Report Cards for September '09

From BADEN-BADEN, Germany, July 15, 2009. . .

• Hotel Colmar (Lange Strasse 34, D-76530, Baden-Baden, Germany; phone 07221/93 89 0, fax 93 89 50, — located in central Baden, on the pedestrian zone.

This is a fine and friendly hotel, written about by Mr. Rick Steves, himself, as a good place to stay in Baden. However, the Colmar is the loudest hotel I have ever stayed at — period.

We last stayed here in 2000. We booked our room online, and the hotel once again offered us three nights’ stay (July 12-15) in a great central location, with a kind staff, a big apartment room, a shabby chic interior, a quaint balcony with views of the forest, two passes to the Caracalla Therme Baths, two passes for the casino and a nice breakfast buffet of meats, cheese and fish — all for €185 (near $259) per person, sharing. Parking costs €11 per day.

However — and this is none of the hotel’s fault — the noise from the walking mall below the hotel is unbelievable. Three cobbled streets run together just at the base of the hotel, creating a perfect storm of acoustic din.

There were people’s voices, garbage trucks, leaf blowers, street sweepers, delivery vans (vehicles are allowed before 10 a.m.), car horns and other city sounds. The weather was warm, so the windows had to stay open.

Hotel Colmar is a perfectly charming hotel, but even with earplugs and an Excedrin PM® tablet, I was up for three nights running.

— Jennifer M. Eisenlau, Boulder, CO

From PARIS, France, July 3, 2009. . .

• The charming restaurant Le Madeleine C (5, rue Castellane, 75008 Paris; phone 01 42 65 0012,, in the 8th arrondissement, serves exceptional meals.

My husband, Bernard, and I had the prix fixe for €33.50 (near $47) each. Mine included vegetable soup, salmon in prawn sauce with tagliatelle pasta and the usual, unequaled bread that only the French do so well.

Bernard had the snails in garlic butter and crusty confit of duck thigh with green beans and a cheese potato. It was a delight to the palate.

For dessert, we both enjoyed panna cotta with red fruits syrup that was sheer ambrosia. A half bottle of the house Chablis (€19) accompanied this superb meal.

The nearest Métro stop is Madeleine. Helpful tip — have your hotel print out a Google map to help navigate your way through the warren of streets that is Paris.

— A.J. Goodhead, La Jolla, CA

From SCOPELLO, Sicily, May 17, 2009…

• Bed-and-breakfast Pensione Tranchina (Via A. Diaz 7, Scopello (TP) 91014, Sicily, ITALY; phone [0924] 541099, fax 541232).

This is in a delightful location on the edge of the beautiful Zingaro Nature Reserve (one of a kind), a short drive from the ancient town of Erice as well as the Roman ruins of Segesta, Agrigento and Selinunte.

The rooms are beautiful in their simplicity and spotlessly clean. Ask for number 5, which has a clear view of the sea and a small patio with a clothesline — perfect for making practical use of the Sicilian sun. Rooms cost €76-€100 (near $106-$140), including breakfast. Ten rooms only, so book early. We stayed May 11-17.

The 4-course gourmet dinners, at €19 per person, are not to be missed.

Fluent English, Spanish and Italian are spoken by the charming hosts/owners, Marisin and Salvatore Tranchina.

This was a highlight of our Sicilian trip.

— Marilyn Whisenand, San Clemente, CA

From WELLS, England, May 16, 2009…

• Travelers looking for a great B&B in Wells should check into No. 23 Glastonbury Road (Wells, Somerset, BA5 1TW, U.K.; phone 01749 677648, www.bedandbreakfast, located less than a mile from Wells Cathedral.

It is sparkling clean and has great amenities and a decent price. £60 (near $84) for twin beds, facilities en suite. It was splendid.

— Joyce M. Kennedy, Sun City West, AZ

On ITALY, May ’09. . .

• The best gelato in Rome that we found was at Autogrill (Via del Corso 181, Rome; phone 06 678 9135). It was also the least expensive, with the price clearly posted. We paid €1.50 for, untypically, an American-sized scoop here.

In the Spanish Steps area, we got stuck for a $20 gelato (three little scoops). Avoid ordering gelato unless you know the price in advance.

• On the main road into Positano, we stopped at the restaurant Il Canneto (Via G. Marconi, 87, Positano; phone +39 089 875881, It had a great view and a good lunch for under $10 per person, including Momma’s homemade cannelloni, which were excellent.

We had taken the bus to Positano, gotten off at the first stop and had begun a slow walk downhill into town. The owner of Il Canneto told us about the stairs that were a shortcut from walking the road and a lot safer.

• After seeing the wonderful mosaics at the Roman villa of Casale outside the town of Piazza Armerina, we stopped for an excellent lunch at Ristorante ‘da Nino’ di Schillaci Pierantonio (Via Gebbia, 12 94015, Piazza Armerina, Sicily). The price was $52 for four.

• In Cefalù, Sicily, we had an excellent meal at La Corte dei Golosi (Piazza Duomo 18, 90015, Cefalù; phone 09 219 25912), in front of the main church. Our meal cost $15 for excellent grilled calamari and $7 for good pizza.

We had great food in Sicily wherever we ate. Saying “one for two” conveyed the idea that we wanted to share a dish, even where English was not spoken very well.

If anyone has questions, you can contact me at

— Harriet S. Hughes, Alexandria, VA