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December 09, 1990|JERRY HULSE

With Mardi Gras fast approaching in New Orleans, a squeeze on accommodations will be a certainty. But don't panic. Sarah-Margaret Brown offers help. Brown operates a bed and breakfast service, books apartments/condominiums throughout the city. During Mardi Gras (Feb. 8-12), she requires a five-night minimum. B&Bs, $35/$75. Apartments/condominiums in the French Quarter start at $75 a night. Uptown, Brown is booking rooms in a deluxe plantation home. One block off the St. Charles streetcar line (only a short drive from the Garden District). Warm, Southern hospitality. Brown has others. Everything from humble bungalows to comfortable cottages.

Sarah-Margaret Brown, P.O. Box 8163, New Orleans, La. 70182. Call (504) 838-0071. You can also obtain a lodging guide/Mardi Gras brochure from the Greater New Orleans Tourist & Convention Commission, 1520 Sugar Bowl Drive, New Orleans 70112. Call (504) 566-5011.

A Letter From London: Journalist John Barnes writes: "If you are willing to share your evening occasionally with a badger or a fox, Richard and Caroline Silver's old country house in the heart of the Cotswolds offers a gem of a deal in these days of the shrinking dollar. For approximately $60 a night, you get a double room and bath with an old-fashioned English breakfast, fresh flowers in your room, plus coffee, tea, fruit.

"Hawthorns House was built in 1707. It sits on top of the Cotswolds in the tiny village of Amberley, looking out over a glorious countryside of gently rounded hills. Prince Charles is a neighbor, down the lane at Highgrove. And Princess Anne's country home at Catcombe Park is only four miles away. For the first 200 years of its life, Hawthorns was a farmhouse. Caroline, who used to be a free-lance journalist, wants visitors to Hawthorns to regard themselves as part of the family, free to make use of all of the house at all times. Hawthorns is within walking distance of seven country pubs (the Black Horse, Amberley Inn, the Bear, the Old Lodge, the Halfway House, the Ram at South Woodchester and the Royal Oak at North Woodchester), all of which serve meals and ale.

"The town of Amberley consists of one post office, a country store, a bakery and two pubs. If guests prefer to motor through the countryside, Richard will be happy to do the chauffeuring for $30 a day. Late at night, after the pubs are closed, guests gather in the conservatory to watch the foxes and badgers creep up the wooded hillside below the house. Occasionally a badger will waddle into the conservatory."

Hawthorns House (circa 1707), Amberley, Stroud, Gloucestershire Gl5 5AW, England.

Hotels/Paris: Air France has updated its list of small hotels/apartments in Paris. Boutique hotels start at about $50 a night (double occupancy), $250 for six nights. Studio/one-bedroom apartments from $50/$80 a night. Other accommodations available with French families ($49 per person) in conjunction with a Berlitz language course. Other hotel packages available in Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Marseilles, Montpellier, Mulhouse, Nantes, Strasbourg, Toulouse. Rates start at about $32 per person, double occupancy.

Call (800) 538-0999. Ask about Air France's "Bonjour Paris" package ($1,087 from Los Angeles). Includes round-trip air, hotel for one week.

New England: A new edition of "Vermont's Four Season Vacation Rentals" is being distributed free. Lists cottages/condominiums throughout the state. More than 400 properties. Example: A chalet in Stowe that accommodates two to eight guests rents for $600/$950 a week during summer/fall, $750/$1,100 in winter. And in Chester (a favorite village of mine), you can rent a cabin that sleeps six for $400 a week in the high season, $300 in summer. Pages of other properties.

Copies of the guide and a Vermont map from Seasonal Rentals Kit, Vermont Travel Division, R110, 134 State St., Montpelier, Vt. 05602.

Student Offer: Students can spend three to six weeks with a family in Spain next summer for only $1,380, or up to three months for $980 in France. This is a cultural exchange program. The American student later hosts a foreign student of similar age in the United States. Dozens of families in Spain/France have volunteered as hosts. Students are matched according to ages, language skills, hobbies, etc. Invitations are for July/August (students from the United States are accompanied to Europe by a chaperon).

Details from Europe USA, 122 S. El Camino Real, Suite 118, San Clemente 92672, (714) 366-0107.

Cruising the Elbe: Beginning in March, a new $18-million luxury ship will cruise the Elbe between Czechoslovakia and Germany. Visits to Tangermunde, Wittenberg, Usti, Bad Chandau, Konigstein, Dresden, Meissen, Magdeburg, Hamburg, with optional excursions to Berlin/Prague. This will be the first ever overnight cruise ship on the Elbe. Outside cabins, single-seating dining, nightly entertainment. Other features: a sun deck, Jacuzzi, beauty salon, TV.

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