Web Exclusive: June 22, 2006
I'm trying to find an experienced travel agent to help me plan my honeymoon to Croatia and would appreciate any recommendations you may have.—Laura Mazzucco, New York, N.Y.
You can find T+L's A-List of travel super-agents—a designation given every September to the best in the field—at travelandleisure.com/alist/ . The A-Listers are organized on our Web site by special interests (e.g., Photography or Gay/Lesbian Travel) and geographic regions. A quick search for Croatia turns up Greg Tepper of Exeter International in Tampa (800/633-1008; firstname.lastname@example.org ) as the travel agent to see when planning a trip to Croatia.
Web Exclusive: June 21, 2006
I've heard that house swapping is an affordable alternative to a hotel when traveling abroad. How do I go about finding a place in Europe?—Trey Mitchell, Witchita Falls, Tex.
People have been house swapping—exchanging homes for no cost during a simultaneous vacation time—since the 1950's. Many online agencies play matchmaker to homeowners who want to trade digs, allowing members to post profiles of their homes and availability. Intervac International (800/756-4663; www.intervac.com ; one-year membership $79) has 10,000 members worldwide. Profiles specify whether someone wants to swap or merely house-sit. Also try Digsville Home Exchange Club (877/795-1019; www.digsville.com ; one-year membership $45), where members can rate their experiences. While the thought of saving money on accommodations abroad is enticing, don't jump the gun. Get to know the person you're swapping with via e-mail or over the phone, and ask for references. Check with your insurance company before your trip to verify that your home is covered for damages while you're away. Also clearly outline what's expected of both parties in writing (such as who will pay for utilities, and if your swapper is allowed to use your car) before agreeing to swap or sit a home.
On a recent visit to La Paz, in Baja California, my husband and I found the most amazing restaurant, Buffalo Bar-B-Q [1240 Madero St.; 52-612/ 128-8755; dinner for two $50]. Chef-owner Carlos Valdez prepares everything, from the locally caught yellowfin tuna and swordfish to the huge Angus steaks, on an open mesquite grill. Valdez also makes innovative small dishes, including a grilled chorizo paired with melted Oaxacan cheese and a spicy chimichurri sauce, and Baja clams steamed with wine from Ensenada. We loved sitting outside and listening to live music on the outdoor patio.
—Kim DeVore, Cheyenne, Wyo.
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I'd like to go to a cooking school in Spain. Can you suggest one?—Rich Stanley, New York, N.Y.
To dabble in Catalonian cuisine, book a course with the International Kitchen (www.theinternationalkitchen.com ; five-day packages $2,350 per person, double) in Barcelona. Your chef-teacher will lead you through the famed La Boqueria market in search of ingredients for spicy gazpacho and clams in salsa verde. In the port city of San Sebastián, you can study at the Luis Irizar Cooking School (800/839-5795; book through www.gourmetsafari.com ; seven-day packages from $1,640 per person, double; available July–August) . Its eponymous founder is considered the father of New Basque cuisine, and you'll learn to prepare local staples like cod simmered in milk with almonds and garlic. And at Finca Buenvino (Los Marines, Huelva; www.fincabuenvino.com ; five-day package $967 per person, double; available February–March and October–November) , 1 1/2 hours southwest of Seville, British innkeepers Sam and Jeannie Chesterton lead classes on traditional southern Spanish recipes—such as rabbit with apricots, spinach, and pine nuts—at their Andalusian mountain home.
Which oceanfront New England inns would you recommend?—Laurie Bowman, St. Louis, Mo.
Maine's Black Point Inn (510 Black Point Rd., Prouts Neck, Scarborough; 800/258-0003; www.blackpointinn.com ; doubles from $199) is perched on a hill straddling Casco Bay and the Atlantic coast, with 84 rooms and four guest cottages on 9½ acres just south of Portland. Walk along the trails that trace the jagged cliffs of the peninsula. Thirty-five miles north of Boston is the Inn at Castle Hill (280 Argilla Rd., Ipswich, Mass.; 978/412-2555; www.theinnatcastlehill.com ; doubles from $175), a 19th-century three-story wood-shingle mansion. The 2,100-acre property offers spectacular views of the Atlantic and the Essex River. At the six-bedroom, ivy-clad English-style manor Point Pleasant Inn (333 Poppasquash Rd., Bristol, R.I.; 800/ 503-0627; www.pointpleasantinn.com ; doubles from $350), between Providence and Newport, the owners will pack a picnic dinner for a lazy evening on the sprawling green lawn that runs straight to the water's edge.
Any advice on travel to the Caribbean during hurricane season, given the past few years of record storms?—Aaron Sedlak, Westport, Conn.
Your best chance of avoiding a hurricane is to travel between November and July; approximately 80 percent of storm activity occurs from August to October, according to the National Hurricane Center. If you intend to go then anyway, purchase travel insurance that specifies coverage for trip interruption. And read the fine print: many companies provide coverage only if a flight is delayed by more than 24 hours or a hotel is rendered uninhabitable. Always inquire about the hotel's hurricane contingency plan—last year's season forced many establishments to prepare for emergencies. Newer properties are often built using hurricane-proof design, and most have emergency generators and supplies on hand. Although every hotel has its own policy, higher-end properties will usually offer you a refund if you are forced to leave early, or will allow you to cancel without penalty if you cannot make the trip in the first place; be sure to check when booking.
I'm traveling to Peru soon—do I need any immunizations? Are there precautions I should take once I arrive?—Jill Rose, Charlotte, N.C.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov/travel ) advises being vaccinated against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, and yellow fever for travel to tropical South America. The CDC provides updated vaccine requirements and health-risk information on its Web site. You should also make sure that your routine immunizations (such as tetanus and measles) are current. If there's a chance you'll need a doctor in Peru, consider joining the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (www.iamat.org ; free), a network of English-speaking, North American–trained physicians in 125 countries. All doctors treat members for set rates in a reputable clinic or, for an extra charge, make individual hotel calls.