Good news for grape lovers. A new train service is operating in the Napa Valley. Trips originate and end in Napa. First-class comfort aboard refurbished vintage Pullman cars. Meals served in a dining car that's been spiffed up to recall the glorious days of American railroading. Round-trip fare, $25. Meals are extra. Minimum prices of $15 for brunch/lunch, $30 for dinner. Fares for parties of two or more are slashed to $12.50 on the dinner run. Reservations required. Note: Lunch/brunch trains operate Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Dinner trips Tuesday through Saturday. All departures from the Napa Valley Wine Train Depot, 1275 McKinstry St., Napa.
For reservations, contact the Napa Valley Wine Train toll-free at (800) 522-4142. Other information by dialing (707) 253-2111.
Seats to Europe with Council Travel are still available. Destinations: Amsterdam, London, Madrid, Nice, Paris, Rome, Zurich. No weekend surcharges, no minimum stay. Fly into one city, depart from another. No extra charge. Fares from $239, plus discount add-on fares to New York. Offer is good through Oct. 31.
Contact for Council Travel: 1093 Broxton Ave., Suite 220, Los Angeles 90024. Telephone (213) 208-3551.
--In San Fernando Valley: 14515 Ventura Blvd., Suite 250, Sherman Oaks 91403. Telephone (818) 905-5777.
--For Long Beach/Orange County: 1818 Palo Verde Ave., No. E, Long Beach 90815. Telephone (213) 598-3338 or (714) 527-7950.
A Letter From New Mexico
Anita Davis writes from the Vogt Guest Ranch in Ramah, N.M.: "We are 39 miles from Gallup, N.M., and are virtually undiscovered. There are three national parks within 30 miles of us as well as the Indian pueblos of the Zuni, El Morro and El Malpais. Fishing lakes, ice caves, petroglyphs and Indian ruins. The ranch house has recently been named to the state list of historic properties. Your readers will love it. Truly a special experience."
Davis operates the ranch as a B&B. Navajo rugs, Indian pottery, bows, arrows, a fireplace, wood stove, antique furniture, private baths. This is a former sheep ranch. Davis describes it as a "magical place." Swimming, fishing, hiking nearby. Occasional cross-country skiing during winter. Elevation: 7,100 feet.
Vogt Guest Ranch, Ramah, N.M. 87321. Call (505) 783-4362. Rates: $42/$55.
By Rail in France
Peter Groen of Hollywood sends along this note: "Having recently returned from an around-the-world trip, I have a valuable tip for your senior citizen readers traveling in Europe. In France, any person 65 years or older can obtain a rail pass at a nominal cost called the Carte Vermeil. The card is issued at all French railroad stations with proof of age. Travel is at a 50% reduction in first- or second-class. This includes the TGVs. In conjunction with the Carte Vermeil, there is another card for senior citizens called RailEurop that is good for a 50% reduction off the regular fare in 18 countries. In Switzerland it also applies to private railroad lines. The 50% reduction is for most Western Bloc countries. There is a 30% reduction for some Eastern Bloc countries such as Hungary and Yugoslavia."
"Supernatural Islands" is the title of a 70-page, full-color publication being mailed free by Tourism British Columbia. Tells of vacation/recreation possibilities around Vancouver Island. Contains a map, profiles of dozens of cities/towns. Describes regional festivals/celebrations. Other information on accommodations, transportation, local services. Call toll-free (800) 663-6000. Other details from John Bateman, director of tourism, British Columbia, in Southern California. Call (714) 852-1054.
A couple of slick guides are being offered free by the New Zealand Tourist and Publicity Office. One is called "The New Zealand Book." Articles on travel by campervan, plus shopping, air fares. Descriptions of Auckland, the Bay of Plenty, Wellington, the West Coast, Aorangi, Fiorland. The book also includes sample itineraries, visitor tips.
The other guide (titled "Outdoor Action Holidays") provides details on fishing, float trips, rafting/canoeing/jet boating, farm holidays, golf, trekking, mountaineering, skiing, flightseeing, four-wheel-drive safaris, cycling.
Copies from the New Zealand Tourist and Publicity Office, 10960 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1530, Los Angeles 90024. Telephone (213) 477-8241.
Santa Ynez Valley
R.J. of San Diego asks for the name of a "first-class inn in the Santa Ynez Valley." The Ballard Inn in the little village of Ballard offers superior rooms, impeccably furnished. A complete breakfast and afternoon tea included in the rate. You can also order a picnic lunch. Guests explore wineries, galleries, antique stores. For actives: fishing, boating at Lake Cachuma, plus ballooning, glider rides. This is one of those inns where guests enjoy relaxing in the old-fashioned goodness of a very special hideaway. Peaceful, rural. Our own five-star selection.