Travel recommendations from L.A. Times readers

8:00 AM PDT, April 12, 2014

Fine dining in Monticchiello, Italy

La Taverna di Moranda in Monticchiello, Italy, is our favorite restaurant in the Tuscany and Umbria region. After eating there for the first time, we made a reservation for a second night. When we returned two years later, we stayed nearby just to be near Monticchiello. We had the Florentine steak twice and the lamb twice. Both were amazing. The restaurant is very romantic; it looks like a wine cave.

Go Metrolink to explore Southern California on a weekend day

8:00 AM PDT, April 5, 2014

Go Metrolink to explore Southern California on a weekend day

For local trips, try Metrolink, which offers a $10 weekend day pass [Saturday or Sunday]. Angelenos might enjoy the antiques stores in Orange and the pier in San Clemente. There is more to see in San Juan Capistrano than the mission. In Riverside, the Mission Inn is definitely worth seeing.

8:00 AM PDT, March 29, 2014

Readers recommend: Harvinder Tours & Travels in Delhi, India

Harvinder Singh is a friendly, kind, protective and generally delightful man who will drive you anywhere and also treat you to special places and experiences in Delhi, India.

8:00 AM PDT, March 22, 2014

Readers recommend: Morgan's Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge in Nicaragua

Morgan's Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, is the best place I've stayed in Central America. There are 15 exquisite bungalows set in a 4,000-acre jungle. We had the entire beach to ourselves, where we rode horses. The kids also toured the farm where they milked cows and took the eggs from the hen and made a wonderful breakfast (hands-on cooking, where they learned to make tortillas from scratch). We went on beautiful rain-forest hikes and dined at its wonderful restaurant — really had it all in one spot. Rates vary according to season.

8:00 AM PDT, March 15, 2014

Readers recommend: Bags VIP delivery service

I used the Bags VIP delivery service to pick up my checked luggage at the airport on a recent trip to New York. Although the clerk at JetBlue said he knew nothing about how to affix the green Bags VIP sticker, his supervisor did. The scene in New York City is such that my bag arrived at my hotel before I did. I wish it picked up luggage at home and not just at airports, but the service is reasonable, friendly and efficient. One bag, $29.95; two bags, $39.95; three-eight bags, $49.95.

Readers recommend: Athens taxi driver/guide

8:00 AM PST, March 1, 2014

Readers recommend: Athens taxi driver/guide

In October we ended our cruise in Athens and had one day to see the highlights. Christos Kapsalis, our taxi driver, offered to show us the sights for four hours and then take us to our hotel. We reached a price that we thought was good, and we highly recommend his service.

8:00 AM PST, February 22, 2014

Readers Recommend: Cafe Gitane in New York City

Cafe Gitane, adjacent to the Jane Hotel in the West Village, offers pastries from four-star Balthazar Bakery, along with menu items such as herbed goat cheese with pomegranate syrup. It's a good place to nourish yourself before exploring the High Line, three blocks away. Open 7 a.m.-midnight Sundays-Thursdays, 7 a.m.-1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Readers Recommend: The chef's table at Root 246 in Solvang, Calif.

8:00 AM PST, February 15, 2014

Readers Recommend: The chef's table at Root 246 in Solvang, Calif.

On a recent girlfriends weekend, I had a wonderful experience at the chef's table at Root 246 in Solvang, Calif. For $88 each, we were treated to a multicourse chef-designed meal with wine (or beer) pairings. Chef Seth Nelson and his staff could not have been more welcoming. Dining in the kitchen was a fun first. The food and wine were excellent, and the experience was first rate.

8:00 AM PST, February 1, 2014

Readers recommend: Shalom Israel Tours

We had a perfectly planned individualized tour of Israel with Shalom Israel Tours. We were well taken care of; everything was organized down to the last detail, from the minute we landed in Tel Aviv to the ride back to the airport. Our tour was based on our interests, and only the best hotels were booked. The guides were amazing and had great knowledge of the history and background of each place we visited.

8:00 AM PST, February 8, 2014

Readers Recommend: Nopi restaurant in London

Nopi in London is a wonderful restaurant run by two guys from Jerusalem, one Israeli and one Palestinian. It serves Middle Eastern food prepared with surprising spices and herbs.

Readers Recommend: Around Morocco Tours

8:00 AM PST, January 11, 2014

Readers Recommend: Around Morocco Tours

In October, we took a 16-day guided tour of the UNESCO sites in Morocco with Around Morocco Tours. Lahcen Boujouija provided door-to-door service, knowledgeable guides for big cities, and never let a question go unanswered. He guided us to restaurants where we felt as if we were getting royal treatment. The people were welcoming everywhere. The Atlas Mountains were breathtaking, and the monkeys entertaining. The hotels even on the edge of the desert were top-notch. Tour prices vary depending on days of travel.

8:00 AM PST, January 25, 2014

Reader recommendation: Bancroft Hotel near UC Berkeley hits the spot

The Bancroft Hotel has a great location across the street from UC Berkeley. It's a registered historical landmark but has been modernized and utilizes all organic linens and products and is certified as an environmentally green business. There is complimentary continental breakfast and convenient parking. It is 100% smoke-free. A delightful staff caters to your every need. Rooms from $139.

8:00 AM PST, January 4, 2014

Readers recommend: La Fusion in San Francisco

We were looking for a restaurant within walking distance of the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco and found a great spot that even our local friends didn't know about. We all raved about its empanadas, roasted chicken and sangria. Its ceviche was the best I have had outside of Peru. The servers made us all feel like regulars. Call for reservations if more than two, because there are only a few large tables and a few seats at the lovely bar.

8:00 AM PST, December 28, 2013

Readers Recommend: Restaurant Lastage in Amsterdam is a gem

Restaurant Lastage, about a 10-minute walk from the Central Station in Amsterdam, is a real gem with a Michelin star, elegant service and reasonable prices. Reservations are necessary. We found it by accident and were given a table because of a last-minute cancellation. We were delighted with our find.

8:00 AM PST, December 21, 2013

Hearst Tower Room available

If you ever wanted to spend the night at a Hearst property designed by Julia Morgan, here is your chance. Book a Tower Room at the Historical Hacienda, William Randolph Hearst's Rancho Milpitas — and you would swear Errol Flynn is staying next door. The added bonus is Mission San Antonio, a mile down the road. Have your ID, insurance and car registration handy because the hacienda is on Ft. Hunter Liggett property. Have a pizza at the bowling alley or enjoy a drink at historic Club Hacienda. Newly updated suites are available, but the Tower Rooms have the most Hearst-like features.

8:00 AM PST, December 14, 2013

Northern Vietnam, with the help of Win An Tours

We just returned from a two-week tour of northern Vietnam, with the itinerary planned by Win An Tours. It featured a mixture of biking, hiking and kayaking; traveling was by boat, train and bus. Every detail was planned yet flexible. We visited a national park, the Sapa region (the "roof" of Indochina) and the Ha Long Bay area. Our guides were helpful, knowledgeable and entertaining.

8:00 AM PST, November 30, 2013

Readers recommend Dominican Republic

The Majestic Colonial Punta Cana is truly majestic. This all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic has something for everyone, but upgrade to the adults-only section and you will not be disappointed. With the upgrade you have an assigned butler 24/7 as well as two private swimming pools with Bali beds and numerous restaurant choices. The grounds are immaculate, and every employee has a smile.

6:30 AM PST, November 16, 2013

Readers Recommend: Tour guide in Turkey

On the recommendation of friends, we hired Nesli Kilinc for a 21/2-day tour of Istanbul. Not only was she very knowledgable, she was also sweet and helpful. In addition to the historic sites (some off the beaten track), she had wonderful recommendations for restaurants and retailers. She also provided a one-day tour of Ephesus. I highly recommend Nesli at Marmara Tours.

8:00 AM PST, November 9, 2013

Readers Recommend: Hawthorn House Bed & Breakfast in Ireland

Hawthorn House Bed & Breakfast, in Kenmare, County Kerry, Ireland, is a lovely stop on a journey around the Ring of Kerry. Small and welcoming, all rooms are en suite and kept beautifully by hosts Noel and Mary O'Brien. Breakfasts are excellent, served in the cheery, sunny dining room. Kenmare itself is a treasure to be explored. Rooms from about $55 per person, double occupancy.

6:30 AM PST, November 3, 2013

Morocco through the attentive eyes of Zayan Travel

Younes Farhat, owner of Zayan Travel, helped us map out a comprehensive two-week private tour of Morocco. Hafid was our driver and guide-at-large for the trip. We came to know him as a person, met his family, saw Morocco through his eyes and were introduced to people and places that transformed our long-held fantasy into a fantastical reality. Hafid, which means guardian, was true to his name. He watched over us, attended to our every wish and soon anticipated our needs. We cannot recommend more highly the Younes/Hafid team.

8:00 AM PDT, October 26, 2013

Readers recommend: Home Hotel Buenos Aires

Home Hotel Buenos Aires is the first boutique hotel in the Palermo Hollywood neighborhood of Buenos Aires and still its epicenter. We have stayed here for seven years in a row. It's small and intimate, with five-star service from a friendly staff. Have lunch in the English garden and watch the parade of fascinating people — both tourists and locals from the entertainment industry.

8:00 AM PDT, October 19, 2013

Travel reader tip: Rockwell hotel in an ideal London locale

The Rockwell, in tranquil South Kensington, a block-and-a-half from the Earl's Court Tube station, is a great base camp in London. It's ideally suited for shopping, and Hyde Park and the Victoria and Albert Museum are near. The staff is professional but friendly. The 40 rooms are bright and restful with nice en suite bathrooms. There is a restaurant-bar where in clement weather guests dine at tables under umbrellas on the spacious private terrace. A crackling fire burns year-round in the reception area.

October 13, 2013

Travel reader tip: Tours of Tuscany's Italian villa package

Tours of Tuscany offers one- and two-week stays for one to three couples in a Tuscan villa. It was a complete package with escorted day trips, all meals and wonderful company. We were delighted with Ines Fabris' attention to detail and her respect for our time and interests. A relaxing and beautiful Tuscan vacation.

8:00 AM PDT, October 5, 2013

Readers Recommend: Molenaars Droom B&B in Antwerp, Belgium

A lovely double room with private bath and all conveniences, together with a delightful breakfast in a beautiful home in Antwerp, Belgium, for about $94 a night (about $108, double occupancy), would be remarkable enough, but add the charming hostess, the friendly and helpful Greta Stevens, and you have a travel experience not to be forgotten. It's just off the tram line and close to the Royal Museum of Fine Arts and the lively t'Zuid restaurant district, and a short tram hop to the central station and the old city.

September 28, 2013

Readers Recommend: Istanbul's Hotel Sultanhan

The Hotel Sultanhan in Istanbul's Old City is close to most of the important sites. The hotel is a surprise in an unassuming neighborhood. It has a wonderful roof-top restaurant and a helpful, English-speaking staff. Doubles from about $350.

September 22, 2013

Readers Recommend: Israeli guide Meir Moore

I cannot recommend more highly Meir Moore as a personal guide for travels throughout Israel. He kept our teens busy with outdoor sports while sneaking in all the historical spots.

8:00 AM PDT, September 14, 2013

Readers Recommend: Sea Song Tours in Turkey

On a trip to Istanbul last fall, we followed a Perrin's People recommendation and used Karen Fedorko Sefer at Sea Song Tours. It would not have been the same trip had we not used this excellent service. Nigar, our guide, was experienced, knowledgeable and warmly personal. We saw parts of Istanbul not available to the casual traveler. Our only mistake was not using Sea Song for Ephesus. We took the ship's tour, and it was pitiful and much more expensive. We highly recommend Sea Song Tours.

8:00 AM PDT, September 7, 2013

Readers Recommend: AlignMed shirt helps tall flier get comfortable

I fly internationally and am 6 feet, 5 inches tall. It was hard for me to get comfortable in any seat, much less to sit for 12 to 15 hours in coach, until I found AlignMed and its Align Therapy "posture shirt." It is a must for flying. I call it a flight suit because it allows me to get off the plane and feel human. I am not wracked with pain or stiffness. It is a travel secret; I know pilots wear them, but they should be in everyone's wardrobe.

8:00 AM PDT, August 31, 2013

A wonderful lakeside B&B in Italy

One of the highlights of our four weeks in Italy was the Alberghetto la Marianna, a B&B on the shores of Lake Como just 10 minutes by ferry from Bellagio. It's immaculate and affordable, with wonderful innkeepers. Breakfast is served lakeside every morning, and Paola's husband prepares the most delicious dinners every night in the restaurant downstairs. The ferry is a short walk away; Villa Carlotta is a bit farther but an enjoyable walk because it's all lakeside.

Readers Recommend: Handmade wood products at store in Greek island of Corfu

8:00 AM PDT, July 27, 2013

Readers Recommend: Handmade wood products at store in Greek island of Corfu

The Spirit of Olive Wood, on the Greek island of Corfu, offers a great selection of handmade wood products and will ship to the U.S.

8:00 AM PDT, July 20, 2013

Lazy J Ranch Motel in Three Rivers, Calif.: Reader recommendation

I highly recommend the Lazy J Ranch Motel, about three hours from Los Angeles. It's a wonderful place to stay with your dog. There is a large, grassy area next to the pool where the dog can run and play. The Kaweah River, a short walking distance away, provides a beautiful walk for both man and dog. Lake Kaweah, a 10-minute drive, has picnic boat rentals that perfectly accommodate the pooch. Much fun for all. Rooms from about $145 a night.

8:00 AM PDT, July 13, 2013

Readers Recommend: Hotel 17 a satisfying New York City bargain

For a bargain price at a central location in New York City, try Hotel 17, four blocks from Union Square. This hotel appeals to everyone from students to seniors. The inexpensive rooms all have shared coed bathrooms. In-room safes come with all accommodations, but in a "senior moment" I left mine open with all valuables on display. I returned to find them intact. Doubles, with shared bath, from $137.75

8:00 AM PDT, June 29, 2013


Discover Yosemite tour is an all-day delight

I highly recommend the all-day Discover Yosemite tour. It picked us up at Tenaya Lodge, where we were staying, at 8:30 a.m. and took us to all the major lookouts on what turned out to be a picture-perfect day. The driver-guide was very knowledgeable about the history and geology of the region. We returned to the lodge at 5 p.m. The price was $118 for adults (age 16 and older) and included a box lunch that we ate near Yosemite Falls. It was wonderful to have someone else do the driving (and parking).

6:30 AM PDT, June 22, 2013

Readers Recommend: Blissful guides in Sedona, Ariz.

We just returned from a trip to Sedona, Ariz., where we contacted longtime resident and musician Peter Sterling for a red rock tour. At one spot, we lay down on the flat red rocks. Then he played a rose quartz crystal bowl over us during a guided meditation. At another site, we sat out on the ledge of the rock. There, he held his "wind" harp over us and the wind danced over the strings. We could feel its vibration. That was a beautiful highlight of my trip. The next day we both got massages from his partner, Crystal Bliss, that were absolutely heavenly.

Readers recommend: Somadevi Angkor Hotel in Cambodia

8:00 AM PDT, June 8, 2013

Readers recommend: Somadevi Angkor Hotel in Cambodia

Angkor Wat was the highlight of our Cambodia tour, and the beautiful lobby, gardens and pool with a swim-up bar at the Somadevi Angkor Hotel added to our experience. The hotel is an easy walk to restaurants and the night markets. The lobby and bar had ample seating and free Wi-Fi, with more outdoor sitting areas overlooking the gardens surrounding a large pool. Our clean, spacious room overlooked the pool and included a safe and mini-bar. Doubles from about $51.

8:00 AM PDT, May 25, 2013

Readers Recommend: Fleur de Lis in Tremezzo, Italy

Our favorite gift shop is in the heart of Tremezzo, Italy, on Lake Como. Items include custom jewelry made by the owner and handbags by her mother. There's also a selection of Murano glass. Nice selection and moderate prices.

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