Exotic, Minus the Passport

By Scott Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 18, 2008

Q. We'll be flying to Seattle next month and then taking a ferry to Orcas Island. We hear that we'll need a passport for the trip. Is that true?

Judith Willging, Washington

A. Last we heard, Orcas Island had failed in its myriad attempts at secession and will remain, for now, one of the San Juan Islands, a treasured part of Washington state. But we know whence your confusion comes.

"There has been some negative press about a couple of random Homeland Security checks in some of the state ferry terminals," said Robin Jacobson of the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau (, 888-468-3701), in a very diplomatic characterization of what has no doubt been a PR nightmare for her. Why? In February, border agents began randomly asking passengers on domestic ferries to demonstrate their citizenship. According to authorities, the San Juans' proximity to Canada (just 20 miles away in some spots) means that terrorists could be plotting to use the same waters that rumrunners and other nefarious types have plied since crime immemorial.

But "U.S. citizens traveling within Washington state" -- and that includes the San Juans, remember -- "do not need passports, only their usual personal ID, like a driver's license," said Jacobson (, 888-808-7977).

Which is not to say that each of the three most popular islands in that lush archipelago doesn't boast a healthy dose of the exotic. There's the rural and elegant Lopez ("the most popular with the bicyclists, because it's flat," as Jacobson put it), dramatic Orcas ("it's hilly and has a peak that gives you a great 360-degree view") and, of course, bustling San Juan ("the most populous, with the most restaurants and night life").

The last also contains the islands' only incorporated town, Friday Harbor, with its all-American ferry stop, where thousands of Americans make the tortuous trip back to America every year.

We will be in Italy during the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto this summer and would like to attend some events but are having trouble getting information. Can you help?

Marianne Henderson, Lancaster, Va.

Searching for a reason why this world-renowned arts festival would have trouble getting the word out about its summer offerings, we came across the Spoleto Web site, which until recently gave no mention of an upcoming program, then later had information but only in Italian, and then finally, a few weeks ago, launched an English language site (

"Giorgio Ferrara, the artistic director, has decided to give great attention to the French dramaturgy," said Marco Guerini, a Spoleto spokesman. As it happens, Ferrara was installed in his post just in November, the festival having been in flux since the death of its founder, Gian Carlo Menotti, last year. That may account for some of the sluggishness.

But now, Americans "can buy tickets in advance on our Web site," Guerini said, meaning that you can click on a link there to Ticket One, the Italian company handling Spoleto tickets (

The storied Umbrian town 80 miles north of Rome will play host, from June 27 to July 13, to new productions of works by Debussy and Marivaux, a much-anticipated Robert Wilson staging of "The Threepenny Opera," performances by the London Symphony Orchestra and a new work by Savion Glover, a "great tip-tap dancer of his generation," as the Spoleto Web site charmingly puts it.

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