Talk about Travel

The Pitons on the Caribbean Island of St. Lucia (AP/Scott Sady).
Feb 26, 2018

Talk about Travel is here to help at 2 p.m. Mondays.
Have a travel-related question, comment, suspicion, warning, gripe, sad tale or happy ending? The Post Travel section's editors and writers are at your service.
Past Talk about Travel chats

Hi all, and welcome to Talk About Travel! In this week's section, we ventured down to Austin, Texas, and explored the city's taco scene. Do you have a favorite travel food experience? The most compelling answer will win a surprise Travel-themed prize. Now, on to your questions!

To call my parents "seasoned travelers" after my father's retirement about 25 years ago would be an understatement. Nepal, Peru, Morocco, China.... we joked that the only reason they had slowed down was because they had run out of places to go; my mother said, in all seriousness, that was kind of the case. Their rules have been 1) do the more complicated stuff first and save the easy trips to, say, Paris for when we're old and want to take it easy, and 2) we can handle places where English is commonly spoken on our own, but would prefer small-group, somewhat educational tours in countries where communication might be difficult; they've found trips with Overseas Adventure Travel and Roads Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) to be dependably enjoyable. Well, Daddy just turned 80 and declared after their last trip to Britain that he wasn't driving in foreign countries, especially those that drive on the left, any more--it was too stressful. The problem is, they want to go to Ireland, ("because there's nothing left," according to my mother) but their trusted travel companies don't seem to have anything planned there, at least not that they're interested in. I went to Ireland years and years ago and got around alright mostly by public bus, with some hitchhiking thrown in, but I don't think they'd want to do that now that they've hit their do-the-easy-stuff stage. I've offered, and am about to offer again, to go with them and serve as their driver, but do you have any other ideas of how they might tour the country without a car or too many complications? This will be after they come back from three weeks in Romania and Bulgaria with Roads Scholars, of course....

Good for your parents! Ireland is a great place to visit even for those who have been around the globe. People are friendly, countryside is lovely, cities are fun. I'm heading there in September. Lots of tour groups go to Ireland. Roads Scholar, for example, offers 14 different Ireland itineraries. Aer Lingus Vacations and CIE Tours are two of the larger companies that specialize in tours to Ireland. And Globus, Trafalgar, Tauck, etc., all go there. There are also smaller companies, such as Vagabond Tours and Isle Inn Tours (a local tour operator) that specialize in Ireland. You could also try putting in your parameters on a site such as Zicasso. And you could always hire a driver for them, although that's expensive.

Over president's day weekend, I took a trip to Dublin and had quite an awful travel experience. I flew Delta from IAD to JFK and was supposed to have a Delta connection to DUB. However, after a series of events (sitting on the tarmac for 45+ min due to heavy air traffic, jet bridge malfunctions, forced plane-side checking of luggage, etc.) I missed my connection despite running through JFK like a crazy person. I arrived at my gate just as the jet bridge pulled away. I had talked to multiple Delta employees and they all told me it was policy not to intervene or try to get my plane to Dublin to wait for me. Is this just a Delta eccentricity or the new norm for air travel? In the past when I've been on flights to a major airline hub that have been delayed, airlines have gone above and beyond to try and get as many people on their connecting flights as possible. Delta, however, booked me on the same flight 24 hours later and refused to provide a hotel voucher. I ended up missing 1 of my only 3 days in Dublin. It was extremely frustrating. I've submitted a detailed complaint via their online form but is there anything else to do? A supervisor at JFK added some miles to my Delta account but since I rarely fly Delta and certainly won't go out of my way to in the future, this does nothing for me. Any tips?

I'm sorry about your missed connection. Airlines are under a lot of pressure to get an on-time departure for many reasons. Delta's obligation was to get you on the next available flight, but it probably should have covered your meals and accommodations. You can find details in Delta's contract of carriage on its website. If Delta doesn't help, please contact me on my consumer advocacy site and I'll do my best to help you.

The quote "They don't care because they don't have to" comes to mind with airlines and seating. As long as there are people willing to buy their way into better seats (including me), people who have to fly for work or want to for pleasure, airlines will weather the occasional storms of criticism and keep stuffing us into ever smaller and closer seats. Lack of viable alternative modes of transportation to desired places ensures their continued monopoly, and ability to do as they please for continued record profits. Sound cynical? I guess it is, but convince me otherwise if you can. Couple that with a complete lack of will by our elected *leaders* to take any action, and you've got cracked knees and emotional support ponies in the air.

Thank you for sharing your perspective. On the same day my Navigator column ran online, Ashley Halsey had a story about the FAA considering minimum seat standards. Let's see what happens.

​​Our family (couple, 3 teenage kids) are looking for a place where we can rent a house or condo (in a town with at least a grocery store) and go for day hikes nearby w/o a long trip every day to get to a hiking area. ​We prefer mountains and fewer people, but anything interesting. ​We like to take a break every few days, so it's nice to be in a town or within an hour or two of someplace interesting. We loved Grindelwald Switzerland​, Gardiner MT, and​ ​Mariposa CA. Been to Banff. Do you have any recommendations for the US​ or Canada?

The Asheville area would be a good fit, or Estes Park, Colo. I am in Alaska at the moment and would highly recommend Talkeetna, which is near Denali NP. For Canada, I suggest Jasper.

Is the inconsistency in TSA requirements at different airports meant to confuse passengers and keep us on our toes, or is TSA just confused? I recently flew from Norfolk to Chicago Midway. In Norfolk I had to remove any electronics larger than a phone along with any food in my carry-on bag, plus the usual shoes, sweaters, etc. Returning back from MDW three days later, they didn’t require any electronics or food to be removed. I try to be prepared with that kind of stuff but they make it difficult!

Probably a little bit of both. The TSA has always tried to keep its screening "random and unpredictable" but I don't think it's always intentional. The agency suffers from chronically low employee morale and underperforms on safety tests. So it's hard to tell if it's doing something on purpose or just because it's incompetent. The optimist in me says it's all part of the plan. Yeah, that's it.

My 10-year anniversary is coming up this summer, and my husband REALLY wants to go back to where we spent our honeymoon, at an all-inclusive resort in Cancun. We both loved that trip, but I have to admit, a beach vacation is not tops on list of places to go, partly because I like to see sites on my vacations and partly because I'm not a huge fan of going back to places we've already been. I suggested at least looking at some of the resort destinations on Mexico's west coast for something new and also because they would likely be cheaper for us as we now live on the west coast. I was right on the money part, but I have to admit, the ones I've looked at so far (Cabos and Puerto Vallerta) don't seem to offer nearly as much in the way of sites and activities as Cancun does (I really like the ability to visit ancient and historical sites). Am I missing something on Mexican's west coast? We're not into fishing or diving, and as we would want to do an all inclusive, we wouldn't want to eat off the resort too much, which negates a lot of the stuff I'm seeing.

Getting to Mexico's West Coast is a long trip. Not sure it would be worth it given your interests. Have you considered Costa Rica? Has ruins, volcanoes, rainforests, beaches, etc. Not as accessible as Cancun, but worth a look. 

I want to take my kids to Disney World in July or August. Any idea on when the park will be emptiest? I thought the last week of August was good, but the hotel rates are high which usually correlates with high occupancy.

August can be really busy at Disney World. Aim for September or October. Look at the blockout dates on the silver pass to find out the busiest times. Blocked mans busy. The first week of August will be a madhouse.

In 2010, I visited Cameroon while my son was in the Peace Corps there. We mostly ate street food, cooked on charcoal grills in the marketplace, or outside a bar. One night we ate in an unofficial restaurant - a woman grilled whole fish on the front porch of her house and served the food in her living room. It was the best fish I've ever had. All meals were served with fufu (kind of bland) or fried plaintain (delicious).

A few years ago, my husband and I spent almost a week in the Florida Keys. We drove the entire length and decided to share a slice of Key Lime Pie at both lunch and dinner and then judge them. As you can imagine that was a lot of pie that we tasted—all with different crusts, consistencies and levels of tartness. At the end of the week, we compared notes to choose our favorite and it was MY recipe—hands down!

My favorite travel food experience was my five-day trip to Paris for my 30th birthday. Every day, I had a crepe avec nutella and a coca-cola light. I remember eating my Nutella crepes on the banks of the Seine and on the steps at Sacre Couer. It was pretty much the only food I could say in French, and it's really the only food from that trip that made much of an impression on me. Every day I was so happy when it was crepe time!

When traveling on a European train, I always worry about my bag which is stacked with everybody else's in the luggage racks at the entrance to the train car. I'm sitting in the seats sometimes a whole car away and can't see what's going on back there as people get on and off the train. Nothing to stop someone from taking my bag by mistake or intention. I'm concerned about this at every stop ! Anything to do about it ? Is it too late for an American to have confidence in the honor system ?

I wish we could believe, but there are miscreants wherever we go. For ease of mind, board early so that you can secure a seat with luggage space in the overhead rack. If you have to sit far from your bag, buy a cable lock and attach it to the rack. Also lock the main compartments -- you want to make stealing as inconvenient as possible. (Please all valuables, include meds in your personal bag.) You can also buy a tracker for your bag (some bags also come with the GPS accessory), so you can follow your bag if it disembarks before you do. (In most cases, you will need to download an app to see its whereabouts.) If possible, during stops, try to stand by your bag, so no one will swipe it and exit. Of course, the safest strategy is to check your bag. Just make sure to be at the platform when the attendants unload your bag.

Say what you want about the U.S. Government, but I got my passport renewed in under two weeks, excluding mail time. I figured I would try the online status feature, and learned it's in the mail. I thought I'd learn it was sitting in someone's inbox. SO, say what you will, but that's darn quick.

That is great! Remember, passport applicants, the fee goes up by $10 on April 2.

If you can't drive them--which would be a great bonus--I can offer that in my experience, driving in Ireland was quite easy. I was so worried about the left side thing, but the traffic was so light and the roads so good, I really can't see avoiding it. Getting from city to city was really easy by public transport, so just using a car for rural exploring worked nicely.

Her father, at age 80, will not be able to rent a car in Ireland. Maximum age is 75. 

Last year we spent about a week in Ireland + Northern Ireland without a car (due to our credit card not covering rental car CDW there). We had no problems taking the train from Dublin to Cork and then buses from Cork to Belfast. We found the only way to purchase discounted train tickets was online: neither station personnel nor kiosks could do so. Tip: The Belfast Zoo is quite good (though hilly).

Thanks for the report!

Perhaps this is down to different equipment at different airports. Not every airport can have the most advance screening equipment.

Good point. Thank you.

If your 80-year-old parents can afford it (and based on their extensive travels, it sounds like they can), suggest that they ask at the desk of whatever lodgings they're staying at for a recommendation of a tour-guide/driver to show them around. I've requested English speaking drivers/guides in non-Anglophone countries, and have found hotel recommendations always to have been excellent (after all, it's in their best interests, too!).

A good idea, but they'd still have to get to/from different cities throughout Ireland. 

Seriously? When school's in session? Most school districts strongly frown upon (or worse) such absences, certainly for recreational purposes.

Seriously, those are the least busy times. But I would definitely avoid July and the first week of August. If you get too close to Labor Day, you're going to be paying a premium.

Well, I'm glad I decided to just pay a bit extra and take a direct flight on Aer Lingus next month. I hadn't thought about how the publicly available stats on on-time arrival would impact getting connecting passengers on board other flights. But, I am arriving two days ahead of my brother and his family to spend some time exploring Dublin on my own before he and his wife arrive with my niece and nephew and we take a car trip around our other destinations. My lovely sister-in-law has handled reserving accommodations and planning for the joint part of the trip. I need to plan for myself for the early two days., how do you pick a place in Dublin to stay? Is there a city center where everything is walkable? A slightly larger area where public transportation is easy. I don't want to get stuck someplace where I have to call a cab to get back and forth from things I will want to do (but won't be on our list to do with two under 12s). So, is there a theater district I want to be near? An area where the art museums tend to be? I'm just looking for general names of neighborhoods. It seems that given the luxury of being passive in planning the rest of the trip, I've gotten lazy in the part that is my responsibility.

Centrally located neighborhoods in Dublin include St. Stephen's Green, Temple Bar and the Trinity College area. Hotels are generally fairly expensive. Visit Dublin is a good Web site to start your research. 

We went to Vietnam and Thailand for our honeymoon this past fall. Our least expensive meal was what we jokingly called "street meat", handmade eggrolls, and delicious mystery pankcakes all costing less than a dollar. On our last night in Bangkok we ate at Gaggan, which was easily the best meal I have ever had in my life. Low end, high end, and everything in between was delicious!

I'm not sure this was my favorite food experience, but it was certainly the most interesting - about 15 years ago a friend and I took a walking trip in Peru, focusing on Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Macchu Pichu. It was wonderful - hiking during the day, comfortable places to stay at night and good meals everywhere. During one of our days in the Sacred Valley, our guides took us to a late lunch at the home of some locals; the piece de resistance was a platter of roasted cuy - guinea pigs. We were prepared, since we knew it was a Peruvian delicacy, but it was still unnerving. But, being good and polite visitors, everyone in the group had at least a little; to me, they tasted like fairly dry dark meat turkey. (One of our guides said his mother's recipe was better.)

but my brother lived in Hawaii for a few years and I visited twice. The second time, my parents were there too. Oh, and it was the start of Passover toward the end of the week. So he reserved places for us with a community Seder in Maui. In addition to being Passover, it was vegan, so the matzah ball soup was parsley, and no one told the chef that you have to boil the dumplings in a covered pot to get them to rise. They were like marbles. The lamb shank bone on the Seder Plate was made out of construction paper. I don't even remember what the actual main meal was. It must have been too traumatic to recall. I'm sure we ate the soup and salad. For the second night, we ate at the Greek restaurant next door to condo we were renting. Lamb kabobs and roasted potatoes. Certainly, not kosher, but it hardly mattered at that point. The staff was amused. I'm still not sure they understood why we were so delighted or why we spilled out some of the wine on our plates.

Visited Darwin, Australia in 1978. It was amazing: Friendly locals kept me running for days: Starting at the Darwin Trailer Boat Club, a fellow took me on a car tour of the outback where we met some kangaroos. He introduced me to Mick and his girlfriend Robin, who suggested an air tour to a nearby island, where we drank beer from a gasoline powered cooler, climbed palm trees for coconuts and explored wrecked ships. We flew back to Darwin that evening, hit a nightclub and then packed it in around midnight. The next morning, Mick and Robin woke me around 8 and told me they were headed to the beach for a dip. I told them, "I didn't have a bathing suit" and they told me "Neither do we!". You'll notice, no mention of food? After that dip in the sea and almost 24 hours without eating, we went to the Olympic Café in Darwin and I had the most delicious Veal Cordon Bleu of my life. I always wanted to go back to Darwin and relive that wonderful experience. I wonder if the Olympic Café is still there!?

In the late 70's, a friend and I went to New Orleans for a long weekend. We discovered that the locals all have their own versions of pralines and French onion soup. I had soup at every restaurant, and we split pralines that we found at restaurants and shops. I still have fond memories of both.

Favorite restaurant in the world: Blanchard's (on Anguilla): Everything was excellent, and the cracked coconut dessert especially memorable. Oddest food travel story: Having eaten in the Culinary Institute of America's outposts in Hyde Park NY, St. Helena CA, and Singapore, I made reservations for lunch at their restaurant in San Antonio. Arrived and found it closed (turned out to be a local holiday). To their credit, a staff member saw me peering in and contacted the Executive Director--who comped dinner later that day.

Back in probably '92, I was 12 and my family went to Cancun. Part of our vacation was a day trip to Tulum. It wasn't anywhere near as built up then so there wasn't a lot of places to get lunch. Instead of going to the fancy hotel up on the bluff, we wandered down the beach to this little hut. The menu was all in Spanish, so I ordered pescado frito, thinking that was safe enough. I was really shocked to get a whole fried fish, eyes and all. My tween self summoned up the courage to try it, and it was delicious- probably caught that day. My family still likes to tell the story of how I looked when my meal was delivered!

On a family trip to Israel, we went to the Black Out restaurant in Old Jaffa, Israel. The waiters and much of the staff (except in the kitchen) are blind or sight impaired. After ordering your meal, you enter a complete black box -- no light whatsoever (much different than just wearing a blind fold). Whether your eyes are open or closed, you cannot see anything. We experienced how a blind person eats in a restaurant. Pouring the water from a pitcher, sharing the bread and butter, exchanging meals when they were not given to the right people were all fun challenges. We got to talk with our waiter about his life without sight. It's interesting how people's voices were raised during conversation when we couldnt' see each other. It was an amazing experience (and the food was good too).

So, my husband--dear, sweet Swede that he is--has a thing for seafood (understandably), and one day he happened to read about a particular kind of shrimp called "Royal Red" in an in-flight magazine. He decides we absolutely *must* try them, but naturally they're only in season a few months out of the year. So we waited, and we planned, and this shrimpy urge culminated in a seven state road trip with one goal: Eat Royal Red Shrimp. Starting in eastern KS, we ate our way through MO/AR/TN/LA/AL and into FL's panhandle to a thriving little shack called Joe Patti's in Pensacola. And did they have shrimp. Those darn Royal Reds are delicious, like little buttery lobster, and totally worth the +1000 miles on the car and the hottest summer we've ever endured. And it all started with a small, glossy paragraph in an in-flight magazine. Who says print media is dead? (Oh, and by the way, we found out that Joe Patti's delivers. ;) )

My family spent a lovely three weeks in Canada years ago. We started in Quebec, took an overnight train and ferry to P.E.I., and then drove down the coast of Nova Scotia. It was amazing. But one of our favorite memories from that trip was waiting for the ferry off the island. We had a busy afternoon and hadn't eaten. The only thing in sight was a tiny, dilapidated, shack with hand painted signs advertising lobster rolls. Some of us, being braver than others, decided to give it a try and got some $6 hot lobster rolls- and OMG they were the best meal we had on the trip hands down, beating by far all the pricey seafood places on the island. The delightful owner of said shack was a fisherman who'd operated it for years. The lobsters came fresh off the boat moored beside it. Can't get any fresher! Now whenever we reminisce about those lobster rolls, my mom regrets that she thought the shack seemed odd and didn't get one!

I am travelling to Paris next month with my 85-year-old father (who is hale and hearty) and my 8-year-old daughter. We have already planned a tour of the Louvre and Notre Dame that are geared towards kids. I know about the gardens and the toy sailboats. Any other ideas for "can't miss" for our group?

There are several museums you all might enjoy, including the Magic Museum, the Museum of Natural History and the Chocolate Museum. Any chatters have specific ideas? 

My parents have offered to pay for rental house for a family vacation next winter to somewhere warm. The group will include our two kids, who will be 3 and 1 . We want somewhere that is a direct flight from BWI or National, has nice beaches, toddler friendly, and an interesting town with good restaurants/bars. So far, we have discussed Del Ray Beach, FL, Key West, and Aruba. Any other suggestions?

I vote for somewhere along the southwest coast of Florida between Marco Island and Sanibel Island. Naples has great restaurants and bars and lovely hotels, but it's pricey. Sanibel Island is very kid friendly. Marco Island had some hurricane damage, but should be good by then. There's a very nice Hyatt Residence Club in Bonita Springs. No guarantees it will be warm in winter, although chances are good. Aruba is best bet for guaranteed good weather, and Southwest flies nonstop from BWI. 

Today's code is TT3982. It expires at midnight, so be sure to enter it on Monday to get credit for participating.

My passport expires next year, and I am planning a trip to Ireland, also next year. When I renew it, is the expiration date of the new passport calculated from the date that they process the renewal, or from the expiration date of the current one?

From the date of processing. The unused months on your old passport don't roll over to your new one.

In a few weeks, I am flying into Orlando in a few weeks, renting a car with Hertz, and then driving to Ocala. Quickest way is a toll road and I am pretty sure I can't use my EZPass on it. I am guessing Hertz has a nice transponder already installed on the car and are very willing to charge me a daily fee on top of toll. Is there any way around that besides driving almost 45 minutes extra?

Yes, I reviewed all of your options in a Navigator last year. You'll probably want to buy your own transponder or avoid the toll roads.

It is much cheaper to buy a SunPass yourself. You can order one online or buy it at any number of retailers, such as CVS, Publix, Walgreen's and turnpike service plazas. The SunPass Portable goes for $19.99 plus tax, plus $10 minimum initial balance. The SunPass Mini Sticker costs $4.99 plus tax, plus $10 minimum.


For the chatter thinking of Disney in the summer, be warned that it's going to be *really* hot! Yes, they have spray stations to cool you off, but it's easy to overheat and get dehydrated.

Yes, that's true. It's almost unbearably hot. You have to time your outdoor activities to early morning and late evening.

I always remember when I went to Disney one of the guys driving a shuttle who was retired from a more stressful career said that the emptiest day of the year is the day after Labor Day. He said it was night and day from normal.

That might be true, but if you're planning a longer stay, you'll still run into some busy days.

I'm still so angry I can scarcely see straight, after hearing an "expert" from the Wharton business school interviewed on public radio about how it's the public's own fault for insisting on too much regulation of airlines -- one result of which is that more flights get cancelled than used to be, because the airlines don't want to risk being fined for being in violation of the three-hour rule (that is, holding passengers in planes on the tarmac, waiting to take off).

The airline industry is minimally regulated from a customer service standpoint. Airlines are trying to undo the few existing rules, claiming that it's what Congress really wanted when it "deregulated" the airline industry in the 1970s. It's a twisted version of reality embraced by a few fringe free-marketers and airline apologists. But you won't find this consumer advocate in that camp. I was not an early supporter of the tarmac delay rule, but I am now. Unwinding it would be a big mistake and would hurt passengers.

Hi. Our cruise is stopping at St. Thomas at the end of March and we have planned a snorkeling excursion. I just read the Post's article about the trash and damage there, and am now wondering if it will be worth it to snorkel. Did the damage to the coral reefs hurt snorkeling? Thanks!

I was in St. Thomas in November and while the storms did damage the reefs, the waters are clear and you can see fish. I would reach out to a local snorkel or dive shop before you leave on your cruise and ask about the best snorkel spots. You could try Coral World Ocean Park, which is very tapped into the marine life situation.

Public transport in Dublin is pretty good but aggravatingly the buses require not merely exact change (understandable) but take coins only: you cannot use a €5 bill even if your fare is, say, €5.40.

Good to know. You can also get a card good for unlimited travel. 

Has OP considered Tulum? Close to Cancun, but much different vibe. They may not be able to get an all-inclusive, but there will be a lot more to see and do outside of their hotel/resort.

Good idea. And there are plenty of all-inclusives in Tulum. 

I've found that airline policy on holding planes for delayed inbound connections varies. Specifically: If I'm on the second plane, it will be held for delayed inbounds; if I'm on the first plane, my connecting flight will depart right on time.

Thank you for sharing that information.

Are there any zika-free beach destinations within a four-hour flight from DC to take a pregnant woman for vacation?

Here are some suggestion within the four-hour ballpark: Bermuda, San Diego, Miami, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Looking for a not-so-big, all-inclusive, resort, ideally adults-only or at least a quiet resort (no loud music at the pool please). Nice beach and good food under $200 a night: where can we get a good deal for four nights at the end of April?

Not easy to find an all-inclusive in Punta Cana at that price point. I'd look at Tropical Princess, although its a larger property and it allows children. 

I flew home through IND on Friday evening in the pre-check lines where they are apparently testing an ID only system to get into the secure zone of the airport. This is fine in theory, I like having one less thing to worry about BUT I still had to show my boarding pass with the pre-check designation on it to get to that line. So I still had to have it out and fiddle with two types of documentation. Any idea what the long term plan is for making this simpler?

I don't know. I think the TSA probably doesn't, either. Chatters, do you have any information on this?

Interesting article! Another source of athletic clubs combined with hotels is that a number of college alumni associations either run downtown clubs or have membership benefits at those clubs. Those membership benefits, in turn, allow for reciprocal privileges at yet other clubs in this country and in Europe. Worth checking to see if your school has that benefit. For example, I am able to stay at the Washington Athletic Club in Seattle, which is a reciprocal club for my school's club.

Thanks for the idea. 

Some more of your most memorable travel food experiences: 

I have a couple different stories, one of great food, the other of, well, memorable food. On the great side, I spent a few weeks for work in Gaziantep, Turkey a few years ago. That town is known for having the best kebab and the best baklava in Turkey. I became absolutely obsessed with the Ali Nazik kebab (spicy lamb on a bed of whipped yogurt mixed with eggplant), and the baklava was indeed the best I've tried because of the local pistachios, which also contributed to a delicious local breakfast/dessert called katmer, which combined cream and pistachios in a pastry. Also, there was a great Syrian hole-in-the-wall restaurant that had wonderful fatteh (fried pita with chickpeas, yogurt, and spices, which this place topped with pomegranate seeds). I still look out for people at the office bringing baklava back from Gaziantep! The other favorite travel food experience was a total disaster, but an entertaining one. My husband and I went to Brazil, and on our first night there, we hadn't bought a dictionary/phrasebook yet. We both spoke decent Spanish and ordered something that had "polvo" in the name, which we thought was related to "pollo", and then something else that had "salsa" in the name. We thought we were getting chips and salsa and some kind of chicken dish. Well, we should have been clued in by our waiter appearing confused when we ordered....then the food took 45 minutes. We eventually had a couple dishes brought to our table....and one was some kind of octopus ceviche, complete with lots of suckers. We both only made it through about one bite of that one. The other dish was some kind of fried shellfish? I never entirely figured out what it was, and although I tried pretending it was calamari, I couldn't make myself eat more than a couple bites. We made sure we bought a phrasebook with lots of food terms the next day!

My husband asked for tea after dinner in Paris. The waiter refused. My husband asked if the restaurant had any tea? The waiter acknowledged that they did, but still refused to serve it, apparently unseemly after a certain hour!

I was skeptical that the French baguette could really be as good as people say. So on our first stay in Paris we bought one, plus some Camembert, to snack on. Ooh-la-la! It was the best cheese sandwich we've ever had. No wonder France wants the baguette designated a cultural heritage.

My son was studying for his master's in Lille, in the north of France near the Belgian border. We visited him a few times, and he took us to an amazing small restaurant tucked away in an alley, Place des Oignons (that's the alley, not the restaurant!), and I had the most amazing Carbonade Flammonde, a Belgian beef stew with bacon and dark ale. I've tried to make it at home with varying success. But then there was the restaurant in Lille that cancelled our reservations without telling us, and left us to fend for ourselves in a pouring rain in a section of the city even cab drivers couldn't find. In his broken English, the proprietor said "Ze French, we can be, how you say, 'unpredictable.'" No food but a great story.

We had just arrived in a village in France so small you never heard of it. I had just discovered that in the rush of exiting the train and finding the car rental I had left a bag full of hundreds of dollars worth of souvenirs on the train. I tried mightily to put this in the perspective of a First World problem, but, still, I was inconsolable. And it was seven o'clock and we were hungry and the only place to eat was a restaurant in what had been a troglodyte cave and where no one spoke a word of English. I figured 'what else can go wrong. Bring me food.' By the time we'd finished the snail appetizer, which I had no need or desire to try, but I did anyway, I felt way better. The entrees were equally divine. A little boy who also spoke no English, read the dessert board to us in his local French dialect. We pointed and were subsequently served something that lifted me to a transcendent place where there are no lost bags. Maybe it was the $3 wine -- we were in wine country, after all. Anyway, I felt lost better as we walked back to our little rental.

Some of the most memorable food experiences are the simplest: A perfect peach on a perfect day eaten on a hill overlooking Florence, Italy. A perfect nectarine bought from a fruit stand on a hot August day during a bike trip on the German Baltic Sea Coast and eaten overlooking the sea.

When we were in Tibet 10 years ago, we were really surprised at the large number of vegetables -- we passed lots of greenhouses. They were high and cold, but had lots of sun so could grow them. However, as we got closer and closer to Everest Base Camp, there were fewer and fewer. Vegetable rice became cucumbers and rice! Yuck. Ate lots of pancakes...

Went to Thailand and visited one of the "party" streets in Bangkok with my Thai friend - who convinced me to indulge in the fried scorpions on sticks they were selling on the streets. Very crunchy! But I don't think I would eat again...

My most memorable foreign food experience was on a "Dreamtime" tour in the Australian Outback near Uluru. Our Aboriginal guide turned over a rock, found the insect he was looking for, a witchetty grub, and cooked it in the fire. He cut it into small pieces and offered it around. I was one of the few who took a piece, and I can report that it tasted like scrambled egg.

One of my favorite food travel experiences has been while I was in Havana last year, having mojitos, pina coladas, and many other drinks made with authentic Cuban rum! Also, we had actual coconuts that the street vendors hacked open then filled with rum - that was great too!

Flying Virgin America/Alaska for the first time this weekend -- they offered the best fare by a long shot, so I bit. What can I expect as far as in-flight amenities? I know they don't provide free snacks, but how's the entertainment?

They are one airline, but their complete merger is ongoing, so depends on whether you're flying Alaska, which uses mostly Boeing 737s, or Virgin, which is heavy on the Airbus A320s. I think Virgin does a better job with inflight entertainment. It has screens built into the seat backs. 

We are taking trip to Oregon and Seattle in June - starting in Eugene, down to Medford, up the coast from Bandon to Astoria, and then two days in Seattle. Any suggestions for things to see/do that aren't on Trip Advisor or are off the beaten path? And any of the "big" attractions that we should skip? We'll have two teenagers with us.

I can certainly help with Eugene, one of our You're Going Where? cities.

Chatters, any advice for the rest of the route?

Thanks for the info - one detail to add that really made me angry is that after shelling out $250+ for a hotel and meals, I met some passengers on the airport shuttle that were in the same situation as me and Delta did provide them with vouchers! I'm all for acknowledging policy but what good is it if it's not being enforced consistently!

That's just wrong. Please let me know if you get anywhere with Delta. I'm ready to help.

I spent two weeks in 2016 in Ireland without a car. I concentrated on three regions: Dublin, Dingle and Inis Mor, got around by bus, biking and walking. Where I biked Slea Head Drive you could book a hotel that offers a bus tour around the Dingle peninsula. Or choose a part of the country that's less remote.

Definitely doable without a car, but not as easy. 

Given the ever-narrowing of coach seats on planes, could ONE person purchase TWO seats at the lowest airfare, then travel with the armrest between the two seats raised? It seems a lot cheaper than first class, and since I'm a non-drinking vegetarian, first class service is irrelevant to me other than space considerations.

It might work, but I've heard of airlines reshuffling the seat assignments just before departure and putting other passengers in that second seat. So it's not a sure thing.

My 21-year old daughter has about five days to travel from Lancaster, PA (or DC) for spring break. She wants to hike in the sun, loves canyons and rafting. Prefers a cheap flight and not to have to rent a car given the up-charge for young adults. Help?

I would pick a city that has a hiking trail network within its city limits, such as Denver or Boulder, Colo.; Asheville, N.C.; or Eugene or Portland, Ore.

We have six families, 12 kids total, which range from six to 17 year-olds. No more than two hours driving (one family won't fly). We only have three nights. Where to?

Depends on your budget and when you are going. Renting a couple of houses in Wintergreen may work. Chesapeake Bay Hyatt is family friendly, but would cost much more. Chatters? 

Hasn't this been pretty much Standard Operating Procedure for all airlines at least since 9/11, as part of the increased security?

I don't think this has anything to do with 9/11. It's more about an on-time departure.

We're a family of four flying to Phoenix for spring break. We're definitely planning to spend a few days exploring Sedona and hit the Grand Canyon while up there. Where else in the area should we spend a couple nights? Preference is for some sun after Sedona, which I gather could be cold. Maybe Phoenix or Scottsdale (since we fly in/out of PHX)? Also taking recommendations of must-see/eat/do stuff in either area! Kids are school age, so can go most anywhere. We also love both cities and nature. Thanks!

I might hit Tucson, which will definitely be warm during spring break. Sedona will probably be really nice -- the spring there is really fabulous. If you have time, drive on up to the old territorial capital, Prescott. (That's where I'm based.)

You can't miss seeing the Eiffel Tower "twinkle" on the hour after dark (perhaps it starts at 9:00 PM?). Grab dessert at a table outside with a view and enjoy the show. A riverboat tour of the Sine, though "touristy" would be manageable (and a welcome chance to sit since Paris involves a lot of walking). See if your 8 year old can spot Lady Liberty. When the weather is nice, walking around the base of the Eiffel Tower, taking a spin on the carousel if the 8 year old isn't over that yet is nice as is grabbing ice cream from one of the many stands in that area.

I can visualize eating that ice cream cone while walking by the Eiffel Tower. 

I was in Dublin last year, and stayed just outside the city center near a train system. The Luas system is great - it will get you where you need to go in the city center, cheaply and easily. The city is also very compact, so while I wasn't right in the middle of the city, it was only a short Luas ride or walk in.

And you likely saved money by staying in a hotel outside the city. 

I get that it's mostly people with an axe to grind that write the really horrible reviews, but is Aer Lingus as bad as it looks on trip advisor? We're planning a trip to Ireland and they have far and away the best fares, but the negative press gives me pause.

I take Tripadvisor reviews with a grain of salt. Skytrax gives it four out of five stars, and reviews on its site give it a seven out of ten rating. 

I fly Alaska often as my SO lives in the PNW. Alaska has your standard snack (usually pretzels, sometimes Biscoff on morning flights) and beverage service, as well as food for purchase. They also have entertainment through their app if you have a tablet or laptop. If you ever take a Horizon operated by Alaska flight though, the offer free local beer and wine!

Good to know. 

When I checked online that my renewal was received, it said 4-6 weeks. Ten days later, I had it! Thank you, State Department employees! #publicservice

Great news!

For the person with a couple of days in Dublin, I can recommend the Holiday Inn Express on Upper O'Connell Street. North of the LIffey, but it's a short walk to the main sights south of the river. It's very close to the Abbey Theatre, too. Airport bus drops off at the Gresham Hotel on O'Connell Street - which is 50 meters from the HIE.

Great. Thanks for the recommendation! 

I go to Disney World 7 days after Labor day. One can get on rides without lines at will.

I don't know how close this site is to where the OP is traveling, but we were there last July and it was fascinating! Our young adult children who toured with us really enjoyed it too.

Good to know! Thanks for the rec.

Since the writer stated that they now live on the West Coast, definitely consider Cabo San Lucas. You should be able to get a direct flight out of a lot of major airports on the west coast. There's a lot of development going on and I've found a lot of competitive prices at reputable hotels (there's a new Westin property that keeps sending offers). Good dining, lots of opportunity for off shore excursions (whale watching, deep sea fishing, etc.) and you don't have to venture too far from the airport. As with all Mexico destinations, safety is a concern, but we went on a trip with multiple families (lot of kids) late last year and felt very safe.

I read right over that. Cabo is a nice place, but not a lot of historical sites nearby. 

I will be going to Turkey next month and am rather excited. Have you been? While I realize this is a personal preference, what would be the best three souvenirs I could bring back, other than memories, photos, and other intangible items. Thank you!

The shopping is incredible. In Ankara, I bought a wooden stool covered in Uzbekistan fabric, tons of jewelry and dried fruit and spices. I would also suggest artwork or jewelry with the evil eye, tea glasses, carpets or a small rug, candies (especially Turkish delight) and colorful ceramic bowls.

Careful on Denver and Boulder for a March or April spring break-it is the time we get the most snow and trails would be quite muddy.

Good to know! 

My most memorable food experience was eating (basically) live octopus in South Korea. I'll never forget the plate of squirming tentacles and the warning to chew quickly lest they get stuck in your throat. I gave them a shot and they were surprisingly tasty, though I'm not a fan of my food sucking on the inside of my mouth. I'll probably never eat them again, but now whenever anyone asks me to try something I'd really rather not, I just tell them, "hey, I've had live octopus, I'm no food wuss!"

PostPoints number please.

See above! We made sure to mention it earlier. 

It looks like our time is up -- thanks for the lively chat today, travelers! Royal Red shrimp road tripper, drop us a line at to claim your prize. And please join us again on Monday, March 5, for more Talk about Travel.

In This Chat
Nicole Arthur
Nicole Arthur is the Travel editor.
Carol Sottili
Carol Sottili is a former Washington Post travel writer, specializing in travel deals.
Andrea Sachs
Andrea Sachs is a staff writer for Travel.
Christopher Elliott
Christopher Elliott writes The Navigator column. He is also National Geographic Traveler magazine's reader advocate.
Recent Chats
  • Next: