Germany's Castle Hotels: Fairy Tales Do Come True

By Reid Bramblett
August 8, 2006
In Germany, a number of genuine castles--turrets, hidden passages, the whole deal--are more than just romantic backdrops. They're hotels, too. This is a knight that you'll never forget.

Burg Colmberg

The Colmberg ranks as one of the Franconia region's best full-on medieval castle experiences; it sits prominently atop a 1,676-foot peak and has tall, impregnable walls and a courtyard flanked by a round stone tower. Ivy crawls up the faded peach plaster on one of the complex's giant, half-timbered buildings, and here and there the masonry is flecked with wildflowers. The interior is a maze, with short stairwells, tiny chapels, book-lined sitting nooks, and twisting hallways crammed with antiques. Around every turn you'll find thick dark beams, low arches, imposing staircases, iron candelabras, fires crackling in stone fireplaces that face giant leather chairs, and stuffed stags, brown bears, ermine, boars, and hawks.

The Colmberg sees its share of daytime tourists, busloads of whom detour off the nearby Romantic Road, the popular, 200-mile byway that snakes through medieval villages and scenic countryside between Würzburg and the Bavarian Alps. Things quiet down substantially at night. Each room is different--one has a Japanese canopy bed, another has modern furniture with a vaguely art nouveau influence. The Honeymoon Suite has over-the-top rococo decor, with gauzy curtains, wrought-iron filigree, and other ornate details. One of the nicest rooms, with a sleigh bed, stone walls, and deep-set windows, is named Schöne Else after the wife of a local burgrave, a relative of Friedrich VI--who ruled the Brandenburg Mark, which later became the core of the Prussian Empire. Colmberg (near Rothenburg ob der Tauber), 011-49/9803-91-920,, from $95.

Burg Gutenfels

"Along the Rhine, there are castles in every corner," says Wilma Bartsch-Reichelt, owner of the 13th-century Gutenfels. "But I do not run a public restaurant. I do not give tours. My castle is a home, and only guests are allowed in." The ban on tour buses gives Gutenfels an exclusive, peaceful feel.

The castle was largely rebuilt from ruins between 1888 and 1954, and the wood-paneled walls sometimes recall a 1960s basement den. Still, the rooms, which are named for different Rhineland noblemen and women, come with faded Oriental runners, creaky wood floors, leaded-glass windows, and curtains hanging over the heads of the beds--details that add a bit of medieval-style class. Many rooms have trundle beds or odd bunk beds set into the walls--like extra-wide berths on an old train's sleeping car--making the castle a great option for families. The dining room fits the bill of a bona fide baronial hall, with a pair of enormous stone fireplaces dating back to 1200, a beamed ceiling, chandeliers, and a contemporary, cartoonish mural of medieval scenes.

In the gorgeous main courtyard, a flagstone terrace is adorned with little statues. Above the terrace, two levels of wooden balconies are dripping with potted red geraniums. The grounds are full of fabulous gardens, including a sunken area that is flanked by turrets just inside the outer wall. There's a small table in one turret that's perfect for an afternoon picnic. The view looks over one of the Rhine's most photogenic spots: an island in the middle of the river sprouting the little baroque tower of Pfalzgrafenstein Castle. Kaub (near Wiesbaden), 011-49/6774-220,, from $145.

Kurfürstliches Amtshaus

Owner Christa Probst is likely to greet Americans with an amazed, "How ever did you find us?" The Eifel region, west of the Rhine and southwest of Bonn, with its rolling farmland and strings of tiny, round lakes filling ancient volcanic craters, is a popular escape among German weekend motorcyclists and countryside trekkers. The closest that foreigners explore is generally the castle-lined Mosel River valley.

There's been a burg, or fortress, in the center of the village of Daun since the Celtic era. It's been destroyed and rebuilt several times over the past 2,700 years. The current, A.D. 1712 incarnation--creamy yellow walls with wooden doorways, a gabled roof of mossy slate tiles peppered with tiny dormer windows--has been welcoming guests for 22 years. The interiors have for the most part been modernized, and the rooms are spacious and classy, with easy chairs and headboards upholstered in richly colored tapestries, and Oriental rugs scattered over parquet floors. Bathrooms are sleek and large. Some rooms, like No. 124, are marvelously crisscrossed by wood beams, which cut down on the usable space but create a highly atmospheric effect. Rooms on the second floor (which Americans would call the third floor) tend to be smaller, many with modular, white-lacquer furnishings and cream-colored duvets. If the tasty but rather pricey restaurant is too rich for your pocketbook, walk down the drive and turn right onto the town's main drag. At the end of the block is the Rengener Stübchen, a cozy bierstube and restaurant serving simple dishes and grilled meats. Daun ( just north of the Mosel Valley), 011-49/6592-9250,, from $160.

Burg Hirschhorn

Construction on the Hirschhorn first started around 1200. The work continued for centuries, and the castle slowly rambled its way up the steep, forested banks of the Neckar River until 1632, when Friedrich, last of the Knights of Hirschhorn, died. Legend holds that the Knights' reign ended because Friedrich had been cursed by the mother of his cousin, whom Friedrich killed in a duel. The fact that a plague rolled through town in 1635 and left fewer than 25 residents alive apparently wasn't taken into consideration.

Today, the castle's crumbling walls extend from high ramparts down into the red roofs of the village below. The calls of sparrow hawks mingle with the distant rush of the Neckar. The Oberrauner family, which manages the huge castle complex, lives in the building over the main gate. Margret runs the reception desk, while husband Josef is in charge of the kitchen. The eight rooms in the main castle building have better river views and a bit more character--cherry-stained furniture, gauzy curtains pinnacled over the headboards, and subtle designs carved into the stone windowsills--than the 17 largely modern rooms in the Marstall, the quaint old stable down the hill. Most guests spend their time ensconced with a mug of beer or glass of Riesling on the dining terrace, which juts from the main building like the prow of a ship, providing amazing views up the swift river. Hirschhorn (between Würzburg and Mannheim), 011-49/6272-92-090,, from $132.

Kommende Ramersdorf

In a suburb just across the Rhine from downtown Bonn, a city with a population of more than 300,000, the Kommende Ramersdorf is surrounded by a thick forest, adding that crucial fairy-tale barrier from the outside world. At the end of a short drive, the woods open up to reveal a mishmash of Renaissance turrets and baroque spires, the result of the castle's late-19th-century remodeling. Past the gatehouse, the grassy grounds are dotted with a stone bench under a tree here, a stone sculpture there. Stretching back from the castle is a long, U-shaped brick building--the former stable--with a French restaurant downstairs and a second story converted into guest quarters. Antiques in rooms have lovely carved or inlaid details. The tiny windows don't let in much light, making large and bright room No. 1 the best of the bunch. The aging baths are a bit stodgy, though perfectly serviceable. The main part of the castle--a warren of rooms maintained in a kind of dusty splendor--hosts conferences and serves as a display for antique furniture (mostly Biedermeier) and artwork up for sale. One drawback: A busy road runs past the property, and though guests can't see the road from the castle, there is a distant hum of traffic much of the day. Thankfully, the noise disappears by late evening. Oberkasseler Strasse 10, Bonn Ramersdorf (across from Bonn),, 011-49/228-440-736, from $110.

Castle Liebenstein

Staying at Liebenstein feels a bit like you've been invited to your eccentric Uncle Günther's ramshackle country castle. The grounds are a glorious mess of romantically crumbling stone walls, ramparts, towers, and gateways. One steep-roofed building slumps against a central stone tower. Low ceilings and cramped spiral staircases keep guests hunched over, and everything--doorways, steps, floors, and hallways--is slightly askew. Kids will love hunting for ghosts and discovering hidden passages. The Gothic-arch motifs set into dark wood furnishings are painted bright blue and red. Random suits of armor and crossed swords decorate the stucco walls of the restaurant, which offers sweeping Rhine views and schnitzel-and-sausage cuisine. The breakfast-room windows also take in the river, past a foreground of trees, broken walls, and the white tower of Sterrenberg, the "enemy brother" castle next door. The lore holds that, back in the late Middle Ages, Liebenstein was built for the younger of two brothers whose feud over a woman split the Sterrenberg line forever. Kamp-Bornhofen (near Koblenz), 011-49/6773-251,, from $105.

Burg Veldenstein

The 1,100-year-old Veldenstein is owned by the state of Bavaria. The giant Kaiser brewery occupies a quarter of the little pastel-housed village in the valley below the castle walls. Appropriately, the local brew goes well with the castle's hearty German food, served on warmer days at outdoor picnic benches. During meals Oliver and Katrin Betzelt, who've managed the property since 1988, joke with guests and take turns chasing out the black spaniel and bobtailed cat that sneak in to beg for scraps.

Veldenstein doesn't have the fanciest of interiors. Most of the rooms directly beneath the peaked red roof are rather bland. Some rooms on the floor below have a bit more style--half-tester beds with fabric draped above the heads or, even better, a canopy bed surrounded by wood furnishings. A stay here is all about the simple pleasures of small-town life--climbing the tower for panoramic views or meandering along the weed-choked ramparts to sit on an old soldier's bench and watch fishermen work the lazy bends of the Pegnitz River. Burgstrasse 12, Neuhaus auf der Pegnitz (east of Nürnberg), 011-49/9156-633,, from $65.

Schloss Hohenstein

High in the hills above the city of Coburg, several miles down a twisting country lane from the village of Haarth, lies the Hohenstein, a Renaissance castle completely rebuilt after its 14th-century incarnation was burned to the foundations during the farmer revolt of 1525. After World War II the castle served as a retirement home for (extremely lucky) postal workers, and in the early 1990s the Hohenstein was converted into a hotel. A long gravel driveway curls to a wide stone staircase and the guard tower's gargantuan front door, surrounded by ivy. A friendly black-and-white cat named Susi greets arrivals and follows whoever pays her the most attention to their room, to try to cadge a spot on the bed for the evening. Past the guard tower lies a courtyard that's a study in different types of German castle architecture: a mélange of half-timbered walls, craggy medieval towers, wrought-iron lamps, flying staircases, gutter spouts sculpted into dragons' heads, and baroque stonework. The only sight that somewhat spoils the mood is the modern glassed-in porch of the restaurant, a popular spot for locals celebrating special occasions. The restaurant's chefs, Michael Kötterl and Stefan Wandt, prepare gourmet German and French cuisine that matches the royal surroundings.

The 13 guest rooms are scattered throughout the complex, and each is unique. A few, including the Lichtenstein Suite, are riots of gilded rococo stuccowork and crystal chandeliers. A favorite is the Freiherrenzimmer, a sizable chamber with a high wood-beamed ceiling, plank floors, and 17th-century windows set with painted glass medallions. The extensive wooded grounds, laid out in the 18th century in a Romantic style, are littered with mossy low ramparts, tumbledown outbuildings, and lichen-spotted statues. Hohenstein (outside Coburg, north of Würzburg), 011-49/9565-949-494,, from $142.

Plan Your Next Getaway
Keep reading

20 Tips

1. Protect your camera with a toddler's sock. Many small digital cameras don't come with a carrying case. We solve the problem by slipping our Canon Elph into one of our granddaughter's socks. A brightly colored or patterned one makes it easy to find the camera in a purse or backpack. Cindy Jones, Bass Lake, Calif. 2. Fresh-brewed coffee can mask stale air. Unfortunately, on a recent trip to New York, my friends and I were given a hotel room that smelled faintly of cigarette smoke. Since the windows didn't open (thanks to liability issues), we were advised to turn on the room fan and let it circulate the air while we explored the city. When we returned 10 hours later, the room still smelled and there were no available rooms to switch to. Someone came up with the brilliant idea of brewing a pot of coffee, and soon the room smelled warm and homey. Kara Morin, Cambridge, Mass. 3. Don't take cameras to the Mint. The Department of the Treasury doesn't allow any cameras or camera-phones inside the United States Mint. Nor will the guards hold any banned items for you if you should show up for a tour with them. So plan ahead, and leave that stuff at home or in your hotel room. Dennis & Maureen Fortier, Wyoming, R.I. 4. Keep luggage lightweight by accessorizing. Rather than pack lots of clothes that bulk up a suitcase, women should bring lots of different and fun accessories (scarves, jewelry) to mix up a small number of coordinating outfits. Amy Booth, Reno, Nev. 5. Consider buying a musical souvenir. I purchase a couple of CDs in every country I visit, from Polish punk to Uzbek rock. Not the folk music you find in most tourist shops (which I rarely like), but some kind of local pop, rock, or easy listening. Unlike other souvenirs, the albums don't collect dust because I play them over and over, bringing back memories of all the places I've been. John F. Woodward, Ames, Iowa You can find more tips in the September 2006 issue of Budget Travel magazine.

Exploring the Coast of Lake Champlain

Day 1: Burlington To North Hero I like to think I know Vermont pretty well. My parents have lived there for nearly 15 years, and my husband and I spend each winter crisscrossing the state looking for the best snow and the shortest lift lines. Lake Champlain, however, is a total mystery to me. I've heard that the Champlain Islands--Grand Isle, North Hero, and Isle La Motte--are still relatively undiscovered by leaf-peeping flatlanders. No wonder: I always thought they were part of Canada. I set off with my copilot Moira, a photographer, to find out what they're all about. It's September, so we're prepared for traffic, but the only slowdown on Route 2, the main artery connecting the islands, comes when we're caught behind a tractor. Although we see splotches of gold here and there in the trees, the weather feels more like summer than fall. And that's what we were hoping for: Our plan was to come just a little early to avoid the prices and crowds of peak season. The village of North Hero isn't much more than a handful of buildings along Route 2. The 1824 county courthouse in particular stands out. Its gilded belfry glints in the sun, and its walls are made of odd reddish-beige stones, sourced from a quarry on nearby Isle La Motte. In small-town Vermont, it's not uncommon for a building to serve more than one purpose, andHero's Welcome, sure enough, functions as a general store, gift shop, café, and bakery--and the post office is attached. Ignoring the displays of Vermont-made products (maple syrup, pancake mix, salsa, etc.), Moira and I make a beeline for jars of Swedish Fish, Tootsie Rolls, and jawbreakers. We also choose from a list of sandwiches that hangs above the counter. My heart is set on a Trackeur (hickory-smoked ham, Vermont cheddar, tomato, and honey-mustard) and Moira, who doesn't eat meat, orders the Vegetarian Princess (sprouts, cheddar, and hummus). I have to hold back from teasing her. We plan to spend the night atShore Acres, a low-slung inn with 23 rooms, 19 of which are lakefront. There are tennis courts, a nine-hole golf course, and even a croquet set, but I have my eyes on one of the dozen white Adirondack chairs on the lawn. While Moira takes pictures, I plonk down with my book; next to me, a couple is quietly reading and sharing a bottle of wine, their dog at their feet. I learn they're from Massachusetts and they've been holed up at Shore Acres for a week, barely leaving the property. Looking east across the lake, I can see the jagged peaks of the Green Mountains in the distance. Boats sail past, birds dive for fish, and clouds create interesting shadows on the glassy water. North Hero Houseis an inn and restaurant that often serves as a base for trips run by Bike Vermont and VBT Bicycling Vacations. When we arrive for dinner, the place is positively hopping. A local musician strums "Tiny Dancer" on his guitar in the bar area while a dozen farmer-tanned bikers sing along. As I savor pan-roasted chicken breast served in a rich pancetta-and-sage sauce, I overhear a group of 50-somethings crowing about the many miles they've ridden. Only then do I begin to feel pangs of guilt about my sedentary afternoon. Lodging Shore Acres237 Shore Acres Dr., North Hero, 802/372-8722,, from $90 Food Hero's Welcome3537 Rte. 2, North Hero, 802/372-4161, sandwich $5 North Hero House3643 Rte. 2, North Hero, 888/525-3644, entrées $19 Day 2: North Hero to Isle La Motte We wake up to a bluebird sky and warm sun. The conditions are perfect for a drive to the Alburg Peninsula--and a picnic. At Simply Country, a barn-like antiques shop with a fairly typical jumble of old books and rusty kitchen gadgets (now closed), we grab a bag of plump tomatoes for a dollar a pound; they'll go nicely with a baguette and a bottle of sauvignon blanc from Hero's Welcome. We hear French everywhere, and now it makes sense: Alburg is a sliver of land that juts south 10 miles from the Canadian border, and many Quebecers vacation here. Because of its remoteness, the area was a haven for booze smugglers during Prohibition. After a quick visit toAlburg Dunes State Park--which includes 628 acres of wetlands and a long crescent beach--we follow West Shore Road north along the water toLakes End Cheeses. Alburg native Joanne James makes some of the best chèvre I've tasted. It's tangy and creamy and flavored with herbs; I buy two small rounds to add to our picnic. Joanne started out making chocolates and later added cheese. "My neighbor kept bringing me goat's milk she wasn't using," she says. "I didn't have the heart to tell her I didn't need that much, so I began experimenting." Joanne now has 40 goats, but the black one named Boss is clearly her favorite. On a tour of the property, Boss head-butts the others out of the way to get closer to us, and then mugs (smiles, even) for Moira's camera. Lake Champlain is a picnicker's paradise, with lots of parks and tables to choose from. We ultimately decide on a beach near St. Anne's Shrine on Isle La Motte, the smallest and most geologically interesting of the islands. The southern third of the island is a fossil reef, believed to be the oldest in the world. There's loads of history here as well. Explorer Samuel de Champlain landed on the island way back in 1609, and it's the site of Fort St. Anne, Vermont's oldest settlement, founded by the French in 1666. We booked a room atRuthcliffe Lodge, a lakefront inn owned by Mark and Kathy Infante. No sooner have we put our bags down than we're introduced (by way of a wet-nose kiss to the back of the knee) to the Infantes' sweet but slightly wild-eyed goldendoodle. Moira valiantly tries to photograph Bosco, but he's far more interested in convincing her to play fetch with his soggy stick. Mark sets us up with bikes, helmets, and a map. The roads are pretty flat and there's a slight breeze at our backs. We whiz down The Main Road, stopping briefly to buy McIntosh apples at the roadside stand of Hall's Orchard. We linger longer at Fisk Quarry Preserve, where we get a glimpse of the ancient reef's structure: round, white fossils (early relatives of sea sponges) in the quarry walls. Any good we did with our bike ride is completely undone by a carb-tastic dinner at the Ruthcliffe. Mark's Italian specialties--chicken Parmesan, veal marsala, seafood Alfredo--are served with bread and butter, soup, salad, pasta, and a vegetable. Most everything is slathered in hot cheese, delicious but decadent. Lodging Ruthcliffe Lodge1002 Quarry Rd., Isle La Motte, 800/769-8162,, from $123 Food Lakes End Cheeses212 W. Shore Rd., Alburg, 802/796-3730, cheese from $3.50 Activities Alburg Dunes State Park151 Coon Point Rd., Alburg, 800/252-2363 or 802/796-4170, $2.50 Day 3: Isle La Motte to Grand Isle Breakfast is equally over-the-top: eggs, bacon, and a stack of buttermilk pancakes, which I literally drown in dark, thick maple syrup. A final stick throw for Bosco and we hit the road, heading to Grand Isle. North of the village of Grand Isle, we findHyde Log Cabin. Constructed of rough-hewn cedar logs around 1783 for Revolutionary-War-veteran-turned-surveyor Jedediah Hyde Jr., it's one of the oldest cabins the United States. There's a fire roaring in the fireplace and a collection of 18th-century housewares, including a spinning wheel and a cradle. Moira and I are used to tiny New York City apartments, but we're astounded when the caretaker tells us that Hyde and his wife raised 10 children in the 20-by-25-foot room. It's only at this point in the trip that we realize we haven't actually gone out on the water yet, so we decide to take the car ferry from Grand Isle to Plattsburgh, N.Y., home to a state university. The ride lasts 12 minutes each way, just long enough to get out of the car and scramble up to the top deck. As I scan the surface of the water for Champ, Vermont's Loch Ness Monster, I get the full effect of the lake's size (435 square miles). It's so long that, looking south, I can actually see sailboats disappear over the horizon. Adams Landing B&Bis a five-minute drive from the ferry. Sally Coppersmith and Jack Sartore moved from Burlington in 1999 and opened their lakefront home up to guests last year. There are three rooms in the main house and an attached apartment for longer stays. While chatting with us over wine and cheese on the covered porch, Jack mentions that he's planning to dry-dock his motorboat for the winter the following week. Perhaps because we're the only guests that night, he offers to take us out on a sunset cruise, one of the last of the season for him. We hug the north shore of the island and shoot straight through The Gut, a small bay that separates North Hero and Grand Isle. When Jack swings the boat around and sets a course for home, we're headed southwest, so we have an extraordinary view of the red-orange sun as it slips behind the Adirondacks. Transportation Lake Champlain Transportation Company802/864-9804,, $15.50 round trip for a car and passenger Lodging Adams Landing B&B1 Adams Landing Rd. Ext., Grand Isle, 802/372-4830,, from $110 Activities Hyde Log Cabin228 Rte. 2, Grand Isle, 802/828-3051, open Thurs.-Mon., $1 Day 4: Grand Isle to Burlington Sally prepares a breakfast of Western omelets, hash browns, and buttery croissants and serves it on the screened-in porch. We leave Adams Landing reluctantly and drive south toAllenholm Farm, Vermont's oldest working orchard. In business since 1870 and run now by the fourth, fifth, and sixth generations of the Allen family, the 300-acre farm has a gift shop, tractor rides, and a small petting zoo. Moira and I join a bunch of families on a wagon ride to the orchard. Five minutes later, we're filling our bags with Northern Spy, one of my favorite varieties of red apple. At one point, we turn a corner and come face-to-face with a grazing donkey. Grapes tend to thrive in South Hero, too. Nine-year-oldSnow Farm Vineyardis Vermont's first commercial winery, and it's still the only one in the islands. The varietals, including seyval blanc, Riesling, and vignoles, are similar to those grown near the Finger Lakes. We taste four of the wines for free, and then I pony up $2.50 to try the ice wine. I'm skeptical: Vermont cheddar, Vermont maple syrup, even Vermont salsa--but Vermont wine? It's a nice surprise, sweet and fruity, with a hint of honey. In other words, a beautiful addition to tomorrow's picnic. Activities Allenholm Farm111 South St., South Hero, 802/372-5566, peck of apples $4 Snow Farm Vineyard190 W. Shore Rd., South Hero, 802/372-9463 Finding your way This trip is not about great distances: Burlington International Airport (served by JetBlue, US Airways, and Continental Express, among others) is less than an hour from the Sandbar causeway that leads to Grand Isle, and it takes mere minutes to get from one island to another. The islands are connected by small bridges, and there are no tolls. While it's difficult to get lost, you'll still want a good map. The Chamber of Commerce in North Hero, next door to Hero's Welcome, gives out free maps of the area (802/372-8400, To time the trip right, you might check out Vermont Tourism's Foliage Fore-caster at

Budget Travel's Real Readers

In our e-mail newsletter, we asked readers if they'd pose in a photo shoot for our marketing materials, then flew a bunch of them to New York City for the weekend. They got to act like supermodels (without the attitude), and we even took them to dinner! The moral: If you haven't signed up for the newsletter, you're missing out on interesting opportunities. Click here to sign up for the e-mail newsletter. Meet our real readers! David, Katie, Riley, and Hannah Gold from Portland, Ore.   Favorite section of the magazine: How   Last great vacation: New Zealand   Next great vacation: going fishing in Canada   Favorite travel treasure: handmade knitted hats from New Zealand Paul Lanyi and Kristi Harris from El Segundo, Calif.   Favorite section of the magazine: 20 Tips   Last great vacation: a honeymoon at Dunton Hot Springs in Colorado. It's an abandoned mining town turned all-inclusive resort   Next great vacation: exploring the wonders of India's Rajasthan ...the sounds, scents, and sights   Favorite travel treasure: Local currency, kept in a Ziploc bag Shao-Pow, Nancy, and Weber Lin from Saint Louis, Mo.   Favorite Section of the magazine: 20 Tips   Last great vacation: a month-long vacation in Hawaii   Next great vacation: a beach reunion with old college friends so their kids can meet and play together   Favorite travel treasure: "A small lithograph reprint of a painting given to us by the owner of a vacation rental we stayed at. It turns out his wife painted it. She is a local artist in Kauai and we saw her artwork all over the island! We had no idea about that when we rented the place from him" Girlfriends Valerie Paolucci, Caroline Morrissey-Bickerton, and Kristen McRedmond   Favorite section of the magazine: 40 Best   Last great vacation: hiking the Inca Trail in Peru   Next great vacation: an African safari   Favorite travel treasure: Buddha statue purchased in Thailand Jean Clayton and daughter Lindsey Head from San Clemente, Calif.   Favorite section of the magazine: Where   Last great vacation: going to Paris after Lindsey graduated from high school   Next great vacation: Korea, where Jean met her husband   Favorite travel treasure: clothes! Sabrina Hunter Morales from Columbia, S.C.   Favorite section of the magazine: Road Trip   Last great vacation: Jamaica   Next great vacation: India, to experience the Ardh Kambh Mela Fair   Favorite travel treasure: a coconut purse and jewelry holder from Jamaica