Letters | April 2010
Maria Shollenbarger’s article on Prague made me wish to return to my grandparents’ homeland. The last time I visited, in the early nineties, the area was still quite poor. There weren’t many great stores, and the hotel and food selection was very limited—the InterContinental Prague had a banner announcing Prague’s first salad bar. But the Czechs have spirit. It’s wonderful to hear that they’re doing such a great job of bringing life to the city. —Barbara Stokey, Virginia Beach, Va.
World’s Best Inn
I was so happy to see the Inn at Little Washington on your list of the world’s best hotels. Instead of going to the Caribbean, my husband and I decided to stay closer to home this fall, and so we booked two nights there. With whimsical rooms designed to look like an English country manor’s and afternoon tea served in our own personal garden that had views of Virginia’s Shenandoah Mountains, it was as warm and relaxing as any tropical beach. —Nina, Washington, D.C.
Gail Simmons looks fabulous in her “Travel Uniform.” But at $7,859.79, I wish that outfit included a plane ticket! —Beckie Kuhl, Brigantine, N.J.
Editor’s note: “Travel Uniform” was meant to offer ideas. As is often the case, jewelry can be a lifetime investment. Without it, the total cost of Gail Simmons’s outfit (including what’s in her bag) was $1,461.79.
I agree with Erik Torkells—why not bring back something from your travels that you can cherish and use? For me, it all began with a truffle slicer from Rome. Next, I found a copper cataplana dish in Lisbon. Then I scoured markets in Oaxaca, Mexico, for brightly painted, carved wood bobble-head animals—locals use them as earthquake forecasters, and the turkeys make delightful Thanksgiving decorations. No T-shirts for me! —Anita Bertin Degreen, Avon Lake, Ohio
Reader’s Find: A Mexican Bistro in the City of Light
While living in Paris last year, I discovered Fajitas (dinner for two $82), a Mexican restaurant in the heart of St.-Germain-des-Prés. It may seem an unlikely cuisine for one of Paris’s quaintest quartiers, but young French people go absolutely crazy over it—the place is always packed. Miguel, the chef and owner, hails from Mexico and offers an impressive menu of his country’s classics. With the help of his American wife, Amy, he sources ingredients both from Mexico and from Parisian farmers’ markets for excellent quesadillas, taquitos, enchiladas, burritos, ceviche, and (yes) fajitas. With its rough stone walls, floor-to-ceiling windows, and charming location just steps from the Seine, Fajitas has the bustle of a French bistro while offering locals a spicy alternative to coq au vin and crêpes. Plus, it has a great wine list—and the city’s best margarita. —Alexander Boutin, Portland, Maine
Hot Topic: Phone Bills Abroad
Mark Orwoll’s January Smart Traveler column had our phones ringing off the hook—or, at least, it got a lot of feedback from readers and users at TravelandLeisure.com. Here, a few of the highlights, plus your advice.
One Father’s Hang-Up
My daughter, Katelyn, is headed to Ireland for a month with three friends. It’ll be free for them to call and text each other if they all buy the same plan, so I’ve spent a great deal of time agonizing over the options. We’re going with Vodafone—their texting package seems to be the cheapest, and the international calling charge is only 15 cents. Your thoughts? —Joseph Mateer, Middletown, Pa.
Mark Orwoll replies: The Vodafone deal sounds good for you. Another avenue, of course, would be an international phone card. Just make sure you know all the restrictions, especially when it comes to rounding up call lengths.
Skype With Your Cell Phone
My husband is currently deployed in Iraq, and for $8.40 every 12 weeks via Skype, not only can I reach him at a local area code, but he can dial any landline in the U.S. essentially at no cost. And a laptop isn’t required—if you have a PDA, just download the free Skype app. Your best bet is to get an iPod Touch with a headset, since you won’t be charged by your cell carrier.
Pros: You can talk all you want for free (or for a small cost)—and on the go.
Cons: You need to have a wireless connection. —Julie Parrish, West Linn, Ore.
Choose Your Area Code and Connect
I’ve used Vonage while living in Slovakia, Barbados, and now Italy; it’s great for extended overseas stays. You pick your preferred area code (mine is in Florida), the company provides you with an adapter that connects to your phone or computer, and you can make unlimited calls around the world for as little as $25 per month.
Pros: Your contacts at home pay local rates when they call you.
Cons: You need to hook up a modem or router. —Jack Zalewski, Rome
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T+L Asks: What’s on Your Travel Wish List?
Spain! There is so much culture and beautiful architecture there. Plus, I hear the food and nightlife are amazing. —Tiff Hollins, via Facebook
To run the Great Wall Marathon in China. —Megan Weed, via Facebook
Someplace warm and fabulous, where I could relax with a large margarita in hand! The Viceroy Anguilla, Mexico’s Tides Zihuatanejo, and Jumby Bay, in Antigua, would all fill the bill. —Glenda Church Smith, Dallas, Tex.
South America tops my list! Just me and my backpack tackling Machu Picchu. —Nova Renata, Sabah, Malaysia
The Galápagos Islands with my son, so he can see all the wildlife he’s read about in its natural habitat. —Cassandra Melhuish, Santa Monica, Calif.
Fiji and the West Indies—somewhere with amazing beaches. —Laura Ritchhart, via Facebook
Teaching English to Buddhist monks in Nepal. I love volunteering around the world—it’s a great way to immerse yourself in another culture. —Lynn Gervais, Whistler, B.C.
Want More Ideas?
For responses from Simon Doonan, Natalie Merchant, and others, see this month’s Travel Life List.
Your Destination Hit List
Here, the most searched places in Europe on TravelandLeisure.com at press time.
A Mexican restaurant in the heart of St.-Germain-des-Prés. It may seem an unlikely cuisine for one of Paris’s quaintest quartiers, but young French people go absolutely crazy over it—the place is always packed. Miguel, the chef and owner, hails from Mexico and offers an impressive menu of his country’s classics. With the help of his American wife, Amy, he sources ingredients both from Mexico and from Parisian farmers’ markets for excellent quesadillas, taquitos, enchiladas, burritos, ceviche, and (yes) fajitas. With its rough stone walls, floor-to-ceiling windows, and charming location just steps from the Seine, Fajitas has the bustle of a French bistro while offering locals a spicy alternative to coq au vin and crêpes. Plus, it has a great wine list—and the city’s best margarita.