To M.J.L. of Laguna Beach, who asked about a California guest ranch: We've had good reports about the M Bar J Ranch in Badger, Calif. In the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Friendly hosts, cookouts, moonlight rides, picnics, fishing at the ranch pond, square dancing, films at night. Meals served family style feature locally grown fruits, vegetables, meats. This isn't one of those crowded ranches. The M Bar J takes only 27 guests and accommodates them in cabins with modern baths. Vacationers check in on Saturdays. The ranch is about a three- or four-hour drive from Los Angeles. Or the hosts will meet your bus or plane in Visalia at no extra charge. Rates are $70 daily, $420 weekly; for youngsters its less than half that amount. Hosts are Archie and Bunny Stockebrand, M Bar J Ranch, P.O. Box 67, Badger, Calif. 93603.
Stephan R. Van Dam has created a series of unusual maps he calls "The World Unfolds." Compact, easy to carry. They pop open, divide each city into three sections that unfold several times. Besides showing streets, Van Dam's city maps pinpoint museums, restaurants, hotels, bars, etc. They're available in some bookstores, covering major cities of the United States, Europe, the Orient. For details write to Van Dam, 58 Bank St., New York 10014.
This letter from Betty Disney of Cypress: "I am an art historian and during the school year I teach art history and museum classes at UCLA Extension. During July I live in Paris and offer tours of Paris' art museums to visiting Americans. These tours are limited to six people at the most, and I charge a flat fee of $30 per hour. I take my clients through any art museum they wish for whatever length of time they prefer. Travel from museum to museum is via the Metro system or for an extra fee a limousine can be provided. I have an undergraduate degree in French and have spent the past four summers in Paris." Contact Disney at Cypress College, 9200 Valley View, Cypress, Calif. 90630.
A French Inn
A couple of years ago I spent a pleasant few days at an old French mill that'd been converted to an inn outside Paris. It's called Auberge du Moulin de Chameron and the meals seemed worth a Michelin star. Garden fresh vegetables, beef and lamb direct from nearby farms. And the setting was peaceful: an old mill pond, a willow that spread its shade over a perfectly manicured garden. Rooms were comfortable, with modern baths. There is a series of these inns spread across France. The owners belong to an association called Moulin Etape. These are all one- to four-star inns, restaurants. To learn more about the association, write to Jacques and Annie Condore c/o Auberge du Moulin de Chameron, 18210 Charenton du Cher, Bannegon, France.
Speaking of France, the domestic airline Air Inter is selling a pass that's good for unlimited air travel on all Air Inter routes. Seven days for only $210. Air Inter covers 50 routes with 300 daily flights. You could, conceivably, fly to Strasbourg, check out the sites, make a connection to Lyon, and be back in Paris by bedtime. Or else fly to the French Riviera, spend the day on the beach or sightseeing, then catch a late-afternoon hop back to the city by the Seine, arriving in time for dinner. That'd be squeezing it a trifle, but it's a possibility. To buy the pass, contact your travel agent, Jet Vacations (800) JET-0999, TWA, Delta, UTA or American Airlines.
Here's an opportunity for students to work in Europe as child-care assistants. You live with a French, German or British family. Under the plan you can spend as long as a year in one of the three countries. In Britain, students receive all meals and pocket money in return for 30 hours per week caring for the kids and helping with the housekeeping. In Germany, students are paid $80 weekly by the host family. There's one hitch to this program: You must pay a "placement fee" that runs $495/$595 to the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS). For details write to AIFS c/o Child Care in Europe Program, 102 Greenwich Ave., Greenwich, Conn. 06830 or call (203) 869-9090.
A note from Ken Jones of Colorado's Home Ranch, near Steamboat Springs: says guest accommodations are still available for July. Home Ranch belongs to the prestigious Relais & Chateaux group (represents top properties both here and in Europe), as well as the Colorado Dude Ranch and Guest Ranch Assn. I spent some time at Jones' ranch several years. A huge ranch house with guest cabins hidden in the trees. Just a short drive from Steamboat Springs. Jones has a country band that entertains in the evenings. To contact Jones, write to The Home Ranch, Box 822, Clark, Colo. 80428 or telephone (303) 879-1780.