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Interactive Traveler: Web Resources, Digital Downsizing

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How two restaurant-reservation sites compare

Tired of waiting on hold for 20 minutes when you call a restaurant, only to find out that it's fully booked?Late last year, two new Web sites—OpenTable.com and Foodline.com—promised easy access to restaurants nationwide. Do they deliver?

OpenTable.com is all business: you can see what's available in real time for the hour and date you want, make your reservation online (or via a Palm VII or PageWriter), and get an e-mail confirmation that includes a map showing the restaurant's location. The site lists restaurants primarily in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle; later this year it will add 11 more cities. Foodline.com is more of a foodie haven: along with a similar booking system (mostly for New York and Boston restaurants, but it too is expanding), the site has columns on food trends, wine, and culinary events.

Although the reservations process at both sites is fast, your restaurant choices are still limited, and they're not usually the hottest spots. Want to get into New York's Pastis or Chicama?They're not on the list (and neither are you). And you won't find the same places on the two sites—watch for Zagat (www.zagat.com) to link to both in the near future. —Robert Maniaci

Parlo-vous français?

You may have done well in high school Spanish, but being able to say "Hay cucarachas en la clase" won't get you far in Madrid. Enter Parlo.com, a "virtual immersion" site that helps you learn the basics of Spanish and French. Parlo's 16 structured lesson plans include listening and reading tests as well as grammar and vocabulary-building exercises. A word of the day clues you in to slang that textbooks often ignore, such as fric ("money" in French) or ombligo (Spanish for "belly button"). The site also has chat rooms, a pen-pal service, a magazine with customized reading levels, and links to foreign newspapers and radio broadcasts. Parlo is free; all you need is a Web browser with the RealPlayer plug-in. Although we experienced a few minor technical glitches, a company spokesman assured us they'll be fixed tout de suite—just in time for new courses in Italian and German. —Hillary Geronemus

Fit to be tried

Say good-bye to the last great excuse for skipping your workout—"I'm on vacation"—thanks to eFit.com, a new Web site crammed with advice for travelers from doctors, physical trainers, and nutritionists. Register for Wakeup with eFit, and the site will call to remind you about your sunrise jog. Hate your hotel's exercise room?The Gym Locator has 12,000 listings nationwide. And you can stretch those weary muscles in your suite with eFit's Hotel Workout, which uses standard furniture in a fitness routine. Coming soon: daily meal plans customized to your location. —Dara Y. Herman

Point, shoot, download

James Bond would be green with envy over the new Canon PowerShot S20. Billed as the world's smallest digital camera, the nine-ounce, pocket-sized gadget packs a punch: it stores as many as 176 images, and the high-resolution lens magnifies objects up to eight times. You can preview photos on the LCD screen, delete the ones you hate, and transfer the rest to a Mac or PC at home. The Stitch Assist option even lets you combine different shots into a single image. Just imagine 007 splicing together classified documents, and you've got the picture. $799; 800/652-2666; www.powershot.com. —H. Scott Jolley

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