What's the best way to get my passport renewed in a hurry?
—L.M., VIA E-MAIL
If you live near one of the 13 major cities where the Bureau of Consular Affairs has a passport agency, you may get lucky and land an appointment to renew your passport the same day. (See travel.state.gov/passport for locations.) However, if you don't—or if you want to be on the safe side—you should use a passport expediter. The National Association of Passport & Visa Services (www.napvs.org) lists seven reputable expediter companies; most have been in business for more than 10 years. Once you've downloaded the application, order form, and authorization letter from the company's Web site, there are a few additional steps you'll need to take. • Gather your passport or a certified copy of your birth certificate, along with a copy of your driver's license or other proof of identity. • Have two new passport photographs taken. • Copy your plane ticket or itinerary (proving your need for an accelerated application). • Write a check—a posthaste passport can cost more than $300. (Expediters charge up to $179, the U.S. State Department tacks on $115, and FedEx fees run about $20.) Once you've overnighted the materials to the expediter, you'll have your renewed passport in less than two days.
My husband and I want to go skiing in Europe this winter. Can you suggest an affordable alternative to Gstaad and Zermatt?
—C.W., WESTMINSTER, MD.
Slovenia, one of the newest members of the European Union, has four dozen ski resorts, with pristine slopes that rival Switzerland's. In the northwest, where the Julian Alps border Italy and Austria, is Kranjska Gora (www.rtc-zicnice-kranjskagora.si; day pass $25), site of the annual World Cup men's downhill competition. Expert skiers can sail down Podkoren, the same run that the pros race on, but there are also eight trails for beginners and intermediates. Farther south is Kanin (www.bovec.net/kanin; day pass $30), Slovenia's highest-altitude ski center (7,546 feet above sea level), which has 8.7 miles of pistes ranging from easy to advanced, and 7.5 miles of cross-country runs. The high altitude means dry snow for the entire season and, on clear days, views of the Adriatic. Nighttime skiing is all the rage at Pohorje (www.pohorje.org; day pass $23), in the northeast. In addition to having the longest illuminated run in Europe (three miles), this massif has 37 miles of slopes, 15.5 miles of cross-country runs, and 16 ski lifts. For more information on Slovenia, go to www.slovenia-tourism.si.
We've heard the cuisine in Oaxaca is amazing. Which restaurants should we put at the top of our list?
—K.F., SHAKOPEE, MINN.
At the recently opened outpost of Casa Oaxaca (104A Calle Constitución; 52-951/516-8531; dinner for two $28), chef Alejandro Ruiz Olmedo offers modern twists on regional classics, such as a jicama "taco" stuffed with chile-fried chapulines (grasshoppers), Oaxacan cheese, and mushrooms, drizzled with salsa verde. Nearby, in the courtyard of Los Danzantes (403 Calle M. Alcalá; 52-951/501-1184; dinner for two $30), diners feast on ravioli with squash blossom-and-poblano chile sauce and Oaxacan specialties such as pollo en mole negro. For nearly 10 years, María Bonita (706B Calle M. Alcalá; 52-951/516-7233; breakfast for two $7) has been whipping up some of the best breakfasts in town. Dishes range from the simple (tortillas dipped in a black-bean sauce) to the decadent (tamales wrapped in banana leaves and stuffed with chicken mole).
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