Q: My husband and I recently watched "Same Time Next Year" on cable. We loved the rental cottage by the sea in the movie. Where is it?
A: That chestnut, which earned four Academy Award nominations and starred Ellen Burstyn and Alan Alda as lovers who meet once a year, was filmed more than 20 years ago at Heritage House on the Mendocino coast of California. Bernard Slade wrote the hit play and film while staying at the inn, situated on cliffs overlooking the Pacific. A cottage that was built on the property for the filming of the movie holds two of the most requested rooms, aptly named "Same Time" and "Next Year."
The 36-acre resort has 64 ocean-front rooms. Many of the rooms have wood-burning fireplaces and Jacuzzis. The inn is in Little River, five miles from Mendocino. Rooms are $110 to $350 a night. The two rooms associated with "Same Time Next Year" rent for $250 to $300 a night, and are usually booked six months in advance. Info: 1-800-235-5885, www.heritagehouseinn.com.
Q: My husband's grandfather's company forged some of the gates on the Panama Canal, so we want to visit it, possibly before ownership reverts to Panama. Do you have information on trips that emphasize the history and construction, and also include passage both ways through the canal?
Josephine M. Blue
A: Panama Canal tours are fashionable right now, in part because the United States is scheduled to hand it over to the Panamanians by Dec. 31. Most tours are traditional cruise ship journeys. All the major cruise lines do the route, as do several smaller cruise companies, including American Canadian, Clipper and Windstar. Plenty of eco-tours combine a trip through the canal with various birding and trekking itineraries in Panama and Costa Rica. Because you're specifically interested in history, I'd avoid a cruise. Instead, take a combo tour that includes canal passage and land tours.
Condor Travel (1-800-783-8847, www.condortravel.com) offers custom tours that include either partial or complete one-way transit on the canal, plus tours of the locks and the canal zone areas. Company owner Davis Stevenson grew up in Panama and said his tours thoroughly cover the canal's history. Costs vary with itinerary and length. Ecocircuitos (telephone 011-507-223-4553, fax 708-810-9350, www.ecocircuitos.com) is offering a millennium tour that will include one of the last Panama Canal transits under U.S. control on Dec. 31, and a return on Jan. 1, one of the first transits under Panamanian control. The 11-day tour starts at $1,200 per person, plus air fare.
Q: How can one get cheaper rental car rates when staying more than a week, or more than a month?
A: Consumer Reports Travel Letter did an analysis last year of long-term car rental rates in three U.S. cities. It found at least one monthly rate in each city that provided a lower per-day cost than any weekly rate. But in each case the lowest monthly rate was from a local, independent rental company, not one of the nationwide chains.
"Upshot, you have to do a lot of comparison shopping," said Ed Perkins, the newsletter's former editor. "Order a copy of the classified phone book from the city where you intend to rent the car, then start calling."
I took a quick look at rates in Los Angeles, a market that includes many independent rental agencies. Hertz offered an economy car for $899 a month, while Budget quoted a price of $799. Almost every smaller agency had lower rates. Midway Rent-a-Car (1-800-824-5260, www.midwaycarrental.com) offered a new economy car for $460 a month, while Dirt Cheap Rent-a-Car (310-645-3993, www.dirtcheapcarrental.com) quoted $599 for a used car.
If you're looking for a long-term rental in Europe, you may save money by leasing. The Renault Eurodrive Leasing Program leases cars for a minimum of 17 days up to six months. Info: 1-800-221-1052, www.renaultusa.com. Kemwel, a car rental agency in Europe, also represents the Peugeot Leasing Program. Info: 1-800-678-0678, www.kemwel.com.
Perkins said that you also need to consider collision insurance costs when renting a car for a long period. "American Express and Diners Club cover each rental for no more than 30 days," Perkins said. "MasterCard and Visa are even more limited. In the United States, they cover each rental for only 15 days."
Eda M. Burne, executive director of the Jay Heritage Center, says travelers along Route 1 (Travel Q&A, June 27) should stop and see this historic center in Rye, N.Y. "It is the centerpiece of the Boston Post Road Historic District, a National Historic landmark that includes three pre-Civil War era buildings in a natural setting virtually unchanged since that period." 914-698-9275.
Reader Walt Obremski wrote to Travel Q&A last year asking for low-priced places to stay in Hawaii (Travel Q&A, Sept. 27, 1998). "While I didn't use your suggestions," he recently wrote, "I did follow one sent to me by one of your readers." Obremski sayed at a bed-and-breakfast called the Hale Kai (808-935-6330) overlooking Hilo Bay on the Big Island. "The place just really blew us away with the kindness of the owners and the facilities, including an excellent breakfast every day." At about $100 a night, Obremski considered the inn a bargain. And we've decided to overlook the fact that he dissed our picks, especially since he thanked Travel Q&A for "being a catalyst in finding this place."
Mary Jo Deets of Columbia has made the round-trip journey between Washington and Missouri on interstates 68 and 70 "at least 30 times" (Travel Q&A, Aug. 22), and she has recommendations for stops along the way. Penn- Alps, just off I-68's Exit 19 near Grantsville, Md., is a "charming restaurant" that "offers not only homestyle food but, depending on the time of year, a chance to see craft demonstrations." And "no visit to Columbus would be complete without a stop in the historic German Village (614-221-8888, www.german-village.com)." Take the Front Street exit off I-70 in Columbus.