The Tripologist

WE ARE SPENDING THREE WEEKS OVER CHRISTMAS IN BERLIN WITH OUR TWO SONS AND THEIR GIRLFRIENDS.  WE’RE INTERESTED IN DOING SOME TRIPS THAT WILL ENTERTAIN BOTH AGE GROUPS (60S AND LATE-20S).  HAPPY TO HIRE A CAR OR TRAVEL BY TRAIN, ALSO DO NOT HAVE A PROBLEM STAYING OVERNIGHT, BUT NOT KEEN ON SKIING. SUGGESTIONS? K. ROLLS, BRONTE

Berlin and anywhere else in northern Europe is going to be in deep freeze in December. Average daily temperatures in Berlin range between minus 2 degrees and 3 degrees. Since skiing is off the agenda, you really won’t want to do anything outdoors. 

You could devote all your excursions to art galleries, museums and concert halls, avoiding the polar regions known as churches, but this is not likely to enchant the 20-somethings. 

You might replant yourselves somewhere warm, and probably for up to 10 days. France’s Cote d’Azur, the Mediterranean coast of Spain and Sicily are all attractive at this time of  year. Better still are the Balearic islands and Morocco, but the sweet spot just might be Tenerife, in the Canary Islands. A little bit of Spain off the African coast, Tenerife is a lush, tropical island.

Even in the depths of winter, average temperatures range between 15 degrees and 23 degrees, warm enough to sit outside over a glass of sangria at lunch before digging in to  paella. Tenerife has an enthusiastic party scene and a fair number of high-rise hotels that cater to package tourists from northern Europe but these are easily avoided if you head for the less-developed north-west of the island.

MY WIFE AND I ARE GOING TO ITALY IN SEPTEMBER AND WOULD LIKE TO CONCENTRATE OUR TWO-WEEK VISIT ON THE SOUTH OF ITALY AND SICILY, PERHAPS HIRING A CAR THERE. ANY SUGGESTIONS  OF WHERE TO VISIT, STAY ETC? L. KRATSAS, BLAKEHURST

Southern Italy is a big proposition. Puglia and Calabria, deep in the south, are both attracting attention for the dramatic beauty of their coastlines, beaches, archaeological treasures and relative lack of tourists. However, if this is a first visit, you might want to stick to the highlights.  

Suppose you were to divide your time between the Italian mainland and Sicily, I’d suggest basing yourselves in Sorrento and using local buses to explore the towns of the Amalfi coast and a ferry out to the island of Capri. Spend a day at least exploring Naples. You should also include Pompeii. 

 For your time in Sicily, focus on the east coast, with a few days in Taormina with a possible excursion to Mount Etna, then head south to base yourselves in Syracuse to explore the surroundings. Don’t miss the island of Ortygia, the baroque palaces and churches of Noto and the necropolis of Pantalica, where the rock faces are pitted with neolithic tombs. See venere.com for accommodation in the south.

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I’M GOING TO BRITAIN FOR THREE WEEKS LATER THIS YEAR, TRAVELLING BY TRAIN TO REMOTE PARTS AND STAYING IN SMALL HOTELS IN OUT-OF-THE-WAY PLACES. I NEED A RELIABLE, HIGH-SPEED INTERNET CONNECTION FOR THAT WHOLE PERIOD. WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS? K. FLETCHER, MARRICKVILLE

I used a Tep device (tepwireless.com) during my travels through Britain  earlier this year and it worked  a charm. About the size of a small mobile phone, it gives you a Wi-Fi connection just about everywhere and, once charged, you get about three hours online.  

Apart from a couple of isolated coves at the bottom of steep hills in Cornwall, it worked everywhere, including on intercity trains. Download is fairly generous  at 150Mb a day. It’s also fast. I could download the online edition of The Sydney Morning Herald in about 15 seconds. Collection was also simple, from a baggage service office  at Heathrow.

At  £4.45 ($7.40) a day, the Tep device is expensive compared with a data SIM card but if you want fast, reliable internet access, it is a good choice. A Vodafone prepaid SIM card cost me £5 for 200Mb and this works reasonably well in towns although not at all in some stages aboard trains.

FEEDBACK

OVER TO YOU ...

What's your pick of sunny spots within eight hours' flight for a one-week, midwinter break?

"My husband and I escape each July," R. Silber says. "Our favourite sunny spot for a relaxing yet exciting time is Palm Cove [north Queensland]. The beach is great, the restaurants are fab, there are resorts and cafes, sunny days and balmy nights — a little piece of paradise!"

"I nominate Singapore," M. Freeland says. "It has a great mix of daytime entertainment at Sentosa, night-time entertainment by way of the Marina Bay Sands light show ... food in the ethnic districts ... and of course shopping.""Koh Tao," J. Blakeley says, "north of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand. It's a little bit of barefoot heaven the rest of the world doesn't know too much about."

The Polynesian getaway is a dreamy proposition in mid-year. I'd be tempted by the Cook Islands — which has one of the world's loveliest lagoons in Aitutaki — now a non-stop flight from Sydney.

My pick of the big Asian cities at this time of year is Bangkok. For a little more than $150 a night I can get a super room in a luxury hotel, less than half the price of any other big Asian city. However, I'm voting with my feet and heading off with the family for a week in Lombok.

Next two questions, since I'll be out of reach in the Himalayas in early August: What's your strategy for beating the high cost of global roaming; and rail passes, are they a money saver or is it better to pay as you go?

SEND US YOUR TRAVEL QUESTIONS

Include your name and  your suburb or town and send it to  tripologist@fairfaxmedia.com.au.  Questions appearing in print will be answered. All published questions will win a Lonely Planet guidebook.

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