You can fly free from New York...

You can fly free from New York to Britain by buying a seven-night hotel package at Grosvenor House in London. Well, certainly there’s a hitch (no such thing as a free lunch). The rent for a one-bedroom apartment figures out to $1,325 per person a week (double occupancy). But it’s a great address. The price includes service, VAT and the airline tickets. And there’s a kitchenette, in case you decide to prepare your own meals. You also get a four-day Silver BritRail Pass plus a four-day pass on London buses and the Underground. This along with a membership in the Grosvenor House health club. Figuring that a one-bedroom suite in London’s fashionable Mayfair district could run you $350 a night, it’s not a bad deal. This isn’t to say you won’t find enormously cheaper hotels. But it’s a classy neighborhood.

The Barclay International Group, toll-free (800) 223-1912. In New York, dial (212) 872-8357.

Puerto Vallarta: To R. J., who requested information on a rental in Puerto Vallarta: For $125 a day you can vacation at Casa Barbara in the off-season. Up to $250 during the high season. This is a two-bedroom, two-bath home in Puerto Vallarta near actor Richard Burton’s old digs. Other celebrity homes nearby. Casa Barbara features a fully equipped kitchen, patio, sun deck, swimming pool. Sleeps up to six guests. Only a short stroll into town to the Oceano Hotel, where Burton held court nightly while filming “The Night of the Iguana.”

Write to Patricia Alvarez, 6561 Gates Mills Blvd., Cleveland, Ohio 44124.


Eastern Europe: With the growing interest in Eastern Europe, there’s one sticky problem: Travelers must shop for good hotels. A reader in Redlands wants the address of a budget hotel in Prague. Here are some suggestions: Hotel Central (Rybna 8) is shopworn but the location is good (in the town center near Old Town Square). Prices: $30 to $40 U.S. You’ll pay less at Hotel U Hastala (Hastalska Namesti 16), but it, too, is dreary. Hotel Opera, Tesnov 13, is fair ($25, up) but faces a noisy street (ask for a courtyard room).

Although there’s been a great deal of interest in Eastern Europe since perestroika, in general these countries aren’t prepared for mass tourism. The pattern is similar to the situation in China after the Bamboo Curtain was lifted and bids went out for Western-style hotels.

Your travel agent can assist with suggestions. Note: American Express has announced a new “Spirit of Independence” tour to Warsaw/Berlin. And don’t forget that Eastern European countries require visas.

Rail Tour: A company in Michigan is scheduling a series of summer trips to the Canadian Rockies, Vancouver/Victoria. Others to Eastern Canada, the U.S. Midwest, Colorado/New Mexico (including a couple of steam-rail excursions). The same company is booking a Northeast U.S. circle tour, along with spins through Wisconsin, southern Ontario, Michigan. Trains will also be making tracks to Gaspe and Labrador.

Ask your travel agent for a 48-page catalogue or write to America by Rail, 808 W. Lake Lansing Road, East Lansing, Mich. 48823. Call toll-free (800) 351-7411.

Learning Spanish: Here’s another one of those Spanish language programs. This time the destination is Costa Rica. You’ll pay $40 a day for room/board with a Costa Rican family, plus laundry service, airport transfers, 20 hours a week in the classroom. Other benefits: a four-day Pacific Coast tour, visits to a cattle ranch and Santa Rosa National Park, a jungle train trip. Plenty of chances to practice your Spanish with villagers, other students.

The Language Studies Enrollment Center, P.O. Box 5095, Anaheim 92814. Telephone (714) 527-2918.

Gearing Up in Hungary: For years Connex has been renting cars in Western Europe. Now the company is gearing up for business in Hungary. An Opal Corsa will cost you $134 a week (unlimited mileage). Or for $139 you can drive from Budapest and leave the car in Innsbruck, Salzburg or Vienna. Cars can also be driven to Czechoslovakia/Yugoslavia. (Ask Connex about accommodations in private homes for $10/$15 a night per couple.) Connex rates are guaranteed in dollars.

Connex, 983 Main St., Peekskill, N.Y. 10566. Call toll-free (800) 333-3949.

A Letter From Britain: Michelle Cryer writes: “I am a Californian living in a beautiful county rich in historic houses such as Sulgrave Manor, the ancestral home of George Washington, and Deene Park, the medieval home of the seventh Earl of Cardigan, who led the Charge of the Light Brigade. My home is a reproduction of an Elizabethan Tudor with a brick Inglenook fireplace, modern kitchen and bathrooms with 110-volt outlets for Americans. Full central heating for chilly days, and glass sun room overlooking patios and rose garden. I have a double bedroom and bath available for rent as a single for 140 (about $225 U.S.) per week or 200 ($320 U.S.) double. Self-catering with full run of the house. Ideally situated 39 miles from Oxford or Cambridge, 60 miles from London.”

Write to Michelle Cryer, 16 Olympia Close, Northampton, NN4 ORU, Northamptonshire, England.

Meanwhile, Mapledurham Estates near Reading, England, lists a number of self-catering country cottage rentals. Prices range from $255 to $595 per week (two to seven persons). Details from Wilson and Lake International, 330 York St., Ashland, Ore. 97520. Dial toll-free (800) 545-5228.

Reader Recommendations

England--Peter R. Gilliam, Indio: Adam’s Cottage, Powerstock, near Bridport, Dorset. Rate: about $50 U.S. per couple. “This is an Elizabethan thatched cottage in a beautiful village. Friendly pub, old church.”

England--Irene F. Hermsen, Cardiff-by-the-Sea: Enjoyed Cutwell Farm, Tetbury, Gloucestershire GL8 8EB. “Rate in the farmhouse: $16 U.S. Also, a self-contained cottage ideal for a family is $160 weekly. July/August rates are higher. This is a 400-year-old farm 90 miles north of London. Train, bus and taxi services are good. Close to the city of Bath.”

England--Lois and Jerry Dunklin, Canoga Park: “A warm welcome awaits guests at Margaret Givens’ Northumbrian B&B;, 8 Bondgate Without, Alnwick, Northumberland NE66 1PP. Centrally located for one-day driving trips to Holy Island, Cragside, Bamburgh Castle, etc. A real bargain at about $15 per person per night.”

California--Bill and Mary Bloemendall, Anaheim: Enjoyed the Village Inn, 407 El Camino Real, Arroyo Grande, Calif. 93420. “As fine as any first-class hotel we have ever stayed in. Five large, beautiful rooms and two suites. Rates: $85/$125.”

California--Joe and Barbara Stassi, Palos Verdes Estates: “In the Sequoia Foothills, Road’s Inn B&B;, Rural Route 1, Box 450, Posey, Calif. 93260. Rates: $85 per night, including three meals, snacks and beverages.”

California--Sandy Jacobson, Playa del Rey: Gerada Ondang’s B&B;, 1056 Bay Oaks Drive, Los Osos, Calif. 93402. Rates: $35/$39.

Hawaii--James R. Ancell, Westminster: “An inexpensive B&B; called Upcountry Comfort, 230 Ulana St., Makawao, Maui 96768. Two bedrooms with shared bath. Rates: $50 single, $60 double.” (Or there’s a private home that rents for $150 per night with a seven-night minimum. On the slopes of Haleakala, at an elevation of 1,500 feet.)

Mexico--Jim Kurrasch, Santa Barbara: Enjoyed Valentino restaurant, Boulevard Costero 915, Ensenada, Baja. “Excellent service, meals at reasonable prices.”

France--Diane L. Gilbert: “After visiting the home and garden of Claude Monet in Giverny, had a wonderful lunch at Restaurant Grill LaDiligence, 73 Rue Carnot. About $25 U.S. for two persons, including tip and tax.”