Report Cards

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From BOLÍVAR, Colombia, Feb. 5, 2010

Casa Sweety (Calle del Guerrero 29b-119, Getsemani, Cartagena de Indias, D.T., Bolívar, Colombia; phone +57 [5] 664 1315 or, in the US, 415/746-6876) is a bed-and-breakfast located just outside the old walled city of Cartagena. We booked our room by phone for approximately $95 per night for Feb. 1-5, 2010.

Casa Sweety is a gem. For the price, the amenities are exceptional: terrific breakfasts; well-kept, immaculate rooms; a small swimming pool with Jacuzzi; free WiFi, and more.

But what makes this place stand out is the staff. The manager, Alicia, is an American, so language is no problem. The staff is courteous and professional, and they make every effort to ensure that guests are comfortable. They help in arranging tours and locating restaurants and shopping areas.

In our 25-plus years of travel, we found this establishment to be one of the best!

— Carol Quick, Temperance, MI

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica, Jan. 3

The shop Galería Namu, on Seventh Avenue between Fifth and Seventh streets in San José, is a great find!

This is a fair-trade gallery and shop of native folk art run by a knowledgeable man originally from Ireland. The items for sale are of high quality, not tourist junk. For each item purchased, you are given an explanatory sheet detailing the people/tribe by whom it was made.

I bought a beaded collar for $38. Open 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Mon.-Sat. and 11-4 Sun.

— Florence Drake, Readfield, ME

COPÁN, Honduras, Jan. 28

One of the best guides we have had in many years of travel is Sergio Garcia (cell phone 00502 5346 1063 or e-mail sergiomga@gmail.com), whom we used on our trip to Guatemala and Honduras, Jan. 23-28, 2010.

As a Mayan, Sergio was able to give us unique insights into the culture. He speaks four languages fluently, is currently working on his master’s degree and was always informative in an entertaining way.

We started in Antigua, Guatemala, and continued to the western highlands and Lake Atitlán, then Copán, Honduras. The cost for two people for five days was $1,100, including car, gas, all entrance fees, lake boat and five full days of Sergio’s services. Hotels and food were additional expenses.

I originally felt that his price was rather high, but my husband and I agree that it was worth every penny!

Sergio has been giving tours for years and, consequently, optimized each place we visited. He zipped us through the Honduras border crossing without delay and got us our own boat on Lake Atitlán. He took us off the beaten tourist tracks, showed us Mayan markets and museums that weren’t even in guidebooks, etc.

He is also a good driver — a critical asset in Guatemala.

— Carol Probst, Bethel Park, PA

NÜRNBERG, Germany, Dec. 10, 2009

Burghotel Stammhaus (Schild­gasse 14-16, Nürnberg; phone 49 [0] 911203040, fax 11226503) — half a block from the castle and a block from the Hauptmarkt (main square). This hotel offers shuttle service to/from airport and train station for less than the price of a taxi.

Staff speaks English and was very helpful and friendly.

When I arrived early at 10 a.m., my single, nonsmoking room with a view of the small city park was not ready. I was given a choice of leaving my luggage at the small reception area and going sightseeing or taking another room on the street side. I chose the available room, on the fourth floor (elevator). Street noise was minimal during the day and I heard nothing at night.

My single room was comfortably furnished with desk & chair, upholstered chair, mini-fridge, TV, phone and luggage rack. Bed linens and towels, a cheery yellow, were new. The bathroom was small, with shower only, but very clean. The price for my stay, Dec. 7-10, was €65 per day with breakfast. (In 2010, €67 single or €82 double plus €6 breakfast.)

The breakfast buffet had a very nice selection of hot and cold items, including Christmas cookies!

— Linda Bulgreen, Monterey, CA

LUCCA, Italy, Oct. 30

Villa Aquilea is a 500-year-old residence near Aquilea, in the hills above Lucca. It is owned by Jim and Katie Edmunds (3585 Longwood Ave., Boulder, CO 80305; phone 303/494-1581 or, during the season, to Italy at 011 [39] 333 668 8968).

For a week at this villa, Oct. 24-30, 2009, our friends made a reservation online for 11 of us for $4,704.

Completely updated, this villa had rooms and baths for all of us plus an in-ground swimming pool.

We cooked dinner together in the evening, and couples did their own touring during the day. There is easy access to Lucca, Pisa, Florence, etc. One evening, Jim came by and made pizza with us in an ancient outdoor wood oven.

This place is perfect for a large family vacation or a group of good friends.

— Bernard T. Wall, Chicago, IL

ZÜRICH, Switzerland, Sept. 20

A small, modern and clean studio apartment — Universitatstrasse 80, 8006, No. 33 — of Apartments Swiss Star gmbh (Zürich; phone +41 43 255 57 57, fax 57 58). We booked online through Booking.com.

Within walking distance of the city center and three supermarkets. Kloten airport was 30 minutes away by tram No. 10; the one-way fare was CHF6.20 (about $6).

We paid $1,393 for 13 days ($107 per day), Sept. 7-20, 2009.

No elevator. My third-floor room (my request) had a view. The double bed was good and the bathroom had a tub and shower. All modern conveniences, including small refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, TV and phone.

A half hour after I moved in, the owners knocked on my door to give me a welcome package of two bottles of wine, butter, milk, bread, cold cuts, chocolate and more.

I walked to the Bahnhofstrasse, the River Limmat and Zürichsee. I left a lot of shoe leather in Zürich, even though there was a tram stop right in front. Additional costs were $90 for food and tram fares.

— Theresa Lynam, Vancouver, WA

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From BOLÍVAR, Colombia, Feb. 5, 2010

Casa Sweety (Calle del Guerrero 29b-119, Getsemani, Cartagena de Indias, D.T., Bolívar, Colombia; phone +57 [5] 664 1315 or, in the US, 415/746-6876) is a bed-and-breakfast located just outside the old walled city of Cartagena. We booked our room by phone for approximately $95 per night for Feb. 1-5, 2010.

Casa Sweety is a gem. For the price, the amenities are exceptional: terrific breakfasts; well-kept, immaculate rooms; a small swimming pool with Jacuzzi; free WiFi, and more.

But what makes this place stand out is the staff. The manager, Alicia, is an American, so language is no problem. The staff is courteous and professional, and they make every effort to ensure that guests are comfortable. They help in arranging tours and locating restaurants and shopping areas.

In our 25-plus years of travel, we found this establishment to be one of the best!

— Carol Quick, Temperance, MI

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica, Jan. 3

The shop Galería Namu, on Seventh Avenue between Fifth and Seventh streets in San José, is a great find!

This is a fair-trade gallery and shop of native folk art run by a knowledgeable man originally from Ireland. The items for sale are of high quality, not tourist junk. For each item purchased, you are given an explanatory sheet detailing the people/tribe by whom it was made.

I bought a beaded collar for $38. Open 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Mon.-Sat. and 11-4 Sun.

— Florence Drake, Readfield, ME

COPÁN, Honduras, Jan. 28

One of the best guides we have had in many years of travel is Sergio Garcia (cell phone 00502 5346 1063 or e-mail sergiomga@gmail.com), whom we used on our trip to Guatemala and Honduras, Jan. 23-28, 2010.

As a Mayan, Sergio was able to give us unique insights into the culture. He speaks four languages fluently, is currently working on his master’s degree and was always informative in an entertaining way.

We started in Antigua, Guatemala, and continued to the western highlands and Lake Atitlán, then Copán, Honduras. The cost for two people for five days was $1,100, including car, gas, all entrance fees, lake boat and five full days of Sergio’s services. Hotels and food were additional expenses.

I originally felt that his price was rather high, but my husband and I agree that it was worth every penny!

Sergio has been giving tours for years and, consequently, optimized each place we visited. He zipped us through the Honduras border crossing without delay and got us our own boat on Lake Atitlán. He took us off the beaten tourist tracks, showed us Mayan markets and museums that weren’t even in guidebooks, etc.

He is also a good driver — a critical asset in Guatemala.

— Carol Probst, Bethel Park, PA

NÜRNBERG, Germany, Dec. 10, 2009

Burghotel Stammhaus (Schild­gasse 14-16, Nürnberg; phone 49 [0] 911203040, fax 11226503) — half a block from the castle and a block from the Hauptmarkt (main square). This hotel offers shuttle service to/from airport and train station for less than the price of a taxi.

Staff speaks English and was very helpful and friendly.

When I arrived early at 10 a.m., my single, nonsmoking room with a view of the small city park was not ready. I was given a choice of leaving my luggage at the small reception area and going sightseeing or taking another room on the street side. I chose the available room, on the fourth floor (elevator). Street noise was minimal during the day and I heard nothing at night.

My single room was comfortably furnished with desk & chair, upholstered chair, mini-fridge, TV, phone and luggage rack. Bed linens and towels, a cheery yellow, were new. The bathroom was small, with shower only, but very clean. The price for my stay, Dec. 7-10, was €65 per day with breakfast. (In 2010, €67 single or €82 double plus €6 breakfast.)

The breakfast buffet had a very nice selection of hot and cold items, including Christmas cookies!

— Linda Bulgreen, Monterey, CA

LUCCA, Italy, Oct. 30

Villa Aquilea is a 500-year-old residence near Aquilea, in the hills above Lucca. It is owned by Jim and Katie Edmunds (3585 Longwood Ave., Boulder, CO 80305; phone 303/494-1581 or, during the season, to Italy at 011 [39] 333 668 8968).

For a week at this villa, Oct. 24-30, 2009, our friends made a reservation online for 11 of us for $4,704.

Completely updated, this villa had rooms and baths for all of us plus an in-ground swimming pool.

We cooked dinner together in the evening, and couples did their own touring during the day. There is easy access to Lucca, Pisa, Florence, etc. One evening, Jim came by and made pizza with us in an ancient outdoor wood oven.

This place is perfect for a large family vacation or a group of good friends.

— Bernard T. Wall, Chicago, IL

ZÜRICH, Switzerland, Sept. 20

A small, modern and clean studio apartment — Universitatstrasse 80, 8006, No. 33 — of Apartments Swiss Star gmbh (Zürich; phone +41 43 255 57 57, fax 57 58). We booked online through Booking.com.

Within walking distance of the city center and three supermarkets. Kloten airport was 30 minutes away by tram No. 10; the one-way fare was CHF6.20 (about $6).

We paid $1,393 for 13 days ($107 per day), Sept. 7-20, 2009.

No elevator. My third-floor room (my request) had a view. The double bed was good and the bathroom had a tub and shower. All modern conveniences, including small refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, TV and phone.

A half hour after I moved in, the owners knocked on my door to give me a welcome package of two bottles of wine, butter, milk, bread, cold cuts, chocolate and more.

I walked to the Bahnhofstrasse, the River Limmat and Zürichsee. I left a lot of shoe leather in Zürich, even though there was a tram stop right in front. Additional costs were $90 for food and tram fares.

— Theresa Lynam, Vancouver, WA