Ecuador Days

ELLEN PERLMAN'S article about Ecuador ["The Galapagos Can Wait," Sept. 5] certainly made me feel nostalgic.

When I lived there as a Peace Corps volunteer in the 1970s, the weekly market at Saquisili was always my favorite, and the train-top ride to the coast -- back then it was simply called fourth-class "seating" -- seemed like the epitome of high-risk adventure. And while eco-tourism of the variety she describes did not exist back then, her description of the evening dugout ride on the Amazonian lagoon still had a familiar ring, as it could have been written about our family vacation to Peru a few years ago.

Just one item needs clarification: El Panecillo is not the name of the statue of the Virgin on the hilltop overlooking Quito, but rather the hill itself. The name refers to its shape, in that it resembles a loaf of bread (pan in Spanish means bread).

Ralph A. Blessing


Q&A and You

WHAT IS an American-friendly destination that is not more than a three-hour flight from Dulles with a beautiful beach, mountains and calm, clear water [Travel Q&A, Sept. 5]? How about Burlington, Vt., between the Green and Adirondack mountains? One can hike up Vermont's highest mountain, Mount Mansfield, in a day. Burlington's beaches aren't great or big, and the water probably never gets above 70 degrees, but it is calm and clear. For a small town, it also has great restaurants and shops and is very bohemian. And round-trip airfare from Washington is about $150!

John Alarie


REGARDING Carol Sottili's advice about using I-20, I-30 and I-40 to get fromSan Diego to Washington [Travel Q&A, Aug. 15], I-40 seems to take forever across Tennessee. Staying on I-20, you cross Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and half of Georgia in the same distance, so it seems faster.

I-85 out of Atlanta back to I-95 at Petersburg, Va., is now mostly construction zone-free (I drove it last week), but anyone who absolutely cannot abide I-95 can take I-77 out of Charlotte to I-81 and I-66 and the Beltway. I've driven I-10 and/or I-20 during eight round trips to central Texas since July 1999, and I know whereof I speak.

Avoid Houston! All loops, toll or otherwise, are stop-and-go all the time.

R.D. McDowell

Pungoteague, Va.

AS A MILITARY family, we made this trip every year. The fastest, easiest (and with five kids in the car, my dad went for easy) way was to take I-15 to I-40 and shoot across I-40. One of our favorite stops was Meteor Crater, near Arizona's Petrified Forest. It's a huge hole in the ground that NASA used for training for the Apollo missions. It combines science, space, meteors and geology. It is one of those unknown but wonderful places along a cross-country drive.

Kim Zuber


Maine, Cont'd

WE READ with real pleasure your account of the week in Maine at the Audubon Camp ["The Maine Course," Aug. 8], and I wanted to let you know that there's a similar treat even closer to home. I recently spent an "adult weekend" at the Burgundy Center for Wildlife Studies outside Capon Bridge, W. Va. (703-960-3431). It's a chance for adults to study, enjoy, hike and rest in nature from Friday to Sunday.

My husband and I took classes in forestry, geology, and plant and animal life. One of the high points for me was sitting inside a brightly lit white moth tent after a night hike and watching the moths come out late at night. I'd never seen an Imperial Moth, or paid much attention to what congregates under the porch light, and it is like its name -- huge, elegantly cream and coffee colored, and quite astounding.

The classes are taught by high school and college students, who bring a terrific enthusiasm to their work. The food is ample and delicious. Sleeping arrangements are spartan, but you can pitch a tent, and the place works on you in wonderful ways.

I think we paid about $360 for two for the three-day weekend. Well worth it and a two-hour drive from Alexandria.

Susan Hepler


Dollars for Pounds

I WANTED to warn your readers about exchanging dollars for pounds at the BWI kiosk. On June 9, five days before a trip to London, I decided to stop by BWI to get some pounds, and they charged me $2 for every pound.

I had been following the rate on the Internet and know this to be high, but the woman at the kiosk said the rates on the Internet were only for dealing in millions. I went ahead and exchanged $620 for 300 pounds. We later flew out of Dulles early Monday morning and the booth at Dulles had a much better rate, as did everywhere else we saw during our trip -- the exchange booths on the street, the banks, ATMs, etc. I generally saw rates around $1.85 to the pound, so I figure the lesson cost me somewhere around $90.

They also gave me "bad" money. We found out the first day of the trip that all the 10-pound notes they had given us at BWI were no longer any good, and we had to find a bank that was willing to exchange them. Please inform your readers that pound notes need to have a silver hologram affixed to them, off-center on one side.

Janelle Wesenberg


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