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From PARIS, France, Jan. 6

We have a long list of favorite restaurants in Paris but try to find something new each trip. During our Dec. 26, 2009-Jan. 6, 2010, visit, we found two interesting small restaurants of special note. Both were well attended by locals — always a good sign!

Chez Nathalie (45 rue Vandrezanne, 75013 Paris; phone 01 45 80 20 42). The fish in this very small establishment was excellent. Our lunch of two entrées (a whole dorade and scallops), house wine, bottled water and a digestif came to €74 ($106).

JanTchi Restaurant Coréen (6 rue Thérèse, 75001 Paris; phone 01 40 15 91 07). Traditional Korean fare with more than enough variety for anyone. Two entrées with numerous little side dishes, water and hot tea for €30 ($43).

— Mary Rack & Dave Fulk, Overland Park, KS

ISTANBUL, Turkey, Dec. 24

Hotel Stone (Binbirdirek Mahallesi, Sehit Mehmet pasa Yokusu, Sk. No 34, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey; phone +90 212 638 1554, fax 212 517 6330, www.stonehotel.net), Dec. 16-23. In an excellent location in the Old City, only a few short blocks from the Hippodrome, Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.

The men at the desk were the most friendly and helpful of any hotel I’ve stayed in.

Room was small but had a beautiful view of the Golden Horn. Elevator. With discount for cash, double room cost €50 (near $72), buffet breakfast included. Stay four or more nights and free transfer from airport is included.

Two drawbacks: the bed was very soft and, due to the location near mosques, the morning call to prayer is a wake-up call around 6 a.m.

• I took a day tour to Princes’ Island off the coast of Istanbul with Gray Line, booked through Plan Tours (Cumhuriyet Caddesi, 83/1, 34373 Elmadag, Istanbul, Turkey; phone +90 212 234 7777, www.plantours.com) — great way to relax and see beautiful scenery.

Full-day tour cost €65 ($94) and included pickup/dropoff at hotel, cruise to island and tour in horse-drawn carriage plus lunch at fish restaurant.

— George Lauscher, Pocono Summit, PA

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica, Jan. 3

The following are among the hotels at which we stayed on the “Real Affordable Costa Rica” tour with Overseas Adventure Travel, Dec. 22, 2009-Jan. 3, 2010 (from Miami, about $2,200 each, with insurance). The prices are the per-room prices if you booked the room yourself.

Clarion Hotel Amon Plaza (Avenida 11, Calle 3 Bis, San José, 1000 Costa Rica; phone [506] 2523-4600, www.hotelamonplaza.com) — a clean, upscale hotel in a quietly deteriorating neighborhood in the old part of town. Security guard on duty outside 24/7.

$109 for a double and a big breakfast. Nice restaurant with terrace and good food (especially the Aztec Soup!). Full meals around $10. Good little gift shop and business center with Internet-connected computers. Airport shuttle.

SarapiquíS Rainforest Lodge (phone 011 506 761 1004 or, in US/Can., 866/581-0782, www.sarapiquis.org) — in Tirimbina Biological Reserve.

Wonderful palapas (round, thatched buildings), each containing eight pie-shaped rooms. Each room opens out to a patio which circles the building. Makes a pleasant place to sit and read or dry laundry.

Great grounds, well landscaped. Very nice pool. No computers for guests to use. Open-air restaurant with good food. Interesting little archaeological museum on site.

Cano Negro Lodge (phone [506] 2265 1204, www.canonegro

lodge.com) — very far north in Costa Rica, near Liberia and Upala in the Alajuela province. Lodge is within walking distance of a tiny village with a little grocery store.

Okay rooms, clean but plain. $100 double.

Nice grounds. Great pool, with swim-up bar. No Internet capabilities. Open-air restaurant and bar. Chef made special no-salt meals for my husband.

Villa Lapas Hotel (phone [506] 2637-0232, www.villalapas.com) — south of Puntarenas in Guanacaste province.

This place is trying to be a fancy resort but isn’t quite there yet. Rooms noisy, with thin walls. Smell of sewage occasionally from open ditches behind the rooms. $121 double.

Friendly staff. One Internet computer, working well. Nice pool. Well-landscaped grounds. Pretty little shopping village as part of the complex that houses the restaurant. Restaurant served the best food on our trip, with many choices, all well prepared.

— Florence Drake, Readfield, ME

LYON, France, Oct. 1

• Travelers who like to stay near the Part-Dieu station in Lyon might like the hotel Le Britania (17 rue Professeur Weill, 69006 Lyon; phone 04 78 52 86 52, www.hotel

britania.com). It is 700 meters from the station, and if your luggage is light you can walk it in 15 minutes or so.

We had a small room — well, let us not beat around the bush, a minuscule room — hardly bigger than the double bed it contained. However, all was clean and freshly decorated, and the bath fixtures were brand new and fully operable.

Our window gave onto the rear courtyard and the room was quiet, but I think even a front room would be quiet, as the street is lightly traveled.

For a double, €117 ($168) per night, about €30 more than I would expect to pay for a room of that level of comfort. There was an arts festival, Biennale de Lyon, under way, about which we had known nothing, and I think its many visitors pushed up hotel rates. A few days later in Milan, rates were sky-high at the tail end of Milan Fashion Week.

• The old Brotteaux railroad station, on the east side of Lyon, does not carry many trains anymore, but it does have a good place to eat. The Brasserie L’Est (14, place Jules-Ferry, Gare des Brotteaux, 69006 Lyon; phone 04 37 24 25 26) is one of the restaurants in the Paul Bocuse empire. A big, bustling place, it is decorated with posters with railroad themes, and a model train runs around the room at ceiling height.

My wife had a plump and moist poulet de Bresse with mashed potatoes. I had fillet of fish that had been quickly sautéed in Provençal olive oil. The restaurant has some excellent carafe wines in a convenient 460ml size.

Two dinners, wine and espresso for €54 ($78). Open to 11 weeknights and midnight weekends.

— Michael Mahoney, San Francisco

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From PARIS, France, Jan. 6

We have a long list of favorite restaurants in Paris but try to find something new each trip. During our Dec. 26, 2009-Jan. 6, 2010, visit, we found two interesting small restaurants of special note. Both were well attended by locals — always a good sign!

Chez Nathalie (45 rue Vandrezanne, 75013 Paris; phone 01 45 80 20 42). The fish in this very small establishment was excellent. Our lunch of two entrées (a whole dorade and scallops), house wine, bottled water and a digestif came to €74 ($106).

JanTchi Restaurant Coréen (6 rue Thérèse, 75001 Paris; phone 01 40 15 91 07). Traditional Korean fare with more than enough variety for anyone. Two entrées with numerous little side dishes, water and hot tea for €30 ($43).

— Mary Rack & Dave Fulk, Overland Park, KS

ISTANBUL, Turkey, Dec. 24

Hotel Stone (Binbirdirek Mahallesi, Sehit Mehmet pasa Yokusu, Sk. No 34, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey; phone +90 212 638 1554, fax 212 517 6330, www.stonehotel.net), Dec. 16-23. In an excellent location in the Old City, only a few short blocks from the Hippodrome, Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.

The men at the desk were the most friendly and helpful of any hotel I’ve stayed in.

Room was small but had a beautiful view of the Golden Horn. Elevator. With discount for cash, double room cost €50 (near $72), buffet breakfast included. Stay four or more nights and free transfer from airport is included.

Two drawbacks: the bed was very soft and, due to the location near mosques, the morning call to prayer is a wake-up call around 6 a.m.

• I took a day tour to Princes’ Island off the coast of Istanbul with Gray Line, booked through Plan Tours (Cumhuriyet Caddesi, 83/1, 34373 Elmadag, Istanbul, Turkey; phone +90 212 234 7777, www.plantours.com) — great way to relax and see beautiful scenery.

Full-day tour cost €65 ($94) and included pickup/dropoff at hotel, cruise to island and tour in horse-drawn carriage plus lunch at fish restaurant.

— George Lauscher, Pocono Summit, PA

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica, Jan. 3

The following are among the hotels at which we stayed on the “Real Affordable Costa Rica” tour with Overseas Adventure Travel, Dec. 22, 2009-Jan. 3, 2010 (from Miami, about $2,200 each, with insurance). The prices are the per-room prices if you booked the room yourself.

Clarion Hotel Amon Plaza (Avenida 11, Calle 3 Bis, San José, 1000 Costa Rica; phone [506] 2523-4600, www.hotelamonplaza.com) — a clean, upscale hotel in a quietly deteriorating neighborhood in the old part of town. Security guard on duty outside 24/7.

$109 for a double and a big breakfast. Nice restaurant with terrace and good food (especially the Aztec Soup!). Full meals around $10. Good little gift shop and business center with Internet-connected computers. Airport shuttle.

SarapiquíS Rainforest Lodge (phone 011 506 761 1004 or, in US/Can., 866/581-0782, www.sarapiquis.org) — in Tirimbina Biological Reserve.

Wonderful palapas (round, thatched buildings), each containing eight pie-shaped rooms. Each room opens out to a patio which circles the building. Makes a pleasant place to sit and read or dry laundry.

Great grounds, well landscaped. Very nice pool. No computers for guests to use. Open-air restaurant with good food. Interesting little archaeological museum on site.

Cano Negro Lodge (phone [506] 2265 1204, www.canonegro

lodge.com) — very far north in Costa Rica, near Liberia and Upala in the Alajuela province. Lodge is within walking distance of a tiny village with a little grocery store.

Okay rooms, clean but plain. $100 double.

Nice grounds. Great pool, with swim-up bar. No Internet capabilities. Open-air restaurant and bar. Chef made special no-salt meals for my husband.

Villa Lapas Hotel (phone [506] 2637-0232, www.villalapas.com) — south of Puntarenas in Guanacaste province.

This place is trying to be a fancy resort but isn’t quite there yet. Rooms noisy, with thin walls. Smell of sewage occasionally from open ditches behind the rooms. $121 double.

Friendly staff. One Internet computer, working well. Nice pool. Well-landscaped grounds. Pretty little shopping village as part of the complex that houses the restaurant. Restaurant served the best food on our trip, with many choices, all well prepared.

— Florence Drake, Readfield, ME

LYON, France, Oct. 1

• Travelers who like to stay near the Part-Dieu station in Lyon might like the hotel Le Britania (17 rue Professeur Weill, 69006 Lyon; phone 04 78 52 86 52, www.hotel

britania.com). It is 700 meters from the station, and if your luggage is light you can walk it in 15 minutes or so.

We had a small room — well, let us not beat around the bush, a minuscule room — hardly bigger than the double bed it contained. However, all was clean and freshly decorated, and the bath fixtures were brand new and fully operable.

Our window gave onto the rear courtyard and the room was quiet, but I think even a front room would be quiet, as the street is lightly traveled.

For a double, €117 ($168) per night, about €30 more than I would expect to pay for a room of that level of comfort. There was an arts festival, Biennale de Lyon, under way, about which we had known nothing, and I think its many visitors pushed up hotel rates. A few days later in Milan, rates were sky-high at the tail end of Milan Fashion Week.

• The old Brotteaux railroad station, on the east side of Lyon, does not carry many trains anymore, but it does have a good place to eat. The Brasserie L’Est (14, place Jules-Ferry, Gare des Brotteaux, 69006 Lyon; phone 04 37 24 25 26) is one of the restaurants in the Paul Bocuse empire. A big, bustling place, it is decorated with posters with railroad themes, and a model train runs around the room at ceiling height.

My wife had a plump and moist poulet de Bresse with mashed potatoes. I had fillet of fish that had been quickly sautéed in Provençal olive oil. The restaurant has some excellent carafe wines in a convenient 460ml size.

Two dinners, wine and espresso for €54 ($78). Open to 11 weeknights and midnight weekends.

— Michael Mahoney, San Francisco