The hostess of our château pensione near Naucelle, France, was speaking about her visit to the United States.

“In Boston, the tour guide showed us a church and said proudly, ‘It is over 250 years old.’ We waited for the punch line, but there was none. That was it.”

She wasn’t sharpshooting. It was simply the honest reaction of one who lives in the department of Aveyron. Within 40 miles of her front door are more than 30 French bastides, unique medieval settlements built by...


by Penny Strohl, Oakland, CA

Having stopped at the tiny Tonga airport on our way to New Zealand a few years beforehand, our curiosity was piqued and we were determined to return and find out more about the “Friendly Isles.” Wendy Schatz of Travel Downunder put together an economical and near-perfect package for us.

On Nov. 9, ’04, we flew from San Francisco to Los Angeles, where we picked up a 9½-hour flight to Samoa. After a one-hour stopover, we continued on the 1½-hour...


We asked those of you who have rented cars and driven in various countries to tell us which cities/countries you have found to be the worst in which to drive. (ITN prints no information about destinations in North America or the Caribbean.) We asked you to explain why you chose that city or country, if there are certain times/days/months in which driving is best avoided there, when (month/year) you were there and if you had any helpful tips for others.

We then asked which cities/...


(Second of two parts)

Like countless other travelers, we were spellbound by Venice. Our 3-night stay really meant only two full days, but they were two delightful days that we would repeat in a heartbeat.

On queue

We stayed in a residential area off the Via Garibaldi, a wide thoroughfare just a 10-minute stroll along the lagoon from St. Mark’s Square. The frantic pace of much of Venice is left behind when you call this part of the Castello district home. We would not...


After purchasing a time-share in August ’03, I started reviewing the large catalog with listings of hundreds of time-share properties around the world, including information on availability, amenities, nearest airport and more. I have been traveling internationally for some 30 years and thought a time-share would give me greater selection for accommodations abroad.

International exchange

On a point system, my companion and I purchased a studio unit in Napa, California, near...


For people who like murder mysteries in exotic locales, here is a fun list.

• “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” by Alexander McCall Smith is one of a series of six books set in BOTSWANA. The land and culture are also like characters in this delightful collection of detection pursuits and everyday African life.

• The “Mrs. Pollifax” series by Dorothy Gilman takes readers on adventures all over the globe. I particularly enjoyed the ones in Asia, including “Mrs. Pollifax and...


Michael Keating, Olney, MD

The oasis of Douz in Tunisia lies in an uneasy balance with nature. A short nighttime walk outside town over the gently undulating dunes reveals a sky cluttered with the glitter of millions of stars. And yet those same dunes gently push against the town, silently covering the streets.

The oasis of Douz is just that: an oasis in the Sahara. The dunes of the Grand Erg Oriental encircle the town. Where the pavement ends, the sand begins. It’s the Sahara...


Since I’m the consummate Francophile, I didn’t think any other country could lure me the way France does, but when Italy called, I’m awfully glad I answered, “Pronto.”

We decided to keep it simple: to include only Rome, Venice and Florence, to travel by train and to stay in B&Bs. We picked late September ’04, thinking the weather would be perfect. It was.

A “home” in Rome

The enchantment began before we even left. I...