Report Cards

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

From GLASGOW, Scotland, Oct. 4, 2009…

Two Fat Ladies at the Buttery (652-654 Argyle St., Glasgow; phone 0141 221 8188,

White tablecloths. Appetizers, mains and a bottle of Viognier for £62.50 (near $100) for two.

Café Gandalfi (64 Albion St., Glasgow; phone 0141 552 6813, — in the Merchant City area and less formal than Two Fat Ladies.

£48.75 ($78) for a delicious tomato fennel soup and “Arbroath smokies” (smoked haddock) baked in cream with tomatoes for me and a saddle of rabbit for my wife, Kay. This price included our wine and beer.

• We searched out a new restaurant, Crabshakk (1114 Argyle St., Finnieston; phone 0141 334 6127,

Tasty scallops, fish & chips and a cold fish plate plus wine and beer for £40 ($64).

• Since we were in Glasgow on the weekend, we found the Barras Market (244 Gallowgate St., Glasgow) open; it’s open 10-5 Saturday-Sunday. It features an immense array of antiques and jumble sales. Although we didn’t find any bargains, Loch Fyne Shellfish Bar (192 London Rd; phone 0141 552 3827), across from one of the entrances, offered pints of hot steamed mussels in a Styrofoam cup for £1.70.

• We took the hop-on/hop-off, 21-stop City Sightseeing Glasgow bus. (Buy tickets on board the bus or online at www.citysightseeing With online discount, the senior fare of £6 each was valid for two days and allowed us to easily get to the Kelvingrove and Hunterian gallery museums as well as many other sites.

— Al Standish, Port Ludlow, WA

From RIGA, Latvia, Sept. 23, 2009…

• During my visit to Riga, Latvia, Sept. 19-23, 2009, I had an excellent 90-minute “classical full-body massage” at Bellezza, a beauty shop/spa in Hotel Avalon (70 Kaleju St., Riga, Latvia LV-1050; phone +371 671 69 999, fax 671 60 751,

The price was LVL30 (near $55). The masseuse, Karina Pulca, was outstanding, very professional and effective. I highly recommend her.

My room at the Avalon cost $127 per night, which included a good buffet breakfast.

• One of the main selling points of the Avalon is its location, five minutes away from an area of excellent small shops and a 15-minute walk from the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia 1940-1991 (Streinieku laukums 1, Riga; phone +[371] 67 212 715,, which displays photos and articles from the Nazi and Soviet occupations. This museum is excellent.

— Bruce Kielsmeier, Klamath Falls, OR

From PARIS, France, Oct. 4, 2009…

If you’re planning to spend time in Paris before or after taking a river cruise, consider staying at the 3-star Hotel Eiffel-Kennedy (12 rue de Boulainvilliers, Paris, France 75016; phone +33 0 1 45 24 45 75,

It’s on the right bank of the Seine, a five- to 10-minute walk from the Quai de Grenelle (site of Paris’ “Statue of Liberty”), which will likely be your ship’s dock. There are convenient bus stops and a station for the RER-C1 near the hotel. The closest Métro stop is the M9 line an 8-minute walk away.

The hotel’s nontouristy neighborhood includes numerous restaurants, groceries, bakeries, etc. It’s a busy area, but the hotel’s thick windows shut out the street noise.

A renovated 19th-century building near the huge Radio France complex, this moderate-size hotel has about 30 rooms, which are small but nicely furnished and have A/C. We paid €140 ($204) for the night of Oct. 3.

The front desk staffers on duty during our brief stay were friendly and helpful and spoke English. There’s free WiFi in all rooms and a free PC with broadband access in the lobby.

The unusual and appealing buffet breakfast is a pricy €10 (near $15) per person, but if you’re hungry it’s worth it.

— Stephen O. Addison, Jr., Charlotte, NC

From GRAN CANARIA, Spain, Sept. 28, 2009…

I read many travelers’ recommendations on the Internet for the adults-only, 4-star Hotel Neptuno (Avda. Alféceres Provisionales 29, 35100 Playa del Inglés, Gran Canaria, Islas Canarias, Spain; phone +351 291 724 256, fax 291 762 171, and stayed there Sept. 15-28, 2009.

My reservation was very efficiently handled by I paid $1,675 for 13 nights’ lodging plus breakfasts and dinners. (The hotel’s website shows €70 [near $104] for a single with half board and €97 for a double.)

Hotel Neptuno’s location is terrific. A 10-minute walk from the Playa del Inglés (or a short ride on the courtesy shuttle provided by the hotel), it’s next to the Yumbo Centrum shopping mall. Across from the mall, you can catch the No. 66 bus, which goes directly to the airport for only €3.20 ($4.77); a taxi to the airport costs €40. You can also catch a No. 30 bus to the capital, Las Palmas, about 30 minutes away.

Often, Europeans have a different concept of what a “4-star” hotel is than Americans do, but I would consider Hotel Neptuno up to any 4-star standard. The marble floors in the lobby shone like mirrors, the bar was very comfortable, the dining room was big, the gardens were well kept, the pool was cleaned every day (and towels provided poolside) and the staff was superb and a pleasure to deal with.

My room was very spacious and comfortable and had a balcony, as do all the rooms. The amenities included a big flat-screen TV, a small refrigerator-bar and both a tub and shower.

The food was excellent and different every day. Breakfasts were buffet style.

Most of the guests in the hotel seemed to be chartered groups of Germans, Dutch and Belgians on seven-day stays.

— Sonia Ibanez, New York, NY