Ask T+L: Easter in Guatemala, Travel Documents Online, Hotels for Allergy Sufferers
I have been staying at the Hôtel du Quai Voltaire [19 Quai Voltaire; 33-1/42-61-50-91; www.quaivoltaire.fr ; doubles from $144] for more than 40 years. This small former abbey predates the French Revolution and has been a hotel since 1856. Its rooms have high ceilings and small balconies overlooking the Seine and the Pont Neuf, and many creative types have found inspiration here; Richard Wagner, Oscar Wilde, and Camille Pissarro were all guests. The hotel is just a short walk from the Musée d'Orsay and Notre Dame. —Ginny Nickoloff, Villa Rica, GA .
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I'm trying to secure a room in Antigua, Guatemala, for the Easter festivities, but all the top hotels are booked. Help!—M.T., Lowell, Mass.
Hotels like Casa Santo Domingo and Posada Del Angel do book up a year in advance, but there are some last-minute options. T+L associate editor Hannah Wallace was just in Antigua and found several small hotels that are more likely to have rooms available for Semana Santa, or Holy Week. Once a private home, Quinta Maconda (5A Avda. Norte, No. 11; 502/7832-1480; www.quintamaconda.com ; doubles from $225; six-day minimum during Semana Santa) is now an exquisite four-room inn. Well-connected owner John Heaton, an art collector and world traveler, can arrange curator-led tours of the Museo Popol Vuh in Guatemala City and private helicopter rides to remote highland villages. The new colonial-style Hotel El Mesón de Maria (3A Calle Poniente, No. 8; 502/7832-6068; www.hotelmesondemaria.com ; doubles from $150; six-night minimum during Semana Santa), across the street from La Fonda de La Calle Real restaurant (it's run by the same owners), has 20 simple rooms. The rooftop solarium, a perfect perch from which to watch the Semana Santa parades, has views of the city and Volcán Agua. Just four blocks from the cathedral and Parque Central is Casa Encantada (9A Calle Poniente Esquina, No. 1; 866/837-8900 or 502/7832-7903; www.casaencantada-antigua.com ; doubles from $125; four-night minimum during Semana Santa) , a 10-room boutique property decorated with wrought-iron four-poster beds, antique huipils, and, in the rooftop suite, a fireplace. There's a small plunge pool in the garden; wine and tapas are served every evening.
What are the best services for ordering official government-issued travel documents such as passports and visas on the Internet?—D.T., Chicago, Ill.
We found a brand-new Web site—OfficialTravelDocuments.com —that is the first to let you apply for or renew passports and visas at the same time. For visas, check the site to see if the country you're traveling to requires one. To request documents, download and fill out the necessary form, submit on-line, and choose standard, rush, or same-day processing. The site can also provide a copy of your birth certificate, if necessary, through secure channels. Another good place to look is PassportsAndVisas.com , which has been expediting applications on-line for 10 years. This site offers guaranteed emergency passports within 24 hours; you can sign up for free e-mail alerts that will keep you updated on the status of your application and let you know if there's a problem.
Do any hotels make special accommodations for people with allergies?—T.F., St. Louis, Mo.
Many hotels have begun providing guests who suffer from allergies with everything from extra air filtration to fragrance-free amenities. Call ahead to check the policy of the place where you're staying. Upon request, the Ritz-Carlton Chicago (160 E. Pearson St.; 800/819-5053 or 312/266-1000; www.fourseasons.com ; doubles from $475), will remove all fragranced products such as sachets and toiletries from a room and clean the space with allergy-sensitive products. The room is then stocked with special toiletries and outfitted with mattress protectors, feather-free bedding, dust-capturing vent guards, and in-room air purifiers. The Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica (Peninsula Papagayo; 800/819- 5053 or 011-506/696-0000; www.fourseasons.com ; doubles from $545) goes a step further: at check-in, an aesthetician will determine your skin-care needs with attention to your known allergies, after which all-natural products are placed in your bathroom. And the Fairmont Vancouver Airport (3111 Grant McConachie Way; 800/441-1414 or 604/207-5200; www.fairmont.com ; doubles from $225) is the first hotel to devote an entire floor to guests with allergies. Forty-two rooms feature faux-down pillows and duvets (washed in hot water, without chlorine bleach), special carbon water filters, and peanut-free snacks.