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Sunday, January 30, 2005; Page P05

Ireland in Winter

IT WAS refreshing to have the rugged northwest of Ireland featured ["Ireland's Warm Cold Season," Jan. 23]. Even with giveaway fares, I am reluctant to visit my dear mother in Sligo during the winter months. Two words come to mind: thermal underwear.

Bernadette Michael

Arlington

FRESH FROM a memorable November Irish vacation, my wife and I enjoyed reading your excellent article. It could have been even better had the writer alerted would-be tourists to the food prices likely to be encountered in Ireland. Although the assertion that "you will never go hungry" in Ireland is true, our restaurant bills furnish irrefutable evidence that satisfying one's hunger requires a stack of euros. Here's a sample of what we paid for two:

• Thady O'Neill's, Bunratty: $49.21

• Boluisce, Spiddal: $44.28

• Ahernes' Townhouse and Sea, Youghal: $40.08

• An Cruiscin Lan Bar and Restaurant, Spiddal: $38.39

• Donnelley's of Barna, Galway: $77.35

• P. O'Loughlins, Galway: $41.10

• Irish Arms Hotel, Clare: $39.42

Aside from a wild splurge at Donnelley's, most meals consisted of soup, sandwiches, soft drinks (tiny cans, no refills) and coffee (no refills).

As we took note of our rapidly thinning wallets, we relied increasingly on B&B breakfasts to carry us well into the afternoon. We evolved into two-meals-a-day tourists.

Our advice: When packing bags for an Irish vacation, include plenty of euros.

James V. Dolson

Springfield

"W.B. YEATS, Ireland's greatest poet, living or dead -- say that in a pub in Ireland and be ready to defend your position, and sometimes your person -- firmly believed that spirits roamed the world and that you could talk to them and they'd bend your ear back."

Yeats was in a pub once in his life -- he hated them. Besides the fact that this is illiterate.

"In the chilly streets of Dublin there is the comforting smell of rashers and bread in the morning, and coal and turf smoke in the evenings."

Indeed. Fossil fuels are illegal in Dublin during the winter months due to problems with smog, notwithstanding the fact that most Dubliners wouldn't know a sod of turf if it fell out of the benighted sky and hit them on the head.

Tadgh O'Sullivan

Oxford, England

Flying With Lighters

THE JAN. 23 Coming and Going column stated that as of Feb. 15, cigarette lighters will be confiscated from carry-on bags. It went on to say that "you will still be allowed to pack lighters in checked baggage."

Perhaps you should make it clear that "butane-type lighters" that are fueled from a pressurized can will be confiscated no matter where you carry them. TSA calls them "torches" and will open your luggage and take them.

I am an occasional cigar smoker, and last fall I flew to Manchester, N.H., with my "torch" lighter in my carry-on bag: No problem. On the return trip I packed it in my checked luggage and it was confiscated. No one ever accused TSA of consistency!

My advice is to leave any lighter at home and buy a cheap Bic-type butane lighter at your destination.

Erik Smith

Bethesda

YOUR ARTICLE indicates that you can fly with lighters in checked baggage. Just this week while flying from San Diego to DCA on Delta, I had a notice from TSA placed in my checked baggage that my lighter had been confiscated and cited the section of their code that I had violated. This same lighter was in my checked baggage on the way out(with a note that it had been searched by TSA) and was not confiscated.

Is the bottom line that lighters are not allowed in any luggage?

Jennifer Werner

College Park

Author Cindy Loose responds:

While the new TSA rule applies only to lighters carried on board, a longstanding Federal Aviation Administration rule governing hazardous materials bans "mechanically operated flame producing devices that employ an ignition device and contain liquified gas fuel such as butane, isobutane, propane or a mixture thereof," if the device fitting that description also contains more than 2.3 fluid ounces of fuel, and the fuel is not absorbed by the device. This last criterion alone exempts Zippo-style lighters from the ban because they have a fuel-absorbing wick, says Joe Delcambre of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Research and Special Programs Administration, which writes the hazmat regs followed by the FAA.

In other words, you're not likely to own a cigarette lighter that fits the criteria, but given the complexities of the regulation, it's easy to see how they could be misapplied.

Bottom line: If you don't want to mount a major court case to protect your right to pack your everyday garden-variety lighter, you might as well leave it at home.

Driving Abroad

IT WAS good to warn drivers of the need for an International Driving Permit in Europe, as I have been asked to show it in Austria [Coming and Going, Jan. 23]. However, is there any chance that AAA could issue these for longer than one year? It should really have the same expiration date as a driver's license.

Karin M. Krchnak

Bethesda

Author Cindy Loose responds:

According to AAA's Justin McNaull, blame lies with the 1949 "Convention on Road Traffic." The ancient text that set up the international permit system specified that countries signing on to the convention would not be required to honor any permit for more than one year.

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