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The Flight Crew
Washington Post Travel Section
Monday, June 23, 2003; 2:00 PM

The Post's Travel Section Flight Crew will take your comments, questions, suspicions, warnings, gripes, sad tales and happy endings springing from the world of... the world. Of course, the Flight Crew will be happy to answer your travel questions -? but the best thing about this forum, we insist, is that it lets travelers exchange information with other travelers who've been there, done that or otherwise have insights, ideas and information to share. Different members of the Crew will rotate through the captain's chair every week, but the one constant is you, our valued passengers.

We know you have a choice in online travel forums, and speaking for the entire Flight Crew, we want to thank you for flying with us.

The Flight Crew, from left: John Deiner, Carol Sottili, Steve Hendrix, Anne McDonough, Gary Lee, K.C. Summers, Cindy Loose, Andrea Sachs. (Melissa Cannarozzi - for The Post)

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The Flight Crew: Welcome fellow travelers! Gary Lee is your acting flight captain today. With sunshine finally making an appearance in Washington, we have decided at least for the moment to abandon our plans to hammer together an ark, collect two of each creature, and beat it for points south. Although a couple of our stalwarts are on the road, we have a solid crew on hand to offer travel advice of any kind. Travel Editor KC Summers is just back from a tour of Ireland. Assistant Editor John Deiner is here, too as is Q&A guru Carol Sottilli. Copy Editor Andrea Sachs is here, too, as is section researcher Anne Mcdonough.

Sometimes we find that travelers divide themselves into two groups: those who love to mingle with locals wherever they go and those who prefer to keep to themselves. Which side do you advocate? Any good stories about friendships formed on the road that have lasted? Any negative encounters with locals worth sharing? The best story wins a wonderful pinata filled with all sorts of goodies from Santa Fe.


Sore-footed in Silver Spring, Md.: Submitting in advance...

It's time to plan our second honeymoon, and we're
thinking "beach". We'd like to try one of the quieter
Caribbean islands. No casinos, no massive cruise
ships, no wild nightlife. We'd like to stay at a small
resort on the beach, where quiet activities like
snorkling, snoozing in a hammock, and bird-
watching are the main excitement. We'd personly
prefer a place that's unlikely to attract families. It
does not have to be particularly convenient to get to.
We're planning to go in May or June next year.

My preliminary research points towards St. Vincent &
the Grenadines, Grenada, Barbados, and BVI as
potential spots. The Petit St. Vincent resort looks like
a prime choice - we're willing to shell out the off-
season rate ($4000/week all-inclusive), but have no
idea what airfare costs might be (the resort
recommends you fly into Barbados).

So... (1) What kind of airfare can we expect for May
or June to Barbados or Grenada? (2) What other
small resorts on the aforementioned islands might
be appealing? (same price range or lower - we can't
afford Young Island) (3) Did I miss any good
potential islands?

The Flight Crew: Gary Lee, a major fan of small Caribbean islands, with a couple of thoughts. I can't recommend resorts on the places you mentioned, but: I think you would expect to pay around $600 in airfare to the places you mentioned. Maybe some other clicksters have places in mind? I would be remiss if I didn't suggest that you add Tobago (where I am a homeowner) to the mix.


Traveling Friendships: Actually, I befriended some folks (local workers, tour guides, etc.) at the resort in Costa Rica that I went to in August, 2002. Returned in December after keeping up an email correspondence with one and am in the process of planning a third trip to see them again at some point. People keep asking why I'd repeatedly pick the same destination, but I say, "It's no longer just tourism--it's a trip to see friends!;"

The Flight Crew: Thanks for your reply, says Gary. You're in the running for the prize!


Silver Spring, Md.: I was happy to see the article on Timbuktu in Sunday's travel section, having gone there nearly 20 years ago when I worked in West Africa and my parents came to visit (my father had wanted to visit Timbuktu and Anghor Wat since he was a kid and at least he made it to one of the two before he died; he enjoyed Bamako, especially the young, topless French girls swimming in the pool of the Hotel L'Amitie while my mother looked on with a bemused smile). We also experienced the great warmth and hospitality of Malians wherever we went, including policemen in Timbuktu who, when my parents picked up their passports after getting their visas extended, invited us to sit down with them to partake in the communal lunch pot of rice and other items (it seemed automatic: you have guests at mealtime, you invite them to share your meal). I was a bit disappointed to not see the usual info on getting there, etc. that accompanies many of the travel articles. Timbuktu is not the easiest place in the world to get to, but also not the most difficult-- and you can (or at least could) get there by plane, with no uncomfortable boats or trucks.

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: I think that the main point of the story was how hard it is to get to Timbuktu. The author did have reservations on Air Mali, which flies from Bambako to Timbuktu, but the flights kept getting canceled. So then he hired a driver, which is another popular way to get between the two places, but that didn't work out all that well either. Most people fly Air France to Bamako and then fly Air Mali to Timbuktu. We ran a story in the Travel section in May 2001 about Mali that included info on getting to Timbuktu - look for a link to that story later in the chat.


Dupont, Washington, D.C.: A friend and I are making a spur-of-the- moment roadtrip to Montreal next week, but neither of us know much about the city. Are there any great resources or ideas that anyone can recommend?

Thank you!

The Flight Crew: Hey Dupont--sure you don't want to wait until July 10-20 and head to Montreal for the "Just for Laughs" festival? The comedy extravaganza's supposed to be great...
But if you just can't wait, I'd suggest renting bikes and using the extensive bike route that loops through lots of different areas of the city, walking to the top of Mont-Royal, Quebecois music at Les Deux Poirrots (or Pierrots, or something like that. The spelling's escaping me). We've written about this in the chats before, but while Old Montreal is picturesque and there's lots to see, for a hipper, less expensive look at the city head to Plateau Mont-Royal and the Latin Quarter. There should be a link to Tom's Postcard from Montreal from April coming up soon, for some restaurant suggestions... other ones that I'd throw in would be Blu Nile (Ethiopian, on St.-Laurent, I believe) and L'Express for great breakfasts. Any suggestions from the clicksters?


washingtonpost.com: Seeing Mali, (Post, May 20, 2001) The Flight Crew: Here's that other Mali story.....


Arlington, Va.: Hi Guys!
Do you have any ideas for things to do near LAX for a family with two teenagers (aged 16 and 13)? We arrive there Friday evening and will stay overnight at an airport hotel. Our outbound flight over the Pacific does not leave until 11pm on Saturday, so we have a whole day in which to entertain ourselves. We like outdoor activities (like hiking) and we can get access to a rental car if necessary. Also, we'd rather not spend a lot of money (so that rules out places like Universal Studios). Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

The Flight Crew: You can catch a cab, or rent a car, and hit the Getty Center, which isn't too far away. Or, if it's sunny (98 percent chance, since it is L.A.), you can hit the beaches, which are pretty close. You can rent bikes and ride the bike trail to Venice Beach, which is full of teen-distractions, like funky shops and restaurants, outdoor venders, the tattooed grandmother and other freaky atrractions. Or go south to Manhattan Beach or Redondo, which has good shopping and eating (former) or a lively boardwalk (latter), where you can fish. The kids can also play volleyball or surf, or just soak up the L.A. scene. Also ask your hotel about Hollywood tours of star homes. No matter what the age, Maddona's home can impress.--andrea


washingtonpost.com: Postcard from Tom: Montreal, (Post, April 6, 2003) The Flight Crew: Thanks, Kim!


Arlington, Va.: We're headed to Munich to pick up a new BMW next week-- as featured in the Travel section recently! I can't decide where to go after picking the car up in Munich. Heading west through the Black Forest and then on to Alsace is topping the list, but going south into Italy's lake region is also tempting. Any advice from the Peanut Gallery?

The Flight Crew: Gary Lee, who lived for a while in Germany, has a couple of thoughts: first, if you have not done so, spend some time in Munich. It's delightful, one of the nicest cities in that part of Europe. Of the options that you mentioned, I would favor the Black Forest route, the perfect trip for testing the power of your BMW. Otherwise, Garmisch ans Salzburg are both lovely and easy to get to from the Bavarian capital.


Low-Salaried Non-profit ville, Washington, D.C.: Thanks so much for taking my question. I have the amazing opportunity to travel to Turkey at the last minute this summer, for work. Our project is in the West, but I'd like to plan a weekend stopover in Istanbul on the return trip. I've found many websites with helpful 2-3 day Istanbul itineraries but they recommend many different neighborhoods to stay in, both in the new and old sections. What do you suggest to a single girl on a budget who wants to be in the middle of things, but still safe? There seem to be many decent B&B places in the $40-60/night range, but it seems like luxury is only $50 away. I'd like to graduate from Hostels, but don't mind shared facilities or small places.

I read both pieces on the Post Website, and would love to venture further but think I'll only have enough time and money for an extra weekend.

Thank you!

The Flight Crew: Hey LSNPVWDC. I stayed in the old part of town, where most of the major attractions are, and it was ideal for sightseeing. Okay, I wasn't a single girl on a budget, but I felt pretty safe wandering around during the day (though at night I did stray with other folks). The hotel was just a few minutes from the Blue Mosque, off a trolley line, near the port and the bazaar. My understanding was that rooms in the area didn't get much above $75 or so, and many of the hotels in the area are pretty nice. I remember Steve loved the place he was at (a B&B), but of course he's not here and I don't remember the name.

Anyone out there have a suggestion for our friend here?


Begging, PLEADING: Please, please, please answer my question!; I am going to see an old frined in El Paso in August. We're driving from there to Santa Fe and Taos. We've booked a couple bed and breakfasts--and neither of us have ever stayed in one. What should we expect?

Also, any reccomendations for things to do or must-see places in either city or along the route? Restaurant reccomendations? PLEASE?

The Flight Crew: We in the flight crew are not familiar with the sights in and around El Paso, says Gary. Do any other clicksters have tips in that area?


Vienna, Va.: I am thinking about buying a BMW through European Delivery, and I know you wrote an article about this experience - any chance on providing a link to it for me? I can't seem to find it in your archive.

Thanks so much!

washingtonpost.com: The Ultimate Souvenir: A New BMW, (Post, June 8, 2003)

The Flight Crew: Here you go Vienna, from Gary Lee!


San Antonio, Tex.: FOR CONTEST...

When I was studying abroad in Germany in the 1980's, I found that the BEST way to travel was to get to know the locals. I had some of the best travel experiences of my life back then-- experiencing life in small rural villages, big cities, etc., but from the local's perspective. Some of most fun moments of my student time in Munich -- fooling the American tourists! My friends gave me a lovely dirndl (traditional dress) as a gift (since they felt I was an "honorary Bavarian").. Whenever I wore this traditional dress in the tourist area, I was usually approached by American tourists, asking directions from (who they thought was) a local! Imagine their surprise when I eventually revealed to them I was from Ohio, and not Bavaria!

The Flight Crew: Cute story, says Gary. It could win you the prize!


Baltimore, Md.: To respond to your mixing with locals question. A numer of years ago as a student in London, I was waiting in a long line to buying a month pass to the London Tube, when I struck up a conversation with the person in front of me. Noticing my American accent, he asked me what part of the States I was from. One question lead to another and then another--it turned out that he worked for a subsidiary of the company my father worked for and that my father taught a class where this individual was a student. In any event, he invited me to meet his family in North London and 25 years later, we still keep in touch. Not bad from a random meeting.

The Flight Crew: Thanks Baltimore, says Gary. Nice answer! Could be prizeworthy...


Rocky Mount, N.C.: My family, possible 8 adults and 4 kids, are looking to come to DC for the July 4th weekend. Would there be a good hotel to stay at in DC where you could watch the fireworks from the hotel? Either a rooftop, room or top floor lounge? Not too sure I want to fight the crowd w/kids on the Mall. Thanks!

The Flight Crew: To really avoid the masses, you can stay across the river in Arlington/Rosslyn and see the fireworks from the other side. Check Quikbook for deals, since they were recently posting holiday specials for D.C. You might also want to check hotels around Foggy Bottom, like One Washington Circle, which is offering a July special. Another popular spot is the Hotel Washington, which has a great rooftop bar but it might be as crowded as the scene below.--andrea


Locals, Italy: My friend and I went backpacking around Europe one winter during college. On Christmas day we were in Rome. Since everything was closed, we decided to see Keats' and Shelley's gravesites. When we got to the cemetery, we were the only people there except for the groundskeeper. He didn't know any English, and we knew very little Italian. He motioned for us to come into his toolshed and we went, albeit a tad reluctantly. Once inside, he took champagne and christmas cake out of the fridge and passed it around. It was so sweet, all we could say was prego, and we toasted the holiday and went on our way. It's one of my best memories from the trip.

The Flight Crew: Thanks for the poignant story says Gary.


re: locals: being with the locals has always provided me with wonderful experiences. For an easy way to hook up, please join Servas at http://www.usservas.org/ tell them Sharon sent you.

Servas is a traveler/host peace organization--you can host or travel or both. By making friends we destroy stereotypes and build peace.

The Flight Crew: Much thanks, Sharon says Gary.


Going to Turkey Next Week!;: Hi Travel team,

I just booked a last minute vacation to Turkey for next week but as soon as I booked it, I had safety reservations. I've read the consular's web site and it says travel to Turkey is safe but any advice you can give to calm my fears? Also, any tourist advice? I'm traveling with another woman and we're pretty adventurous. (We're staying in Istanbul the entire trip.)

Thanks so much!;

The Flight Crew: Lucky dogs.

As with any major city, just stick close to your friend, try to blend in, don't participate in any mass rallies and keep a close eye on your purse/moneybelt. You'll be fine!

The Bazaar is unbelievable, and just about everyone you'll meet there will tell you it's a pickpocket's paradise. Remember that you'll have to take off your shoes at the mosques (veils provided), so wear comfy socks. Don't be afraid to ask for directions--the Turks I talked to were wonderfully helpful. And whatever you do, give yourself at least an afternoon at Topkapi Palace.


Somewhere USA: Significant anniversary coming up soon. If money were almost no exception, what DC area hotel would you choose for the night, and where would you dine?

The Flight Crew: I'd love to stay in the Hotel Monaco -- it's a gorgeous building (the mid-19th-century Tariff Building, beautifully restored), in a happening part of town, Penn Quarter. Near the MCI Center, National Portrait Gallery, the new Spy Museum and hot new restaurants like Zola. Its own restaurant, Poste, is pretty cool too (with great, Parisian-style frites in newspaper cones). Lobbies and guest rooms are beautifully furnished. AND you get a goldfish in your room. All in all a very hip luxury boutique hotel, great for a splurge. They have some specials on their web site for under $200. www.monaco-dc.com. -- KC


Arlington, Va.: I love to mingle with locals wherever I go. In Italy, once, I got into Sienna during a festival that I didn't know about, and I had not pre-booked a room. I went into a bar with my backpack and had a couple drinks and started talking to the woman behind the counter. She was so funny and warm. When she found out about my situation she insisted that I stay with her family. She did not want a young woman in her 20's travelling alone to be out in the streets. "too many stupid men" she said. So she took me in, let me stay in her spare room with her, her husband and 2 children. She insisted that I stay with them for the 3 days I had allotted to visit the town, and she wouldn't take a dime. And when it came time for me to leave, she packed me a picnic basket for my train ride to Rome. To this day, whenever I visit there I still have lunch or dinner with them, and we still exchange Christmas cards!

I have had similar experiences (although not as personal) in China, Mexico, Spain, and Belgium, where just having a chat with the locals has gotten me into "booked" restaurants, discounts at shops, a boat ride to a little known beach away from the tourists, dinner with a local family, and an offer to stay and teach english (which I had to sadly decline!)

The Flight Crew: Arlington: that's a wonderfully warm story. It puts you in the running for the prize!


Rosslyn, Va.: Hey Guys!;,

I'm booking a trip to LA for the second
week of August. The lowest non-stop
fares are still over $300 (on JetBlue --
may favorite!;) which seems a little high,
but I guess that's what airfares are these
days? I've been waiting it out to see if
there are any summer sales or fare wars
... but I don't sense anything like that
coming ... is it time to go ahead and make
the purchase? Thanks for any help!;

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Sometimes the round-trip fares go down as low as $219 or so, but that's usually out of BWI on Southwest. Right now, the round-trip mid-week fare in August on nonstop Southwest flights into LAX is about $261. I'm sure you realize that JetBlue flies out of Dulles, and into Long Beach, not LAX - I came up with a $274 round-trip fare at www.jetblue.com. Also, Continental is offering a round-trip fare of about $235 out of DCA to LAX in August.


Gettysburg, Pa.: I have a friend who is studying abroad next year. He will be in Australia from July-November and then Germany from February-June. I'd like to buy him something for his journey--any suggestions on something a little different (that he probably didn't already buy for himself) but useful at the same time?

The Flight Crew: Hey Gettysburg--a couple of ideas. You could look into international prepaid phone cards...an alarm clock with a recording, so that he can have your voice yelling at him every morning to "Get up, lazyhead..." Instead of weighing him down with something before he heads off, you could get the address where he'll be staying in Australia and send a care package, so that he'll have something from home waiting for him upon arrival (bonus points: do the same thing for when he arrives in Germany). I'm partial to picking out my own journals, but perhaps a special notebook for him to record his trip...Check if he already has one, but if he's sans a moneybelt, that's one of the most useful things to have on any trip...the list goes on and on. And can go further, if the clicksters want to weigh in...


Washington, D.C.: Gary, Is it your life goal to own a home on each of the seven continents? How often do you visit your places in Paris and Tobago?

The Flight Crew: DC: Naw, it's not a goal, it just happened. In answer to your second question, not often enough...


Farragut Square, Washington, D.C.: One of the best contact with local stories occurred when I was around 14 years old and visiting Mexico City with my family. My father speaks some Spanish, and both my parents are avid fans of Mexican muralists. They had read of some Diego Rivera & Siqueros murals at some government agency, and we showed up at it one afternoon. The building had several stories of exterior corridors, where we could see from the ground the murals. In his high school Spanish, my father asked a worker if we could be permitted to go up the stairs to get a closer look. The man was so impressed that we had come from New York to see the murals of his agency that he insisted on giving us a full tour, moving aside boxes that were stacked up in front of certain murals, barging into people's offices to show us some hidden gems. It was a wonderful chance to see something few, if any, tourists ever got to see.

That experience taught me a valuable lesson that I have tried to emulate in later travels--do research on things that interest you before you go, express respect for local culture, and don't be shy about approaching local people.

The Flight Crew: Farragut Square: we like the story, says Gary! It could win YOU the prize.


re: contest: I arranged a homestay in Munich with a German woman and her Brit boyfriend. We went salsa dancing the first night and met a bunch of guys from Burundi. They invited us to a festival the next night. No joke, the festival was called Who's Afraid of the Black Man!; It was all African drumming, Carribbean food, etc. Later we went to an all night coffee shop and had conversations in English, Spanish, French, German and Burundi languages. I never >did< get to any of the museums or tourist attractions....

The Flight Crew: We're glad that you had that experience, says Gary, thanks for sharing...


more montreal: Also, definitely have breakfast at the place with Egg in the name (Eggscellent? Eggsperte?) and don't miss the Biodome. Take the subway out to the Biodome and, if you're inclined, do the Botanical Garden while you're there.

The Flight Crew: Yes--I can't believe I forgot this place- Eggspectation on blvd. maissoneve west at montagne, I think. And Cafe Santropol is wonderful as well, very eclectic and filled with Montrealers as opposed to visitors.



Annapolis, Md.: Help!; My husband is returning from a Navy deployment in about a week and we're trying to find a quick one week get-a-way,
preferably to a PA lake (nice hotel) for a just plain relaxation (and maybe a little sightseeing) before he starts a new high pressure job in D.C. About a 4
or 5 hr. drive from Annapolis. We'll have our 16 yr. old with us,so we need some activity of sorts. We'd like to avoid wild ocean beach type crowds, but
if you have suggestions other than a PA lake we'd be happy to consider them. Thanks so much!;!;--Jan Wilson

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: I don't know what your budget is, but we always enjoy a place called Woodloch Pines in the Poconos. It's expensive, but it's really nice, on a lake, with all sorts of stuff to do. They have "hot deals" on the www.woodloch.com Web site that cut the cost a bit.


Centreville, Va.: Hi,
My husband and I want to plan a trip to Atlantic City next month. Would we get the best hotel deals by looking online or going through a travel agent? We would really like a 2 or 3 day/ 3 or 4 night package. Do those exist anymore? I used to to think that hotels gave you cheaper rates to get you into their hotel casinos. But as I search online, hotel rates for the better hotels are like $250+ per night!
Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer.

The Flight Crew: Gee, Centreville. Good question . . . I'm guessing that you could go through a travel agent, or check with Greyhound/Peter Pan and Amtrak to see if they offer any good deals. Also, check things like www.hotels.com, expedia, travelocity, orbitz or the new www.travelweb.com to see what they have.

As far as cheap rates in the summer in Atlantic City casinos, forget it. There are too few rooms and too much demand, and because so many of the people there come by bus, they really don't need to lure folks to stay overnight. That said, the best way to keep the costs down would be stay off the Boardwalk in one of the chain hotels leading into town--kind of a pain, but it'll save money.



Centreville, Va.: For the Contest:
A few years ago, while in college, I went to Italy with a friend and my sister. On our way back home, we had a connecting flight in Paris, but missed the flight! What to do with a night in Paris! We were in the lobby of our hotel, trying to change money over to francs, when a couple behind us started talking about going into the city. We struck up conversation and decided to go in together. Sal and Lupe, brother and sister from Chicago, accompanied us to see the Eiffel Tower, Champs D'Elysees and Paris at night. We exchanged information so I could send them some photos, and to this day (nearly 5 years later), I'll still receive an email from Lupe!

The Flight Crew: Gary Lee says: aren't those kind of chance encounters just the best. Yours could win you a prize!


re: Sore-footed : It's not the Carribbean, but I highly reccommend French Polynesia. We had our second honeymoon there and it was terrific.

Tahiti proper (the main isle) is more like Hawaii, but the outer islands are wonderfully low key and remote. We divided our time b/w Bora Bora, Moorea, & Tahiti.

Tahiti takes prides in the fact that the amount of tourists they get in a year is equavlent to a day's worth of tourism in a Hawaii.

Plus, not too many families take their kids on that long a flight. (It's actually not too bad -- 7 hrs from LA).

It will probably cost more ducats than Carribbean but we LOVED it.

The Flight Crew: Ok, says Gary. Nice suggestion!


Falls Church, Va.: Where can I find recommendations for restaurants in London? I've read Tom's postcard and nothing sounded like what I was looking for. I'm trying to eat like the locals and want to stay away from tourist-centered dining. I need the London version of the Post dining guide!

The Flight Crew: My rule is to hit the city's many Indian and other Asian restaurants, I've had some fabulous (and cheap) dinners that way. Gary recommends a new Indian place, Chutney Mary's. And Anne likes the Wagawama noodle bars (a chain). We had a story about restaurants in the theater district recently, and we'll post a link to that. Also, go to the England section of our travel archives and look at the ends of all the London stories -- there are frequently some great restaurant recommendations buried there.

What, you say you didn't know about our travel story archives? From the Post home page, choose Travel from the column on the right, then scroll down to Travel Index and then click on International Destinations. We've got five years' worth of stories there and, unlike the regular Post archives, they're free! -- KC


montreal suggestions: Oh, you have to get smoked meat sandwiches at the famous deli. Schwartz's, I think, or Chez Schwartz. Shopping is fabulous. Never had a bad meal. We stayed at the McGill dorms -- perfect location, perfect price. Wish I could remember more names. The Polish place off St. Denis serves killer pierogi.

The Flight Crew: And the sugestions just keep coming...yup, Schwartz's on St. Laurent is apparently a must for the meat-eating set. And Stash's Cafe in Old Montreal is also a good Polish place.


Natives...: As a 19 year old adventurer, I decided to move to Ireland for a summer and work...knowing noone in the country. Upon my first week in Dublin I made lasting friends at the cafe where I worked. We would trade lanuage lessons while we made the coffee -- they would teach me gaelic, I would teach them slang so they could understand what Rikki Lake was saying on TV.. One month into the experience, my boss, who hired me because he had recieved help as a foreigner in NY once, heard that I wanted to go to a sold-out sinead o'connor concert. That night, he opened the till and gave me 50 pounds to go scalp a ticket!;

And the stories go on and on, once while hiking through the mountains in Donegal, I got lost, had to wade through a bog, and dodn't know if I would make to my hostel. At the last minute, i found a road, and 4 red-haired kids playing soccer. They had never met an american, so they wanted to shake my hand and ask me about McDonald's!; They led my mud-caked self on to my final destination, which was Annagry... There Enya's father showed me home videos of her as a child at his pub.... you get the picture.

Sorry this is long, but, now having lived in many, many countries, I am still touched by the kindness of the Irish, and go back to visit friends often...

The Flight Crew: Thanks, says Gary. Makes me want to head right over to Ireland, too.


Another BMW Suggestion: Having lived for years in Munich, I'd personly recommend SOUTH. Drive the deutsche Alpenstrasse to Berchtesgaden/Koenigsee, see Salzburg and the Salzkammergut lakes, explore Garmisch, cross the Brenner to northern Italy, cruise the Dolomites. I've done it both in BMWs and hotrod American cars, and you can't beat the scenery, exciting roads, lovely villages, and reasonable accommodations. A word of caution: We hit Florence at rush hour in a brand new BMW. Survived without a scratch, but the Italian traffic was tramatic!;

The Flight Crew: Thanks, says Gary. Sounds like a great itinerary...


Germantown, Md.: Meet the locals, definitely! We grew up going to the same southern beach every summer and it wasn't until we stopped hanging out with family all the time and met some locals that we really learned to love the place. My sister and I were 14 and 16 and we met some great friends who showed us the perfect inlets for crabbing, taught us how to surf, gave us island tours in their motorboats, and taught us the history of the island and of South Carolina. And yes, we're still friends, 15 years later, and still visiting every chance we get!

I want my kids to have the same experiences I did down there, and getting to know the locals is the best way to do that. When you don't meet the locals you're just visiting, but when you get to know the people, you're home.

The Flight Crew: Thanks, Germantown, we couldn't agree more...


study abroad gifts: Travel guides are always a great gift - especially if you get one focused on the region (as opposed to entire country) where your friend is staying.

If you really want to splurge - get an MP3 player. When I was abroad many moons ago, I really missed my 250+ cd collection. If MP3s existed back then, I could have brought along my entire collection on a few CDs!;

The Flight Crew: The poster would have to really really like his friend to go the way of an MP3 player, but that gives me another idea, can't believe I forgot to mention it. There is perhaps nothing better to have with you on the road than a killer mix made by a friend. Actually, there is: more than one killer mix.
Travel guides are a good idea but they're like journals: a lot of people like to choose their own.


Cape Town Adventure: Good afternoon Crew!; Just wanted to tell you about the first time I ever left the country. It was 1994 and I was offered a deal too good to pass up - Cape Town for 10 days!;!; I found out on this trip that it is MUCH better to mix with the locals - I met South Africans on the flight to Cape Town that took me dining, dancing and drinking into the wee hours during my stay (okay, it's a 16-hour long flight and you get to know people). I met a group of locals while dining solo in a restaurant -- they heard my accent and insisted that I join their table. I still correspond with one of them to this day. And I met another South African on the flight home - I decided to return the favor to the people that were nice to me on my trip and I showed him around Washington. He and I still keep in touch to this day and I visited him in England a few years ago.

So fellow travelers - the moral to the story is mingle, mingle, mingle with the locals for you never know how long your connections might last or where in the world you might run into them again!;

The Flight Crew: Well said, reponds Gary. Thanks...


Reston, Va.: I'm heading to Thailand this summer and was wondering if there are any shots or medical precautions I should take before I leave.


The Flight Crew: No shots necessary, Reston. Take the usual precautions once you get there -- don't drink the water (everybody drinks bottled, even locals), don't brush your teeth with it and don't eat anything that hasn't been peeled, boiled, etc. Now, having said that, I ate a lot of street food when I was there (staying away from the more fly-laden stands, etc) and never got sick, but it's probably best not to take chances. -- KC


Another Idea for "Sore Footed": Consider going to St. John in the USVI. My husband and I honeymooned at Caneel Bay and it was like HEAVEN. Fly into St. Thomas, but ferry over to St. John, to avoid the touristy crowds. Caneel Bay is a very elegant resort, no phones/televisions/interruptions, incredibly relaxed atmosphere, and few kids (not that I have anything against children...). Just another destination to consider.

The Flight Crew: Says Gary. We thought about mentioning St. John's too. Glad you did.


washingtonpost.com: In London, Dinner and Drama, (Post, Jan. 19, 2003) The Flight Crew: Here's that London theater district restaurant story link.


Fireworks from Virginia: For a great view of the fireworks from Virginia stay at either the Double Tree or the Residence Inn in Arlington near the pentagon. Just request a room that faces the city. It's great to watch the fireworks and traffic jams from your air conditioned room.

The Flight Crew: Thanks for the advice!


Arlington, Va.: When we took a family trip to Ireland 10 years ago, my brother went to a local pub to take in the atmosphere, listen to some Irish singing, and enjoy a Guiness (or two). He started talking to his barstool neighbor about a ranch my parents own, and mentioned the number of acres and the number of head of cattle. The gentlemen responded, talking about the number of "kettles" he had. He went on and on about the quality of his "kettles" and how unusual it was to have as many as he had. My brother couldn't for the life of him understand what was so impressive about kettles (a note, we had just flown in from the US that morning), but kept listening and making what he presumed were appropriate comments. It wasn't until the next morning that my brother finally realized the man was talking about the number of cattle he owned!

The Flight Crew: Thanks, Arlington, says Gary. Good thing you didn;t ask which kettle was best for making tea!


Crystal City, Va.: My husband and I went to San Antonio this weekend (great city, btw). We flew Continental out of DCA and changed planes in Houston. On every single leg, the flight was overbooked by about 10-20%. People were getting bumped left and right and the ticket counter was besieged with furious travelers. My husband and I checked in very early for each leg, but were assigned middle seats far apart from each other. When we nicely asked if there were any other seats available, we were told that "we were lucky to get a seat so we should be happy". I didn't realize that I needed to be worried about getting a seat on a flight I had booked months in advance! Needless to say we will never fly Continental again. We have traveled a lot and have never had a problem with being able to sit together, or with extreme overbooking. Is this a problem inherent to Continental? Or something new that airlines are doing? We have another trip coming up in September, and it's a very long flight (Hawaii). Do you have any tips on how we can get seats together? And is it recommended to check in even earlier than 2 hours so we don't run the risk of getting bumped? Thanks!

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: I don't think Continental has a corner on the bumping market. For the first quarter of 2002, Delta, Southwest, AirTran and Atlantic Southeast (a subsidiary of Delta) all had worse records. Continental's rate was .83 involuntary bumps for every 10,000 passengers. Airline with the best record was JetBlue, with no involuntary bumps. Getting to the airport way early helps, but even more helpful is traveling at off-peak times (Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday mid-day is good). As for getting seats together, many airlines now allow you to get a boarding pass via the Web before you travel - check with your airline and go this route if you can because you can get seats at the same time.


Virginia: I'm going to be in London for just over a week at the end of August this year. Are there any day trips outside the city that we just shouldn't miss?

The Flight Crew: Our recent story onLondon day trips mentioned Windsor, Oxford and Salisbury (link coming up). Anyone got other favorite day trip suggestions?


washingtonpost.com: London Day Trips, (Post, March 16, 2003) The Flight Crew: Link to the London day trip story. Thanks Kim!


Mingling with the locals: So my junior year in college a couple of friends and I decide to go to Jamaica for Spring Break. We decide to walk from our hotel downtown to do a little shopping. On our way in a local starts walking with us and being friendly. One of my friends is rude and dismissive saying he probably just wants something. We tell that friend to be quiet and just enjoy getting this tour by a local. The local shows us around the downtown for several hours, giving us good hints about little shops, cheap eats, how to negotiate, and of course where the ATM is located. After being our personal guide for several hours we begin to walk back to our hotel and our new friend joins us. He is walking back with us when several of his friends join (read: surround) us. He says that he knows a short cut to our hotel that requires walking up an abandoned, out-of-the-way road. At this point (we may be naive, but we're not stupid) we say that we will stick to the main road thank you very much. Realizing that we are not going to follow him, he asks for some money for showing us around. I oblige by beginning to pull a few dollars out of my newly ATM-loaded pocket. He says that that is not enough and pulls out of his pocket a little box cutter, simultaneously his friends whip out what appear to be the free "Swiss Army" knives you get with a mini-flashlight. They tell us that "they run this town and we better give them our money or else." Let me pause here to set the scene: While my friends and I were outnumbered 3-to-5, I was 6'1", 200 pounds, and the smallest of the three of us. The biggest of the locals was about 5'7, 150. Also, three of the locals had apparently been smoking plenty of "the product" that Jamaica is known for and where having a little trouble keeping their balance. So at the sign of the mini-knife of one of the locals, which by the way was unaccessible in a buttoned shirt breast pocket, my friend shoved said local who, being more then a little high, fell over the street curb. Realizing that their well-conceived plan was falling to pieces, the other four locals ran as fast as they could in separate directions and I was left holding the couple of bucks I was going to give to our local tour guide.

The Flight Crew: Good story, says Gary. This could win you a prize...


Washington, D.C.: We dodged the all-American trip to Disneyworld when our daughters were kids, but now that they are all in their early 20s, we think it would be a kick to have a family vacation in Orlando this August. Do you have any tips for minimizing costs and maximizing fun? Thanks!

The Flight Crew: Hey,DC.

Sounds like fun. Here's tip No. 1: If you can, go the week before Labor Day. The parks will be empty--been down there a few times that week and it's just a breeze getting on the rides and into restaurants. All the kids are back home getting ready for school..heheheheh.

As far as saving money/maximimizing fun, try to stay in a hotel room with a kitchenette and eat breakfasts in, and you can also bring snacks into the park (I think). Bring your AAA card--you can get a discount on park passes and just about everything inside the park gates, including food and souvenirs. If you rent a car, you may save some time driving from one park to another (the parking pass is good for a day at all lots) rather than schlepping around in a bus. Check the Disney Web site for deals on hotel rooms--it's aching to get people down there. End the day at Epcot at least once to see the cool show in the middle of the lagoon (it also has the better restaurants). Use the quickpass thing to get to the front of the line on the better, more popular rides--it really is a huge timesaver.

And for my money, for maximum thrills, spend an afternoon at Islands of Adventure at Universal--the best theme park down there.



Logan Circle, Washington, D.C.: One of my favorite "mingling" experiences happened on a group tour of China. Beijing was our first stop, and while many of our fellow travelers were content to stay near the hotel, on the outskirts of the city, and venture only as far as the Hard Rock Cafe, my traveling companion and I hopped in a cab and asked (mimed, really) to be taken to the central area. After dinner in a Chinese-only restaurant, we followed the directions of the staff (again, much hand gesturing and giggling on both sides)to Tiananman Square, arriving just after sunset, when only the locals were out strolling/ dating/flying kites. To be the only recognizable foreigners in that famous/infamous place was truly amazing, and quite a contrast to the feeling we had when we returned with our group a few days later, complete with guide and translator.

The Flight Crew: Now we like that kind of story, says Gary. It could win you a prize!


Silver Spring, Md.: Mingling with the Locals...

A friend and I visited Thailand a few years back. Before the trip began, we were inundated with how everyone loved Thailand and how friendly the Thais are. This made us look forward to the trip even more.

However, when we got there, we were SEVERELY disappointed. Maybe it's the people we met, but to us, it seemed the Thais were very friendly ... until they got our money. After a couple of unpleasant experiences (being cheated, lied to, etc), we had an extremely negative view of the country - until our last night there.

We were in Bangkok looking for a place to eat dinner and wandered into a new-looking restaurant. It turns out that it was owned and run by a family of sisters. And, it was their first night in business. The food was great and, since we were the only customers, they spent a lot of time talking to us. The oldest sister told us to come back at midnight and they'd take us to some of the night markets. We did. They showed us around, bought us traditional snacks, and explained what some of the fruits and flowers were. After the tour, they took us back to the restaurant and cooked a late-night snack for us.

The next day we left Thailand with a much better impression of what the country had to offer. We only wished we had met that family a few weeks earlier.

The Flight Crew: Lovely tale, says Gary. Thanks!


Meeting the Locals: Hi Crew,

When my husband & I traveled to Scotland this spring, we hooked up for a day with a local guy that we had never met in person but my husband had corresponded with via email. He took us on a whirlwind driving tour of the Borders that was a blast (not least because we didn't have to worry about being behind the wheel!;). Also, that evening we visited with another friend of his who was a very nice chap. Turns out the second guy is here in town this week and will at the Smithsonian Festival!; We spent some time this weekend hanging out with him and look forward to the next time we can cross the pond, as we now have a friend to visit with.

The Flight Crew: That's a good one, says Gary. It could win you the prize!


study abroad gift: A really generous gift would be a gift certificate to a good hotel in some expensive city (probably Germany, not Australia).

I was studying in the north of England, and a good friend got a gift certificate to a nice but modest b&b in London for 3 nights. Since London hotels can be so pricey, it was a great gift.

The Flight Crew: That's a neat idea. If a hotel's out of reach, maybe a dinner at a particularly nice restaurant could work just as well.



Fairlington, Va.: I have family in El Paso so I go there at least once a year. There's not much in El Paso itself other than one or two mediocre museums downtown and an Army museum at Fort Bliss. But some nearby attractions include: Carlsbad Caverns, the largest cavern in the US (about 90 minutes away). And my personal favorite, White Sands National Monument, which is about 2.5 hours drive. Las Cruces, about 30 minutes north of El Paso, has a cute downtown district with quaint stores and even a winery. And from El Paso, you can always cross the border into Juarez Mexico for cheap shopping and dining. Park your car in the lots ($5 all day) then walk the bridge across the Rio Grande River(25 cents toll).

The Flight Crew: Thanks for the tips, says Gary.


Washington, D.C.: In Beijing for four nights on holiday, I hung out every night in the same karaoke bar. The bartender was very friendly and spoke English. Eventually, we started singing karaoke (sp?) together -- duets and group projects. At the end, he refused my tip -- saying we were friends. All he asked was that I send him a photo of us from our karaoke nights.

The Flight Crew: Thanks, DC, said Gary. I hope you obliged him with a pic?


Rockville, Md.: Did KC get to Newgrange or any of the other Neolithic mounds in Ireland? If so, any recommendations? Thanks!

The Flight Crew: I saw some neat mounds (and ancient stone forts, beehive huts etc) on the Dingle Peninsula -- I really recommend that area for stuff like that, especially the Gallarus Oratory, an amazing church-like building made of stones (no mortar) that dates from like the 6th century. Also saw mounds while driving through County Clare and the Burren area, but didn't get to Newgrange. A big disappointment of the trip (the only disappointment really) was that I didn't have time to do everything -- am still bitterly disappointed over not getting to the Doolin Crafts Centre! Next time! -- KC


Aruba Mamas: My friend and I went to Aruba a few years ago. While sunning on the beach, a local came up and offered us a drink. We gladly accepted and he came back with person, black, steaming HOT COFFEE!; Just the thing you want in 100 degree weather.... We ended up talking with him, and he invited us to go on one of the local sunset cruises. There, we met a friend of his, and he offered to give us scuba diving lessons for free!; A couple of days later, the scuba instructor and another friend (the captain of the sunset cruise) took us out to a local restaurant were we dined on Aruban cuisine (goat and conch - delish!;). So, if we had never talked to the first local, we never would have had the other experiences!; Definitely better to hang with the locals.

The Flight Crew: Nice anecdote, says Gary. Thanks!


london food: Last time we went to London we ate fish & chips in a pub in Covent Garden just because we had to, but the best meal I had, hands down, was the chicken chili noodle bowl at Wagamama. Easy on the wallet, you sit at benches, they scribble down your order on the paper in front of you, but the noodles are deeeeelish.

The Flight Crew: Thanks, LF. We like Wagamama too.


Washington, D.C.: Re shots for Thailand. IF you are off the beaten path, Hep A shot may be in order. You also be up to date on your tetanus.

The Flight Crew: Yeah, keeping your tetanus booster up to date is always smart, even if you never travel anywhere. Thanks.


Belmont, Mass.: You have to mingle with the locals, of course, and avoid anything that reminds you of home when you travel. My favorite story involves fumbling for change at a phone booth in Sicily in a small town outside of Enna. A young man assisted us and he spoke halting English, having spent half a year in the states. He invited us across the street to his apartment to meet his wife and kids and, although a bit hesitant, we went anyway. His building was built in the 17th century; it had walls three-feet thick. We enjoyed rich coffee and his 6-year-old son recited the sppech he gave to the politician from Rome who had visited the school the previous week. "I told him you must help the poor people," the boy said, adding, "He had tears in his eyes at my speech." We've been corresponding with the family for the past two years. You gotta get off the beaten path.

The Flight Crew: Gary says: nice, poignant story! It could win you the prize!


For Begging & Pleading about El Paso, Santa Fe, Taos:: There are tons of things to do in any of those cities and all along the way from El Paso north. I'm sure all of the places have tourism websites.

In El Paso, you can cross the Mexican border and get a taste of Juarez, which can be seedy. Driving north, a stop at the old town of Mesilla, south of Las Cruces, is nice (Billy the Kid committed a crime there, I think). There is a good farm and ranch museum in Las Cruces as well. A stop for a green chile cheeseburger at the funky Owl Bar and Cafe near Socorro is worthwhile. Santa Fe and Taos are packed with museums of history and art, art galleries, nice shops, Indian pueblos, the Santa Fe Opera, fabulous Mexican food and other cuisines, and so on. In Santa Fe, where I grew up, you can't go wrong with a drink at the Pink Adobe (great atmosphere) and an enchilada lunch at the Shed, among the many good restaurants to choose from.

The Flight Crew: Thanks for the tips, responds Gary.


Washington, D.C. : With all the positive experiences, thought I'd contribute a negative. While in college, I visited St. Petersburg in 1992 with a friend. There were plenty of Russians who spoke to us, but mostly they said, "Change money?" or "Buy nice watches?" Then a man about our age saw us head into a museum and asked if he could join us. He spoke English well and was a capable guide, translating the descriptions and adding some historical context. We exited, and although he hadn't asked for money, we were about to pay him for his time. But just before we could, he pulled out a case and said, "I have some nice watches..."

The Flight Crew: Good story says Gary. Sometimes we need that kind of reality check...


Washington, D.C.: Do you know anything about Sugar Tree Inn B&B between Staunton and Lexington off the Blue Ridge Pkwy in VA? Any recommendations for activities and places to eat around there? Thanks!

The Flight Crew: Anyone?


Arlington, Va.: I love to mingle with the locals. In 1984, my husband and I went to England. While hubby worked (Air National Guard training camp outside of Lincoln) I explored the Lincolnshire and nearby Yorkshire countryside with my 3 week BritRailPass. He wanted to eat dinner together every night so I had to keep my day trips brief (he had to stay on post at the airbase, I stayed in a B&B in town). I asked the locals where to go and what to see. Had a great time! Sometimes I just boarded a train and when I arrived at the town, I asked the train personnel what to see in their town for the day. I was never disappointed. Our trip was like a "Second Honeymon" except we could not sleep together! (We got together on weekends when he was off-duty and explored London,Edinburgh, and York.)
Here's a negative encounter: While living in Frankenthal, Germany, my mom and aunt came to visit in 1980. I took them to a nice, local cafe. Some crazy German heard us speaking English and lambasted my mother about WWII in broken English. I was so embarrassed. Mom was a teenager during WWII. The man was about her age. She made a handy target for his wrath, but it wasn't a fair target. We wrote him off as a crazy.

The Flight Crew: Thanks for sharing, says Gary. It's tru that you have to take the good with the bad...


Turkey: I spent some time as a solo female tourist in Istanbul, although I stayed with a friend. I have a couple of suggestions.

First, remember that Turkey is a Muslim country, even if many of Istanbul's residents are very westernized. Even so, women do not wear shorts or short skirts. Plan on travelling in pants--you'll feel less conspicuous. If you visit a mosque, you'll be expected to remove your shoes and cover your head. Bring your own scarf or you'll have to use a loaner!;

One thing that struck me was that by the time of the late afternoon prayers, around 5 pm, there were no women left in the streets. It felt a little strange, but no one bothered me.

People in Istanbul were consistently friendly and helpful, and I never felt unsafe. Have a wonderful time!;

The Flight Crew: Thanks for the good suggestions!


Burke, Va.: We'd like to go to the Grand Canyon in Oct. How far in advance do I need to book the hotel and the mule ride?

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: You should have done it yesterday. The Grand Canyon is still busy in October. I did a quick check on lodging availability for a week in October and only one place - Yavapai Lodge - came up with availability. Go to www.grandcanyonlodges.com for info on lodging and mule trips. Or call 888-29-PARKS.


Alexandria, Va.: I'm filing early and hope you will be able to help.

My wife and I are leaving for France this week... for 5 days in Bordeaux. We've scheduled some chateaux for tours, but don't know much about the surrounding area... restaurants, sites, etc. Michelin does not show many top restaurants... can you recommend?

thanks... we'll have a glass of wine (or two) in your honor.

The Flight Crew: Alexandria: we don't know Bordeax well enough to make a suggestion. Do any other clicksters have ideas?


Interacting w/Locals: Not a great story of how meeting locals changed my life.. but.. while in England last summer we found the locals got friendlier and friendlier the further we travelled from London.

People would ask, "where are you from?" and we'd smile and say, "the U.S.". They would either roll their eyes or smile politely and say, "Yes of course, where in?" I would respond with pride and say "DC" and my travelling companion would say "Seattle". Without fail, they would respond to her and say, "Oh, I loved the west coast. So beautiful".

The Flight Crew: Thanks for that, says Gary....


Re: St John: We had a fabulous week in St. John in January--we stayed in a villa instead of at a resort. (Found through internet research) There are some beaches that are popular with cruise ships (that dock in St. Thomas--St. John is too small), but crowds are easy to avoid if you are an early bird--we snorkled twice at an incredibly popular--and beautiful!;--beach and had the place to ourselves because it was 8 am.

St. John also has lovely hiking--2/3 of the island is US National parkland.

The Flight Crew: Good tip, says Gary. Thanks.


Herndon, Va.: On vacation in Maine several years back. My wife and I stopped at a corner grocery/gas station to fuel up and use the restroom. Actual conversation: Me "Do you have a restroom?" Clerk "Ayup" Me "May I use it?" Clerk "Ayup" Me (getting desperate) "Where is it?" Clerk "Out back" Me "Do I need a key?" Clerk "Ayup" - points to key. Me "Thanks" Clerk "Ayup" When I returned and hung up the key - Me "Thanks again" Clerk "Welcome" Let me emphasize, he wasn't being rude!! These down easters ARE taciturn! P.S. Story told to me by a friend - he stops at a corner grocery in the Maine backwoods. A dog barks. He asks a man in a rocker on the front porch "Does your dog bite?" Man - "Nope" My friend gets out of the car and the dog chases him into the grocery, ripping his pants leg. My friend yells out the door- "You said your dog doesn't bite!!" Man - "T'aint my dog"

The Flight Crew: Thanks, says Gary. Cute!!!


New Market, Va.: My wife and myself are travelling to Barcelona this summer. Where can i get information of the city and the region ?

The Flight Crew: Tripadvisor.com is a good place to start. Rough Guides and Lonely Planet sites are also good. Spain tourism is www.tourspain.es.


Columbia, Md.: Just a brief answer on staying with very dear friends north of London, who showed us a grand tour of Burley Manor and Warwick Castle, Stratford and charming pubs,when my husband and I celebrated our silver anniversary. We met them as the in-laws of a childhood friend in America. We were the best man & maid of honor at their daughter's wedding. That was 26 years ago and they are now our second parents. Pete wrote down from memory the 80 minute route back to London for us. Yes, there were some turns.
They are coming over this summer to enjoy DC with us! We can't wait!

The Flight Crew: Thanks says Gary...


Washington, D.C.: My husband and I spent 15 days travelling in Europe last spring. When we got home, we had countless stories of the interesting people we'd met.... While we didn't really keep in touch with any of them, we have fond memories of all of them - from the couple from New York, to the couple from Sweden, to the mother and daughter from California, to the man from Florence, and more -- a mix of fascinating Americans and "locals" joined us for dinner many nights. After spending all day with your spouse, we both felt it was a blessing to have some "fresh company!"

Notice that no one has responded that they like to keep to themselves! (Or at least you haven't posted any yet....) Meeting people is SO inherent to pleasure travelling. Even if the experience isn't great, it's still enriched your trip somehow!

Thanks for the chats, guys.

The Flight Crew: Well put, says Gary. Thanks for sharing!


Arlington, Va.: For the chatter looking for a quiet intimate resort, try Ti Kaye on St. Lucia: www.tikaye.com. Wonderful!

The Flight Crew: Okay, says Gary...


Re: Turkey: I would like to approach the meeting the locals from another angle: I was the local in Turkey... I was always looking for ways to help tourists in the area, and met a lot of people that way. One of them particularly was very interesting - I met this group of friends from Belgium, answered some of the questions they had. Then I stayed in touch with one of them, who invited me to Belgium, and because I was a student at the time and had almost no money to go abroad, sent me a charter ticket. This way, I had my first trip on a plane and first trip abroad. I also contacted other tourists I had met, and they helped me go from Brussels to Paris. During those two weeks, I stayed with friends and family, people showed me around and I learned much more than I would ever learn if I were a tourist. Most importantly, I learned what a joy it is to discover other countries, cultures, and people. And all in all, it led me to my life in the U.S. Now whereever I travel (all around the world) I make a special effort to meet locals and learn, and maybe one day pass on the good I received.

By the way, there is a very interesting book on this topic: Take Me With You. It is a bout a guy who goes around the world and meets locals to find the perfect person to invite to the U.S.

Two quick answers to the questions on Turkey: In Istanbul, both options are viable. Remember, if you are going in August, it will be very hot, so you might want to stay closer to where the museums are, generally they are a little bit cooler. But you can also experience the local life if you stay in Taksim area, it is close to everything but you are not in the middle of the "tourist" areas. If you are tired of the museum scene, you can also take a boat trip by the Bosphorus it's less than a dolar by public boat to go along the shores of Europe and Asia, the trip ends at a little fishing village.

On security, general rules apply. If you don't display yourself as a tourist, and look like you know where you are going, you might have an easier time. Be aware of pickpockets. If you don't want to talk to anybody approaching you just ignore them and they'll go away. As for general security, there was a great article in last month's Conde Nast Traveler, one of their authors were there recently and talks about how easy it was and how he had no problems at all. You will not get any protest because you are American, people are very good at differentiating between governments and people. In fact it is one of the safest places in the area, not to mention very cheap. If I had a daughter I would definitely send her without any reservations.

The Flight Crew: Thanks for the insight, says Gary. It could get you a prize!


Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: Regarding friendships forged while traveling, I first met a guy in the rain forest in 1992 when in Costa Rica. He didn't speak much English, and I didn't speak much Spanish. But we managed to communicate in rudimentary words. Long before the days of e-mail universality even in our country, we corresponded via snail mail for years with friends translating the letters. Over the years, I learned Spanish, and he learned English. When the week after Sept. 11, my husband and I returned to Costa Rica for our honeymoon, my friend took us on a hike to a secluded waterfall as his wedding "present" to us. Someday I hope to return again to Costa Rica, or perhaps someday my friend will get to fulfill his dream and visit the United States.

The Flight Crew: Right on, says Gary. Nice story.


Arlington, Va.: I was wandering the streets of Genoa and my companion was bemoaning that she couldn't speak the native language. We met a grandmother with both a grandchild and a dog, two things that companion couldn't resist, so she spoke Spanish to them and they answered in Italian and it actually worked as a form of communication.

The Flight Crew: Arlington: I like that creative communication, says Gary.


Ballston, Va.: I'm heading to St. Maarten next week for a timeshare swap. Any pointers on fun things to do? I'll be staying on the Dutch side with my girlfriend (we're in our late twenties).

The Flight Crew: Great shopping for Dutch goods (go to the supermarkets for unusual products), then have a picnic on the beach; check out the gingerbread houses, part of the island's plantation past; check out live calypso or sosa music in Philipsburg, then eat creole cuisine at Mark's Place; crew on an America's Cup boat or a 12-meter boat; try your hand at the Princess Casino; hit the art galleries, like Art Galery Maho, filled with charming local painters and artists; just veg like a potato on the beach!--andrea


Spa Girl Again: I'm the woman who asked about spas at the end of last week's chat--thanks for the advice; you've convinced me to stay in the area (New England/Mid-Atlantic). From your (or readers') experience, do you know of any good spas geared towards lifestyle management that two adults (mother/daughter) would enjoy (less than $500 a night, please!;)? Thanks so much!;

The Flight Crew: We don't have any suggestions offhand, says Gary. maybe some of your readers do?


Fairfax, Va.: Does anyone have any experience with the LuxuryLink.com website? Are there usually a lot of black out days when one actually tries to use the purchased package? Are there hidden costs? Thanks.

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: I haven't used it, but I think it's on the up-and-up. It posts blackout dates, and urges customers to check with the property first before bidding. As for hidden costs, hotel taxes are extra. It has a satisfactory record with the Better Business Bureau.


Arlington, Va.: Hello Flight Crew, any interesting tidbits of information for cities of the Baltic Sea this summer from you or readers would be appreciated. I am booked on a cruise through Olso, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, and Rostock. Thanks.

The Flight Crew: Arlington: I know those cities and their are all lovely. No tidbits come to mind straight away, though. Do any other readers have tips?


Bethesda, Md.: Going to Austin, Texas the end of the week to "escape the heat". Any must do's while I'm there?

The Flight Crew: You gotta do Town Lake, a hiking ang biking trail much loved by the locals. Definitely see the bats flying out from under the Congress Street bridge at dusk -- it's like watching the sunset at Key West. Swim at Barton Springs, a natural swimming hole, also venerated by the natives. Drive out into hill country for great open vistas. The UT campus is great to stroll around. Music is everywhere (Antone's on W. 5th St. is one joint; see the Austin Chronicle for listings, www.austinchronicle.com). And the shopping's great too, with a neat new shopping area that we just wrote about. Link coming right up. -- KC


Augusta Co, Va.: To answer the poster with a question about what to do between Staunton and Lexington...
There's not a whole lot to do there. Get in your car and drive into either town. Get some chocolate at Cocoa Mill in Lexington or see Shakespeare in Staunton at the Blackfriar's. Both towns have lovely downtown areas. Go to Wright's Dairy Rite in Staunton and get a footlong chili dog or a veggie wrap if that's your scene. Don't forget to get a strawberry milkshake and onion rings. Mill Street Grill in Staunton is good too. Anything in the Wharf area is good. Stop at my granddaddy's antique store or one of the others. In Lexington, go to Hull's Drive In and watch a double feature. Go hiking.
Crabtree Falls isn't too far away (30 miles?) but you shouldn't even have to go that far to find someplace beautiful.
Come back soon.

The Flight Crew: Great stuff. Thanks much.


Seattle, Wash.: Here's something not to do, for the contest. We were staying in a B&B type place and rented a car in Turkey. We were being told about the traffic laws in Turkey when my husband, said "So, it's okay to drink and drive". Our host looked at us and asked why we would want to do that. Apparently he didn't have a sense of humor. After that he wasn't nearly as friendly as he was when we got there. Luckily we only had 1 more day left there and I don't think he said more than 10 words after that. Wasn't all that interested in helping us figure out where to go next. We got that from other locals we met in bus terminals, etc.

The Flight Crew: Thanks, Seattle, says Gary.


washingtonpost.com: Austin's Vintage Power, (Dec. 22, 2002) The Flight Crew: Here's the link to cool shopping neighborhood in Austin. Thanks, Kim.


Washington, D.C.: I was in the Azores on 9/11 - trying to return home. Needless to say, I was stuck, only I was alone and I don't speak Portuguese. An airline employee and his family took me in for the evening. I got a homecooked meal, and a personal drive around the island. The hosptitality of of Europeans is rarely found in the US. I can't imagine anyone taking in a stranger around here.

The Flight Crew: Thanks, says Gary. Nice story...


New Age Health Spa: http://www.newagehealthspa.com/index.html

Haven't been, but heard good things about it from a friend.

The Flight Crew: Thanks for the tip, says Gary.


Oz bound: got a flight for $1350 RT in Oct--staying 6 months. Is thaqt good or will it go cheaper?

There's also a remote possibility of using a Buddy Pass on United and flying standby--is this reliable?

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Because you're staying for so long, $1,350 sounds like a good fare. Fares are usually higher for longer stays. Don't know much about the Buddy Pass, but if you're flexible, standby is a possibility. You can't be the type who stresses if stranded for a while half-way there.


Burke, Va.: We'd like to go to the Grand Canyon in Oct. How far in advance do I need to book the hotel and the mule ride?

The Flight Crew: By October, high season is over and crowds are thinning (indeed, the National Parks have reported lower numbers of visitors this year anyhow, so October might be a ghost town). But to be safe, the earlier you book the better. No harm in reserving now, since rates are set and mule rides might be immune from last-minute dealmaking.--andrea


Richmond, Va.: I'm going camping in Greenbrier County, WV in a few weeks. Other than the resort itself, is there anything I shouldn't miss?

The Flight Crew: No, but don't miss the resort even if it's just to walk around the lobby area(s). It's amazing!


The Flight Crew: Gary Lee back to thank you for all your excellent questions and tips. We hope you enjoy these chats as much as we do. We got many excellent ancedotes about meeting locals on the road. Although it was hard to pick one, the prize this week goes to to couple who visited Thailand, kept meeting people after their money, until their last day. You get the pinata! Please send your address to me at leeg@washpost.com and I will make sure you get the prize. And, all of you please tune in next week, same time, same channel.


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