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Ask T+L: Donating Miles, African Safari Packing List, Old San Juan, Tuscan Wine Country

November 2006

READER'S FIND

Reader's Find Paris
When I was in Paris recently, I dined at the cozy bistro Chateaubriand [129 Ave. Parmentier; 33-1/43-57-45-95; dinner for two $90], near the Goncourt Métro stop. The temperature inside was too warm—sans air-conditioning in mid-July—and our waiter, sadly, was a bit too frosty, but the menu, which changes every three weeks, more than made up for it. I ordered the mackerel with green Tabasco and lychees, followed by a rich chocolate-and-mint confection. The young Spanish chef, Inaki Aizpitarte, deserves all the credit—he owns the busy spot in addition to being the master in the kitchen. —Delilah Grove, Camden, S.C.

Enter T+L's Reader's Find sweepstakes.

We’re going to Florence and would like to explore the Tuscan wine country. Which companies offer the best day trips?
—dawn duffy, san diego, calif.

The experts at Italy and Wine (www.italyandwine.net; from $160 per person) will pick you up from your hotel and take you through the Tuscan hills to Casa Sola, for tastings of the winery’s signature Super Tuscan (a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon). Or you can venture out to local vineyards in the countryside with Avventure Bellissime (39-041/520-8618; www.tours-italy.com; small-group tours from $160 per person). The vintners will share the secrets of grape-growing; also you’ll have time to wander through nearby markets, medieval castles, and terra-cotta towns. For a little food with your vino, try a day trip with Good Tastes of Tuscany (801/405-0700; www.tuscany-cooking-class.com; from $333 per person, double) to several family-owned wineries and sample the region’s famous Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino, then learn to make olive oil after a lunch of bruschetta and local cheeses on a terrace overlooking the vineyards of the Val d’Orcia valley.

Do airlines allow you to donate your frequent-flier miles? Which organizations accept them?
—amy hollister, denver, colo.

Your miles can go toward a number of good causes: the American Red Cross (800/733-2767; www.redcross.org) accepts miles from America West, Continental, Delta, Northwest, and United, and distributes them to victims of natural disasters and those volunteering in the aftermath of one. The Make a Wish Foundation (602/ 279-9474; www.wish.org) uses miles to fly terminally ill children to a destination of their choosing. And Hero Miles (888/294-8560; www.heromiles.org) coordinates free trips for relatives of wounded soldiers to military hospitals around the world. Keep in mind that frequent flier–mile donations are not tax-deductible, and donors do not usually receive an acknowledgment letter—be sure to look over your next statement carefully. Check with your airline to see if the charity of your choice accepts donated miles.

While I’m in Puerto Rico I want to see the best of Old San Juan. What do you recommend?
—martina eckstut, new york, n.Y.

Old San Juan was settled almost 500 years ago, so it’s ideal for history buffs. Check out the labyrinthine El Morro Fortress (Calle Norzagaray; 787/729-6960; admission $3), commissioned by Emperor Charles V in 1539, and the elaborate stained-glass windows at the 16th-century Catedral de San Juan (153 Calle del Cristo; 787/ 722-0861). But the Puerto Rican capital isn’t all about the past: When the sun sets, head to Fortaleza Street, which has recently become the city’s restaurant row. Try the Parrot Club (363 Calle la Fortaleza; 787/725-7370; dinner for two $65) for spicy shrimp or octopus ceviche. Then stop by Carli Café Concierto (206 Calle Tetuán; 787/725-4927) for margaritas, live jazz, and great people-watching.

Is there anything I should know when packing for my first African safari?
—susan atkinson, baltimore, Md.

Going on safari can often involve several modes of transportation— such as small planes and helicopters—in addition to your ground vehicle, so keep luggage to a minimum. Besides sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and binoculars, be sure to bring:

• Lightweight cotton clothing that provides adequate sun coverage. Neutral colors (beige, brown) deflect insects and won’t scare off wildlife.

• A warm jacket for the evening, especially if you’re going to a high-altitude area.

• Antidiarrheals, antimalarials, and enough of any prescription medication to last the duration of your trip.

• Certificates of inoculations—check with your outfitter, doctor, or the consulate of the country you’re visiting.

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