Escapes: Reader photos? Like a cool drink on a hot day

Mike McDonnell of Newbury Park got this shot of one of the swimming pigs in the Bahamas.
Say “ahhhh”: Mike McDonnell of Newbury Park got this shot of one of the swimming pigs in the Bahamas. They are said to have survived the August hurricane.
(Mike McDonnell)

It’s fall, for heaven’s sake, and it needs to act like it. But this is California, which pretty much does what it wants.
We have a couple of solutions.

My name is Catharine Hamm, and I’m the travel editor for the Los Angeles Times. This week, we’re offering you some refreshment. Our annual summer vacation photo issue is like a long, tall, frosty beverage that makes you wipe the back of your hand across your mouth and say, “Ahhh.” And our article on the upcoming color season in California could make you want to put on a jacket in anticipation.

Other articles that will slake your thirst: how to learn French cooking at sea, what to do if your Global Entry card is MIA, a piece on the people who will be playing in the Bellagio’s fountains (they’re allowed) and an End paper that ponders why “Downton Abbey” — the movie and its real-life counterpart — is like an oasis in life’s deserts. Cheers, mates.

You did it, so thank you!

Readers, you made our annual summer vacation photo issue the best we’ve done. Not only did we have gorgeous photos that span the globe, but we also added an animal gallery this year from those fantastic shots you captured at just the right moment.


It is the most difficult and most fun thing we do all year, so forgive me for bragging a little on the L.A. Times colleagues who made it happen: Kathy Pyon, Judith Pryor, Paul Gonzales, Wendy Fawthrop, Denise Flores, Jessica Roy, Marques Harper and Mary Forgione.

An extra tip of the hat to Christopher Reynolds, who wrote the captions after contacting those whose work was included, and especially Anne Harnagel, one of the travel editors who keeps the trains running every week, including that one. Well done.

Autumn is in the air

Just not necessarily here in the Southland — yet. But soon. Until then, the trees have started to turn in the Sierra, Sharon Boorstin writes. She offers a variety of places to see what she calls the short but intense changing of the leaves. It’s not quite New England, but it’s still as pretty as a fall picture.

The June Lake Loop near Mono Lake in a previous display of autumn color.
The June Lake Loop near Mono Lake in a previous display of autumn color.
(Alena Barnhart)

Having trouble with Global Entry renewal? What to do

Joel Lupkin’s story isn’t unusual. The Calabasas resident had applied for renewal of his Global Entry card, which gives fliers expedited screening through airport security and U.S. Customs, but heard nothing. He couldn’t get through to the Customs and Border Protection office in Long Beach.

Finally he got a letter from CBP saying his application was “conditionally approved” but that he would have to come in for an interview. The first appointment he could get in Long Beach? April.

If you’re running into problems like this, get this early edition of On the Spot, which explains what to do if your application is snarled in red tape and what CBP told one Orange County member of Congress who tried to help.

‘O’? Oh!

Cirque du Soleil’s “O” and the fountains of Bellagio celebrate their 21st birthdays with a bit of a surprise party: The performers from “O” are teaming up with the acrobatic water fountains Saturday and Sunday and again Oct. 12 and 13 at 3:30 p.m., Jay Jones reports.

It’s unusual for the fountains to take on another life, but earlier this year, “Game of Thrones” did a promotion that involved fire on the water, and if you watched the Emmys, they again brought the heat.

Headed to North Beach? Here’s where to sleep and eat

Staff writer Christopher Reynolds last week wrote about the sea change in North Beach. This week, he adds to your San Francisco storehouse of knowledge with his favorite eating and sleeping places in the neighborhood that used to be the ultimate Little Italy.

Tony's Pizza Napoletana in North Beach, San Francisco.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)


The 178-year-old Thomas Cook tour company collapsed this week after a plan to fund it failed. Thomas Cook Airlines, which served Manchester, England, from LAX, also has gone under with the rest of the company, which was serving an estimated 600,000 people when it ceased operations, the Associated Press reported.

Kitchen-phobe? Not on a cruise

Rosemary McClure is an experienced cruiser — but cook, not so much. She overcame her phobia of the kitchen and tried a French cooking class at sea. The result? The wine was very good, she said. If you’ve wanted to pick up some tips, create something delicious or just drink wine, she tells you how to take a class on your vessel.

Noëlle Barille coaches students in a French cooking class aboard Regent Seven Seas Explorer.
Noëlle Barille coaches students in a French cooking class aboard Regent Seven Seas Explorer, which offers cruisers a variety of classes.
(Rosemary McClure)

The L.A. Times within reach

Every institution is a bit nameless and faceless, but here’s a way to break the barrier at the Los Angeles Times: Write to us at and tell us what you think about, well, just about anything travel-related. We may not have the answers but we’ll try to find them for you. Or if you just want to say hello or “Why don’t you write more about (fill in the blank)?” we’re happy to hear that too.

We’d be even happier if you’d subscribe to The Times, online or in print, too. Visit our subscription page. Plus it’s cheaper than vaping, and better for you.

If you’re still a little shy about commitments, try some of our newsletters. They won’t cost you a penny and will enrich your life or your money back. You can explore a host of publications at our newsletter sign-up page.

Thank you, and have the best day ever. We mean it.

What we’re reading

Hawaiian Airlines is adding basic service, the no-frills fare that’s catching on with carriers around the world, Denise Bay writes for The other good news: This limited rollout includes flights from L.A. and Long Beach. It could bode well for your wallet; when Southwest began service from the West Coast, fares began to fall.

A quick check on Wednesday morning showed round-trip flights for Nov. 6-13 (departures and returns on Wednesdays, which are usually cheaper) for $378, a basic fare not on Hawaiian but on United. These fares may be gone by the time you read this, but keep checking. Hawaiian’s fares go into effect Oct. 21.

Almost nothing that has to do with packing sparks joy for me, but Kathleen Rellihan’s piece for Afar, which I just caught up with, could change that. It explains how anti-clutter activist Marie Kondo applies her principles to putting stuff in a suitcase. (This way of doing thing is called the KonMari Method, and no, I’m not making this up.)

As a roller of clothes (even within a packing cube), I’m going to have to try what looks like a stand-up fold. Worth checking out. Thoughts, readers? Standing by at with “Packing” in the subject line.

I’ll confess to being 6 years old in my heart and often failing to hide that, so when I saw this Smithsonian piece on digging for dinosaurs, by Jennifer Billock, I was ready to board a plane for the Dakotas, Wyoming or Montana to visit any one of the places she mentions where you can search for ancient fragments. Finding something, Billock writes, is “a connection with the Earth and its past that you can scarcely imagine.”

End paper

Seeing Highclere Castle, the stand-in for the fictional "Downton Abbey," on the big screen is like a homecoming.
(Catharine Hamm / Los Angeles Times)

I wasn’t the first one in line to see “Downton Abbey” on the big screen but close.

By late Saturday morning, I was in my Barcalounger-like seat, worried that I would fall asleep in the theater as I often do. My fear was unfounded. I was too psyched.

I was and remain a huge fan of the series. Eventually my husband became a fan, along with nearly everybody else I’d ever known. Sunday evening became a waiting game for the next installment of the Julian Fellowes series.

Then, by a stroke of good luck, I was offered a chance to tour Highclere, Downton’s stand-in, with some of the foreign press. (The same rules the Los Angeles Times follows apply for occasions like this: The Times paid my airfare and for my lodgings, food and transportation to nearby Newberry, England, plus all other expenses.)

A docent led the tour of “the house” — a house with more than 200 rooms — and, afterward, journalists were invited to a Q&A with the countess of Carnarvon, who was gracious even when I put my heavy camera bag on an antique chair.

I hated myself until Bella, her golden Lab, awakened during the news conference, trotted up the aisle where chairs had been placed for the press and kissed me full on the mouth. I felt better. At least my camera bag wasn’t going to give that antique chair rabies. Of course, Bella wouldn’t either. She probably smelled my cats and was just sending a friendly greeting.

And that’s the thing about the “Downton” experience. It is completely ridiculous to feel as though these folks, upstairs or downstairs, are your peeps. Their problems were never mine (no one ever ended up dead in the bed of any of my family members, at least not that I know of), and yet their joys and sorrows, in some measure, were.

Highclere Castle, on 5,000 sheep-dotted acres, could hardly be more different from my abode. But its magic isn’t its grandeur. Seeing it on the screen or in person, Highclere/“Downton” evoked the same feelings of familiarity, gratitude and welcome I feel when my own door swings wide, after a day at work or a week on the road, and I am, again, among friends.

Wherever you are, travel safely and well, and remember we also will be here to welcome you home.