Regarding Birmingham, Ala. ["Moving Ever Forward," by Alice Short, April 14]: How can she not include Dreamland, a legendary Alabama barbecue? Chris Erskine would have mentioned this pork palace in his opening paragraph! Otherwise, a very fine article on this historic city.
Regarding "Cuba Covertly? Weigh the Risks," by Catharine Hamm [On the Spot, March 31]: Cuba is not a "fabulous destination." I don't understand this thinking. Cuba is lost in time. Although the hotels and buildings from the '50s are considered glamorous, as are the cigars and mojitos, Cuba is a big mess. I went in 2008, with a license, to see the family. I stayed at the Hotel Nacional; it's five-star.
There were roaches, antique plumbing and that mildew smell. There are no stores, no laundromats, no grocery stores, etc. In short, no shopping. I forgot a comb and couldn't buy one, so I had to borrow. I only ate things that had been boiled, such as rice, beans and coffee. What looks like a fancy restaurant often has no running water, and the bathroom attendant will sell you a square of toilet paper. Which made me wonder what was going on in the restaurant kitchens — no water, cleaning supplies, etc. No water can be imbibed, not even in the shower or for teeth brushing.
Cubans are very friendly, but you cannot draw them into a conversation about what's going on in their lives because there are vigilantes who will report them. The beaches are gorgeous, no argument there. Cubans cannot surf the Internet; they can have email, but it is monitored. A few times my family's email has been cut off because we said something we shouldn't have. At present, there's a dengue epidemic. I wish someone would tell me what makes Cuba a "fabulous destination."
I enjoyed reading the Weekend Escape feature about Prescott, Ariz. ["That Rootin' Tootin' Spirit Is Everywhere," by Valli Herman, March 31]: My husband, 5-year-old son and I spent three days in Prescott last spring break after visiting family in Phoenix. Besides the sites that were mentioned (the Granite Dells being a favorite), I'd like to add that there are some great museums that are family-friendly: the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Smoki Museum. We also ate at Dizzy's Deli & Goody Shop — super-friendly owners with great sandwiches (and shave ice treats) — which is right off the main downtown plaza.
I wish to thank Vani Rangachar for her article "Finding Unexpected Delights in the Desert" [March 3, a Weekend Escape in the Mojave Desert].
It was an area we weren't familiar with, and the article was intriguing. We took her suggestion and went to Tecopa Hot Springs Resort. We had a basic cabin with cooking allowed. We really appreciated the food and setting at Pastels Bistro. Ash Meadow was magical, and the temperature was perfect for walking the beautifully designed boardwalks. The springs were wonderfully blue and no one was there. The woman in the visitor center was very helpful. After we mentioned the L.A. Times article, she mentioned she had wondered why there had been so many Californians there.