Subject: Re: Spain
Hi Sandy,

My wife and I just returned from three weeks and Spain and had a wonderful time.

I strongly second Graziella's recommendation of Salamanca - it's a university town so it has a vibrancy to it and the small, old city is perfect for exploring on foot. We started by following the walking tour in the Michelin Green Guide then wandered more on our own. Another hotel recommendation: Hotel Byblos (see below). It was on a busy main street but it was a really nice hotel and the room was quiet.

We also enjoyed Segovia a lot - another town with a small old city that can, if you're pressed for time, be a nice half-day. Again, the walking tour in the Michelin Green Guide proved helpful. We stayed at the Hosteria Ayala Berganza which has recently lost it's fourth star (you can still see remnants of it on some signs - kind of sad, actually), but was a great place with a great location. It was really hard to find though. In Segovia, we also had one of the best meals of the trip. If you're partial to roast suckling pig, a national favorite, try El Sitio.

If you're thinking of staying overnight in Toledo, a really interesting city even with all the tourist schlock, a recommendation from Karen Brown, with a thankfully strong second from Felice in Toronto, is the Hotel del Cardenal (I say thankfully because it was one of our favorite places - great location, rooms, food, patio and maybe best of all because it was so hot, right next to an escalator that delivered us up to the old city. OK, laugh if you want to - but I'm a lazy guy and it would have been a long climb.)

A general comment about renting cars and driving in Spain. Always try to pick up any rental car someplace other than at airports. Many rental companies charge a hefty premium for airport pickup (returns to airports don't matter.) We rented from Europcar, picking up the car at the in-town Madrid location, and found it pretty easy to get out of town. We also found that, although they're a bit aggressive, the drivers in Spain are in the most part law-abiding and polite and respect the right-of-way at rotaries. None of those double passes you get in Italy. I love riding trains in Europe, but it just eats up too much time.

Another thing about Europcar, and probably other companies as well, you can get a free cell-phone for the duration of your rental. You, of course pay a per-minute fee for usage, and also a $40.00 shipping charge from their New York office. It's a real convenience - especially since my wife and I both need to be reachable in case of emergencies. Unfortunately, I didn't get a phone this trip, which was one of the reasons I missed getting together with Graziella in Trujillo (that, and bad planning on my part.)

Well - I could go on and on. We had a great time and, as usual, feel we missed more that we saw, and could easily go again soon.

Al Sonoma, CA, USA

Hotel Byblos Ronda del Corpus,2 Salamanca Tel: 923.21.25.00 Fax: 923.21.60.80 Web: http://www.hotelbyblos.com

Hosteria Ayala Berganza Carretas, 5 Segovia Tel: 921.46.04.48 Fax: 921.46.23.37 Web: http://www.partner-hotels.com

Restaurant El Sitio Infanta Isabel, 9 Segovia Tel: 921.46.09.96

Hotel del Cardenal Paseo de Recardeo, 24 Toledo Tel: 925.22.49.00 Fax: 925.22.29.91 Web: http://www.cardenal.macom.es