July 1998


Sicily...Travel in Tunisia...Dog-Friendly Beaches...Travel Agent Licenses

We're planning a summer trip to Sicily. Where should we stay?
--L.S., Montreal, Quebec

If you want to see Sicily's capital, Palermo, consider the Grand Hotel Villa Igiea (43 Salita Belmonte; 39-91/543-744, fax 39-91/547-654; doubles $209). The terraced gardens of the 115-room Art Nouveau- style palazzo overlook the bay. On the Ionian coast, the Villa Ducale (60 Via Leonardo da Vinci, Taormina; 39-942/28153, fax 39-942/28710; doubles $193) is a 13-room villa with extraordinary views of Mount Etna. Or gaze at the sea from Taormina's 50-room Hotel Villa Belvedere (79 Via Bagnoli Croci; 39-942/23791, fax 39-942/625-830; doubles $139). To be near the Valley of the Temples, stay at the Villa Athena in Agrigento (Via Passeggiata Archeologica; 39-922/596-288, fax 39-922/402-180; doubles $142) and see why these ancient Greek ruins were described by the poet Pindar as being the "most beautiful city of mortals."

I want to take my new -- and very well behaved -- dog with me to the beach this summer (I live in Manhattan). How can I find public beaches and weekend resorts where Loulou would be welcome?
--C.B., New York, N.Y.

Rhode Island's Block Island is a haven for dogs: they're allowed on all the beaches, provided they're on a leash, and there's plenty of open space to explore. The island is a1 3/4-hour ferry ride (516/668-5700 for schedule) from Viking Landing in Montauk. If you decide to spend the night, Loulou can stay at the Blue Dory Inn (800/992-7290 or 401/466-5891, fax 401/466-9910; doubles from $150). Closer to home, Long Island's Montauk Point State Park (516/688-5000) is one of the few area beaches that permit dogs (again, on leashes). For those traveling this summer, Eileen Barish's Directory of Pet-Friendly Lodging (800/496-2665) lists U.S. accommodations that allow pets.

Is it safe to travel on our own in Tunisia? Any advice?We do speak French.
--K.O., Memphis, Tenn.

Of all the North African countries, Tunisia is one of the safest for visitors. The U.S. State Department has no current warnings posted against travel there. However, the department's latest Consular Information Sheet (available, along with updated information for all countries, on the Internet at travel.state.gov or by phone at 202/647-5225) advises that women traveling alone can be harassed. It recommends going in groups of two or more. Men and women should dress conservatively, bearing in mind the country's Muslim culture and customs. Tunisia's official language is Arabic, but just about everyone speaks French as well. English is common only in the cities and at tourist attractions.

How do I obtain a travel agent's license?
--J.R., Lake Elsinore, Calif.

It depends on why you want one. Beware advertisements that promise travel agent ID cards for large sums of money: these false credentials won't get you great discounts or free tickets anymore. Airlines are cracking down on the fake cards, and some states now require government registration to operate a travel agency.

The American Society of Travel Agents is a good resource for those considering a career in travel. Visit its Web site at www.astanet.com or call its office in Alexandria, Virginia,at 703/739-2782. The best way to obtain a legitimate license is to enroll at a certified, ASTA-approved school. To locate one here or abroad, check out the ASTA Travel School members Web site (www.travelschoolconnection.com/schllist.htm). You'll also find information on two-year, four-year, and graduate-level degrees, as well as about scholarships, employment opportunities, and internships.

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