Insiders guides to Prague

Our expert offers tips on visiting the Czech capital, exploring the U.S. Northwest and finding a flat in London.

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Insiders guides to Prague

Can you offer any tips on tours or sources of general information for a weeklong visit in Prague?

The Czech Republic’s capital city continues to be one of the hottest spots for tourists and expatriates alike. Tens of thousands of young foreigners, many American, reside in the city. Lodging gets tight from spring to fall, so it’s advisable to arrange for a place to stay before you arrive, if at all possible. Start at the Czech Tourism Pages, a sleek official site with hundreds of links. A good personal site is Czeching out Prague, providing one woman’s travelogue and mini-guide.

Czech Center New York is produced by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs to promote the country; its phone number is (212) 288-0830. The site has a section of links to tours and tour operators.

TimeOut.com, the events magazine, has a Prague edition, updated weekly, that also includes tips on restaurants and clubs. Sample review: “Prague’s newest blues bar is a blissful anomaly in Old Town. Just a cobblestone’s throw from Old Town Square on ritzy Parizska, Sputnik somehow manages to be a simple, honest blues dive, serving up cheap Pilsner Urquel in a smoky, laid-back cellar atmosphere. The music at this self-described ‘music art club’ is consistently grooving and makes for outstanding background noise when you want to perch and gab.”

A simple but informative page for links is the Czech Republic FAQ.

The influx of visitors since 1989 has made Prague a prime target for guidebook publishers. Among top Prague titles are those by Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Frommer’s, Knopf Guides, Cadogan, Eyewitness Guides and the Insight Guides series.

I’m in search of sources for things to do in the Washington, Oregon and Idaho region. Things like horseback riding, fishing and arts festivals — nothing strenuous, but “interesting.” I am new here and I know the resources are rich, but they are also scattered, and I don’t know where to look.

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The Northwest is indeed fertile territory for many activities, and tracking them all can be daunting.

Check out the Washington State Tourism site, the Oregon Tourism Commission site and the Idaho Tourism and Recreation site. State tourism sites tend to be on the unhip side — they’re aiming for the middle ground — but they often are the single best source for a wide range of diversions. They also excel at pulling together statewide events calendars, a thankless job that most for-profit sites are loath to undertake.

Other sources for tracking festivals are FestivalFinder.com, Festivals.com and What’sGoingOn.

The Northwest is a magnet for guidebook publishers — many trees have given their lives in the name of tourism and adventure. Some of the best-informed guides come from publishers based in the Northwest, including Sasquatch Books and the Mountaineers Books, both based in Seattle. Sasquatch offers a “Best Places” series, including “Northwest Best Places,” edited by Stephanie Irving, now in its 12th edition. It includes Alaska and Northern California, too. Other books include the adventure guides “Inside Out Oregon,” “Inside Out Washington,” “Olympic Peninsula Best Places” and “Oregon Coast Best Places.” It also publishes “Northwest Budget Traveler: Cheap Eats, Cheap Sleeps, Affordable Adventure,” by Nancy Leson (1998).

Among Mountaineers titles are “A Waterfall Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest,” “Washington’s Rail-Trails: A Guide for Walkers, Bicyclists, Equestrians” and “Kayak Routes of the Pacific Northwest Coast.”

Other strong Northwest guides include:

“Hidden Pacific Northwest” (Ulysses Press, 4th edition 1998), “Adventure Guide to the Pacific Northwest,” by Don and Marjorie Young (Hunter Travel Guides, 1999) and “Pacific Northwest: Washington, Oregon, Idaho,” by Bill McRae, Jennifer Snarski and Judy Jewell (Lonely Planet, 2nd edition).

A site that takes aim at Washington, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana (and Oregon, still under development) is Destination Northwest.

For a month in London, where can we locate flats or other non-hotel properties in which to unpack our bags?

You can find companies that book London apartments, as well as apartment blocks you can contact directly, in the booklet “City Apartments,” available from the British Tourist Authority, phone (800) 462-2748. You also can find listings through the British Tourist Authority site; click on “Plan your trip,” then “accommodations.”

Here are a few companies that arrange lodging in London flats:

  • Villas International, phone (800) 221-2262

  • In the English Manner, phone (800) 422-0799

  • British Homes-London Flats, 10010 Queens Oak Court, Charlotte, NC 28210, phone (704) 541-6370

  • London Lodgings & Travel, 954 Risa Road, Suite B, Lafayette, CA 94549, phone (800) 366-8748

  • Castles, Cottages & Flats Ltd. in Arlington, Mass., phone (800) 742-6030 or (781) 646-6552

  • Interhome Vacation Rentals, phone (800) 882-6864.

  • Donald D. Groff has been dispensing travel advice for a decade for such publications as the Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsday, the Boston Globe and the Kansas City Star.

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