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LETTERS

March 09, 2003

If you don't lock it, try twisting it

In "Take a New Tack on Packing as Luggage Searches Intensify" (Travel Insider, Feb. 16), air passengers are advised not to lock checked bags. Use twist ties or lengths of pipe cleaner to connect the bag's zipper closing. The brighter the color, the easier it is to recognize your bags at baggage claim.

Beckie Wheeler

Carpinteria

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They left their hearts in Fiji

We spent six wonderful weeks in Fiji last spring and took a Blue Lagoon cruise ("Casting Away in the South Pacific," Feb. 23). Author Carolyn Rice left out -- or missed out on -- the heart of the cruise.

What made our Blue Lagoon cruise so wonderful was the almost instant camaraderie that developed among the passengers, as well as between the passengers and the crew.

We would go back in a heartbeat. Fijians are so warm and friendly that their wonderful spirit permeates every minute you spend on board.

We made friends during the all-too-short time we were on that cruise. Perhaps our ship, the older Yasawa Princess, had more flavor or was even more casual than the newer Mystique Princess. Or perhaps Rice's fellow passengers were traveling in their own closed groups.

Dottie and Jerry Walsh

Irvine

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More on thrifty travel in Europe

Regarding "Going to Europe? Here Are Ways to Cut Costs" (On a Budget, Feb. 16): We went to Europe for the first time last spring, and we had different experiences.

When we bought tickets for the overnight train from Amsterdam to Paris, the ticket seller told us that tourists could not buy a couchette. We had to buy a roomette for $162.

We ate at an informal place in Florence, Italy, and didn't leave a tip. The next night we waited more than half an hour for service, so we left. My advice: If you eat somewhere and do not leave a tip, regardless of the service charge printed on the check, do not go back.

In Germany and Italy when we said we did not want the VAT paperwork, we got a reduced price. Shopkeepers said it was too much paperwork and government hassle.

In Paris and Florence, some cabdrivers started the meter at their starting point, not at our pickup point. Now I know to check the meter first.

And finally, beware of current guidebooks with outdated information.

Grace A. Allen

Laguna Woods

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A bird-watcher's avian hypothesis

We enjoyed "To Bodega Bay, for the Birds" (Feb. 16). The snowy-white bird that hooked Claire Shurvinton was no doubt a snowy owl.

Paul Cooley

Culver City

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Continued kudos for the French

I have traveled extensively through Europe, and France is my favorite. The French are friendly. It is amazing how negativity flourishes through ignorance.

Suzanne Mendez

Malibu

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