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TRAVEL Q&A

Go Jump in a Jellyfish Lake

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By Scott Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 30, 2008

Q. When is the best time to visit Palau, weather-wise and price-wise, and where would you recommend I stay? I have been dreaming of scuba diving in that island nation's Jellyfish Lake, among thousands of jellyfish that have lost their stingers.

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Aubrey Lau, Woodbridge

A. Okay, I'll just put it out there. We find your dreams troubling. Molly Blaisdell, however, would disagree. She's a spokeswoman for the Palau Visitors Authority ( http://www.visit-palau.com, 011-680-488-1965) and, more important, a fellow Jellyfish Lake junkie. (Sample breathless quote: "This is the most spectacular experience I have ever had.")

For the uninitiated or unconvinced, here's the deal: Jellyfish Lake is on a small island not far from Koror, Palau's capital, which is two hours by air southwest of Guam. The small lake teems with a harmless species of jellyfish that feeds on algae. Snorkeling is allowed but not scuba diving, and the experience is certifiably one-of-a-kind.

"As I swam into the 'thick' of the thousands of jellyfish, I burst out of the water in hysterics," Blaisdell said. The laughs came courtesy of the jellyfish, many of which were tickling her simultaneously.

Yes, you, too, can experience this tickle and enjoy moderate weather most anytime, although Washington-Guam flights tend to sting during summer (about $1,700 round trip on Continental Airlines, for instance). For good-value accommodations, consider Koror's Cliffside Hotel; singles start at $140 a night ( http://www.cliffsidehotelpalau.com, 011-680-488-4590).

We want to stay for three nights in Paris in August but are having trouble finding a room that holds a family of five. Do you know of any affordable hotels with family rooms?

Allison Ashbeck, Millersville

$342 a night: That's what a recent survey showed was the cost of an average hotel room in the City of Light. And that was for a double. In 2007. So, bearing in mind that "affordable" is now French for "exorbitant," we cast an especially wide net in search of bargains.

First stop: Marion Fourestier of the French Government Tourist Office (514-288-1904, http://www.franceguide.com). Your best bet, she said, is to look for a triple room or suite; they are most likely to be found at large chains such as Best Western (800-780-7234, http://www.bestwestern.com). Two properties in great locations are the Best Western Hotel Belloy Saint-Germain, which has suites with two rooms and three beds that start at $534 a night in August, and the Best Western Jardin de Cluny, whose relevant rooms have a king and a sofa bed and start at $469. At press time, we could find availability but no bargains.

Also, "there are the hotel residences and apartments," said Fourestier, who suggested checking the "Other Places to Stay" section of the Paris Tourist Office Web site ( http://www.parisinfo.com) for information on apartment rentals. You might also consider exchanging your residence for a Parisian's. "Apartment exchange is very popular and usually works out all right," Fourestier said. Two companies: Intervac ( http://www.intervac.com), which charges $95 a year for access to international exchanges, and HomeExchange.com ( http://www.home http:// http://exchange.com), whose fee is $99.95 a year.

Second stop: The Travel Log, our blog, which we herewith plug shamelessly ( http://blog.washingtonpost.com/travellog). When we posed your question online, two readers recommended Vacation Rentals by Owner ( http://www.vrbo.com), which connects travelers directly with homeowners willing to rent out their domiciles. A third called Citadines "a great chain of Aparthotels that offer reasonable apartments throughout France" ( http://www.citadines.com). And "no, I do not work for them."

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost.com) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and town.


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