Talk about Travel

Aug 05, 2013

Talk about Travel is here to help at 2 p.m. Mondays.
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Past Talk about Travel chats

Hello travelers. What a glorious day to chat.

As usual, send us your questions, comments and concerns, and we will provide expert insights -- or call on the chatters for their input.

For today's question: Tell us about your favorite destination that celebrates a literary legacy or author. (For inspiration, see Sunday's piece about Dante's Florence.) Best answer wins a full set of encyclopedias, or something with words and a cover.

I know it's early to be thinking about, but I decided to look up prices for my annual trip to Cleveland at Thanksgiving. I know airfare has gone up in the last few years, and Thanksgiving is an expensive time to travel - but the tickets are showing as around $525. Do you think there's any chance the price would come down, or do you think it's only in danger of going up?? Thanks!!

Wow -- $525, really? You're talking about flying out of Washignton, right? I just looked on Kayak and I'm seeing flights that week for as low as $174 on United out of BWI. About the same on Southwest. If you can get something in the $200 range (or anything else you can afford now), I'd say grab it.

Cleveland is not a bad drive from Washington either. I just did it last month for the first time after having flown for several years.

Loved the Italy issue - we are planning a trip for next June. We are taking a cruise in Italy and Greece, but spending some time on either end in Rome, Florence, and Venice. Looking at the flights from Dulles to Rome, they are about $1,800 per person now, but may come down. Can you recommend a target price to look for or a time when they may go on sale?

So glad you enjoyed the issue.

Unfortunately, June is high season, so rates will be up there. But you should be able to shave a couple hundred off that $1,800 fare. I would look for fares closer to $1,200 or so. Right now, I see Turkish Air has fares from Washington Dulles for $1,184.

I want to visit a couple of places in southern West Virginia, but the drive is over 6 hours. Amtrak goes there, and offers packages. I would like to use one of these packages to get there (Greenbrier, Homestead) but not to stay at the resorts during the day (no golf, no tennis, no spa, trapped into their food choices) while using them as a base to see the Prince C & O station, New River Bridge, Cass steam railway. Doing this requires wheels. I can't find in these resorts on line information that rental cars are available. I know that Hilton, Marriott, and Holiday Inn all have presences in Beckley, but I've always wanted to at least see one of these big resorts. (I would also like to stay in the Awanahee at Yosemite.....).

Any decent resort will arrange a rental car for you. If you're staying at the Greenbrier, ask the concierge for assistance. It looks as if the nearest rental car agencies are at the Greenbrier Valley Airport in nearby Lewisburg, but they should be able to arrange for delivery to the resort, at a fee. I found this reference on the Greenbrier Web site, under "Directions": "Rental cars are available from major rental car agencies, and ground transportation may be arranged with the Greenbrier Transportation Department at 855-453-4858."

Rental cars are available from major rental car agencies and ground transportation may be arranged with The Greenbriers Transportation department by calling 855-453-4858. - See more at: http://www.greenbrier.com/Top-Navigation-Pages/About-Us/Directions.aspx#sthash.plHY7Kxh.dpuf

Rental cars are available from major rental car agencies and ground transportation may be arranged with The Greenbriers Transportation department by calling 855-453-4858.
- See more at: http://www.greenbrier.com/Top-Navigation-Pages/About-Us/Directions.aspx#sthash.plHY7Kxh.dpuf

Rental cars are available from major rental car agencies and ground transportation may be arranged with The Greenbriers Transportation department by calling 855-453-4858.
- See more at: http://www.greenbrier.com/Top-Navigation-Pages/About-Us/Directions.aspx#sthash.plHY7Kxh.dpuf

Is there a list of which Arab countries will not let you enter if you have an Israeli stamp? I am going to Israel this November but plan on going to Dubai and Oman and maybe other places next year. I understand one can ask for a removable entry visa, but I don't want to go to that effort if not necessary.

One way to avoid this issue is to ask the Israeli immigration officer to stamp a separate sheet of a paper, which he or she will do. No hassle, really.  Or you could avoid these countries (and in light of the current State Department alert, you might want to do):

  • Syria
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Kuwait
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Pakistan
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Sudan
  • Yemen

You might want to check with each country in advance, though. The rules could have changed.

Hi! I've been living in San Diego since November and cannot wait to move back to DC once my year here is up. However, I feel like I've missed some things. So if you were to have 3 months left in San Diego, what would be on your bucket list?

Wish Carol, our San Diego expert, were here to answer this, but she isn't, so I'll do my best. Have you been to the Zoo, and the Safari Park? Hiked along the beach in Pacific Beach/Mission Bay? Visited the 15 museums in Balboa Park? Been to the races at Del Mar? Taken in the Gaslamp Quarter? Have you been to the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala? What about the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park? There's a ton to do in and around San Diego, as you surely know. But often, living in a place, you don't get to do as many as you should. Chatters, what else would you recommend?

I'm headed to Vancouver in early October for work & am taking a few extra days at the end of the trip. What's a good way to unwind after a stressful meeting?

Are you up for a little excursion to Vancouver Island? The ferry leaves south of Vancouver and arrives just north of Victoria. You could spend a day or two exploring the lovely British-accented city and then a few more driving around the island. I was there in early October last year, and it was stunning. Just gorgeous. I'd love to unwind there, I can tell you that!

My wife and I are considering a trip to Western North Carolina this fall and we were told to take the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad trip that originates in Bryson City, NC. as a great way to see some fall colors. Have you had any feedback on this trip?

That sounds like a great way to see the fall colors. We have never taken that train trip, so chatters . . . can you help out?

This won't be original, but Prince Edward Island, for Anne of Green Gables. Other than electricity and motor vehicles, PEI doesn't seem all that changed from Anne's time. That's even discounting all of the touristy "Anne" stuff scattered around the island. It was a charming place to visit as an Anne fan.

Oh, I have fond memories of Anne and PEI. Great choice!

Regarding the cheaper fares you found to Rome on Turkish Airlines, that's nice, but the routing is IAD-IST-FCO. Turkish Airlines' service is supposed to be really good, but the chatter needs to factor in the additional travel time and the potential for major problems if they miss a connection at IST. (Admittedly, the connection is 5+35 outbound and 3+00 on the return, so it's not likely they will miss it, but that's a lot of extra travel time.)

Good point. If you want nonstop, you pay for that convenience. Connections cost less, but you run the risk of a missed flight. The nonstop during that same June period is $1,800.

A day in Portland and two full days in Bar Harbor. What are some of the best things to do. We will be with teenagers who are good for a 1 or two hour hike but then get bored with it. Any ideas are welcome if you have specific boat operators to recommend that would be really helpful. Thanks

I've actually never spent much time in Bar Harbor, so would have to leave that to others. But I certainly know Portland. Check out this piece about its food and more. As for the bored teens, they might appreciate the Casco Bay Lines cruise from Portland to Peaks Island. If you stay on the boat and don't get off, it's just 45 minutes round trip, and yet you're out on the glorious water.

And if you're looking for other food in the nearby area, you might check out Long Grain (possibly best Thai food in New England) in Camden and Chase's Daily (fantastic vegetarian place in Belfast).

We are planning a Cinque Terre - Siena - Florence loop for our anniversary. In Siena we are currently planning a day in town, a day north in the Chianti vineyards and a day south towards Montepulciano. Would we be more rewarded with a slower closer study (2 days) in Chinati instead? (and do you have preferred method for navigating the labyrinth of B&B's in Cinque Terre?) thanks

Are you traveling by car? If so, I'd stick to your current plan and see as much of the (beautiful) area around Siena as you can. But I'm the kind of traveler who likes to pack lots in. Afraid I can't offer advice on the B&B situation in Cinque Terre, but there must be some chatters who can. Anybody?

My favorite author growing up (and still one of my favorites now) was James Herriot (real name Alfred Wight). I adore(d) his books and would only get the hardcovers and read them over and over again. I wanted to be just like him when I grew up. The first time I went to England to visit my husband's family, we went to Thirsk, the town he lived in and that the books and TV show were based on. It was in the beautiful Yorkshire area, and we got to drive through the Yorkshire Dales and just the loveliest countryside, and it is still full of the large pasture animals that he cared for while he was a vet. There was also a small museum celebrating his life, and showing where he lived and worked and even though I was all grown up when I went, it still fulfilled my childhood fantasy of getting to experience his charming world.

What a literary quest!  Your trip reads like a dreamy novel.

Wolf House -- Jack London's dream-home that burned -- in California's Napa Valley.

Excellent pick honoring the "wild" author.

I am thinking about taking an Alaskan cruise next year and I have a couple of questions. The first is whether you have any recommendations for a cruise company? Also, I live in Indiana and and a friend recommended that I drive to Windsor Canada and fly Air Canada to Vancouver. He thought this would save me money. What do you think about this? This particular person also recommended a stop in Vancouver - he said it was one of the most beautiful cities he had ever visited. Thanks for your advice.

There are many Alaska cruises out there. You should have a look at Cruise Critic to comparison shop and see what ports of call and ship features are important to you. Do the chatters have a favorite?

As far as driving to Windsor, I guess it depends where in Indiana you are. Personally, I'd kind of hate the idea of getting back after a long trip and having to then drive a few hours home. Do look into flights to Vancouver from closer to home. Some cruises also leave from Seattle, and if you really wanted to get to Vancouver from there, it's fairly easy.

Organizing a bachelorette party in Atlantic City next year, for about 8-10 people. We can drive up there but prefer not to have anyone hung over driving back. Was looking at taking the Greyhound Lucky Streak bus from Union Station to AC. Is that a "nice" bus similar to the private buses that run between DC and NYC? Any other bus line suggestions (everyone is from DC or Arlington) or private charter for a bus or van?

My friend took it once and she said it was packed with older gamblers. It was not rowdy like the bus to Dewey; just lots of people excited to try their luck, not black out.

But remember, it is Greyhound, which can be hit or miss, clean or icky.

You could also charter a bus or van. Academy, for example, offers this service.

 

Hi travel gurus! I want to plan a trip to Paris. I'm looking at going for about 1 week in 2014. I can't decide when to go. (A first-world problem, I know). What is your advice? With enough notice to my boss and colleaugues, I can schedule pretty much for any month. I do not want to go in August or around Christmastime. I like to walk in the neighborhoods, people watch, look at art, window shop, and EAT. I am a healthy American female traveling solo. Money is a consideration but I am not on a super-tight budget. I hate snow/ice but don't mind rain. So what do you all think?

Paris in the spring! We went in early May a few years ago, and it worked well, although we did have at least one full day of rain, and one day when we were caught in a sudden thunderstorm in the afternoon. But it made for a great story! And otherwise, the weather was good, still pleasantly, but not extremely, cool. I recommend it. I also love the early fall, around September, but that's probably a highly popular time as the weather is generally lovely. In May, we found the number of foreign tourists still relatively low. Chatters, what do you think?

Do you, or any readers, have advice for readers heading to Machu Picchu, specifically about how best to take advantage of a one day visit? We've been told to buy "altitutude drugs" in any local pharmacy, but are they needed? We're not superheroes but otherwise healthy and in our 60's. Hiking sticks? hats? super sunscreen? what do we pack?

Chatters, surely some of you have been. Suggestions?

Looking for a family-friendly resort for a weekend in the Fall approximately equal distance between Jacksonville, FL, Atlanta GA, and Fairfax, Virginia. Eight adults and nine children ages 10 to 17.

Myrtle Beach is almost as close to equidistant as you can get (the Fairfax contingent will have an extra hour). That's about as far as I can get you, though, because it's been so many years since I've been. A Going Our Way we published the other year mentioned the Myrtle Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, so that's one possibility. Anyone have a favorite resort down there?

While not exactly what you were asking for, I really enjoyed the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz a couple of weeks ago.

That fits the theme. Thanks!

The Post's Joel Achenbach recently wrote about Vancouver Island on his Achenblog, and some of his followers (called "boodlers") added information re visiting the island.

I think this might be the post you're talking about.

Having been through Tuscany, I'd say definitely spend a day in Montepulciano. It was one of my absolute favorite spots and has a bit more of a quant hill town feel that Siena (which it also amazing).

Right, thanks!

I've been invited to a wedding in San Juan in June. What I would like to do is go from Boston to San Juan, stay overnight for the wedding, then go to St Croix and then back to Boston. Last year it was possibly to connect from BOS > SJU > STX instead of going through Miami. If AA resumes that route in the spring, do you think they would let me overnight in SJU and take the next day's flight to STX?

Some flights to the Caribbean force you stay overnight in San Juan before because your connection does not leave till the next day.  For example, my parents often spend the night in San Juan en route to Tortola. However, I don't know what AA plans for its San Juan to St. Croix route. Guess you will have to wait for the carrier to release its flight schedules. Or call American and ask if they allow a free layover; some carriers do for long-haul trips.

Hello A business trip for a two day Mid September business meeting in London just popped up. Taking my wife along ( at my expense). Would like to add 3-4 days on front or back. We have both been to London a couple of times , but not since 1999. Have been to Bath, Stonehenge and Oxford. Options -- Scotland? Ireland? Wales? Cross the channel to France ? Your thoughts and ideas --and those of other posters-- would be most welcome. Thanks

All good thoughts. Taking the train to Paris would be easy. Or you could head north to lovely Edinburgh. Ferries from Dover go to Calais or Dunkirk. As you have deduced, there are tons of ways to go with this. Chatters, what are your suggestions?

I read you guys every week, just love your advice and information. My bf and I just got home yesterday from a 15 day photography vacation that included Prague, Budapest, Copenhagen and St. Petersburg. We had zero issues with currency...all of our credit cards were readily accepted and the abundant ATMs everywhere allowed us to get local currency when needed. For the most part, no language issues, other tourists and friendly natives helped out whenever we asked. I want to encourage anyone who might be fearful about international travel to go for it! We were so thrilled by the experiences (and even when things went awry, we now have great stories to tell!) that we can hardly wait to plan our next adventure.

Thank you so much for the report back from your amazing trip and for the encouraging words!

People, go travel!

What are your recommendations for inexpensive calls back to US while on a short vacation in Western Europe. My cell provider will charge $1 to $1.50 per minute. And while Skype or FaceTime may be an option for some contacts, my mother does not have a computer.

Check out our primer on SIM cards. If you have a global-ready phone that's unlocked, you could purchase a local SIM card, which would give you cheaper rates than your cell provider. It may be more than you want to spend, but you could also rent a phone with a SIM card included.

Since I have just wrapped up my summer beach vacation, I am starting to think about a post-Christmas/NYE getaway with 3-4 friends. Interested in a 3-4 night trip with airfare from DC at less than $500. Sightseeing activities, shopping, and a fun local food scene are a must. A crazy NYE celebration is not. Last year we went to Montreal and had a blast. Open to tropical or snowy locales. Suggestions, please!

Off the top of my head -- Miami, Chicago, Portland (Maine), Charleston, Boston, Atlanta...

I'm taking my just-turned-21 year old son out to San Francisco next week. He wants to look at graduate schools and I want to visit with several good friends who have left the DC area and resettled in CA. We are spending three nights in SF (near Fisherman's Wharf) and from there going to UC Santa Cruz. After one or two nights in Santa Cruz, we'll be heading to LA (our return flight is from LAX). This is a ten day trip from beginning to end. Please offer your advice on routes,sights,hotels and restaurants from Santa Cruz to to LA.

I just answered a question a few weeks back about Monterey and surrounds that might be helpful to you, too: You could certainly do some of these things on your way from SC to LA. Here's a link to that so you can see.

Since your son will have just turned 21, why not hit wine country? The Paso Robles area could be very fun. (You could watch "Sideways" beforehand to get in the spirit, so to speak.) And the area around Santa Barbara includes much wine, too; Andrea answered this question about that a few years back that should give you some ideas.

Hopefully this will spark some inspiration!

 

A tiny serendipitous moment: I was in New Orleans for a conference, ducked out one afternoon to do a little wandering about. A sudden cloudburst sent me dashing for an awning to wait out the storm, and when I turned my head toward the building, there was a plaque noting this was the very building where Tennessee Williams wrote A Streetcar Named Desire. Since the conference was a writers' conference, it seemed especially apt.

What serendipity!

A few years back, I visited Berlin with friends and on our last night, we stumbled upon this awesome bar called Slumberland in Berlin's neighborhood of Schoeneberg. It had fantastic music, sand on the floors, a cool vibe and interesting African artwork on the walls. My boyfriend picked me up at the airport and when I was telling him about this cool bar, he reaches into his bag and pulls out a new book by his favorite author that he started reading while I was away - Paul Beatty's Slumberland! The book is a crazy tale of an African DJ at the one and only Slumberland bar in Berlin, which was set just before fall of the Berlin Wall. Quite a coincidence!

Whoa. How trippy, and so Berlin.

Solana Beach Farmer's Market on Sundays (have lunch and shop--BEST produce and other awesome foods), followed up by a wine tasting at Carruth Cellars, ending with an evening at the beach just across the street. Also, seals at La Jolla if they're still out this time of year, snorkeling with the leopard sharks, whale watching, bike ride (or car drive) up to Mount Soledad for awesome views of houses and La Jolla.

More San Diego stuff, whew! Thanks!

Victoria certainly is nice, but I'd stay in Vancouver, not take the time to travel to Victoria (it's been a long time since I lived there, but the bus should go downtown to downtown). Lots to do in Van. It's an outdoor city. Stanley Park is huge, walk around the sea wall. Granville Island for the market. Capilano Suspension Bridge. Grouse Mountain. English Bay or Kit's for the beach. Gastown for entertainment, Robson Street.

Yes, it does depend on what the chatter is up for.

Take advantage of Acadia National Park, which is right there! Lots of hiking (including scrambling over rocks - always cool), sea kayaking, beautiful vistas. (Check out www.nps.gov/acad for more on the park.) As for food - get off the main strip right by the water. That is where the cruise ships come in, so it's a heavy tourist area. I really liked Morning Glory Bakery and Cafe this Way for breakfast. For lunch/dinner, I liked Side Street Cafe and Fathom (a little more expensive).

Thanks for the great advice!

Machu Picchu is definitely high altitude. I had altitude sickness drugs from my doctor here, but I had weird side effects and could not take them. You need at least a day (preferrably 2) in Cusco to get acclimated before continuing on to Machu Picchu. If you are taking the train there, you can do as much or as little hiking as you like. We hired a guide and did not do much hiking. There is a cafeteria there so you don't even need to bring food in. Oh, and you can get your passport stamped with a special Machu Picchu stamp!

Thanks for the advice!

My wife and I are going to Portugal in October. We are having trouble deciding between an overnight in Porto or an overnight in Lagos. We're more city than beach-y, but we're concerned about poor weather in Porto. Is it worth risking?

Porto has lots of indoor sites, such as  Casa da Música and Fundação de Serralves, that you can duck into if the weather turns drizzly. Lagos, a beach town in the south, is a little riskier if the skies turn on you.

Yesterday I booked airline travel through Priceline - booked the flights, entered traveler names, gave credit card info, etc. and subsequently received a Priceline email confirming the reservation with a Priceline Trip Number. I called Priceline today when I noticed that there wasn't an airline carrier ticket number and was told, "sorry...it didn't go through....you can try again on the airline's website". Today the price for flying DC to Nicaragua is now much higher. Is this legal or ethical? Who regulates what these websites can get away with?

I wish Chris Elliott were here today to answer your question, but in his absence, have a look at his recent column about confirming reservations. You may be out of luck, though I'm not 100 percent sure. E-mail Chris at chris@elliott.org if you need more info.

Hello! I'm launching my freelance travel writing career, and was hoping to win some prize advice from the experts. Any words of wisdom for a young, aspiring travel writer? Thanks!

Good for you! My best advice is to concentrate on building up your reporting and writing and photography skills, to seek out mentors who can help you do that, and to travel, travel, travel. Oh, and I know this is a can of worms, but try to avoid taking freebies if you want to be published in the bigger publications (such as ours). Learn how to travel very cheaply rather than getting used to being wined and dined by special interests such as tourism bureaus, etc. It will serve you better in the long run, trust me.

Any ideas on nice places to stay in the Annapolis area?

I used to stay at the Maryland Inn, right downtown, donkey's years ago. It was lovely then, and I'm sure it's probably even lovelier now. Along with the Governor Calvert House and the Robert Johnson House, it's now part of the Historic Inns of Annapolis. If you like that historic thing (I do), they sound ideal. Where else, chatters?

I want to spend a couple of days in Munich on my Bavarian holiday. Is it best for sightseeing to be there on a weekend (Sat/Sun) or weekdays?

It really doesn't matter which day(s) of the week you're in town. There's plenty to do and see in Munich at any time. Some museums -- notably the Pinakotheks, old and new -- close on some weekdays -- the Old is closed Monday, the new on Tuesday -- so if they're high on your list, keep that in mind. But the Hofbrauhaus is always open!

Which trans-Atlantic carrier has the best first class product? I have heard great things about Lufthansa...

Depends on who you ask. There are tons of different rankings out there, but I suggest you have a look at SeatGuru's sortable chart and decide what features are most important to you. Can't say I've flown anything other than economy, but maybe some people have first-class options they like?

"British-accented" certainly describes it. In the early 1980s, I visited Vancouver Island, and the place where I landed (I think it was Nanaimo) looked so British that I nearly got killed, because I looked the wrong way the first time I stepped off the curb.

Interesting. They definitely drive on the right side of the road now!

You've got to really open your mind and suspend all cynicism; but I find the Casa di Giulietta brings a smile to my face (and I've always been a big Shakespeare fan). I mean, how sweet is that, the brokenhearted jotting their pleas in a Verona courtyard. I do wish they would stop groping the statue though.

Let me count the ways . . . I love your literary tip.

We are off to Iceland with our six-month old. Only now does it occur to me that our two week vacation will involve driving around the island and photographing nature. This sounds terrible for a crawling baby. Any suggestions of how to make this trip a bit more baby-friendly? Thanks.

Chatters, thoughts? I'd say make sure to schedule some down time -- for all of your sakes. You probably don't want to be hauling an infant in and out of a car 10 times a day or whatever. Bring a couple of big towels so the wee one can crawl around while you have a picnic. Have toys to keep the baby entertained. And... good luck. :)

Do you have any suggestions on where to stay? Are there any resorts that kids particularly enjoy? Would a week there be enough time? Thanks so much!

Since I don't have little ones, I am going to rely on Oyster.com to help with the best fam-friendly resorts: Marriott's Aruba Surf Club takes the first spot. For the rest of the list, see here.

Yes a week is more than enough time to swim and sun.

Can you recommend any particular places for authentic barbecue in Kansas City? I'm passing through on a road trip. Anything else in particular I shouldn't miss in KC, foodwise or not?

I wish Tim Carman in Food were here today, but he's on vacation. He lived in KC for a couple of years, and has DEFINITE opinions about the barbecue there (such as this piece excoriating Calvin Trillin for his praise of Arthur Bryant's). Instead, you might look at this Saveur piece from a few years back; the writer mentions AB, sure, but also a lot of other places, and it appears to be nuanced enough that I find it credible.

I have an upcoming trip, DCA to JFK to Frankfurt in September. I decided to check the status of the flights I'll be taking over the past two weeks, and found that delays and cancellations of the DCA-JFK leg resulted in failure to catch the JFK-FRA leg on 8 of 14 days. I don't like those odds. I'm an experienced traveler, but I'm not sure what, if anything, I can do at this point except just hope for the best on the day of departure. I thought of asking to be switched to an earlier DCA-JFK flight or possibly seeking assurance from the airline that alternatives exist should late arrival in JFK mean missing the flight on to Germany. I wonder if you have any thoughts on how to approach the airline. Many thanks!

It's too bad Chris isn't with us today, as I bet he would have a good strategy for you here. Feel free to email him at elliottc@gmail.com, or to return here next week to catch him.

I would like to plan a trip to Norway, preferably next summer. Could anyone recommend some must-sees, and maybe even a few good hotels? I'm fairly certain I will visit at least Oslo and Bergen, but any other recommendations would greatly appreciated.

Our Norway archives are pretty slim. Chatters, what say you?

I have a trip to Kenya planned in October. The US Govt website said the a visa can be bought at the Nairobi airport upon arrival. The alternative, is of course, through the embassy ahead of time. It seems less hassle to me to do it there upon arrival (don't have to send in my passport, don't need the extra photos). Am I missing something?

Nope. Lots of people wait till the airport to get their visa. All depends on whether you want to land and go, or land and stand in line.

I went several years ago (I was in my mid-50's) and had no problem with the altitude, but my traveling companion and I took a few days to acclimate ourselves before we did anything strenuous. Coca tea, readily available in most hotels or cafes, helps settle your stomach if you need it. We started in Cusco (which is higher than Macchu Pichu) and joined a week-long hike from Country Walkers a few days later. Hiking poles are definitely a help; depending on when you go, you'll need sunscreen (and bug spray) or rain gear.

More for the Macchu Pichu traveler.

We used our Skype account to call landlines from Europe. It worked well and was super cheap.

Good point!

Yes, I had been looking to fly out of DCA specifically. Looking on Kayak now, I do see some cheaper fares out of BWI but still around $250. The last time I flew out of BWI, I told myself to think twice about doing it again - took forever to get there on the metro-Marc train-shuttle from train station, and then once in the airport the security line took forever. Have done the drive before, in fact doing it this week! I don't have a car however and would have to rely on the boyfriend to come with me for the driving option :)

Yeah, I've never been able to find a price I liked out of National to Cleveland. If you don't like the MARC shuttle, I've also taken the B30 Metrobus between the airport and the Greenbelt Metro station. You could also explore something like SuperShuttle to get you to BWI.

I was on a Senior Tours Canada tour of Britain in April and we visited Jane Austen's house in Chawton. A very nice-sized house, as befits a modest author. Nothing grand, just homey.

And of course you saw my story about Jane Austen and her Chawton cottage! :-)

Go to Carmel and just chill & relax after driving the scenic Pacific Coast Hightway you will need to stop & relax.

We were in NOLA last December for the first time. I was thrilled to see the Faulkner House on Pirates Alley and to pose with the statue of Ignatius J Reilly (in front of the old DH Homes store on Canal,) the main character in John Kennedy Toole's Pulitizer-winning A Confederacy of Dunces. We saw an antique book store that displayed signed copies of To Kill A Mockingbird, Gone With the Wind and a book on relativity by Albert Einstein (also signed.) Next time I will trek up to New Iberia to see the stomping grounds of James Lee Burke and his character Dave Robicheaux. I always knew I'd love New Orleans and I did.

You got quick a read on NOLA -- ha, ha.

It looks like I'll be dragged to Rouen, Normandy around Christmas-time, so I need advice on where to stay and what to do for a week. Will the D-Day beaches/US cemeteries be accessible? Are guided tours the best way to visit them; if so, any recommendations? How soon should we book air tickets?

Are you going to be in Rouen itself? There's plenty there to see -- the cathedral, of course; the astronomical clock; the Tour Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc was brought there to be tortured); the Church of St. Joan of Arc (very modern); Rouen Castle. If I were you, I'd try to get to Mont St. Michel for a day -- the island is definitely a place worth seeing. And Monet's gardens at Giverny, if they're open. I'm not sure whether D-Day tours run at Christmastime, when a lot of things in Normandy shut down. Let's ask the chatters -- what do you know, folks?

If the chatter hasn't toured the Aircraft Carrier ( the name escapes me at the moment), I would put that on the list. I found it to be much better than the Intrepid museum in NYC.

My experience has been that there's scarcely a state or town that doesn't have special attractions celebrating a famous author who was originally from there, lived there a while, or settled there permanently. (Not that this is a bad thing, in the least!).

A wonderful observation.

What does that phrase mean?

Oh sorry. It's a Britishism, I guess. My English friends use it all the time. It means a really, really long time ago. Because donkeys live to be very old.

Missed these in my earlier post: Point Loma (beautiful area and tide pools), Sunset Cliffs, Shell Beach tide pools, Black's Beach. Balboa Park international houses are open one or both weekend days, and are kind of cool. If it's really a bucket list, try surfing if you never have! Also, try The Hake--it's a new restaurant in La Jolla that is unbelievable! Just some of the things I got to check out on my recent trip there.

Thanks!

Some people like to travel as far north as practical in summer, in order to gain full benefit of the Summer Solstice!

My daughters and I will be traveling to Portland, Oregon in September for a wedding and have about 2 1/2 days to explore Portland and the surrounding areas. We would like to spend one day exploring wineries and the other day Portland. Any suggestions on wineries or areas to visit and what should we see and do while in Portland. Have also heard there are lots of breweries in Portland. Want to make the most of our couple of days to explore.

Check out this site for information on the Williamette Valley for your winery day. Here's our most recent story on Portland, to get you started.

Paris in September is a real treat -- less chance of a heat wave, fewer tourists and all the shops and restaurants are open after the traditional August closings. Bon voyage!

Yup, agreed!

Point Lobos state park, especially at low tide -- a minus tide if you're lucky! -- to see all the critters in the tidal pools!

Hubby and I (and perhaps 1-2 adult children) are interested in a week in southern France this spring/early summer. We'd like to find a rental with 1-2 bedrooms with outdoor space, but don't need a big house with a pool. We'd rent a car, but are interested in also being able to walk to a town with restaurants. I imagine spending our days on slow paced day trips exploring the area (including a beach hopefully), as well as relaxing at a rental. Other than those guidelines, we're flexbile, but don't even know where to start to pick a town /area and then find a suitable rental. Thanks.

Have a look at this story on the Dordogne. Maybe it'll be helpful.

"Nearly got killed" chatter here. I didn't make it clear in my earlier post: I nearly got killed because the place looked so British I was expecting traffic to be driving on the left, but Canada drives on the right (always has, as far as I know).

Ah, got it. Ha! But at some point I believe they did drive on the left side, ages ago.

my husband and I were on a cruise through some of the fjords this past June - it was beautiful. Make sure to take some tour boats through one or two if you're traveling by land; we took a short bus ride from Flam, on the Sogne Fjord to another fjord and took a 2 hour cruise back to Flam, with stops to deliver mail along the way. In Bergen there's a great old castle tower (Rosenkranz) on the harbor, and lots of buildings from the Hanseatic era, Oslo has a gorgeous old castle and a stunning City Hall; it doesn't look spectacular from the outside, but the inside is beautiful. We also went to Alesund, which has a lot of Art Nouveau buildings in the downtown area; the town was destroyed by fire in the early 1900's, and the Kaiser, who used to vacation there, financed the restoration.

It's that time! Chat is over and out.

Thanks so much for joining us today and come back next week, especially those folks who still need answers to their questions! (Time flies when you're talking travel.)

Today's winner is the NOLA visitor who found literary landmarks around every corner. Message me at andrea.sachs@washpost.com for your prize.

See everyone next Monday.

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Travel editor.
Zofia Smardz
Zofia Smardz is the deputy editor of Travel.
Andrea Sachs
Andrea Sachs is a staff writer for Travel.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is Travel's editorial aide.
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