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Talk About Travel

Driving in Ireland, Pa. Turnpike...

The Flight Crew
Washington Post Travel Section
Monday, July 14, 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 transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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The Flight Crew: Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Travel section's weekly chat. Your valiant Flight Crew is slightly diminished today, since some of us are still staggering back to the office after whirlwind last-minute trips this weekend. Yes, once again we've sacrificed our own weekend pleasures to hit the road for you, our loyal readers. Our mission this time: to report on last-minute travel sites. Are there really bargains out there? Do the sites deliver what they promise? Which ones are easiest to use? Read next Sunday's Travel section to find out.

Meanwhile, what's on your minds this week? Here to answer your questions on anything related to the world of travel are Travel staffers John Deiner, Anne McDonough, Cindy Loose, Carol Sottili and me, K.C. Summers, your captain of the day. I'm the one who drove around Ireland in yesterday's section -- I'll be happy to answer any questions you have about that.

Oh gosh, almost forgot the prizes. First of all, last week's winner of the really cool miniature canoe didn't claim it, or if you did, we lost your email, so send it again to travel@washpost.com. This week's prize is a grab bag from our Big Box of Promotional Junque -- a T-shirt, tea bags and a box of golf tees. See where we're going with this? If your first or last name begins with T, or you live in a place that starts with a T, you're in the running for the prize.

Let's go!

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Lake Ridge, Va.: Just wanted to say thanks for yesterday's article on driving in Ireland. I am doing almost the exact route shown yesterday and it is nice to know that the impediments to smooth driving are still there!

Made me wish I was leaving today!

The Flight Crew: Thanks -- I wish I were going back today! I don't think I did enough pub research. -- KC

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Bethesda, Md.: Loved the article re: driving in Ireland. I've seen the incredible prices for the fly/drive packages for about two years now, but have hesitated because due to scheduling and finances, we could only go in November around Thanksgiving or maybe in February. Any idea of what we'd be likely to face weather-wise at those times of year? While we like indoor activities -- museums, shopping, etc, we also like outdoor activities like hiking/walking, so weather could make a big difference to us.

Thanks.

The Flight Crew: I've been in Ireland in November, April and now June, and the weather was sort of the same for all three: 60ish, a little rain, but basically clear skies. Okay, it was a little sunnier in June than in November, but I still wore a fleece or jacket most of the time. Of course I'm a wimp, but still. Anyway, that's good hiking weather for sure.

Bonus hiking tip: Take closed-toe shoes. For my rained-out Burren hike, sandals were frowned on. -- KC

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Fairfax, Va.: KC,
Great article on Ireland. It made me want to repeat the trip my wife and I took last year. Our tour included Ennis, Galway, and Clifden. Then we headed southeast for Cork, Cathair, Waterford, and Dublin.

It was a fantastic, whirlwind tour. I learned that I was driving as close to the edge as possible when I could hear the bushes smacking the side of the car.

Any other suggestions for driving tours in Europe?

The best signs warned of "acute bends." No kidding.

The Flight Crew: Oh, God, those bushes smacking the side of the car -- they drove my passenger nuts. I kept telling him it was better that than hitting a tour bus head on.

As for other European road trips, we had a nice story about driving Spain a while back by Jerry Haines. We'll try to get a link up for that. Anyone else have driving trip suggestions?

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Arlington, Va.: Per K.C. Summers' July 13 article on her driving tour of the west of Ireland, one cannot stress personly enough the importance of heeding "loose chippings" signs and respecting the reduced speed limit signs that often accompany them. A few years ago, I witnessed a fatal accident on a main highway in County Mayo by a speeding driver on what was, in effect, a gravel road. (The chippings had yet to be steamrolled and coated with oil or tarmac.) An oncoming speeding car, after spraying our car with gravel as it passed by, spun out, crashed through a steel-reinforced concrete rail fence, and flipped into a culvert. The passenger was killed, and the driver had a severely broken leg. I and several other passing motorists helped a pair of EMTs to extract the driver and carry him on a stretcher across a farmer's field to be loaded into the ambulance. They were natives. This stuff really happens. PLEASE be careful.

The Flight Crew: You are so right. I didn't witness any accidents, but did have a flat going about 30 mph, apparently caused by those dreaded loose chippings. You do hear a lot about accidents happening to U.S. visitors (most famously, Matthew Broderick and J. Carter Brown). The locals drive pretty fast, I noticed, but the rest of us should definitely heed those signs and slow down. -- KC

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T prize?: I live in a Tiny apartment... does that count?

It is Truly, Terribly, Thoroughly Tiny.

The Flight Crew: Yes, you're in the running.

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Alexandria, Va.: I've heard wonderful stories about Prague and have been thinking about visiting. I usually travel alone and go the backpack route. Is there a big language barrier? Would I be better off finding a tour? I've checked Rick Steve's website, but his company doesn't offer trips during the late summer. Can you suggest some reputable tour companies? Thanks Much and Happy Monday.

The Flight Crew: Hey Alex, Happy Monday to you, too!

In the city center of Prague, which is where many people spend most of their time while in the Czech Republic, there is absolutely NO language barrier. Prague is so, so tourist/traveler friendly that, while you could always join a walking tour during the day if you'd like a bit of guidance, I think it would be a waste of an all-inclusive tour. If you're a backpacker (yay!), the Clown and Bard is a fun hostel, about a very easy 15 minute walk to the city center and only (when I was there last year) 7 euros a night (I liked it so much that it was my choice again when I returned to Prague weeks later). Suggestions: the Vysehrad Cemetery (absolutely stunning), walking around Kampa Island, just sitting on Charles Bridge and watching the world go by (be prepared for the hordes who do the same thing). As long as you're over there, don't restrict yourself to Prague. Karlovy Vary (a spa town) is only about 2 hours away, if I remember correctly, and Terezin is as well if you're prepared for some devastating Holocaust history. Cesky Krumlov, a few hours to the south, is an adorable little town and a UNESCO world heritage site. These are all very much on the beaten path and Cesky's filled with lots of hostels, so you'll be surrounded by other travelers and yet see a bit more of the country. Go!!!!
-Anne

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Maple Shade, N.J.: I loved the article! I am just back from a 10 day trip to the west (April). I miss it every day. The drivers are nuts, though! If you had to use one word to sum up the beautiful Irish people, what word would that be?
Sally

The Flight Crew: Hmmm... maybe "open." They're just so eager to connect, not closed off to people and experiences the way so many of us are over here. I am always struck by that.

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washingtonpost.com: Turista on Board, (Post,March 28, 1999)

The Flight Crew: Here's the link to Jerry's piece on driving through Spain. Thanks Kim!

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Luray, Va.: I enjoyed your article about driving in Ireland. I am going to be driving around Ireland this month and would like to know if you need an International driver's liscense there or if a U.S. liscense is sufficient? Thanks!

The Flight Crew: Nope, just a U.S. license is sufficient. -- KC

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Suburban Sprawl, Va: My husband an I are planning a trip to Peru in November around Thanksgiving. We would like to see Cusco and Machu Picchu, and well as the Nazca lines if we have the time. We are thing about spending about a week and a half. Any advice? We haven't bought our plane tickets yet, so we are in very early planning at this point. We looked at guided tours, and part of us would prefer the adventure and freedom of doing it on our own.

The Flight Crew: Hey, Sub. My wife and I did Cuzco and MP on our own in May, and it was a snap. Not sure how long it takes to see the Nazca Lines or, really, how to do them, but you don't need to spend anywhere near a week to see the other two (unless you hike to MP, in which you need to take a guided trek).

Plan on spending a full day in Cuzco just to get used to the altitude, and take along some medication to prevent altitude sickness. Cuzco itself demands a least a day for exploration, and there are ruins outside the city that make for a great day trip. For MP, make sure you book your train tickets in advance (we waited till we got there and nearly got shut out!). If you want to spend the nite at Machu Picchu, there's the Sanctuary Lodge right next door, but it costs a fortune to stay and you have to book months in advance. You can also stay much cheaper in nearby Aguas Calientes, which isn't much to look at but it has ample lodging.

We found the prices good just about everywhere, language wasn't a problem, and the flights in and out of Cuzco were great. Just be prepared to bargain with cab drivers, merchants and the like and you'll do fine.

Anyone out there with knowledge of the Nazca lines?

-john

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Somewhere, USA: Please, please answer my question. I am thinking to go to a city in Europe, in western side for a week. I will travel by myself and I admit I have not traveled by myself in sightseeing purposes before. Being a woman, which city in Europe/England is easier to get around to, relatively safe, yet that has a big city charm and natural beauty. Also It is easier to go out a bit by guided tours. Also weather is good. I am thinking to go on 3rd week of August. I definitely need help soon for me to buy the ticket. This will be my first venture by myself. I need to be confident that I can do that. Thanks a lot for your help.

The Flight Crew: First thing is, I'm assuming that you sometimes leave your home by yourself wherever it is you live, and assuming that, you should be totally confident that you can take a trip by yourself. In terms of safety: European cities overall have less violent crime than U.S. cities. Most cities, esp. the biggest, have dicey neighborhoods, but those sections aren't usually on the beaten tourist track. I can't think of a single European city I would rule out because I'd feel unsafe traveling there alone.

Getting around easily is a different matter: it all depends on your frame of reference, and how you plan to get around: i.e. tour buses, cabs, subway. One rule of thumb: the bigger the city, the more complex it's public transit system will be, and complex means more options but also more confusion.

While I don't think you should be frightened to travel alone to Europe, the bigger question is what type of travel you'd enjoy most. Do you want to be alone? If not, definately consider some organized tours. Then you have to decide the degree to which you want to be with other people, cause you could go on a group tour the whole way, or plan your own travel but include some individual tours at your destination. Some tour groups for singles include www.osolomio.com, or www.singlestravelintl.com. You might be a candidate for the help of a travel agent. Cindy

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Chicago, Ill.: I loved the story on Nantucket. My family went there every year when I was a little girl (I'm 30 now) before it became so fancy. I thought the writer's observations were dead-on. And great pick-up on Something Natural! I can still remember sitting on Dionysis or Jetty's Beach eating those slightly sandy chocolate chip cookies! I also remember that wonderful Portguese sweet bread, fresh doughnuts from that bakery (what is it called), picking up the newspapers at The Hub in town, and running into Mr. Rogers who used to summer there! What a wonderful spot.

The Flight Crew: Thanks, Chicago--and you bumped into Mr. Rogers on Nantucket? Cool.

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Washington, D.C.: KC--Your article made me homesick! I just returned to the States after living in Galway for six months. Glad to hear that all's well at Taaffe's and the Quays, and I'd do anything for McDonagh's fish and chips right now. I never did attempt driving in Ireland, though--you're a brave, brave soul. I usually kept my eyes closed when I was a passenger...

The Flight Crew: So did my passenger! Thanks for the kind words.

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Running with T's: I live on Turquoise Terrace, and I work at
TIGR. I also grew up in Tulsa!;

The Flight Crew: You're in the running, but what's TIGR?

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Altoona, Pa.: Hey, gang. I'm usually just a lurker on your chat (luv it!;), but this week I had to chime in and tell you how much I enjoyed the Nantucket story. My husband and I have been going there for about 10 years now, and the story really captured it perfectly. Bravo!;

The Flight Crew: Thanks, Al (we can call you, Al, right?).

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Senior Travel in Europe: My mother, who is 76, would like to go back to Europe one more time. She has traveled extensively and even lived in Europe in the past. She used to go on SAGA Tours and was quite pleased with them, but it seems that SAGA no longer operates out of the United States. Can any of you suggest comparable tour companies that specialize in senior travel? My mom is definitely not the hostel/roughing it type or the adventure-bound kind of traveler. She is also on a fixed income, so luxury travel options are not really an option.

The Flight Crew: Try www.trafalgartours.com. grand circle tours markets specifically to seniors (www.gct.com). Check out what AARP has to offer, including discounts for travel you organize yourself. If you don't consider college dorms and such roughing it, check www.elderhostel.org--some of their tours include pretty nice lodgings, you just have to remember to check the itinerary of choice carefully. Cindy

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Washington, D.C.: K.C. during your stay at the Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry Ireland did you see where David Lean filmed his epic Ryan's Daughter(1969)? I understand the area at the time of the filming was run down & gloomy and has improved to the tourist attraction that it is today.

The Flight Crew: It's just gorgeous, and they still haven't gotten over the fact that that movie was filmed there! Honestly, Dingle was about the most naturally beautiful place I've ever been in my life. -- KC

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TIGR: TIGR= The Institute for Genomic
Research...shhhhh, I'm supposed to be
working....

The Flight Crew: Your secret is safe with us.

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Fairfax, Va.: Can you recommend a good beginning book for planning a backpacking through Europe trip? I'm not a college kid but am still trying to go cheaply.

The Flight Crew: Hey Fairfax,
My usual rule of thumb is Lonely Planet in Asia, Let's Go or Rough Guides in Europe. Let's Go has a very extensive take on Europe, and they do it on the supercheap. It's all researched by Harvard undergrads, so there's definitely a tilt towards the college set but they offer lots of cheapo options and are really good about offering lots of transportation advice, which I like. Rough Guides are a bit more indepth and have great cultural histories.
But don't restrict yourself to a certain brand: they all have different combinations, like a mammoth Europe Guide, or The British Isles, or Europe on A Shoestring, or Czech Republic & Hungary, etc., so perhaps the best thing is to pick where you want to go and see which tome works best. One thing I do--and it kills me to do it, but it saves precious space--is rip out the chapters that I know I won't need (sacrilege for a daughter of a librarian, but an inch of space is an inch of space). Have a great trip!
-Anne

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Tysons Corner, Va.: I'm working in my cube at Tyson's and my confirmation name is Bridget - ends in T. Since ya'll used KC's confirmation name, which begins with a T, several weeks ago, I think I should win. I wear T's to bed, love tea and have a husband who is a golfer. Thanks

The Flight Crew: Duly noted.

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Chevy Chase, Md.: KC, Great article yesterday. Have you been to the Eastern side of country before or was that your first time in Ireland? Also, I think readers want to know if anything happened between you and the teacher you met in the Pub?? Thanks for keeping us readers informed.

DK

The Flight Crew: Yeah, I spent a week in Dublin last year. Loved it, but decided to focus on west this time. My daughter (who spent a semester in Ireland a couple of years ago) said I blew it by not going to Northern Ireland. Maybe next time.

As for the teacher, he was a cutie (a Donald O'Connor lookalike) but it was a perfectly innocent conversation! I think my days of picking people up in pubs are over. -- KC

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Hamilton, N.Y.: Yesterday I was traveling on a flight from Detroit to Syracuse on a DC-9, which holds about 100 passengers. There were 11 of us on the plane, two in first class and nine of us in coach. Before the plane took off, the flight attendant asked another person and me if we would move to first class to even out the weight distribution, because the plane was so light. Of course, I complied, but the two of us only ended up moving three rows, since we were already close to the partition.

I could understand if this were a small plane, but how can moving 350 lbs. a total of ten feet on a DC-9 make a difference?

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: I don't think they would have moved you if it didn't make any difference. Any pilots out there who can answer this one?

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Traveling with Kids, Tribeca: Hi FCs,

I'll be having my first wee one in January, and I'm wondering what this means for future travel. I had been planning a trip to Europe next year. Is it still possible, or do I have to wait until the kid's older? What could I do to make things easier on the kid, my travel companions, random strangers on the plane, and myself?

Thanks!;
Trepid Traveler

The Flight Crew: Your wee one will exhaust you for several months, and after that, you should be good to go. That may depend, however, on the personality of your wee one, which you won't know for awhile.

I started traveling with my infant within a couple months, and found it to be easier in many ways than staying at home. (She was a big cryer normally, but apparently she was crying from boredom, cause she was much happier when we were traveling.) However, the ideal ratio of adults to each traveling kid is two to one, so that you can take turns doing things during nap time, cranky times etc.

Cindy

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Falls Church, Va.: I just returned from my first visit to Ireland, 18 days of road touring. I was the navigator, not the driver, so I identify more with the bushes than with the oncoming buses. My tip is for the tourists to slow down, let the locals pass you if necessary, after all you're on vacation - what's the rush?
Also, K.C. I loved the article yesterday. I was in Ennis the same day you were. Loved the hurling match, and those 2 kids who ate snails all day!

The Flight Crew: Oh how neat! Didn't you just love Ennis? It was such a great start to the trip, because we really felt like the only tourists there. And to be part of that crowd in the hurling match was just so cool -- I'll never forget it. Did you try a winkle or some dillisk? I confess I didn't have the guts. -- KC

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Falls Church, Va.: You did blow it.
Giant's Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede island in County Antrim rivaled anything I saw on the Western coast. I must see next time you go

The Flight Crew: Next time.

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Fairfax, Va.: My fiance and I decided to research and plan our honeymoon in Malta after reading your recent article. We're condsidering the same package deal (great value!!) that you found through Academic Tours. My question, were you able to preview the hotels you were staying in before you left? Is there any choice as to where you can stay? Any suggestions other than the ones you listed?

Thanks for such a great article! I'm looking forward to our trip!

The Flight Crew: Hey, thanks, Fairfax--and congratulations! I'm tellin' ya, you won't be disappointed (in Malta, it is!).

The one thing about the hotels is that you definitely get what you pay for--three starrers are not so hot, four stars are just fine and dandy, but the five stars I toured when I was there are fabulous. For a honeymoon, I'd splurge and stay at one of those. The Kempinski San Lawrenz on Gozo is spectacular (or so I've heard).

I just Google'd all the choices I got from Academic and went to the hotel web sites and settled on the Vivaldi, which was lovely but not honeymoon material. Definitely chat up the folks at Academic, or call the Malta tourism office--they're exceedingly helpful. And good luck!

-john

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Kensington, Md.: I'm planning a November driving tour of Ireland that will allow for 5 days of actual driving. Given your driving experience, do you think it too ambitious to try a circle route of the entire island?

The Flight Crew: Yes, five days is not enough to do the whole island. You've got to save some time to get out of the car and walk around, not to mention pubs and hurling matches. In nine days (seven actual driving days) I only did the west, and still felt rushed. -- KC

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Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: Hi -- Loved the Ireland articles! We are going in a few weeks. Quick question...we'll be there 8 full days. How much can we reasonably expect to see in that time? We'll have a car, and had planned out a rough loop of the country. I noticed your author just did Western Ireland, however. Are we crazy to think we can see more, or should we plan to focus just on one region? Thanks!

The Flight Crew: See preceding answer -- I really don't think that's enough time to make a loop of the country.

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Package Deal vacations?: Hi,I just got this deal, for $300 each, my boyfriend and I get 4 nights in a Radisson Hotel in Orlando, 2 nights on some cruise ship to Bahamas, and then 2 nights in Fort Lauderdale. Free passes to Universal Studios and Disneyworld. And a free rental car, unlimited miles. The only catch is that we have to go to this 2 hours seminar about a timeshare or something...

It's called Take Me On Vacation. I called the hotels where we'd be staying and they all confirmed that it's a legit company...

Have you ever had any experience with these kinds of vacations? What's your advice on them? Should we take it or try to sell the tickets? It just sounds too good to be true, and I'm nervous!;

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Do you have any idea what they're selling? Maybe the hotels you're contacting are the ones who are selling the timeshares. Are you sure that $300 is the real price, or is that the price before taxes/fees/etc.? I'd be very reluctant to do this sort of vacation - be prepared for the hard sell. Also, the Web site for www.bbb.org is acting up right now, but when you can, check out the company at the Better Business Bureau.

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Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: KC--Loved your article on your western Ireland road trip. I want to take my husband there for his 30th birthday next year (his family emigrated from the area) but we'll have a 6 month old at the time...

If you ever have the opportunity again, I suggest some music for the road (provided it doesn't distract you from driving). My favorite Irish rock band, The Saw Doctors, are from the town of Tuam, near Galway and they are fabulous! Most of their songs are taken from their life experiences around Galway Bay and encorporate lots of local lore and history. They have a great ballad/love song called Clare Island that totally makes you want to go catch the ferry. They also have a great "driving" song called N17 which is named after the road in that area. You can't help but sing along... They often tour in DC/Annapolis about once a year or so, if you ever want to catch a live show (and I highly reccomend it!)

The Flight Crew: Thanks for the tip, I'll watch out for them! -- KC

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Saint Paul, Minn.: I jost got back from a trip to Africa (Capetown to Cairo) and I am looking for the best place to publish my travelogs and pictures. I have heard virtualtourist.com and trekshare.com are good. Does anyone have any suggestions or affirmations towards a good place to put my travel writings on the web? Thanks, Bryan

The Flight Crew: Hey St. Paul,
I'm not familiar with virtualtourist.com or trekshare.com (shame on me) but I do know two really good web sites that do travelogues and essays: Travelmag and Literary Traveler (www.travelmag.co.uk and www.literarytraveler.com). Full disclosure: I like them because they took my writing. But beyond that, I like them for the breadth of the stuff they publish (travelmag I believe will post most everything, literary traveler seems a bit more discerning, seeing as the topic does have to have a literary connection) and the feedback to your work that exposure on the web gets you. Travelmag has a forum where readers can contact the author of a particular piece, and on a slow work day (hope K.C.'s not reading this...) you can track how many people have read your stuff and what they thought of it. Travelmag doesn't pay for submissions; Literary Traveler (the perfect bent for travel writing, in my eye) pays minimal fees.
Any clicksters out there who want to put in their two cents on web publishing?
-Anne

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Northward Getaway: Hello all. Husband and I want a 4-day mini-vacation over Labor Day weekend. Not interested in the beach. We like inns/B&Bs, authentic towns with shops, and natural attractions. One possibility we?re considering is flying into Manchester and doing a train ride at the White Mountains the first day and then settling into a village in another area of NH for the rest of the time. What?s your opinion of this idea, or is there another area of New England that would be better? Or, as another thought, what about Rekjavik and its nearby countryside? Would that be in a way-higher price range? Too long of a flight for just 4 days, better saved for a longer visit? Appreciate all ideas and suggestions. (We?ve done Nova Scotia/PEI.) Thanks!

The Flight Crew: The White Mountains are lovely, and have been a New England resort destination for generations. For that reason, though, things tend to be pricey. Check out lodging specifics before plunking down the airfare money.

Another option, if you don't like the lodgings you're finding in NH, would be to take Southwest's cheap fares to Hartford, Conn, which is just a short drive from Vermont.

Rekjavik---that will most certainly cost you a lot more in airfare, esp. since Southwest has made Manchester and Hartford so cheap. You won't make up the airfare price difference by savings on hotels and food, since Iceland's hotels and restaurants aren't cheaper than U.S., and in fact are probably higher. Ideally, I'd want at least five days, including travel time, to go to Iceland, but you could get a good taste of it in four--in fact that's how much time I had, and packed in alot. First day you arrive go straigth to the Blue Lagoon, spend the evening in the city and head out the next morning for the countyside. I love the place. Cindy

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Washington, D.C.: Great story about driving in Ireland. My fiancee and I spent the week between Christmas and New Year's driving the west of Ireland (she's from Ireland and was showing me off to the family!). One question - why didn't you visit the Aran Islands? It's a quick ferry ride from Galway and we loved it!

The Flight Crew: I wanted to -- I didn't have enough time! Wanted to spend the day in Galway, so had to make a tough decision. Next time! -- KC

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Miami, Fla.: Gurus,
your advice in the past has been great- here's a new question. I have to go to seattle at the end of august and will have 2 free days- day one I thought do downtown, ie pikes place market, etc, but day two: drive to snoqualmie falls or go to one of the islands (Whitbey?) via a ferry? Any other suggestions?

The Flight Crew: Hi, Miami. Yeah, those are both fine ideas, but my fave thing to do is visit some of the area's national parks, including Mount Rainier and Olympic Peninsula. Both are beauts. My favorite day trip would have to be Mount St. Helen's--it's a few hours south of the city and it's too cool for words. Great visitors center traces the natural history of the region, and it's the only place I've ever found that sells salt and pepper shakers made of volcanic ash.
-john

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Laurel, Md.: In the past few years, a lot of hotels have gone on an environmentalist kick. Signs in rooms encourage guests to take short showers, not run the water while brushing teeth, and leave towels hung up if you don't need clean ones. What all of these environmental measures have in common is that they save the hotel money. I don't mind participating in a legitimate conservation program; but if it's just cost-cutting in the guise of environmentalism, I'm not interested.

What are some environmental measures hotels take that COST them money; so we can gauge whether their environmental concerns are sincere or just an excuse to get us to help increase their profits?

The Flight Crew: Whether or not their requests are selfish or motivated by love of the earth, the requests do serve a conservation goal---that's how I look at it when I hang up my towel and turn off the lights before leaving the room. Cindy

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Atlanta, Ga.: I think you and I passed on the road. We spent a week in Wester Ireland in June, basing ourselves in a self-catering apartment in Salthill.

I did most of the driving, and whoa, was it dumb or what to drive Connor Pass in Dingle in the fog, right after getting off the plane? In any case, it made the rest of the driving seem easy...

It looks like you skipped the Aran Islands? It ws definitely worth the trip!

For the earlier question, we took our then 11-month old daughter and 4.5 year old daughter. They did just fine. This was the baby's second trip to Europe. Don't stay home.

The Flight Crew: Yeah, Aran Islands next time for sure. Salthill was neat, wasn't it -- great doors! A B&B owner I talked to said the best pub in Galway was actually in Salthill (next door to Norman Villa if you want to check it out). -- KC

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Tsilver Tspring, Md.: Great article on Ireland! Makes me want to grab the next flight!

question for you/readers: I'm planning a 6 month journey around Australia. Any ideas on a cheap cell phone option so that my elderly mother can reach me in an emergency? I'm a backpacker with no set schedule...

thanks!

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: I'll post the article I did recently on international cell phones. It referred mostly to Europe, but same companies also cover Australia.

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washingtonpost.com: Have Cell Phone, Will Travel, (Post, April 6, 2003)

The Flight Crew: Here's the article.....

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Slea Head: Loved Sunday's Article. Did a 10 day tour rent a car tour of Ireland about 2 years ago with a couple of friends and future wife. Drove around Dingle and out to Slea Head. I thought the car was going to go over the edge a couple of times but there was nothing like. Good time, Good Times. Thanks for the memories.

I didn't read the facts section of the article but did you talk about the tours of Dingle Bay to visit the dolphin.

The Flight Crew: No, and I'm glad you mentioned that because I should have at least mentioned it in the piece. Fungie the dolphin is HUGE over there. For those who don't know, that's a dolphin who wandered into the harbor a few years ago and stuck around, and boats take people out to see him -- he has a great following. It seemed kind of hokey to me, but probably would've been fun. -- KC

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Dublin, Ireland (via, Vienna, VA): Greetings!; KC, I just wanted to comment on your great piece and especially the hurling. I wanted to mention the website www.gaa.ie, which contains schedules for upcoming matches in both hurling and gaelic football. It is one of our favorite memories of Ireland, and we have been here five months!;

The Flight Crew: Oh thanks. I can relive those exciting hurling moments! How come that sport hasn't caught on here??

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Re: Guidebooks: Let's Go is geared towards the party backpacker, Harvard grads notwithstanding. It's a very popular guide, so a lot of the hostels listed fill up during peak season. It can be inaccurate (the maps usually are). That being said, it's still an ok guide for Europe. I liked Lonely Planet a lot. They have a lot of history and pictures. I'd recommend possibly buying Let's Go and Lonely Planet and combining info. Check Rick Steves out too. Your local library will have some guidebooks available for checkout- you can photocopy pages to be ultra-cheap. Also, many people tear out the pages of guidebooks to lighten the load. If you know there are places in the book that you are just not going to, it helps.

My only T connection is that I work in Tysons and my dad's name is Tony. Sigh.

The Flight Crew: I wasn't trying to infer that just 'cause they're Harvard kids, they're not partiers... just letting the poster know from whence the research comes (and don't make fun of my use of whence. I just really like that word). Combining the two guides is a great idea, especially if you're traveling with someone so you can each take one.
As for inaccuracies, I have to say I've had my moments of disappointment with pretty much every guide book I've used, as travel info does get outdated very quickly. Forgot to mention this last time: one of the most important, if obvious, things to check is the publication date. The book might seem to cover exactly what you want, but what good is that if the bus station has moved since the guide was released 3 years ago? (That happened in Antalya in 1997. Two very confused 18-year-olds wandered around the bus station, basically in the middle of the desert, looking for the stretch of hotels the guide promised would be there. Wasn't til later that we found out we were in the new bus station, miles away from its old location).
-Anne

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Washington, D.C.: Re: Travel blog. The Washington Post had an article yesterday (Lesley Walker) on Blogs for AOL users. Here's the link:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A46143-2003Jul11.html

The Flight Crew: Why thank you, D.C.

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Alexandria, Va.: I have a very un-exotic question. Has anyone been on the Pennsylvania Turnpike between Breezewood and the Ohio State line lately? I have heard that it's nothing but construction. I'm driving that way on Friday and want to know what to expect. Thanks!

The Flight Crew: Someone I know just did the trip, and can't remember unusual amt. of construction. A six hour trip took them 11 hours, but that was due to a downpour, and hopefully, you won't hit the monsoons.

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Iceland: I have friends who did it in 4 days/3 nights (in February, no less, but it was cheap enough for grad students) and had a great time.

Would love to do it someday!;

The Flight Crew: Thanks.

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Kensington, Md.: Hey Crew
I'm a recent college graduate who has just been given the opportunity to live and work in Dubai, UAE for a year. I've heard that the UAE is very progressive and very western, is this true? I've also heard that there is a sizeable number of westerners in the city. Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

The Flight Crew: check out the state dept's country reports at www.travel.state.gov. Cindy

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Europe guide books: Having lived and travelled extensively in Europe I think that the Time Out city guides (which cover many European cities and their surrounding areas) are by far the best. They have in-depth, well-researched (by locals) info, and also give pointers on day-trips and culture. They even have them for DC, Boston, and a few other US cities. Whenever I was going to be in a city for more than 2 days I thought the $15 per city book was well worth it!;

The Flight Crew: Some more guidebook opinions...
But if $15 seems a bit steep, consider buying the magazine (Time Out) instead, and you'll get the week's roundup of the best entertainment and eating in the city.
-Anne

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For Tribeca Mom to Be: We started travelling with our little one when she was 3 months old: first stop was Grand Cayman, next trip at 5 months was Miami (South Beach!;), then Bonaire!; I was nursing, so feeding was not a problem. If you can, get an extra seat in between, so when he/she sleeps, you can tuck him/her in between. We brought an umbrella stroller that reclined & had a flip up awning to wheel her around.

The Flight Crew: Thanks. Also consider buying a seat, so that you can bring along a car seat and the baby can be as safe in the air as you are.

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New York, NY: What points of interest would you suggest for a 2 day, 1 night stay in Newport, RI? (No food recommendations needed)

We've already got the Cliff Walk and Touro Synagogue on the list.

Thanks!;

The Flight Crew: how about a mansion tour? And check out Hammersmith Farm, where Jackie Kennedy grew up. Cindy

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Follow up for John on Malta: I also was looking into the Academic Tours for Malta and wondered about hotels... I hate having that chosen for me, but hey, that's what you get for a package deal!;!; Is the location not really a factor? Are they all pretty much in the same area on Malta? And Gozo? Should we only make the decision based on how much we care about the hotel ROOM?

The Flight Crew: Howdy. Actually, you can pick which hotel you want, can't you? I know I had a choice. And the area truly does matter--mine was in the middle of the party district, and it got really loud the Thursday/Friday nights I was there. I'm pretty sure, though not certain, that most of the Academic offerings are in the Valletta/Sliema/St. Julian's area.

If I were you (and I wish I wish, since yer going to Malta), I'd consider staying in Sliema. It's on the coast near Valletta and all the bus lines, but without the crowds or bar scene. I've heard a few hearty endorsements for the four-star Nova Kennedy, and it looked nice from the outside. I actually visited the rooms in the four-star Preluna and they didn't bowl me over, plus the hotel was a little ragged around the edges. The Vivaldi was definitely nicer, but if you go there, try to get a room away from the party action (if that's possible!). Enjoy!
-john And Gozo is great--I think you could stay anywhere there and love it to death. The Andar, where I stayed, was perfectly lovely little hotel, but I was more interested in the fact that I could reach nearby towns and the coast from it without having to jump on a bus.

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Alexandria, Va.: My mother was born in Ireland and we have visited cousins on a number of occasions. I was surprised to discover that they do not like eating at or visiting the many castles throughout Ireland because of their connection to the landlord system and the vestiges of the English plantation. They are much more at home in the B&Bs or local hotels. Has that been your experience as well?

The Flight Crew: I can certainly understand the bitterness. But there is one castle they might like, called Ballynahinch. It was built by one of the rare English landlords who was loved by the Irish, Richard Martin, also known as Humanity Dick. He was Catholic, spoke Gaelic, and did much to advance the cause of ecumenicalism. He also loved animals and established the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. A really good guy, and his castle is lovely -- a fishing hotel with a fireplace in the lobby, and fishing rods set up in the hallway for guests to take outside. Even if you can't afford to stay (I couldn't), go inside and walk around. -- KC

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Dulles, Va.: Hi Travel Gurus...I am headed to Louisville, Ky in August for a wedding. I will have some extra time there, other than the Derby museum and the Louisville slugger bat factory, anything else to do or not to miss while I am there. Thanks a bunch.

The Flight Crew: Hey Dulles, coming up is a link to a recent story that lists a couple of non-baseball related things to do in Louisville. Enjoy!
-Anne

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washingtonpost.com: Grand Slam Ballparks, (Post, May 25, 2003)

The Flight Crew: Thanks, .com! This is for the Louisville-bound poster.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Gurus,

Catching up on the archives - but a couple of weeks ago someone was looking for good restaurants to celebrate an anniversary in New Zealand. I don't know that they ever got an answer, but in case they are still interested, on the South Island, there is a small town on the West Coast called Hokita. They have a french restaurant that is quite similar to what you might find at Chez Francois or the like. I know price wasn't an issue but it was also quite inexpensive! We came upon it because we were looking for a place to stay and it was quite late and they were the only restaurant open. Never so glad to be late in my life! I can't remember the name but its a small town - anyone should be able to help you find it!

Hope this helps!

The Flight Crew: Thanks, D.C.--good stuff!

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Potomac, Md.: My parents are celebrating their 50th anniversary next year and the family is gathering in South Lake Tahoe for a week in late June.

We have the lodging figured out already and are now gathering info on fun things to do. We will have a broad age range (from my 4 yr old neice up thru my 75-year-old father) and activity levels (outdoor sorts to more sedate/couch potatoes). Any suggestions from the flight crew or fellow clicksters for activities or must do's/must see's?

Also any suggestions on a nice place to hold the 50th anniversary dinner? (We'll end up being a group of about 30-40 for that, mostly adults.)

Thanks.

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: If you like to gamble, you can go to Stateline. Some of the casinos, such as Horizon, also have arcades for the kids (www.horizoncasino.com). Take the gondola ride at Heavenly (www.skiheavenly.com). Go kayaking (www.kayaktahoe.com). Take a paddlewheel cruise (www.tahoedixie2.com). Go hiking - there are hundreds of miles of trails in the area.

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RE: take me on Vacation: Yeah, they're legit. But beware--If it's the package I am thinking of, you sail on the Imperial Majesty cruise lines, right? DON'T DO IT. One of my friends got suckered in and it wasn;t great. Low budget and a lot of rushing. And the time share thing was an hour drive from where they were and took them most of one day.

I also entered some contest recently and "won" that package, too. They were so hard-sell on the phone, wouldn't give me time to think and got nasty when I wouldn't commit right then and there.

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Legit sounds generous.

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Washington, D.C.: My boyfriend is going on a trip to Ghana and coming back through Frankfurt. Is there any information you have, or things I could buy, to make his trip easier? He's a seasoned international traveler but I thought if you guys had some kind of inside scoop, I could be the thoughtful, helpful GF.

The Flight Crew: A travel pillow for such a long trip would be very good, so if he doesn't have one, I'd do that first. Does he have a good holder for his passport/plane tickets/boarding passes etc. The only other thing I feel I HAVE to have on a long plane raide are some good books and snacks. If he has the first two things I've mentioned, maybe you can make him a nice care package Cindy

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Irish Eyes (on the road): Great story on Western Ireland. I am heading there myself in early Aug., but now you've got me even more concerned about the driving. I will be traveling by myself and trying to navigate and avoid the sheep at the same time. I drive in Manhattan every day, so I would like to think that I can handle whatever is thrown in front of me. Just wanted to get some reassurance that its not impossible for a solo traveler.

The Flight Crew: Hey, you'll do fine! I hope I didn't scare anyone off of driving. Just wanted to be realistic and not gloss over the dangers. But you really do get used to it. Just go slow -- don't let other drivers intimidate you into speeding. They can always pass you if they want to (and they will).

The only problem with doing it solo would be navigating -- the signage really is excellent, but it helps to have someone riding shotgun with a map. But the Irish are so kind and helpful about giving directions -- even if you don't approach them, if you look lost they'll approach you. One guy even walked up to the car at a red light to see if we needed directions. (We did.) -- KC

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Austin, Tex.: I did roughly the same trip Jerry did in his article in March 2001 and had a blast! I remember driving down an alley so narrow I thought I had strayed onto the sidewalk. It really helped having a native born Spanish speaker on the trip! But even without that the people were so nice and friendly. Spain is great and I can't wait to go back!
Texas starts with a T do I win?

The Flight Crew: You're in the running.

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Senior Travel . . .: Definitely try out National Geographic's Travel program. Info and itineraries can be found on their website www.nationalgeographic.com/ngexpeditions Fantastic leaders, mostly NG Photographers, archaeologists and the like - Good Luck!;

The Flight Crew: Yes, but aren't those rather pricey? Same for Smithsonian trips. They're worth a look, though. Thanks.Cindy

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Falls Church, Va.: Tip: Take or buy music in Ireland.

I found the radio to be horrible. 1 song, 15 minutes of talk about Big Brother, 1 song, 15 more minutes of talk...

What did you think of the radio KC?

The Flight Crew: Loved the Gaelic announcers. But didn't listen much to the radio. We bought a tape from one of the buskers at the Cliffs of Moher, a harpist with a lovely voice who just happened to have her latest hits for sale, and played that in the car. -- KC

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re: Dubai: This is second-hand knowledge, but I have a British friend who lived there for years. He mentioned that they are among the most progressive of Persian Gulf countries and that Saudis and others come to Dubai to party and let their hair down. There is also a sizeable tourist industry (catering to Brits and Europeans looking for a Beach break) and lots of expats working for the oil companies.

The Flight Crew: Thanks---just remember the cavaet "of the Persian Gulf countries." Cindy

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Beltsville, Md.: I hope I can have my question answered this week, this is the 3rd time I've submitted it. I have $300 vouchers for America West, which I really don't want to fly again. The only place they go that we like is Las Vegas, but we've been there twice. The tix are in our name so we can't give them away.

Should we go anyway, flush the tix down the toilet or can you think of an alternative?

Thanks, Kinch

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Why is Las Vegas the only place that you're interested in? America West goes all over the place, to destinations such as Santa Barbara and Puerto Vallarta. But if you're only interested in Las Vegas, what can we say? You either take your chances or not.

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Re: Unexotic question: I drove to Cleveland Memorial Day weekend on the Penna Turnpike. There was a lot of construction going on (two narrower than usual lanes most of the time), but absolutely no delays despite a heavy fog.

The Flight Crew: thanks.

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Somewhere, USA: ummm...could you please explain what a chipping is? I am going to Ireland and apparently need to know!; Thanks!;

The Flight Crew: It's gravel. Lots of loose gravel, not tarred down yet. The sharp ones will get your tires.

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Re: Time Out: The weekly magazines are only available in New York and London, although a condensed English-language version is available inside Pariscope.

The Flight Crew: Yup, so they're not as extensive as the guidebooks, but they are an option in some cities. Thanks!
-Anne

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re: solo traveler: you might consider joining Servas (http://www.usservas.org/). You would have the option of staying with families or meeting up with people who can show you around the city for an afternoon. I've loved travelling this way. It's also a great help if there are language challenges.

The Flight Crew: thanks.

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BelTsville CELL PHONE: On our recent trip to Las Vegas we took our cell phone AND used one of the pre-paid LD cards. We got ours at SAM'S CLUB, at 6 cents a minute (I think) it's a pretty good deal. The best part is you use it until you run out and you can pay again when you run out of minutes. We bought 240 minutes and have over 150 left.

Kinch

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: I didn't bother with a cell phone for my daughter, who is in England for the summer - just got her one of those phone cards from Costco (like yours). But I can't reach her - she has to call me.

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Potomac, Md.: what kind of paperwork is necessary to visit Tibet?

The Flight Crew: you can get the details at www.travel.state.gov.

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Pa Turnpike: I have travelled the PA turnpike for about the last 20 years. The stretch from Bedford through Somerset, Irwin up to Pittsburgh as been under construction for probably 18 of the last 20 years. It makes the Mixing Bowl project a short term road patch. It truly is an awful driving experience. But saying that it still is the fastest way to Northern Ohio

The Flight Crew: thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: For Kensington, Md and everyone else traveling try the CIA's factbook. It has a ton of stuff. The link is: http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html

The Flight Crew: thanks.

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Lake Tahoe bound: Don't forget to go to Emerald Bay. We rented a boat for the day and went out there - absolutely beautiful!; Also, you have to go to Viginia City - an old mining town in the mountains that's very touristy, but lots of fun for the kids (i.e. Bucket of Blood Saloon). Finally, go up the tram to Squaw Peak - there's a spa up there and an ice rink yearround - the views are spectacular!; Have a great time - I always have loved the place.

The Flight Crew: Sottili: Thanks for the tips. I have been to Tahoe in summer, but have been there more often in winter....

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Rockville, Md: I will be driving from Galway to Dingle via Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher. Did you take the ferry across the river or drive around? Sounds like a hard trip...start the novenas now?? How long will it take with the 2 stops?? Your article and photos were wonderful.

The Flight Crew: Thanks. I took the car ferry across the Shannon from Tarbert to Killimer. Nice interlude, about 20 mins. YOu can do Galway to Dingle in a day, for sure -- depends how long you want to stop at the Cliffs and Doolin, though. You only need an hour or so at the Cliffs, but in Doolin you'll want to spend more time. -- KC

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Napa Valley: I am planning on going to Napa for a day or two in August. Ideally, I'd like to stay at a vineyard b&b type place. I've been doing some research, but I don't know where to begin. I've never heard of a lot of the vineyards - does this matter? Is there a way of narrowing down the process, or should I just close my eyes and pick a name out of a hat? Thanks for any tips.

The Flight Crew: Hey, NV. Personally (and mind you, I'm no oenephile), I don't think it matters if you haven't heard of the vineyard. I found that the smaller no-name places are stocked with much kinder people, who were much more willing to actually chat than to try to sell you an overpriced bottle of wine. We actually tried to hit places that were fairly close together and didn't charge a fortune for a tasting (many charge upward of 5 bucks a person for a round of tastings). There are lots of good guides available; we got a great map from our hotel that showed all the opening hours, how much they cost and when they were open.

As for a vineyard B&B . . . can't help you there. But maybe someone out there in Clicksterville can.
-john

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Laurel, Md.: Last weeke someone asked for your top 10 most underrated vacation destinations. Considering how out of the blue the question was, you answered pretty well.

On a sort of related vein -- what's the best airfare you know a good and under-used vacation spot? Most good fares are to extremely well-known places; so what are the best under-utilized great fares?

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Anywhere Southwest flies. Seriously, this question can't be answered because airfares change all the time. But destinations served by discount carriers often do offer the best deals (Long Beach, Calif. on JetBlue, or West Islip, Long Island on Southwest, for example).

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Frederick, Md.: Just a general gripe - how come everyone always tries to avoid tourists? Aren't you also tourists? It seems a little snobbish.

The Flight Crew: Some of my best friends are tourists, but I think we travel far not to see our neighbors, but to see people, customs and neighborhoods different from our own. Once you get a critical mass of "tourists" from the same demographic group as yourself, you might as well just go to the local mall and save on airfare. Also, there are tourists who like everything except the scenery to be just the same as back home, and those are good people to avoid while traveling. Cindy

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Alexandria, Va.: My aunt and I are planning a trip to Egypt for next year. Where do we start? Besides Cairo, what cities must we visit? I travel often, but this will be my aunt's first trip out of the US. Would you recommend a tour operator?

Thanks for your help!!

The Flight Crew: Yes, I'd recommend a tour operator for that trip. Cindy

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Arlington, Va.: Environmentalism in hotels: Check out this web link - http://www.ceres.org/our_work/ghi.htm - for a simply fabulous program on environmentalism in hotels. It's got information, resources, and great ideas on things you can do to help. And hey, if it saves hotels money, don't you think they will be more enthusiastic about protecting the earth?

The Flight Crew: thanks.

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Arlington, Va: Just want to give a holler to the person who is using 6c a min phone cards -- the MCI ones you can get at Costco are 3c a minute (domestic) and they're rechargable so if you run out on your trip you can reload using your CC. We love them. Yes, you do have to make calls, but it's more reliable than cell coverage!;

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Costcos are cheap - didn't realize they were that much cheaper.

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Washington, D.C.: Dingle Bay was the first landpoint that C. Lindbergh hit when he crossed the ocean from America. Interesting that on a map it is shaped the way you'd see it flying over in a plane. Particularly the cliffs that jutt out of the bay.

The Flight Crew: Another first-flight note -- County Galway was the site of another record-setting transatlantic flight, by two Englishmen who flew from America and landed in Ireland. I think one of them was named Alcock. And it was also the site of Marconi's first transatlantic telegraph message, if I remember correctly. -- KC

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Get me outta here!;: Bahamas-bound in two days - has anyone done the "Dive Today" program offered by UNEXCO on Grand Bahama Island? It's a class and short dive for first-time (read: not certified) divers. I've never dived and am not a terribly good swimmer - would snorkeling perhaps be better?

Another question - there are some crazy cheap packages to Hong Kong right now - go figure!; Flight & hotel for two starting at $888 for 4 nights. What are some better hotels and places to avoid there? Haven't heard much about new SARS there...

Thanks in advance.

The Flight Crew: If you've never snorkeled, I'd try that first. If you have snorkeled, go for the dive.

Hong Kong got SARS under control quite quickly---more quickly than Toronto as a matter of fact. AS to which hotels to embrace or avoid---there are too many to answer. Cindy

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Alexandria, Va.: I'm heading to Fiji next month for a wedding, after which I will have about 1.5 weeks to take in the rest of the very spread-out country. Anyone been there and can recommend islands to see, or places this backpacker should stay?

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: Go to www.feejeeexperience.com. Sounds like it fits your description.

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Bethesda, Md.: Hi,

Do you think this is duable: 2,5 days Hong Kong, 4 days Phuket, 2 days Kuala Lumpur, 2 days Singapore, and 4 days Bali in November. I was in Hong Kong, Bangkok and Phuket last year, totally loved it and want to go back hoping to add some other destinations with Cathay Pacific's all Asia pass. By the way, I am from Turkey and my favorite destination is Thailand, does that count?

The Flight Crew: Hey Bethesda...
Jealous. Very jealous. My one suggestion would be to get at least 3, preferably 4 days in Malaysia so that you can go to Tamen Negara, a tropical rainforest (perhaps leave off Singaporte and combine the days allotted to the two). KL itself didn't thrill me, but the rainforest is amazing. You get there by a bus/boat combo, and can spend the night either at the big resort or, like me, spend just a few ringgit and sleep in a bunk house across the river. I saw wild boar and monkeys and walked way above the ground along reputedly the highest canopy walkway.
-Anne

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Bethesda, Md. 20814: In yesterday's travel article about Ireland, the author referenced talking to a substitute teacher who was from the "nearby town of Carron". I assume this was while the author was in Ennis in County Clare. We are "Carrons" from Ballinamore in County Leitrim. None of us have ever hear of the town of Carron, but we're curious since that's my husband's name. Can the author give any information or suggest how we can look up this town to see the source of its name? Thanks.

The Flight Crew: It's in County Clare. There's also a Carron Church there, a gorgeous 13th-century stone church that's in ruins. I'll try to locate it more specifically on my map -- email me after the chat at summersk@washpost.com and I'll try to track it down. -- KC

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Ireland in December?: Is Ireland still green and 60ish in December or does it get cold and grey?

The Flight Crew: In November it's green and 50ish. Haven't been there in December -- anyone?

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Falls Church, Va.: Ennis was such a surprise. I would put it as a must see for anyone flying into Shannon. It helped that the market was full (Saturdays) and the Hurling championship was going on. The people were very friendly, even though we were Galway supporters. (Go Galway!)
I must admit, I never built up enough courage to try those snails.

The Flight Crew: Ennis's costumes were cuter. -- KC

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Travelin' Vagabond: Friends,
My partner and I want to do some tours of cities around the good 'ole USA over the next year. We don't want to mess with finding lodging, etc. Love art, architecture and museums, but are open to most cultural events. Do you have some favorite travel/tour companies that might fit the bill? Thanks!

The Flight Crew: Smithsonian has great tours, but tend to be pricey. Depends in part how old you are, and lots of other things. There are tour groups for every demographic group you could imagine. If you're not a deaf Lesbian vegetarian, then you might be happier with a hearing, meat-eating heterosexual tour. I just put the words art and U.S. tours in a google search, and one of the first one links that popped up sounded good: www.elucedART. If a google search doesn't satisfy, a travel agent should be helpful. Cindy

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Motown Bound: I'm heading to Detroit next week with wife and kids (5 yrs and 17 mos). While we could drive in a day, we're breaking it into three and trying to find a day trip in the middle somewhere beyond halfway (NE Ohio area).

Any ideas for the middle day (museums, historical sites, cookie factories, etc.) that'll help make the trip more bearable?

On a related note, how long to get to Niagra Falls from the Capital Beltway? (We may go that route and then cut across lower Ontario.)

The Flight Crew: Only have time for the last question: go to www.mapquest.com and they will give you the time within a minute.

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Germantown, Md.: Why doesn't AMTRAK allow small dogs in carriers on short trips? My niece can fly with her dog from N.Y. to D.C. but cannot take AMTRAK. Makes no sense.

The Flight Crew: Sottili here: This from the National Association of Railroad Passengers:
In 1977, the federal government issued new regulations affecting carriage of pets on trains. There were new requirements for heat and air conditioning for baggage cars (and possibly for providing water). The agency issuing the requirements was the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), acting under the Federal Animal Welfare Act of 1966 (as amended in 1976). Amtrak determined that it would need to spend $13.8 million on baggage car changes and special animal shelters in stations to satisfy the new regulations, and ended the carriage of pets rather than comply.

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Washington, D.C.: My girlfriend and I just vacationed in Mexico and got scuba certified. So now we're scoping out places to dive! We'd be willing to go anywhere in the world, but are also looking for ways to make it affordable. Any suggestions on locations, dive packages, etc?
Thanks!

The Flight Crew: in a hurry---but check out belize.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Dear Flight Crew:

Last month I noticed that three different travel magazines (Yes, I'm a junky) featured an article praising the charms of Providence, R.I. What gives? Is this the result of a concerted PR effort on that city's part?

The Flight Crew: Probably has something to do with the TV show. But it is a neat town. Lots to see and do, lots of history, fun shopping, etc. And doughnuts! -- KC

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Last-Minute LA: Taking a last-minute trip to L.A. this weekend. Will probably hit a Dodgers game and Santa Monica. Anything else to recommend for two guys hitting the town for 48 hours?

The Flight Crew: Check out Hollywood--they're trying to spitpolish it and make it presentable, but it's still icky enough to be interesting and there's tons of memories everywhere. Lots of bars and restaurants, too.
-john

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Middletown, Md.: My husband and I just returned from driving Ireland on Friday night and then read your article on Sunday. I told him we should have been on the byline! The part about the passenger's comments ( I was the passenger) was priceless. Talk about smacking the bushes and running into those curbs - it just about drove me nuts. However, the country is so beautiful even in the cold and rain that we would do it again. One place that I thought you may want to see is the Cobh area where the Titanic left with the Irish immigrants. It was not only lovely, but so interesting. Their Heritage Center is a wealth of knowledge. We took a great walking tour from the Commodore with Valerie. Michael Martin is another guide and has written a small book " The Titanic Trail". We had a great lunch at Clippers. My husband started talking to the owner about antique golf clubs. Needless to say, we came home with one! We had a ball - loose chippings, potholes and all.
Betsy Cavanaugh

The Flight Crew: Thanks, Middletown.

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Mini-Van mom...: Hi!;!; -- my name starts w. T!;

We're taking a trip, not as far and exotic as some of our past adventures, but with little girls, you just never know.....

Does anyone have any tips on "car camping" with 3 girls in the 3-5 year old range? We definitely need civilized campground with potties, and showers.

Has anyone been camping at Bull Run in Manassas?

The Flight Crew: there are tons of resources to check out what each campground has---most states have guides, koa has a huge guide, the rv association has guides. and sorry, don't know specifics of Bull Run. Cindy

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Fairfax, Va.: Ok, with the article in today's Post about traveling to Ireland, and recently having read Pete McCarthy's snarky/humourous take on his adventure across the Emerald Isle, I am now in the mood more than ever to go to Ireland. I have a couple of questions before I begin my flight though: 1-Is there a "best" and "worst" time to go? 2-How is the dollar doing over there? 3-What is a roundabout price for a 5 day trip for 2 to hit the high spots?

That is all.

The Flight Crew: 1 - A potter in Dingle said she thought May was the best time, cause it's warming up but not yet overrun with tourists. I thought June was great -- warmer still, and a BIT overrun, but not as bad as July and Aug will be. If you crave warmth, August is best, but be prepared for crowds.

2 - Dollar is doing TERRIBLY against the euro. Not to discourage you or anything, but be prepared.

3 -- Price really depends on how you like to travel. The cheapest B&B will be at least $70 for two. Dinner is about $25 at a nice restaurant, minimum. Breakfast is always included in hotel/B&B prices, at least. KC

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Web publishing: igougo.com is a site to consider for web publishing your travel stories. Haven't written for them, but have enjoyed reading.

The Flight Crew: One last Web site for travelogues...
Thanks, all! -Anne

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Arlington, Va.: What's the drill these days at National? I understand I have to have a boarding pass to get through security? Does anyone know if American Airlines will let me lock a suitcase after it's been searched?

And a tip--I've heard from several friends who took dollars overseas, both to Europe and Africa, that the older 20s, 50s, 100s are often not accepted at exchanges--they want the new bills.

The Flight Crew: As you Tuesday you'll need a boarding pass to get through security--as you already need to do BWI or Dulles. (also of course photo i.d.) Generally, almost all airlines at all airports are checking bags out of sight, and you don't get to relock them.

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The Flight Crew: Whew, thanks for all those great questions, and sorry if we didn't get to yours -- we're out of time. The prize goes to Bridget in Tysons Corner, in honor of her Irish name. Bridget, email me at summersk@washpost.com and we'll get the prize out to you. Thanks for reading, everyone, we'll see you next week.

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