Ask T+L: European Walking Tours, Hotel Cooking Classes, and More
Published: January 2011
Q: Can you recommend a few good private walking tours in Europe? —Alice Lee, Los Angeles, Calif.
A: The bespoke itineraries from Context Travel (contexttravel.com; from $85) are led by scholars in cities including Florence and Istanbul. On the three-hour Underground Rome trip, an archaeologist takes you to sites below street level, such as the subterranean area of San Nicola in Carcere, built over three republican-era temples on busy Via del Teatro Marcello. London Walks ($12) lets travelers customize a two-hour neighborhood excursion (one standout: Old Westminster by Gaslight). And food writer Wendy Lyn runs The Paris Kitchen (thepariskitchen.com; $182), with three-hour walks on the Left Bank, stopping to sample local specialties such as foie gras from the Périgord. —T+L assistant editor Bree Sposato
Q:We’re considering renting an affordable villa in the Caribbean. Where should we stay? —Nicole Barnes, Cincinnati, Ohio
A: Wimco has created a special portfolio of value properties in the Caribbean islands; we love St. John’s one-bedroom Villa Mas Cro (rom $270, seven-night minimum), which has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Cruz Bay. St. Bart’s isn’t known for its deals, but St. Barth Properties has some surprising finds, such as Villa La Case du Roy (from $245, seven-night minimum), a one-bedroom cottage with a Jacuzzi. HomeAway is a good resource for private vacation houses. Our favorite: Provo Villa (from $171, five-night minimum), in Turks and Caicos, with two bedrooms, white vaulted ceilings, and a wrap-around porch for outdoor dining.
Q: I’m looking for hotel cooking programs in the U.S. where my son and I can experiment side by side. Any ideas? —Richard Wolly, Washington, D.C.
A: In Tennessee, Blackberry Farm (doubles from $845, three-day course $400) allows parents to act as sous-chefs while their children bake sweets (watermelon-chocolate cookies) at the Kitchen Full of Kids, run each summer by cookbook luminary Helen DeFrance. The 142-room Cavallo Point Lodge (doubles from $265; classes from $65) in Sausalito, California, runs family-friendly courses in its 1,200-square-foot kitchen; you’ll prepare polpette di melanzane (eggplant meatballs). The demonstrations led by Santa Fe’s Inn on the Alameda (packages from $258 per night, two-night minimum) suit all age groups. On the menu? Traditional Southwestern plates such as spicy chicken enchiladas.
Q:Can my wife and I transfer airline miles between our accounts without paying an extra charge? —Frank Johnson, Portland, Ore.
A: There is no way to avoid the fees incurred by sharing your air miles, so it’s best to choose a program based upon how many you’re looking to exchange. Mileage Plus from United offers a good rate ($0.015 per mile), but it’s also restrictive (you can transfer a minimum of 5,000, a maximum of 60,000, and receive no more than 15,000). Delta SkyMiles imposes a slightly lower toll ($0.01) and is more flexible (the transfer minimum is 1,000, the yearly maximum 150,000, and you can accept 300,000). If you want to move a larger block, Continental One Pass allows you to transfer up to 100,000 at $7.50 per 500 block, and there is no limit on the amount you can receive. Check your airline’s website for promotions—some allow you to earn bonus miles during certain months.