So happy to see your debut with The Mature Traveler. At least as important to most of us seniors as the price of travel is the search for smokelessness. Many of us suffer from emphysema, asthma and other bronchial weaknesses, and try to find cruises, bus trips, etc., in foreign countries that guarantee that we will find separate dining areas as well as restricted bus travel for those of us who must be protected from smoke pollution. Please do devote some space to this problem.
A "10" for Yugo Tours on the mature travelers' Hit Parade. They were very inexpensive, but top-drawer all the way. They promised and delivered. Our accommodations in Opatija, Dubrovnik and Athens were the best in town. Our representatives were helpful and friendly, our arrangements for travel and luggage taken out of our hands, and our concerns handled intelligently and with concern for the individual.
A bonus: Wonderful fellow travelers. We had stereotypical impressions of our group--gray, gray, polyester and pills, querulous, slow-moving folk. Were we ever wrong! A warmer, more interesting group of 60-plus I have yet to meet. They came from every walk of life, every type of professional life, and most were really experienced, flexible travelers.
Congratulations on the column. It's about time! We are newly retired teachers and raring to go. What joy not to have to travel summers ever again. Give us lots of bargains and we'll test them all out for you.
Last fall my wife and I spent a month in Portugal and discovered that we could go first-class, both in Lisbon and in rural Portugal, for $100 a day or less. . . . The best hotels, best restaurants, lodging in fine inns and pousadas. We also learned that Portugal has a great deal more to offer than an inherent bargain. This small country off the beaten path offers a true "European experience," replete with interesting architecture, palaces, monuments, museums, sidewalk cafes, waterfront charm, etc. We found the scenery beautiful and surprisingly varied, accommodations clean and appealing, food excellent and wine outstanding, the people cordial and most helpful.
Our trip was so pleasant and relaxing that we plan to do it all over again next fall, maybe including parts of Spain and its paradors, too.
For other mature travelers considering this experience, we would offer some advice: You can hire drivers to take you throughout the countryside, but there's more fun and sense of discovering in driving yourself. We found it neither difficult nor dangerous, and distances between stops were 75-125 miles a day. Such travel is leisurely, but even so, we'd recommend that every third night you stay over an additional night and take the next day easy.
. . . There are, of course, tours offered in Portugal. But if you want to see the heartland of Portugal in your own way, at your own pace, better plan it yourself and drive it yourself. If you do, you'll enjoy the benefits of independent travel at basic prices so low that they're almost like tour bargains, anyway.
In response to your Mature Traveler column, would be interested to hear more of your bargain specials.
Enjoyed reading Jerry Hulse's article, "Senior Class" (Feb. 3). Most interesting and informative. Being a senior, am looking forward to reading The Mature Traveler column by Bill Hughes and Hank Kovell.
FRANK L. ARGALL
I'm delighted to read that you have a special column for mature travelers--I am one. How discerning The Times is to present an article on the graying of America--and now this. Maturians (as Helen Hayes would like us called) are a large part of the marketing future. Not many seem to recognize this fact.
Last May I took a grand circle countryside tour of France, four or five days in each place and optional tours--one of my best trips.
I especially enjoyed the Feb. 3 "Senior Class" article. The Travel section is outstanding. Thanks for all my reading pleasure.
RUTH C. DOYLE
I am looking forward to more of your new feature, The Mature Traveler, not only for its information on traveling but the way you are addressing people 50 and older as mature and not senior citizens. I don't know when a person becomes a senior citizen, as the term is thought of by most people, but being over 50 doesn't make you one. I hope you start a trend in addressing us who are over 50 as mature.
Thank you for the wonderful information on travel for seniors. I am so delighted to know about all those marvelous bargains which no one gets to hear about without your help. I plan to make use of some of it.
The Mature Traveler column will be read with much anticipation. Am hoping you will locate tours geared to the senior having difficulty walking only. Stairs, early and long hours no problem, actually no problem other than walking any distance. Anxious to travel again. Hoping to start packing. Thank you.
LOIS M. NEWBURGER
Congratulations on your new column for mature travelers. It is very welcome. In our fourth years, our tours seem to appeal to seniors. Of course, they are great for all ages. Thanks for your continued support.
For your forthcoming Mature Traveler columns, a suggestion: Rather than always read about cheapest fares and B&Bs;, I and I'm sure lots of others of a "certain" age are also interested in the comforts of travel, quite important once one has reached a certain age. So, what about which airline offers the best business-class, for instance, and which, if any, gives reductions to seniors in first- or business-class? Good luck to your column. There are a lot of us in Southern California who have reached retirement, have money and yearn to travel, but it has to be comfortable.
Gambia Stone Circles
At the beginning of Black History Month (February) I think that it is worthwhile to correct myths about Africa's past in the article on Gambia by Bruce Hamby (Feb. 3). In describing the stone circles for which Gambia and Senegal are famed, he notes their mystery, the belief that they were built by Middle Eastern nomads, and their use as "mass burial sites of human sacrifices."
A single stone circle can include as many as 50 standing stones, each more than 10 feet long, specially quarried and dragged into place. They date between AD 200 and 800 and were built by the ancestors of the present peoples of the area, rather than by any immigrants. The circles were certainly for burial purposes but there is no indication of mass burials or human sacrifices.
director and professor
of African archeology
Institute of Archeology
Into Ouro Preto
The article on Ouro Preto, Brazil (Jan. 27), prompted me to add some interesting information. In 1979 we flew into nearby Belo Horizonte, a city of 2 million, thus shortening our land trip into Ouro Preto. Motor coaches that take you to Ouro Preto must park outside the city because the streets are too narrow to accommodate them. Automobiles do not have a problem, although the road into town is rather steep and winding.
Ouro Preto and the area around it are well worth the time to visit.
Castle in Scotland
Last year you ran a small item about our castle receiving guests. We have been overwhelmed by the response, and had dozens of bookings from California last year, and quite a few of our guests have booked again for this year. Americans seem to enjoy the castle experience and we enjoy having them live with us. We offer a holiday in peaceful and beautiful surroundings but with plenty of exciting and interesting things to do. As members of "Taste of Scotland" we specialize in home-cooked, home-produced food, and our guests come out on our boat and catch their own lobsters. We charge 45 per person a night ($49.50)--this includes full board, and wine with the evening meal.
Shapinsay, Orkney Isles
A Different Barge
Several weeks ago, I believe in the "Tours and Cruises" column, there appeared a short item regarding the barge cruises conducted by Continental Waterways. On the same page was a picture of a canal scene with a barge, presumably intended as an adjunct to the Continental Waterways item. The barge, however, was La Litote, which is operated by a competitor, Horizon Cruises.
My wife and I spent six delightful days with Horizon Cruises, traveling the Canal de Bourgogne on Horizon II. Our stateroom was considerably larger than those we have occupied on large cruise ships. The food and service were without reproach. The crew of five did everything possible to make the 12 passengers comfortable and happy.
On another subject, we enjoyed the Jan. 13 Jerry Hulse article on the Untour, especially since we spent three weeks in Meiringen as arranged by Hal Taussig and his Swiss staff. Our apartment was a great delight and our landlady, Frau Trachsel, was most gracious. She spoke no English and my college German is 50 years old, but we got along famously. I would recommend the Untour to anyone, and only hope that expanding its ambit will not be at the expense of the wonderful idea behind the program.
My wife and I have enjoyed the Travel section for many years,, and have taken advantage of its information many times since we started traveling abroad 20 years ago.
RICHARD C. HARTMAN