Sentimental Rail Journeys is staging a "Valentine...

Times Travel Editor

Sentimental Rail Journeys is staging a "Valentine Excursion" by train, Los Angeles to San Diego. Not particularly cheap, but if you decide to impress your lady, here are the details: It's a weekend outing. Couples will travel in a private 1955 dome lounge car. Red carpet. Hearts 'n' flowers. In San Diego they'll be met by a horse-drawn carriage and delivered to the Horton Grand, a newly refurbished Victorian hotel in a colorful section of downtown San Diego. The cost of the round-trip excursion, meals on the train, the carriage ride in San Diego and two nights at the Horton Grand figures out to $330 per person based on double occupancy. Dates: Feb. 12-14.

Contact Sentimental Rail Journeys, P.O. Box 4574, Thousand Oaks 91360, phone (805) 499-9306.

British Hotel

Monroe Phillips of Riverside wants a hotel on England's Lake Windemere. My vote goes to the imposing Langdale Chase Hotel (circa 1890). Rises on the east shore of Lake Windemere. Operates like a family home. A choice of 29 guest rooms (several with lake views). Another half a dozen rooms are available in a bungalow. Imposing public areas. Loads of oak, comfortable sofas, antiques, a fireplace. Afternoon tea served on the terrace or by the fire. Rates from 26 (about $48 U.S.) to 37 (about $68 U.S.) per person with a full English breakfast. Dinner also available. Contact Langdale Chase Hotel, Windemere, Cumbria LA23-1LW, England.

Christmas Island

For "fish widows," Christmas Island is like the end of the world. Husbands, though, describe it as the "gateway to heaven." Christmas Island is 1,200 miles south of Hawaii, 119 miles north of the Equator. A friend who just returned is ecstatic over this obscure speck in the Pacific. "Fantastic," says publisher Milt Jones. Christmas Island--the world's largest atoll--is blessed with the world's largest lagoon. Serves as an immense fish trap. Forget Christmas Island, though, if you're searching for one of those palm-infested hideaways Michener waxes so poetically over while writing about the South Seas. The elevation is barely six feet and the only hotel, the Captain Cook, is not exactly your deluxe retreat. Still, for the dedicated fisherman, Christmas Island is Mecca. Less than a couple of thousand residents. The lagoon boils with ulua, pupio, barracuda, queenfish. Loads of peace. No TV, no newspapers.

The package costs $1,695 for the round-trip hop from Hawaii, fishing license, guide service, hotel, meals. The works. Except for the hotel, though, there's no other place to dine. Not another restaurant on the entire island. Jones suggests that you leave your wife at home--unless, of course, she's also wild about fishing. For details contact your travel agent.

Phoenix

We've been getting good reports about a new mini-resort in Phoenix called Westways. Only six guest rooms (double and queen-size beds). Spanish Mediterranean design with a sunken living room, fireplace, vaulted ceilings, brass, wicker, rattan, oak furnishings. Westways is operated by ex-New England innkeeper Darrell Trapp and his sidekick, Brian Curran. They serve a continental breakfast (juice, cereal, homemade pastries, bread, coffee, tea, hot chocolate). Soft drinks, mixers available. A complimentary steak fry once a week. There's the free use of 10-speed bikes, tennis rackets, golf clubs, VCRs. Prices start at $39 per person double occupancy, plus tax and 10% gratuity charge. Twelve bucks extra for the Grand Canyon and Thunderbird suites. (Reduced rates for more than two nights midweek.)

Westways, P.O. Box 41624, Phoenix, Ariz. 85080. Telephone (602) 582-3868.

New York

New York has produced a new visitor directory that describes dozens of hotel/tour packages. A total of 200 hotel plans with a variety of activities: Tours of Radio City Music Hall, South Street Seaport, Harlem, Greenwich Village, museums, the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, the U.N., Lincoln Center. Other details on bus, boat, helicopter trips. The 75-page directory contains hotel locater maps, color photos, booking information. For a free copy of the "New York City Tour Package Directory," contact NYC Bureau, Vacation Packages, 2 Columbus Circle, New York, N.Y. 10019.

Alaska

Travelers planning to visit Alaska's Inside Passage on their own are offered a new booklet that provides information on transportation, lodging, sightseeing. Deals primarily with the state's southeast region. Tips on gold-rush towns, glaciers, fiords. One section describes ferry liners serving the Alaska Marine Highway System. Others deal with inexpensive day trips, wilderness cabins, fishing lodges, B&Bs;, RV parks, campgrounds. Takes in such destinations as Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Sitka, Juneau, Glacier Bay. Small ferries serve several offbeat spots: Hoonah, Tenakee Springs, Pelican, Kake, Hollis, Metalakatla, Hyder. For your copy write to Southwest Alaska Marketing Council, P.O. Box 20710-B, Juneau, Alaska 99802.

Short Takes

Accommodations at the Expo celebration in Brisbane, Australia, are still available by contacting Paul Bird, media relations manager, World Expo 88, 234 Gray St., South Brisbane QLE4101, Australia . . . Banana Republic (the travel and safari clothing company) will introduce a new travel magazine in March called Trips (for details write to Banana Republic, P.O. Box 7001, San Francisco 94120-7001) . . . A travel newsletter for diabetics is available (brochures from The Diabetic Traveler, P.O. Box 8223RW, Stamford, Conn. 06905) . . . Hotel/motel and B&B; reservation service in California's Napa Valley is offered free by Napa Valley Concierge, P.O. Box 5051, Napa Valley, Calif. 94581. Call (707) 944-0657.

Reader Recommendations

California--Jane Summerford, Playa del Rey: "A terrific bed and breakfast, 407 El Camino Real, Arroyo Grande. It's called Village Inn. Run by Jude and Don Stalker. Rates: $60/$65 per night. Seven lovely rooms, each with private bath. Breakfasts are enormous." (This same recommendation came from Elizabeth C. Reece of Northridge.)

Canada--Karen Wagner, Pacific Palisades: Enjoyed Rams Head Inn, Box 636, Rossland, B.C., Canada VOG-1YO. "Located at the base of Red Mountain. Delicious breakfasts and dinners. Sixteen double rooms, approximately $60 per person including meals. The inn also offers numerous ski packages. There's an outdoor hot tub and a Swedish sauna."

Ireland--Edna Alvarez, Los Angeles: "Secluded, romantic English-style country house off the Ring of Kerry, far from the tourist din of Kilarney. Rises on serene Caragh Lake. Rates: $27 U.S. per person, including breakfast. Gourmet dinners, $21. Contact Horste and Heidi Windecker, Carrig House, Caragh Lake, County Kerry, Ireland."

France--Sandra Hoffman, Studio City: "A delightful little inn called La Petite Auberge, 72690 St. Jean D'Asse (on the road north of Le Mans). Very cozy, homey atmosphere. A four-course fixed menu ran us about $16 U.S."

England--Betty Geismar, Mission Viejo: "A lovely hotel with a beautiful view of Poole Harbour. Harbour Heights Hotel, 73 Haven Road, Sandbanks, Poole, Dorset BH13 9LW. Rates: 48 (about $88 U.S.) for two, including full English breakfast in dining room with superb view."

England--Phil and Helen Seitz, Palos Verdes Estates: Praise for Range Bourne Mill B&B;, Potterne, near Devizes, Wiltshire, England SN10-5QL. Rates: 28 (about $51) for two. Owners are friendly, gracious, helpful. Rooms in the old mill are pleasant and immaculate. Evening meals served.

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