In response to "Must-See Spots in '16" by Christopher Reynolds, Dec. 27, which included Natchez, Miss.: Visiting tiny Natchez (pop. about 16,000) offers invaluable, if often suppressed, history lessons.
Natchez is one of the few U.S. cities with more than 500 structures built before 1860, and includes many stately antebellum mansions. Two historically unflattering footnotes explain why:
First, slavery provided plantation owners with cheap labor, enabling them to amass great wealth from agriculture and to construct mansions in Natchez so regal and durable that more than 40 of them now serve as bed-and-breakfasts, owned largely by descendants of the original white owners.
Second, when the Civil War brought Union troops to Natchez, its residents didn't resist mightily as other Southerners did. Instead the city "practically laid down and rolled over" (as your Travel section noted two years ago). Thus it escaped ruinous Union shellings that devastated other cities' architectural treasures.
Natchez, for all its antebellum splendor, teaches that the social and economic benefits derived from ancestral crimes and indiscretions can endure for generations.
The article by Reynolds was quite interesting as he listed what he thought were 16 locations interesting enough to visit. Nine of those 16 spots were outside of the U.S., with the remaining seven locations in the confines of our country. It was more than intriguing, and rather flattering, that one of those spots was not only in California but right here in Orange County, including the Newport Beach Island Hotel. Although I live in Newport Beach and am retired, I tend to shy away from those really nice places, but it's good to know that the city in which I live is among those 16 worldwide featured spots by Reynolds.
Check insurance policy
I must tell you to examine your travel insurance policy carefully before purchasing it ["Ready to Breathe Easy" by Millie Ball, Jan. 3]. Recently my wife and I went on a Panama Canal cruise. We purchased travel insurance for the trip. My wife has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Her two trips to the ship's doctor were added to our ship's room charges. The travel insurance and Medicare did not pay one penny of reimbursement.
Local culture awaits
How true letter writer Jim Hess was in his criticism of travelers who stay at expensive resorts and ignore local people and their culture [Letters, Jan. 3].
I have been to 47 of the 50 states, lived in Europe three years and been to both Australia and most provinces of Canada. All this on a workingman's budget.
I truly believe that the more you spend on lodging, the less you experience of the local culture, wherever you may be, from Tokyo to Topeka. The thought of staying in a fancy hotel, isolating myself from local attractions and cuisine, is anathema to the most basic concept of travel. Even hostels will do.
One doesn't need five-star lodging to have a five-star experience. Trust me on this.