Report Cards for February '10

This item appears on page 4 of the February 2010 issue.

VIENNA, Austria, Dec. 11

• “Christmas on the Danube” cruise from Prague through Germany to Vienna, Dec. 2-11, 2009, aboard the Affinity with >Avalon River Cruises (Littleton, CO; 877/797-8791).

$7,396 for two included airfare from San Francisco to Prague (including $500 in ticket change) and two nights in Prague.

We arrived in Prague from London in early evening. Pre-cruise, we stayed at the Prague Hilton (not the Old Town location), about a 15-minute walk from Old Town.

Avalon did a great job providing first-class service on board. Great staff, excellent meals, and the boat was very comfortable.

— Jerry Ashfield, Santa Cruz, CA

TOULOUSE, France, Oct. 27

• If you happen to be flying from the Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in France, I suggest you consider staying at the Campanile Airport Hotel (3, avenue Didier Daurat, Blagnac, 31700 Toulouse, France; phone +33 5 61 16 90 90 or fax 61 71 65 71).

It’s a small, rather ordinary hotel of 48 rooms, but it has three unusual attributes.

It’s within walking distance (700 meters) of the airport.

It has a truly remarkable restaurant with a buffet, including appetizers and a dessert table. The price of about €12 to €15 ($18-$23) is very reasonable, and the word is out as the restaurant was packed.

Lastly, the staff is extremely friendly.

The price was €85 (near $128), including breakfast.

— Ted Mullett, Vero Beach, FL

From CARCASSONNE, France, Oct. 24

La Ferme de la Sauzette (Route de Villefloure, Cazilhac, 11570 Palaja, France; phone +33 04 68 79 81 32, fax 79 65 99, — in a very peaceful setting surrounded by vineyards.

This charming, old farmhouse has been thoroughly modernized and offers three spacious bedrooms with full bathrooms en suite. We enjoyed a large room with two beds for €75 ($113) per night, Oct. 13-24. A complete buffet breakfast was included.

The best feature is the hosts. Diana and Chris are an English couple who take great interest in their guests, whom they are determined will enjoy their stay. They gave us great advice on the best way to see the area. In fact, a week later they came to visit us on our canal boat in Carcassonne.

Caution: La Sauzette is really off the beaten path, as there’s probably no house within half a mile, so get exact directions. Also, it’s only open April 1-Nov. 1.

— Ted Mullett, Vero Beach, FL

From CARLISLE, Cumbria, England, Oct. 7

• My wife, Kay, and I took the Hadrian’s Wall Bus AD122 to traverse the wall’s route, stopping at Birdoswald, Vindolanda and Chesters Roman Fort. You can make many other stops along the route, depending upon your interests.

Buy Hadrian’s Wall Bus DayRover tickets on board or from the Tourist Information Center (TIC) for £7.80 (near $13).

Alexandros Greek Restaurant (68 Warwick St., Carlisle; phone 01 228 592 227, featured a weekday “mini mezze” selection plus moussaka and beef stifado, all for £10.95 ($17.50) each, plus a bottle of retsina for £5.95 ($9.50) more.

• We had an excellent meal at Casa Romana (44 Warwick St., Carlisle; phone 01 228 591 969) which featured an antipasto platter containing broiled prawns.

For mains we chose a braised pork belly served on a bed of caramelized onions plus a lamb shoulder so immense, it served as two sandwiches the next day as well. Total bill including wine was £48 ($77).

The area offers a wealth of choices for lodging.

— Al Standish, Port Ludlow, WA

PADUA, Italy, Oct. 8

• On a grimy side street a 10-minute walk from the railroad station in Padua stands the ugly mug of Hotel Al Cason (Via Fra Paolo Sarpi 40, 35138 Padova, Italy; phone 39 049 66 26 36, fax 049 875 42 17, But push through the front doors and you find yourself in a clean, open, modern establishment, air-conditioned and soundproofed from the traffic outside.

Our room was easily the most spacious of the ones we stayed in on this trip. It was quiet. There was some noise from passing trains, but it did not bother us.

The room had a large bathroom, with all fixtures working, as well. The endearingly wacky showerhead protruding from the wall is a type apparently disappearing from Italian hotels to be replaced by a conventional shower cabinet.

The staff were friendly and helpful, and they can steer you toward the sights of the medieval city.

There is an Internet computer in the lobby for the use of guests, in case you want to check up on your spam.

We paid €89 (about $131) per night, which included a quite satisfactory buffet breakfast.

On weekday evenings the hotel also has a restaurant, which is a good thing as there is not much in the immediate neighborhood. Pasta, salad, main course, dessert and a half-liter of wine set us back €37 ($54) for two.

• While in downtown Padua, if hunger strikes, head for the Piazza Cavour and then, just north of it, find your way to Via Santa Lucia. Turn west and follow the medieval street, refusing to be drawn into the pizzerias on either side until you get to Trattoria “Al Pero” (Via Santa Lucia 72, 36100 Padova; phone 049 875 8794).

A small place with about a dozen tables, it was not heavily populated in the early evening of Oct. 6. You’ll find an easygoing attitude and no thumping rock music on the sound track; indeed, no music at all, so you can dine in silence or talk quietly with your companions as the Good Lord intended.

Between three of us, we had first courses, one main course, two veggies, one glass of wine plus coffee and one digestivo (drink) to finish off and were out the door for €68 ($97).

— Michael Mahoney, San Francisco, CA

VENICE, Italy, Oct. 4

Bio Agriturismo Il Melograno (via Spigariola, 10/a, 30173 Tessera, Venice, Italy; phone 328 4318944, fax 041 5019005, — only five minutes (three kilometers) from the airport and not at the end of a runway.

This is a perfect stop for late arrivals at Leonardo de Vinci airport (free guest pickup) or for motorists who don’t want the hassle of getting into Venice late at night or for someone getting on a cruise, as we were the next day.

Exceptionally clean and quiet, this B&B, built in 2008, has separate private accommodations for two to six persons. English is spoken, and its main business is the ecologically friendly farm which surrounds the premises.

Rooms cost €70-€90 ($105-$136) per night, including breakfast. We booked our room online for €70.

— Frank Johnston, Midway, UT