Flipping through the February issue of Travel + Leisure, I was drawn to Jasper Becker's article about Beijing ["Seeing Red"]. I was a 1996 Olympic gymnast, so I'm interested in the impactthe 2008 Olympics will have on the Chinese people and their values. As an English teacher in China for the past year, I am overwhelmed with curiosity about a nation so full of contrast. The challenge for Beijing to become modern while maintaining a Chinese identity, which Mr. Becker touched upon, will define the future direction of both the city and the country. I certainly plan on being here in 2008 to see what happens.
—JESSICA DAVIS, TIANJIN, CHINA
The Gift of Giving
I loved Douglas McGray's piece about international volunteer vacations ["Going the Distance," February]. I took my first volunteer trip in 1997 to Washington's Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, where I helped build an access trail for the disabled. The experience was addictive: I have since worked in Arizona, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. Not only have I learned new skills and made lifelong friends, but the feeling of accomplishment I've gained is incomparable.
—DANIELLE PISCATELLI, WATERTOWN, MASS.
In "The New Meaning of Miles" [February], Andrea Bennett recommends checking for loopholes when trying to earn frequent-flier miles with partners of a preferred airline. I booked a flight to Barcelona on British Airways because the carrier shares an alliance with American. I went back to check the fine print—no awards for transatlantic flights. Miles lost: 9,680 round-trip. Lesson learned: Do your homework first.
—MICK VANN, DRIFTWOOD, TEX.
Hitting the Right Note
Reading that my grandmother, Peggy Lee, used to sing at PTA meetings in her hometown of Jamestown, North Dakota, was just one of the surprising details I relished from Christopher Petkanas's article about her ["She Gives Him Fever," March]. It was a treat to learn more about the place she spoke of so often.
—HOLLY FOSTER-WELLS, LOS ANGELES, CALIF.
Thanks to Christopher Petkanas, I now know the root of my persistent hunger: I haven't had my weekly ration of "squirrel, swan, and crane," apparent staples of North Dakota's cuisine. Perhaps I'll overcome the "numbing desolation" under a "slate-colored sky" to go outside and shoot me some varmints for supper.
—CONNIE KRAPP, JAMESTOWN, N.DAK.
My book club celebrated its 20th anniversary by renting out the six-room Villa St. Maxime [390 Rte. de la Colle, St.-Paul-de-Vence; 33-4/93-32-76-00; www.villa-st-maxime.com; doubles from $190], just 12 miles from Nice. The décor was light and airy: marble floors, contemporary art, crisp white linens, and spacious bathrooms. We held meetings on the wide terrace overlooking the swimming pool with views of both the historic village and the Mediterranean Sea. We couldn't have asked for anything more.
—BETTE BAYORGEON, FOX POINT, WIS.
In Piedmont's Lake Maggiore area last summer, I discovered a 19th-century villa called Antico Palazzo [1 Viale Siemens, Stresa; 39-0323/932-469; www.anticopalazzo.com; doubles from $216]. Never have I been so satisfied after a vacation. With nine guest rooms, the secluded property and its accommodating owners made us feel as if we were the only visitors there—even when the entire place was booked. It was refreshing to find a hotel where we didn't get lost among 200 rooms and 500 people walking the grounds (and the price was right, too).
—BEATRICE DUTORDOIR, SAN FERNANDO, CALIF.
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