I applaud T+L for kicking off the new year with Julian Rubinstein’s piece on Aspen [“Rediscovering Aspen Skiing and Nightlife,” January]. My wife and I are frequent visitors, and some of our best memories are of afternoons skiing down the Aspen Highlands and cozy evenings at the Little Nell. Rubinstein did a great job of capturing the city’s rich culture. No ski lover should miss it. —Arnold Chast, Little Rock, Ark.

Tales of a Tourist

I completely agree with Peter Jon Lindberg’s “Tourist Traps Worth a Visit” [January]. The word tourist does not necessarily deserve such a negative connotation. Some of my most treasured travel experiences have been on guided excursions with other tourists, like dancing under the Roman stars on an Italy trip, and learning about the Battle of Bannockburn before entering Stirling Castle from a Scottish guide as he held back tears of pride. I wouldn’t trade them for anything, and I have made some wonderful friends in the process. —Lisa Eastman, Seattle, Wash.

Island Scene

When I started reading Tom Austin’s story about Barbados [“The Rebirth of Barbados,” December], I was disappointed by what appeared to be an exercise in name-dropping. I’m more interested in learning about what the island has to offer rather than who’s who. —Jessica Halifax, Worcester, Mass.

The Next Grand Tour

Your trends item about flashpacking [“2009 Travel Trends,” January] describes my travel style to a T! Last October, I flew into Frankfurt (with a backpack) and took the train to Munich, through Italy, and back up to Prague, staying in very nice hotels along the way. My favorite was Hotel Elysée, in Prague (43 Václavské Námestí; 42-02/2422-5772;; doubles from $107, including breakfast). It has 70 simple rooms and 14 apartments right in Wenceslas Square, next to shopping, restaurants, and the Opera—and is within walking distance of the main train station. —Melissa Woods, Charlotte, N.C.

Caught in the Web

I’m a big fan of making travel arrangements online, and was therefore thrilled to discover so many great sites in “T+L’s Top Travel Websites of 2008” [December]. I will definitely put your recommendations to good use when planning my next vacation. —Jeff Nobrowski, Portland, Maine

Reader’s Find: Italy

Considering the plethora of cooking schools in Italy, I would like to tell readers about a wonderful experience I had using (seven-night packages from $1,065, including breakfast and dinner). I did a weeklong “cooking holiday” in the Chianti region of Tuscany, staying at the lovely Villa Fabbroni, a 13th-century castle that now houses six spacious apartments with antique furnishings. The owners, Sergio and Stefano, both chefs, teach guests three hands-on lessons based on the traditional cucina povera (country cooking), while leaving enough time for trips to Siena and Florence. One day, Stefano’s aunt came to demonstrate how to make pasta from scratch, which we enjoyed afterward with some excellent Chianti. —Eva Fabo, Mineola, N.Y.