After six weeks of touring Europe by car, we thought a little indulgence was in order. Serendipitously, we fell into the 50-room Hostellerie du Vallon de Valrugues, in St.-Rémy-de-Provence (800/525-4800 or 33-4/90-92-04-40, fax 33-4/90-92-44-01; doubles from $220), an exquisitely decorated place with a cheerful multilingual staff. The lobby is sumptuous; the exterior, enveloped in flowering plants. Most rooms have terraces with ample space for a sunlit breakfast. At dinner, the maître d' helped us select "local" wines (grown within a mile) over "imports" (from 15 or more miles away). Luxury, great food, tireless service in the heart of Provence -- it was a winning combination.
Richard and Joan Forman
New York, N.Y.
Gorgeously Grimy Naples
On a recent visit to Italy, my wife and I decided to venture south of Rome for the first time. In planning our itinerary, I took a cue from your August 1997 article by James Atlas, "Endless Naples." Atlas described the city as grimy, chaotic, and crime-ridden, yet maddeningly seductive, and he was right on target. Naples was one of the highlights of our trip. We were awed by the Palazzo Reale and the beautiful Teatro San Carlo, where we heard a wonderful concert. We found the people friendly and had no trouble with crime.
To your list of tips on how to safeguard against pickpockets [Smart Going, January], I would add this simple strategy: Don't look like a tourist. Leave the Americana in America. Forget the sweats, sneakers, and fanny packs. Keep maps and guidebooks out of sight in train stations, crowded markets, and other places where thieves work. When in Europe, I wear a plain blazer and carry a well-worn canvas attaché. I've been mistaken for a local, but I've never been robbed.
Dana Point, Calif.
The Best of Oaxaca
I love Oaxaca. I lived there as an exchange student in 1982 and have returned several times. Barbara Peck's descriptions of the city in "Sweet Surrender" [December] were the best I have read in ages. She did justice to the most awe-inspiring sights -- and made me homesick.
The new air terminals in New York and Hong Kong may have impressed Jeff Wise ["Airport 2000," November], but the photos looked to me like something out of Fritz Lang's Metropolis. The weary traveler deserves something better than chrome, stainless steel, and glare.
Paso Robles, Calif.
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