More tips on Paso Robles
It is incomprehensible that Jenn Harris omitted Bistro Laurent, which should have headed the Travel section's list in the "Showing Good Tastes" article about Paso Robles, Calif. [Aug. 23].
Chef-owner Laurent Grangien is one of the finest French chefs in California. Read his bio on the restaurant's website (not that Santos MacDonal at Il Cortile is also not terrific).
Similarly, Harris did not mention that the absolutely best accommodations in Paso Robles are at Hotel Cheval, a wonderful upscale boutique hotel in the center of town.
Manny & Suzanne Morden
Advice on Romania
Amen to Anne-Marie O'Connor's articles about Romania ["Europe as It Once Was," Aug. 16]. Romania has a complex history, lots to see and do, delicious fresh food and friendly people. It's clean and affordable. You can drive yourself (tricky on narrow roads populated by many horse-drawn wagons) or get a guide/driver. Public transportation is not abundant and therefore figuring it out can consume considerable travel time.
A friend and I had no time to plan our trip in fall 2013, so we traveled with Balkan Trails (www.balkantrails.com), a highly professional and responsive tour company. The knowledgeable and delightful Florin Vladu was our guide. Our two-week itinerary through the northeastern regions featured stays at immaculate rural guesthouses, including one at lovely Viscri, as well as at some of the hotels mentioned in the article, wonderful meals and local wine at nontouristy restaurants, and tea with a Roma family.
I would go back in a heartbeat.
O'Connor's article on Romania brought back memories of our trip there in 2009, which coincidentally coincided with the 20th anniversary of the fall of Communism. Upon our arrival in Bucharest, our guide, Eduard Popescu (www.medievaltours.com), escorted us to a ceremony in Revolution Square commemorating the anniversary. We stood among the numerous dignitaries as they laid flowers on the square. Later that day, Popescu drove us to the nearby Mogosoaia Palace, where the dismantled statues of Communist leaders (including Lenin and Prime Minister Petru Groza), had been abandoned far from public view.
Although O'Connor's article focused on the rural part of the country, which is indeed beautiful, we found Bucharest to be a fascinating city. Contrary to most guide books, there are numerous impressive buildings, churches, a few remaining synagogues, monuments to commemorate the Holocaust victims (Jews and Roma), museums, a concert hall and an operating Yiddish theater. During a private tour of the George Enescu museum, in the former home of the revered Romanian composer and musician, our guide persuaded the guards to allow my husband (a classical pianist) to play Enescu's personal piano. It was a highlight of our trip.
Just as I would not deem all Greeks to be as critical as Sabina Klimm — "Everybody knows that food in America is very bad" — she should not judge American food by Big Macs [Letters, Aug. 23].
There are, of course, many fine restaurants in America, plus much attention is focused on fresh and locally grown ingredients and farmers markets. That's especially true in California, where you can eat well every day.
Suggesting that a traveler in Romania should eat at a Greek restaurant is quite silly. I have enjoyed Greek food in Greece and plan to try Romanian food in Romania.
Meanwhile, I can enjoy many choices here in Los Angeles.
Patricia L. Moore
Real men hike
"Man Up for Wilderness Adventure" [Charles Fleming, Aug.16] promotes wilderness trips for groups of dusty men riding motorcycles and includes a dramatic photo of a dirt biker plowing through a stream near Visalia, Calif.
Riding dirt bikes through natural areas is inconsiderate, lazy and destructive. Lousy synonyms for manliness, if you ask me.
Environmental Protection Agency data show that two-stroke dirt bikes emit as much pollution in an hour as 30 automobiles. Off-road vehicles open gaping wounds in the earth, destroy native habitat and cause sedimentation in streams, killing aquatic animals. Sparks from engines can ignite dry brush, and the noise disturbs wildlife.
It is far more macho to ride a bicycle or go hiking. You might even be able to hear bird song and smell the chaparral instead of breathing carbon emissions and committing the environmental equivalent of rape.