Driver in Jordan; Rome restaurant; United's business class; Munich apartment, restaurant, and Prague lodging, dining, museum.
REPORT ON JORDAN…
For our November-December 2011 trip to Jordan, we hired a private driver, Jehad Abu Saeed, whom we highly recommend.
Jehad was courteous and a good driver and had a clean and comfortable car. He showed up on time and was always waiting by the car when we finished touring a site. When we wanted to adjust our plans for the day, he was happy to oblige.
He is not a guide and will not accompany you into the various sites, but, typically, there were guides available for hire at most of the sites we visited.
For an airport pickup and dropoff and six days of touring, we paid Jehad 375 dinars (about $525). We used his services for day trips from Madaba, exploring the northern part of Jordan, but he is also available for overnight trips.
We arranged for his services through the Mosaic City Hotel (Madaba, Jordan; phone +962 5 3251313) in Madaba, where we were staying, although you do not have to be staying there to use his services.
Neil Johnson, San Jose, CA
REPORT ON ROME…
‘Your grandmother’s kitchen in Rome’ best describes a ristorante you will want to return to after your first meal, as my daughter and I did three times in October ’11 at L’Angoletto Romano (Via di Monterone, 14/b, 00186 Rome, Italy; phone 06 68807444).
The white plastic tables and chairs on the narrow side street a five-minute walk from the Pantheon look like those of any nondescript pizzeria in Rome, but go inside and you’ll find a more encouraging scene. Wooden chairs and tables with gold-and-red tablecloths, tumbled-marble-framed archways and an attentive host.
Thankfully, there is no blaring TV or music, just a quiet, homey atmosphere. The waiter will assist with your Italian pronunciations of menu items (there are interesting English translations) and advise what is fresh that day.
One evening we shared a starter of roasted eggplant, zucchini and peppers on which we sprinkled balsamic vinegar and olive oil. My daughter then had saltimbocca (thin sautéed veal with a bit of prosciutto and white cheese), and I had braised fegato (calves’ liver) with onions. Both were perfectly seasoned and cooked, and the servings were just the right size for two ladies.
There was, of course, fresh ciabatta (coarse white bread). We each had a glass of the house white, Frascati (the wine of Rome), as well as bottled water. For dessert, nonna (grandmother) had prepared a panna cotta (cooked cream) with berry sauce for me and a light-golden torta for my daughter. Our total bill was €50 (near $65).
Although this restaurant is in the historic center so popular with tourists, it seemed to have many Italians eating there. You can dine as early as 6:30 or 7, if you are too hungry to wait for 8 or 8:30, which is considered dinnertime in Rome. Reservations are not necessary.
Barbara Junge, Los Gatos, CA
ON UNITED AIRLINES…
This is a word for the few who fly business class.
United has been refurbishing their Boeing 777 aircraft. Included are new business-class seats that will lay flat, as I found when I flew from San Francisco to Shanghai on Dec. 2, 2011.
All of the electrically adjusted reclining and leg-support features were provided and they worked very well. However, they had changed the configuration of rows in business class from seven seats across to eight. The usual, comfortable elbowroom was gone. When you recline, you have to pinch in your elbows or let them hang up over the armrests. Neither of these positions is comfortable.
Another source of discomfort is a niche provided for your feet in the back of the row of seats in front of you. This niche is partially triangular in shape, meaning that your feet are pushed to one side when you fully recline.
My return from Shanghai to Los Angeles on Dec. 8 was on a Boeing 777 that had not been reconfigured. It had the original, quite comfortable, seven-across seats in business class.
I recommend checking seating arrangements online at www.seatguru.com when selecting flights.
Maurice Lucky, Scottsdale, AZ
REPORT ON GERMANY…
• For our trip in November ’11 to visit the Christmas markets in Munich, we rented an apartment, one we highly recommend. It was advertised on the Homelidays website, and the property owner was very responsive in providing information and answering questions.
For four nights, we paid €75 (near $98) per night plus a 25-euro cleaning fee, although rates vary by time of year.
In a secure building with an elevator, the apartment, on the third (European) floor, is decorated in a Bavarian style, with comfortable chairs and couches — perfect for getting into the mood of Munich. It has one bedroom, one bath, living room, dining room and a large balcony which overlooks the street. There is a small but well equipped kitchen plus a clothes washer (but no dryer).
Located in the Schwabing district of Munich, north of the city center, it is a two-minute walk from the nearest U-Bahn station, at Bonner Platz, with service by the U-3 line, which extends directly to the city center. Also within a couple minutes’ walk is a REWE supermarket, a couple of bakeries and a couple of banks.
• One block from the apartment is a KvR restaurant, Kapitales vom Rind (im Rolandseck) (Viktoriastrasse 23, D-80803, München; phone 089 44 23 77 36), which was suggested by the apartment owner and which was excellent. The website is in German only, but they do have English menus. Entrées cost €10-€15 each.
They specialize in beef and had a large display of available cuts plus an open grill for cooking it. However, we enjoyed the lamb sausages and roast pork. The food was delicious and well presented, and the service was friendly.
Neil Johnson, San Jose, CA
REPORT ON CZECH REP…
An Elbe River cruise with Grand Circle Travel included two days in Prague, Czech Republic, after which my husband, Thom, and I stayed five more (trip dates, Sept. 13-20, 2011).
• Park Inn Hotel Prague (Svobodova 1, Prague 2; — in the US, call Radisson at 800/670-7275) is near a tram line, but walking to the town center took about 20 minutes. Room quite pleasant, with twins with duvets plus a big tub and a big walk-in shower. The included breakfast was good but the buffet dinner just average. Rate on website was $112.
• Unitas House (Bartolomejska St. 9, Prague 1; phone 00420 224 230 533) is in a great location in Old Town, a 10-minute walk from either the Old Town Square or the Charles Bridge. Formerly a convent, this is a great hotel at a great value: $758 for five nights, including VAT and breakfasts. Desk personnel delightful and spoke perfect English.
Large room with twin beds (king available) with duvets plus large bathroom with walk-in shower, slippers and robe, plenty of hooks and shelf space and a hair dryer.
Lavish breakfast buffet with scrambled eggs and several kinds of breads, juices, cold meats and cheeses plus a special warm dish each day, such as chocolate crepes or cheese-stuffed mushrooms.
• U Fleků (Křemencova 11, Prague 1; phone +420 224 934 019-20) — a tavern going back to 1430. Popular for tour group dinners, but for lunch you may have the beer garden to yourself, as we did.
The beer is a strong, unpasteurized dark brew that’s been served since 1843 and is not available anywhere else. We went all out with a huge lunch of duck, bread dumplings (three kinds), red and regular cabbage, beer (of course) and wine. Plus we accepted a glass of Becova (a Czech liqueur) before realizing we would be charged for it. Our total for two was about $60.
• Near Unitas House we ate three dinners at Restaurace Stoleti (Karolíny Svĕtlé 21/320, Prague 1; phone/fax +420 222 220 008), across from an ancient round chapel.
The specials were very good, as were the main dishes we tried, including trout as well as chicken with cheese-and-mushroom sauce. The house Czech sauvignon blanc was the best we had anywhere. For two, one meal cost $30, with two beers and two wines; another cost $36.50.
• For an Old Town lunch stop, we tried a bar/restaurant called O’Che’s (Liliova 14, Prague 1; phone +420 222 221 178), decorated with Che Guevara posters. The onion soup and the tomato and mozzarella salad both were good and very inexpensive — under $15 with a beer and a cola.
• Lastly, we dined at a highly rated restaurant, also near the Unitas, called Restaurant Rainer Maria Rilke (Karolíny Svĕtlé 25, Prague 1; phone/fax +420 222 221 414). It was small, candle-lit and cozy, with nice, quiet music and lots of prints of famous Czechs on the wall.
I had chicken noodle soup, then goulash with bread dumplings, and Thom had goulash soup, then veal schnitzel and mashed potatoes. Both were very good. Our meal cost $48, with tip.
• I recommend the National Gallery in Prague’s Collection of Modern & Contemporary Art (Veletržní Palace, Dukelských hrdinů 47, Prague; phone [+420] 224 301 111). Take a tram from Old Town; you can get off right in front of the museum, a former trade-and-exhibition hall.
We did the international art floor first: Warhol, Lichtenstein, Nam June Paik, Miró, Matisse and others, then the modern French — Monet, Manet, Gauguin, Pissarro, Toulouse-Latrec, Degas and Renoir. We saw lots of Picasso and van Gogh as well. On other floors was a wide variety of contemporary Czech artists’ works.
Margo Wilson, Scottsdale, AZ