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Letters to the Travel editor

August 18, 2013

I just wanted to say thanks for the fantastic article on eating in Istanbul ["Spiced by East & West," Aug. 4, by S. Irene Virbila]. My husband and I are planning our first Istanbul trip. To read your extensive story after having read about Semsa Denizsel in the Aug. 3 Saturday section ["The Alice Waters of Turkey"] sent me over the edge.

We will take your article with us to share with as many of these restaurants that we can fit in our schedule.

Keep these great articles coming; it makes the L.A. Times so worthwhile.

Susan Pituch

Del Mar

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Having been in Istanbul (and eating well) for a week at the end of April, my husband and I enjoyed Virbila's Travel story. I wanted to mention, too, that Culinary Backstreets is a terrific source, but a good map is essential.

Instead of a fold-out map, my husband downloaded maps onto his tablet ("Maps With Me" and Google). With a built-in GPS on his tablet, we were never lost.

We stayed in the Beyoglu area, a definite plus.

Thank you for your terrific Travel section.

Maria Wohlmuth

Manhattan Beach

Alice Short's "micro" diary of her family's culinary excursion into San Sebastián, Spain ["Delectable Surrender in Basque Region," Aug. 4] was a treat.

Having spent a good amount of time noshing my way through those streets, I enjoyed reminiscing about the familiar establishments listed, as well as jotting down names of new places to test drive on my next trip.

As authentic Italian cuisine has bloomed into a high art over the years, I believe true Spanish — and its sibling, Basque — cooking is on the verge of becoming delightfully familiar to U.S. diners. Its slightly exotic flavors and spices are absolutely addictive, and I have to thank you for a quick and wonderfully written return to my favorite dining destination.

Jennifer Shanks

Los Gatos

As a travel agent, I just had to write about the article "Avoiding the Fees Squeeze," by George Hobica ["More for Your Money," Aug. 4]. He says that you should not talk to a live person at the airline and that you should find out what the best fare is by talking to an agent and then hang up and book online. He might have meant talk to an airline reservation agent, but that is not what came across to me.

This could be misconstrued to mean, "Talk to a travel agent."

Our time is not free. Most of the agents I know work very hard, and we don't need travelers calling us to get information and then going ahead and doing it themselves online. Our commissions are already cut to the bare bones. We do not get a commission on the total of what the public is paying. The cruise lines deduct something that is called "non-commissionable fees," and then they deduct taxes and fees and then they pay us commission on what is left, which isn't much.

Please advise the public to either do it yourself (all by yourself) or book through a travel agent if you can't do it yourself. Very few of us get anything anymore for booking an airline ticket, and to make up for this many agents are now charging a small fee for this service.

Helen Seid

Cruise With Us

Culver City

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