Letters From Travel Readers

The Chocolate Ploy

The March 17 letter from Martha Zuska about the chocolate trick used in Spain piqued my interest as a retired peace officer. Unfortunately, I missed the original letter Mrs. Zuska referred to, and I would like to learn more about it. I had 23 years with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, but I can't recall any M.O. that would fit such a description. Could you reprint the first letter, or perhaps describe the trick?


San Dimas

The original "chocolate trick" letter ran last July 22 under the heading of "Pain in Spain." Ray Kovitz of Mission Viejo described the scheme as "in broad daylight at the Plaza de Espana we were robbed by two fellows who sprayed us with chocolate syrup and then pretended to come to our assistance in wiping it from our clothes. In the process they insisted that my wife put down her flight bag.... As soon as she put down the bag one of the men grabbed it and ran like a rabbit." (The bag was recovered.) Scottish Castle

I was so pleased to see the letter Feb. 24 from Mrs. Zawadski regarding Balfour Castle (in Shapinsay, Orkney Isles, Scotland). We spent four marvelous days at the castle and those days were surely the best and most exciting of our entire five-week European trip. We fished and sailed and meandered about the huge estate, often stopping by the castle's garden to enjoy the large variety of berries and other fruits growing so lavishly there. The food and wine we were served were superb.

Evenings were spent relaxing by the fire in the library, singing, and hearing tales of adventurous yachtsmen who were also guests. When we had to say goodby, it was with real regret. We are planning to return.


Marina del Rey

My sister-in-law sent me the clipping about the castle in Scotland letter. Oh, what a lovely time we had at Balfour Castle! The Zawadski family so quickly made us feel at home. As guests, we had the complete freedom of the castle and grounds and the adjacent farm.

There seems to be something for everyone of all ages. The days are so long in the summer, it allows plenty of time to fit in all of the activities that are offered, or one can just relax and read (a marvelous library). It's a wonderland for bird watchers. I spent much time watching the seals.

When the gong sounds for meals, everyone is on time. The food is so good, with hot bread and roasts from the big kitchen ovens, just-picked vegetables and fruits from the garden, thick cream on the warm cobblers. My best memories of several trips to Europe are of Balfour Castle.


Canterbury, Conn.

Envoy to Mexico

I am a U.S. citizen as well as the owner of a small hotel and restaurant in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. For six months clients have been bringing me newspaper articles from different parts of the United States, all recounting stories of tourists being accosted by "banditos. " More recently I have been aware of the unfortunate kidnaping of the two American couples in Guadalajara as well as the disappearance of the American narcotics agent here in Mexico.

Mexico's second source of income next to oil is tourism. Here in Puerto Vallarta there is no industry, also no unemployment. The reason is simple. It is a tourist town and everyone is employed in some phase of that business. We here know that this is their livelihood and that keeping tourists happy is vital to their simply staying alive.

I have traveled to Vallarta via Laredo and Nogales by car. Checking with authorities on the American side, I was told that the newspaper articles had been confirmed, but knowing Mexico as I feel I do, I decided to chance it. My trips here were not only beautiful but uneventful, as were those of other American travelers we met on the way.

It is my understanding that John Gavin, U.S. ambassador to Mexico, stated that "the United States could not guarantee the safety of Americans traveling in Mexico." Can the United States guarantee safety to travelers in Los Angeles, Honolulu, New York, etc.?

I am tired of hearing my fellow Americans saying they have been ripped off, when in fact they are rude, demanding, and expecting something for nothing. I am also very appreciative of the many Americans and foreigners who come here and make the effort to bypass political and financial differences and simply wish to learn of another country's manners and customs. . . .


Puerto Vallarta


Customs Experience

The Peter Greenberg article of March 3 on making it through Customs was very interesting and certainly well done. I do want to point out that from an experience we had in Bangor, Me., I have come to the conclusion that it just might be easier to lie under certain circumstances. I fear that in doing so, my name might just be made a part of the "give him the shaft" list in the computer displays with the U.S. Customs Service.

We had just returned from visiting cousins in Switzerland in the little town of Gordevio where there isn't even a store. That made no difference, since we had no intention of carrying home a bunch of souvenirs anyway. When the customs inspector saw that we had spent only $100 on items we were bringing in, she would not believe our declaration. The pressure of the questioning made it clear that the inspector seriously doubted us. It was embarrassing.

Hereafter, when coming into the country we will declare the maximum amount permitted, whether we have spent that amount or not. Obviously, to declare a smaller amount makes the inspector suspicious. What a shame that we are forced to lie!


Morro Bay

Hong Kong Tailor OK

In defense of Sam's Tailor in Hong Kong, I too came home with an Italian silk suit that didn't fit properly. I took it to an expert alteration man here and he rebuilt the jacket and skirt. These were expensive alterations. But I wrote Sam's Tailor and with his personal apologies came the full refund for the amount of the alterations.

There are two sides to every story. My treatment by Sam's was ethical to the highest degree and I would not hesitate to recommend him to anyone.


Los Angeles

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