting next to me came by and asked about what I was eating and they went to look for the same. After that almost religious experience, I went to get a beautiful cup of espresso from the Monmouth coffee , and paired it with one piece of truffle. I love art but no piece I've seen so far (including the Vatican and lots of other museums in Italy and London) made me feel that way, as if my body was elevated and looking down on me. And the best part is, any time I recall that experience, I can still feel that way.

Oh, raclette. Yes!

I will be heading to Bali and Vietnam in mid-January. I know you aren't psychics but do you think it's better to book flights now or hope they will go down in a few months?

I'm seeing flights to Saigon at just about $1,100 right now. That seems like a reasonable fare to me. But you do have some time. I doubt that fares will go down -- airfares are not going down, folks -- but there may be some sales. You could sign up for fare alerts and maybe nab a sale when it comes along. But don't wait too long, or the fare may actually go up.

Hi there, my daughter and I would like to rent a car to drive from Missoula to Portland, Oregon this coming June but we are having difficulty finding an option that is affordable, one without a huge drop-off fee for the one way rental. Any suggestions for affordable car rentals in this area of the country? Thanks!

Any chatters from Montana who could offer some advice here?

Our family is considering chartering a bus next year to attend a wedding. There would be about 20-25 of us going from Owings in Calvert County, Maryland, to Chicago, leaving on Friday and returning on Sunday. We thought it sounded like a lot of fun, less expensive than flying, and more convenient than individual families making what might be about a 10-hour drive. Do you think it's a good idea and, if so, should we contact individual bus companies or use a transportation service like Bus Bank to make arrangements for us?

Afraid we have no experience actually chartering a bus. let's ask the chatters for their input on this. Help us out, people.

Cafe Cimino Country Inn offers truly wonderful food and lodging in the small, historic district of Sutton, WV. Easy access to Interstate 79. We often plan our travel route through WV to include dinner or an overnight, if needed.

Thanks!!

Joe - just read your article on travel revolving around food. Was wondering if your sleek Milan dining experience was Cracco Peck? Probably the fanciest place I'd eaten up until then, and the staff spoke almost no English. The experience is full of memories, but one of the lines that we recall often is when I asked a question about ingredients in a dish on the menu and they replied "How you say, cow nerve?"

It wasn't Cracco Peck, but I must check CP out the next time I'm in Milan... However, I'd have to buy another Armani suit first, wouldn't I?

Traveling to Portland for a long weekend the end of April and looking for recommendations for things to see/do. We are three active and adventurous ladies in our 30s who appreciate the outdoors and anything off-beat/interesting and great food/wine. We've some ideas of what to do but additional suggestions by you or the posters on can't-miss spots/events would be most appreciated, thank you!

We're running out of time, but you could spend so much time in Portland outside: Forest Park, Rose Test Garden, Japanese Garden, Chinese Garden, Rhododendron Garden, Arboretum. And more!

Eating mopani worms in South Africa. I'm an adventurous eater, so I couldn't say no. The consistency was incredibly odd. I did manage to make it through 4 bites (and swallows!) before giving up. My friend managed to snap some food - my face is quite memorable.

I'll bet! How did they taste? I have often thought there's a story in so-called bizarre foods that don't actually have that much flavor. Grasshoppers and fugu come to mind.

For the chatter going to NY, Hop Stop is a wonderful subway app. Put in your departure and arrival points and it gives you step by step instructions.

I have found that in some places, if you ask them to manually run your card, they are able to do so that way (let them know it is not a chip card). Our banks definitely need to get on board and update our cards!

Depending on the age, tenement house museum in the lower east side is great. They run tours, too -- even a food tour through the neighborhood.

Check out the Central Park Conservancy's website. Great stuff to do, including free tours for kids.

I was going from atlanta to Ft lauderdale, but... i bought a last minute fare because of illness...and i was tracking for a day or so - where the NEXT day fare was relatively inexpensive compared to the two day from now fare, so I waited a day to go... last minute fares aren't always crazy - start tracking what that is NOW (i.e., put in tomorrow's date, and see where it takes you). You may end up getting a last minute fare for less than you realized.

Joe, you're a man after my own heart. Rest assured, you can eat really well in Siem Reap. My husband and I still get misty thinking about the fish amok we had there. Just stay out of the hotel dining rooms and wander the town.

Noted.

A trip to Curacao would be the better bet. Although once you see that impossibly blue water and white sand in Aruba you may never want to leave. Be sure to rent a car on Aruba, even for a day, and journey to the "wild side" of the island to see sharply contrasting beauty....crashing waves, almost no development. Just came back from a week in Aruba...ahhh.

Another argument for taking the plane from Britain to France is that the channel can be very rough. On one hydrofoil trip I calculated that about 40% of the passengers were making full use of the barf bags. Fortunately they ventilate the ship very aggressively which presumably helps others keep their stomachs under control.

Are you sure you really want to spend an entire WEEK on Inishmore? I've been there. It is beautiful; there are rocks and sheep. Rocks and sheep are lovely, but 48 hours of them is usually enough. I highly suggest making plans to visit Galway and other mainland towns for your five extra days.

I'll be on business next week in Galway, Ireland. I will have 1.5 days free to see sights and head back to Dublin for my flight. Any ideas?

You can explore Galway City itself -- it has lots of interesting sights. St. Nicholas's Collegiate Church is a medieval cathedral still in use in the heart of the city. The Spanish Arch and the monument to Christopher Columbus. The ruins of Menlo Castle just outside town. Or you could rent a car and drive out about 30 miles and visit a bunch of castles (it's Ireland, after all) -- Dunguaire Castle, Athenry Castle, Aughnanure Castle. It'd be a lovely drive in the countryside. Chatters, what do you suggest?

Not really a question but an observation of what happened to us on our return flight. My family flew last Saturday and apparently for some reason they have no record of my son being on the outbound flight. I have his boarding pass and he in fact did take the flight. We're pretty sure we didn't leave our 3 year old at DCA. When my husband checked us in for the flight yesterday US Air claims my son didn't take the outbound leg so they were about to cancel his ticket home. He spent about 10 minutes on the phone with them and was able to convince them that the 3 year old really did come along with us. Aside from having his boarding pass, which I normally don't keep after the flight, how would you prove you in fact did take the flight? I'm assuming his age and my husband's status on the airline helped resolve the situation. How can they have no record of someone being on a flight?

Yeah, this is one of the reasons we don't advise people to skip out on legs of their trips to get somewhere other than the final destination for cheaper. These days when you can print your own passes at home or at the airport, having one doesn't mean you actually got on the flight. It's possible that for one reason or another the agent at the gate never scanned your son's pass or it didn't take. But I do think his age probably helped in your situation!

On the island of Syros of Greece, we took a public bus to a beach area 20 mins from the main city of the island. We stayed in a quaint inn right across from the beach and the little restaurant (only one really operating off season) was called Sunset Restaurant. Besides the beautiful sunset each evening, we had an unforgettable grilled whole stuffed squid (stuffing was feta, olive paste, seasoning) with luscious fresh veggies as sides. One of us had it every night for three nights, so I could figure out the ingredients and recreate it some day. I finally asked the owner and he told me all of his secrets, but then mentioned his specialty isn't even on the menu -- lobster ravioli! But we were leaving the next day and have vowed to go back some day. Memorable three days in May.

The check has arrived, so you know what that means -- we're done.

Thanks for the great q's today -- and the great food-memory stories. I can't help but give the prize for our favorite to the chatter who wrote in about Tortilla Sacromonte. Priceless! Send your mailing info to Becky at krystalr@washpost.com, and we'll get you something nifty.

See you next week!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Travel editor.
Zofia Smardz
Zofia Smardz is the deputy editor of Travel.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is Travel's editorial aide.
Christopher Elliott
Christopher Elliott writes The Navigator column, clearing the way through the fog of consumer travel issues. He is also National Geographic Traveler magazine's reader advocate.
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