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September 23, 1990|JERRY HULSE

The question keeps popping up: Where do travel writers go on their vacations? While I can't speak for others, in my own case I remain close to home. Near Laguna we have a favorite cove, which is where our sons spent their growing-up years and where now our eldest son's children look forward to this tradition with similar enthusiasm. It is what a relaxing vacation is all about: no long flights, no packing and unpacking, no sightseeing. Unless, of course, one considers sightseeing to be a hike along a deserted beach at dawn when the world is fresh and the air is fragrant with salt and kelp. We read and swim and study sandpipers and porpoises that surface beyond the breaker line. At night, waves spend themselves just outside our bedroom window and the heaven fills with stars and the moon casts its silver path on the ocean. Finally, as summer ends we return home, reluctantly, for a year seems a long time to wait for another summer that is always gone too soon, leaving each of us with the melancholy wish that it could go on . . . endlessly.

After leaving Laguna this summer, we drove up the coast to the little seaside village of Cambria, which is north of San Luis Obispo and a few miles south of Hearst Castle, and there we discovered a superb inn called Sand Pebbles on Moonstone Beach. At Sand Pebbles, comforters match the drapes and there are iron and brass and four-poster beds and country wallpaper, as well as individual fireplaces and baskets of flowers. And books--loads of books. Sand Pebbles is an inn of great warmth, whether on a starry evening or a stormy night . . . while the voice of the ocean provides its symphony in a darkened world that seems for the moment, at least, to be at peace.

Sand Pebbles Inn, 6252 Moonstone Beach, Cambria, Calif. 93428, (805) 927-5600. Rates: $65/$145 low season (Oct. 1/April 30), $75/$175 high season (May 1/Sept. 30), including a continental breakfast and afternoon refreshments.

Soviet Union: Until recently, Soviet citizens avoided American visitors as though they were a combination of poison ivy and the German measles. The KGB seemed always to be waiting in the wings. This, though, was before glasnost and the meltdown of the Cold War. So it comes as little surprise that the B&B epidemic has spread to the Soviet Union. Imagine, borscht for breakfast and a shot of Stoli at bedtime.

Amico International, which is handling the reservations, waxes poetically about "caring families and home-cooked Russian breakfasts." The Soviets will even serve up dinner. To bridge the language gap, each home has an English-speaking member. Host families are found in Moscow, Tblisi and Tashkent, and soon Leningrad, Kiev and Sochi will be added to the system. Besides B&Bs, Amico International represents apartment owners with maid service. The company promises prompt bookings, cutting through the red tape often encountered with Intourist. Amico also arranges issuance of Soviet tourist visas.

Amico International, 13113 Ideal Drive, Silver Spring, Md. 20906, (301) 942-3770. B&B rates: $75/$85 per night. Apartments rent for $1,000 a week.

Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania's Bucks County is one of those bucolic places that's particularly inviting during autumn. Shady towpaths, riverside restaurants, covered bridges. (Pearl S. Buck produced several of her prize-winning novels here.) Vacationers board mule-drawn barges and go canoeing and biking and hole up in a number of snug country inns. A new 20-page travel guide and map provides the details. Loads of information on B&Bs, country inns, hotels/motels, campgrounds, restaurants, sightseeing, wineries, shopping, entertainment.

I have a particular fondness for the village of New Hope, with its shops and galleries--and especially Odette's, a restaurant with dining rooms on the Delaware where romantics gather to sip wine while candles glow and the river flows by. Travelers check in at the 275-year-old Pear & Partridge Inn at Doylestown, the Golden Pheasant on River Road in Erwinna, Pa., and the award-winning Wedgewood Inn at New Hope.

For copies of the guide and map, write to Bucks County Tourist Commission, P.O. Box 912, Department 62, Doylestown, Pa. 18901.

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