Greece With Kids
I JUST finished reading "Ancient Greece: The Parents' Choice" [May 16] and found it most enjoyable. I was assigned to Greece in 1966-72 and lived in Volos, 200 miles north of Athens; my family remained in the Athens area so the children could attend the American Academy. When summer breaks came, we traveled everywhere we could, from the northern borders near Albania and Thessalonica to Corinth, and were always surprised by the ancient structures and sites.
Several years after returning to the States, I asked my children, who were then 13 and 8, if they thought they had missed anything during our six years in Greece. Their answers were "No!"
Thanks again for a great article. I just wish I was sitting at one of the tavernas in Volos watching the fishing boats, or on Santorini, watching the sun set into the sea.
San Marcos, Tex.
JUST TO follow up on the fine piece on Normandy ["Operation Normandy," May 9]. Ste.-Mere-Eglise is not to be missed. Regardless of your age, you can't help but be moved by this little village that remembers every day. In the town square, for instance, the American flag has been flying with the tricolor since the day of the invasion in 1944. Each street is named for a paratrooper (Rue Harry Smith). The paratrooper who never made it to the ground is memorialized by a mannequin in full battle gear hanging from the steeple by his parachute. His name and that of the German soldier who cut him down are both remembered in the church.
The cemetery at Omaha Beach stuns you by its simple beauty and by the quiet. It is amazing to watch a busload of chattering tourists suddenly fall silent. The only thing you hear is the sound of the breeze coming off the sea. The memorial is what many of us remember, with its stark simplicity.
IN 1992, I was on a bus tour that included a visit to the Normandy landing beaches. In our group was an elderly Texas couple, the Marshalls. Mr. Marshall was obviously very sick, often unable to leave the bus. At Normandy, however, he was treated royally, given a private tour by motorized cart of as much of the area as he cared to visit.
That night Mr. Marshall died in his hotel room.
Remarkably, our small group included just the right people to take care of things for Mrs. Marshall, who had never before been outside the United States. We had two French-speaking women from Canada, a husband-and-wife team of doctors, and a woman who worked in a hospital who handled the paperwork for transporting bodies from one country to another. They took Mrs. Marshall into Caen the next morning and by midday had taken care of everything for her.
One of the women spent that night with Mrs. Marshall, who awoke looking refreshed and relaxed. She had dreamt happily of her husband and, since the body could not be flown back to the States for several days, continued on with the rest of the tour.
I'll never be quite sure if it was pure coincidence that our group included all the necessary people to help a Normandy landing veteran fulfill a dying wish, but I'll always be grateful I was a small part of it.
YOUR STORY was a great review of one of my favorite places in France. The author experienced many of the warm greetings afforded my wife and me during our visit there in 1999.
An interesting anecdote: When we sought an ATM withdrawal, after we inserted our card and prompted the "English" icon for instructions, up flashed the on-screen greeting, "Welcome to our Liberators!" We later noted similar signs in hotel, restaurant and shop windows.
Normandy residents indeed have a long memory. It is a lovely part of France.
I ENJOYED your article and e-mailed it to my 18-year old son. We live in Finland (we are Americans) and I took him on a last father-son fling in March to Paris and Normandy. We arrived in Caen in the wee hours by train and stayed in a little hotel right across from the station. It was in fact the most comfortable bed I had all trip.
I'm writing to say that the development in Normandy for the 60th anniversary is a crying shame. Our guide, a young Belgian who knew his stuff, decried the building around Pointe du Hoc. He said it was the last truly preserved part of the battlefield. It seems the French have the same troubles we do in preserving places like Bull Run/Manassas.
But it was a trip of a lifetime, and it was worth every penny I spent. Thanks for reminding me of it.
YOUR RECENT piece on Eva Peron's Buenos Aires [Evita 101, May 9] included a brief description of the Perons' reign. It was a grossly distorted piece of history that fostered the wrong-headed romantic notion Americans have of the Perons.
Yes, they did extend social benefits to large portions of the proletariat masses. They were also out-and-out facists employing strong-arm tactics along totalitarian lines, including intimidation of businesses, destruction of democratic institutions, imprisonment or death for their opponents, persecution of religious entities, etc. Their policies contributed greatly to the decline of Argentina from first-world status to second.
THE "SITES" section of the Evita story should have included Tetro Colon. On our November 2002 visit to Buenos Aires, we got tickets for an evening piano performance. The theater ticket employee suggested the evening when the Presidential Box was available -- for less than $5 each we were able to "feel" the presence of the Perons as we sat in their seats and enjoyed an outstanding concert performance.
THE May 2 Coming and Going column was especially helpful, as I was preparing to go to Italy this August. I consider myself quite good at finding bargain fares, so I was disappointed to realize that the best I could do was nearly $900 -- and that was before taxes and fees. I bit the bullet -- at your semi-recommendation -- and signed up at www.bestfares.com. You have to pay for it, but it's worth it.
It listed a fare to Rome for as low as $468, but I couldn't get a seat on the days I wanted. The woman at Bestfares was very helpful; she stayed with me on the phone for 40 minutes, trying different routes. Finally, we ended up with a plan to send me round trip to London (also your suggestion) for a stunningly low $343 round trip. I then signed up for an Easyjet fare of something like 18 British pounds (about $32) each way to Rome.
E-Mailing Yourself, Cont'd
I READ with interest the tip John Fox gave in the Message Center on May 9 to e-mail yourself copies of important documents in addition to photocopying them to take with you, including credit cards, passport info, etc. While this may be a very good idea, keep in mind that e-mail is not a secure medium and there is always a chance that your e-mail can be intercepted by someone who will find a bonanza of identity-stealing information in the information you send yourself, despite the fact that the information may be in attached image files. At the very least, these images and any regular text should be encrypted with a strong password protection system before being sent.
Write us: Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Fax: 202-912-3609. E-mail: travel@ washpost.com. Letters are edited for length and clarity.