Talk about travel: Celebrity sightings, cell phones abroad, New Orleans, 4th of July plans, great travel bags, more

Network News

X Profile
View More Activity
Flight Crew
Monday, June 21, 2010; 2:00 PM

_______________________

Zofia Smardz: And while we're in the air, let's spin some fun stories about your most rewarding/most disappointing visit to your favorite TV, book or movie-related destination (per yesterday's story on New Orleans's Treme neighborhood; and Disney and Universal sets count!), or any brushes you may have had with TV/movie stars or other celebs, on their turf or yours. When I was in graduate school at UC Berkely many, um, eons ago, I lived in the same apartment complex as Jerry Mathers, more popularly known as Beaver Cleaver. He was short, a bit heavy, and had pockmarked skin -- but he was also friendly and still had that great Beaver smile. It was disappointing and exciting at the same time. Also stood next to Jack Palance at a streetlight once. He was short, too! Okay your turn now. Here we go!

_______________________

Airfare to Germany: I'd like to go to Germany in mid-October, after all the Oktoberfest crowds have left. I'm currently seeing flights from $850 to $950. Is that typical? Is there a chance for sales as we get closer to the fall? Around when should I book?(It's my first trip to Europe and I'm a little nervous.)Thanks!

Carol Sottili:

_______________________

Luggage help, please: I have the Patagonia MLC. When I wear the bag as a backpack, the bottom of it hits my butt. I would love a bag just like it (meaning it must have the backpack feature), but about 18" in length instead of the current 21". Does anyone know if something like this exists? I already checked with Patagonia.

Becky Krystal: I heart my new Crumpler bag. I would definitely browse their site. This one looks like it might be along the lines of what you're looking for.Any other recs, chatters?

_______________________

Driving to the midwest: We're going to Ohio next week, and need someplace good to eat on the way! We usually take 68 through western MD, to 79 to 70, and we've tried pulling off into cities in WV but can't seem to find a good, non-chain place to go. Help us break up that drive!

Zofia Smardz: This is one for the chatters. Folks, I know somebody out there has done this drive and knows exactly where to send this reader, so please pipe up!

_______________________

UAE transplant-to-be, VA: Hello! I am off to the UAE (Abu Dhabi) for a year in a few months, and as a planner, want to get my ducks in a row of places to visit in the region and beyond that strategically make sense now that I'll be close to the other side of the world. I still have to figure out budget, but considering airfare costs, travel time etc., how would you prioritize the following places compared with living in DC. I imagine I can only go to two or three places:-South Africa (for city, wine and safari)-India (New Delhi/Agra etc.)-Egypt (Cairo, pyraminds etc.)-Thailand (Bangkok and islands)-Maldives or Seychelles (island living)Any places outside of the UAE that you feel would be a missed opportunity not to go for a long weekend or so?

Nancy Trejos:

_______________________

Mackinaw Island: My husband and I are planning a trip to the Upper Peninsula in August - without our children! We're conflicted over whether it's worth it to pay nearly $700 (including breakfast and dinner) to stay at the Grand Hotel. Anyone have an experience with the place? Trip Advisor reviews are mixed. Thanks.

Becky Krystal: it would take a heck of a lot of service and luxury to get me to choke up $700 a night to stay anywhere, let alone Michigan. But maybe that's just me.Any experience at the Grand Hotel?

_______________________

Open jaw tix vs. two sets of flights: I'm trying to start plans for Christmas. I live near Vienna but want to visit family in LA and Philadelphia during a two-week trip. I was planning to fly in and out of PHL and then take a nested trip to LA while I was in the States, but it's looking like Dec/Jan tix from PHL to LAX cost nearly as much as transatlantic tickets ($500 dom. compared to $650 intl.). VIE to LAX or PHL is roughly the same cost right now.Do you think it makes more sense to try an multi-destination flight, like VIE-LAX-PHL-VIE rather than separate round-trip flights? It would save on some travel time, I guess, but I'm not sure of the best way to book that kind of ticket. Do you have any recommendations?

Carol Sottili: You can book that sort of multi-city trip on most airline sites and third-party booking sites. I looked at Bing Travel, plugged in some dates around Christmas, and came up with a fare of $1,174 on Delta for your multi-city itinerary, which isn't bad. Ticketing as two trips vs. ticketing it as a multi-city is not just about money - make sure you pay attention to connections/ease of travel.

_______________________

Cross Country Road Trip: My 20 year old son and I are driving from St. Louis to Los Angeles this summer. We are going to try to hit the big sites -- Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam -- but would also like to see some unusual, funkier things too. Is there a book that you could recommend that would give us some ideas?

Zofia Smardz: "Weird U.S." by Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman and the sequel "Weird U.S., the Odyssey Continues," are treasure troves of unusual sights and sites nationwide. They're available on Amazon in paperback. But also check out the Web site Roadside America, which has similarly intriguing offerings. And I'm sure the chatters will have some thoughts, too!

_______________________

Hiking/Trekking in India: My wife and I will be in northern India in late November, and are looking for hiking/trekking options for 7-10 days. We are fit and have hiking experience, but are hoping to avoid too much cold and snow, if possible. So far, it seems like the Singalila area near Darjeeling is our best bet, so thoughts on that would be appreciated, but any other ideas are also welcome. Since we are unfamiliar with the area, we don't mind hiring a guide, etc., if that would be helpful. Thanks.

Becky Krystal: Um, I'm not sure if any of us have experience in this area. Maybe the peanut gallery does. But for something like that, my gut instinct would be yes to the guide!

_______________________

thanksgiving flights: Looking for flights to Florence or Rome, Italy for Thanksgiving week...leaving Friday, Nov 19 and returning Saturday, Nov 27. Buy now or wait? Thanks in advance.

Carol Sottili: Thanksgiving is a big travel week, and there are rarely sales. I'd buy sooner rather than later.

_______________________

Barrow, Alaska?: We're planning an Alaska vacation for NEXT summer already, and booked 4 nights in Anchorage, 3 inside Denali at the North Face Lodge. Now just waiting for that 330 day window to book air tickets!I've long wanted to go north of the Arctic Circle, and Alaska Airlines has a day trip to Barrow from Anchorage. Anyone been to Barrow? Is it worth spending more than a day? It would be nice to see the sun at midnight, but I don't want to spend two full days of my vacation just for that.

Zofia Smardz: Have not been to Barrow, but I'm sure somebody out there has. Chatters? How much time is the midnight sun worth?

_______________________

London, UK: I've been in a bit of a bad spot of late, and am looking to try and get my life back. Do you know of any good resort areas holding yacht races in the next fortnight, so I can get some rest and relaxation? Am hoping for something a bit more exotic than the Gulf of Mexico.Cheers!Tony H.

Becky Krystal: OK, you've stumped us. Perhaps the U.S. Sailing Association has something to help you.

_______________________

Alexandria, VA: Brushes with celebrities: In July 1989 my father, who was the Scoutmaster of my Boy Scout troop, and another kid's father took six of us to the Canadian Jamboree on PEI. The opening ceremony was attended by the Duke and Duchess of York (Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, i.e., the original "Fergie"). Times being different then, they went on a "walkabout" through the crowd and I got to meet the Duke, who was quite astonished to find Americans in attendance until I pointed out that the Canadians invited us and that there were Boy Scouts from various other countries in attendance as guests as well. If that were to happen now, what with 21 more years of cynicism in me, I'd probably say something like "they were recognizing that American tourist dollars keep this place running" or something snide like that. (To be fair, I love Canada; I just thought it was a little snarky of him.)In 1993 Mikhail Gorbachev came to speak at UVA for the 250th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson's birth and I staked out a prime seat. Didn't get to meet him, but I did meet his wife. He walked right past me, though, and somewhere I have a photograph to confirm that the Red Spot is real, "Naked Gun" sight gags notwithstanding.

Zofia Smardz: The Brits are famously snarky. The Duke might actually have appreciated it! Thanks for the good stories!

_______________________

Mackinaw Island: My parents honeymoond on Mackinaw Island at the Grand Hotel. They said it was worth every penny. Beautiful location. Fantastic service.

Becky Krystal: OK, one testimonial!

_______________________

HIGH END GOLF RESORTS VIRGINIA, CAROLINAS, WEST VIRGINIA: Am interested in taking my two sons - late 30's/early 40's for a golfing holiday pre-Labor Day. Would like an environment with both on- and off-site dining and outstanding golf. Would prefer a house/condo/villa rather than hotel rooms. Suggestions?

Becky Krystal: I'm not a golf connoisseur, but you've got plenty of options in the region. The Homestead is definitely high-end, and you might be able to get your money's worth out the unlimited activities rate that Andrea wrote about recently. You can also look into Wisp in Maryland or Snowshoe in West Virginia.Anyone have a favorite place to hit the links?

_______________________

Cell phones in Italy?: My parents are going to Italy in August, and since they have Verizon, will not be able to take their cell phones with them and switch out their SIM cards. I was wondering if you had any advice on purchasing a cell phone over there - I was thinking they might want a disposable one, since they will only be there for two weeks - but much of the information I found didn't address that specifically. Can you give any guidance? I saw you had an article on this in 2003, but nothing more recent that I saw.Thanks!

Carol Sottili:

_______________________

Question re: Yacht Races: Becky, I think you missed the joke completely. The question was supposed to be from Tony Hayward, BP's CEO.

Becky Krystal: OK, OK. You got me. We try to do these on the fly, folks. It's not as easy as you think.

_______________________

first time in los angeles: Hi I am traveling to L.A. with my teenagers. Do you have any must see suggestions? What about the "movie star" home tours? Are they worth our time?Thanks.

Andrea Sachs: I am not a fan of those tours, since you often are crammed in a bus looking at tall shrubs. Your teens might have more fun on their own celeb house treasure hunt, using a star map to find the homes. Also, take them for an ice tea at the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel for some star sightings. (Jen Aniston supposedly lunches there, and I saw Rob Reiner, though your kids probably would be like, Who?!?!?) Also, cruise Rodeo Drive and teach them about conspicuous consumption, and pop into the fascinating Museum of Television and Radio for some sitcom history. The Getty Center is also lovely, and if they tire of the art, the views are incredible. For "fresh" air, take a hike in Runyon Canyon; many stars walk their dogs here. You could also see if any TV shows were taping and get tickets; check the network's and show's Web sites for info. And if you get desperate, there is always Universal Studios.

_______________________

Airfrare sites: Is there one end-all-be-all site for searching for good fares?

Carol Sottili: No. Fares are pretty much the same on the various sites. Orbitz sometimes has fares combining different airlines that come up cheaper, but not by much. I usually check a couple of different third-party booking and aggregator sites, and I vary which ones I use (Kayak, Bing, Orbitz, Expedia, etc.) and then I go directly to the airline sites (make sure you check Southwest separately). A new site that I quite like is Insidetrip, which allows you to calculate fares with fees.

_______________________

Southfork Ranch: My high school graduation class party was held at Southfork Ranch. While we were there, a thunderstorm that was crazy even by Texas standards cut the power off. Imagine 500 18 year-olds stuck in a pitch black room with bathrooms that no longer worked because they were automatic. I'm not going to forget that party anytime soon!

Zofia Smardz: I imagine that 499 other people feel the same way!

_______________________

Movie-related destination: I was most disappointed with Las Vegas. After years of watching James Bond movies, I was expecting everyone to be dressed up in the casinos. Instead, everyone was wearing shorts and tshirts. No glamor within 100 miles. My husband tells me that I need to go to the Riviera and, more important, have significantly more money than we do now.I was most impressed with the Grand Canyon. TV and movies will never be able to capture the sheer scale and beauty of the place. You just have to experience it in person.Also, Paris at night. There is just nothing like strolling down a Paris boulevard on a summer evening. So romantic.

Zofia Smardz: Ah yes, Paris. Wish I were there now.

_______________________

Re: London, UK: Did you guys seriously miss the satire in the post asking about yacht races in some place other than the Gulf, submitted by Tony H?? Not so subtle dig at BP...

Becky Krystal: Really, people. We're just trying to help. Go snark somewhere else!

_______________________

Bizarre celeb sighting: Seeing a 2nd floor $12 Korean Nail salon in upper Manhattan, my girlfriend and I walked up the stairs and opened to door to see Ivana Trump getting a manicure. I shut the door and whispered to my friend "That's Ivana Trump!" She snuck in front of me, opened the door, and looked for herself. "No, Drag Queen" was her verdict. Well, we walked in, and not only was it Ivana Trump, but Emeril Legasse was at the next station getting a pedi! Turns out they lived in the same building and were great friends. Who knew?

Becky Krystal: Yes, that is bizarre.

_______________________

Famous movie site: My sister and I went on the Sound of Music Tour (I'm sure it's not THE one but...) in Salzburg and it was awesome! Our tour guide was so fun. We saw all the outdoor shots - the house, the church where Maria and the Captain got married, etc. We also got some nice trivia along the way - e.g. the final scene where they look over into "safe" territory is actually Berchtesgarden... All the outdoor shots were just as we remembered them. Best part - singing along with our guide to the soundtrack as we raced along the autobahn from place to place.

Zofia Smardz: I love The Sound of Music. Very ironic, that bit about Berchtesgarden. . .

_______________________

Lima: Hi, I just found out I'll be going to LIma for work in early July - lucky me! Since I didn't get much advance notice, I'm not going to be able to to make a real vacation out of it but I should be able to wrangle 2 or three free days (in other words, not enough time in my opinion, for Cuzco/Machu Picchu). Given that time constraint, any good suggestions for places worth going to that are easy to get to from Lima? I'd be especially interested in beautiful colonial architecture and/or a charming small village. Thanks in advance!

Nancy Trejos: There is plenty to do in Lima. So make sure you spend a bit of time exploring the city. The Plaza Mayor has the Cathedral, the Archibishop's palace, the National Palace and other important buildings. There are beaches at Miraflores. The Museum and Church of San Francisco are famous for their catacombs. If you want to take a side trip from Lima, check out the ruins at Pachacama in the Lurin Valley, where several pre-Columbian cultures before the Incas lived. Or Ica, which has great wineries to explore.

_______________________

4th of July in Richmond: Hey! I am meeting a friend in Richmond, VA over the 4th of July holiday for a girlfriends weekend. She lives in NC, I live in MD so we're not quite meeting in the middle. I've driven through so many times but I've never stopped. We're staying downtown Saturday and Sunday night. What can you tell me about actitivities planned for the holiday weekend and other things that may be of interest? And what about nightlife - especially for Saturday. Don't want to be bored - I'm sure there's plenty to do but some friends have indicated otherwise. Boo to them but please give me some assurance! Thanks.

Becky Krystal: Yeah, I can't be allowing any raggin' on my hometown. Here's a calendar listing for that weekend. See if that helps. But I might suggest hitting up the recently reopened Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (and the Tiffany exhibit), exploring the 17th Street Farmers Market and eating at some Tom Sietsema-approved restaurants. It's a big city with lots to do!

_______________________

Celebrity encounter: Back in the late 90s, I was on a business trip in New York City. A coworker and I were walking back to our hotel, when we glanced over at the gentlemen also waiting for the walk light to cross. Once he had moved ahead of us, we were both so excited to have seen Sydney Portier! He continued in the same direction as us, until a street person recognized him and started shouting how much he loved Sydney - Sydney quickly disappeared into a hotel so we didn't actually get to speak to him.

Zofia Smardz: Sort of like my encounter with Jack Palance. But I bet Sydney was taller!

_______________________

Morrocco in February: Hi Travel Crew,I am thinking of a trip to Morrocco in February, probably around Marrakech. I'd like to spend some time in the city and possibly also a beach. I'll be there for about seven days. Any ideas or things not to be missed?Thanks!

Andrea Sachs: I loved Fez, more so than Marrakech (the leashed monkeys made me sad), so try to add that city to your itinerary. If you have time, hire a driver to experience the Atlas mountains (you'll see Berbers and free-roaming monkeys on the side of the road) and the Sahara. If you can, find a sled and cruise down the sandy slopes. If you aren't too bashful, try a hammam, a community bath house. For hotels, spend at least one night in a riad, a traditional house with an interior garden. And one thing I would have loved to do was take a cooking class, because the tagine is delish. Here is one option: http://www.lamaisonarabe.com.

_______________________

Best Movie location: I used to be in the movie industry in NYC, and we shot for 2 weeks at an AMAZING location in Yonkers. It's used for a lot of fashion shoot and was the pace in A Beautiful Mind that Russell Crowe's charater drops of his :findings" in the mail box. The place is an old mansion that became Elizabeth Seaton College and then basically abandoned. We filmed everywhere, the bomb shelter in the basement, the old library (with tons of high value magazines), the ballroom and porticos, the place even had a swimming pool on the third floor. I was always too scared to go onto the 4th floor though.

Zofia Smardz: What was on the fourth floor. . .?

_______________________

Bill Pullman in Prague: Back in 2005, I was in Prague as they were filming for the NBC TV miniseries "Revelations". My friend and I were in the right place at the right time and saw Bill Pullman and some actress shooting a walking scene in a street. I have a blurry photo of the whole operation too, including a crew member looking right into my lens with a creepy expression... the kind that says, "If that camera flashes... I'm going to beat you."The rest of the city was breathtaking too, and I found a few of the locations from "Mission: Impossible"!

Zofia Smardz: Thanks! Prague's another place I love. . .

_______________________

Vouchers for our trouble: I wrote in last week asking what would be fair compensation for a snafu while trying to leave Argentina a few weeks ago on a major carrier's plane. This Saturday my husband and I each received a $200 travel voucher towards future travel with this carrier. We are fine with that since there is always another trip on the horizon for us. I feel that the cosmos have been placed back in order.

Becky Krystal: Excellent. Happy to hear you ended up with something satisfactory.

_______________________

Solo gal: Hi travel staffers! I recently moved to Singapore and it's a lovely place, mostly because it's easy to get anywhere in SE asia you can think of. Unfortunately, it's not so comfortable to be in a lot of these places on your own, which is what I'm used to. Do you know of any women-centric (or expat-centric) group travel type things that operate in Asia that I could hook up with? Many thanks!

Andrea Sachs: Expats find each other, no matter where you are in the world. Here are some good sources that could lead to group travel opportunities:The Singapore Expat MeetupTransitions AbroadSingapore Expats ForumThe ExpatFor single female travel, check out Journey Woman.

_______________________

New Orleans: Going to New Orleans on Wednesday. Trip was booked way before the spill. Any seafood shortage or anything like that? I am looking forward to helping the economy.

Becky Krystal: See if this story by our colleague Theresa Vargas answers your question.

_______________________

Movie/TV/Book destinations: In Oahu, I copied most of the Brady Bunch's itinerary, which was a lot of campy fun and required some TiVo-ing to look at the Hawaii episodes again after I got home.Mostly, my interest in locally-set movies and books is piqued after I have seen a place first-hand. For movies, particularly, it's a lot of fun to watch them and see what places, advertising, local foods, flora, etc. are recognizable. imdb has a great search feature where you can seek out movies that were filmed in countries, cities, and sometimes specific buildings or town squares. One of the first things I do after returning home from a new destination is browse which movies were made at the sites I just visited and toss them into the Netflix queue. It's a small way to extend the trip and ease back into the daily grind.

Becky Krystal: I like that Netflix suggestion. Fun!

_______________________

For the person with the Patagonia bag: Check out Red Oxx luggage. I have their Air Boss carry-on bag and their Tri-Fold Shave Kit toiletry bag and both have been splendid for me, very durable and the service from Red Oxx when I ordered was outstanding. Their stuff is not cheap, but when it comes to luggage I tend to think I'd rather pay a bit more for a quality item rather than replace a bag with cheapo zippers and such a year or two down the road. From a look around their site, the "Sky Train" bag sounds like the closest to the Patagonia bag the prior questioner noted, but it's also about the same size (20 inches long). There are two rucksacks noted on the same site, however, that might fit the bill (click on "Backpacks/Daypacks" on the left side). It wasn't clear to me whether the prior questioner would consider a bag that is set up permanently as a rucksack or whether it is a requirement that it be convertible between a carry-bag and a rucksack. But you could always explore around their website. (I do not work for Red Oxx; I'm just a very satisfied customer. Incidentally, I have trouble getting their site to work in Firefox, so use another browser for that site.)

Becky Krystal: Thanks for all the info.

_______________________

Vertigo tour: If you are a Hitchcock fan, go to San Francisco and visit the Legion of Honor Museum, Lombard Street, Mission Dolores, etc. Then drive down to the Mission of San Juan Bautista (on the road toward Monterey). Don't be disappointed, however, that the tower is not there - it never was. Long before CGI, Hitchcock's crew managed to etch-a-sketch a tower into the sences filmed there.

Zofia Smardz: You speak of "Vertigo," of course!

_______________________

To Spirit or not to Spirit?: I'm going to Ft. Lauderdale in September and the best price is currently with Spirit. I haven't been following the news on them anywhere but your chats, so I'm not sure what's up. To book or not to book?

Carol Sottili: Last I heard, it was losing money. But so are many other airlines.

_______________________

Boston: My sister and I would like to take a three-four day trip to Boston from DC. We are looking for a very reasonable hotel and travel package. Probably will fly because of time. What would you reccomend and what part of the city should we stay in to see the most historical sights.

Nancy Trejos:

_______________________

London, Hong Kong and then what: Travel Crew: we jumped on British Airways' wacky credit card promo that allowed us to rack up enough miles in four months a business class ticket to the far east, with a companion certificate to boot. We booked the tickets yesterday - DC to London and then onto Hong Kong in January. We'll spend three days at least each in London and Hong Kong, but have seven days to play with. Where else in the far east do you recommend we go? We're looking for short flights (no more than 3 hours) but are pretty open otherwise to good food and adventure. I'm overwhelmed reading guide books - I want to go everywhere!

Becky Krystal: Peter Mandel wrote about his tea excursion in China for this week's section. That sounded pretty cool.

_______________________

LL at LAX: I flew into LAX for a business meeting and for some reason had a difficult time exiting to the lower level for the rental cars. I had asked at one of the counters how to get down there and the person pointed me to an out-of-the-way, incognito elevator. I entered with two women, mother and daughter, speaking very fast Spanish. They were more lost than I was. When the elevator opened on the lower level, the daughter was trying to tell her mother to exit but mom didn't want to. Standing in the elevator door trying to come in was an entire entourage of people. One short lady who said, "Are you all coming out or what?" with a bunch of big dudes behind her, all dressed in light colored suits, except one guy. As I pushed my way out of the elevator past mom and daughter, I noticed the one guy who stood out in his silky jumpsuit and baseball cap backwards. It was LL Cool J! I said, Hey LL! He said hi and winked back at me!! It was the best celebrity sighting ever!

Zofia Smardz: Cool!

_______________________

tripping over celebrities: About two years ago, I was standing in (a very long) line for autographs at the National Book Festival on the Mall. After getting my author signature and walking back to my husband, my daughter distracted me while we were walking and I pretty much tripped over Salman Rushdie. Hard to explain to a 5 year old why Mommy was excited!

Zofia Smardz: But you fail to mention whose autograph you got? Must have been some lesser light. . .

_______________________

Travel to Cambodia: I am planning a trip to Cambodia in January. The airfares are pretty high right now. When do you think is a good time to purchase tickets and with which airliner? Thanks so much for y our help.

Carol Sottili: Wouldn't count on cheap fares to Cambodia. Best airline would depend on destination. If it's Siem Reap, probably Korean Air through Seoul.

_______________________

Vancouver, BC: Good afternoon,I'm planning a trip to Vancouver at the end of July for about a week. It looks like flying into Seattle is about 400 cheaper. I read that you can take the amtrak to Vancouver. Has anyone done this easily? Besides the festival of lights and the shakespeare on the beach, any other must do things while we're there? Active adults 25, 45, and 65 will be on the trip. Any tips will be appreciated.

Becky Krystal: Yes, it does look like you can take the train. When you book on Amtrak's site, though, make sure you actually book the train route, because your search might turn up more than a few bus options. Anyone done that trip recently?As far as what to do in Vancover, freelancer Remy Scalza did a bunch of stories for us in the run-up to the Olympics. You can find them on our Canada page.

_______________________

Oberammergau tips: We're going to the Passion Play in Oberammergau in September with individual tickets and not as part of a group. We have a car and a hotel but would really appreciate "insider tips" to make our experience as smooth as possible. For example, where to eat given that large groups will have booked places, can we bring food or drink into the performance, any good parking suggestions, etc. Thanks.

Andrea Sachs: But I did find this info online at Trans World Travel:Seats in the theater are now padded - and there is even underfloor heating - so it is no longer necessary to take cushions or blankets Since the evening performance finishes quite late it may be advisable to have a couple of extra layers of clothing for the short walk back to the hotel Since 2008 there is a sliding roof over the stage, so that the audience (and now even the actors) are protected from the weatherSome guests find binoculars useful, so that they can observe close up the individual expressions on the faces of the actors There is no photography allowed It is good to have a bottle of water or other refreshment with youAlthough restrooms are available, they can be somewhat difficult to get to depending on the seating. It's inadvisable to enjoy the local beer too much in the morning!Let's also ask the chatsters for some passionate advice . . .

_______________________

Celebrity Sightings: Personally, I think celebrity sightings in Los Angeles don't count. My best non-LA sighting was Al Sharpton, in the Buffalo Airport.

Zofia Smardz: Buffalo???

_______________________

Celebrities: I was in LA last month, and very disappointed that the only celebrities I "saw" were in a cemetery (where I saw the gravesites of Johnny Ramone, Hattie McDaniel and Don Adams). I was boarding the flight home when, who should just into the first class boarding lane (and therefore ahead of me!) but Paula Deen and her husband! It was late and night and she wasn't made up like she normally was, so I only figured it out when I saw her name come up on the computer checking tickets! But at least I saw an alive celebrity on the trip!

Zofia Smardz: Funny!

_______________________

let alone Michigan?! : Please. Michigan is beautiful--especially northern Michigan. Have you even been here? That comment showed me some naivte on the part of your staff.As for the advice on the Grand Hotel--it's an experience. The rooms are not lux, but the place is and the service etc. But there are lovely B&B's to stay at as well.

Becky Krystal: Yeah, OK, I can see how that could be interpreted the wrong way. I too love Michigan. What I should have added was I'd be hard-pressed to pay $700 for anywhere in the U.S. I agree with you that a B&B would be a good less-expensive option.

_______________________

Best of Europe in 10 days?: I've never been to Europe and have been saving vaca days and money for a trip next year. My question is how much should I try to squeeze into 10 days? I'm tempted to hop from country to country, just because I want to be sure to see all the major cities... but I also think a slower pace might be more meaningful. Any thoughts?

Nancy Trejos: would be to pick two countries and explore them throughly. Either way, you'll have a great time!

_______________________

Andrew McCarthy: Way back when, um eons ago, I was a candy striper at the hospital where Andrew McCarthy (St Elmo's fire etc) - He asked me to get him a newspaper which I gladly did. He was dreamy in his skimpy hospital gown...

Andrea Sachs:

Zofia Smardz: I'll bet he was!

_______________________

Parking in San Francisco: I'm looking for hotels in San Fran ... what I've found so far is they all seem to offer only valet parking, and at exorbitant rates (up to $60 per day!). Is that typical in SF? Is there any way around this? I don't mind paying for parking, if it's a more reasonable price, and if I have the option to park it myself instead of relying on valets. I seem to draw consistently bad luck with valets.

Andrea Sachs: First question: Do you have to have a car? San Fran is easy to get around by foot, trolley, public transporation, etc. If you do need a car, skip the overpriced valet and consider a public parking garage. Here is a partial list:http://www.all-sanfrancisco.com/info/parking.html.You should also ask your hotel for garages nearby, and if they have an agreement with any of the places, allowing guests to pay less.

_______________________

Encountering celebs: I did not even have to travel to do that back when I worked at the old Savile Book Shop on P Street in Georgetown. In the early/mid-1970s, we were DC's "carriage trade" store and often had famous people dropping in. One day manning the cash register, I was shocked when the front door opened and Red Skelton walked in (speaking of stars the young people would say "Who?" about). Contrary to my image from the TV, he was a big, barrel chested guy, very hearty and friendly. Another time, Stephen Stills brought his whole band in and bought hundreds of dollars worth of books on his Amex card. But the most treasured memory is that of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Teddy Roosevelt's daughter. A few times a year, she would be chauffeured to the shop, always impeccably dressed in black and being rude--but only to people who tried to fawn over her.Years later, I had another brief celebrity sighting, if not encounter, in LA when I was getting into a cab at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. A guy pulled up in some very exotic sports car and all the valets scrambled like mad to get to him to park his ride. I remarked on the stampede to my cabbie and he said, "Oh, yeah, that's Kevin Costner. You bet they ran after him. He's a GREAT tipper."

Becky Krystal: What an eclectic group of encounters.

Zofia Smardz: Red Skelton! I saw him once, just standing on the street in my hometown, Haverhill, Mass. I think he was originally from somewhere nearby.

_______________________

Celebrity Meeting: So far this year my favorite celebrity brush is the one I just had last Thursday with Wayne Brady. I was on my (first solo) vacation in Las Vegas, due to the February blizzards canceling my original trip, and decided to treat myself to seeing his improv show "Making It Up." I had a front-row center seat and had a meet-and-greet with him after the show. He's just as funny on stage as off; I highly recommend his show if you are in Vegas and it's running!

Becky Krystal: Love that guy.

_______________________

Verizon cellphones in Italy: The chatter's parents might want to go to their local Verizon store and inquire about renting a global-capable phone. Before I bought my own global phone, I was told that I could borrow one from Verizon for a small fee. I haven't actually done it, but it seems doable. The techs will be able to help the parents enable the global features.

Carol Sottili: Worth a look. But check the calling rates.

_______________________

UAE to Be: I would definitely recommend a trip to Oman. It would be an easy weekend - not the big expensive trips you described, but the people are really friendly, there is so much history and culture, and it's really beautiful. It's also pretty friendly to Western tourists and seemed to be completely safe.

Nancy Trejos: I have not been to Oman, but it sounds like a good option. Thanks for this!

_______________________

brush with celebrity: When a freshman at George Washington Univ in 1968 I got involved with the presidential campaign and, long story short, was asked to drive Shelley Winters, who was in town to support Hubert Humphrey, to Arlington Cemetery. She wanted to visit the Kennedy graves and we got permission to drive up to the site. I was driving an unfamiliar car and the road is narrow. She asked if I really had a driver's license(!) and then invited me to the VIP lounge at National Airport for champagne and hors d'oeuvres before her plane took off. What a day!

Zofia Smardz: Nice!

_______________________

What types of services in Spain are going to be affected by the strike?: My husband and I had just booked a precious week away (we have a 3 year old and another on the way in January) to Spain for the last week in September, when we read that unions are planning on striking starting Sept. 29. If we are in Madrid or Barcelona, or worse, trying to take a train between them or flying in or out, on or around that date, how do you think we'll be affected? Will just the government-run trains, etc be affected? Or will all taxicab drivers, hotel workers, waiters, etc be striking? We are tying to figure out if we should cancel our trip or at least move it to earlier in September (only to find out that they change the date of the strike...)

Carol Sottili:

_______________________

Teens in L.A.: I think they would love the Grove shopping center where many a young star/-let goes to see and be seen!

Nancy Trejos: Oh yes, I've been to the Grove. Good suggestion. Thanks!

_______________________

Golf resorts in Virginia: In addition to the Homestead, which is of course fabulous, it may be worth looking into the Williamsburg area. Lots of very nice golf courses. Kingsmill might fit the prior questioner's needs. The PGA Tour used to play the River Course and it's outstanding. Traffic getting down there during the summer will be a nightmare, however, unless you go on a weekday.The golf at Birdwood in Charlottesville is excellent. The course is affiliated with the Boar's Head Inn (and both are owned by UVA). But I think the food has not been as good in recent years. I've heard rave things about Keswick Hall on the other side of town, but it's out of my price range at the present time. I recall the Travel Section's KC Summers wrote an article about Keswick a year or two ago.I would highly recommend the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club at Duke University in Durham (still one of my all-time favorite courses from my law school days when I used to walk over and play for $19), but the previous questioner preferred something other than a hotel room. Still, if that requirement is not set in stone, the Wa Duke is a great place to consider. Ask for a course-view room.

Nancy Trejos: Good information here. Thanks!

_______________________

Hawaii in October?: We are contemplating a trip to Hawaii this October (flying from Sacramento). Is $700 really a good airfare, or should those prices go down? It seems ridiculous to pay more than we pay to fly to the East Coast, especially in the "off-season" (if HI has such a thing).

Andrea Sachs: Too high! I am finding flights for $500 in October. Keep on searching. (And you might even find sub-$500.)

_______________________

Celebrity Sighting in Paris: Not a destination, but celebrity sighting. About 20 years ago I was flying from Paris when a group of people sat across me in the airport. Not a private seating area, but not heavily occupied. This group looked like members of the Jackson family and I loudly pronounced them to be impersonators (as Americans are wont to do!). How embarrassed was I when I boarded the plane their sat Jermaine, Tito, and LaToya Jackson in first class (they had been called earlier as I scoffed). Needless to say, I slunk by in silence.

Becky Krystal: Ha!

_______________________

For Peru Traveler: I had a two week work trip to Lima and managed to squeeze in Macchu Pichu in the weekend between. I flew to Cuzco after work on Friday and acclimated Friday night/Saturday morning. Then took the train up on Saturday and visited the site. It was even more amazing in person. Then walked around Cuzco a bit, flew back Sunday and was back to work Monday. It would have been nice to have had more time to hike the Inca trail, etc., but I was so glad to have at least gotten to see this amazing place. The people and atmosphere in Cuzco was very different from Lima too. Definitely worth the trip!For celeb sightings, a friend and I were in Bar Harbor, ME and saw Susan Serandon and Tim Robins out at a bar. They were very casual and low key, just listening to the band. They were also very nice when we were prompted to say hi to them.

Nancy Trejos: Hi. Thanks for this! Okay, maybe I will amend my earlier response and say go for Macchu Pichu!And great celebrity sighting. I love Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins. Too bad they broke up!

_______________________

Advice for the 4th for 40-something singleton?: Unemployed, no car, limited budget but for once I would like to do something for the 4th. I have been to the nightmare known as the Mall, so that's out. Anything that Metro friendly besides the FFX display?

Nancy Trejos: Meridian Hill Park on 16th Street NW, north of U Street has a great view of the fireworks and is usually not crowded. I did that one year. Anyone else out there know of good places to watch the fireworks?

_______________________

International to domesic flight transfer in Atlanta: I will be arriving in Atlanta on an international flight at 1:30 PM on a Wednesday. My connecting flight is scheduled to leave at 3:00 PM which gives me a 1.5 hour layover. When I booked the flight the layover was suppose to be 3 hours but Delta changed it soon after. I believe since I am arriving on an international flight I will need to collect my luggage, make it through customs, go back through security and get to my connecting flight before it leaves. Any thoughts on whether there is any chance of accomplishing all of these tasks in 1.5 hours and making my flight?

Becky Krystal: Ugh. I will say that I once had a 40-minute connection in Atlanta on my way to San Francisco (on Delta, had originally been 2 hours). The dicey thing was having to take the people mover from terminal to terminal. My husband and I made the connection, the rest of my family didn't. My feeling would be that 1.5 hours would be tight if you do in fact have to go through all that craziness.

_______________________

Sex and the City, Addis Ababa: A few months ago my sister and I were in the Addis Ababa airport and my sister noticed a slim woman with a ponytail across the room. "Is that Kristin Davis?" (Charlotte from SATC) she asked me. At first I scoffed, but then had a vague recollection that she was a spokesperson for an international relief agency of some kind. A couple of weeks later I spotted her photo in US Weekly touting her trip to northern Ethiopia on behalf of Oxfam. She seemed to be without entourage, dressed down and happy to be there.

Zofia Smardz: Never scoff!

_______________________

Ponderosa: I grew up with Bonanza, had a terrible crush on Adam and was crushed when he (Pernell Roberts) left the show. So I was thrilled a few years ago when, upon visiting Lake Tahoe, I learned the TV set farmhouse (minus the second floor) and outbuildings were open to the public. I wasn't surprised by the heavy commercialization, but was dismayed to discover that the current owner of the Ponderosa also collects, and there's no nice way to say this, massive amounts of junk. There are dozens of rusting "historic" WWI ambulances, farm machinery, fire engines and twisted metal shapes that even an elderly couple who had grown up on farms could not explain. Had the Cartrights lived under similar circumstances, they would not have been able to make it out of the yard without risking serious injury. The Guest Book was replete w/entries such as "too much junk" and "clean this place up!" I later heard of a couple who had planned to be married in the "Wedding Chapel" who canceled once they caught sight of the surroundings.

Zofia Smardz: Amazing! And not so amazingly, I had a crush on Adam, too!

_______________________

Boston: Headed to Boston for the 4th of July. Any off beat suggestions? The research I done seems to indicate that all there is to do in Boston is focused on history, which I cannot believe.

Nancy Trejos: I went whale watching the last time I was there. My story on my experience should be running at some point. It was fun! I also toured the Fort Point Channel neighborhood. It's up and coming, has some great eateries by Barbara Lynch, some art galleries, and the Institute of Contemporary Art. The city has completely redone it's harborwalk, so if you like running by the water, that's a great place to go.

_______________________

George Clooney sighting: I was on a business trip to Newport Beach, CA (yes, tough duty) and I was waiting for the elevator with co-workers when one started pointing and mouthing "George Clooney, George Clooney." It took me a second to figure out what she was trying to say and there he was. He had just come from working out. I was so close-- could have touched him but for the bodyguards. I'm sure had he seen me.... I had one other close encounter in an elevator with David Hyde Pierce in a Seattle hotel (yes, another tough business trip) when he and I were in the same elevator. They were in Seattle filming an epsidode of "Frazier." ---Washington DC

Becky Krystal: You seem to have good luck with elevators.

_______________________

Seasick!: The rehearsal dinner for a wedding we're attending is on a boat on Lake Tahoe. My husband has strong motion sickness tendencies. I know there are a lot of products out there for seasickness (band, patch), but don't know anyone who's personally used them. Do they actually work? If so, which would you and/or chatters recommend? Many thanks!

Carol Sottili: I've tried them all at one time or another. The patch made me tired and a little dizzy. The bands didn't work, but I know they do work for some. Pills worked best for me. I've been on Lake Tahoe, and don't remember it being very rough, but that probably depends on winds. I would think twice about attending if he gets sick really easily. Not much worse than serious motion sickness, plus it may have a chilling effect on the party atmosphere.

_______________________

For the Golf Trip: I would recommend North Carolina - Pinehurst has several courses and the kind of lodging you describe. Not all the courses are as hard to get on to as the No. 2. Also nearby are Tobacco Road, The Pit, and Pine Needles (that I have played) and many more I've not.

Becky Krystal: More recommendations for the golfing dad.

_______________________

Help! Recently unemployed & ready! : I know you have this feature in the print edition, but I have the courage and the $$$ now. I was supposed to do an "Eat, Pray, Love" couple of months in Turkey, but my friend has been unexpectedly transferred. I am now unemployed (just last week) restless and ready.I have approximately $3,000 for all expenses and may or may not be traveling with a friend. The extent of my international travel includes England/Wales/coast of France. I may or may not now be traveling with a male friend and am a single woman. Oh, and I'd like to leave on or around or soon after July 4. I like good, cheap food, good wine, and a mixture of history and relaxing. I'm definitely not into the nightlife/night club scene anymore.So, where would you go? My must-see's before I die include China, Russia, Prague, Vienna, Buenos Aries and Paris. Can I do any of these (flights are RIDICULOUS) on $3,000 for a few weeks? Or, do you have a better idea?Thank you in advance!

Andrea Sachs: You can visit all of these destinations for three grand, but for some, you will be eating sugar packets and sleeping in airports. For that budget, I would pick Argentina. I think you can get all of your eating, praying and loving there. However, if you are planning on going in two weeks, you better get going, girl.

_______________________

Spirit Airlines: Don't forget that Spirit announced plans to charge for carry-on bags (up to $45!) unless they fit under the seat in front of you. That is, if you use the overhead locker, you pay. They also charge for all checked bags. So they may well not be the best price. Assess it carefully!

Nancy Trejos: Yes, they did just make that announcement. So that is something to consider.

_______________________

Asia trekking: For the people considering treks in India, they may want to consider trekking in Bhutan instead. Unless they will be in India for some other reason. Although it is relatively easy to get from India to Bhutan via flights from Kolkata. In Bhutan you are charged a government-set daily tariff that covers everything. On a trek that means your guide, cooks, people to set up the tents, pack animals, etc. The current costs are about $230 per person per day. So that may be more than they want to spend. That cost also applies to non-trekking stays in the country, which covers guide, driver, hotels, meals... I am headed there on a solo trip for 3 weeks in October. For 1 person the cost actually doesn't seem so bad. But for two people it seems a bit steep all things considered. All of the tour companies there are government approved and I think most of them offer similar experiences.

Becky Krystal: For the Asia-bound hikers. Thanks.

_______________________

Verizon cell phones in Europe: To the poster who wants to use Verizon in europe: I just got my 2 year new phone from Verizon and got a global phone. It comes with a SIM card that can be activated in other countries so you can use that SIm card and pay the roaming charges or you can buy one in your destination country and use a pre-paid plan. I plan to use it in Sept.

Carol Sottili: That works if your plan is up, but you wouldn't buy a phone out of contract.

_______________________

Passion Play-bound: Definitely heed the advice about the layers/coat for going back to your hotel at night. I live in German-speaking Europe and September can be cold. Honestly it can be cold any month over here (it's the first day of summer and I'm wearing a turtleneck and fleece to stay warm in 14C weather.)Also it's not too far from Neuschwannstein, which can be touristy but it's fun to go to Fuessen and take the castle tour. (Go into neighboring Reutte on the Austrian side if you want to avoid the tourists.)

Zofia Smardz: Much obliged, danke!

_______________________

Cambodia airfares: You might want to try flying to Bangkok or Singapore, and then take a regional airline to Siem Reap. Might be cheaper that way.

Carol Sottili: Taking regional carriers can save money, especially if you can find a sale fare to Bangkok or Singapore.

_______________________

G'burg, MD: Hi! I am submitting early so that I don't forget on Monday. My husband and I have a seven hour layover in Paris. Do you think there is sufficient time for us to visit to Eiffel Tower? We are scheduled to land at 5:50am and our next flight departs at 12:50noon.

Nancy Trejos: It is possible for you to make it to the Eiffel Tower and back in seven hours, but there are factors to consider. If you decide to take a cab, the ride from Charles de Gaulle airport (which I'm assuming is where you are landing), could take as long as an hour, even longer, if there is a lot of traffic. That said, you are arriving early, so maybe traffic won't be as bad (and it should be better on a weekend day). You can also take the train, which is what I have done the last few times I've been in Paris, but getting to the station at the airport then getting to the station by the tower will take some time as well (factor in 45 minutes I would say). And then you will have to contend with security once you get back to the airport. Depending on the day you are traveling, the lines might be long, and you should factor in two to two an dhalf hours for that. It can be done, if your flight gets in on time. Good luck!

_______________________

Seattle-Vancouver Amtrak: I did the Seattle-Vancouver route on Amtrak a couple years ago- we actually took the bus up and the train back. The train was more enjoyable (there's one strech where the coastal scenery is awesome) but I don't recall the bus being painful either. I think we took the bus up because it just fit our schedule better and got us there earlier in the day. Enjoy! i loved both cities.

Becky Krystal: Appreciate the first-hand account.

_______________________

Celebrity encounter: Ben Bradlee: I was at a book festival in Sarasota, FL, a few years ago and The Post's own Ben Bradlee was there signing a recent book of his. I mentioned that I had lived in DC during Watergate and how great the Post's coverage was.When I looked at his signature in my book, he had written: "to Cathy--what a time we shared!'Very cool guy!

Becky Krystal: Nice. I saw him my first day at the Post. I thought that was a good omen.

_______________________

Vancouver to Seattle: I flew in/out of Seattle for the $400 savings as well. From Seattle I side-tripped to Vancouver Island, but then on the way back from Vancouver City to Seattle took Amtrak. It ran late, so I would suggest an overnight buffer if you have to catch a flight. Also yes - many of the items in the timetable are busses and not trains. They (Customs? Amtrak?) also scanned our baggage in Vancouver.

Becky Krystal: Good to know, thanks.

_______________________

Celeb Sighting: Was heading from Mpls to LA in 2005 and was the second person on the plane. I was stalled by a short guy in first class trying to shove an overpacked suitcase into the overhead bin. I patiently waited and as I walked by, my husband asked if I realized who it was (an idiot with an overpacked bag, I was thinking). Turns out, it was Fonzi (Henry Winkler). I was in the first row of coach, so it was fun to watch everyone recognize him as they walked down the aisle and figure out who he was. As we debarked in LA, he grabbed a totally different (small) hanging bag from the overhead and walked out along, through the aiport and to the parking ramp. Apparently, the overpacked bag belonged to a young woman who he was just helping out. It was nice to see that he turned out to be just a nice regular guy in the end.

Becky Krystal: Gotta say I'm enjoying him on "Royal Pains."

_______________________

trying to get this in last minute... most rewarding visit...: I am so lame but I was SO excited to visit Fort Laramie of the Oregon Trail video game fame. It was awesome. They have a great interpretive exhibit out there, and you can just roam the grounds.

Becky Krystal: I'm still somewhat surprised how much "Oregon Trail" were were allowed to play in elementary school.

_______________________

Celebrity Sighting: My sister-in-law and I went to see "The Artist is Present" at MOMA. It was an exhibit with a lot of naked people. When we were entering I looked a man in the eyes and was looking at Josh Charles in a leather motorcycle outfit. Amazingly handsome. To my sister -in-law I was "Look its Josh Charles" She asked (as you may be) "Who is Josh Charles?" He's from "The Good Wife" and before that "Sports Night" I felt really bad for him though, he saw us looking, swooning. We are both in our fifties, as handsome as he is and and as cute as his blond female was adorable, I'm sure he likes to think of his fan base as much more happening.....

Zofia Smardz: Thanks!

_______________________

Movie-related visits: I was married in New Zealand just a couple years after the final "Lord of the Rings" movie came out. Because the movie was filmed there, our road map and atlas both included filming locations. Though we didn't drive specifically to see any, we did pass many during our travels (Mount Doom, the Ford of Bruinen, Mordor, Fangorn Forest). What amused us was that every jewelry store in the country had a sign advertising "The One, True Ring." To this day, when we want to reminisce about our honeymoon, we watch the special features on our LOTR DVDs.

Becky Krystal: Man, one of those ring signs would have been a great keepsake given the whole wedding thing!

_______________________

Boston: I wouldn't say Boston is all history. There's great food, especially if you like Italian. Head to the North End, especially for the incredible bakeries. Of course you never know what will be closed on the holiday weekend.I would also guess that all of those university neighborhood would have plenty of funky things to do. Head to Cambridge.

Zofia Smardz: And thanks for this!

_______________________

Asia topics: and destinations served. It looks like Asiana serves REP from Korea, but Korean Air does not.

Becky Krystal: Thanks!

_______________________

HIking in northern India: Be sure to check out the travel advisories. I recall that a couple of years ago, there were areas in the mountainous regions that westerners were strongly cautioned to avoid -- it's not just Kashmir.

Becky Krystal: Good tip.

_______________________

Best beach camping in Maryland or Virginia?: Best beach camping in Maryland or Virginia? Looking for a nice scenery in a secluded area (is that even possible?)

Carol Sottili: If you don't mind hiking in, Assateague has some backcountry camping sites.

_______________________

Zofia Smardz: And. . . it's a wrap! Thanks all for your questions, suggestions and fun celebrity stories! This was a tough contest, lots of great stories to choose from, but I think the most electrifying was the person whose graduation party was blown out at Southfork Ranch. So if you'd send your name and contact info to me at smardzz@washpost.com, we'll get you your scintillating prize. As for the rest of you, happy trails until next week!


© 2010 The Washington Post Company

Discussion Archive

Viewpoint is a paid discussion. The Washington Post editorial staff was not involved in the moderation.

Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity